There are many times throughout the year where you may need to pick-up a gift for a friend, hostess, or family member. In this post, Holley Grainger of our Kitchen Council shares tips gleaned from her family’s successful gift basket business so that you can build your own fruit basket now or anytime during the year.

Nothing is more exciting than opening the door to a friendly delivery driver standing outside your home with a basket of goodies sure to thrill each member of your household. Or maybe it is unpacking a package in the mail from a friend filled with delicious things to eat and special treats for all.

As the granddaughter of the founder of a local gift basket store in Birmingham, Alabama, Contri Brothers Gift Basket, the idea of giving gift baskets has been a part of my heritage. My grandfather, Raymond Contri, was the consummate businessman that may as well have trademarked the customization and personalization of gift basket giving.

Fast forward 5 decades and while I no longer work at “The Store” creating fruit baskets, overseeing UPS or taking orders over the phone during my holiday vacation, I can still put together a mean basket that is sure to surprise and delight the recipient.

However, my cousin and the manager of Contri’s, Scott Perry, specializes in creating custom baskets day in and day out and has an appreciation for building baskets that the recipients will want to eat. From delicious chocolates to gourmet cheeses to fine wine to fresh seasonal fruit like the amazing apples and pears from Stemilt, Scott knows what the people want. Whether you choose to shop and assemble your own basket or want to know how to give direction to the company you’re ordering from, he’s helped me compile a list of the top 5 must-knows when it comes to creating a basket that the receiver will love.

5 Tips for Building a Fruit Basket:

1. Choose a Theme:

There are many times when sending a delicious gift basket packed with goodies is appropriate and certainly welcome. Make sure to call attention and customize that basket to that occasion. This shows the recipient that you’re aware of what’s going on in their life (whether it’s a new baby, a holiday gift, a promotion, graduation, bereavement, etc.) and that you’ve selected items especially for them.

2. Use a Keepsake Container:

Sure, we’ve all received that vase of flowers that ends up hitting the recycle bin or a straw basket that becomes a dust collector or gets regifted or given away, but why not make the base of the gift keepsake worthy? From copper planters to a mini radio flyer wagon (awesome for baby gifts!) to canvas storage cubes to round metal holiday platters, choose a sturdy base that will keep your gift contained but will also be something that is useful and enjoyed.

3. Select Fresh, Seasonal Fruit:

Seasonal fruit is a must when it comes to making delicious gift baskets. Make sure to choose sturdy fruit like apples and pears to tuck in holes in the front and back of the basket and between larger items to keep it from bruising. Right now Stemilt’s apples and pears are crisp and delicious and a wide variety is available. Two of my favorite apples, Piñata and Honeycrisp, are available as well as Fuji, Pink Lady and Bosc and d’Anjou pears.

4. Include New and Indulgent Foods:

By far when it comes to the gourmet offerings that Contri’s has, my favorites for the last 30 (cough, cough) something years has been their chocolate covered potato chips. I’ve think I’ve been an advocate for the salt and chocolate pairing for much longer than it has been trendy. If you have a favorite food or know the recipient loves something in particular, include it. This is a time to find fun gourmet foods in the sweet, salty, healthy, and indulgent realm that they may not buy for themselves.

5. Consider Delivery and Shipping:

It’s easy to go online or pick up the phone to order a basket to be created to your liking and then hand-delivered or shipped to the recipient. But what about when you decide to make it yourself and you have to get it to them? Whether delivering or shipping, if you want to create that stacked tower of food look, be ready to use a decent amount of tape. I have very vivid memories of having fights with the tape dispenser while assembling baskets as a teen! Also, make sure to use something like cellophane or plastic shrink wrap to hold everything together because the last thing you want is a gorgeous and sweet Honeycrisp apple rolling around in your car on the way to its new home.

Next time you choose to create a gift basket that you want your guests to eat and enjoy, remember seasonality, include a balance of healthy and indulgent, and make it personal.