During Christmas time, it seems I have a lot of people to buy gifts for, and I am stumped over what to buy. Over the years, we’ve done some home-made gifts, as well as some less expensive gifts with a little heart. This started out of necessity, because my husband was in construction, so each year he had a list of 30-40 people that he wanted to remember with just a small gift. Buying gift baskets or turkeys or hams was out of the question, so the first week of December became a flurry of activity in making inexpensive but valued gifts to complete our list.
Cookies are always an obvious choice. We found that Mexican Wedding Cookies (also known as Russian Tea Cakes) are not only easy to make, but one recipe (recipe courtesy All Recipes.com) made several dozen cookies. With just 4 or 5 ingredients, these are super easy. They’re easy for kids to make and they stay fresh for a long time, so they are very easy to package and give out to friends. We would make TENS of DOZENS of these and it would be a great family project. Try wrapping a dozen cookies in colored plastic wrap or clear plastic then cover with a colored tissue paper package tied with curling ribbon. For larger gifts, use small cardboard cartons lined with tissue, topped with a bow or curling ribbon.
Gifts in a Jar is a very economical way to give nice gifts. One is super chocolate hot cocoa mix recipe from Alton Brown. However, rather than stirring in the chocolate chips, I use this to add some layers for an interesting jar….mini marshmallows, the cocoa mix, then some chocolate chips on top, with more mini marshmallows. The instructions can mention that the jar should be mixed well before using. Use either quart or pint jars (depending on the size of gift you would like). We use tissue paper or Christmas fabric to cover the lids and tie down with curling ribbon. Another gift in a jar that is in constant demand from our friends is Minestrone Soup mix. This makes a beautifully layered gift. We have actually added a little to the recipe, and prefer hot Italian sausage. If you decide to use this one, your friends will beg you for the recipe.
A Candy Wreath makes a great gift for someone special! These are more labor intensive, so I only suggest a couple of these as needed. At your craft store, purchase a foam round (like the “lifesaver” thrown from boats) from the flower supply. Get a box of straight pins and a bag of red/white peppermints plus red candies, each individually wrapped. Tie a Wide Red Ribbon loop around the wreath and pin in place on the round, tie into a bow at the top. Start pinning groups of candies (two or three to one pin) until the front and sides of the wreath is covered!
With so many step-families, children want to get a special gift for a parent, but aren’t sure what to buy, especially for Dad! Run down and grab an inexpensive picture frame and some glitter glue, maybe some decorative stones or “jewels”. Let the kids decorate the side of the frame. Spend some time and take some nice candid photos, upload and print at your nearest pharmacy or photo store. You now have an inexpensive, personal gift. The kids will be proud of their gift and the parent will cherish the photo and frame.
Christmas Ornaments – If you’re into craft painting, you can get plastic clear ornaments at the hobby store. These can be personalized with craft paint as individual gifts. This works whether you can paint or not. So many of the paints come in tubes that can be used as a “pen” to scribe the name and year, the ornaments can be painted with a Christmas scene, and much more! Very inexpensive and easy to do! The paints clean up with water, so this is something the older children can do as well!
As always, I would love to hear your ideas of what you do for inexpensive gifts on your list!