Give the gift of food, drink, or merriment
I love giving friends and family the gift of consumables. My father loves good cheese (like father, like son), so I’ve often given him gift subscriptions to Cowgirl Creamery for a few months, just so he has something nice to snack on (and I can try some too, when I go visit)! If you want even more cheese, consider a subscription from Murray’s Cheese, although be careful, these subscriptions can get pricey.
Many of my friends are coffee lovers, so a customized subscription from Trade Coffee or Blue Bottle Coffee makes for a great gift, and the opportunity to try different blends, regions, and flavors — it’s a gift that quite seriously keeps on giving. Speaking of which, if you’re a wine fan, you can get similar subscription experiences that are tailored to the recipient’s palate from companies like Tasting Room and Winc. If your recipient is into wine but doesn’t want to open a whole bottle themselves, try Vinebox, which ships tasting selections of several wines, but only enough to fill a glass of each. I’ve also been really into Haus lately, if you’re shopping for the wine or cocktail lover who’s tried it all and wants something new and refreshing.
These are just a few ideas. Think about what your recipient likes eating or drinking, and there’s probably an option for them. Do they love ice cream? (Who doesn’t like ice cream?) Maybe a tasting selection from Jeni’s Ice Cream would make a great gift. Maybe your recipient would prefer chocolate? Or fruit? Wirecutter has an entire rundown of gift baskets and subscriptions that don’t suck right here, including some cheese recommendations I didn’t mention.
Think of these food and drink subscriptions or baskets like the upgraded, 21st-century version of old school wicker gift baskets. They take less time (in fact, you don’t have to assemble them at all), they’re guaranteed to be customized to your recipient’s preferences, and instead of a one-off experience, they get weeks or months of enjoyment out of them. You don’t even have to find a way to ship the things yourself.
Also, gift subscriptions don’t have to just be about food. I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest a gift subscription to The New York Times (thank you!) and regardless of where you live, I’m willing to bet there’s a local newspaper, magazine, public radio or television station, or another project that could use support. Giving someone the gift of a newspaper they can read freely each day or an in-name donation is definitely unique (and hey, public radio tote bags are pretty nice).
Don’t think “gift,” think “experience”
Sometimes the best gifts aren’t necessarily physical items that can be used, but experiences to be enjoyed. You don’t have to give your recipient a whole vacation or something (but more power to you if you can afford that), but consider something like a visit to a local bookstore or music store, and treating your recipient to something nice. Then they get a tangible gift, and time with you — far better than just the item itself.
If your recipient doesn’t have one, consider taking them to get their library card. You get to support your local library, and both you and your recipient get books, e-books, music, movies, and more — not to mention the community activities and events that usually take place at your local library. Consider a trip to a museum you’ve always wanted to visit, or check the website of the ones you’ve been to before to see if there’s a special exhibition or event you’d like to attend. Consider a trip to a state or national park and spend a little time in the great outdoors, whether it’s on a hike through the woods, or just a well-packed picnic on a scenic overlook.