Here’s some food for thought: In Victorian times, it wasn’t unusual for a household to spend at least 25% of their income on food (often mediocre-quality at best). With that in mind, it was common – and adored – to give fabulous, high-quality food gifts at the holidays. It was delicious, appreciated, and it went to immediate use. When it comes to gift-giving today, a top priority shoppers share is that the recipient feels their gift was intended just for them, and fits their taste perfectly. Usually, “customized” gifts are synonymous with “expensive”, with one marvelous exception this holiday season – fabulous gift baskets you make yourself in five minutes or less with the gourmet offerings at Amelia’s Grocery Outlet!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got an arsenal of varied-size baskets, most of which you have utterly no clue from whence they came. I have at least a dozen in my pantry. If you’ve got a similar collection, it’s time to drag that out – you’ll find the vast majority of them will work spectacularly for this project. Big ones, small ones, doesn’t matter. The food items you purchase are all going to be various sizes as well, and you’ll be astonished how well your inventory already fits the bill. If you feel that you need to purchase a few more, hit your local dollar store. They’ve got a fantastic selection of baskets (and decorative tins, for that matter) that will handle your every need.

Since you’re filling these baskets with special culinary delights your friends and family adore, the items are easily found at your local Amelia’s when you make your next food run – a fabulous time-saving perk that won’t add hours of shopping or travel to your already-busy holiday season. Everything I purchased for the baskets described below were found in one trip to my local Amelia’s Grocery Outlet. Check out their website at www.AmeliasGroceryOutlet.com to find the location nearest you!

Coffee Lover Basket – Three 12 oz packages of fabulous flavored gourmet holiday coffees, delicious Bailey’s creamers in Chocolate, Irish Cream and Almond Toffee Cream, et voila, this fabulous gift is done in minutes. Easily $75 purchased retail when you take five minutes to order online, this one is only $13.50 when you take five minutes to make it yourself! You do the math – saving $60+ in five minutes makes for a nice hourly wage, no? Now, any self respecting coffee addict you’re giving this gift to will already have a dozen mugs in their cupboards. However, for a coffee gift with extra kick, you can personalize the gift even more with fabulous ceramic mug selections at your local dollar store. Add two mugs and you’re still below the $16 mark, with a rave-worthy gift basket at the ready.

Fruit Lover’s Basket – Gorgeous fruit basket gifts have been classic holiday favorites for centuries, and are usually the first things to sell out with gift basket companies. Beautiful (often tropical) fruit in the coldest days of winter – what’s not to love? Back when I was working in the corporate sector, it wasn’t uncommon to see several of these gorgeous towering baskets crossing our desks, and they were always immediately devoured. Crisp apples, juicy citrus, gorgeous pears, exotic fruits like mango added for some holiday fun – fabulous! Ten seconds with a calculator quickly revealed they were running about $15-$20 a pound for fruit. Yokay then. Top quality fruit is of course a necessity for these gifts, and they’re just as easily found at your local Amelia’s! Trust me, I’ve enjoyed many of those high-priced baskets, and the fruit was fabulous. At Amelia’s, it’s equally fabulous – crisp, juicy, and about 90% less expensive. On my last trip, I quickly bagged two pounds of beautiful oranges, one pound of grapefruit, two pounds of pears, three pounds of apples, one huge mango, all gorgeous and blemish-free (another requirement for snooty moi as I assemble these baskets for friends and family). A basket with all of the above would easily retail for $75. With five minutes of effort in the produce aisle, I’m recreating it for $7.

Tea and cookies basket – perfect for teachers, friends, family, neighbors, you name it. I used to exhaust myself spending hours every holiday season making delicate little butter cookies with the finest ingredients, delicate raspberry jam centers, the perfect dusting of powdered sugar on top. Then my brilliant, adorably honest six year old casually informed me as she blitzed thru the kitchen “Hey Mommy! These ones in the box taste like the ones you do! Except these have neat swirls on the top and yours don’t. Bye!” Alrighty then. That critique (combined with the fact that the store-bought cost half of what I spent making them myself) made it a no-brainer to go with the gourmet boxed version. Adding two beautiful canisters of organic tea create the perfect gift in minutes. Cost online: easily $25 or more. Cost when I took two minutes to create it myself: $1.79. As with the coffee lovers basket, chances are excellent the recipient will already have mugs, but if you want to add an extra touch to your gift, you can always pick up one or two more at your dollar store.

Gluten Free Gift Basket – this may seem like an odd category for gift baskets, I’ll admit. However, in the past year, I’ve connected with no fewer than four friends who have introduced gluten-free foods to their households with absolutely fabulous impacts on their health. The only non-fabulous aspect of this healthy eating plan is the cost – a bag of chips for $5? Give me a break! You can imagine their pleasure at receiving baskets filled with gluten-free chips, pretzels, chocolate chip cookies and cake mixes. Talk about a gift that will be immediately used! Retail, I’ve seen similar gifts retailing for more than $60 (and they’re often sold out!!). Purchasing the same items at my quality discount grocery, and I spent (ready for this?) $6.75 instead. Fabulous stuff.

College Student Gift Basket – Okay, who didn’t love getting food packages when they were in school? I remember packages arriving in the dorms where the recipient (upon opening a tin of cookies) had to fight off friends with a whip and a chair. Imagine creating a basket perfect for their tastes – fun, useful, and forget the calories or sodium, full speed ahead! The gift I crafted contained no fewer than 10 packs of Ramen noodles, gourmet chocolate chip cookies, chips, snacks, and (to diminish my non-healthy gift guilt) a bag of organic granola. God only knows when that granola is going to be opened, but I know for a fact the rest of the gift won’t last 24 hours. A gift like this, purchased online, is easily $50. Putting it together yourself (adding whip and chair is optional), came to less than $10. If you’re shipping this any kind of distance, my advice would be to skip sending any energy drinks. The extra weight sends shipping costs thru the roof, and the probability of shipping mishaps will have you biting your nails the entire time it’s in transit.

Chocolate Lover – This is so me. Not only am I a chocolate addict worthy of a 12-step program, but the holidays for me have always been synonymous with chocolate intake abandon with no guilt, no worries, and no calories and/or carbs if consumed between December 1 and December 31. If you have friends and family with an equal addiction, indulge it to the hilt with truffles, biscotti, high-end gourmet crafted chocolates and the like. Online, they can run more than $50 each. I put together three gorgeous huge baskets in minutes for less than $10 each.

All of the above examples are just a small taste of what is possible when you create perfect basket gifts for friends and family. They’re easy to make, custom-tailored to those you care about, absolutely adored and quickly put to use – everything we hope for in a holiday gift. This year, if you’re in a gift-giving creative stall and looking to try something new (without breaking the bank), try shifting to a Victorian mode this holiday season and see what you create! Happy Holidays, everybody – see you at Amelia’s!