Basket cases

Here’s what usually happens when someone gets a gift basket: initial ­excitement followed by mild disappointment contents divided among friends recipient keeps one or two things wicker basket ends up in the trash along with 2 pounds of packing material. You don’t want that. Here’s how to avoid that by assembling your own.


Score some pot

Wicker baskets are the go-to receptacle for the goodies, but they’re pretty useless after the fact. Opt for something practical like a soup pot, large mixing bowl or colander that can be used every day. And since no gift basket is complete without a giant bow, we tied ours using a sheet of organza from the dollar store.

H2K 12-quart stock pot, $30, Canadian Tire, various locations, Canadiantire.ca, @CanadianTire 

Pack ’em in

You’ll need some packing material to pad out the basket and prop up the gifts. Microwave some popcorn and toss it with bold spices like cayenne or curry for a spicy kick, truffle salt for a classy upgrade or cinnamon sugar for a sweet and salty treat. The result is a popcorn tin and a gift basket: two gifts in one!

Bottle it up

This is a chance to buy something more frivolous than the recipient would buy regularly, like chili oil (amazing on top of leftover pizza) or a fancy mustard for leftover turkey sandwiches. Just be sure your giftee will actually use it, or that bottle of Himalayan sea buckthorn oil will just collect dust. 

Chili oil, $7, Thomas Lavers Cannery & Deli, 193 Baldwin, 647-351-1959, @ThomasLaversCD 

Amazing Maple Mustard, $7, Kozlik’s, 93 Front East, 416-361-9788, mustardmaker.com, @Kozliks

Add some spice

Another affordable option is to fill up little Mason jars with spices – bonus points if you go all Martha Stewart and include handwritten recipe cards. Try House of Spice (190 Augusta, 416-593-9724, ehouseofspice.com) in Kensington Market or Trupti (2 Thorncliffe Park, unit 40, 416-421-0191, trupti.ca) in East York for premixed blends like steak spice and masala.

Sugarcoat it

It’s not the holidays without some saccharine nostalgia. You can take the higher-end route with chocolate bars from local makers like Chocosol, Soma, Stubbe and Nadège, or go lowbrow with the stuff from the dollar store candy aisle.

Assorted candies, $2 per bag, Dollarama, various locations, Dollarama.com

Get fresh

Perfect for the home cook, fill a basket with bounty from the farmers’ market, where colourful heirloom carrots and cute baby parsnips are in season right now. These root vegetables don’t need to be refrigerated and can bump around in the basket without risk of bruising. Tie them in a bouquet and stick them in the basket for a burst of Mother Earthy goodness. We got these from the St. Lawrence Market’s bustling north market.

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