Running a home and working full time is tough, whether your co-workers wear a suit and tie to the office, or the only company you keep is still learning how to walk in between frequent feedings and diaper changes.

And while you are just trying to keep things afloat in your business life, you’re expected to bring a welcome gift over to the new neighbors down the street, a thank you gift to your child’s teacher, and a birthday present to your childhood friend you never see anymore. And you know that, traditionally, these gifts are supposed to be akin to homemade muffins or a nice bottle of wine.

How does one plan and budget for all this? You don’t have time to think, shop, wrap and deliver…you need a better, less pricey alternative. Well, stress no more. Here are a few do-it-ahead DIY gifts that can easily be made well in advance of calendar pileups. When those events (or people) show up unexpectedly, you will be ready. Aren’t you smart?

Simplicity is Key

These three gift ideas are very easy to make, but half of the gift is the container it’s presented in, and you can get a lovely glass jar for free, without ever having to step foot into a store. How is this possible? By reusing the jars you have been previously tossing in the recycling bin! Pasta sauce, jam/preserves, olives, salad dressings and salsa all usually come in a glass container, perfect for creating a lovely, well presented gift. And once the recipient finishes the last of their present, they have the option of continuing the eco-friendly cycle and reusing the glass jar in their own home.

All you need to do is polish off the foods, then peel away the labels prior to tossing the jars and lids in the dishwasher. (We recommend running 3+ jars, as it’s less work to do a bunch at once.) Once they are clean and dry, get a page from an old newspaper and lay it outside on the grass or sidewalk. Find some spray paint in the garage and spray a coat over the lids for a nice uniform look.

If adhesive remains on any of the jars, rub it off with some baby oil. Still not coming off easily? Just wrap a piece of pretty scrapbook paper around the jar and seal with a piece of clear tape.

Gather Your Ingredients

Old glass jars

Spray paint


2+ bowls


Grater (hand or electric)

Epsom salts

White sugar

Vegetable oil (any oil will work)

Food coloring

Washing Soda (find it in the laundry aisle)

Borax (find it in the laundry aisle)

Bar(s) of soap

Scents (optional, see below)

Ribbon and paper for label (optional)

We suggest setting up shop in the kitchen, just in case you get some salts on the counter or need to wash your hands. The projects are both potentially messy, but they are guaranteed fun! Stay tuned for instructions on how to construct your eco- (and wallet) friendly gift.