Homemade Food Gifts: Baked Goods

The most frugal way to make these foods is from scratch. Admittedly, I often use boxed items when I’m able to purchase them on sale, with a coupon. They can be pretty affordable just before and during the holidays. The trick to doing this in the most frugal manner possible is by figuring out whether it is cheaper to bake from scratch or a box when all factors are added in, or deducted 🙂 Be sure to factor in home preserved produce for the food items that have fruit as an ingredient.
Just a note: These are not healthy baked-goods. But most people on my gift list won’t likely eat healthy versions. They like what they are used to. So yes, I give sweets at the holidays. Also, I don’t think it is necessarily bad to treat yourself once-in-a-while. You just don’t want to make a habit of it.

Fill baskets with one or more of the following:

  • HM (Homemade) quick breads
  • Quick breads from a box: Lemon poppy seed, apple cinnamon, pumpkin and cinnamon swirl are all tasty options.
  • Brownies
  • HM pumpkin chocolate chip cookies or bars.
  • HM sugar cookies decorated with colored sugars or icings.
  • HM apple or zucchini bars with chocolate chips.
  • HM mints

Tips

  • To save money on electricity, I bake multiple items at once.
  • To save time, I mix up multiple batches at once in large bowls.
  • To save a few more pennies, when mixing up multiple batches I delete and egg or two.
  • To save more money, I use small or medium eggs – or large depending on what is on sale. You can use any size eggs in baking, even if large eggs are specifically called for. 1 small or medium egg = 1 large egg.
  • Use mini loaf pans, if possible.
  • Use mini decorative cake pans for breads, bars and cakes.

What homemade baked goods do you make to give as holiday gifts? Please share with us in the comments below.

Shannon

 

Homemade Food Gifts: The Cooks’ Gift

If you’ve taken the time to make the homemade vinegars, oils and butters that have been featured here on the Frugal Recipes blog, then you have a great base for a cooks’ holiday gift. If you have made dried herb gifts, you will be able to add them to this. All of these items, combined with some homemade baked goods, will make a great gift.

Place a combination of these items in a large gift basket, over a dish or tea towel, or other fabric. Tie a bow on, and add a tag.

You can add to this gift if you have affordable ways of obtaining certain other items. For instance, why not add some homemade knitted or crocheted dish cloths to the gift. (My sister makes me a couple of these each year, and I just love them.) A dollar store will net you wooden cooking spoons and rubber spatulas, or even dish towels. I once found two large metal pots at a yard sale for .50 each. They were used, but looked almost new. A thrift shop may net you a hand grater for a quarter, or a couple of whisks. If you’ve been lucky enough to find such deals, create gifts with them.

This would be an easy project for children to put together, as they aren’t really preparing any of the foods themselves.

Tips

  • Combine in a container. No need to wrap.
  • If you choose to use a basket, they can be found affordably at thrift shops.
  • I once found four large baskets at a yard sale for $1.00 each.

What food gifts do you give at the holidays? Please share with us in the comments below.

Shannon

Note: I know sweets and many baked goods are not healthy, and that we really shouldn’t be eating them, but I have family members who don’t limit such things. So yes, I give these items at the holidays. Also, I don’t think it is necessarily bad to treat yourself once-in-a-while. You just don’t want to make a habit of it.

Homemade Food Gifts: Herbed Butters

Purchase sweet butter in large packages, preferably on sale. Generic and store brand butter is fine. Use a coupon if you have one.

Herbed butters are simple to make, and can be made up to three months before the date they will be given as gifts. Simply freeze them in 1/2 or 1 pint canning jars, or other thick jars that have been saved and cleaned for this purpose. Be sure to sterilize the jars before using them.

Two days before you wish to give the gifts, take the butters out of the freezer and place them into the refrigerator. The next day, you will want to tie a square or round of fabric over the jars’ lid with raffia or twine. Add a tag or a sticker with the name of each butter and its’ ingredients, as well as a line that reads ‘From the Kitchen of (Your Name).’

RATIO: 1/2 cup butter to 1 Tablespoon of herb or herb combination. Mix it all up well. (May need to be remixed before giving as a gift.)

USE: Herbs fresh from the garden or pot. Wash and mince them before use.

Variations:

  • Dill and mint
  • Garlic and marjoram
  • Parsley

Experiment with different herbs and combinations of herbs.

NOTE: These jars of butter do not need processing.

What combinations of herbs do you use when making butter? Please share your experiences with us in the comments below.

Shannon

References:

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (1987, Rodale Press)

Homemade Food Gifts: Herbed Oils

Herbed oils can be made easily and used in small ratios (1/2 to 2 tablespoons) on salads and in stir fries. Experiment to find other ways these oils can be used.

Make these when the herbs are harvested from the garden, so they are at their freshest. The oils will store for up to one year.

The basic preparations work like this:

  1. Place three 2-inch sprigs of herbs/leaves into each, per each cup of oil that the jar will hold.
  2. Put one garlic, shallot, or other ingredient into the necessary jars, per cup of oil that each jar will hold.
  3. Heat oil over low-medium heat until warm with a good scent; about three to five minutes (longer if lots of oil). Do not boil.
  4. Pour oil into jars, over the other items.
  5. Let cool.
  6. Cover each jar.
  7. Tie a tag around each bottle, with raffia or twine, with its’ ingredient list and ‘From (Your Names’) Kitchen.’ Also note how long the oil will last once given as gift, or an expiration date. Mention how each oil may be used.

Try these combinations or experiment with your own:

  • Dill and chives
  • Garlic, oregano, and thyme
  • Rosemary and sage

Tips:

  • Purchase oils in bulk and/or on sale to save money. You can also use coupons to save money.
  • Find other oil and herb combinations, but stick with healthy, Paleo-friendly oils.
  • Try using larger quantities of herbs to see if you like the flavorings better.

 

References:

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (1987, Rodale Press)

Homemade Food Gifts: Herbed Vinegars

Herbed vinegars are not difficult to make. They add flavor to salads and other recipes, such as meat marinades. These are best made during the herb harvesting seasons of summer and autumn, when the herbs can be used fresh.

NOTE: These vinegars will last up to a year if stored in a cool, dark place.

You’ll need jars or bottles to pour the vinegars and other ingredients into. These can be washed and saved throughout the year, and should be sterilized just before using.

The basic preparations work like this:

  1. Place three 2-inch sprigs of herbs/leaves into each jar or bottle, per each cup of vinegar that the container will hold.
  2. Put one garlic, shallot, or other ingredient into the necessary jars as well, per cup of vinegar that each jar will hold.
  3. Heat the vinegar; do not boil.
  4. Pour the vinegar into jars, over the other items.
  5. Let cool.
  6. Cover each jar.
  7. Tie a tag around each bottle, with raffia or twine, with its’ ingredient list and ‘From (Your Names’) Kitchen.’ Also note how long the vinegar will last (once given as gift). Mention how each vinegar may be used.

Variations:

  • Rosemary, orange peel, garlic and white vinegar.
  • 1 tablespoon honey, mint, cardamom seed, and white vinegar.
  • Blossoms from chives, savory, and cider vinegar.

Tips:

  • Keep marinade and other sauce type jars from purchased foods to save money. Or have friends and family save them for you.
  • Other cheaply purchased glass jars will work as well, including canning jars.
  • Purchase white and other vinegars in large bottles, on sale.
  • Purchase vinegars that don’t come in large bottles as cheaply as possible.
  • Purchase store or generic brands, if possible.
  • Experiment with your own variations.

What vinegar variations have you tried? Please share the results with us in the comments below.

Shannon

Reference:

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs (1987, Rodale Press)

Gifts Made With Love

Last year the bestest, Missy, and I started a new tradition. As long as we live close enough to do so, we will have a baking day for the holidays. This year we had our day on the 13th, in the midst of a busy season, busy times at work, and her moving. Carving out time to hang out is not always easy, but we have seen each other often as of late, to pack up her place.

We discussed how, next year, we would have more work space available for us to use at her new place. Lots more counter space! We also discussed the possibility of me moving away to be near my daughter and her family at some point in the future, and I told her we’d get her set up with a laptop beforehand so we could have a baking day, and do a video chat the whole time so we could still talk and enjoy each others company.

Technology continues to amaze me.

I know these are not healthy treats, but I do believe it is okay to have sweets once in a while – especially at the holidays, as long as we do not go overboard. As a matter-of-fact, I didn’t do near as much testing of the treats this year as I would have a few years back. Pretty proud of myself 🙂

This year, the bestest and I made six items:

  • I helped her with chocolate dipped pretzels, and some dipped in butterscotch.
  • She made homemade banana breads and butterscotch noodle cookies. (Yum!)
  • I made chocolate no-bakes, Reese’s bars, and chocolate chip brownies.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015Now, it takes time to do all of this, but it’s worth it. I planned an entire day at her place for this get-together. We did our grocery shopping first, and for lunch she made us rice and chicken. I also had apple slices. Dinner was bought on the run, at McD’s on the way home. Bad, I know! But quick.

Both of us contribute to the container choices, and this year I brought along a few bags and boxes to throwPhotograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015 into the bunch. These items, for my part anyway, are usually purchased at discount prices or at thrift stores. Any way I can get them frugally! I don’t have much extra money at the holidays, so I look throughout the year for items that will help to make presents more fun to put together and give.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015The bestest and I do make quite the mess when baking, lol. Who doesn’t, right? And we maybe didn’t have all that we needed for utensils and such on this baking day because we had packed much of her kitchen stuff away in preparation for her move. We did have to improvise just a little, but it all worked out well.

We like to package our homemade treat gifts nicely for the people on our lists. I was putting together a gift Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015for the people I work with, plus gifts for each of three friends. I set up all four of the gift boxes I was going to need when I was ready to start filling them. The bestest did the same for her recipients. Plus, we both did gift boxes for friends we share.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015We had a great deal of fun during our baking day, listening to Pandora and chatting about all manner of things, including our blessings. And, toward the end of our day, we began packing all those delightful treats into their chosen boxes, bags, and tins.

The next day I brought the treat box I had made up for work, and a gallon size baggie filled with the leftover no-bakes, to work for the Christmas party. I did not attend the party, as I was working, but I did go down and grab a plate of food for my lunch 🙂 The people at work love treats!

Yesterday, my friend Jose stopped in and I gave him his box filled with treats, and a card. It didn’t take him long after he got home to eat those Reese’s bars! I wonder if he even waited until he got home. My friend Bob will be stopping in for his treat box and card as well.

And today I put together treat gifts for a few other people. Much of the packaging was left over from earlier years, so they didn’t cost me anything this time around. I did buy a set of plastic snowman cups for a dollar, a set of felt holiday bags for about $5.50 and a set of burlap bags for about $6.50, including shipping costs. $2.00 was spent on mini Reese’s bars, and $2.00 on Hershey’s Kisses because they are favorites. I paid $2.00 for 2 packages of gold coins because they reminded me of childhood, and about $2.00 for all the rest of the candy. Plus $8.00 for hot cocoa simply because it was something different. I also spent .25 each on three packages of holiday pins and .49 on 1 package of pencils. $29.24 plus tax, and I have a lot of packaging items left over for another year. Many of these items were bought during my November trip up north to visit my daughter Skye.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015The hot cocoa did set me over my limit, but what a cute idea! There were eight boxes in the package, at $1.00 each. I couldn’t resist. Everyone likes a hot cocoa on a cold winter evening, and children enjoy some after hours of building snowmen and snow forts. Well worth the cost, in my opinion.

The chocolate bar packs came with little coloring cards of Frosty and Santa. Young Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015children will enjoy coloring them on a stormy day, when school is cancelled and they cannot be outside.

Holiday bowls filled with these cards and some goodies make a nice little gift, as do mini stockings filled with treats and a pencil sporting a snowman eraser.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015

Fill the bottom of a burlap bag with small candies, and top it off with a pencil, a chocolate bar, chocolate marshmallow treats, and some gold coins.

Add a little flair by attaching a couple of pins to the bag.

A bit larger felt bag can be filled with a hot cocoa box, adding a pencil and some chocolate marshmallowPhotograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015 treats, coloring cards, and a treat bag filled with small candies.

See the cellophane bag to the side? It is filled with the same little candies as the bag placed in the larger felt bag, and tied with a red ribbon so the candies do not fall out.

I love that the felt bags have handles, by the way. Makes for easier carrying when you have multiple gifts to deliver.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015

This picture shows the same treat-filled cellophane bag placed inside a plastic snowman cup. A quick and easy last minute gift, when needed. There is always something that you are invited to last minute, or someone who decided to bring an extra child along to an event.

It’s also a nice touch to give gifts in food boxes or tins. They can be packed full with any number of treats,Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015 and are large enough to also hold one of the cocoa boxes and a pencil.

They’re good for store-bought treats, or even homemade goodies. Whatever you decide to put together. A good hostess gift would be one filled with homemade cookies, brownies, or fudge, or a combination of the three.

There are so many ways to package food gifts, and many ways to save money doing so.

Challenge: Beginning with the after Christmas sales, begin collecting different types of food containers, wraps, bags, ribbons, bows, tags, and other packaging needs. Also, look for small items you can add to food gifts for the children on your list. Keep receipts, and note the regular price of each item. Also, learn now how to research regular prices for items, so you can also utilize thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets, and items you find for free. When you are ready to package your food gift next year, look for deals on food items and figure out how much it costs to make homemade items vs. how much to buy them. Then let us know how much money you saved on these items and gifts. For your own needs, you can see more easily where you can cut corners on food gifts from now on.

If you already have this information due to the fact that this is all normal for you to do each year, please give us some figures and let us know about your experiences in the comments. You may have information that someone with not enough money this year can use. Tips are always welcome. Or feel free to email me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. I respond to all emails and comments.

P.S. See the bestests’ soup recipe, completely ready for customization: Making Soup with the Bestest, Missy’s Vegetable Soup

P.S.S. See my posts from last year: Food Gifts for Yule and Christmas, Candy-Filled Ornaments or Gift Tags, and Festive Hot Cocoa.

Happy Yule! Merry Christmas! Happy new Year! ❤

Shannon

Food Gifts for Yule and Christmas

I know. I know. This is the second unhealthy food post I’m making today. Let’s face it, though. Sometimes we are going to treat ourselves (Or I am, anyway!). And my people do enjoy receiving candies and other treats at the holidays. So, until I learn to make the best-tasting healthy alternatives, this is what it is going to be.

Not worrying about the occasional unhealthy food experience is something I am working on, as long as I can keep it healthy most of the time. I am trying to not be to obsessive, which would be unhealthy in other ways.

Once all the candies have been collected, and the baked goods made, these treats need to be packaged festively to be given as gifts. These ideas will guide you along this path, but be as creative as you like. Switch things up. And share what you come up with in the comments below, or in a personal email to me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. Pictures are welcome!

There are a number of ideas below, so keep scrolling until you reach something you would like to try.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.1. The directions for these ornaments are here. They are easy enough for children to make, and are a quick project when there is not a lot of time to spare.

For something a little different, add some curly ribbon to the inside of the bulb, along with the candy or gum.

Each ornament will cost about $2.00, but the price will go down the next year if the ornaments are reused.

2. These stockings are small ones. Filled minimally, they could be hung from branches on the tree. They Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.might  be tacked to a wall or mantle when filled with heavier treats.

Simply place the candies into the stockings, and you are done. To get a little more decorative, write recipients names on the white, or attach a tag to the loop, and add some curly ribbon.

Stockings come in different colors, and some have felt shapes attached, such as bells, bulbs, or trees. It may be possible to find a different stocking for each child.

Look for stockings at a price of about .25 each, and fill with candies that do not cost a lot. To make 4 of these, it will cost around $3.00. What isn’t visible is the little chocolate balls that fill the toes of each stocking. That is .75 per gift.

These are the stockings I put together for 3 of my nieces, and 1 of my great-nephews. (He is not quite 1 yet, so only gets soft treats that he will not choke on.) Notice the gold coins, a throwback to my childhood. There are small candies and suckers in the stockings for my nieces. These go along with another gift I put together for each of them.Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.3. Mugs can be filled with candy and other items. Use an over-size mug for this, that can later be used for a big cup of hot cocoa or some tasty soup.

The article Easy Ways to Package Food Gifts on Bangor Easy Meals explains how to creatively wrap food gifts. Suggestion number 3 explains how to package candy bars, like in the photograph below.

Fill the mugs with candies for children or adults. The filled mug to the left was less than $4.00 to put together. The penguin was $1.00, the mug $2.50, and the tissue paper was reused from a gift received last year.

The one to the right cost just under $6.00. It is for an adult, and the candy bars are good quality chocolate and costPhotograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014. $3.00 for 3 bars. The tissue paper was not reused, but the gold bow came off the actual plastic package the bars came in. The curly ribbon came as a set of three for .99.

A couple of hot cocoa packets, some mini marshmallows, and chocolate dipped spoons would also make a great gift.

What would you fill mugs with for gift-giving? Tell us about it in the comments!

Photographs by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.4. Holiday tins filled with goodies are always a nice treat, whether the treats are homemade or not. Here are mini cupcakes, a good size chocolate Santa, a candy cane, truffles, and other small candies.

The tin was $3.50, but can be reused for years to come. The tissue paper was reused from a gift last year, and the ribbon and bow came already attached. The treats inside wouldn’t cost more than $3.00 if the cupcakes and frosting were homemade.

I put together one of these tins for a nephew. It cost about $8.00http://www.examiner.com/article/easy-food-gift-ideas-candy-jars to put together, but only because I bought him a box of quality peanut butter cups to go inside. He is older than the little ones, an adult, but he still likes the candies.

This is the most expensive gift I put together. I hope he likes everything!

How to Fill Tins for the Holidays, and What to Fill Them With is another article on Bangor Easy Meals that you will find interesting. It gives more ideas for filling tins, and not all of them have to do with sweets.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 20145. Small holiday bowls can also be filled with goodies. Again, the tissue paper used in this example was reused from a previous years’ gift. The bowls were on clearance after Christmas last year, a 4-pack for .99. And the estimated total cost to make all four of these gifts is $3.00. That is .75 per gift.

Simply place tissue paper in each bowl, and fill with an assortment of candies. Simple.

6. And these little boxes are also easy to fill with different goodies. I made 3, but the package actually had 5Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014. boxes for $2.50. The curly ribbon bunches came 3 to a package for .99. The total cost for the 3 presents was only about $3.00, because of the cost of the truffles. That is just $1.00 per gift.

The design on each box is simple and able to be used for either Yule or Christmas, a plus for gift-giving in my family.

What I actually made for my older nieces and nephews was slightly different, and are meant to go along with another gift they will each receive. So the cost about equaled out to what I spent to fill the tin for my other nephew. They cost about the same per gift as the example ones to make, and look nice.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.7.  I fell in love with this box when I saw it at K-Mart, so I picked it up despite the $1.99 gift tag. It is adorable, and I will use it each year in my decorating efforts, so the cost is actually minimal.

Simply place a wad of tissue paper in the bottom of the box, and top with small candies. Cover, and add some curly ribbon. That is it!

Look for cute little boxes on clearance, and these could be thrown together for less than $2.00 per box.

8. This glass tree-shaped container was given to me for Christmas one year, filled with candies. The curly Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.ribbon cost .33, and the candies cost only a few dollars. So this was created for a little more than $3.00.

Fill the container with candies and cover, then stick a bundle of curly ribbon to the back, bringing a few strands to the front to tie loosely.

Butter mints or peppermints would work well in one of these jars, as would truffles.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.I am not giving away my tree container though. I like the container, and it goes nicely on my holiday shelf. Filled with simple candies, it sits on my shelf – and I give most of the candy away. The ribbon is not added.

Next year I might put hard butterscotch candies in it, or maybe other old-fashioned candies.

What homemade goodies might be placed in this or another differently shaped glass container?

9. Small gift bags, filled partially with reused tissue paper, are easily filled with candies or homemade Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.cookies, and given as gifts. The bag used in this example cost about .50, and the candies about $1.50. So, for $2.00 this gift bag holds a good size chocolate Santa, 2 candy canes, 2  suckers, two chocolate marshmallow snowmen, and a few little candies. Add curly ribbon for about .33, and a tag.

Not bad for the price, but it will likely cost less if the treats are homemade.

You may also enjoy:

Candy-Filled Ornaments and Tags

I hope these ideas are enough for you, and help you to make the holidays a little more special. There may not be more posts before the new year, though you never know. It depends how busy things get. So, just in case:

Blessed Yule, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

And heartfelt blessing for any other holiday or sabbat you may celebrate.

I wish you all

Warm and safe holidays, and safe travels.

*Shannon*

Candy-Filled Ornaments or Gift Tags

Whether celebrating Yule or Christmas, these ornaments will make good gifts hung from branches on the tree on Christmas Eve, as well as a nice decoration. They might also be added to a wrapped gift. The candy can be eaten once the sabbat or holiday has passed, and the ornaments refilled the next year.

I know candy is not healthy, and that we really shouldn’t be eating it, but I have family members who don’t limit such things. So yes, I give sweets at the holidays. Also, I don’t think it is necessarily bad to treat yourself once-in-a-while. You just don’t want to make a habit of it.

The ornaments are so easy to create that children can make them.

Materials

Clear plastic ornaments

Ribbon

Candies – small enough to fit through the neck of the ornaments

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

  1. Wash the ornaments in warm, soapy water and rinse well. Allow to dry completely.
  2. Take the tops off the ornaments carefully, so as not to bend them out of shape.
  3. Fill each ornament about 1/8 to 1/4 of the way. You don’t want them ornaments to be too heavy to hang from branches on the tree. (Note: Smaller ornaments may need to be filled all the way.)
  4. Tie ribbons to the ornament tops for hanging.
  5. Put the tops back on the ornaments.
  6. The ornaments are ready.

This simple craft will take little time to complete, and will make little ones very happy when they find them on the tree.

Tips

  • Reuse ornaments year-after-year to save money.
  • Buy dollar candies for filling.
  • Write recipients names on the ornaments in green or red permanent marker, and use them as tags on gifts. Attach them to the gifts with curly ribbon.
  • Fill with small pieces of gum for something different.
  • Use gold ribbon to use these as place markers for your New Years Eve celebration.

You may also enjoy:

Food Gifts for Christmas and Yule

Share your simple food crafts in the comments below, or email me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com.

Happy Holidays!

Shannon

Holiday Trail Mix

This one is cheap when buy store brands and on sale with coupons, and is great for the holidays. Easy for children to make, you can put together a big bowl and then divide it into pint-size canning jars to give as gifts. This can also be sent to school in a lunchbox, or taken to work for a snack.

Ingredients

white chocolate covered pretzels (homemade may be cheaper)

cheap Christmas candies

dried cranberries (maybe even yogurt covered)

dried mixed berries

slivered almonds

  • Just mix everything together and place around in bowls at your next celebration.

Warmest Wishes!

Shannon

Note: I know some of these ingredients the healthiest, but I don’t think it is necessarily bad to treat yourself once-in-a-while. You just don’t want to make a habit of it. Many people on my Christmas list might not welcome my new ‘health food’ recipes, but they like things like this.