When we shop local for holiday gifts, we are supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses hit hard by the pandemic. Check out the Social Impact Traveller Shop Local Holiday Gift Guide for Toronto and Canada.
*Please note that I have not received (and am not accepting) compensation for any of these product listings.
Shop Local Holiday Gift Guide
I’ve been thinking about the upcoming holidays; I’m clearly not going to be able to travel this year because of the pandemic (last year, my family spent Christmas in Curacao – Wow! How fortunate was that
This year, I have been thinking about how I can lean in and spend my holiday dollars in a way that supports local small businesses, just the same as I might have if I was travelling. Some of my favourite things when I travel is exploring food, culture, and purchasing from local artisans. It’s part of what being a Social Impact Traveller is about.
This year has definitely been tough on a lot of small businesses and while I can’t travel, I can still certainly support local business and my fellow travel colleagues who are working hard to pivot. This mini Shop Local Holiday Gift Guide was created to share with you some of my favourite businesses in the city. You’ll notice my guide is food heavy, but that’s on purpose. Our restaurants have really had a hard go this year having to lock down to help keep community transmission low. I hope we can support them as a way to recognize their efforts. Hopefully, you will find something in this shop local holiday gift guide that would make a great gift for your family, friends, or co-workers.
Check out what’s in our guide and support small business in Toronto
Shop Local Gift Ideas in Toronto: Gifts for Foodies
If you follow my social feeds or have been to any of my fundraising events in the past, you know I am a big fan of Le Dolci. Maybe you have seen Le Dolci’s Eunice cake which started the popular trend in unicorn cakes.
I really wanted to start this Shop Local Holiday Gift Guide with Le Dolci because they are always so generous in supporting the community. Le Dolci has raised over $10,000 for the Nzirambi Education Fund, and even this year, during a really challenging time for their business, they donated proceeds of certain products to support Black Lives Matters.
Gift ideas: Check out their virtual baking classes or give a gift card. Also, check out Le Dolci’s cookie decorating kits. I did one of these with my son and he loved it. I think they would also be a great activity for a virtual work team meeting. For the holidays, they have gingerbread decorating kits.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a special holiday dessert, check out this adorable chocolate reindeer cake or divine holiday cupcakes (seen in the main photo of this post).
Shop Local, Taste Thailand
We can’t really get to Thailand right now, but we can certainly get a taste of it. When it comes to Thai food in Toronto, Chef Nuit is the real deal – her food is incredible and she takes such care with the ingredients she uses. I first tried her cooking so long ago at her first Sukothai restaurant, a little spot that was on Parliament Street (but has since closed). On weekends I would dial 100 times to try and get through for take-away. There were no online apps back then!
Over the years, I’ve followed her work as she helped open many restaurants including Sabai Sabai, Pai, Sukothai, Kiin, and the Kitchen Hub. This year, Chef Nuit is sharing some of her kitchen secrets in her first cookbook, Kiin. I haven’t got it yet, but it’s on my list (hint, hint!!).
Gift ideas: Chef Nuit’s new cookbook, Kiin, or gift cards to any of her incredible restaurants. The best part is that if you’re ordering in, she has made the book available through online delivery apps so you order food, too!
Pro tip: At most of Chef Nuit’s restaurant you’ll find one of her old-school signature dishes, the Khao Soi. Try it! Tender beef and noodles in curry topped off with crispy noodles – it’s one of my favourite all-time dishes in the city.
Shop Local Holiday Gift Idea: Meat Pies!
Speaking of Pai and the Kitchen Hub… I love the Kitchen Hub, a virtual food hall in Etobicoke. It’s this amazing little spot where you can order take-away from several different restaurants at once. In my last order, I included some meat pies from Kanga. They are delicious. I am going to buy some of these closer to the holidays to give to family – these pies are so good, they are gift-worthy! If you are visiting your bubble family and are looking for some new food to bring – this is it!
Gift idea: Give the gift of meat pies! They come in multipacks and can be frozen. You can order and pick-up directly from the Kitchen Hub, and they are also on several food delivery apps.
Pro Tip: Kanga’s pepper steak pies are my favourite. We cook them until they are brown and a little crispy. Delicious!
Gourmet Gift Baskets
Goodie Baskets is the brainchild of a travel industry friend who got laid off (like way too many of us did in the travel sector). What better time to follow your dreams and launch a new business! I love the enthusiasm of local entrepreneurs, and isn’t it true that we have all had to “pivot” (likely 2020’s hottest /most annoying word). I added Goodie Baskets to my Shop Local Holiday Guide for a few reasons: the products are great quality gifts, locally sourced and you don’t have to leave the house to shop for all of these items. Already, I have gifted a few baskets for Mother’s Day and a baby gift and people loved them!
Pro tip: I have this huge hate-on for saran wrap in my house, so I ordered some of the bee’s wax wraps from Goodie Baskets. I love them!
Gift idea: Goodie Baskets has been sourcing local-made products like chocolates, maple syrup and gourmet jams for their holiday baskets. Look out too for their stocking stuff ideas.
hot sauce gift idea
One thing I am crazy about is hot sauce. I eat it on just about everything. My favourite hot sauce in the city is No 7 Mexican Hot Sauce. The duo behind No 7 is Sandra and Carlos, whom I’ve known for quite a few years. They have always been there to support us when I have done fundraisers for Nzirambi. They even gave my husband and I specially labelled hot sauce gifts for friends when we got married and had a small celebration. If you’re in the city, stop by their cafe, Cafe Con Leche, on Dupont and grab a coffee or tea to go. They have lots of gourmet gifts / foodie items there including honey, maple syrup, and jams. Of course, all the No 7 flavours are there, too. They do sell online as well. I already purchased a few of these packages to give as gifts this year.
Pro tip: The jalapeno flavour is my favourite. It’s not overly hot, but it has a ton of flavour and a nice kick. I put it on eggs, soup, pasta. I really do love it.
Gift idea: When you buy four sauces, they come in a box, perfect for gifting. You can choose from five flavours. If it’s heat you seek, add the habanero ghost to your pack.
More Local Gift Ideas
I asked my network to recommend some of their favourite local spots. Here’s a quick list of what they shared:
Aphrodite Cooking Classes
This is a wonderful little foodie spot, and I love how they have gone virtual. Look out for their family night cooking classes (they look like a lot of fun!). They have a class coming up, New Holiday Favourites. You can even order the ingredients and have them delivered in time for the class.
Shop Local Ontario: Ojibway Natural
This online shop is from a Northern Ontario Indigenous artisan. She is selling home-made bath products and candles scented with sage, sweetgrass, cedar, and lavender – that sounds divine! Check out their gift baskets for the holidays. I *may* just gift myself one of these!
Shop Holiday Gift Guide Ideas from Across Canada
Check out what’s in our guide and support local businesses across Canada
Holiday Gift Ideas for Social Impact Travellers
We all know the virus has not been kind to those of us who love to travel. But in a lot of ways, it has encouraged all of us to explore
our own backyards a little bit more. Travel writer Jennifer Bain wrote this book 111 Places in Calgary You Must Not Miss to inspire travellers to western Canada. I pre-ordered one on Amazon. If I can’t travel now, I can at least be inspired for the future! I’ve spent so much of my travel time in Canada exploring the east coast, that I think I’m about ready to start venturing more to the west in the coming years. Jennifer has a quirky eye for sometimes weird and unusual places to see, so I’m keen to see what she uncovered in Calgary.
Pro tip: As the world starts to open up again, it’s likely that many of us will stay close to home at first. Calgary is often a gateway to the rugged mountains and stunning national parks.
Gift ideas: 111 Places in Calgary That You Must Not Miss is available on Indigo or Amazon.
Shop Local: Gifts to Support Indigenous Artists in Canada
When I was researching masks made in Canada by Indigenous artists, I found Pass the Feather, Indigenous Arts Collective of Canada and its Indigenous Arts Marketplace. They have really beautiful work there including paintings, holiday tree ornaments with feathers, and holiday cards. For myself, I ordered cards and an ornament with a heron feather in it – the heron reminding me of the amazing outdoor adventures I have had with my son this year, and we have seen many, many herons on our adventures. The challenge though is that their shipping rates are at $20 flat rate, but I ordered a few things to make it worth the while.
Pass the Feather also has an Indigenous Arts Auction on Facebook, which is a lot of fun to watch. I ordered this beautiful beading kit from the online auction. I was in touch with the artist who designs the Birch Bark and Quill Beading Kit in this photograph and she assured me it is appropriate for me, a non-Indigenous person, to purchase this kit and learn how to do this kind of beadwork for my personal use. I love working with beads (normally, I make things to sell as donations for my Nzirambi fundraiser) and I’ve always admired Indigenous beadwork, so I am happy for the opportunity to learn it and support an Indigenous artist at the same time.
Gourmet Gift for Mustard Lovers
Sigh. I miss Caplansky’s in the city. And, yes, I know, they are still at the airport, but being grounded in the pandemic means I have certainly not been there in a long time (too long, actually). So, I was really happy to see Caplansky’s start selling these boxes with a selection of their all-natural Canadian made mustards – horseradish, ballpark, spicy, and mild.
I ordered one of these boxes to try (one of my go-to snacks is cheese and salami with mustard) and appreciated they have a $5 flat rate shipping. It arrived very quickly by mail, too.
This is an awesome little gift package for any food lover. And when you purchase Caplansky’s mustards, they make a donation to No Kid Hungry.
Pro Tip: You can choose a variety box of mustards, but if you have a favourite already, there is an option to customize your box. Four ballpark mustards? No problem.
Gift idea: For a little fun, add a T-Shirt to your gift box, too.
Shop Local Holiday Gift Ideas, Support Charities
Give Generously this Season
This year has been so incredibly hard on so many people. Charities have felt the impact as people have lost jobs and had less to give. It makes those in our communities already vulnerable, even more so. If you can, now is the time to give to your favourite charities.
Here are my Shop Local Gift Guide charity recommendations :
Local Gift Idea in Toronto: Support Pine Project
Pine Project is where we enrolled my son in Forest School because we did not feel that public school was safe enough for our personal risk situation. It has been a real blessing. He goes every day, rain, shine, or snow. And he loves it. It’s magical: they hunt for creatures, help the faeries clean the park, and cheer the salmon on as they run up the river. Pine Project offers a bursary to families who can not afford the fees.
Donate here: Pine Project is a registered charity.
This year we decided to gift our Forest School teachers with an adoption card from WWF. We wanted to select a Canadian animal to honour their work in being local forest protectors; my son chose the Pine Marten basically because he is so cute. Check out their adoption kits.
Nzirambi Education Fund, Uganda
I started the Nzirambi Education Fund to help boys and girls from a community family-run orphanage go to school in Uganda. We have raised more than $110,000, funding more than a dozen kids through various levels, including complete university programs. The pandemic has impacted donations that are regularly made to the orphanage, and your support is greatly appreciated. In 2020, we switched gears and sponsored a newborn whose mother was a young woman who grew up in the orphanage and whom we sponsored through vocational training a few years back. It was so heart-breaking that the mother, Rose, died due to complications in labour. We are sending monthly contributions to cover the cost of formula fees for the baby.
Donations are accepted through ETF at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shop Local Holiday Gift Idea: Children’s Mental Health Ontario
The pandemic has really affected children in our communities. In a lot of ways, our kids are bearing the brunt of this. I’m fortunate to provide digital communications consulting work to Children’s Mental Health Ontario during this challenging time. I even used the services of one of its mental health centres when we were struggling with some issues around our son being so isolated and struggling to socialize. When you make a donation here, you help them to continue to advocate to government and stakeholders and bring much-needed change to the child and youth mental health system.
Senior Person’s Living Connected
Again, I have been so fortunate to provide communications services to this non-profit organization through the pandemic. If I said earlier that children are bearing the brunt of this pandemic, so too, are seniors. Through the pandemic, I’ve watched this team work quickly to get online and make virtual programming possible and engaging for vulnerable seniors. They have such a lovely, vibrant community. When you support them, you are helping to enable the organization to continue to offer much-needed programming to keep seniors active and social during this difficult time.
Support the Royal Canadian Legion
This year, Remembrance Day hit me really hard because Iearned of the passing of an important friend. He was 100-years-old; a veteran of WW2. I know that Remembrance Day has passed, but it has been noted that because of the pandemic, poppy sales were down this year. It’s a great time to look at their Poppy Storel they have beautiful gifts with poppies – everything from water bottles to wallets, and even holiday ornaments.
Shop and donate here
Holiday Gift, Make a Donation to Toronto General Hospital
Annually, my family donates to Toronto General Hospital because this is where my husband had his life-saving transplant. The transplant team continues to support us and we couldn’t ask for better support. Earlier this year, I raised funds on behalf of Toronto General to support their Covid response and to honour a friend who works as an emergency doctor there. She was on the front-lines of the Covid response, right up until she had a baby and went on maternity leave. She is such an inspiration.
Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre
I’ve added Sunnybrook here in honour of Perny by Condy, one of my favourite mask makers in the city. I wrote about them on my post Where to Find Masks Made in Canada. The woman behind Perny by Condy lost her sister at the start of the pandemic, leaving behind three beautiful daughters. In her sister’s memory, they started making masks to donate to Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre.
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