Sunday, January 18, 2009

Christmas Packaging Tips

This year for the holidays our family decided to exchange food gifts instead of expensive presents. Given the current economy, I'm sure that we were not the only ones to do so. Little did I know what I was getting into. Making and/or purchasing the food items was the simple part. Each household got a bar or two of chocolate from ACKC, a local chocolatier, some spices from local spice company Vanns, a package of peanut brittle, and a package of biscotti. All were items designed to travel well. For local friends, I made up a batch of cranberry white chocolate chip cookies and extra peanut brittle.

Nice, right? Yeah, nice, until you have to figure out how to package everything. Am I the only idiot who did this?? I went to Michaels (3 separate occasions), JoAnn, Pearl Art & Craft, Target, the Container Store, World Market, and even CVS. None of these were in the same location except Michaels and JoAnn. Even that did not work in my favor. I had to purchase cellophane online from JoAnn because every store I went to either did not stock it or had run out. I looked on Martha Stewart's Web site for ideas, but her ideas, while beautiful, involved buying hard-to-find items or things that came in large quantity that would have to be stored, like red and white cotton string. That comes in bulk cones that weigh about 2 lbs and contain over 9,000 ft of string. The other options was to buy things from her craft line, which is not inexpensive.

I worked out my own solutions in the end, but given the amount of difficulty I had in locating everything, I thought I might note down where to find several particularly elusive items.

1. The biscotti were packaged in cardboard gift boxes with clear windows. These came from The Container Store.
2. The 1/4 lb coffee bags held the granola, and also came from The Container Store. They stock both items year-round and are priced quite reasonably, especially given the fact that I looked EVERYWHERE else and could not find anyone willing to sell less than 500 to me. I guess not many people want to buy just half a dozen bakery boxes and coffee bags.
3. As noted earlier, I purchased rolls of clear and colored cellophane from JoAnn online. The cellophane is better than wax paper for wrapping cookies in paper containers because grease will not seep through the plastic. The colored cellophane is more attractive too. If you have the patience, you can also use it to wrap the cookies on their own. Tie a pretty ribbon or a strip of patterned paper around it to give a nice touch.
4. Knowing that the USPS was not going to care about the heat and humidity around my packages, I purchased mini desiccant envelopes to keep my cookies and brittle in good condition until they reached their destinations. I found a good deal at, but you can buy them from camera supply stores, too.
5. To decorate the plain white biscotti boxes, I used a glue gun to apply thin red or green ribbon at the base, and then added a festive cardboard circle to the top. A short box got glittery cardboard letters instead. I did the same with the coffee bags full of granola. The cardboard cutouts came from a box of decorative cutouts meant for scrapbooking.
6. I purchased my treat bags from Michaels as well, and they were TERRIBLE. I made the mistake of putting the peanut brittle into those packages, and they poked right through the bag, making a big mess. Next year I will go back to treat bags from Target - those have never let me down.
7. Mini Christmas tree ornaments from Michaels came in a set of 16 and looked very nice tied to bags of cookies.

Hopefully this list can save someone some time next year.


Kea said...

Wow. That's really involved. Your packages look so professional! I would've stuck them in ziplocks and old shoeboxes and be done with it.

MooCow said...

I did that last year, but I figured since we weren't doing gifts, it would be nice for everyone to still have pretty packages to open, ya know? What a pain it turned out to be. At least I have lots of leftover stuff for next year though!

Kea said...

There's always a bright side. :)
I've seen a lot of craft stores carrying smallish, sturdy, cardboard gift boxes. They haven't got the plastic windows and they're not intended for food but I don't see any reason why you shouldn't use them as such.

I'm amazed you had to get cellophane online. Cellophane? Any mom-and-pop stationery store in Hong Kong carries cellophane, albeit in funky colours.

I guess I've also never thought about how hard it is to get brown paper bags...I might've settled for a roll of parcel paper, elmer's glue, and some improvisational origami. But that probably would've looked really sad.

Lana said...

Having been at home when my parents received these prettily-packaged goodies, I can attest to the fact that they were a joy to receive, beautiful to look at, and so delicious that nobody wanted to share!

MooCow said...

aww, shucks.