You'll probably be making more than a few trips to the grocery store over the next few weeks to pick up food, libations, and cold medicine. While you're there, consider browsing the aisles to pick up a few stocking stuffers. They are a particularly good place to pick up very practical items that people will actually use, not just fun tchotchkes in cute packaging.
Here are just a few of the great stocking stuffers you can get at any grocery store.
- Oranges: Oranges are one of the most traditional stocking stuffers. (Here's why we put oranges in stockings at Christmas.) Whether this is an old family tradition or a new one you're hoping to start, pick up a few oranges at the grocery store, so everyone will find one in the toe of their stocking.
- Waiter's wine keys: People can always use a handy wine opener, and grocery stores always have classic wine keys available, often in an array of cool colors. There are lots of big, fancy bottle openers on the market, but these are the classic choice for waiters, caterers, bartenders, and people who open dozens of bottles of wine every day.
- Chocolate coins: A small bag of chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil is a long-standing tradition. Like the oranges, this is related to the idea of the "gold in the toe" being left in stockings by Saint Nicholas.
- Candy canes: Obviously.
- Rose water: Rose water is supremely useful. It's a cooking ingredient — add some to smoothies, puddings, mixed drinks, cakes, lemonade, etc. — and it's also great for skin and hair. It can also be misted over sheets or added to a clothes iron. Look for it in the health food aisle.
- Markers: Kids love markers, and they go through them like crazy, especially if they tend to forget to put the caps back on. A pack of washable markers will always be appreciated.
- Gum: Get bubble gum for the kids and mint gum for the grown-ups.
- Mints: Altoids and Mentos are both great options for tossing in a stocking. They fit perfectly.
- Sponges: Sponges are not the flashiest or the most romantic gift, but they are one of the most useful things you can give a person. And honestly, isn't it kind of exciting when you get to throw away a worn-out old sponge and open a brand-new one? That always gives me a little thrill.
- Popcorn: You can get a pre-popped package, or something to microwave or pop on the stove. Then you can all eat it together while you curl up on the couch and watch holiday movies.
- Hot chocolate: Whether you get the fancy stuff or your favorite single-serving packets, hot chocolate belongs in every stocking. Pro tip: Pick up a big bag of mini-marshmallows to go with it.
- Hand-sanitizing wipes: The holiday season is also the height of cold and flu season. Hand these out to everybody you love — for their own safety and yours.
- Oven mitts: Anyone who has spent the holiday season cooking for family has probably bemoaned their oven mitt at least once during the past couple months. Pick up an upgrade at the grocery store. (Bonus points if it looks like something hilarious, like a big pair of lobster claws.)
- Batteries: Someone is going to get a present that needs batteries, and these will be good to have around. Even if nobody gets a "batteries not included" present this year, their remote controls, smoke alarms, and flashlights will inevitably need batteries at some point.
- Gift cards: At the grocery store, you can find a gift card for basically anything a person might want to use. Starbucks, iTunes, and Amazon are popular options. You could also get a gift card to the grocery store itself, which could be extremely useful because then people can use it to buy useful stuff like food and paper towels.