Etiquette dictates that guests should never show up empty-handed. While we wholeheartedly agree with this rule, it can be hard to come up with a clever housewarming gift, especially at the last minute. Of course, you want to snag a gift your host will genuinely appreciate—while still being able to make it to the housewarming party on time. Thank goodness the grocery store is a wellspring of useful, creative, and budget-friendly gifts.
Here are five ideas for housewarming gifts you can grab from your local market on the way to the celebration. Don’t panic! All of these items can be purchased in a few minutes and packaged in the car.
1. For the host who loves entertaining
The grocery store is a great place to piece together a gift basket of small items that complement each other. If your hosts love cooking and entertaining family and friends, for example, offer them a package that will help them do that.
Aileen Avery, a lifestyle and gift expert based in the Los Angeles area, suggests sticking to a theme, like a breakfast basket (with pancake mix, maple syrup, and coffee beans), or s’mores in a box (with marshmallows, graham crackers, a few chocolate bars, and metal skewers).
Looking for something more fun? Try a margarita kit, with a bottle of tequila, sour mix, limes, and salt.
“Add chips and salsa to round it out,” Avery says.
2. For the host you’re meeting for the first time
Buying a gift for someone you barely know can be intimidating, but nearly every good grocery store has the gift mainstays most people will love. A handwritten greeting card with a gift card to the grocery store itself, or a hardware store (for when they tackle their first major home improvement project), will always be appreciated.
If a gift card still feels too informal, Lisa Mirza Grotts, an etiquette expert based in San Francisco, suggests going for the classic combination of two of the following: flowers, chocolate, or a bottle of wine. Some stores might even sell a wine bag to bring it in.
“Fancy chocolates with fresh flowers or champagne are a lovely housewarming gift,” she says.
3. For the host who just moved into town
If you’re looking for something a little different—and you know the host is new in town—try going for something that will help them get their bearings. Avery suggests drawing up your shortlist of local restaurants, salons, dry cleaners, and other useful services. Many people appreciate word-of-mouth recommendations over having to do a blind search online, so sharing your list of go-to spots is sure to be appreciated. Tuck your list into a card and, for an extra generous touch, pair the suggestions with a bottle of wine.
4. For the host who’s a DIY enthusiast
For a personalized gift that requires a bit of skill, Grotts suggests assembling a starter kit for jam-making with a set of canning jars, thermometer, a wooden spoon, labels, pectin, and a couple of pounds of such fruit as raspberries or apricots. You can even throw in some biscuits for good measure.
5. For the host with a green thumb
Does your host have a knack for cultivating plants and flowers? Any green thumbs will appreciate a new plant to add to their indoor or outdoor garden.
“A lovely orchid makes a stunning gift presentation, and they require little maintenance,” Grotts says.
Avery suggested going a step further by picking up a coffee mug, filling it with soil from home, buying a succulent from the grocery store, and planting it in the mug. Pair it with a side of coffee beans for when the plant outgrows its makeshift pot.
Really, any small plant will do—except one, if you’re superstitious.
“Never gift a cactus as a housewarming gift,” Avery says. “It foretells a thorny existence in the new house.”
If you’re totally stumped but still looking to stun, grab a pineapple and tie a bow around it. The tropical fruit is a sign of hospitality, after all.
Whichever route you go, remember it’s the thought that counts. Mostly, your friends will be thrilled to have you in their new home as they celebrate a new chapter.