As you should all know by now, things have been pretty darn tight financially for me for years. In the past couple of years that has eased up a bit, thankfully, but I am still very thrifty. This stretches my budget and allows me to do the things that I want to do with my kids. As somebody who is also pretty altruistic at nature, this can stress me out at the holidays. This inherent nature translates to the holidays because whenever people give me gifts, especially when I didn’t know it was coming, I feel extremely guilty if I don’t have anything to reciprocate. Years ago, I would rush out and buy something so that I would have something the next time I saw them. But when things got really tight with me financially, I couldn’t do that anymore. I had to figure out some other way to reciprocate.
I used to own a gluten free bakery and one of my best sellers was the easiest peanut butter cookie recipe, that my mother made for me as a child once I got diagnosed with Celiac Disease. One year I happened to be making these for my kids and the inevitable sneak gift attack happened. I decided that since I couldn’t buy anything, due to having NO funds, that I would put some of these cookies in a plastic bag with tissue paper and a ribbon instead. The gift was extremely well received and they loved the fact that I made them and they were so delicious. The recipe was then asked for, and I willingly obliged.
My recipe is simple (in case you find yourself in the mood and/or position to whip some of these up) and really cost effective to make.
- 1 1/2 cups of Peanut Butter
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 Egg White
- 1 Whole Egg
Mix everything together with a hand mixer, spoon onto a greased cookie sheet (I use olive oil or coconut oil spray), flatten with a fork and then top with chocolate chips, if desired. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Yields 12-15, depending on how large you choose to make them.
Since I regularly shop at Trader Joe’s, the cost breakdown is simple since I get everything from the same place.
- Peanut Butter – 16 oz jar is $1.99 + tax = $2.12. That breaks down to $.13 per ounce. I use 12 ounces, so the total cost of the peanut butter is $1.59
- Sugar – 32 oz bag of Organic Evaporated Cane Juice Sugar is $3.49 + tax = $3.73. That breaks down to $.12 per ounce. I use 8 ounces, so the total cost of the sugar is $.96
- Eggs – 12 cage free eggs is $2.29 + tax = $2.44. That breaks down to $.20 per egg. I use one whole egg and one egg white, so 2 eggs is $.40
- Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips – 12 oz bag is $1.99 + tax = $2.12. I use about 1/6 of a bag, so about 2 ounces, which breaks down to about $.26
Grand total for a batch of delicious peanut butter cookies = $3.21 and I usually break that down into 2 gifts of 6 cookies each. Therefore, this present cost me around $1.60 to make, plus my time and love. That is pretty darn good, if you ask me!
Related Read: Want to make a few extra bucks before the holidays? Here are 17 real ways to earn some more spending cash!
The other present that I end up making for about 4-5 months out of the year, because it is in such high demand, is my toffee. This one is also really simple to make, as long as you either have a candy thermometer or you can eyeball it, which I can do because I have done it so many times.
- 1 lb Unsalted Butter
- 2 cups Sugar
- 1 t Salt
- 1/2 cup Water
- 12 ounces Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
- Pink Himalayan Sea Salt to taste
Put everything in a large stock pot and raise to a boil, while continuously stirring. Constantly stir until the candy thermometer reaches 300 or until you see the color turn a darker shade of caramel color extremely quickly. This is the hard crack stage. Quickly pour it onto a large baking pan (I use a half sheet pan) and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Be careful not to burn yourself because this bad boy is HOT! Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly all over the top and let melt for approximately 1 minute. Then spread the chocolate chips out across the top and grind sea salt over the top, where desired.
Put it in the refrigerator for about 2-3 hours. The next part is my daughter’s favorite part to help me with. Slam the pan onto the counter a few times to get the toffee to crack. This is also a great way to relieve holiday stress!
I like to sprinkle salt on a little more than 1/3, put some cayenne pepper on about 1/4 and leave the remaining plain. This way I get 3 different versions out of 1 batch. During the holidays though, adding crushed up candy canes to the top adds that special extra holiday cheer, so get creative with your toppings!
The cost per batch breakdown is as follows:
- Unsalted Butter – 1 lb is $3.99 + tax = $4.26
- Sugar – Previously mentioned at $.12 per ounce @ 16 ounces = $1.92
- Sea Salt Crystals – 3.3 oz is $1.99 + tax = $2.12. There are 16.43 teaspoons in this bottle, therefore the cost is $.13
- Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips – $2.12 per 12 ounce bag
- Pink Himalayan Sea Salt – the same as the sea salt crystals, therefore = $.13
Grand total for the batch of toffee is $8.56. This one is a bit more than the peanut butter cookies, but it yields more. I can usually get at least 6 gifts out of a batch, and still have a little bit left for us to nibble on. Therefore, the total cost per gift runs $1.43!
Since I am saving so much money on the actual gift, it is a really nice touch to go on some place like Amazon and search out cute plastic gift bags with a holiday theme. I like to make sure that I get some ribbon, or even some gift tags to make it even more personalized.
Giving gifts like these not only takes some of the financial pressure off of me but it also feels so much more personal than when I go out and just purchase something, because I am putting my time and skills into the gift. I have been doing this for the past few years now and the recipients of my gifts still get excited about them, so that makes me feel like it is a much better option than the typical body wash, lotion or coffee mug that most people typically give, and it is so much more cost effective.
What are some creative ways that you have cut back on costs with holiday gift giving?
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