Cheap, cheerful — and possibly cheesy! — batch gift ideas for the holidays

If your nice list is long but you’re hoping to shop less, the CBC Life team has some ideas .

If your nice list is long but you’re hoping to shop less, the CBC Life team has some ideas

A colourful vector illustration with three images: Left image: Pink background with a person holding up a green present with the words "For you." Middle image: Orange background with a person holding up a white ball ornament with the words "And you." Right image: Green background with a person holding a mini blue evergreen tree. The words "And you!" are above them.
(Credit: iStock/Getty Images; art: CBC Life)

As you might expect, the team here at CBC Life talks a LOT about the holidays: Baking! Decorations! Throwing parties! Declining parties…! But in an effort to respect a range of budget realities and our concerns around the environment and sustainability, we don't publish many gift guides.

That doesn't mean we don't have a bunch of gift ideas, however. As we talked about great bulk presents — like a favourite bottle of wine you can buy by the case and confidently give to co-workers or neighbours — we challenged ourselves to remember or dream up a DIY present that would check off a ton of names on our lists. Some of the ideas we came up with are as straightforward as a special book, and others are more like promises. We hope these ideas are just what you need, or that they spark some ideas of your own. They work as an offering to a single special someone, but they can be scaled up and offered to as many lucky giftees as you'd like: simply make more or invite more, You'll see what we mean.

A promise of pizza (or paella!)

I have a lot of friends and cousins with young kids who "can cook!" (read: very excited to do it, absolutely no help in the kitchen yet). And everyone's been so appreciative of nights when I've come over with all of the ingredients for from-scratch pizzas. Maybe it's because I don't have children and am less traumatized by spills, but the kids and I have a great time cooking while their parents "supervise" (read: fill wine glasses and generally take the entire evening off). Most importantly, memories are made. Well, most importantly, pizza is made. If this sounds fun, a coupon for a pizza-making date could be a lovely gift for the families on your list. And as for friends you want to have over to yours, what about a coupon that reads "Paella at my place in February"? It's a self-serving gift, too — imagine booking some dates with your favourite people before the new year even starts.

- Yasmin Seneivratne

Freshly baked cookies — whenever they want 

Cookies make a great batch gift, and while I love sharing pretty tins of baked treats this time of year, gifting frozen cookie dough allows your giftee to enjoy something delicious even when the season winds down. Mix up the dough (doubling or tripling as needed) and freeze unbaked cookie balls on a cookie sheet as per the recipe instructions. These Ginger Sparkle Cookies and Dark Chocolate Molasses Cookies are guaranteed hits. Once frozen, divide them up, add them to cute containers and deliver them to your loved ones' doorsteps. They'll be so happy to have the option of baking a whole batch or just one cookie whenever they wish.

- Brittany Toole

A hyper-curated movie marathon plus all their favourite treats

Do you have that one family member, friend or partner with whom you love watching stuff  — but with whom you constantly fight over the proverbial remote? Perhaps the greatest gift you can give them is a day of dream viewing. Schedule an evening screening of their all-time favourite films, classics they've always wanted to see or the movies you tend to nix every time they get floated. Combine it with a spread of their go-to snacks and some cinematic lighting, and they'll be the star of the slumber party of their dreams. My husband did something like this for me during a lockdown birthday — we watched All About Eve and Heathers while eating pizza in our pyjamas — and it stood out as such a highlight, even at a time when watching movies in loungewear was a pretty frequent activity. Just be sure to sort out the rental or streaming situation beforehand, so their mini film festival runs as smoothly as possible.

- Sam White

Books — with a personal touch

If you're a notorious book hoarder who is willing to send some of your old favourites off to a new home, consider giving used books as gifts. There's something so intimate about recommending a good book to a friend or loved one. If you want to add a personal touch, accompany the book with a homemade bookmark or a personalized note about why a particular book made you think of them.

- Michelle Villagracia

A 'crafternoon' courtesy of you

I think people want to craft, but it's often easier said than done — which makes organizing a "crafternoon" a great gift to give to a bunch of people all at once. You provide the supplies and guide the project, and suddenly you've taken people from simply saving ideas on TikTok or Instagram to actually creating something. It's an affordable-ish thing to do — you could keep it as budget-friendly as drawing with pencils or making holiday paper crafts like snowflakes or a chain garland. Or you could be slightly more ambitious and try a handbuilt pottery project, which I've noticed is so popular on social media right now and seems easy enough in terms of the skills required. If I was organizing a crafting get-together, I'd choose tree ornaments, which people can hang year-round, too. I'd make it clear in the invitation that "this is my holiday gift to you" and, to keep the cost of food and drink manageable, I'd schedule it on a Sunday afternoon with a cutoff time well before dinner (say, 12 to 5 p.m.) and serve snacks.

- Jamey Ordolis

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