As the holidays approach, I like to start searching for the best homemade food gifts to make for my family, friends and neighbors. As I have a large family and friendly neighbors, making homemade gifts is my go-to, so I can both save money and give my presents a personal touch.

This year, I’m mixing some favorite recipes with a couple of new ones I’ve tested out on my children and husband to great approval.

Whole Wheat Banana Berry Bread

I really like this whole wheat banana berry bread recipe for a couple of my friends who are more health-focused when it comes to their eating habits. Only two tablespoons of honey and the natural sweetness of the fruit makes this bread a dessert bread, which I really appreciate.

I did make a mistake the first time I baked it. I didn’t cut the strawberries as small as I should have, resulting in them all sitting at the bottom of my loaf! My kids, husband and I ate the mistake, which still tasted delicious, but I certainly will remember to cut my fruit up when I bake this for my friends.

Salted Caramel Sauce

A simple and relatively shelf-stable homemade food gift is salted caramel sauce. I tend to rotate this gift with homemade jelly and it has always been a hit.

Aside from the ingredients, I usually pick up a pack of small canning jars from my local dollar store and festive card stock. That way, I can attach a simple note as well as labeling who the gift is for. One year, I did try to do a cute fabric topper between the lid and the screw top of the jar and I’m here to say that it was a terrible idea. Sticky foods and fabric should not be mixed.

Crock Pot Candy

I love making crock pot candy for its pure simplicity. Who doesn’t want to make a treat by just dumping the ingredients in a slow cooker, then scooping it onto parchment paper to cool? Also, it is incredibly easy to experiment with the simple formula of slow cooker candy. An alternative version I like to make for one of my neighbors who are allergic to nuts is a mix of white chocolate and crushed candy cane.

Hot Chocolate Spoons

There is nothing I love more than hot chocolate in the winter, though I admit, I pretty much love it all year-round. That’s why I loved the idea of hot chocolate spoons. However, I wasn’t a fan of the idea of using plastic spoons, as I felt like it wasn’t special enough for a gift.

To spice up my spoons, I went on a hunt to my local thrift store. I found a collection of vintage-looking spoons, but I hit the jackpot when I found a bag of souvenir state spoons. Last year, for one of my neighbors with a large family, I made the vintage spoons into hot chocolate spoons for the parents and souvenir state hot chocolate spoons for their children. The parents mentioned to me later that there was plenty of excitement and spoon swapping among the children, giving greater mileage for my simple homemade food gift.

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Cream Cheese Brownies

A decadent and easy homemade food gift to make is cream cheese brownies. I like to whip them up in pretty large batches and bring them to housewarming parties, potlucks and gift them during the holidays.

One thing I did make sure to do is to use a disposable pan to make the brownies. That way, my friends and neighbors don’t feel the stress of needing to wash and return one of my pans and I don’t have to be upset if they never give it back.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix in a Jar

Technically, making a chocolate chip cookie mix and putting it in a jar isn’t giving a completely edible homemade food. But, since it can become food, I think it counts.

Part of what I love about making the cookie mix is the ability to tailor it to the needs and preferences of my friends. One of my friends has two children who have Celiac’s disease, so I like to put together a gluten-free mix for them.

As I’ve focused on giving thoughtful, homemade food gifts, I have found I can better focus on my connection to my friends, family and neighbors. Also, as my children have gotten older, I have involved them in the process and am proud to see them bake homemade gift for their friends.