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by Gael Myers, Accredited Practising Dietitian

We’ve put together a bumper list of our favourite budget-friendly and healthy present ideas to help you find the perfect gift for everyone on your list – from foodie friends, to plant loving colleagues, to the aunt who has everything.

Oh Christmas treats

There’s nothing quite like receiving a jar of home-made goodies given from the heart. Preparing treats to give as gifts also makes for a nice family activity to get everyone in the holiday spirit in the lead-up to Christmas.

Here are some great options:

Bird seed crackers

Bird seed crackers

Packed full of oaty, seedy goodness, these bird seed crackers come in five flavour variations including rosemary, parmesan, fig & ginger, apricot or mango. Get the recipe.

Toasted breakfast bars

Toasted breakfast bars

These breakfast bars call for only 5 ingredients, including a few pantry staples and those just-about-to-turn bananas languishing at the bottom of the fruit bowl. Get the recipe.

Preserved lemons

Preserved lemons

Preserved lemons are an excellent addition to pasta and salads, in tagines or with sauteed green veg. They’re a simple and delicious way to use up the glut of winter lemons too!

Slice lemons and layer in a sterilised jar with a sprinkle of salt between each layer. Press each slice down as you go so some of the juice comes out. Make sure all lemons are submerged in juice when you’ve finished, topping up with a little extra lemon juice if required . If you’d like to, you can add in some extra flavour elements like whole peppercorns, thyme or bay leaves. Seal the jar, and place in the pantry or on the counter out of direct sunlight for around 3-4 weeks. Turn the jar upside down occasionally during the process.

Chai tea

Chai tea

Chai combines black tea with an assortment of warm spices like ginger, cloves, cardamom, peppercorns, nutmeg, star anise and cinnamon. There are many different recipes with varying ingredients so if any of the spices are difficult to find in your area, or expensive, you can look for a version that works better for you. Here’s one option from BBC Good Food.

Combine spices and tea together and place in a jar (repurpose old food jars for an inexpensive and environmentally friendly option). For that extra special touch, handwrite instructions for preparing chai tea at home on a small piece of card and attach this to the jar with some raffia or twine.

Caramelised onions

Caramelised onions

These add a rich sweetness to everything they touch. They’re a great addition to burgers, quiches, pasta and even a humble cheese toastie!

Cook sliced onions in a little oil over a low heat until they start to become soft and golden (at least 30 minutes). Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of sugar in the last 5 minutes of cooking. If you’d prefer to follow a recipe, you can find one here.

Mango & chilli chutney

Mango chutney

Zingy and sweet mango and chilli chutney is the perfect accompaniment to curries, samosas, cheese and crackers and as a spread in sandwiches. To keep costs down, use frozen mango in place of fresh (you can often find larger packets of relatively well-priced frozen fruit at smaller, independent supermarkets). There are many different recipes available on the internet for making chutney, here’s one you might like to try.

We have loads more edible gift ideas over here.

Here runs Santa Claus

Give the gift of health with a present that gets you up and moving while having fun. A backyard cricket set, bocce, finska or active party games like twister or throw the burrito are all good options. A reusable water bottle also makes for a great gift!

Playing twister

Let it grow

Indoor plants have surged in popularity over the last few years as living and breathing home and office décor. What I love about indoor plants is that many are so easy to propagate, meaning that once you have one plant you can create many more, and have the option to give some away as gifts. I have had most success in propagating devil’s ivy (also known as pothos) and ZZs (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), however there are loads of options to try. Both ZZs and devil’s ivy make excellent gifts for the friend who struggles to keep plants alive as they are very hardy growers.

You can create new devil’s ivy plants by chopping of a roughly 10cm section from your base plant, making the cut just below a node (where the leaf meets the stem). Trim excess leaves at the cut end. Place the end of the cutting in a small jar of clean water until it starts to grow roots. The cutting can then be planted in a pot with some potting soil. I’ve also been able to use this technique to grow Swiss cheese monstera and succulents like aeoniums.

Cutting below the node

Trimming leaves
Placing in water

New ZZ plants can be created from more well-established plants by separating off one of the thick stems at the base and repotting it into a new container. As they are relatively slow growers, you’ll only be able to divide stems to create new plants occasionally.

For more information and tips on growing indoor plant cuttings check out this article from the ABC. If you’re interested in propagating herbs and vegies, check out our article over here.

Deck out the halls

Exchanging a home-made or specially chosen Christmas tree ornament with like-minded friends or family members is a great way to celebrate the holiday season while keeping costs down. It also makes the tradition of putting up your tree each year extra special as you place ornaments on the tree that remind you of particular people.

Many stores sell individual Christmas ornaments, allowing you to select the one that most fits the person you are buying for. If you decide to make your own decorations, there are many great (and not so great!) ideas on Pinterest. Here are a few that you might like to try:

Orange slices and cinnamon

All I want for Christmas is books

If you and your group of friends love to read, you could consider starting a Christmas book club in place of the usual gift exchange. Each person buys a book they think the group would like to read, wraps it up and brings it to a Christmas get-together. The wrapped books are all placed in a pile, and each person take it in turn to choose a book from the selection. The person who is hosting the get-together goes first, then whoever bought the book that the host received goes next and so on. To make things more affordable, you could set a rule that any books given are purchased second-hand.

A festive thyme of year

Make the most of your green thumb by turning your roaring herb patch into thoughtful home-made gifts. Herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage and bay leaves, as well as whole chillies, can be dried and packaged into small jars and given as a present to the foodies in your life.

All you need to do is cut off the stems, tie them together with string and hang the fragrant bouquets upside down in a cool, dry and well-ventilated spot away from direct sunlight. Drying times will vary, but most should be ready within a few weeks.

You can find more info and tips here.

Thyme and rosemary drying upside down

That’s a wrap!

For more healthy, home-made present ideas, check out our blog here.

If you have any other great healthy and budget-friendly gift ideas, we’d love to hear them! You can share your favourite tips using the comment box below.

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