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25 last-minute gifts you can pick up on your way to the party

Last minute gifts are easy to find with a quick stop at a local store.
Last minute gifts are easy to find with a quick stop at a local store. Cafe & Catering

With all the wedding planning and holiday shopping, chances are you'll find yourself on the way to a holiday party and realize that you forgot to pick up a gift. Or, someone calls to say that they are dropping off a package and you don't have anything to give them in return. Don't panic. Here are 25 great gift ideas you can pick up at the supermarket, convenience store, drugstore or find in your own cupboard. These are all perfect gifts you can wrap in minutes and save yourself from an embarrassing situation. Remember, you're collecting a lot of gifts throughout your wedding process, so reciprocating when appropriate is always a thoughtful idea.

To ensure you're prepared should this potential gift faux pas occur, head over now to your favorite big box store or Dollar Tree and stock up on a couple of inexpensive baskets, ribbon, tissue paper, tape, gift tags, basket shreds, cellophane basket bags and gift bags in varying sizes including wine bags.

In fact, you may want to keep a small stash in the trunk of your car along with a pair of scissors so you can quickly and festively wrap the gift to look as if you planned this present all along.

Choose metallic or plain colors rather than seasonal or event-specific designs so that you can use these supplies throughout the year whenever a gift giving emergency arises.

Failing to this, you also can find your gift wrapping materials at these stores as well.

At a quality supermarket like Publix, you can pick up quite a number of these gifts. They open early and stay open late.

GOURMET GOODIES: Head over to the gourmet section for a selection of epicurean edibles for your favorite foodie. Put in a festive basket with some colorful shreds, add a bow and you have a bountiful gift.

SUPER STOCK:  Pick up a stock pot or slow cooker and fill it with the ingredients for a vegetarian chili, pasta sauce, soup or stew. Make this a meatless meal to avoid spoilage.

SPECIAL SPICES:  Any chef will cheer your gift of a collection of exotic spices you’ve gathered into a soup pot. Tie ribbons through your pot’s handles or attach a bow to the pot’s lid. Or gather the spices into a pretty gift bag or basket.

FANCY FRUIT:  Pile a collection of exotic fruits or stack up red and green apples into a bowl or basket. Add colorful berries or nuts in shells for a decorative display. Cover with tissue paper or clear plastic basket bag and tie with a decorative bow for a lovely presentation. Or just buy a pre-made fruit basket in the produce section. They often come fully decorated.

POTTED PLANT:  Many supermarkets have a floral department, so find a flowering or seasonal plant for a gift that will be a growing reminder of your affection.

BEAUTIFUL BOUQUET:  While you’re in the floral department, you also can gather a floral bouquet or pick up a pre-made arrangement. Most stores will be happy to assemble the flowers into a vase. If an on-staff florist isn't available, remove the plastic covering from pre-made bouquets and re-wrap them into decorative papers you have in your stash and tie it with a beautiful bow. This will make it look like it came straight from the finest florist.

PRE-MADE PLATTERS: The deli department is a treasure trove of delectable delights if you’re heading to a dinner or cocktail party. Just pick up a pre-made platter of vegetable crudités or a cheese board.

SCRUMPTIOUS SEAFOOD: Sail over to the fish department to find a fully-cooked and arranged shellfish platter, complete with cocktail sauce. Since these usually thaw quickly, the fish should be ready to serve by the time you arrive. Don't forget to stop by the paper goods aisle to pick up a box of frilly toothpicks so your hostess doesn't have to start digging around for fish forks.

BAKERY BOUNTY: Most bakeries have boxes or tins of festive cookies that will be a tasty treat. Add some ribbon or a bow to make it look like a planned purchase.

This next set of ideas are items you can find at the supermarket, CVS or Walgreens. And since many of these stores are open 24-hours a day and are almost everywhere, you can easily make a quick stop without having to go out of your way.

CARD COLLECTION:  The store’s stationery department is the ideal place to gather greeting cards. Choose all-purpose or blank cards or collect a variety of event-specific cards, slip into a decorative box or basket for a gift any host will love when they have their own last-minute greeting card emergencies.

SCHOOL DAYS:  One of the best things about the beginning of school for most kids is getting a collection of fun pens, papers, pads and pencils. New mid-term supplies will be a super school gift for kids when they return to school after a holiday break. And parents will be charmed that you thought of their child.

DESK SET:  Kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy desk gear. Fill up a waste basket with office supplies or an elegant pen set for a mogul-in-the-making or someone who runs a home business.

MOVIE MADNESS:  Many stores carry a super selection of popular DVDs any movie lover will enjoy.

SOOTHING SCENTS:  A collection of decorative aromatic candles always makes a fragrant hostess gift.

LAP OF LUXURY:  Fill a pretty basket with a loofah, bath salts, bath oils and decorative soaps along with an aroma-therapy candle or two to give your host to enjoy after the party.

PAMPERED PET:  If your friends think of their pet as a member of the family, you’ll score big when you head down the pet aisle to pick up toys or treats for a much-loved feathered, furry, fuzzy or fishy family member.

PRETTY BABY:  No new parent can ever have enough bibs, baby wipes, diapers or bath supplies. Fill up a basket and your host will be cooing over your thoughtfulness.

CAR CARE: Male gift recipients especially will give you a sincere thank you when you fill a wash bucket with car wash, wax, sponges, and polishing cloths to take care of his (or her) best mechanical friend.

PRETTY TRENDY: Any teen girl or fashionista will love a collection of nail polishes, along with emery boards, polish remover, orange sticks, and cotton balls gathered into a pretty makeup bag or basket. Best of all, this is a much safer choice than makeup since you don’t have to be as concerned with skin tones or skin types.

Arrange a collection of cook’s tools or the latest "as seen on TV" gadgets into a basket, decorative pot or decorative bag for a gift they’ll go gaga for.

SWEET TREATS:  Who can resist a box of sweet confections? Whether a pre-boxed gift set or a basket of favorites you’ve hand-selected, candy is always a sweet treat. Dieters and diabetics will also enjoy the sugar-free or low-carb varieties readily available in most stores.

HOT SUFF:  Whether they prefer coffee, tea or hot chocolate, fill a basket with an assortment of flavored beverages or creamers. Add a mug to your gift bag or basket and, if you’re giving hot chocolate, don’t forget the marshmallows.

This next set of items is completely convenient because you'll be able to pick them up at the nearest convenience store and still be able to score with these timeless treasures.

A super last-minute gift is to find a magazine which will appeal to the recipient. Just slip out the subscription card, roll the magazine, tie with a ribbon and tell them to expect a subscription in their mailbox. Then, after the party, mail in the card with your payment or order online.

VINTAGE VINO:  In many states, like Florida, you can purchase a bottle of wine in supermarkets and convenience stores. Slip a quality vintage into a wine bag or simply tie with a decorative bow.

SNACK PACK: College students, teens or young adults living on their own, will love receiving a variety of chips, dips, cookies and candies. Stick with small packages or single-serving sizes to make it a more appealing assortment and well-thought-out present.

To avoid this forgotten gift dilemma in the future, one of your best bets is to keep generic gifts you’ve picked up when they’ve been on sale throughout the year. The after-Christmas sales are a great time to shop for your gift pantry. Look for things like stationery, pen sets, bud vases, decorative frames, fragrances, candles, scarves, and costume jewelry. They are all small items you easily can store in a closet, drawer, plastic storage box, under your bed or in a cabinet.

Just pre-wrap them with a blank gift tag and sticky note stating what the gift is. This way when you receive an unexpected present or are heading out the door, you can go to your present pantry, sign the gift tag and present your gift without missing a beat.

Remember, while giving gifts is not a necessity, it is a thoughtful reminder of how much the recipient means to you, even if you purchased the present at the last minute.