Frugal Recipes Happenings: Winter 2018-2019

This winter hasn’t seemed as bad as last winter. Not so far anyway. Last year, the first couple of months were too cold – colder than normal. While we’ve had some of those days this year, there haven’t been as many. It seems like it rains after most snow days, making for very wet weather. I still see patches of lawn, though.

Not that I’m complaining. I’ll take this over two months of freezing cold temperatures. How about you?

I’ve been enjoying having Zowie and Devan in the area, and spending time with my precious grandchildren. Little Man is 3 1/2 and Little Miss is already 6 months old, and they are my hearts joy.

 

Yule (the first day of winter) was a busy, busy day. The bestest picked me up, and we went to my parents home for the family Christmas party. It was a lot of fun. We all exchanged our gifts, and enjoyed some great food. I love my stepfathers homemade baked beans, and he always buys Governor’s rolls to go with them. Yum! When it was time for us to leave, mom packed me 3 meals worth of beans and rolls, as well as treats. She does this for me every year, so I can have the food for my upcoming shifts at The Inn.

Then the bestest and I went to her house for our baking day. We made so many things! I made peanut butter and chocolate no-bakes, and three flavors of popcorn. She made breads and chocolate dipped pretzel logs. I’m sure there was more. We packaged all of the goodies, and handed them out to loved ones as part of their holiday gifts.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright December 22, 2018.

Christmas Eve was spent at my aunts for another Christmas party, and then some of us met up at my daughter’s on Christmas. After everyone left, I stayed behind for further bonding with the grandchildren.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright December 24, 2018.

I took a vacation from The Inn after the holidays, and spent some time Zowie’s family again, as well as with my daughter Skye and her boyfriend. Play dates with the kiddos are always fun. I babysat one night, so their parents could go on a date, and then bought us all food from Angelo’s another night. Expensive, but well worth it for the family time and a treat.

So how was your holiday? Did you set any resolutions for the new year? I set some goals. Wanna learn about them? Read these posts here on the blog to find out what I’m concentrating on this year:

New Year Goal: A New “Kitchen”

New Year Goal: Be Healthy

New Year Goal: Try New Recipes (Mostly Paleo)

You may also enjoy reading about one of the ways I am building memories with my grandson.  ❤

Winters are long. If you’re looking for a project to keep you busy, I suggest reading Joni Meyer’s book Extreme Couponing, and setting up your own coupon system.

You might also enjoy checking out my new site, Fabulous Frugal Life. In particular, you might enjoy reading my post on how you can save on groceries. There are many articles already posted to the site, and I’ll be adding more throughout the winter months. Let me know what you think of the new site.

Have you read my fiction blog yet? It’s another great way to pass the winter, telling you all about my writing life and sharing about the short stories I have published. Head on over today to check it out!

Warmest Wishes

~ Shannon

Building Memories: Baking with My Grandson

Oh how I love this Little Man. ❤ My grandson is a big helper, and he has mad stirring skills! Just look at him. Little Man likes to help in the kitchen sometimes, so I asked him if he would want to help me bake some chocolate zucchini cake.

I needed to make some for my coworkers, and told him I’d leave a cake at his house as well. He was good with helping so, while his mom was looking for a job not long after they moved to the area, Little Man and I baked.

He was so good about washing his hands. I measured out all of the ingredients and he showed me his crazy good dumping skills.

Little Man was very impatient while spreading the cream cheese frosting. I’d put a scoop on the cake, he’d move the butter knife over it once, then stick his hand through the frosting and into the cake to taste it. What a goober! I had to finish that part on my own.

We chatted about a lot of things while we were making this cake, and we laughed so much. I’ll always cherish our baking time. The memories will, hopefully, stay with me forever.

Little Man is a hoot to bake with. We’ll be making a chocolate mayonnaise cake with peanut butter frosting next. I know these things are not healthy, but they are a nice treat once-in-a-while, and my coworkers appreciate a treat on occasion.

Shannon

New Year Goal: Try New Recipes (Mostly Paleo)

I wanted to do this last year, but never got around to it all. In all honesty, I got very bored with food prep and went for easy things to prepare. I’m now bored with all of that, and am looking to expand my winter menu.

So this year, I want to try to learn how to do a few new things.

  1. I want to expand my pizza options. I don’t want to go overboard with cheese, but I do like it once in a while. Pizza is one place where I just can’t let it go. This is why I don’t eat pizza often, haha. But I figure that, if I make my own, I have more control over how healthy it is. A nice paleo crust will be the base, then I’m going to play around a bit; come up with new options.
  2. Paleo versions of chicken or turkey pot pie. Small, single-serve ones because I have the cutest little Pioneer Woman mini pie pans I can use. (See the feature image!) I remember eating those little store-bought ones with my daughters when they were little.
  3. Paleo mini pies. Another excuse to use those cute little pie pans! And I miss pie.
  4. Mini paleo fruit cobblers and crumbles. And yet another reason to use them.
  5. Paleo bread. I have been craving tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I need a paleo bread recipe so I can have the sandwich. And, then I can make other things, such as French toast. Yum.
  6. Paleo English muffins. Maybe I’ll make breakfast sandwiches. Not sure yet.
  7. Paleo pasta. Because, well, I miss pasta sometimes.

What new things do you want to learn to make?

Shannon

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.

Cookbook Review: No Excuses Diet by Megan Gilmore

I love cookbooks, and used to have a nice collection of them before I moved and had to downsize. I loved those old cookbooks, but they didn’t necessarily include many recipes that I would now consider healthy. I love that I was able to add the No Excuses Detox: 100 Recipes to Help You Eat Healthy Every Day by Megan Gilmore (author of Everyday Detox) to my newly started cookbook collection. I want cookbooks that fall in line with my desire to eat healthier, and this book does just that.

We are all so busy these days, and it is often difficult to find the time for meal planning, shopping, and preparing foods for a healthy lifestyle. Megan shows how you can accomplish this by including shopping lists, meal plans, recipes, and even make-ahead tips.

One of my favorite things about this book, besides the recipes, is that it tells you how to prepare healthy meals in a less toxic way. We’re all aware of the pesticides in so many food items and the BPA-lined cans, and how these things are not good for us. I want to get away from that kind of thing as much as possible, and Megan helps us with this by discussing how to avoid things like preservatives, toxic packaging, and chemical dyes.

This is not detox in the sense that you do it for 30 or 60 days and then you’re finished. What Megan hopes is that we will follow her lead and eat whole foods year round. Organic, fresh foods have wonderful flavor, and are so good for you. By reducing your consumption of processed and refined foods, you’ll really be doing good things for your body and your mind. This book is about making changes that will last a lifetime. It is imperative that we feed our bodies in a healthy way regularly, not only for a month or two at a time.

The recipes in Megan’s book take into consideration a number of factors, including price, speed, and convenience, that will help to make meal prep easy. No Excuses Detox guides you through the process of beginning this healthy lifestyle by discussing concerns such as time, expense, picky eaters, and cravings.

I love that she covers eating on-the-go! Even on my days off from work, I’m gone part of the day. It’s far easier to eat healthy if I’m prepared for each day as it comes.

Another feature I like is the discussion of freezer planning. Having foods prepared and frozen is a good way to save money. Simply take something out of the freezer the night before if you know you’ll have a busy day. That way, you wont have to order out. This book also mentions freezing in single-serve portions, which is great for me because I live alone.

Megan’s No Excuses Meal Plans are wonderful. Choose the speedy plan, the beginner’s plan, or the one for the budget-minded (my favorite!). Use them for menu planning and shopping. Each plan tells which recipes can be made ahead for easier meal prep.

She even provides useful information at the end of the book. That is where you’ll find nutritional information for each recipe, handy conversion charts, and a list of other resources to help you along the way.

I tried four of the recipes in this book to prepare for writing this review. I wanted to be able to say that the foods could be made with minimal effort and time, and that the finished recipes are tasty. Also, I needed to be able to do it on a budget. My treat for this venture? Almond butter. The first time I’ve had it. It is good, but a little outside my budget. $6.99 a jar, and I needed two. I’m hoping to find other sources that don’t cost as much. I did, however, find two coupons for a dollar off, so I paid $5.99 per jar.

I’ve wanted to learn how to make refrigerator pickles for some time, so I took this opportunity to make the Quick Bread and Butter Pickles. I love bread and butter pickles. I don’t know what I was thinking all the years. I guess I thought it would be too time-consuming to make them. But it really wasn’t, and the finished product is delicious. They sat in my refrigerator a couple of days before I tried them, and then I brought them to work to test out on a coworker. She also loved them. I made two quarts, and the recipe says they’ll last a month.

Then I wanted snacks for work. I decided to make the Nut-Free Gingerbread Granola next. The prep for this takes no time at all, but the bake time is a little long. I was able to do other things while waiting, as I was preparing meals for my weekend at work. The granola is very good. I used it top my banana cereal, and I put some in a container to have for snacks at work.

And the Chewy Vegan Ginger Cookies are simply wonderful. I’ll be making these at the holidays. I tried them out on a coworker as well, and she loved them as much as I do.

I then made the 5-Minute Freezer Fudge, and it is so rich and chocolatey. I’m planning to make it again at the holidays so I can try it out on my family. My mother and I were discussing the need for healthier alternatives to all the sweets we usually have at the get-together. This might be a winner!

I’d like to share a few recipes from the cookbook with you, so you can try them out before buying No Excuses Detox. I know you’ll be pleased.

deep-dish chocolate chip cookie

No Excuses Detox https://www.amazon.com/No-Excuses-Detox-Recipes-Healthy/dp/0399579028SERVES 12 | $0.64 PER SLICE

If I were asked what my “last supper” would be, this deep-dish chocolate chip cookie would make the cut. It’s warm and gooey right out of the oven and tastes unbelievably decadent when topped with a scoop of Creamy Vanilla Ice Cream (page 178). No one will believe this delight is made without white flour or sugar!

Coconut oil, for greasing

1 tablespoon ground chia seeds

3 tablespoons water

1 cup creamy cashew butter (see Note)

¾ cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

¾ cup dark chocolate chips

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with coconut oil.

2 In a large bowl, combine the ground chia seeds and water and stir well to combine. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes to thicken.

3 At this point, stir any separated oil back into your store-bought cashew butter. Add the cashew butter, coconut sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and salt to the chia mixture and stir well to form a thick and sticky dough. Fold in the chocolate chips.

4 Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared skillet. Wet your hands with water (to prevent them from sticking to the dough) and press the dough evenly into the bottom of the skillet.

5 Bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cookie rest for 30 minutes before slicing and serving. The hotter the cookie, the more soft and difficult it is to cut, although either way, it’s delicious. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

NOTE: For this recipe, I always use store-bought roasted cashew butter rather than my usual raw homemade version. Since this cookie is baked in a hot oven anyway, I think it’s a waste of money to use expensive raw cashew butter, when the roasted variety is cheaper and more readily available. The store-bought option usually contains a bit of added oil and salt, so this recipe accounts for that. If you happen to find a brand with no added salt, increase the salt in this recipe to ½ teaspoon.

Credit: Reprinted with permission from No Excuses Detox, copyright © 2017 by Megan Gilmore, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Photography copyright © 2017 by Erin Scott

easy party mix

No Excuses Detox https://www.amazon.com/No-Excuses-Detox-Recipes-Healthy/dp/039957902815-MINUTE PREP

KID-FRIENDLY

MAKES 2 CUPS | $0.44 PER SERVING

If you tend to crave that popular party mix, you are going to love this grain-free version. It tastes surprisingly similar to the kind made with rice cereal and is incredibly easy to prepare using any nuts or seeds you have on hand. Because this crispy mix can be stored at room temperature, it also makes a great snack on the go! Feel free to double the recipe because it will go fast.

½ cup raw almonds

½ cup raw pecans

1 cup hulled sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon maple syrup

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¾ teaspoon fine sea salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, maple syrup, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet in a flat, single layer without too many clumps.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes, then cool completely (the nuts will be crunchy once completely cool). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Cut Your Cancer Risk

The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers acrylamide to be a “probable human carcinogen,” since it has been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals. This chemical is not added to food but is created naturally when certain foods are roasted, fried, or baked, particularly fries, potato chips, coffee, almonds, crackers, and bread. It is nearly impossible to avoid this chemical altogether, since it occurs naturally in a wide range of plant foods and animal products, but you can limit your exposure by using safer cooking methods, such as steaming and boiling, cooking susceptible foods at lower temperatures, and avoiding meats, vegetables, and starches that are darkly browned or charred. You’ll notice that all of the recipes in this book that call for heating raw nuts are kept to temperatures of 250°F or lower to avoid browning and to reduce the potential formation of acrylamide.

Credit: Reprinted with permission from No Excuses Detox, copyright © 2017 by Megan Gilmore, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Photography copyright © 2017 by Erin Scott

creamy herb dressing

30-MINUTE RECIPE

15-MINUTE PREP

MAKES A GENEROUS 1 CUP | $0.39 PER SERVING

This oil-free dressing is a great alternative to traditional creamy dressings because it’s allergy-friendly and loaded with calcium, thanks to the use of raw tahini, a paste made from raw sesame seeds. It’s hard to beat the flavor of fresh herbs in this recipe, but feel free to replace them with dried herbs if they are easier to find. When using dried herbs, be sure to reduce the amount you use by two-thirds, as their flavor is much more concentrated than the fresh variety. In general, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs is equivalent to 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs. You can taste as you go. Keep this creamy dressing on hand all week long for an easy ranchlike salad or quick veggie dip.

½ cup raw tahini (see Note)

½ cup water

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar

1 clove garlic

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

In a blender or food processor, combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. (Depending on the thickness of your tahini, you may want to add an additional 1 to 2 tablespoons water to help make the dressing more pourable.) Taste and adjust any seasoning. Serve immediately, or allow the dressing to chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. It will thicken a bit when chilled, making a thick dressing or veggie dip, but you can easily thin it out with additional water or lemon juice, as desired. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

NOTE: Be sure to use raw tahini for this recipe, if possible. Raw tahini is very light in color and mild in flavor, unlike roasted tahini, which is runny and very bitter. If you can’t find the raw version with no added oil in your local store, you can order it online or make your own by grinding hulled raw sesame seeds in a food processor until smooth. (I buy my hulled raw seeds on Amazon—make sure they are hulled, though, or you’ll wind up with inedible results.)

Credit: Reprinted with permission from No Excuses Detox, copyright © 2017 by Megan Gilmore, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Photography copyright © 2017 by Erin Scott

enjoy the recipes, and No Excuses Detox!

I sure did. Megan has a nice writing style, and provides useful information. I know I’ll be trying more of the recipes. I’m happy I got to check the book out and provide a review. Visit Megan’s site at Detoxinista.com.

Have you read this book yet? Feel free to share links to your reviews, or tell us what you thought of the book or a recipe.

Shannon

Note: The links in this article are not affiliate ones.

Chili with ‘Cornbread’ Topping

This is an easy one, but it takes time because it’s actually two separate recipes and one of them is made in a crock pot. I start this in the morning, by making one of the chili recipes I love so much. For this meal, I used chicken, ground beef, and a mild  ground sausage, and a cup of pumpkin purée instead of the butternut squash. The great thing about the meat chili recipe is that it can be switched up so many ways. I just love it!

In the afternoon, I made a Paleo ‘cornbread’ recipe I found on A Girl Worth Saving.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright February 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuck

Simply top a bowl of the hot chili with a piece of ‘cornbread’ and eat. You could also place dollops of the batter over the top of the chili in a baking dish, and bake at 350* until the bread is done.

How did I come up with this idea? I was menu planning, and thought “Gee, some cornbread would be great with this!” But, I’m trying to eat a mainly Paleo diet, and corn is a no-no. So I simply typed Paleo cornbread into Google and came up with this recipe. (The one I had all the ingredients for.) It’s a good one.

Shannon

Do You Drink Milk? What Kind?

Rarely do I ever drink cows milk. I’d be more apt to if I could get raw, organic milk, but I cannot. So I bet I drink about a gallon a year… mostly because I like the occasional milkshake. I do drink other organic milks, and am planning to learn to make Paleo ‘milk’ shakes at some point.

Expensive? Yes. Well, sort of. Years ago, when I used to buy cows milk at the store, I’d drink some at each meal and sometimes with snacks. I’d bake with it, and cook with it.

I don’t use any kind of milk that much any more. I don’t even drink a whole cup every day. If I did, it would be far too expensive at almost $3.00 per half-gallon.

How do I Use Milk Alternatives?

  • A few times a week I might have a cup with a meal.
  • I use it in smoothies, but not every day.
  • I use it when baking, which I do not do often.

What kinds of milk do I use?

  1. Almond
  2. Soy (when no others are available) (not often)
  3. Coconut
  4. Rice

I want to try other types as well.

What kinds of milk do you use? And how do you use them?

Let us know in the comments below, or email me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. I respond to all emails.

Shannon

 

The Art of Casserole Creation

At the most basic level, a casserole is food items put into a baking dish and baked until done. It can be layered, or all the foods might be mixed together, a few ingredients or many. The foods, when baked together, make a delicious meal to be served any time. Most casseroles can even be frozen before baking, to have on a busy weeknight. These creations are easy to make.

Some items, like most meats and pasta (if you use pasta), should be cooked before baking. Others, like peas, don’t have to be. Leftovers are great in casseroles, and help to cut costs on food.

When I make a shepherd’s pie I first cook and mash the potatoes and brown the ground beef. I don’t pre-cook the other ingredients.

My shepherd’s pies usually include these types of ingredients:

Liquid: Just a little in the bottom of the casserole dish. Water, stock, and broth each work. Usually just a few tablespoons, sometimes a little more.

Meat: To cover the bottom of the baking dish. A thin or slightly thick layer, depending on what I have on hand. Ground beef, or chopped beef, pork, venison, chicken, or turkey. Other meats could be used as well. When using leftovers from the freezer, there may be a combination of meats I will use.

Vegetables: Peas, carrots, broccoli, tomato, etc. Use one or more. Thicker vegetables may need cooking first. This second layer is spread over the ground beef.

Toppings: I used to always use white potato, but I have changed it up a bit. Now I will use squash or sweet potato if I have them on hand. Then I’ll sprinkle fresh herbs such as parsley and/or rosemary over the top of the casserole.

Bake your casserole at about 350* for 20 minutes or until warmed through.

I’m trying to stay away from grains, though I am sure many of you will use them. Doing so can be a money saver. Just be sure that there are plenty of vegetables and some protein to go along with it, and I’d use a healthy fat to brown the meat in.

If I wanted, I could slice the potatoes or squash and not mash them, them layer over the pie. Or mix all the other ingredients with sliced potato before cooking. I’m also considering finding a Paleo “cornbread” recipe to make a sort of taco or chili casserole, using the bread as a topping. Paleo breads are not made from grains, so it would work for me.

What is your favorite casserole? I’m always open to new ideas, as I’m sure everyone else her is.

Tips

  • Grow some of your own produce and herbs to save money on these types of recipes.
  • To be extra frugal, save leftovers from meals in the freezer. Saving a tablespoon or a quarter cup of foods over the course of a week or month might net you an almost free meal.

Serving Suggestions

Happy cooking!

Shannon

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