Monday, May 20, 2024

What Are the Best Food-Related Gifts?

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fruitcake in a silver tin sits on white pedestal
Fruitcake from The Nuns of New Skete (via Goldbelly)

What do you think are the best food-related gifts, whether a subscription, a delivery like Goldbelly, or a meal delivery service like Blue Apron? What gifts have you received and loved, and which food-related gifts have you given? Let’s discuss…

I think there are three main types of things to talk about here: 1) food-related subscriptions that you gift (or receive), 2) holiday-related food gifts like Harry & David, and then 3) food gifts in general, whether through a delivery service like Goldbelly, a gift card for a service like Blue Apron, or even just a homemade treat for someone else…

Readers, what are your thoughts?

The Best Food-Related Gifts

The Best Food Subscriptions

As I mentioned when we talked about the best of-the-month-club subscriptions a few years ago, we’ve both given and received a lot of food-related subscriptions over the years… without a doubt the big hit that my in-laws loved was the Rancho Gordo Bean Club subscription. (Huge hat tip to the readers here!) That, obviously, is because it really suits their personalities and their lifestyle…

We’ve had a lot of hit or miss success with fruit of the month, beer of the month, nut of the month type things… the wide variety that’s sent each month isn’t always the recipient’s favorite, which means you’re then kind of stuck with it. We also got salsa of the month for a while, which was tasty, but we just don’t eat salsa that often so the jars would pile up.

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Two that we’ve bought for ourselves that I would recommend for possible gifts include Universal Yums and Shaker & Spoon.

Universal Yums is a monthly collection of junk food from a specific country, so you learn a bit about the country and get to taste some of the more unusual treats. We did it during the pandemic and enjoyed it, but the boxes piled up because we were trying to all be present for the treats to try them so we could share opinions.

Shaker & Spoon is another one we did during the pandemic — it’s a really pricey subscription, so best for a very good friend! — but they send you the non-alcoholic ingredients to make 3-4 unique little cocktails each month. You have to buy the liquor yourself (although they always have fun suggestions!), but most cocktails were delicious and unusual. Some, though, weren’t to our taste — for example, they kept sending drinks involving coffee, which I’ll only drink during the day, and we just don’t do a lot of day drinking.

(I had my eye on the Murray’s Cheese Club subscription for my MIL, but then she went mostly vegan… so, no cheese subscription for her.

The Best Holiday-Related Food Gifts

We’ve given and received a lot of these with some far-flung family members… I have yet to find one I really like. I feel like Harry & David can be annoying if you don’t like the kind of fruit sent (I’m not a big fan of pears or oranges), and the little chocolate collections or sausage things just seem a bit like extra calories during an already calorie-filled season.

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We’ve received some unusual versions of this, like the year someone sent us 14 candy-coated apples, all decorated in gorgeous, festive frosting. Taste-wise they weren’t as big of a hit, but they were absolutely gorgeous to look at. They were individually wrapped, so we wound up giving a lot of them away to the kids’ teachers.

Other Food-Related Gifts

There may be four subcategories here — Goldbelly deliveries, foods you make yourself like mason jars of hot chocolate or homemade granola, gift cards to restaurants, and gift cards to services like Blue Apron or HomeChef.

Goldbelly and Other Food Deliveries as Gifts

In terms of Goldbelly deliveries — I’d also include Zingerman’s here, maybe — we’ve had a lot of tasty donuts and cakes from specialty bakeries across the country. It always feels like the price is crazy, but they’re always enjoyed and special. (I would distinguish this from a Harry & David kind of gift because you can’t choose a generic sampling of fruit and nuts…)

(My mom is a big fan of fruitcake, so the picture at the top is one of the Goldbelly offerings we’ve tried and really liked — Brandied Fruitcake, by The Nuns of New Skete for $55.95.)

Homemade Food-Related Gifts

I don’t make any food-related gifts myself, but I feel like the readers have shared some great ideas recently… you can also find great ideas from Real Simple, Taste of Home, or a bunch of other spots. Maybe this is me, but I feel like the key to this gift is that the recipient gets to choose when to enjoy it — in other words it’s largely shelf-stable and can be used or made after the holidays.

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Gift Cards to Restaurants

We have started giving these to some friends and family, trying to support independent, local businesses… but it can be tricky if you don’t know the restaurant yourself, or if the restaurant closes before the recipient can use the gift. (If the restaurant itself doesn’t sell it, you may be able to find a gift card through Open Table or

Because I have family there, I know that in Cleveland you can buy a coupon book for independent restaurants — but I can’t find any other cities that do this. (Readers, if you do, shout ’em out in the comments!)

Obviously it’s really easy to find gift cards to big chains, and you can often find them for a slightly discounted price at stores like Costco…

Gift Cards for Meal Delivery Services

As far as gift cards to meal delivery services like Blue Apron or HomeChef, we’ve had mixed success. In general these can be tricky gifts to give because you’re basically signing someone up to cook dinner — but if you know your audience this can be great. The best one everyone loved was Purple Carrot, which had some delicious, inventive vegan meals (including some recipes I’m still making).

Readers, what are your thoughts — what are your favorite food-related gifts to give?

Stock photo via Stencil.

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