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My favorite way to give gifts (at the holidays, for birthdays, and all year round) is with what I call Loot Boxes. Named after the treasures hidden and found in video games, loot boxes are stocked with a selection of small gifts, either around a theme or an eclectic mix.
A few years ago, I started collecting small, beautiful things that I thought would make great gifts: candles, pens, note pads, kitchen towels, cheese knives, hand lotion, hair brushes, manicure kits, cosmetics bags, specialty candy, and so forth.
Eventually I had such a large collection, I divided the items into pretty decorative boxes and mailed them out to my family and friends. I decided to call them Loot Boxes, like a treasure chest in a video game full of potions, armor, and food.
It’s not so different from a gift basket, but it’s easier to mail (this is helpful since my family, many friends, and my team live far away). A loot box can also be a totally random collection of items that are united only by my interest in gifting each one, whereas a gift basket is usually thematic.
I love the process of shopping for and creating loot boxes, and I thought you might get a kick out of it, too. Everyone who has ever received a loot box loves it, kids and adults alike.
Table of Contents
Choose the Right Box
There are two approaches to creating a loot box.
- Buy the box first and then choose loot to fill it. I usually take this approach and have been known to bring an empty loot box into Anthropologie and fill it on the spot. This is also the natural approach when you have the intention to create a loot box.
- Buy the loot first, then find a box that will house it all. This approach is fine if you can estimate the size and shape of your items while box-shopping. I have occasionally been burned by this approach where I imagined an item would fit and then it doesn’t, or the collection of items don’t Tetris into place as I had hoped.
Where to Buy Loot Boxes
The best place to buy loot boxes is at Home Goods (or possibly TJ Maxx or Marshall’s depending on their inventory). Home Goods always has a wide variety of high-quality loot boxes in different patterns and sizes. At the holidays, they double or triple their inventory with holiday-themed boxes.
The smallest boxes are $3.99 each (these are the ones I show filled in my post) and the larger sizes go up to $12.99 each.
Filling the Loot Box
When it’s time to create and fill a loot box, start with your budget. Keep in mind, the box itself will have a price and may need to factor that into your cost. Decide if you want to follow a theme or not. You also have the option of choosing one main gift within the box that is supplemented with smaller, less expensive gifts.
I tend to create a lot of loot boxes for women as they make up the bulk of teaching staff, service providers, team members, and friends in my life. The boxes have mostly generic items with wide appeal and possibly one personal item. Here are some of the most popular categories I feature in my boxes:
- Beauty supplies: Scented soap, hand lotion, gel eye pads, lip balm, manicure sets, bath bombs, travel-sized hair brushes, sleep masks, cosmetics cases, cleansing towelettes
- Stationary: Pencil cases, pens, notepads, pocket calculators, pocket folders, push pins, washi tape, key chains, bookmarks (my favorite brands are Rifle Paper Co. and Clementine)
- Kitchen: Wash clothes, kitchen towels, cloth napkins, snack bowls, cheese knives, KeepCup coffee cups, mugs, berry baskets, spoon rests, avocado mashers, tea and tea accessories, sponge holder
- Decor: Candles and candle holders, vases, Christmas ornaments, trinket dishes, jewelry boxes, dream catchers
- Culinary Hill swag: Aprons, matches, tape measures, stickers
- Gift cards: Depending on the recipient, a gift card may end up in the mix (Target, Home Goods, or Starbucks are my usuals)
Example: Beauty Loot Box
When I’m creating multiple loot boxes for people in similar roles (such as all the teachers), it’s easier to create one and duplicate it. I like to curate a collection of small items, many consumable, such as candy or beauty products, and one personal item.
This year I chose to do a Christmas ornament with each teacher’s first initial. And since they are teachers, I included a Kate Spade pencil bag with accessories. A cosmetics case would be a fantastic alternative.
Shop this box:
Example: Decor Loot Box
This loot box focuses on small decorative items, stationary, and ambiance. I love to include candles from Anthropologie (and I’m excited that they now sell beauty products with the same scent). I always include a box of Culinary Hill matches when I send candles.
The white ceramic tree shown is from Crate and Barrel. They sold it the past two years, but I don’t see it on deck now, so I linked to a similar one from Target. In 2020, this was my favorite item and I sent one to almost everyone I know.
The avocado keychain and macramé coasters are both from Etsy, so you can support artisan creators that way. And, I love “December” by George Winston. I played piano for 12 years and to me, nothing is more soothing than this album, no matter what month it is.
Shop this box:
Example: Kitchen Loot Box
I included more of my favorite kitchen items in my 2022 Gift Guide, but these are the small items that ship easily in a loot box.
The Cheese Board Deck is particularly fun: it’s a collection of snack boards for different seasons and holidays. The photographs were taken by my videographer Haley, and it’s absolutely stunning.
The spoon rest was actually a gift from my sister Monica, the only person who ever gifted a loot box to me. I show it here because it was such a great gift to receive, I now include them regularly. They are flat and light and so pretty!
Shop the box:
Wrapping the Loot Box
In many cases, the beauty of the box itself is attractive enough and doesn’t need to be wrapped. Pretty ribbon, a bow, or nothing at all may suffice.
I may add tissue paper inside if there are large gaps or the box isn’t completely full. This is especially important if I’m shipping the box (and then it might be bubble wrap, not tissue paper).
I usually wrap loot boxes when children are involved:
- If my children are carrying a loot box to school for a teacher, I tape all sides and wrap the box in wrapping paper to serve as an extra layer of protection. Curling and velvet ribbons are welcome.
- If the child is a recipient of a loot box, I wrap the box itself (because they enjoy unwrapping packages) AND wrap each piece of loot inside (because they enjoy unwrapping packages).
If the box is being shipped (as they so often are), I make sure the contents of the loot box are packed securely and any fragile items are wrapped individually in bubble wrap. Be sure to account for packaging as you fill the box.
Gifting the Loot Box
“Yours was the gift that kept on giving. Every time I looked in the box, I found another treasure just waiting to be discovered.” – Mary the Crossing Guard
Who Gets a Loot Box?
I don’t typically make Loot Boxes for holidays for my immediate family. They have Wish Lists of items they want, and it’s usually a big-ticket item rather than a collection of small things. But if they don’t give me any direction, loot boxes are fair game!
I always make loot boxes for teachers, office assistants, and other people associated with the school. These heroic workers are constantly overworked and under-appreciated, and I really just want to spoil them for a little while.
I also make them for my Culinary Hill Team and select service providers and friends. The people who are closest to me and regulars in my world deserve the very best, always.
I hope this post was helpful and that you feel inspired to “think inside the box.” Happy Gifting!
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.
I ❤️❤️❤️❤️ this idea!
Thank you, Donna! Happy Holidays! – Meggan