Thursday, November 13, 2008

Frugally Baking For Christmas...and For The Rest Of The Year

I have a confession to make - I am a Christmas cookie-making addict! I can't help myself. And every year it seems my list of things to bake grows bigger and bigger.

I love to share the cookies I make with all of our family too. Last year, I also started making some for a few of Eric's clients. They are a great frugal gift. As a bonus tip, let me tell you about my grandma. Every year she asks for a tin of my cookies for Christmas. And every year she gets one. You know what she does with it? She puts the whole thing in her freezer and just pulls out one or two a night to have with a cup of tea. They last a long time that way!

There have been a few Christmases in recent years when we didn't have very much, if any, extra money in our budget for Christmas baking. Yet I always managed to still make at least a few different varieties. Here's what I do to keep the cookie budget under control.

  • Avoid all recipes with fancy ingredients that cost too much money or are too hard to find.
  • Compile a list of all the cookie recipes that sound good to you, then go through and select the ones with the most similar ingredients.
  • Even though the taste may not be as wonderful, most Christmas cookies still taste great when you use generic versions of more expensive extracts and flavorings.
  • If you are making frosted cookies, whip the frosting longer than necessary to add some more air to it. It will fluff up and you'll still get the same great taste and about twice as much frosting.
  • If you accidentally burn the bottom of the cookies, and if they are a sturdy variety, you can carefully scrape the brunt bottom off with a butter knife. They may not look as pretty, but they'll still taste great.
  • For most recipes, you can reduce the amount of nuts called for by 1/4 without affecting the taste or texture.
  • If you know you'll be using a lot of certain ingredients, it's worthwhile to double check all of the prices at all of your local stores. The 50lb. bag of flour at Sam's Club that always seems way too big might be a smart investment during baking season.
On that note, Christmas baking season sales always provide ample opportunities to stock up on your baking needs for the rest of the year. Butter is usually one of the biggest sale items and can be frozen. If you don't have extra storage space in your kitchen (which we don't), think of creative places to keep everything. I'm thinking of clearing off some shelf space in my closet this year.

For more Frugal Friday tips, head over to Biblical Womanhood.


Lora 11:07 PM  

Great cookie-baking tips!! Thanks!

Amy 11:15 PM  

Oh, you're getting me in the mood for some baking! I scored a couple of pounds of butter at Dillons last week for $1.00 each!

Sara 7:37 AM  

I grew up baking over Christmas with my mom... now my husband and I love to give cookies and baked goods for Christmas. I'm working to find a great way to easily package them this year. Thanks for the tips.

Linda 11:02 AM  

Those are helpful tips. Thanks for the reminder that it's time to start thinking about Christmas baking and looking for good deals.

Anonymous,  11:12 AM  

I remember reading an entry you posted - sometime in October? (don't remember date) - where you made a list of all the cookies you were going to try, and which ones froze well. You said you would update with the recipes as you made them. Will those recipes be in that post, or will they be listed somewhere? I've tried a few of your recipes that have become staples in our home and am interested in trying some of your cookie recipes!

Sherry 11:41 AM  

I've also frozen cookie dough by flash freezing cookie scoopfuls and then when frozen to stick in freezer bag. :D Then when ready to bake, I take them out for 30 minutes and then bake as regular. :D

Shynea @ Penny Pinching Diva 12:58 PM  

These are some very good frugal cooking tips. I am going to try my hand at baking a few new dessert recipes this holiday and I will definitely keep these tips in mind.

Mom2fur 5:05 PM  

I always buy the store brand of vanilla, but it's always the real stuff. You use so little it just isn't worth using the imitation junk. This time around I broke down and shelled out ten bucks for the big bottle--it was so much cheaper per ounce that way!
I also highly recommend real butter. You should find it on sale (you know you can freeze it?) these coming weeks.
Nuts are probably the most expensive item in cookies, but one good trick is to use your CVS Extra Care Bucks if you have them. I have gotten nice pecans and walnuts totally free this way! (I freeze those, too!) In fact, if you buy their "Gold Emblem" label, sometimes you get those ECBs that let you take $2 off $10, so if you combine those with regular ECBs you can stretch them further.
I love your grammie's idea to keep her cookies frozen and take out a few as a treat each day!

Crystal @ The Thrifty Mama 11:52 PM  

Thanks so much for the tips! I couldn't agree more!

Julie 11:57 AM  

Thanks for these great ideas! Here's another idea I learned from a friend of mine if you're wanting to make dough ahead of time and freeze it. She uses containers from frozen juice, cleans them out, and puts cookie dough in them and freezes them. When she goes to bake the cookies, she pops off the other end, pushes the dough through and cuts off perfectly sized cookies.

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