Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Last-Minute Local: Holiday Gift Ideas

by Maria Noel Groves, Co-op Wellness Educator

Oh snap! Guess what I forgot?

If you're anything like me, you've got about six holiday shindigs coming up in the next week and are scurrying to get the last of your holiday gift list checked off. Instead of torturing yourself with a trip to the mall or supporting some faceless chain store, swing by the Co-op for sweet localvore gifts. By buying a locally made product at your local Co-op store, you're not only getting a great present, but you're also supporting the local economy... times TWO.

For every dollar you spend on *anything* at the Co-op, 70 cents is reinvested into our local community. Buy a local item here, and almost your whole dollar stays in NH. Compare that to just 20 cents at a chain store, 6 cents at a big box store, and nada on an online store.

Oh, and did I mention that these are some pretty cool gifties? Perfect for a fellow foodie, party host, stocking stuffer, or Yankee Swap! Here are some of my favorite gift ideas from the Co-op's local and regional businesses...

The Local Gourmet

Everyone loves to eat, but the folks who come by the Co-op have turned it into an art form (and, one could ague, a political act). Forget those prefab "Fancy Farms" cheese and sausage packs, the Co-op has the real deal with real flavor and none of those nasty chemicals.

Wine, Beer & Spirits
  • Local Wine - I'll be stocking up this week so I can bring a bottle everywhere I go... Personal faves include Granite State Red by LaBelle Winery (the closest thing we have to a "real" red made locally) and lightly sweet table reds like South Hampton Red by Jewell Towne Vineyards. LaBelle's Reisling will appeal to the white wine drinker. Also check out the unique selection of fruit wines made locally including the pleasantly tart Heirloom Crabapple Wine by Hermit Woods.
  • Local Brews: Not being a beer fan, I had to turn to the Co-op's beer buyer Shane Smith. He highly recommends anything from White Birch Brewing, especially the Tavern Ale, which was recently rated in the 25 brews nationwide. Also check out the 603 bombers and classics like Tuckerman's.
  • Unique Spirits: For creative palates, try something new this year. The Co-op offers an impressive selection of local mead. Try Kurt's Apple Pie, Coffee in Bed, or other cutely named options (Stiletto, Deviant...) by Moonlight Meadery. The Vanilla Bean by Sap House Meadery is sure to please, and you can also go for extra-local Sugar Maple or the unique Hopped Blueberry Maple. Old-fashioned dry Farnum Hill Ciders are perfect for those who don't like their drinks sweet.
Cheese & Friends
  • New England Cheese: For a classic set, check out the many cheddar, jack, and colby options by Neighborly Farms of Vermont. The goat cheese lover will be thrilled by the specialty chevre by Heartsong Farm and Vermont Creamery. And the baby brie by Sandwich Creamery is fabulous.
  • Fancy Spreads: Check out the Peach Ginger and Red Pepper Jelly by Bonnie's Jams and the tasty selection of jams, spreads, and dressings by Stonewall Farm (see the bookcase of goodies near the coffee machine). 
  • Something to Put It All On: The artisan Craquelin crisps are amazing. Enjoy locally baked bread made with locally milled flour from artisan bakeries including Sunnyfield and Canterbury Bread Shop. It's the perfect accompaniment to a selection of cheese and/or jams, but be sure to give it the same day you buy it to ensure good flavor and texture. Pick up a locally handcrafted wooden cutting board to go with it all!
The Sweet Stuff
  •  Sweet Syrups: Give the Sweet Tooth on your list the gift of local goodness with Hillside Apiaries honey, North Family Farm organic maple syrup, and ale-inspired sauces by the BEERkery Co. (yes, seriously!).
  • Buzz Buzz: Enjoy all-natural sugar-free cocoa by In Joy Organics and delicious roasted coffee beans by Equal Exchange (I highly recommend the Midnight Sun!) or Granite Ledge.
  • Chocaholic Delights: Ok, the chocolate itself may not be locally grown, but you can still get New England-made specialty chocolates by Equal Exchange and Lake Champlain Chocolates.
  • Crafted Cookies: Enjoy all-natural decorated homemade cookies by the Co-op's own Bakery Box pastry chefs (really, these are the best around!) or the packaged delights from Fancypants Bakery and Dancing Deer Baking Co. Dancing Deer also makes great gingerbread house kits... and if gingerbread houses are on your to-do list this year, I highly recommend them! I once spent four FULL days making my own gingerbread houses from scratch for a group activity, and I don't recommend it. Guaranteed kitchen meltdown.

Natural Beauty

It's true, there are a few things at the Co-op that you can't eat. Here are some great options for the  glam gal (or guy) in your life, sans those nasty chemicals...
  • Bee Beautiful: The "Bee" line from S Formulators features an amazing fresh-floral fragrance specially crafted from essential oils. You can find the cream, toner, spritz, and "bee snug" warmers. A portion of the proceeds is donated to the Honeybee Research Fund.
  • Super Scents: Pocket-sized solid perfumes by Healing Earth Vermont Herbals are the perfect stocking stuffer.
  • Lip Service: Tinted and healing balms by W.S. Badger are a holiday classic!
  • Clean & Green: Everyone needs soap! Check out handmade soap bars by Northwood Naturals and Paris Market.

Natural Home

Ok, so these products aren't local or regional; however, I can't help but mention them. The Co-op  has a *wide* range of slick, eco-friendly housewares including composting buckets, mini blenders, lunch boxes, brushes, bamboo cutting boards and kitchen utensils, soy and beeswax candles, and more! Don't forget the pots and pans, knives, etc. that you can get with your Green Stamps or purchase outright.


Time is of the essence, but if you want to make your own all-natural gifts, here are some of my favorite recipes!

The Tangible Intangibles

 These gifts keep on giving!
  • Co-op Gift Cards are available in any denomination.
  • The Gift of Co-op Membership will last a lifetime!
  • Registration for a Co-op's Health & Wellness Series is sure to please. The Eat Well, Be Well Healthy Cooking Series begins January 13, 2014, with two more series scheduled later in the year.

For more gift ideas, check out the Co-op's Holiday Gift Guide, but remember, it's still just a sampling - see the store for the full selection! Don't worry, they've got stuff to wrap it, too!