Homemade gifts in a hurry – non-edibles

If you want to give homemade gifts that don’t pile on the calories, here are a few ideas for presents that you can make quickly and cheaply, without the need for any fancy equipment. Nearly all the ingredients and other materials can be bought easily from the supermarket, local chemist or hardware shop too. OK, here goes:

Spa bath salts. For the basic mix, stir together equal parts of fine sea salt (from the supermarket) and Epsom salts (from the chemist). You can then mix in a few dried herbs and dried citrus zest (try combinations of rosemary and orange, basil and lime, or mint and grapefruit etc), or a handful of dried flowers such as lavender or rose. Store sealed in a large airtight jar, with instructions to use a handful of mixture per bath. Epsom salts are pretty powerful, so don’t give them to anyone with a heart condition or high blood pressure.


Fizzing bath grains. Mix 50g fine sea salt and 100g of bicarbonate of soda (from the supermarket), and 50g of citric acid together to make the basic mix. You can get citric acid from many Asian supermarkets and some chemists. Vary the colour or scent by adding a tiny amount of food colouring, flavouring, perfume or essential oils. Mix well, then sieve. Put in an airtight jar and label with a note saying that a heaped tablespoon of powder is enough for one bath.

Milk bath. Buy some finely-textured dried skimmed milk powder. Scent each jarful of powder by mixing in the crushed-up contents of two chamomile teabags. Alternatively you can scent it by swirling a few drops of vanilla essence inside the jar and allowing it to dry completely (the airing cupboard’s good if you’re in a hurry) before adding the milk powder. A small handful of mixture is needed per bath.

Brown sugar body scrub. Mix 500g Demerara sugar with 125ml of light oil (such as grapeseed or sunflower) for the basic scrub. If you want to scent it further, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and 2 heaped teaspoons of ground cinnamon, or add a heaped tablespoon of ground coffee. To use, rub a small handful over wet skin in the shower, then rinse off – and be careful as it can make the shower tray a bit slippy.


Bath ‘tea’. There are loads of recipes for these mixtures, with all kinds of herbs and flowers, or even with oatmeal. If you can sew, seal the mixture inside big squares of loose weave material such as muslin or cheesecloth. If not, buy ready-hemmed muslin cloths and tie the mixture inside with some string or ribbon. Use one ‘tea’ bag per bath.

Glycerine soaps. Unlike traditional soaps, clear glycerine soaps don’t have to sit around for a long time to wait for caustic soda to become less toxic. If you have access to basic glycerine soap, e.g. from a nearby craft shop, then you can gently melt it down in a double boiler or low-power microwave, thoroughly mix in colours and scents, then set it into moulds (tapping gently to get rid of air bubbles) to be ready a few hours later. If you don’t have moulds, clean empty margarine tubs and yoghurt pots will do. Don’t add fresh or dried herbs/flowers, as the liquid in the soap will make them brown and go off. You can add small plastic toys or flowers etc to make fun stocking fillers, or clean dry sand to make body scrub bars.

Natural room freshener. Cut oranges and lemons into 1cm thick slices and stud their rinds with whole cloves, then dry (but don’t cook) slowly on the lowest oven setting for a few hours. If they aren’t quite dry after this, put them on kitchen paper and leave them in the airing cupboard or on a radiator overnight. Once completely dried, mix with cinnamon sticks, dried bay leaves and whole star anises, and package nicely in a bowl or pot.

Quick fancy candles. If you’re arty, you can carefully melt the surface of wax candles with a hairdryer. This gives you a few seconds to stick tiny things onto the candle, such as sequins, glitter, pine needles, thin ribbons or patterned/drawn-on pieces of tissue paper.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and brush real gold leaf onto a bowlful of pears. No, not really, I’m cracking open the Irish cream liqueur and putting my feet up in front of The Nightmare Before Christmas. See you on the other side.

Similar Posts


  1. What great ideas! I usually only think to make food gifts. This opens up a new world to me. Thanks!

  2. Hi Viviana, thanks for commenting. I was just thinking most of the gifts are quite girly, but you could make the soaps a bit blokey. Or make them a tray of biccies or a pan of fudge, never fails. x

Comments are closed.