It’s almost impossible to complete a holiday shopping list without a visit or two to a big box store. 

The chef on your list might want that brand-new combination air fryer/can opener/smoothie maker/espresso machine that’s all the rage. Your teen might have his eye on that multi-folding, breakfast-making, car-driving, hologram-creating smart phone that is now sold out almost everywhere. Or maybe your kid wants that 100,000-piece Harry Potter meets Anakin Skywalker building set.

If that’s you, then it’s off to the nearest big box store to hopefully find that precious item in stock and on sale.

While it’s hard to avoid the mega-store, it’s also time to remember the little boxes close to home. 

There’re tons of great gifts that you can buy right here in our own communities, and really make a splash on Christmas Day. Take, for example, the things you can find at the hardware store: How about a nice snow brush for the car, one that still has brush bristles, and the scraper part still scrapes. We got a new one as a gift a couple of years ago, and now we fight over it. The rule is “first come first serve.” This year, I got the blue brush again. 

Bird feeders, rechargeable flashlights, smoke detectors and basic tool kits can make great gifts. How about a good scissors and a sharp kitchen knife? How often do you go searching for a scissors that cuts? Or a knife that actually slices through raw meat?

I’ve done a lot of stocking stuffer shopping at the grocery store. Occasionally, I buy myself a little something, like almond-stuffed olives. I’ll buy the more expensive smoked Norwegian salmon for Bruce and a dark chocolate treat. The neighborhood florist, the quilting shop or the liquor store are also great places to find special gifts.

Here’s another idea. Maybe you are worrying about Grandma or Grandpa trying to get out of the house for groceries on a snowy icy day. 

So here it is: You spend the day with Grandma and Grandpa. You hit the local grocery store and stock up on non-perishables. Then, buy ingredients for their favorite meals, and spend the afternoon cooking. Pack and freeze a bunch of entrees. Then, sit and eat some of what you’ve bought and gab for a while. Now, you’ve given yourself a great gift of a wonderful day, and you’ve got peace of mind that they can survive a blizzard since all their cupboards are full.

Value added is another option, which can turn something ordinary into priceless. How about treating your best girlfriends to a mani-pedi at the local salon, followed by a lunch at the tavern? Perhaps with an adult beverage or two? (Bring mom and Aunt Edna, too.)

Do you know a couple with young children who’d love a night out? How about a night treating the little ones to pizza and watching Frozen one more time while the parents enjoy an evening out? 

What’s your cooking specialty? How about a big pot of chili for a cold winter Sunday afternoon watching football? (Bring dad and Aunt Edna, too.)

For many of us, we have reached a point where we don’t really need anything. For most of us, however, we love the time we can spend together. We’ve spent many months away from our dearest friends and family and yearn to be together this season.

 Sometimes the perfect gift, wrapped up with your time and attention, is just down the street. 

— Peggy Bakken is a former executive editor and a columnist for APG-East Central Minnesota. Reactions welcome:


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