Monday, October 28, 2013

Merry Christmas Gifts!! (penny-pinching!)

Christmas is officially less than 60 days away! Oh crap or Bring it on? I say bring it on since this weekend I wrapped up the last of my holiday preparations. Yes, that's right. I'm done shopping/prepping.. BOOYAH!!

What do you do for Christmas gifts for those you want to know you are thinking about them but you don't want to break the bank? I've decided the cheap things from the stores aren't the best gifts. Do people need more chocolate or candles during the holiday season. Especially being a teacher... that's all the stuff some of the kids bring to school. If you are going to get colleagues, neighbors, friends, or extended family something, make it. It will save you money and be appreciated and remembered. Below are a few of the ideas I've made in the last few years with links to original recipes. Thank goodness for all the bloggers out there. They make it so we all look crafty!!

Cookies for Santa- These were so cute. In a quart size Mason jar (case for $9.00) I followed this recipe for Cowboy Cookie Jars. I printed cute labels that said,

Cookies for Santa
1 slightly beaten egg
1/2 cup butter (melted slightly in the microwave)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees

Of course, it was Green and Red and cute. If you look at the recipe, I used about one bag of each: flour, sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips and green/red M&Ms. Total cost about $15 for 12 gifts. Sorry, no pictures. $1.25 per gift.

Homemade Vanilla- This one takes some planning because it takes 6 months to make. Last year for Christmas I made homemade vanilla. This one was a bit more expensive but was a really nice gift. I use this recipe from one of my favorite bloggers- Homemade Vanilla extract. The following list of items made me 24 3 oz bottles of homemade vanilla extract and about 80 ml of vanilla for us to use at home. Yes, we go through a lot of vanilla!!
$35- 2 175ml bottles vodka- midrange quality- Svedka made the best, darkest vanilla of my two bottles. 
$20- off amazon, Madagascar vanilla beans
$12- 24 3 oz glass bottles with closures
Free + $1.50 shipping-  labels off Vistaprint (you know where the free stuff is, right!??) The labels said, "Homemade Vanilla Extract- All our love, The Eitings"
This made 24 three ounce bottles for gifts. The final tally comes to about $2.75 per bottle plus I had about 80 ml left over that I am still using. Many people thanked graciously for this gift. Pure vanilla extract in the store, depending on the quality, can range from $4-$9 per oz.

Jamming- This year I decided to go jamming!! In July I froze 3 quarts smashed strawberries that I picked at Barthel's in summer (with lemon juice to retain color) and 2 quarts smashed peaches from my Tree-Ripe Citrus delivery truck- see summer post here. I knew what I was going to do with them but didn't have time during the mass frenzy to flash freeze excessive veggies from the CSA and garden during summer. Perfect thing to save for fall. So, that's what I did. I bought 4 cases of 4oz jelly Mason jars at $6.00/case. That comes to about $.50 per jar. I already had the sugar and pectin in the house (you never know when you need to jam something!). The four quarts of fruit was enough to make 48 four oz jars of jam. Four ounces is just the perfect quantity for a family to enjoy in one sitting (so it doesn't join the half eaten condiments shelf in the fridge) on biscuits, sandwiches or in crepes! I got 75 cute holiday cupcake liners from Michaels for $1.50. So, if everyone gets two (one of each peach and strawberry) that makes 24 holiday gifts for about $1.25 each set!

Pile looks a bit deceptive. There are also applesauce and
beets mixed in the massive pile of processed product!

Scape Infused Red Wine Vinegar- This one will be for the foodies I know. I got a ton of scapes (like garlic) in our CSA in June.- see the blog post if you are curious what scapes look like! I found a quick recipe to infuse them into red wine vinegar. So, naturally I bought a gallon of red wine vinegar for about $2.00 and I have been saving my wine bottles and grape seed oil containers with the special spout from Trader Joe's. The gallon should make about 5-8 bottles as gifts depending on what size bottles I end up using. This gift will have a bit more of a specific audience but will be nice too. This is one of those that has to sit a while so one must plan ahead!
Gift Tags- Last year I started recycling our old Christmas cards from the 2011 season. All the cards we got in 2011 were recycled by cutting off the message part (back) and using the pretty front as the pretty gift label for the vanilla. This year, I have all the cards from last year and they will once again be gift tags. Makes me feel better about not tossing them and who can really keep all of them. I do do something cute with all the kid's cards but that is another post for another day!! So, if you are lucky, you may get the card you sent us last year on your jam!!
I'm already thinking about when I need to start my next round of vanilla for myself. I'll never buy it store made again. It took me almost a year to go through 60 ml. I should probably start the next round to be finished by Juneish! I am also planning next year's holiday gifts right now. So many cool ideas are being posted on Pinterest during this time. I'll find something great!!
What do you do for friends, co-workers, secretaries, neighbors, and family that doesn't do gifts??
Time for me to start planning the kid's birthday cakes (who has their kids two weeks before and two weeks after Christmas?) and dust off that family kolachki recipe. I think this year it is time!
not my image- stolen directly from here! Thanks Google!

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