There’s no better gift than one heartfelt and bequeathed with love and care. Self-sufficiency is the perfect platform for enabling the best of both worlds when it comes to gift giving at Christmas or any other festive occasion by producing something very special at a reasonable cost.
Venture into Target or any other department store over the Xmas period and you’ll see a mountain of gourmet products being sold at premium prices. Things like: “home-made” pickles, preserves, sauces, dried fruits, etc are considered excellent gifts due to most people enjoying fine quality food.
We all know most standard canned or bottled processed foods in the supermarket lack taste and superb quality because they are made in bulk with little to no love at all; however, eat a piece of toast with Granny’s marmalade spread over it and you’re in heaven! That’s because she has made that preserve with love and taken the time to source or grow fresh ingredients.
Some pickled chillies and baby cucumbers just freshly bottled on my kitchen bench (image above)
Anyone can do the same to create and gift that perfect present to someone you care about, and yes, it does sometimes take some effort to do but the fact that you have made it is partly why it’s so special to the person receiving.
Nevertheless, not all self-sufficiency type gifts take lots of effort to make and it’s pretty amazing how easy some projects are to do that look like heaps more work has been done. For example, a potted plant as a gift can be really simple to do with a small amount of planning. Take a free cutting from a good performing fruit tree or vine (like a grape) and with little effort you can have several quality Xmas presents possibly worth hundreds if purchased from a nursery.
But the difference with your plant is it comes with a story and you’ve made it. You’d be surprised by how many food and ornamental plants can be easily propagated through cutting or seed. With a small amount of preparation, a pot, some medium grade potting mix, a little fertiliser, and some nurturing as your new plants grow, you’ll soon have a living gift which is appreciated by most people. Other good self-sufficiency gift ideas are:
- Seeds – Heritage seeds (the ones saved from your own garden and are true to type) are a great gift idea. Obviously, the seeds are free but it’s the way the present is framed which makes it. Nicely printed paper seed packets designed on your own PC and printer are a cinch to do and look cute all packaged up. Again, the seeds come with a background story (it could be a favourite vegetable you have been growing for years) making the giving and receiving experience more genuine.
- Preserves – Marmalades, jams, cheese pastes/jellies are all old favourites which have stood the test of time when it comes to gifts. Knowing friend or family has taken the time to make these treats ensures the eating is much more enjoyable – I guess it’s because the giving and sharing of food is such a powerful symbol even going back to biblical times when Jesus shared bread amongst his disciples.
- Sauces – Who doesn't love a good sauce either savoury or sweet? Sauces are just another type of preserve and because of the concentration of acids and/or sugar they have a long shelf life and are a relatively safe food to make at home. A bottle of sauce made by you taking pride of place on the dining table of a friend or family member is a constant reminder of the gift you made for them – hell, they might as well have a picture of you on the bottle!
- Dried food – Dried or dehydrated food like fruit, vegetables, and meats (jerky etc) are underrated gifts and I have to say not all that common… but, it should be. Dehydrating food is so easy and not only that, it’s one of the safest ways to preserve and store food for a long time. There’s more benefits, dehydrated food is often full of flavour because it becomes concentrated during the drying process, and it’s also lighter and smaller so a small amount goes a long way and costs less to post if required. Be imaginative with dried presents, for example, make a food pack for a hiking or adventure gift, make a packet of organic banana chips, create a cooking spices gift pack from your own herbs and chillies, or invent your own beef jerky recipe.
- Pickles – The art of pickling became popular as a way to preserve food as far back as Egyptian times not just because of how good pickles taste but because of how easy and safe the process is to do. A jar of pickled cucumbers can be accomplished with just a few ingredients like vinegar and salt. Also, unlike other canning methods, preserving with acid (vinegar, alcohol, etc) is far less complex. I include chutneys in this group and the vast variety of recipes available ensure the gift you make will be an original taste sensation and talked about until next Xmas.
- Dairy products like cheese and yoghurt – These are a little more in-depth but if you have the produce, knowledge, right conditions and equipment everyone knows how gourmet a gift of home-made organic cheese can be. Yoghurt can be made much easier though, just in a standard dehydrator actually, and if adding your own fresh fruit, can be an amazing treat to eat and give away.
- Sausages and cured meats – Same as above, takes quite a bit more knowledge and equipment but not beyond anyone’s ability if you’re into self-sufficiency and alternate gifts.
- Fruit and vegetable basket – Unlike the last two, this is extremely easy to do especially for those with a vegetable garden and some fruit trees in season. I’ve already mentioned what power the gift of food can hold and there’s nothing better than giving someone a nice big basket of fresh home-grown produce. I personally like doing this when we visit friends and family and just rocking up with a box or basket overflowing with fruit and veg is a sensational way to arrive at a party. If they were purchased from the shop it wouldn’t be very good but because they are home-grown people ooh and ahh over the produce, ask questions, and appreciate the gift.
The examples above are just a few of the numerous options available as gifts of self-sufficiency but I hope it will stir up the imagination inside to create that special present and save some money at the same time.
When you grow or make something yourself and give it away you’re giving more than just an object, plant, or food… You’re giving and sharing a bit of yourself to the receiver and sending them an unsaid message of dedication, values, thoughtfulness, and love.
Mark Valencia – Editor SSM
Look, and see the Earth through her eyes…