The Coupon Lady: Themed baskets make excellent, affordable Christmas gifts

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, almost. Despite the unusually warm temperatures, our neighborhood has gotten a lot brighter thanks to all the holiday decorations in the yards.


We’ve also noticed the nonstop flow of delivery trucks to the area, and I’ve had to personally distract my neighbor’s son from realizing the UPS man delivered one of his Christmas presents.

Presents are a wonderful part of the holiday, and I love to give gifts to our friends, family and neighbors.

The wonderful thing about being a couponer is that your stockpile can be an endless source for giving.

One of my yearly traditions is to make some family members a “care package” gift basket. At discount stores, you can find several totes or baskets for less than $10. In last week’s advertisement for Christmas Tree Shops, I noticed that there were monogrammed totes in three sizes ranging from $2 to $6 that would make excellent containers for gift sets or care packages. These types of baskets are perfect for putting together a large mix of items that your family or friends could use.

My baskets often include food items such as cereals, pastas, spaghetti sauce, rice, canned foods and pancake, cookie and muffin mixes, and personal care items such as razors, shave gels, shampoos, conditioners, toothbrushes, toothpastes and body washes. Although these items might not seem like a great gift by themselves, your items will look fabulous packaged together in a cute basket with ribbon and tags. You can find packaging materials for just $1 at Dollar Tree or Walmart.

For your extended family, friends or the teachers on your shopping lists, smaller gift baskets might be the way to go. You can pair a small basket or tote with themed gifts personalized to their interests.

These are some of my favorite gift basket themes:

• Coffee Lovers Theme: Three or four small bags of coffee, creamers, one or two coffee mugs, cookies, chocolate and hard candies.

• Spa Theme: Scented candles, body wash, conditioner, shampoo and lotions, bath mitts, hair towels and sponges.

• Movie Lover’s Theme: One or two bargain movies, popcorn, Redbox movie codes or gift cards and assorted candy. Movie-size boxes of candy and cute popcorn containers from Dollar Tree would give the present an authentic feel.

• Parents Night Out Theme: Popcorn, candy, popcorn containers and a restaurant gift certificate.

• Baking Theme: Cookie mixes, muffin mixes and kitchen items such as spatulas, kitchen towels and oven mitts.

Layered-food gifts packaged in mason jars make great gifts. Making these gifts requires just a few items that can be found easily around your home or purchased quickly at the grocery store. You will need quart-size wide-mouth jars (one per gift) with lids and rings, a half yard of Christmas fabric and some raffia or ribbon bought at the dollar stores or fabric stores. You will also need some kind of decorative label, which can be made on the printer with basic cardstock.

A couponer knows that brownie mixes can be often bought for less than 50 cents after coupons and sales, so I like to make Christmas Brownies for a simple gift. This recipe needs a box of brownie mix and a bag of Christmas M&M’s. My first step is to add half of the Brownie mix and then add about ½ cup of red and green M&M’s. Gently tap the glass until all the airspace has been removed. Once the M&M’s have settled, add the other half of the brownie mix. Then add M&M’s to fill the top as space allows, no more than ½ cup. You can reduce the amount of M&M’s and add nuts or chocolate chips in the top of the jar. The directions will still be the same as the back of the box of the brownie mix. Just copy them onto your label. Put the seal on top of the jar and decorate with the fabric, ribbon and labels.

I like to make several jars at once in case I need a quick but unexpected gift.