Our DIY Guide to Making your own Frugal Gifts with Souvenirs from Foreign Supermarkets
I love shopping foreign supermarkets for souvenirs to bring back home. Who can resist the aisles packed with colorful jars of jam, cookie boxes and candy bars, with flavors I’ve never heard of and sometimes in languages I can’t understand. The more foreign-looking the item, the better.
While I love anything and everything from a foreign grocery store, I used to hesitate to bring home foreign grocery store souvenirs as gifts for others. For starters, not everyone appreciates the sometimes generic-looking supermarket packaging.
But more importantly, I didn’t want to look cheap, like I skipped the fancy gift shop just to save a few bucks (I actually prefer supermarket souvenirs to anything you can find in a so-called “gift shop.”)
So I decided to give my foreign grocery finds a little makeover. Using a few dollars worth of ribbons, mason jars and kraft bags (and little to no craft skills) I transformed generic-looking grocery items into gift-worthy souvenirs.
1. Presentation is Everything: Repackaging Foreign Grocery Store Items to Make them Gift-Worthy
If you have any doubts about the importance of presentation, read our post on Japan’s obsession with beautiful packaging.The Japanese have taken gift-wrapping to a whole new level, turning it into an art form.
Some foreign supermarket items are gift-ready right off the shelf. For a lover of French sardines, this colorful tin needs no further frills or adornments.
But not every supermarket item is quite as appealing in its original packaging.
Imagine trying to “gift” a giant sack of Irish soda bread mix or a plastic bag of black beans.
It also makes sense to repackage your souvenirs so you can take advantage of buying bigger packages that you can later divide up into smaller gift portions:
- packing lots of individual boxes takes up more room
- buying a larger bag or box of an item can be more economical than buying multiple smaller bags
- instead of gifting each recipient just one souvenir item, you can instead offer them small tastes of a variety of items
- those same friends who complain about how a box of cookies will ruin their diet will have no problem scarfing down the same amount of cookies divided up into cute little bags.
How-to-Guide to Repackaging Supermaket Souvenirs
I just returned from Paris so most of the photos are of my French supermarket souvenirs, but you can apply the same ideas to any country’s supermarket souvenirs (for shopping tips by country or a general guide to shopping any foreign supermarket, check out some of our other posts).
DIY Gift Idea #1: Bag it, Jar it, Tie a Ribbon Around it
First, the supplies. Here’s what you’ll need:
1. Gift Bags
Gift bags of all sizes are a great way to reapportion your larger items.
- Clear Cellophane Favor Bags— I bought several sizes
- White Paper Gift Bags
- Mini Natural Kraft Paper Bags
2. Glass Jars.
Glass jars are great for repackaging pretty much everything. What to look for:
- Glass Mason Jars These are best for items you want to share in larger quantities, like lentils or baking mixes.
- Small Glass Jar with Cork I like these for salt or spices
- Repurposed glass jars from your travels (like glass yogurt jars from France)
3. Ribbon or twine
- Grosgrain Ribbon Pack I prefer grosgrain to other types of ribbon– it looks and feels nicer. It’s pretty easy to find red, white and blue striped ribbon, which is perfect for French souvenirs. For other countries, you could try combining separate solid colored ribbons from each flag color, or go with a pattern that reminds you of the country (for example, I bought the embroidered flower ribbon above to use for Hungarian souvenirs). If that’s too much trouble, just pick a ribbon you like or stick with a neutral color like white or cream.
- Rope Twine is also a nice option if there isn’t room to tie a ribbon (twine is thinner and easier to get around small-necked bottles) or you simply prefer a simpler look. Twine is also great for attaching gift tags, recipe cards or mini wooden scoops (a nice add-on for salts and spices).
4. Country Flag Stickers
Country Flag Stickers I love using little stickers on just about everything– bags, jars, gift tags. Stickers are also a great way to seal those little paper kraft bags.
Once you’ve gathered your supplies, you are ready to put together your souvenir gifts:
Paper Gift Bag with Sticker
This gift idea works well for things like cookies. Open up a couple boxes of cookies and add a few cookies of each variety into its own separate kraft gift bag. Optional: seal the bag closed with a country flag sticker.
Cellophane Bag with Ribbon
Clear cellophane bags work great for colorful souvenir candies and chocolate.
Jars decorated with Ribbons
While the little clear baggies work well for sweets, they aren’t as practical for food souvenirs you might cook with, like loose lentils or sea salts. I like using a container that can be put away in the pantry– mason jars and smaller spice jars work nicely.
Supermarket Souvenir Gift Idea #2: Bundle Related Items Together
Some supermarket souvenirs seem a little lonely if gifted on their own, but put them together with related items and they instantly become gift-worthy.
And finally, we have the DIY souvenir gift basket. Instead of buying a premade basket filled with overpriced, pre-selected stuff you may not even want, make up your own custom baskets on the cheap.
I spent hours hunting these gift packaging items down at a couple of local craft stores– but it would have been easier and cheaper to order them online at Amazon–
Clear Cellophane Favor Bags
White Paper Gift Bags
Mini Natural Kraft Paper Bags
Grosgrain Ribbon Pack
Country Flag Stickers
Glass Mason Jars
Small Glass Jar with Cork
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Do you have any great ideas for making your souvenirs gift-worthy? Share in the comments!
Sunday 6th of September 2015
Hi and thank you for your wonderful articles! I'm going to Paris for the very first time next month and can't wait to find the Monoprix, grocery stores, flea markets and more. I love your fun ideas that I can share with friends and family. Thanks again!
Friday 16th of January 2015
So creative. Perfect for hostess gifts. Can't wait to make a few.
Friday 16th of January 2015
Thanks so much!
Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
Tuesday 13th of January 2015
Those are great ideas Kristin, and I see you are really getting into the DIY :D I usually don't buy souvenirs these days (with the exception of a magnet here and there), however, I think I will try this on my next trip!
Tuesday 13th of January 2015
These are great ideas, Kristin! I like the suggestion of getting a large package and splitting it out. You are right that can be SO much cheaper and you make it look even nicer :-)
Sunday 11th of January 2015
Oh very clever! These are great ideas that make my wallet feel happier .