5 simple steps to make your own gourmet gift basket for less

(BPT) - Birthday, anniversary, holiday or "just because" — gift baskets are the perfect way to show you care. Filled with gourmet goodies, they are customizable delights no matter the person's age or personality.

This great gift idea does have one downfall: They can be expensive. Fortunately, it's simple to make your own. Gift baskets look deceivingly difficult to create, but are quite easy to assemble at home. Plus, by doing it yourself, you get to control what's in the package so it's a completely personalized gift.

Just follow these simple directions for how to create a gift basket and you'll get the gourmet look you want for less than you think.

Step 1: Brainstorm

Think about the recipient and what they might enjoy. Food items are often the focus of gift baskets, but you can use their preferences to direct your theme. Note what they like or dislike and keep these preferences in mind when creating a well-rounded basket.

Step 2: Shop

A bottle of wine always looks beautiful and can serve as the focal point of the basket. Then add gourmet accompaniments such as bread, nuts and dried fruit. Don't forget delectable cheese like Stella Pillow Bags that have a gourmet look that's perfect for any basket. Available in 8-ounce bags of Shaved Parmesan, Shredded Parmesan and 3-Cheese Italian Blend, the distinctive and slightly nutty flavor of this classic cheese is the perfect complement to any delicious pasta dish, salad or pizza.

Step 3: Container

Buying a brand-new basket can be expensive, but chances are you have one around your house that you can repurpose. Thrift shops are another smart resource for affordable baskets. Keep in mind you're not limited to a basket. Glass platters and metallic bowls are easy finds at the dollar store and add upscale elegance to your package.

Step 4: Supplies

Gift items aren't the only things you'll need to make your basket stand out. To give it that expensive look, you'll need the right wrapping and assembly supplies. Get tissue and/or crinkle-cut paper in rich, elegant colors that complement the food packages you're including. You'll also need ribbon, tape and a cellophane bag.

Step 5: Assembly

Assembling the basket often separates the amateurs from the experts, but with a few smart tricks, your basket will look just like store-bought. You want the basket to look full, so start by lining the bottom with tissue or crinkle-cut paper. Place the bottle of wine in the center as it's likely the heaviest item. Add in larger or taller items behind and next to this "centerpiece," like boxes of crackers or a loaf of French bread. Then place smaller items toward the front, such as the Stella Pillow Bags. Use accent items to fill in any remaining spaces, such as rolled hand towels or individual chocolate truffles.

One thing to keep in mind as you assemble the basket is to remove price tags and make sure all labels face forward. When you think you're done, step back and look at the basket. You may want to make a few minor adjustments when you see it from a different vantage point. When it's looking spectacular, place the entire basket inside the cellophane bag and tie with a ribbon on top. Now you're ready to impress that special someone no matter what the occasion!

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