Last week we started on some easy and inexpensive craft ideas so that we can keep Christmas expenses way down and also be able to give a lot!
This week I am adding food/cooking gifts. These can be beautiful gifts and very inexpensive. And yet if you look in stores they are charging a fortune for some things that are super cheap to make. In fact do look in stores as you will feel more confidant with your baked gifts after you see how popular they are and how expensive as well.
A big help here is making some things well ahead. Realistically we are going to be busy in December. Super busy. So some things made and put away help a lot.
One of my best things to make ahead is Christmas cake. This keeps a year and improves with age so it is ideal.
My friend Ethel saved tuna tins, the larger ones, and made them into mini cake tins. This is how she would cook these up for small gifts.
This time I used some tiny tins I have, plus I did 12 in the larger sized Texas muffin tins. I made a large one for my Dad and a large one for us.
I made up the recipe in a double batch and did this twice over a few days. This gave me 18 cakes all up.
These become gifts for neighbors, Dad, my brother, my Aunt, my Uncle, Cath in the nursing home and a few others.
The recipe is here. Bridge asked me if it matters very much about the dried fruit you buy. I usually buy homebrand mixed dried fruit. That fruit seems dry and not the most fabulous but after it is soaked in sherry (or whatever you use) plus pineapple juice it all plumps up and is beautiful. But the recipe calls for a kilo of dried fruit. You could just buy sultanas and add cherries or anything you like. I add a packet of chopped dried apricot since Andy loves that. It is very flexible! Because I add the apricots I end up with more like 2.2 kilos of fruit. It is fine. It is absolutlely not necessary to use expensive fruits. Knowing I will be making this I buy the fruits, cherries etc on specials over the months before I make them. (I hope this helps Bridge.)
(Sorry to the US ladies. I need to convert the recipe for you as well and need to do that but have run out of time today however most of the recipe is in cups).
The other make ahead gift is usually jam. Lots of pretty jams. They keep, look nice and go in well with a foodie gift in a little basket. On Mimi's blog A Tray of Bliss (on my sidebar) she has a heap of make ahead gifts including Limoncello , Sticky Balsamic Vinegar and tomato relish. There are so many possibilities.
Nearer to Christmas I usually make Gingerbread biscuits. These are beautiful and easy. this recipe makes a big batch....Gingerbread Biscuits made with honey.
A super easy and fast larger gift is to make a giant shortbread. I get pizza pans from cheap stores so I can use that as the base. You make the recipe and pat it onto the pan. Bake it, cut it through while hot and wrap and present the whole thing. It is beautiful, spectacular and faster than biscuits.
An alternative is to make three or four rounds on a baking tray and do mini versions of this.
This is a non crumbly beautiful shortbread recipe. Here is the recipe.. Shortbread. You can decorate it by using a dusting of icing sugar over a lace cut out, doily or stencil...
Most likely you have your own tried and tested family recipes. Use those. Getting them produced for gifts is easier when you have saved containers to pack you food gifts into. I watch for nice little tins, cellophane bags, pretty trays, nice boxes etc all year. Cellophane is wonderful. Things look crisp and nice in it and it is not expensive. If you need a larger sized cellophane bag than you have use an oven bag, looks the same. If you are in SA Cheap as Chips has the best range of cellophane bags in a range of sizes.
Add ribbon, tags etc and it will look lovely. Often in foodie stores I snoop at both the prices they are charging and the presentation. This gives you lots of ideas!
Making something ahead is a help. Then near Christmas making a couple of things in big batches is far easier than making a lot of different things in small batches. Just less work if time is an issue.
One thing I do every year is Coconut Ice.. It keeps about two weeks. This is yum and so pretty. I make it super pale pink and use soft pink ribbons to tie it up. I always times the recipe by four and make a massive amount!
Over the years the girls gave it to teachers, work mates, neighbors... I have cut it into heart shapes for afternoon teas...
This year it will be lots of gifts... for Chloe's elderly neighbors, my neighbors, friends, the ladies at the nursing home and many more.
A regular thing I make that is good for the boys is a snack we call Nuts and Bolts. It can be made a few days ahead. Looks good in jars or packets and is a snack and good for parties, watching sports or movies treats type of thing. It is yum and impossible to stop eating! The recipe is here.
Once I have my cooking done some things are given individually ie the whole tray of shortbread or for small gifts a packet of bisucuits or piece of coconut ice. Others make up a little basket of box with one of everything tucked in. A basket of goodies. This looks lovely! All year I buy nice little baskets from op shops. Usually about 50c each. Sometimes I have spray painted them all white or silver. I line them with tissue paper and tie the whole thing up with cellophane or add a ribbon. I did notice lovely little wire baskets in cheap shops this year but I already have a collection ready. I do need a couple of pizza pans for shortbread though.
With just a few cook ups you will have a lot of lovely gifts to give. An hour making a tray of shortbread is still easier than hitting the shops for a gift. The cost is just a few dollars and the end result would be worth at least $40 in a store.
Just get thinking about your best recipes and if you have helpers even better. Kids can roll apricot balls, decorate biscuits, wrap and package, make cards and so many things and will be proud of how they helped! Collect your ingredients and packaging so that on the day you cook you have everything you need. I hope you have great success and this is one more way you will keep Christmas costs down.
Some ladies are up and running with making their presents and sent me some photos! Jane made powder puffs, powder, soap and lavender sachets...
And Fiona is making tea towels (kitchen towels) Look at these gorgeous prints...
I love seeing what you are making! Thank you so much.
Next week in this series I am adding an easier than ever segment. How to restyle gifts so that something you buy inexpensively can be fancied up to be something stylish. It's cheating, basically.
And on Wednesday in our pantry series we are looking at gifts to give our pantry enthusiast girlfriends and family! Yes... us! Also, by accident, these are gifts to encourage someone in their pantry work and help get others started. All part of our cunning plan to help others have food in their pantry when they might need it!
Have a lovely week! And if you have an easy recipes suitable for Christmas gifts please share. Some of us have many recipes we know and others are just getting started. Tried and tested, no fail recipes that are delicious are so handy. Once we have recipes like these we are set! Thanks in advance! xxx
The little birds...
If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.
Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.