I think I know what you mean… and here's what I do. And you can still do it too.
With kids going off to college, there are still sales on towels, small kitchen appliances and other kitchenware.
Buy up some towels to add simple lace edges to. Or if you are good at embriodery, you can personalize even further.
Purchase kitchen choppers (I seen an ad just last week that had them for under $5)
and make a gift basket of nuts and other baking goods.
Those handy kitchen gadgets can be wrapped in Christmas cellophane and handed out with your special recipe that might use that gadget in the preparation.
All of these items can usually be found year-round at reasonable prices that get
even better during the holidays. Plus they have no “seasonality” to their looks so
they can be used anytime.
A little imagination to start off with and you would be surprised at how far you can
actually take it!