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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Holiday Baking

Frugal Kitchens 101
The topic for this week's Frugal Kitchens 101 is holiday baking. It has long been a tradition for many to do extra baking for the Christmas holidays. Typically the baking includes fancier decorated cookies such as sugar cookies and gingerbread men along with fruitcakes. The problem for many especially in today's economy is the extra cost of holiday baking coincides with increased winter utility costs and combined holiday costs (gift giving, entertaining, decorating, travel) along with unemployment and threat to job security. Holiday baking can have a huge impact on your holiday budget simply because many popular holiday recipes use higher priced ingredients like candied fruits, chocolate and nuts. This is the time to rely on frugal kitchen skills.

  1. start early and with a plan - This is one case where planning early is a must. I would recommend you start planning right after the previous holiday season. Take notes of likes or dislikes and amounts needed, what didn't go over well and what did. This allows you almost a full year to pick up all the necessary supplies and take advantage of sales.
  2. KISS (keep it simple silly) - The holiday season is busy enough so keep your holiday baking simple. It is surprising how many baked goods can be made using simple ingredients. The thing is they don't have to look like they are simple ingredients and most don't after baked.
  3. don't forget the recipe - The recipe is a must for some home baked goods so print it out either by printer or handwritten for a gift that will be cherished. Check the craft section of dollar stores for pre-cut tags perfect for using as the recipe instructions or print your own on cardstock.
  4. ingredients - Buy any ingredient you use for holiday baking in bulk if at all possible. Most baking ingredients will keep for upwards of a year or longer. There are two ways to save here if you have a bulk food store. Those ingredients that you may only need a tsp or so buy in bulk in double the amount you need. That way you have enough for another batch. Those ingredients that you use more of buy in bulk simply because bulk usually is cheaper per unit and avoids the pesky packaging. Now, the exception to this is if an ingredient is on sale and/or you have a good coupon or rebate then figure out the unit price as sometimes it might be less expensive to use this method over the bulk food method. If at all possible rather than a large expenditure just before the holiday season, gradually stock up throughout the year.
  5. energy usage - Where ever possible use the full capacity of your oven. Once your cookies are baked use the already heated oven to cook your dinner. Small batch baking can be done using your toaster oven or countertop roaster.
  6. no time to bake - Give the gift of cookies, soups, breads and brownies by making gifts in jars (homemade mixes). Essentially you assemble the dry ingredients in a mason jar or similar then add a recipe tag and any other desirable embellishments. The recipient adds any liquid, oil or egg when they are ready to make their gift.

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