8 WAYS TO SURVIVE GIVING SEASON IF YOU'RE CRAFTY AND STRAPPED FOR CASH

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Submitted Date 12/23/2018
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The season of giving can become overwhelming when you don't feel like you have much to give. But there's no need to worry. You can rest easy because the most wonderful time of the year doesn't have to break the bank. Here are 8 ways to survive the holidays and expectations of gift giving when you're on a budget and short on funds.

1. Cooking Kits
Kits are fun semi-DIY gifts for people who enjoy making things but prefer they be quick, easy and foolproof.

Baking Kit
Create baking recipes by adding powdered ingredients to mason jars, mugs or decorative cellophane bags. Research top rated recipes to see what you need to include, and instructions for what your loved one needs to add and how to finish the recipe. If the package the kit comes in is see-through add the ingredients in layers of contrasting colors for a fun and appealing effect. This works well for cake, muffin and brownie recipes. The recipient will need to add the liquid ingredients, which usually include eggs, oil, butter, milk and/or water.

Chocolate Fondue Kit
Your loved ones don't need an official fondue set to enjoy delicious chocolate fondue. Include wooden skewers or long fondue forks with your assortment of dark, semi-sweet, milk and/or white chocolate. Add marshmallows, graham crackers, pretzels, cereal treats, brownie bites or macaroons for dipping. Include fresh fruits like strawberries, pineapple chunks or a whole unpeeled banana for a healthy addition. Assemble the components neatly on a platter and wrap in cellophane, or package in a decorative box.

Beverage Kit
Who doesn't like hot chocolate? Powdered hot beverage recipes in mason jars, mugs or decorative cellophane bags makes tasty treats and great gifts. Make your own festive flavored hot chocolate blend, or instant or ground coffee blend. Add seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice, cinnamon, ginger or peppermint. And make sure to label and add instructions to your gift. If you want to keep things simple create a nice tea bag assortment and include their favorites along with seasonal offerings.

Cocktail Kit
If your friends or family enjoy a refreshing cocktail every now and again, why not give them a kit? Include fresh ingredients, flavors, juices, and mini liquor bottles. Write instructions for them, and include mason jars or bar ware if you can find something nice for a good price.

2. Cocktails & Beverages
An easier option is simply giving those on your list bottles of their favorite wine, cider, beer and liquor. You can also opt for a mini liquor assortment. If you want to add your own personal touch you can make sangria, spiced apple cider, or dissolve fruity or flavored candy in liquor for a few days. Vodka is usually the drink of choice for this.

3. Baked Goods
Baked goods are a holiday staple. Whether it's made from scratch, completely store bought, or jazzed up versions of boxed mixes, your friends and family will appreciate the effort.

Cakes
Don't stress over a lack of frosting skills. “Naked” cakes are all the rage. Add frosting or filling in between the cake layers. Frost the top and leave the sides bare. Garnish with chopped nuts, flaked coconut, sprinkles, nonpareils, mini marshmallows, chocolates, candies, or sliced fruit. If you prefer a fully covered cake, frost as normal and completely cover in these toppings. If you have some piping skills decorate to your heart's content.

Fill cake or spongecake layers with fruit, pudding, whipped cream, sweetened mascarpone or whipped ricotta cheese, hazelnut spread, yogurt, or fruit curd to make trifle or parfait.

Spread on filling and roll up spongecake sheet into a jelly roll or “yule log” dessert.

Bake and decorate miniature cakes for each of your friends or family members. Personalize each one with their favorite flavors or toppings.

Bake cupcakes in your favorite or seasonal flavors. Or fill with mini candy bars, peanut butter cups, Oreo or sandwich crème cookies, chocolate pecan “turtles,” peppermint patties, Lindt Lindor truffles, or Ferrero Rocher, Raffaello, or Rondnoir chocolates. Frost cupcakes or dip in melted chocolate, then garnish with toppings or candies.

Bake mini cupcakes and frost or dip in melted chocolate, then garnish with toppings or candies.

Bake cake batter in cake pop pans. Insert lollipop sticks and dip in melted chocolate or candy melts, then garnish with toppings.

Bake full sized or miniature cheesecakes in traditional, seasonal or fun and experimental flavors. Add toppings or leave ungarnished.

Bake a rectangular or square pan of cheesecake and cut into bite-sized squares. Dip into melted chocolate and garnish with toppings for added texture and taste. Place cheesecake pieces in the freezer for an hour or two before dipping to help them solidify. Skewer with lollipop sticks, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, or wooden skewers or dowels to help with dipping. After their chocolate coating refrigerate to keep fresh.

Brownies
Bake single, double or triple chocolate brownies with chocolate morsels or chunks. Add chocolate candies, chopped candy bars, crushed Oreo cookies or crushed peppermint candies. Frost and add toppings for an even more decadent experience.

Bake blondies with white chocolate chips or chunks. Add soft caramel candies, toffee chips, nuts, or flaked coconut for added flavor and texture.

Bake brownie or blondie batter in a mini cupcake tin or cut into small squares for a bite-sized treat. Dip in melted chocolate or candy melts, then garnish with toppings for something more festive.

Bake brownie or blondie batter in a round pan to make a sweet crust for decadent chocolate pizza. Add melted chocolate, caramel, peanut butter, hazelnut spread and toppings for an indulgent dessert.

Cookies
Cookies come in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Make a big batch of one type or pack an assortment into festive decorative boxes, tins, baskets and even bouquets.

Make traditional drop cookies like chocolate chip, oatmeal, snickerdoodle and coconut macaroon. Or ice and decorate cutouts like sugar cookie and gingerbread.

If you have any crafting skills construct an edible and beautiful gingerbread house. Let the royal icing dry for 24 hours to make sure it's set and steady.

Make a rectangular or square pan of cookie dough and cut into bars for a different look and variety.

Use a special cookie pop pan or add large lollipop sticks to baking sheet to make large cookie pops. Arrange in a bouquet for a fancy effect.

Press drop cookie dough into a round pan or roll cutout dough into a round to make a sweet crust for decadent fruit pizza. Spread melted chocolate, whipped topping or sweetened cream cheese over cooled cookie and add sliced fruit and toppings for a tasty treat.

Pastries
If cakes and cookies are not your thing try baking full sized or individual fruit or nut pies. Miniature pies can be skewered with lollipop sticks to make pie pops. Fruit filled handheld pies can be baked or fried. And cinnamon rolls, muffins, baklava and rugelach are tasty sweets anyone would love to receive.

4. Desserts and Sweets
Cereal treats are easy to assemble. Just mix cereal, like puffed rice, with melted marshmallow and butter. Press into a pan, let set, and cut into bars. Dip in melted chocolate or candy melts, then garnish with toppings for extra texture and fun flavors.

Fancy popcorn mixed with caramel, chopped nuts, flaked coconut and chocolate is fun and festive.

Ice cream sandwiches are easy to make and delicious to eat. You can bake your own dough or use store bought cookies for your sandwiches. Traditional flavors include vanilla or chocolate ice cream, and chocolate, chocolate chip, oatmeal or sugar cookies. Seasonal sandwiches include eggnog, peppermint and pumpkin ice cream, and snickerdoodle, pecan and gingerbread cookies.

Chocolate dipped fruits make popular gifts and can be made at home for pennies on the dollar. Candy melts can be used instead of chocolate for festive coloring. Add toppings for extra texture and taste. Whole strawberries, pineapple chunks, and banana, apple and peach slices are popular choices. Gift in a box or skewer and arrange in a bouquet.

Chocolate dipped dried fruit may travel easier and keep longer. Dip dried apple, pineapple and peach slices, or whole apricots, figs or dates.

Dip almonds, cashews, peanuts and more into chocolate or candy melts for tasty nut clusters.

No-bake pies are a simple solution when you don't want to use your oven. Gelatin and pudding mix usually creates the base and the chill helps it set up. Banana crème pie, chocolate silk pie, and no-bake cheesecakes with cherry topping are great choices.

A simple whole fruit basket is easy and nutritious. Include everyday and exotic fruits for a nice assortment.

5. Chocolates and Candy Melts
Refrigerator fudge is three simple ingredients: chocolate, heavy cream and butter. Feel free to add mini marshmallows, chopped nuts or crushed peppermint candies to revel in the holiday spirit.

Refrigerator fudge recipes can also be used to make truffles. Use a melon baller or mini ice cream scoop to ball up softened fudge and roll in cocoa powder, chopped nuts, flaked coconut, or crushed peppermint candies. You can also dip truffles into melted chocolate or candy melts, then garnish with toppings.

Melt dark, semi-sweet, milk or white chocolate and pour into molds to make festive chocolates. Add toppings for taste and texture. Use lollipop molds and sticks to make chocolate pops. Deliver chocolates in decorative boxes, tins or mugs. Arrange pops in a fun bouquet.

Substitute colorful candy melts for chocolate, and even add holiday flavors to make seasonal candies and lollipops.

Chocolate and candy melts can be used to coat many sweet treats and desserts. Partially cover or fully enrobe cookies, cake squares (or petite fours), brownies, mini cupcakes , fresh and dried fruit and fruit slices, nuts and nut clusters, cereal treats, marshmallows, macaroons, pretzels and more.

6. Wild Ferments
Wild yeast bread is as easy as 1-2-3. Mix one part water with one part whole wheat flour, then cover with cloth or paper towel to keep out bugs and dust. After 8-24 hours you'll have a bubbling starter. Add more flour and a pinch of salt to bring a ball of dough together. Bake through until done and deliver the same day.

Brew sweetened green or plain black tea into kombucha for a fizzy probiotic boost. You can find kombucha starter kits online in places like Groupon, Ebay and Craigslist. Or you can get some from a friend who already brews. You can also buy a few bottles in your local supermarket and let them bloom in a larger container to make your own starter kit. Add fruit and juices to make flavored batches.

Tepache is a natural “beer” made from fresh pineapple. Cut off the rind of a pineapple (discard or plant the top) and add to a gallon glass jar with sugar. Add the fresh pineapple chunks or juice to the jar, if desired, and fill with water. Cover with a breathable fabric or paper towels and secure with a tie. Let brew for 1-3 weeks, depending on the amount of sugar added and desired strength. Add spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove or all spice for a nice kick.

Create your own fruit or veggie ferments by adding capsules of probiotic supplements to your favorite juices. Orange, pineapple, apple, peach, strawberry, blueberry, grape, carrot and tomato juices are great choices. Aim for at least “1 billion live active cultures per capsule” per 8 oz of juice. Cloudy, cold pressed and refrigerated juices are best, if store bought. Pasteurized filtered juices are not ideal.

7. Books
Nowadays it's easy to go online and create custom gifts for the ones you love. Use royalty free, commercial use photos, vectors and drawings to create personal story books or ebooks. Write your own simple story from your imagination or inspired by your relationship and real events.

You can also buy or create writing prompt books for the person in your life you know loves or needs to journal. Create 100-200 writing prompts about your friendship, your relationship, life in general, personal growth, or abstract thoughts.

We all need to feel special and important to our loved ones, especially during the holidays. But you can keep your friends and family feeling appreciation and affection all year round. Create a book with 366 professions of love, respect and inspiration your loved ones can turn to when they need support.

8. Crafts
If you're creative and a little crafty you can make non-edible gifts for your group.

Craft unique and personalized Christmas tree ornaments. Hand decorate useful items like mugs, wine glasses and candle holders with paint or glaze. Make custom scented soaps with essential oils, fragrant herbs, and exfoliating, soothing and hydrating ingredients like oatmeal, aloe and shea butter. Paint a pretty picture on canvas or specialty paper. Or use your sewing skills to make custom clothes for your cohorts. And accent those digs with accessories and jewelry you've made just for them.

Gifts don't need to be expensive or flashy if you're creative and crafty. Homemade presents won't seem cheap or tasteless if they're meaningful and from the heart. And especially if they show an investment in time, talent and consideration for the recipient. It's easy to overlook a gift that was bought in a click. But your loved ones won't forget something you made just for them.
 

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