Thursday, November 29, 2007

Packaging Food Gifts

A great gift during the holidays are sweet treats and special foods, and it’s quite simple to prepare these things ourselves. One problem with making your own food gifts though, may be a lackluster presentation. A bunch of cookies on a paper plate loosely covered in red Saran Wrap may not evoke grateful cries of joy from your friends and family. Especially if the wrap looses it’s cling with repeated use as people help themselves to cookies and the plate is in danger of collapsing and spilling it’s burden of sweets on the ground. Learning how to package your home baked sweets will go a long way in improving the response to your gift. We eat first with our eyes, so it is important to make food gifts appealing and appetizing in appearance.

The correct packaging can keep your homemade treats from looking cheap and will give them the same luxury look as the fancy department store. Take the time to create some custom gift tags listing the ingredients and serving and storing suggestions. You can easily make a professional looking project with the computer using these downloadable labels( Or you can use leftover scrap booking supplies to make great labels for your special items.

Beyond the label, you must put thought into the containers that your treats will go into. Jars can be good for smaller pieces of candy, or for layered mixes. You can put things such as spice blends or wrapped candies into Ziploc bags, but go the extra step and really make it look professional by designing a cardstock header that can be stapled sandwich style onto the top of the bag to hide the zip and list the contents. Another good packaging idea that is inexpensive are the plastic trays Chinese takeout comes in. You can save them, or if you don’t eat out very often, you could ask your local restaurant if they would sell some. These are nice because they have lids. The small plastic containers that frozen dinners such as Lean Cuisine come in are also nice. You can pour fudge right into them, and then when it is set, slide them into a nice clear bag and tie closed with ribbons. Then it is portioned and packaged already.

Bear in mind, that since these gifts are meant to be consumed, you should do your best to keep the packaging appealing, appetizing, and sanitary looking. Make sure that you don’t put cookies together while they are warm, or they will stick and become distorted. If you’ve made candies that are in pieces, such as caramel, take the time to wrap each piece individually in it’s own square of waxed paper. Avoid colored food wraps, since they very often make the food look “off”. Bread can be given in decorated paper bags, or perhaps set into a tin or tray, then slipped into a clear plastic bag. Layer stickier candies and treats such as barks and brittles with waxed paper so they do not form one big block of brittle.

Wilton, the cake decorating company, sells many different bags and papers for packaging treats, but you can also look around the kitchen and see what you can do to make the common containers more festive and professional looking. Using paper bands to wrap around loaves of bread that have been securely wrapped in clear Saran Wrap or jars of jam can really add a special touch without a lot of effort. Sewing fabric baskets to hold an assortment of treats will really make a gift special. Look at the packaging used in store bought food gifts and take some tips from those manufacturers. You food surely tastes better than mass produced treats, so it deserves packaging that’s just as good, if not better.

Clear, cute labeling will go a long way in making your homemade food gifts a big success, as will close attention to clean packaging and creating a neat appearance. Many people are hesitant to give homemade food, because they’re afraid it will make them look cheap or childish, but with appropriate presentation your gifts will look chic and luxurious.

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