9 Ways to Shop Small & Local this Holiday Season

Two hands giving a red and gold wrapped local gift

How can you shop local?
Let me count the ways…

But first, a moment of recognition of the stresses that can accumulate with all the demands on our time during the Festive Season…

Holiday Stressors

The Pressures of the Holiday season can mount pretty quickly—and it seems to start mounting earlier and earlier every year!  I went out with a Friend for coffee on Nov 17th and we had to hop around between THREE Halifax cafes within 3 hours—as two were closing early for staff parties. Folks everywhere are trying to spread out all the work, social, kids’ clubs, and family events that clamour for our festive attention. Exhausting, isn’t it?

blackboard with holiday stress text


In fact, the American Psychological Association actually has a Holiday Stress Online Help Center to help navigate some of the top stressors of the season!  And guess what one of the big four stressors are?  You guessed it: Dealing with the Pressure of Holiday Gift Giving.

Let me soothe your worried brow…

gift bag colorful xmas hat

But holiday gift shopping CAN be a lovely experience—really!  You simply need to be selective with where you shop. Big Box stores and mega mall holiday excursions are fraught with crowds (most as stressed as you are) and are sensory overload nightmares—especially for those of us who need to shop with little ones in tow. So, we’ve put together some local gift-giving ideas that will reduce your holiday shopping stress, keep more of your holiday purchase dollars local, AND help save the planet by reducing your carbon footprint! WIN, WIN, WIN.

*Ahem* Drumroll, please!

1.    Gift a Seasonal Bouquet from your Small Independent Florist

white ice skate show hang on door near to postal boxFlowers are a wonderful way to let someone know you’re thinking of them. But, with all of the online florist services now, we often forget to take a walk down Main Street, to pop into the local florist, before clicking on some generic holiday bouquet from “big corporate flower service” online. But sending flowers to your local friends and families directly from your small indie local florist means you are sending a unique locally created holiday bouquet. AND you are literally surrounded by gorgeousness while you shop! Perfect! Janet’s Flowers and My Mother’s Bloomers are excellent HRM examples—check them out!


2.    Gift Some Winter Warmers from your Local Indie Cafes

latte art surrounded by Christmas light

I don’t know about you, but caffeine is my friend—especially during the holiday season and dark winter months.  And there are so many delicious festive warm drinks on offer this time of year. So, definitely pop into your local indie café, get your festive caffeine-fix, and check out their lovely holiday gift ideas – from reusable mugs to holiday gift sets of coffees, teas, and yummy Christmas cookies.

You’re refilling your own cup (HA!) while at the same time getting those gifts for Jim and Kate—your coffee aficionado friends. You know, the ones you never know what to get for? Done! And Some Local Cafes, like Dilly Dally Coffee Café in Halifax, also source work from local artists and makers too!  Café Marco Polo is a great small indie Dartmouth café to pop in for a warm winter drink and they serve a variety of local baked goods too. So many gift options to consider while you sip and munch.

And now you’re refuelled to step out and wander on down to get…

3.     Gifts from Your Local Farmers Market

I’m sure that you could easily get most of your Holiday Shopping done even in one local farmer’s market.  Yes, these markets used to be predominantly for fresh produce—and though you can still get lovely produce there, I’m thinking you’re probably not wanting to gift a salad this Christmas. They’re kinda hard to wrap. But farmers markets nowadays are home to such a variety of local vendors—from artists, to crafters, to artisans, to craft beer makers, to local distilleries, to gourmet mushroom growing kit makers! Yes—I kid you not! You can gift a grow-your-own-mushroom kit from Happy Caps Mushroom Farm. I got one each for my kids this Christmas! Ok, there may be a bit of “me-gifting” going on there if I’m being completely honest. But we can just call that a win-win, right?

local mushroom producer grow mushroom small business
Halifax, NS Local Urban Farm, Happy Caps Mushroom Farm


4.    Gift Cards from Local Artists

I used to live in the UK when my kids were little. A short while after I moved back home to Halifax, one of my UK friends sent me a stunning card from a local artist. It was gorgeous and like no other Christmas card I’d received before! Yes, an artist-made card doubles as a Holiday greeting and gift as they are lovely enough to frame. Many local artists print some of their gorgeous work to make greeting cards—an affordable way to give the gift of beautiful local art. Moongirl Art and MaeisArt Gallery are two Dartmouth Local Artists you could check out for beautifully unique greeting cards. And do check out the rest of their gorgeous art offerings while you’re there—stunning!

hand made card postal for new year and xmas with train on it in Halifax
Gorgeous Dartmouth Themed Christmas Card by Local Artist MaeisArt Gallery
gift card hand made painted local artist support
Beautiful Gift Card Set by Halifax Local Artist, Moongirl Art

5.    Gift a Holiday Experience at a Local Indie Restaurant

local restaurant bar pubs fresh food

We are spoiled for choice in HRM for awesome local independent restaurants—truly! And so many source from local food producers—from farm to table at a restaurant. Two Doors Down in Halifax and The Canteen in Dartmouth are excellent HRM examples. So how do you gift an experience like this? Simple! Instead of buying a “thing” for your friend, why not buy her dinner and spend some quality time with her over a delicious meal and artisan drinks? Or, buy her a gift certificate for your favourite small local restaurant in case you can’t arrange a mutually convenient time during the busy rush of the season.

6.    Local Craft Brewery and Distillery Gifts

Ok, I’m a bit of a lightweight, I won’t lie.  But most of my friends are definitely not and I do love to look for new stuff to share with them—even if I only have a glass for every three of theirs. No, they’re not drinking fast—just like those with normal adult livers. Anyway, back when this digital platform was a dream and some wireframe sketches, I visited one of my Local Markets—Alderney Landing Farmer’s Market in Dartmouth. I saw lots of cool local providers—woodworkers, artists, and a local distillery, Barrelling Tide, where I bought a gift sample rum set for my friend. Many local Breweries and Distilleries offer these lovely gift packs, so you don’t have to pick just one flavour. This way, you’re giving a gift of a possible new fav libation that your buddy had never tried before!

7.    Gift Unique Eco-friendly Hand-crafted Finds from Local Makers

The Home, Made Happy gifted me one of her gorgeous hand-made reusable shopping bags at my last birthday and it’s awesome! It fits LOADS of stuff and folds up so small that it fits neatly in my VERY full purse.  “Would you like to purchase a bag with that, Mam?”

“No thanks,” say I as I pull out this teeny folded bag that, when opened, astounds me every time with how much I can fit in it! She was also kind enough to gift me some reusable produce bags—which are even teenier and super durable. She has a whole host of other eco-friendly items as well—so you’re not only giving a gift to a friend, it’s a gift to the planet as well.

hand made bag small business support
Hand-Made tardis-like Market Bag by Halifax NS Local eco-merchantile, The Home, Made Happy

8.    Give the Gift of Locally Handcrafted Style

Ok folks, be prepared for cuteness overload when you check out The Boytique Haberdashery—providing handcrafted bow ties (made in Nova Scotia) and matching suspenders for babes to grown-ups. AND they have a holiday selection!  Forget ugly Christmas sweater-themed parties—I vote for stylin’ Holiday bow ties and suspenders! Who’s with me?? But back to gift giving—perfect for that new Dad and Baby boy’s first Christmas, no? And how ‘bout the Grandads too?  And you can browse all this locally created cuteness while sitting at home in your PJs—how cool is that?

kids bow tie local support
Halifax Local Haberdasher’s, The Boytique


9.    Give Beautiful Local Unique Customizable Gift Boxes

Like the gorgeous selection from Halifax-local Black Box Gift Co. If there is a special occasion you can think of, they’ve got the gift box for you: “…We assist gift givers by creating one-of-a-kind gifts we know people will LOVE to receive because creating magic is our specialty!” One look at their offerings and you’ll totally get it. From holiday-themed to fully customizable boxes—some featuring locally-crafted items made right here in Nova Scotia. Honestly, their offerings are too hard to explain in one paragraph—so you must check them out yourself to get the full flavour of their diverse gift offerings.

gift box by a local produced company
Online Festive Gift Boxes by Halifax-Local, Black Box Gift Co.

Buy Small and Local to Avoid the Big Box Mega Mall Festive Noise

So, take your pick. Manic Mall shopping with the bright lights and noise and lines and big box sameness? OR picking out a lovely bouquet for your mom from your local florist, then popping into a local indie café for a warming cuppa, then perusing your local market for cool, locally sourced holiday gifts.

Try even just one of these 9 tips for small local holiday shopping and let us know how it went. Or maybe you’ve got another way to reduce stress by shopping small and local for the holidays? We need another to make it a full list of 10, after all.  We’d love to hear from you—and it will give us all more local gift ideas too 🙂

6 thoughts on “9 Ways to Shop Small & Local this Holiday Season

  1. Marsha says:

    Bouquet subscriptions! The gift that gives all year long. Local flower farms offer them. Great gift for a mom, sister or grandmother who loves fresh flowers.

  2. Tamara says:

    This is fabulous, Melanie! I even shopped locally for my sister who lives in the States. And your list gave me more great ideas for those closer to home too!

    • Melanie Little says:

      Oh that’s exactly what I was hoping for, Tamara! Sending local gifts at home and abroad – love it! Thanks so much for taking the time to share here 😁

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