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By Tim O’Dell, Chili Dawg’s Foods of Fire

The holiday season is fast approaching. It will be time for holiday parties. A time of celebration. It is a time to offer gifts and time to go gift shopping.

It is also a great sports season with college football in full swing, hockey and basketball are just beginning and pro football is at a high pitch. Time for tailgate parties means it’s time to go appetizer shopping!

Like many years, this season will be very busy for all no matter what the activity.

For gift shoppers, as I have mentioned before, the season can be stressful. Generous consumers, which may include businesses, will stress over for whom to give, what to give and how to give gifts as they ponder the long list of loved ones, friends, associates, clients and customers. Budgets also come into play when planning their gifting strategy.

The holiday shopper can beat the stress by buying gifts that are unique and have great value both for the recipient and the giver.

To be different or unusual, my advice is to buy gift boxes or gift baskets full of unique spicy foods - which are on the rise in popularity – and add cheeses, meats, crackers, new wines or chocolates. The value is giving things not typically purchased by the recipient and giving the recipient something they can share with loved ones and friends, thereby providing a natural extension of the gift.

Tailgaters too are always on the watch for unique items to take to tailgate parties, home parties or office parties as they want their hors d’ oeuvres or appetizers to be not only unique, but memorable as well.

Big box stores are no help in that they don’t help with unique selections. No fault of the personnel there as they have not been trained to work with consumers on an individual basis.

Local grocery stores do not usually have the personnel available to assemble baskets or boxes for you. Even if they did, you have to wander around the entire store to select your ingredients and then gather them to be assembled into a cohesive gift. This option is not an ideal situation for completing your task in a timely manner and thereby eliminating the stress of the season.

The gourmet consumer and tailgaters have found the perfect place to shop for quality and quick baskets and boxes. The specialty food stores are perfect as they often have hundreds of items available from which to select. And if products you want are not readily available, specialty food stores are nimble and act quickly to secure the products you want in time for the season. They cater to the needs of their consumers.

Shopping at specialty food stores is fun and they have the staff available to help with selections of baskets and boxes. They will also allow you to sample whatever product you are interested in gifting or taking to your tailgate party.

So . . . reduce your stress level and shop the specialty food shops!

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