Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Frugal Holiday Giving

Yup. It's that time of year again. Whether you celebrate Christmas with all the trimmings or simply share gifts at the turn of the New Year, most of us have a tradition of giving gifts around the Holidays.

The budget may be a little tight this year for some, however. I heard a guy on the news say he is spending at least 40% less this year...at Macy's!


The rest of us in the real world may want to consider cutting back simply by making a few homemade gifts and avoiding the mall altogether. ;)

Here are a few ideas I have done myself over the years. Regardless of how strapped we were for cash, there was always something to give, even to extended family

  • Paper Gift Bag Snowmen. This is a good substitute for the "stockings hung by the chimney with care." Fill white lunch-size bags 1/2 to 2/3 full of candies and small gifts such as you would use as stocking stuffers. Fold over the top far enough to staple it shut. Next, decorate the folded side with a construction paper or other colored paper snowman face. Cut out a white oval the width of the paper bag, a black hat with a white band, an orange carrot, and black little circles for coal eyes and mouth. Glue it all to the white oval and make the face, then glue the assembled face to the folded side of the bag as in the illustration below. Very cute! They won't even miss the stocking.

  • Stuffed Cup. Purchase a mug or teacup and saucer from a thrift shop appropriate to the recipient. A large mug with snowmen or other holiday motif might be good for the die hard coffee drinker, while the tea party girl might be delighted with a delicate addition to her cup and saucer collection. Set the mug or teacup in the center of a square of cellophane wrapping paper. Fill with small goodies such as hard candies, chocolates, tea bags or specialty coffee singles, a tea ball, even a tiny book or pad and pencil, depending on the size of the cup. If your recipient like hot cocoa instead, fill a zip-top sandwich bag with hot cocoa mix, a small crushed peppermint stick, and miniature marshmallows. Zip it shut and place it in the cup. When you have the cup filled to overflowing, pull the cellophane up around the gift and tie it shut at the top with curly ribbon, leaving a few inches of paper at the top. Curl the ribbon with the edge of a pair of scissors, and it's ready to give.

  • Layered Gift. This is one of my favorite gifts to give. However, I've learned the hard way to be sure to test the recipe before giving it to anyone. Also, make the instructions perfectly clear without omitting steps. My favorite gift in a jar is our famous hot cocoa mix recipe: 1 cup sugar, 1 cup non-dairy creamer (like Coffee-Mate), 1 cup dry milk, and 1/2 cup cocoa. Mix thoroughly and pour into a quart jar with a lid. If you use a two-part lid such as for canning, you may cut out a piece of gingham cloth with pinking shears a little larger than the ring. First, place the cap on the jar, then lay the cloth centered over the cap, then screw the ring on. You may use holiday fabric prints or others appropriate to the occasion. Hand print or copy these instructions onto card stock: "Place 1/4 cup of hot cocoa mix in an 8-oz. cup, then add 6 oz. of boiling water. Stir thoroughly and enjoy!" Cut out the card with pinking shears or shaped craft scissors and hole punch a corner of it. Thread card onto curly ribbon and tie it around the neck of the jar along with 1/4-cup measuring cup (scrounged from the odds-and-ends kitchen utensils at the thrift shop). Curl the ribbon ends. It's so pretty you don't even have to wrap it! 

  • Chocolate Dipped Spoons. While you are scrounging around for 1/4-cup measuring cups for the hot cocoa mix mentioned above, pick up some lovely miss-matched teaspoons from the thrift shop. However, sturdy, colorful plastic spoons will work just as well and will be just as appreciated. These little goodies are great for stirring into hot coffee or cocoa. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Combine the following and melt together in a double boiler on the stove or in the microwave, stirring often: 1/2 cup flavored chips or melting candy wafers of your choice, 1 teaspoon melted shortening, palm oil, or coconut oil. Dip the bowl of each spoon into the melted chip/candy mixture, tapping the handle lightly on the edge of the pan. You may sprinkle the wet spoons with either coarse sugar or crushed peppermint candies. Or you could melt white chocolate or other light-colored candy to drizzle over the dried dipped candy color. Lay the spoons on the waxed paper and refrigerate until set. Tie bows around the handles with curly ribbon, raffia, satin or velvet ribbon, or strips of decorative fabric to your liking. These are a great accompaniment to either the hot cocoa mix in a jar or the mug/tea cup gifts mentioned above. There are so many different flavors and colors of baking chips  now to choose from besides semi-sweet chocolate, such as milk chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, mint chocolate, special dark chocolate, cherry, cappuccino, white chocolate, lemon, and who knows what all!
 Happy Giving!