A supermarket cart filled with last-minute holiday gifts

Christmas day is around the corner, and you haven't done your shopping yet?

If that sounds like you, here's an option you may not have considered: Head to your local grocery store for last-minute gifts.

There are plenty of benefits of doing this. Among them, you won't have to worry about a gift being the right size, and in most cases, it won't have to match the décor.

If food isn't quite what you had in mind, there may be other choices. Big supermarkets often have an aisle or two devoted to toys and as-seen-on-TV items that would make great last-minute gifts. Even a small, local market is likely to have a few items that you can gather together and display in a basket or box and perhaps wrap in colorful paper.

Here are some ideas to spark your imagination. 


Go to Consumer Reports' 2018 Holiday Central for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.
 

Gourmet Eats

Beverages. Grab three or four bags of gourmet coffee and place them in a box along with filters, flavored creamers, a variety of teas, hot chocolate, and maybe some fancy turbinado sugar. Check in the housewares aisle for a couple of mugs, maybe a nice teapot or inexpensive coffee maker, and some colorful tea towels. If you're purchasing loose tea, add a tea strainer. "A lot of supermarkets have bakeries on site, so you can add in holiday cookies and croissants as well," says Trae Bodge, a shopping expert and blogger based in Montclair, N.J. 

More on Holiday Giving

Pastas and sauces. Who doesn't like putting together an easy, cozy Italian meal on a week night? Gather a couple of jars of gourmet pasta sauce, a few different types of pasta (gluten-free, if you must), a hunk of Parmagiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, a jar of pesto and another of fancy olives, a fancy bottle of extra virgin olive oil, whole peppercorns (best in a container with a built-in grinder), and maybe even a hard sausage. In the housewares aisle, pick up a hand grater for the cheese and a metal colander or hefty pasta pot. Arranging the items in the colander or pot makes for a charming display.

Chocolate. Whether it's an ingot of fair trade, 72 percent cacao, sustainably farmed from a plantation run by indigenous farmers in Madagascar or your basic, reliable Hershey's bar, chocolate of all kinds is a great present in a pinch. A large supermarket may offer deep selections of bar chocolate from Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and elsewhere. For fun, choose one brand for each of the 12 Nights of Christmas, wrap them in different types of paper, and present them in a single box to savor over time. Or, if the folks you're celebrating with are game, unwrap them all and do a blind taste test, Consumer Reports style.

Gifts With a Personal Touch

Grooming products. If your grocery is large enough, it may host a section where you can find personal-care items, Bodge says. A basket or box filled with scented hand soaps, shower gel, cute hair ties, slipper socks, and other cozy items might work just perfectly for a teen, she says. 

Framed photos. Some pharmacies with holiday hours are offering photo services so that you can print out a meaningful photo and frame it right away, Bodge says. Shoppers can go to the CVS website, for instance, upload photos and order prints, and pick them up the same day. Through Dec. 22, photo orders are 40 percent off with the coupon code Holiday40.

Practical Buys

Batteries. This idea certainly isn't glamorous. But extra batteries will be appreciated throughout the year, and you can be sure at least one child's gift at your holiday gathering will come without batteries included. Add a couple of flashlights and a package of candles to turn this into the beginnings of a home-emergency kit or go bag

Magazine subscription. Buy a magazine you know the recipient will read, and wrap with a note saying you've arranged for a gift subscription. (Of course, you'd better follow through.)

Gift cards. They may not seem creative, but gift cards are popular items that don't necessarily scream "last minute." 

"But sure to include the receipt," advises Christina Tetreault, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports, specializing in payment methods. In rare instances, she says, consumers have received gift cards that have been drained of their value by fraudsters. Providing a receipt ensures that your recipient can return to the store to get that value reloaded. 

"And encourage the recipient to use the card right away," Tetreault says. "There are billions of dollars in unredeemed gift cards that people just put in a drawer and forget about."