What to Get Family and Friends: 30 Meaningful Gift Ideas

This year, giving meaningful gifts can be easier than ever with our 2018 Gift List that has something for everyone!

  • By Brittany Yamamoto-Taylor
  • November 19, 2018

We all know the holiday season can be stressful. Too often it involves circling crowded parking lots, wandering around malls hoping to find gift inspiration, and standing in long lines for items you’re not even sure your relatives will like. So, instead of letting your anxiety levels go through the roof, let our handy list of 30 great gift ideas melt that stress like a marshmallow in hot cocoa. After all, the holidays should be a time of joy, laughter, and meaning.

One of the best ways to give a meaningful gift with a personal touch is to include a thoughtful element that shows you were thinking beyond the physical gift. With all of our gifts ideas below, we include a free PDF of printable recipes that pair perfectly with the present you pick. This way, when your loved one unwraps their great new gift, they will immediately be able to put it to use!

Another way to ensure your present is as meaningful as can be is to ask yourself a series of questions and see who comes to mind. Sometimes doing this is so much easier than wracking your brain to figure out what to get for each person on your holiday list.


Cook Smarts’ 2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Giving meaningful gifts can be easier than ever with our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide that has something for all your favorite foodies!

Has someone recently gone on a health kick?

Whether your loved one is excited about their new diet or simply looking for ways to get more greens in their daily life, these gifts will open up a whole new world of easy salads.

1. Salad Spinner

A salad spinner is the key to making good salads at home. So often we are deterred from making a healthy meal or side because washing and drying lettuce by hand is a hurdle we just don’t want to deal with at the end of a busy day. That’s where a salad spinner steps in to do the work for us! We can wash and dry our veggies in the same bowl (which can be used as a colander, too!) with a simple spin. It is the absolute easiest and fastest way to turn a head of lettuce into a delicious dish.

2. Dressing Shakers

Dressing shakers can turn a mediocre salad into the best salad your loved one has ever had. This inexpensive gift is perfect for those wanting to eat more greens, but also wanting those veggies to taste great without a high calorie dressing. With measurements on the side and a convenient pouring spout, a shaker is the easiest way to quickly mix up a healthy and delicious dressing at home!

3. Cook Smarts Simple Vinaigrette Print

Our Simple Vinaigrette Print is the best companion to a dressing shaker. This print will help anyone make a healthy dressing in a jiffy! Not only does it have 3 salad dressing recipes and the salad ingredients they pair with best, it also has a fundamental oil, acid, and flavor ratio so the recipient can creatively craft their own vinaigrette.

4. Kids Kitchen Knife Set

With this knife set for kids, it is easy and safe to get the kids involved in cooking. Since these knives and scissors are sharp enough to cut food but not skin, they are a great gift for anyone with little sous chefs in training running around. And, let’s not forget that having the kids help make a salad is a great way to get them excited about eating nutritious greens! Help with food prep and children wanting to eat veggies? It’s a win-win.

Whether you get your friend a spinner, shaker, poster, knife set, or a fun gift combo, make sure to print out these free recipes and wrap it up with your gift!

Is stir-fry someone’s go-to order at a restaurant or takeout joint?

We all know that stir-fry is delicious, but making it at home is healthier, cheaper, and saves time. By gifting any of the stir-fry and health enthusiasts in your life one of these items, you’ll enable them to enjoy their favorite meal any night of the week.

1. Wok

A good wok is the backbone of quick and easy stir-frying. This one’s silicone handle gives a comfortable grip and its convenient nonstick inside and outside (for those splatters!) ensure a painless cleanup. When you give this to your beloved stir-fry fanatic, you make sure they can wok hard, play hard.

2. Garlic Rocker and Peeler Set

This garlic rocker and peeler set seamlessly peels and crushes garlic while leaving fingers smelling garlic-free for the rest of the day. For less than $10, you can help your friends and relatives have a quicker, easier cooking experience.


This citrus juicer has 2 modes to effortlessly press both lemons and limes while simultaneously avoiding any seed stowaways. This $15 squeezer helps with stir-fry flavoring because a squeeze of citrus juice at the end of cooking really elevates the dish. However, you can also use this handy tool for fresh desserts and cocktails!

4. Cook Smarts Guide to Stir-Frying Print

Our Guide to Stir-Frying Print teaches the basics of quick stir-frying with a foolproof formula. With this print, anyone can spend a year mixing and matching different ingredient combos and never make the same stir-fry twice.

Start off your gift recipient with 3 delicious ways to use their new gizmos!

Does someone thoroughly enjoy no-fuss efficiency?

Hands-off tools make great gifts for those who love productivity, yet appreciate others taking the reins every so often. These cookware options will turn meal prep into a set-it-and-forget-it fun.

1. Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

An enameled cast iron Dutch oven is an extremely versatile piece of cookware that lets you marinate, cook, serve, and even refrigerate all in the same dish! It’s the perfect practical gift for anyone who loves a warm meal. Since it is easy to broil, braise, bake, roast, saute, simmer, or fry in it, your friend or relative is sure to use it all the time.

2. Instant Pot

This Instant Pot is a little like magic. It has 7 appliances in 1 – a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté-er, yogurt maker, and warmer. This makes it ideal for anyone with a small kitchen, and its 14 cook settings make it a life-saver for anyone who finds themselves pressed for time. Whether soup, meat, beans, veggies, or even porridge is on the menu, the built-in smart programs will ensure dinner is cooked to perfection.

3. Slow Cooker

A single slow cooker is a less expensive way to give your loved one the convenience of hands-off meals with endless options. This model allows for cooking for 30 minutes to 18 hours and automatically switches to warm when the time is up. It’s a great gift for anyone who has long work days or has kids (and especially for those who have both!).

4. Cook Smarts Aromatics Print

Aromatics are combinations of vegetables and herbs that a home chef heats in oil or butter at the start of the cooking process. Our Aromatics Print is a great cheat sheet for anyone who wants to get flavors just right with the glance of an eye. From French to Chinese food, this one print shows the aromatics to use in 8 different cuisines so your friend can use their time efficiently instead of getting sucked into the rabbit hole of online searches.

With these 3 flavorful recipes, your gift can go straight into action!

Is someone looking for ways to save time?

We all have at least one friend who has a jam-packed schedule and rarely finds the time to cook. Luckily, we have handy gift ideas for sheet pan meals that will save time and relieve your busy friend of that nagging question, “What should I do for dinner?”

1. Sheet Pan Set

Sheet pans aren’t only for cookies. You can actually make an entire meal with this sheet pan set by simply prepping ingredients and popping the pans in the oven. This no-fuss cooking method can save your busy friend a whole lot of time while still providing the health benefits of home-cooked meals.

2. Trivets

These trivets are wonderfully cheap gifts that sacrifice neither quality nor beauty. They are made from non-toxic, BPA-free silicone that won’t rust, chip, or absorb smells. Whether roasting root veggies or pork tenderloin, your loved one can put a hot pan right on top of these durable trivets.

3. Oven Mitts

While oven mitts may not sound like a super special gift, this particular pair has silicone stripes that provide grip while the cotton mitt provides flexibility. These are a great way to make sure your friend or relative has everything they need to keep those burns away!

4. Avocado Oil

Avocado Oil is becoming more and more popular and La Tourangelle’s artisan products make it truly inviting. Your friend will love using this oil in their marinades, dressings, and really any meal they cook. It doesn’t get much better than healthy fats that are carefully crafted, sustainable, and natural!

Make sure to include these 3 recipes with your sheet pan gift because it will help your busy friend save that much more time! You can also include our free printable booklet 5 Step Mix-and-Match Dinner Template for a convenient, all-in-one bundle.

Does someone love the smokiness of grilled food?

Whether your loved one always talks fondly about BBQs, orders grilled dishes at restaurants, or simply loves being outside, these gifts will satisfy their cravings.

1. Charcoal Grill

A charcoal grill is a great gift for anyone who loves burgers, corn, ribs, veggie kebabs, or BBQ pulled pork. The amazing thing is that a good grill doesn’t have to cost more than $130! This gift is perfect for vegetarians as well, because meats aren’t the only things that grill well – pizza, mushrooms, pineapple, halloumi cheese, and any number of veggies are just as delicious over the flames.

2. Instant Read Thermometer

Having a good instant read thermometer is a must for anyone who grills or cooks meat a lot. It’s so important to make sure meat is fully cooked and safe to enjoy, so slip this inexpensive gift into the stocking of your favorite fervent carnivores. Don’t forget to include our Meat Temperature Guide, too!

3. Grill Basket

A grill basket is the perfect BBQ accessory that makes grilling and smoking vegetables, fish, meat, and kebabs easy.

4. Cook Smarts Guide to Spices Print

Our Guide to Spices Print is an ideal gift for anyone who loves cooking and wants to improve their flavor game. Our handy guide shows how to best use 17 different spices on produce or meats, gives suggestions on what dishes to use them in, and explains which other spices are complementary. The print is a great way to spice right, because we all know it’s hard to memorize all of that.

Don’t forget to send these free recipes along to your beloved BBQ fanatic:

Does someone always put sauce on everything?

In every group of people, there is at least one person who ladles out more sauce than you think they can possibly use. Whether it’s salsa, alfredo, Worcestershire, tzatziki, or soy sauce, some people just prefer a side of food with their saucy favorites. These gifts will make the dreams of any sauce fiend come true!

1. Food Processor

A food processor helps make pico de gallo, hummus, pesto, nut butter, chocolate sauce, and every other kind of sauce cheap enough to have every day. With a powerful motor, stainless steel blades, and easy-to-clean parts, your friend will finally be able to have all the sauce they ever wanted!

2. Sauce Jars with Cleaning Brush

These sleek and beautiful sauce containers are the best way to store dressings and marinades. Not only is this glass container and scrub brush set practical, it is also much more eco-friendly than using plastic bottles that end up in landfills. For less than $20, you can help your loved ones enjoy their sauces each and every week.

3. Immersion Blender

If you’ve never had an immersion blender, you should really consider picking one up for your friend and another for you. This $30 handheld blender can go directly into pots, cups, and mixing bowls to make creamy good sauces, smoothies, batters, pureed soups, and many Indian dishes! The whisk attachment can whip cream and beat eggs, too. With this tool, your friend (and you!) can add a burst of flavor to every meal.

4. Cook Smarts 5 Sauces to Jazz Up Your Meals Print

Our 5 Sauces Print has descriptions, ingredients, instructions, and suggestions for sauces from 5 regions of the world. With this print, you can equip loved ones to try their hands at sauces that many enthusiasts won’t have ever made before.

Include 3 of our saucy recipes with your gift:

Is someone’s kitchen sorely in need of the basics?

While basic kitchen items may not sound like the most exciting gift in the world, they can actually be some of the most thoughtful gifts you could give. Because, have you ever tried to prepare daily meals without a good knife and cutting board? It’s not pretty. Consider gifting these kitchen essentials to someone who just got married, moved, or whose old tools are in a little need of an update.

1. Prep Bowls

Smart prep bowls are a key item that many kitchens lack. What makes colorful bowls like these so special is that they can collapse to save cupboard space, they each have a lid for food storage, and they are safe for the microwave, freezer, and dishwasher. This 3-piece set would be a fabulous addition to any kitchen!

2. Measuring Cups and Spoons

Durable measuring cups and spoons are a must in any household. This stainless steel set will help anyone cook, bake, and even make their own all-natural cleaning products.

3. Chef’s Knife

No kitchen is complete without a great chef’s knife. (The key word is “great”!) It’s not only more comfortable on the wrist and arm to cut with a good knife, it’s also much safer. Help your friends and family chop, dice, and mince like a pro!

4. Epicurean Cutting Boards

Epicurean cutting boards are a bit of a wonder in the cutting board world. They are heat resistant up to 350 degrees, dishwasher safe, don’t harbor bacteria, and are a certified “green” product made in the USA from sustainable forestry. Need we say more?

5. Cook Smarts 2019 Calendar

Our Cook Smarts 2019 Calendar perfectly pairs organization and ingenious practicality. Each month has a beautifully colorful infographic that is relevant to the season – like Produce Shelf Life for the month of March and Burger Combos for July. This unique calendar will help anyone stay on top of their schedule in 2019 while giving ideas and helpful information each month. When there are so many things going on every day, it’s nice when some things make life easier.

(This is our last year of doing a calendar, so get it while you can!)

To add that extra something to your gift, include these recipes!

Instead of a physical gift, would someone prefer you make a charity donation?

Sometimes a loved one has a fully stocked kitchen, is in the midst of moving, or is most passionate about helping those in need. To spread warmth to their heart while making sure others have meals to eat this holiday season, donate in your friend’s name! This is truly one of the most meaningful gifts you can give, so check out these wonderful organizations:

Feeding America

Freedom from Hunger

Heifer International

Seeing the face of a loved one light up with joy is one of the most beautiful moments we can experience. So, if specific people came to mind when you read the 30 gift ideas above, go ahead and treat them to that special gift.

Even if you don’t normally exchange gifts over the holidays, “just because” presents are widely underrated and everyone has a birthday at least once a year. With your thoughtfulness and care, the friends and family in your life will be able to cook with ease and enjoy their favorites to their heart’s content!

If you still have people left after going through all 7 questions, check out our past 5 years of lists for more gift ideas:

2013 – Fun and Colorful Cooking Items
2014 – Practical Tools for Efficient Cooking
2015 – Tools for Cooks at Any Level (Novice, Pro, or Little Helper)
2016 – Items to Make Cooking More Enjoyable
2017 – Useful Gift Pairings from Amazon and Gift Ideas from Our Own Cook Smarts Shop

A little note: Some of the above links are Amazon affiliate links, which means we earn a small percentage from those sales. We use this affiliate revenue to support the continued growth of Cook Smarts. Thank you!

Want to live a healthier and happier life in the kitchen? Sign up for our newsletter below, and we’ll send you all of our helpful cooking tips and resources. Our emails will help you improve and gain confidence in the kitchen, as well as raise your kitchen IQ, so join our community today and start cooking smarter!

Cook Smarts' 2018 Holiday Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Foodies


Try our award winning meal plan service for free


Our Podcast: Strategies to become a smarter cook

Share the love!

Join our community

Enjoy free tips in your inbox

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
How can we help you in the kitchen?

Join our community

Enjoy free tips in your inbox

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Sign up for the Cook Smarts Newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


Privacy Policy: We hate SPAM & promise to keep your email address safe.

Skip to content