Ahh, Christmas, the time of year when the Martha Stewarts of the world are in their glory. We see them making beautiful decorations and stunning gifts from things that we would normally throw in the trash as being useless. We marvel at their talent and creativity, secretly wishing we were able to do what they can. We may even try some of their projects, only to have it turn into a disastrous mess. We may hope to make candy as gifts, only to have our caramel burn and our fudge taste like chocolate rocks. These are all budget saving ideas, but it can’t save your budget if it’s next to impossible to do.
Now let’s come back to reality. Most of us are lacking the time, talent or creativity that it takes to make a pop-op reindeer card (as I once saw on the Martha Stewart Show), or perfectly smooth and buttery caramel. There are shortcuts that still won’t bust your budget, and in the long run actually cost less because they turn out almost every time.
Cookies are easy to make and almost always a hit. There are recipes for sugar cookies in almost every cookbook on the market, or if you’re feeling really pressed, you can buy refrigerated cookie dough and start from there. You can even buy it already rolled out so that all you have to do is press a few cookie cutters into it. Sprinkle some different colored sugar crystals onto it and they’re beautiful and tasty.
Buy some caramels, melt them down and dip apples into them, and you will have a wonderful treat for anyone.If you’re feeling ambitious, melt down some chocolate chips and drizzle them on top, or swirl them in chopped nuts, or crushed candy canes.
Buy some inexpensive mugs at a discount store, fill them with the ingredients for gourmet hot chocolate (or coffee, if’ that’s your preference). I personally like to include a couple packets of hot chocolate mix, marshmallows, chocolate chips, and a candy cane for stirring.
You can also buy jars in bulk. If you are the gourmet type, you can make jams or jellies, but for the rest of us, those jars can hold so many things. Put the dry ingredients for cookies, brownies or some other gourmet treat into them with directions how to make the item on the outside. Fill them with candies or bite size cookies. Add a small circle of fabric and even smaller circle of quilt batting on top of the lid with a ribbon tied around it and it makes a wonderful gift.
Any of these ideas are easy and fun. None of them take a lot of time, and even a novice can do them well. With time, maybe we can all become as talented as the most gifted crafters and gourmet cooks among us. In the meantime we can take on projects like these and just pretend we are.