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Ways to $ave Wednesday -- Week 1 Frugal, Homemade Christmas

I nearly lost my mind when I realized it is only SEVEN weeks until Christmas! ACK! I am so not ready for this. When I was preparing for the next few weeks of frugal, homemade Christmas ideas, my first step was to figure out who and what I needed to buy this year for my Christmas celebrations. My list is long, but my pocketbook is pretty empty, so we are going to have to be creative this year. Thus, I have been having fun researching ideas, many of which I will be using this year.

I love giving gifts. I enjoy spending time thinking of gift ideas, then fulfilling these ideas. I especially enjoy the surprised looks and expressions of joy people show when they get an item they are unexpecting, but love. I spend all year listening to people and making mental notes on what they like or wish they could have. Thus, I greatly enjoy coming up with gifts to show people I appreciate them.

One of the homemade gifts I like to give to teachers and colleagues is food. Likely it is because I kinda like food and can't imagine anyone else who doesn't, so it is the perfect gift, right? Here are a few of my favorite food gift ideas.

Hot cocoa mix and mug

Combine 1 cup unsweetened cocoa, 1 1/4 cups sugar, 3 cups powdered milk and a dash of salt. This amount will fill two generously filled 3 1/2 inch x 8 inch cellophane bags. Put bags in a large mug. You could also use jars and decorate each. Instructions to add with the hot cocoa mix are add 3 tablespoons of mix to 6 oz. of hot water and stir.

Jar mixes -- I love to make up mixes and put these in jars. These make fabulous gifts!

Cookie Mix

1 1/4 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup chocolate-covered toffee chips, 1/2 cup peanut butter and milk choclate chips, 1/2 cup lighly salted peanuts, coarsely chopped. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Spoon flour mixture into 1 quart food starage jar with tight fitting lid (Ball jars). Layer remaining ingredients on top of flour. Pack ingredients down lightly before adding another layer. Seal jar and attach following instructions: 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softenened, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add contents of jar to butter mixture; beat 1 minute or until light dough forms. Drop dough 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake 10 minutes or until firm and light brown. Let stand 1 minute, then cool on cookie racks. (Makes 3 dozen cookies)

Easy Layered Bar Mix

1/2 cup candy-coated chocolate candy or baking bits, 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 1 1/2 cups crisp rice cereal, 1 cup peanut butter chips, 1/2 cup coconut, 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs. Layer ingredients in 1 1/2 quart food storage jar with tight-fitting lid in following order: candy, chocolate chips, cereal, peanut butter chips, cocunut, and graham cracker crumbs in small plastic bag. Seal jar, attach follow instructions: 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted, 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray sides of 13x9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour butter into pan. Remove graham cracker crumbs from jar and sprinkle over butter. Pour condensed milk evenly over crumbs. Carefully sprinkle coconut and peanut butter chips in even layers, then cereal, chocolate chips and baking bits; press gently. Bake 25 to 27 mintues or until top just begins to brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 36 bars.



Banana Chocolate Mini Muffin Mix

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 cup mini chocolate coated candy pieces (M&Ms) or mini chocolate chips, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Layer ingredients attractively in any order into 1 quart food storage jar with tight fitting lid. Pack ingredients down tightly before adding another layer. Seal jar. Attach instructions: 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large), 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter melted, 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or paper lien 36 mini muffin cups (makes great large muffins as well).



And I just found this Zucchini Bread jar recipe today.



Chex cereal has numerous great recipes using their cereal. I have tried a few different recipes from their cereal boxes and my favorites are Muddy Buddies and the Cheesy Ranch. Actually, these were also big hits with my co-workers and my husband's. I have already begun to get requests for more again this year. I'm considering trying this one this year. But this one and this one also sound fabulous! Last year I purchased several plastic holiday tins on clearance after Christmas and I plan to fill these with some great Chex cereal mixes for our co-workers.



I know there are millions of other homemade food items which make great gifts. Breads are always popular (and yummy!). I have not yet tackled those yet myself.

So, what great recipes do each of you have for homemade food type gifts you give at Christmas?

Be sure to join us next Wednesday for more Frugal Homemade Christmas gift ideas.

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