‘Tis the season for gift baskets. But this year, you’ll break out of the pre-packaged mold and prepare your own picture-perfect gift basket in five simple steps. Read on to find out what kind of basket to buy, what to put inside it, and how to wrap it, straight from the experts.  

1. Buy the right basket. It’s not just about picking something stylish. When you select the basket, you must consider a few factors, advises Jason Wing, director of merchandising for online gift basket retailer 1-800-Baskets. First and foremost, think about the size you need, he says, “based on your planned contents, and whether the gift basket is for an individual or a group of people.” Then, consider how the basket will be delivered—by hand, or in the mail—so you can purchase a basket durable enough for transit. Lastly, style does matter. So, make sure the basket aesthetically matches the overall sentiment and design of the gift.  

2. Wrap it up. While hand-delivered baskets can be passed along au-naturale—without any wrapping—you can dress them up with fabric or netting for a “more luxurious feel.” says Wang. But for baskets sent in the mail, he says, “cellophane is the most functional, and will provide the best hold for shipping.” Choose a colored cellophane for fun and festivity.

3. Add the best items. One thing every gift basket must have, says Mandy Wynn, owner of BKLYN Larder, is something local. “There’s nothing like championing a small-batch maker with a little hometown pride to make your gift feel extra personal,” Wynn says. Then add in something sweet—licorice, caramels, chocolate, or cookies—and something shelf-stable. “It’s hard to finish off an entire food gift in one-sitting—or so we’ve been told,” says Wynn.  “It’s thoughtful to send along something that can be enjoyed days—if not weeks—after you give the gift.” Consider adding “jarred tapenade, jam, spread, or olive oil,” Wynn suggests.

4. Stuff it for the season. Adding stuffing—such as shredded paper—to the bottom of a basket adds extra protection to the gifts inside. But don’t miss the chance to coordinate the padding with the season. “For example, red, green, and gold are often best for holiday gift baskets as opposed to pastels, which might be more appropriate for spring,” Wang says.

5. Personalize the package. “The most important element of any gift is that you find a way to personalize it,” says Wynn. “Select a gift that speaks to the recipient as an individual—particularly if you are sending food. Is anyone in the household gluten free? It will mean so much if you select an item that takes that into account.” Another easy way to personalize a gift basket is to include a note. “Something like, ‘to James, from Mandy,’ might work for an office secret gift exchange,” says Wynn, “but if you go to the trouble to send a gift basket, try to take a moment to tell the recipient how you feel, what makes them special, and why you want them to have this extraordinary gift. Or share something personal about the items. If you’re sending your favorite local chocolate, for example, let them know. Or maybe you just tasted the best almond butter ever and simply had to share it with them.”

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