The average American spends $650 on holiday gifts each year. Here are some you can feel good about giving.
The holidays are here, and if you haven’t already, you’ll want to start shopping soon. Supply chain issues aren’t the only pandemic-induced concern this year: with inflation at a 40-year high, money is tight for many families and every dollar counts.
That’s why we’re compiling a list of affordable, Wisconsin-made gifts you can actually feel good about giving– “Presents with Purpose” that benefit a bigger cause.
Check back throughout the holiday season. We’ll be adding to this list!
Products included (& their purpose):
- Books by Wisconsin Authors (independent bookstores)
- Char-MOO-terie Board (military/people living with disabilities)
- Cheese of the Month Subscription (small dairy farmers)
- Chocolate Chip Cookies (local non-profits)
- CityTins (local restaurants)
- English Butter Toffee (local non-profits)
- State Skillet (midwestern iron makers)
- Terrace Clock (college student programs)
- Ukraine Candle (humanitarian aid)
- Wisconsin Wall Hanging (environment)
- Wool Mittens (hunger relief)
Products With Purpose 2022
Books by Wisconsin authors
Prices vary, Bookshop.org
What It Is: From children’s author/illustrator Kevin Henkes to novelist Mona Simpson, find the perfect book for any age or interest from a Wisconsin-born writer.
How It Helps: Not only will your purchase support a fellow Wisconsinite, but when you buy any book from Bookshop.org, all profits benefit a local bookstore of your choice.
Who’s Behind It: Bookshop.org founder Andy Hunter
Their ‘Why’: “We saw an opportunity to create an alternative to Amazon for socially-conscious online shoppers. Amazon sells more than 60% of all books in the US and is growing. That shift threatens the future of bookstores and will hurt readers, authors, and publishers who rely on a diverse, healthy ecosystem for books.
We had a better idea — give readers the convenience of online shopping while supporting independent bookstores at the same time.”
FUN FACT: Since 2020, Bookshop.org has raised $23 million and counting for independent bookstores and is now international, with options in Spain and the UK.
Where to Buy It: Bookshop.org (and click here for a list of 21 recommended books from 21st century Wisconsin authors)
$52.99, Northwoods Cheese Company
What It Is: A charcuterie board set with an engraved cutting board, All-Beef Summer Sausage, Pepper Cheese, Cheddar Cheese, and Swiss Cheese
How It Helps: The set is listed under the “For Military” section of the website. You can buy it for anyone, but the intention is to send a “taste of Wisconsin” to someone who is missing it. Northwoods Cheese also partners with several organizations to prioritize hiring people living with disabilities. Many of the boards are made by these hardworking men and women.
Who’s Behind It: Northwoods Food team managers Derek and Angela Thielke
Their ‘Why’: “The goal of this partnership is to provide full and meaningful employment for people with disabilities. Your support of our program enables people with disabilities to achieve dignity through work and contribute to their community.”
FUN FACT: The Char-MOO-terie board is one of many Wisconsin and/or cheese products from the Northwoods Cheese Company. Click here for a variety of options!
Cheese of the Month Subscription
$55/box, Cheese Brothers
What It Is: 5-8 handpicked Wisconsin cheeses and artisan treats in individual, three, six, or 12 month shipments
How It Helps: Every box supports a handful of small Wisconsin dairies, local producers
Who’s Behind It: Co-Founders Eric Ludy and Gene Graf
Their ‘Why’: “We believe in cheese. It guides everything we do. We believe in its power to foster food will among all, and we strive to prove it every day in our relationships with our customers, partners, and community.”
FUN FACT: The Cheese Brothers still make their cheese the same way Eric’s Great Grandpa Fred did when he immigrated to Wisconsin from Switzerland in 1919 (but with a bit fancier equipment!)
Where to Buy It: Online. Individual boxes cost $55 apiece, while monthly subscriptions are discounted.
Wisconsin’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
$31/dozen, Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe
What It Is: A dozen of the product named Wisconsin’s Best by the Wisconsin Bakers Association, these cookies are made with more than 50% bittersweet chocolate and are slightly underbaked for a soft, chewy texture.
How It Helps: Support Wisconsin non-profits year-round
Who’s Behind It: Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe Owner Mary Vande Walle and her late husband Mike, who died from COVID two years ago at age 63
Their ‘Why’: “We welcome donation requests from any type of organization or benefit in need of bakery products or raffle items. At Uncle Mike’s, we try to help as many people as possible through our donations.“
FUN FACT: Uncle Mike’s sea salt caramel pecan kringle was named the Best Kringle in North America in 2014 and the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin in 2018! It’s available for online shipping here or for pickup at one of Uncle Mike’s three locations in Green Bay and De Pere.
Where to Buy It: Sold by the dozen online. Shipping is included in the price of all Uncle Mike’s online products.
What It Is: A unique pack of 20+ cardboard coaster gift cards each worth $10 off your bill of $25 or more at nearly two-dozen locally-owned restaurants (a $200 value.) They come in a metal tin with a “dinner spinner,” to help you choose where to go. Coasters expire Dec. 31, 2023 and are available in four Wisconsin versions: Fox Cities, Lake County, Madison, and Milwaukee. There are also Illinois and Minnesota tins.
How It Helps: Discounts help make quality, independent restaurants in your community more affordable for you, while bringing business to them. Since 2009, CityTins has donated an additional $450,000 to the communities they serve through fundraisers and in-kind donations.
Who’s Behind It: CityTins founders Christin Cilento Ladky and Tara Laatsch
Their ‘Why’: Christin and Tara, both moms, founded their company during the Great Recession of 2009 on their children’s school playground. CityTins quickly became a cult classic and was named to Business Insiders’ “50 Coolest New Businesses in America” list.
“This is kind of the coupon that you’re not embarrassed to use. It’s about the art, it’s about the kitschiness, and it’s about promoting the city in a creative way.”
FUN FACT: SomeCityTins fans coined a new concept called “tinning” where you plan a “restaurant crawl” using several coasters– one for drinks and apps, another for entrees, and a third for dessert!
English Toffee Gift Tin
$52, Vande Walle’s Candies
What It Is: 1-1/2 pounds of English butter toffee made with only four ingredients: Wisconsin grade AA butter, almonds, sugar, and salt. It’s then covered in rich milk chocolate and rolled in chopped almonds.
How It Helps: Support a 48-year-old small business that frequently donates its award-winning products to Fox Valley non-profits. Click here to make an online donation request.
Who’s Behind It: Founders Norma and Don Sr. Vande Walle
Their ‘Why’: To be good corporate citizens and strengthen the health, social, educational and cultural fabric of their community.
“At Vande Walle’s Candies we are thankful for the success that we have had. As a family business, we feel that it is important to give back to the people who have generously supported us over the years.”
FUN FACT: The first product Vande Walle’s ever sold was its popcorn balls (and they still do!) Today, the family makes more than 95 varieties of fine chocolates, a line of sugar-free candies, and homemade premium ice cream!
Where to Buy It: In-store or online
$130, American Skillet Company
What It Is: A 7″ x 5.5″ x 1.25″ (length x height x depth) cast iron skillet, plus recipe & cast iron care cards
How It Helps: The Wisconsin-based company works with only Midwestern iron makers for the labor-intensive process of creating sustainable skillets in small-batches. So when you buy a skillet, you know you’re supporting hardworking local craftsmen and women!
Who’s Behind It: American Skillet Co. owner Alisa Toninato
Their ‘Why’: Alisa’s company started as an art display: a 9ft x 6ft art installation of the United States, made of individual state-shaped cast iron skillets, that caught the eye of Martha Stewart in 2012.
“Just six months later, Martha decided to prestigiously recognize [us] as one of 10 honorees at the inaugural American Made Awards, celebrating creative business leaders across the U.S. It was a life changing experience that launched my small business into a national spotlight, and I wasn’t exactly ready for that.
Today, I still get the last touch of each and every state-shaped skillet that ships. If you ever order yours with a note to your recipient, you can bet that I’m the one hand writing that letter and sticking it into the box.”
FUN FACT: Alisa sells skillets in every state shape, as well as the United States as a whole. Her company also sells magnetic display hangers ($25), so you can show off your skillet when you’re not using it!
Where to Buy It: The American Skillet Company website. Military veterans receive a 20% discount.
$140, Wisconsin Union Store
What It Is: A 15″ clock made from authentic “Terrace chair” metal, featuring the iconic sunburst die cut with a silver mirror underneath. Available in Badger Red.
How It Helps: All proceeds help the Wisconsin Union provide more free programs and activities for UW students!
Who’s Behind It: WISCO Industries, the Wisconsin-based company responsible for making all 4,000 chairs on the Terrace at the Memorial Union
Their ‘Why’: National Sales Manager Ken Bausch says his company enjoys its unique partnership with the UW and its fans.
“This is definitely one of the iconic things that we do. The Wisconsin Union is part of campus, but it serves the community as well. So it means a great deal to us that someone thing so uniquely Wisconsin is made in Wisconsin.”
FUN FACT: If you are willing to spend more money, you can spring for an authentic Terrace chair, which also come in Badger Red and are available with and without arms, starting at $380. WISCO Industries builds between 100 and 400 for Badger fans across the country every year. Click here for more information.
Where to Buy It: The Wisconsin Union online store (available for pickup in Oregon, WI or home delivery for an additional $40)
$29.95, Door County Candle Company
What It Is: A vanilla-scented 16 oz. candle, colored blue and yellow to represent the Ukrainian flag
How It Helps: 100% of profits (about $10/candle) benefit Razom for Ukraine, a non-profit providing on-the-ground support to families affected by the ongoing war
Who’s Behind It: Door County Candle Company Owner and proud Ukrainian Christiana Gorchynsky Trapani
Their ‘Why’: Christiana, a Ukrainian American, grew up with Ukrainian as her first language. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, she felt heartbroken, concerned, and scared, but most of all, compelled to help. She quickly learned others did, too.
“So many people want to help, but don’t know how or how to make sure their money gets to the right places. Being this kind of support for people has been a primary motivation behind our fundraiser from the start.”
FUN FACT: Christiana took over as owner of Door County Candle Company in June 2021 and launched this fundraiser just eight months later. Her goal was 30 candles: so far, she’s sold more than 80,000 and given $800,000 & counting to Razom for Ukraine.
Where to Buy It: The Door County Candle Company’s website. Allow two weeks for shipping.
Wisconsin Wall Hanging
From $40, Flags Over Wisconsin
What It Is: A made-to-order Wisconsin-shaped wall hanging made from 100% locally-reclaimed barn wood. Available in three sizes: 20″, 33″, and 42″.
How It Helps: Each piece is made of upcycled wood from four Dane County barns: Ripp Barn in Martinsville, Buechner Barn in Cross Plains, Lamboley Barn in Brooklyn, and Einar Olson Tobacco Barn in Deerfield. Family stories about each barn are written on the back.
Who’s Behind It: Flags Over Wisconsin Artist Jeremiah Longemann
Their ‘Why’: “The entirety of my portfolio is founded on an ecological principle of upcycling Wisconsin’s proud heritage and landscape into visual and functional art for future generations, preserving the history of these buildings while bringing awareness to the need for us all to think before we consume.
Every piece starts with a question: How can I transform material slated for refuse into beauty, value and a new life in our community? 59 tons of material saved from local landfills to date.”
FUN FACT: Jeremiah makesa variety of Wisconsin wall hangings, including ones with the Ice Age Trail carved into them or the Pride flag painted on them.
What They Are: One-of-a-kind fleece-lined handmade mittens, made of 100% felted wool [from donated sweaters found at local thrift stores.] They’re finished with buttons and tacts at the cuffs and come in a variety of sizes for both men and women.
How They Help: 100% of profits benefit three Dane County food pantries: St. Vincent de Paul, the Middleton Outreach Ministry, and the River Food Pantry
Who’s Behind It: Retired UW oncology nurse and avid sewer Janet Tupy
Their ‘Why’: Inspired by a pair of mittens she found in a gift shop, Janet decided to spend $100 on wool sweaters at a local thrift, sew them into mittens, and see how much money she could raise for local food pantries. That was 13 years ago.
“It’s a labor of love. We love doing it. [The mittens] are available at small local businesses in town, so we hope you’ll support them during this pandemic, and at the same time, pick up mittens.”
FUN FACT: Janet’s first-year goal was $1,000. With the help of a few friends who also sewed, she ended up raising $4,000 and running out of mittens! Now, Janet has a team of two dozen volunteers who work year-round to sell mittens from November 1st through the holidays. To date, they’ve raised $650,000 (& counting!) for local pantries.
Where to Buy Them: Dozens of coffee shops, grocery stories, and other small businesses across south central Wisconsin. Click here to find your nearest seller.