I Bought Me Presents!

Over the holidays and for a little after, I worked a lot of overtime. It was tiring, but worth it because regular pay + holiday pay + overtime = a lot of money! Yay!

So I bought me a few nice things for my kitchen! This does not happen every day, month, or even year. Before I show you what I got, though, I want to mention that I’m not in any way affiliated with the companies that make these products, and they are not paying me to mention them here on the blog or on social media. I really do like these products.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright January 2018.

I just love Pioneer Woman products, and these dipping bowls are simply adorable! Besides using them for dipping sauces, these will be used to attractively hold small amounts of ingredients while I’m experimenting with recipes – for photography purposes. They will look so cute holding salts, herbs, and other things. Dual purpose! I paid less than $2.00 for each.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright January 2018.

These ramekins are amazing. I have plans to try some Paleo dessert recipes out this winter, and I wanted something cute to photograph them in. These will work perfectly, and the set was only $11.52. They can also be used to serve ice cream or small bowls of cereal in, and may even help me with portion-control of other foods.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright January 2018.

And check out this set of four pie plates. I want to learn to make Paleo pot pies, and I needed some mini pie plates to make them in – because I’ll want to freeze three for later. These pie plates will be perfect! And yes, I will likely make Paleo dessert pies as well. Who wouldn’t!

This set of four, put out by the Pioneer Woman if you hadn’t already guessed, cost me $15.88.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright January 2018.

I really needed cutting boards but didn’t want to spend too much on ones that would just take up too much space in my room, so I bought these instead. They will serve the purpose for now and, when I get into a bigger place and can store the ones I want, I will pass these on to my daughter. This set of mats was $4.64. Not a bad price at all.

And the teas were a gift. You can never have enough tea.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.In case you missed my earlier blog post, I also purchased meal prep containers in different sizes at very reasonable cost. I do meal prep for work.

There you have them, my gifts for me! It’s so much fun to buy yourself something once in a while.

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: Dried Herbs

Throughout the summer and autumn months, you’ve harvested and dried organic herbs to use in your culinary ventures throughout the winter. As is usually the case, you have far more of these dried herbs than you’ll be able to use before the next harvest season. Why not share your bounty with family and friends?

Hopefully, throughout the year, you’ve been cleaning and saving the glass jars from your food purchases. Perhaps you have purchased canning jars, lids, and rings frugally at yard sales and thrift shops. You may also have fabric and twine and/or raffia from the projects that you’ve been working on throughout the year. If so, you have the makings for great holiday gifts.

Single Herb Examples

Basil

Bay leaves

Parsley

Rosemary

Sage

Herb Mix Examples

Basil, oregano and thyme

Basil, thyme and parsley

Dill, mint and parsley

Lemon balm and mint

Parsley and rosemary

  1. Sterilize all the jars, lids, and rings. Dry completely. It is important that no moisture is evident when packing the dried herbs.
  2. Fill the jars with single herbs, or herb mixes.
  3. Tie squares or rounds of fabric over the cover of each jar with twine or raffia.
  4. Add a tag or sticker to the jar with the name of the herb, and with ‘From (Your Names’) Garden.’

How do you package your dried herbs for gift giving? Share your ideas in the comments below.

You may also enjoy:

Candy-Filled Ornaments or Tags

Food Gifts for Yule and Christmas

Shannon

Reference:

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

Earth Day Activities for Frugal Meal Preparation Throughout the Year

Happy Earth Day! The Earth Day Network wants to plant 7.8 billion trees as a way to combat climate change. What a wonderful thing to do! Want to help? Check out how to do so here. You can bet I’d be planting trees if I had the space to do so.

There are many ways the frugal cook might choose to celebrate Earth Day. Here are a few ideas for your consideration:

When Shopping…

  • Use canvas totes or reusable shopping bags.
  • Try making your own produce bags. I plan to do this at some point. Now that I purchase more fresh produce, I seem to collect those plastic produce bags like crazy. I use them as bags for used cat litter when I’m scooping the boxes, but I don’t want to collect them at all. The homemade bags will have to be lightweight, as the produce is measured in terms of pounds. Reusable produce bags may also be purchased, if you’re not a particularly crafty person.
  • Or opt not to use any produce bags at all when possible. It is perfectly okay to place 3 apples, 2 pears, 5 oranges, and 4 peaches on the conveyor at the register, and expect them not to package each type of fruit separately.
  • Look for items with less packaging. Bulk purchases may seem like the way to go due to cost, but they may also provide extra packaging that will only end up in a landfill.

While In the Kitchen…

  • Cook from scratch whenever possible. By doing this, you can by items with less packaging.
  • Use cookware and other items that are meant to last. Cheap cookware ends up in a landfill more quickly, as do cheap plastic measuring utensils. Use items that were made to last, from a material that does not have known toxins. In the long run, you’ll save much money and be less wasteful. I am working toward getting cast iron cookware, as much as is reasonable for my situation. And I’m researching other types of cookware.
  • Bake more than one item at a time to save money and energy.
  • Use small appliances more, large appliances less.

While On The Go…

  • Use reusable water bottles.
  • Walk or bike everywhere you can.

When In the Garden…

  • Use empty milk and juice jugs, rather than dispose of all of them. Save them in the shed when not in use. In the garden, these make wonderful mini greenhouses that will aid you in extending your growing season. Cut the bottoms off and leave the cover off. A jug with a screw on lid makes a good watering jug because you can poke holes in the cover.
  • Start a compost, after constructing your own bin.
  • Plant a vegetable garden to save money and other resources.
  • Plan an herb garden. This alone will save money on your shopping bill if you cook or craft with herbs. You’ll also be able to make your own teas. And you wont be wasting all the packaging.
  • Reuse water from cooking eggs and vegetables to water plants.
  • Collect rain water in buckets or rain barrels for watering the garden, if it is legal to do so in your area. If not, it might be time to fight for your right to do so. This will save money only if you pay for water. It will save on use of this precious resource either way.

In what ways do you celebrate Earth Day, and work toward a better planet?

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

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*