When the holiday season comes, the question of gift budgeting always follows.
As a semi-broke college student, I find myself turning to homemade edible gifts every year. It's cheaper and less stressful than buying Christmas gifts for all of my friends.
Besides, what's that stereotypical quote? "The best way to someone's heart is through their stomach." Something like that, right?
I know my favorite presents are generally food-related. Hell, for Secret Santa one year, my friends gave me a box of Georgetown Cupcakes. I was pretty damn happy.
So, what are the best edible (but not edibles) gifts you can make?
After all, there's always someone with a food allergy or one who is picky about what they'll eat. The worst feeling is when they hate something and still smile when you give them a little basket of edible gifts.
But, this will be my ninth year of giving homemade edible Christmas gifts, so I like to think I have this gift basket thing pretty down pat.
I can personally tell you these gifts won't be disappointing — unless the person is super picky.
And if that's the case, then screw them. Picky eaters are the worst.
This gift is the best because you can keep whatever you don't give away and use it to bake more edible gifts down the road.
It's super easy to make your own vanilla extract at home, and it's way cheaper, too.
Plus, you can stick the beans (after drying them) in sugar and get some vanilla sugar out of this gift.
Obviously, peppermint bark is a Christmas staple. Who doesn't like chocolate covered in pieces of candy cane?
Plus, peppermint is Christmas's pumpkin spice: It's everywhere, and there's no escaping it.
Alternatively, you can make a more manly (aka savory) bark with bacon in it.
Jams or preserves
A lot of people are afraid of canning and making preserves (or jams) because they're scared of screwing it up.
But, sometimes making a raspberry jam can be easier than Easy Mac. (Seriously, I've seen people set off dorm fire alarms making Easy Mac.)
However, sweet isn't up everyone's alley.
Bitters are a go-to for any cocktail drinker. They add complexity and uniqueness to your drink.
Am I the only one who thinks Nutella is hella expensive for the size?
Just make sure your friend doesn't have a nut allergy.
If you have one of those friends who is always on the go, granola is a safe Christmas present.
They can pour it over some yogurt or just munch on it while traveling (or studying for finals because college). You can also make it in either bar form or loose.
Bonus: You can satisfy your health nut friends with this, too.
Truffles are on my go-to list of edible Christmas presents.
In fact, they are among the very first edible gifts I ever gave. Personally, they're still one my favorites, especially since I'm the one that gets to eat the leftovers.
You don't even have to make chocolate ones anymore. You can make them out of your favorite cereals, too.
This is only for those over 21 to attempt, and I'm not explicitly condoning drinking before you're 21.
Everyone likes getting alcohol as a present, so what's better than giving it a personal touch based on the person?
This is great for your friends who like cooking and maybe not so much baking. To quote Jamie Oliver, "Pungent spice blends are heavenly and elevate cooking to another level. That is exactly what flavored salts do."
The tried-and-true option that takes less patience than truffles.
Cake balls make great Christmas gifts, so long as you store them properly before you give them out. This is because you can customize them to taste like the season without the temperamental activity of tempering chocolate.
The only drawback is, it's made of cookies and "unhealthy." So if you want a healthier version, check out this recipe.
I'd be a sham if I didn't give at least one type of cookie as a present to my friends. Plus, there are so many cookies I need in my life right now.
Personalized chocolate bars
It's super simple to make chocolate bars customized to your friends' preferences that are as delicious as they are beautiful.
All you need is to temper some chocolate and add toppings before the chocolate completely sets.
If you need to buy a mold, you can get one for less than $3 at Confectionery House.
There's loads of different brittle out there.
You can go wild with brittle and just as easily munch on the leftovers.
Nothing screams the holidays as much as fudge does.
And while some people may balk at making fudge (it can be finicky sometimes), you can easily make gift-worthy fudge using your microwave.
Just don't leave it in there too long.
This classic sweet makes for an easy Christmas gift. Think chocolate-dipped strawberries and the like.
It's easy enough to transfer the same technique to other fruits, like oranges. Or, you could do something unexpected, like potato chips.
Infused olive oils
Here's another Christmas gift for your foodie friends or the ones who just really enjoy salad.
Homemade marshmallows are perfect for a Christmas gift basket. They're cheap and have way less preservatives than the store-bought ones.
Soft caramels are universally accepted, at least in my opinion. Fork those who don't think I'm right.
I personally love trying different caramel variations, but if you want to have a taste of fall at Christmas time, try some sea salt apple cider caramels.
This is a great gift for your friends who have a big sweet tooth. Dessert sauces can be put on ice cream, cheesecake, etc.
There's nothing like getting a jar of homemade caramel or chocolate whisky sauce.
I don't think I associate candied nuts with any other holiday besides Christmas. But I also don't know many people who eat them.
However, I personally love candied almonds when the Christmas season rolls around. They're pretty tasty and a relatively healthy alternative to sweets.
Pâte de fruit
They add an instant touch of class to any Christmas gift. Plus, you can make them yourself at a way cheaper cost than you'd buy them in store.
Mulled cider sachets
I love cider. And while it's easy enough to make spiced apple cider in your slow cooker, you sometimes want something more portable.
That's where sachets come in: They're portable and a sure crowd-pleaser. Give out a couple sachets and keep the rest for yourself so you'll be warm the rest of winter.
Pocky is one of the best Japanese snacks that has hit mainstream food culture in the USA.
If you haven't tried them, you haven't lived. The best part is that pocky comes in a huge variety of flavors and is readily available at Asian grocery stores.
It's easy enough to make your own as well.
Saved the best for last: chocolate dipped spoons for making hot cocoa.
These make your hot cocoa much more indulgent with real chocolate instead of powder.
Now, you could make a large amount of any one of these as Christmas gifts. Or, you could make a variety of them to give out as little gift baskets and then gorge yourself on the leftovers.
At least that's what I'd do.
This article was originally published on Spoon University.