Surviving Gift Exchanges

Well, I didn't mean to take such a long break over the holidays, but sometimes time just gets away from us this time of year. But now I'm back at the waste-reduction journey!

During the holiday season, a lot of us get invited to gift exchanges with our co-workers, our friends, and our families. One side of my family started doing gift exchanges when us grandkids started getting older. The other side started doing it because there were just so many aunts, uncles, and cousins that it wasn't economically feasible for everyone to buy each other gifts.

Personally I have always kind of enjoyed gift exchanges. They're kind of a gamble; sometimes you might get something super useful and great, and sometimes you get something that just isn't your cup of tea. Despite this, I still find them kind of fun, and I admit, I enjoy the gift-giving part of the holiday season.

The catch, though, is that these gifts can often be a burden. They clutter up our houses with charming but unnecessary decorations, tools, and gadgets. They duplicate things that we already own better-quality versions of. They fill our junk drawers or storage bins with things that are nice, but that we will never use. Because of this, we just contribute to useless consumerism and the production of unnecessary goods. And this is just another form of waste. If you own something that does not go to use, even though you don't throw it in the garbage, it is still going to waste. It took resources and energy to be produced without any benefit.

In my opinion, this issue is easily solved. Before we decide on any gift exchange gift, we should ask ourselves a few questions.
  • Would MOST people attending the exchange use and enjoy this gift?
  • If I received this gift, would I use it?
  • Are the people attending the exchange likely to already have this or something similar?
There's a lot more questions you could ask yourself, but let's stop there. I have a fairly simple policy for exchange gifts now. Any gift I give should be consumable. Whether it's food, soap, candles, or beverages, the gift should be something that you take home, consume or use, and then it's gone. It doesn't clutter your house, it doesn't collect dust, and it's something that regardless if they already have it, is still useful. And if they don't like that particular consumable, they can give it away to someone who won't have THEIR house cluttered up.

So what did we do for exchange gifts this year? Well, my canning-pal Carli and I got together again to make some flavoured liquors and red pepper jelly. These served as gifts for my work exchange, add-ins to a couple of direct family gifts, and two family exchange gifts. They were well received by all, and I have reason to believe a good portion of them have already been enjoyed.

Here we have the red pepper jelly and some spicy whisky. We also made flavoured vinegar, limoncello, apple-cinnamon vodka, and some caraway vodka, in the spirit of Icelandic Brennivin. There are lots of recipes like this on the Internet to choose from.

What did you do for gift exchanges this year? Leave a comment!


  1. Have to agree with you and the bring one gift in a family like ours stops even more of the build up of stuff. I loved your gifts thought hmmmm Heather has a little bit of me in her then I thought well I'm creative and I am not domestic so I might have to give your mom and Aunts for that


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