After playing for a bit, I have to agree with you 100% that sometimes receiving energy gifts can be a good thing. I have been in the situation you describe where I am trying to level up on quests but ran out of energy and then I suddenly had a full tank because someone gifted it to me.
I find I get a few gifts just after I send out daily gifts. So first thing I do when I log in is collect the property 'rents' so I can restart their countdown clocks asap, then I spend my energy down on quests, then I send out my daily gifts and low and behold a few minutes later I have full energy. Sometimes, if I have time, I'll send my daily gifts in groups so I can get a couple of sets of gifts with energy ... but only if I have lots of time, which is not often.
Another thing I have been doing now that I am getting quite a few gifts is I am selling off the lower ranked items and buying higher ranked ones.
I also made sure, as per someones suggestion on mobilemouse.net, to buy all my crew Spankers to give them each a +13 attack.