Saturday, October 12, 2013

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Preparing for the Holidays

When it comes to cooking and crafting, I don't think one can ever begin planning for the Holidays too soon.   When you realize Thanksgiving is just over a month away and you count how many paychecks that is... yikes!

Stocking up Early
Since for years I have given baked goods for gifts, I start purchasing a little at a time each week long before they would be used. 

For by purchasing a little extra butter here, cocoa there, a bag or two of chocolate chips, etc. when you grocery shop now then you won't have a major expense later.

Most items can be purchased already and stored on shelves, in the frig, or in the freezer.  Butter can be dropped into Ziploc bags for extra protection and frozen for months (if I'm using it within a month or so, I don't even put it in a Ziploc bag).  Cream cheese has a "use by" date months out from when it is purchased and keeps very well in the refrigerator (I personally never freeze it).

There isn't very much one uses in their Holiday baking that couldn't be purchased a little at a time beginning now.  Of course, people who have lived a pantry lifestyle for a long time know this is also the season to stock up on some baking items on sale 

Not to mention those items only found (at least where I live) during the Holidays like fresh cranberries... the bags tossed as is in a Ziploc bag that is sealed and thrown placed neatly in the freezer will last a year. I am already on the lookout for Candy Cane Lane tea although none has been spotted, yet.

Homemade Gifts
If you walk into any store which sells craft supplies, you will often see the Christmas displays during bathing suit weather.  While this annoys some people, those of us who like to make things by hand understand their logic.  Especially craftspeople who sell their items during Christmas bizarre sales for they often start their sewing, crafting, etc. by August.

I have learned (the hard way) that food gifts which can be made early such as preserves, dried food, extracts, etc. can benefit from early preparations.  Especially if you have not made them before.  For instance, I made vanilla extract for gifts and the recipe said it would be ready in 4 - 6 weeks.  But I found it took a full three months to reach a strength I would use in cooking (perhaps a difference in my vanilla beans and the writer of the recipe).

I enjoy giving and receiving homemade gifts whether it is a hand knitted scarf or a jar of preserves (I'm using some now my friend from Ft. Wayne, Indiana brought with her). 

It never ceases to surprise me just how much people love receiving homemade cookies and candy... probably as many people today do not bake.  Among my daughter's friends, a gift of her special cupcakes is often desired... and her friends do not mind dropping hints.  ;)

These days I don't go all out with my baking as I once did.  However, I will make a few kinds of cookies or Rachel Ray's fudge which is delicious and so easy. 

Here are links to some of my favorite easy Christmas recipes.  The pumpkin bars are perfect for right this very minute!

  • Rachel Ray's Fudge... here.
  • Christmas Jam... here.
  • Fun Pretzel Candy... here.
  • Raspberry Truffle Brownies... here.
  • Beverly Nye's Mounds Candy... here.
  • Peanut Butter Easter Christmas Eggs... here.
  • Candied Cranberries... here.
  • ... and my family's very favorite Pumpkin Bars... here.

Speaking of recipes, Stephanie posted two which you requested... here.  Since this is Part 1, I assume there will be more.  However, she is crazy busy at the moment so I am very thankful she posted the recipes for the Bacon, Brie, and Leek Quiche and the easy way she makes Chicken Tikka Masala.

Next week I'll wax poetic about the Hospitality Pantry... God willing and the creek don't rise.  :)


suzanne said...

Good point about counting paychecks until the holidays!! Those of us who live from one payday to the next have always had to calculate that detail. As my husband and I get older, and our ability to earn money lessens, it's so important to be prepared. I appreciate your pantry lifestyle posts more and more, Brenda.

Vee said...

It is a little scary to realize how close the holidays are. Thankfully, I have some frozen goods left over from last Christmas that I will use up this year...some white chocolate for those wonderful pretzel candies you make that have now also become a part of my repertoire and some spare cans of pumpkin. I need to visit BJs and get my sugars and flour. Wonder what the prices will be. Thank you for posting all the recipes...excellent reminders. Off to snag a recipe at Srephanie's, too. said...

Yes, I am preparing for the Holidays now also. In fact, I have already "made" the Christmas presents. We bought a basket full of apples and I made a special applesauce/jello recipe that I put in the new vintage blue glass Mason jars. They look so pretty sitting on the kitchen shelf (waiting to be given at the right time). I also like to make a frozen fruit salad when the strawberries come in and then freeze it in small containers for Christmas presents. I like to do the fruit gifts because it kind of "off-sets" the sweetness that other people make/give with all the dessert type gifts.
Thanks for your great Panty Lifestyle blogs.

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I am stocking up on canned pumpkin!

Thank you for posting those links to the recipes! The fudge seems very easy, and I will try it this year. I like to make gifts for Christmas too, and in years past have gotten butcher paper and made cookie dough and wrapped it up as gifts for Sunday School teachers. They can keep it in the freezer and then pull it out, thaw and slice to make homemade cookies!

Thanks for the ideas!


mdoe37 said...

I started my own Christmas club account... I found a cheap Christmas tin and stick away a few dollars every week. I don't have that gotcha anymore!

You are very right. So many people do not bother to bake homemade anymore. A dish with your best cookies is always welcome. I don't bake very much at all now....the family down to a handful. I really miss making chocolate covered cherries!!

Anonymous said...

4 more pay days until Christmas.
Yikes! Thanks for the reminder though.

After a summer with no work, Christmas may be modest. However here in Canada it's Thanksgiving weekend so I'll count my blessings-Home, Family, Freedom, Health etc.