Preserves – pickles, chutneys and jams – work well in hampers and are also good Small Presents but do pay attention to the preferences of the recipient: diabetics may not want jam, some people can’t abide pickles, and banana chutney is a taste that not many people have acquired.
If economy is your main driver:
- Use seasonal fruit and veg (preferably from your own garden)
- Steer clear of recipes that use expensive spices
If you want to keep things green:
- Use local ingredients
- Use recycled jars
Here are a few kinds of preserve to consider:
- Tomato relish (popular with nearly everyone, even with primary school children if you keep the chunks small and call it “sauce”)
- Pickled onions and pickled cucumber (most people know what to do with these)
- Pickled cauliflower (save this for pickle lovers)
Christmas Day 1970: Peter grabbed me before the last teacup returned to its saucer.
“Let’s volunteer for the morning tea dishes!” he said. ”They’ll much easier than anything else!”
I admired his strategy and we garnered both the kudos of actually volunteering for housework and the ease of a sinkful of cake plates – no gravy, no custard and no baking dishes. (Peter grew up into the kind of man who always knows the best way to get a bargain and the short cut to everywhere and I am not even slightly surprised.)
 Or weed-patch, in the case of blackberries.
 If you can’t get local pickling vinegar, you could make your own apple cider vinegar… but if you’re producing home-made apple cider vinegar, use that as a Small Present and forget about the pickles.
 My friend Carol’s hoarding mother also had a phenomenal number of jars, so Carol used to pretend to make jam once a month to have an excuse to take a box of glass out of the house. (Then Carol would buy a jar of jam from a fete to take to her mother as “proof” but her mother did wonder why the quality varied so much.)