The past two Frugal Kitchens 101 have focused on when the best time is to buy all things kitchen related. As a reminder, the best times are just before Christmas, the end of January and the two weeks before Mother's Day. It's not that you can't find good bargains on kitchen related items the rest of the year, just you have a better chance of getting excellent deals during these time frames. This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 will focus on how to save money when making gifts from the kitchen, and we all know these are some of the best gifts to give or receive.
Gifts from the kitchen require raw ingredients and containers. That means you need to do a bit of planning and frugal shopping prior to making your homemade goodies. It is a bit easier than you would think though.
- sales - Traditionally, about 6 weeks prior to Christmas the baking ingredients will go on sale and they will remain at reduced prices until at least Boxing Day. Take advantage of any of these sales to restock your pantry and make gifts from the kitchen like cake mixes, cookies in a jar or regular holiday baking.
- buy in advance - Certain ingredients can be purchased on sale well in advance of the actual assembly process for mixes.
- buy in bulk - The bulk food stores are a perfect resource for making up several batches of your favourite mixes (eg. hot chocolate, seasoning mixes, cake and bread mixes) for gift giving. You can buy as much or as little as you need. If you do not have a bulk food store, opt for the largest sized package with the smallest unit price for those ingredients you need a lot of to put your homemade mixes together (eg. flour, sugar, pasta, etc).
- plan ahead - I know it is hard to think of Christmas gift giving in May but if you are home canning with the intent of gift giving you need to. Make a batch of whatever specifically for gift giving and keep it away from your own pantry stock. Know how many containers you will need and what you will be using as far as containers. In general, two quarts of berries will give a yield of 4 - 250 ml/half pint jars. So when canning for your home needs, simply make a separate batch for gift giving. If you are making mixes, assemble all the ingredients then it is easy to make them in about 15 minutes of time. Making dry mixes is as simple as assembling the ingredients unless you are using an ingredient that has been home dried. In that case, you will need to dry enough of that ingredient in addition to your own needs.
- KISS - When it comes to homemade gifts from the kitchen, use a bit of creativity but rely on KISS (keep it simple silly).
- containers - Buy these ahead as you can find them on sale. Mason jars are the norm for home canned foods but can also be used for homemade mixes. They will cost between $5 and $12 depending on the style and if bought on sale if bought new but used mason jars work just as well. You can find these through freecycle, Craig's List and resale stores. Just be sure you aren't paying more than new would cost. New mason jars come with lids and rings. If buying used, you will have to buy these separately. A dozen box that includes both will cost about $3.50 but if you have a lot of rings, the cheapest source I have found for canning lids is Dollarama at $1.25 per dozen. The dollar and department stores are also the least expensive places to buy gift style plastic and metal containers although specialty craft store (eg. Michael's) also have rather good prices.