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


  • 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.



A Simple ‘Cereal’

Now that I’m eating healthier, I’ve let go of the thought that I ever have to have those cold cereals from a box. None of them seem to be truly healthy, or to fit in with the Paleo lifestyle I’m (mostly) trying to emulate. I mainly have smoothies or smoothie bowls these days, with the occasional oatmeal bowl or egg and vegetable meal.

But once in a while I still crave cereal. Not sure why. Not sure if I’ll ever stop completely.

I used to love Cheerios topped with banana. Now I skip the Cheerios, and I’ve switched to almond milk from dairy.


1 small banana, peeled and sliced into rounds

1/4 to 1/2 cup unsweetened original almond milk

  1. Simply put the banana rounds in a bowl, and add the milk.


  • Rarely do I feel the need for a sweetener but, if I do, I’ll drizzle a little raw honey over the top.
  • The above is the most frugal banana ‘cereal’ variation. I use store brand milk to save money, and once in a while find a coupon.
  • When I have leftovers from other recipes, I’ll add one or more of the following to my ‘cereal’: a sprinkling of berries, dried fruit, unsweetened coconut flakes, and/or crushed almond slivers.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve this ‘cereal’ alongside a Turkey and Squash Scramble. 1 egg, a little turkey, and some previously roasted squash and cooked in a little coconut oil is all you need.

Have a wonderful day!


Making Soup with the Bestest: Missy’s Vegetable Soup

This post was supposed to have been published last winter, but I am horribly late.

I spent a few days with the bestest. She needed some healing time, and I went stay with her. It is difficult to watch your best friend go through some things. I ran errands with her, helped with the daily cleaning activities, and was just there for support when she needed it, when I wasn’t at work.

One night, she decided to make a soup with a bunch of different ingredients, and agreed that I could share the process with my readers. So many people had brought food during this time, that we needed to use up what we could so nothing went bad.

This is such a great recipe because you can use whatever you have on hand, even leftovers from other meals or a get-together. Or whatever you can find cheap at the grocery store. There is no set amount of any ingredient, because you are using up what you have on hand. The recipe can be changed up according to what is available.


olive oil

leftovers from a vegetable tray: Carrots and celery

red and yellow peppers

chicken/vegetable broth


grape or cherry tomatoes





minced onion

  1. I heated some olive oil in a large pot while I chopped some baby carrots into thirds, and added the carrots to the pot as she collected the rest of the ingredients we would need.
  2. Then I cut celery into about 1/2 inch sections, sliced in half the long way, and added them to the pot, stirring everything together.
  3. Next I de-seeded and chopped a few each of the red and yellow peppers. I never cook with peppers because I do not like them, but the bestest said it is a good idea to get rid of the seeds. I took her word for it. I added the chopped peppers and stirred it all again, letting everything cook until I could get a fork into the carrots.
  4. Then we added a little broth to cover everything and continued to sauté. The main thing is to sauté the harder vegetables before adding the softer ones.
  5. We chopped the tomatoes into fourths, adding them to the pot, and heated everything for couple of minutes.
  6. Next she added the rest of the broth to the pot, as well as the peas and corn. Missy says to add some water if you want to stretch the liquid further, or if you want to lessen the broth taste.
  7. Then she added a little more olive oil.
  8. Cook this for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015

9. Add the seasonings and heat for a few more minutes.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2015

Photograph by Melissa Ackley-Thompson copyright 2015.Missy does note that she tries to use organic and natural ingredients when she can. And that she will use fresh, canned, or frozen vegetables, whatever is available when she wants to make a soup. This soup can be different each time you make it, so be creative.

Once this soups starts to boil, it smells amazing!


  • To save money, use produce from your own garden.
  • Grow herbs in pots on a windowsill or on the porch to save more.
  • Shop sales or roadside stands.
  • If you have a store coupon, this recipe could end up costing next to nothing.
  • Make your own broth.

Serving Suggestions

  • It is important to have a protein source along with all the vegetables. Maybe a few slices of chicken, or even a couple of hard-boiled eggs on the side.

Enjoy! And please share with us the results of soups you try on your own.




Autumn Sausage Slow Cooker Meal

Autumn is here, and I’m using the slow cooker more and more. I love this time of year! The beautiful colors. The smell smoke from a wood stove here and there while out walking. And the aromas coming from kitchens as people are baking and cooking.

The squash I used in this recipe came from my parents garden, and it was delicious. I also used some of this squash when making the Butternut Squash and Carrot Mash.


2 carrots
4 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 small-medium butternut squash
19.5 ounces beef sausage

beef broth to cover (or you could use water)

  1. Rinse the vegetables.
  2. Cut the ends off the carrots, and peel the sweet potato and squash. Save the carrot ends and sweet potato peels in an odds and ends bag in the freezer, to be used when making homemade stocks and broths. Throw the rest out or compost it.
  3. Cut the vegetables into bite size chunks and place them into the crock.
  4. Add the sausage after cutting it into bite size pieces.
  5. Pour beef broth or water over the contents of the crock.
  6. Cover and cook. High = 3 hours/Low = 5 or 6 hours. Carrots should mash easily with a fork.


  • Try different types of squash. Acorn is a good one, and there are others.
  • There are also different varieties of carrots.
  • Grow your own vegetables to save money.
  • Use coupons combined with sales when buying sausage to save even more.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve with a side salad of greens, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes.

You may also enjoy

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Yum!

Harvest Salad



The Frugal Kitchen

There are many ways to keep a frugal kitchen, from smart pantry stocking to using up leftovers. What you do will depend on your style and budget.

Many are trying to live more frugally out of necessity, but others are making a lifestyle choice by cutting back their budgets. No matter the reason you are trying to be more frugal, these tips will help.

  1. One of the best ways to save money is to prepare your meals at home. Eating out, in any semblance of a healthy way, is expensive. If you make easy meals at home, preparing some things ahead, you’ll save a good deal of money over the course of a year.
  2. Stop wasting food. Eat your leftovers. Use them for work or school lunches, for a second dinner, or to create new recipes. Leftover vegetables and meat combined with new ingredients make a great soup or casserole. If you know you wont eat something right off, take the time now to freeze it so it can be used later.
  3. Make a budget, and try to stay within that budget. Have a few dollars each week to dedicate to stocking your pantry as well.
  4. Use coupons coupled with sales when possible, if it will save you money. Sometimes generic/store brand items are still your best bet, so do the math before making your choice.
  5. I learned something important when I started figuring out how to be more frugal. It’s something that not everyone is aware of. A lot of the time, the store brand is simply the name brand with different packaging. So be sure to try a store brand before ruling it out. Be a smart shopper.
  6. Learn how to make homemade cleaners, such as dishwashing detergent, dishwasher detergent, all-purpose cleaner, window cleaner and oven cleaner. NOTE: My favorite window cleaner is straight up rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle.
  7. Another way to save money in the kitchen is to buy glass containers for storing leftovers, and reusable baggies for bringing sandwiches and snacks to work or school. While the cost seems higher in the beginning, you’ll save a great amount of money over time. You might even be able to acquire some of these items as gifts for Christmas or your birthday, saving even more money.
  8. Grow a windowsill herb garden to save money. Herbs are expensive to buy, but can be grown organically inside your house year round.

How do you keep a frugal kitchen? Let us know in the comments for this post, or send me an email at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. Your tips will help others to live the frugal lifestyle more easily.