Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Puttin' on the Ritz: Decorating Tips for Food Swap Goods

We're a week out from our first Holiday Food Swap...and that's got me thinking about crafty ways to decorate our foodstuffs without breaking the bank.

If you're thinking about that too, let me offer some suggestions and ideas.

Who needs wrapping?

While personally I think the true beauty of a jar of preserves (or any kind of food) is what's inside, sometimes a little dash of pizzazz can go a long way.

First up, labels. This may sound simple, but this can truly run the gamut.

#1 - Our lowest investment option is simply using a Sharpie and writing right on the jar or lid. And Sharpie ink comes off of glass with a little rubbing alcohol, so you can always clean your jar up at a later date if gifting it.

A simple label is nice
#2 - A step up from there is busting out some of the printer labels you probably have at home or at work. Cut 'em in fancy shapes or use them as they come.

Or, you could buy some canning-specific labels. Some jar cases come with labels but your local hardware store is sure to have a few different types as well. I personally like these ones which ACE Hardware sells for about the same price.

Maybe a trip to OfficeMax is the thing for you? Shipping tags can readily be repurposed into simple and attractive gift tags. I especially like these simple types that have an appealingly retro look and feel.

And while I've never even been inside a Michael's store, I know you can go label and gift tag crazy there. (C'mon Martha's got her own line of "embellishments" for the chain!)

#3 - There are a ton of free canning label templates out there to choose from. A simple Google search could get you lost amid the cyber craft world for a good long time. To save you some of that effort, I've selected a few from the community at large that I thought were the best.
  1. The Kitchn rounded up 5 fabulously different templates
  2. Sweet Local Farm has a very cute selection on their blog
  3. Garden Therapy has various modern, decorative patterns
  4. And while there's some duplication within Tipnut.com's collection, I especially liked the marmalade templates

So, if labels is the first category, the second one to think about is *bling*.

If you follow any of the preserving blogs and foodie community sites, you'll know that right now there's a lot of talk about decking out your homemade edibles.

One of the most well-known and entertaining is Well Preserved's Pimp that Preserve contest currently underway. Tune in for some creative and unique takes on the theme.

I also loved the jar toppers featured on You Are My Fave. I could even see filling these with other seasonal items like ornaments or pinecones and using them as holiday decor.

Bottles & Other Containers:
Patterned glassine bags for baked goods
  1. Bag it up - Glassine bags lend themselves very well to baked goods and come in all sizes. You can also find cute patterned ones. May I suggest the stationery annex of Kinokuniya in Japantown? That's where I scored the ones I used for the biscotti at the last swap. Those bags, by the way, I had bought some time back and was just waiting for the chance to use them. Since the biscotti was a last minute addition to my swap lineup, voila enter delightful floral bags. These colored organza bags are also perfect for a no-frills, but more importantly no-fuss presentation.
  2. When in doubt, apply ribbon! - You can go for the gold, or use red + white baker's twine, but ribbon almost always makes a package feel more like a special gift. Want to get all fancy on it? Check out this video on how to tie a bow. (I have a number of years at a florist in my work past, so bows like this come second nature to me. It was still kind of fun to watch the how-to video...) 
  3. Stars Upon Thars - Make like the Sneetches and put a star on it! Easy to draw or cut out, I say a star makes things instantly festive. 
  4. Go Green - Look to Mother Nature and garnish your goods with things from the garden. From a small bunch of herbs to a cluster of dried flowers to a pretty fall leaf...all of them are sure to please this crowd.
  5. Sparkle Time - Now glitter may not be exactly what we're looking for, though I am certainly a believer that it can be used tastefully, but what about sequins? Lamé? Gilded paper? Even tin foil can be a winner.  
  6. Scrap It - I confess that I keep all kinds of scraps of papers. Bits of leftover wrapping paper I really like, decorative paper bags and more; I've got a drawer full of it. And then some. But really, it does come in handy. (For example, check out the advent calendar I made this week out of scrap paper.) There are no limits to how you can get creative with paper. And you're recycling at the same time so it feels good too. 
Cone advent calendar, see here for how-to
Got more ideas? I'd love to hear them. And will hopefully see them at the swap next week. 

Speaking of which, is this going to be your first time coming to the swap? Check out our Swapping How-To page for some of the basics including a new request on how to label your jars. As always, shoot us an email at sfswappers@gmail.com if you have a question, or tap the valuable resource of other swappers and share your thoughts or questions on the Facebook page.

Hope this has stoked your creative fires a bit, but most importantly have fun and just do what you can. This is a busy time of year and food swapping is not supposed to be stressful. See you next week!


  1. What a thoughtful posts. It was enough to get me to browse through your earlier posts. I'm really glad. You've created a great spot to visit and I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day.

    1. What kind words Mamun - thank you so much and glad you'll be joining in!