One of my favorite things to give AND receive are gift baskets. While the individual contents may not be worth much on their own, it is the act of discovery that thrills me. Gift baskets turn people into queens and kings excitedly sorting their treasures. After all, why settle for one gift when you can have a trove of many!

A gift basket – a collection of smaller gifts and / or treats within a larger container – can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. If the idea of creating one makes you nervous because you think it’s all fancy baskets and cellophane, don’t be. Gift baskets can be as unique as the giver and receiver. To get you started on creating your very own, here are the basic steps to making a gift basket with ideas on how you can customize each area.

Basket Theme

Before you do anything, decide on your theme. This can apply to the container and wrapping as well as the contents for a more well-rounded gift. Not sure where to start? While you can focus on the occasion (holiday, road trip, graduation, shower, etc.), it’s even more important to focus on the gift recipient’s personality and likes. And, by the way, that applies to ALL gifts, not just gift baskets! Try these brainstorming ideas:

  • Hobbies (photography, writing, cooking, gardening, etc.)
  • Sports (dance, martial arts, hiking, team sports, professional sports teams, etc.)
  • Media (movies, t.v. shows, books, games, comics, etc.)
  • Dreams (become an astronaut, learn a foreign language, visit another country, etc.)
  • Colors (primary colors, pastels, metallics, black & white, etc.)
  • Locations (hometown, college town, favorite vacation spot, future destination)

Basket Structure

Now that you have your theme and a plan, let’s look at the basic structure of a gift basket.


Does it have to be a basket? NOPE! Seriously, though, there is only a small group of people who love having actual baskets in their home (ahem, like my mother), but most people don’t find them useful or visually appealing. Think outside of the basket… haha, yes, I went there. One of the things I love to do is make the basket / container something functional that the recipient can use again and not just throw in a closet. Depending on your theme, here are a few possibilities:

  • Plastic storage container
  • Food-safe container (ex: Ziploc, Glad, etc.)
  • Thematic lunchbox / thermos / traveling coffee mug
  • Tote bag / purse / backpack
  • Pillow case
  • Vase / pottery

You can see in the above list that there are a lot of different sizes and costs to best meet your needs. As a personal side note, please remember that bigger isn’t always better. A superhero coffee mug filled with their favorite snacks could mean the world to someone.


I hate filler. That stuff gets everywhere and serves no purpose other than to sell you on buying the “pretty” gift basket in the store. I promise that the recipient really doesn’t care. Now, if you have empty spaces in the container that you really need to fill to cushion the items and keep them from shifting, then that’s completely valid. I admit it is better to have filler and keep items from breaking than have no filler and broken gifts.

However, you might consider – budget-allowing – to make your filler part of the gift. For instance, soft items like socks, scarves, and inexpensive blankets from the budget store make good filler that can be reused. With the variety of styles available, you can even make them match your theme. Just make sure you include that in your budget!

You may also find that store-bought gift baskets use Styrofoam or cardboard inserts to raise the contents outside of the basket. This is also not important and strictly meant as a selling technique. You’re making your own and the recipient doesn’t need to be sold on the gift, so you can skip it. (Inserts can also make your gift basket top-heavy and prone to falling, which leads to damage and frustration.)


Guess what? If you found a container that isn’t see-through, you may be able to skip ahead to just applying a bow. SCORE!  That’s right, an attractive container can be its own wrapping, which can help your budget (i.e. if you spent more on the container but don’t need to wrap it, the costs may even out). If your container is see-through, you could line it with tissue paper or a pretty fabric and stick a bow on it. Same result.

We’re not always that lucky, though, so you may still have to wrap it. The easiest thing to do is stick it in a gift bag, which is fine. If you don’t mind your recipient seeing the contents without unwrapping, you can wrap the entire thing in cellophane and add a bow. OR, if you want to make the surprise last longer, wrap the individual items and leave the container unwrapped. Whatever you do, don’t break your back over it.

Basket Contents

The key to a really great gift basket is variety. After all, if it has only one kind of thing, it’s not really a gift basket, is it? Instead, challenge yourself to think of the full spectrum of your theme and try to include different items from that spectrum. You don’t have to go broke, either. I’ve seen some awesome gift baskets that only had three items in them, but each item was so meaningful, it stole the show. How about some of these:

  • Food: salty / sweet, crunchy / creamy, dense / light, spicy / mild, traditional / exotic, familiar / new
  • Memorabilia: posters / bookmarks, tshirts / pins, DVDs / books, collectibles / toys, retro / modern
  • House: soaps / towels, utensils / oven mitts, picture frames / pillows, cookbooks / food, wine / glasses
  • General: something to use / to keep, something to eat / to drink, something to display / to hold, something for everyday / for special occasions, something for one / for many, something old / new

The basket contents are my favorite, because you can get really creative and customized.

And there you have it! You are now a gift basket pro. Go forth and spread your gifting joy.

Happy eventing!