Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday Pantry Suggestions

Homemade cocoa gift with marshmallows and M&Ms

Can you believe we are almost into October already? The cooler weather has brought me back into the kitchen where I realize I need to do a little more stocking up.  It is time to peruse cold weather recipes and write what I need on the grocery list.

I went to the Farmer's Market this morning and was quite pleased to see plenty of tomatoes left for purchase.  Exactly what I needed for added nutrition this week.

It was a gorgeous morning and I had planned to take Farmer's Market pics but alas... I forgot the camera and my market basket trying to get Downtown before the Football Traffic started.  You do not want to get stuck in Football Traffic.

I had to stop by the grocery store for milk and a few bananas, so of course I also had to peruse the new magazines.  Have you noticed the plethora of Holiday magazines now on the shelves!  Oh, my!  Are we THAT close?

Well, in a way we are, especially if you like to make homemade gifts like I do.

I made vanilla extract for gifts last year and if I'd known it was that easy I would have made it long ago.  I ordered vanilla beans through Amazon at a fraction of the price in the grocery store and bought the vodka at Wal Mart.  I already had the jars so there was no cost there.

(Do you remember me telling you about the checkout lady?  When I said I was buying vodka to make vanilla extract, she said "Sure honey, that's what they all say".  Hehehe... that still makes me laugh.)

Vanilla extract is a great gift for anyone who loves to bake but it should be made soon to gain strength by gift giving time.  Vanilla sugar is also a nice gift and even less expensive to make.  There are lots of recipes online for both.  Vanilla sugar is a great way to recycle vanilla beans when you have used them for a recipe, too.

I think as a society we forget the value of homemade gifts.  I've mentioned before that I've forgotten many of the Christmas gifts I received as a child (not all, there were a few spectacular items) but I always looked forward to a family member's homemade candy.

I've received jams and jellies and honey from friends and they were more precious than any trinket that may end up not being used.   A former neighbor made a pecan pie for each of his friends and I can assure you that was a special gift.

So... it is time to be preparing gifts that need to be made ahead of time or those which are seasonal such as canning apple butter now that it is apple season.

Then stock up... a little each week... for those other gifts you will make.  Stocking up on the "little at a time" plan will surprise you at just how many ingredients you have when it comes time to prepare your Holiday gifts.

By beginning that "stocking up process" now, then you may have everything you need by Thanksgiving and that will free up limited funds for other items.  I must admit, this is the way I bought for the Holidays even when we had a regular income but it is even more important for me to do so these days.

Butter freezes very well and one may want to freeze any nuts purchased for Holiday baking.  I also begin stocking cookie ingredients such as chocolate chips, coconut, etc. a little at a time.  Products like dipping chocolate can be purchased ahead.  Really, most baking items can be purchased now.  I suppose the Christmas M&Ms will be available the day after Halloween.  :)

Also... there will be some items which usually go on sale around the time of the Holidays like sugar and flour.  But I have noticed these past few years, we have not had the big seasonal sales we once had at that time of year.

By thinking ahead, we can create really nice gifts at a fraction of the price.  Now, I wonder if I can crochet a nice scarf for my granddaughters with my newbie skills?


Mama Squirrel said...

In Canada, a lot of holiday foods are on sale this week since next Monday (October 8th) is Thanksgiving. Since Christmas and Thanksgiving meals tend to be pretty similar, this is a good time for us to buy extras and stash them in the freezer or cupboard till December.

Vee said...

Sure you can! I loved making scarfs last year and I didn't even gift them at Christmas. They were in a pile and when anyone came for a visit and showed interest, she selected one. I got rid of most of them that way.

I did just buy the Victoria Christmas magazine because it was under $10. It will be the only one I purchase. And I've let my Country L go for good this year. It's not the same magazine that it used to be and I don't enjoy it much anymore.

What? I can buy vanilla beans at Amazon? Well, that is what I'm going to do! Sometime this week I hope.

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries® said...

GREAT post Brenda...your timing could not have been better! I just finished my Christmas list and now am thinking about those token gifts. Loved your story about buying the vodka for the vanilla funny! I finally made my own batch this summer but I had my dad buy the vodka for me. :) (I'll probably be posting about it soon.) Thank you so much for the gentle nudges to get moving on the gift-making and pantry-deepening both! I always love reading your posts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the suggestions. I used to bake christmas cakes until the ingredients got just too expensive.
Then it turned out that the family preferred sugar cookies and their favourite chocolate cake (decorated for Christmas) which are way cheaper and easier to make.

Linda said...

I love homemade/handmade gifts! I hope to make quite a few this Christmas. I yearn for a simpler holiday season this year.

I always enjoy yor posts!

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

What good ideas, Brenda...And have you ever tried puttinb the vanilla beans into dark rum? It makes a cake flavoring which is unique, neither vanilla nor rum but delicious. And not something to buy in grocery stores. I'm just back from a weekend at the lake and feeling that I need to start getting ready for the holidays!