‘Tis the season for baking, cooking and of course, giving! So this year we decided to combine all three. My wife and I, having started giving out little homemade treats and/or small token Christmas gifts to our friends every year. This year, we decided to give something we’ve used a lot of – our own homemade holiday seasonings – vanilla extract and taco seasoning. Something sweet, something spicy, definitely cheap and extremely easy to make.
I was originally going to make this a recipe post, but rather than reblog what is easily found all across the web, I wanted to speak to the true value of homemade Christmas gift-giving. Because back when I was kid, it was the thing to do. I remember my family getting all sorts of handmade items, from hand-knit Christmas sweaters (remember those) and little booties, hats, scarves, to tree decorations and gift baskets, chock full of baked goods. Somehow over the years, all that tradition seemed to have faded.
But personalized Christmas gifts make a lot of sense for many reasons, some of which are: 1. They’re relatively inexpensive, so make them cheap and cheerful; 2. They’re usually of high quality, yet uniquely personal, and 3. It’s a great thing to do with your kids. I’ll talk a bit to each of these points:
Make it cheap and cheerful
If you’re on a tight budget this year, or you’re a little over on your Christmas shopping, or you’re just out of ideas, consider making your own homemade gifts. Some may question the costs of homemade being cheaper, when you factor in all the ingredients, the pretty little boxes, jars, labels and wrapping, but here’s at least two ways to make yours cheaper:
Give what you use. If you’re looking for things to give this Christmas, think about items you use. That way you’re not only making it for others, you’re making it for yourself too. So it’s time you would’ve spent anyways. I go to my mom’s at least once a week, and once and a while I tell her I’d like to drop by for dessert and she says “well why don’t you stop by for dinner”. My immediate response is always “no I don’t want to put you out” to which she replies “well, I’m already making the pasta, what’s an extra scoop of pasta on the boil”.
Buy in bulk. This goes for the ingredients, as well as the packaging. For our vanilla extract, we did a lot of research on finding great beans, different methods and found a site online that sells good quality beans at pretty low prices. The catch – you’re buying by the pound. But like wine, it gets better with age, so we did, and our batch has made us enough extract to last us at least two years. Same goes for our taco mix – we bought our ingredients in bulk, knowing that it will last us about a year. And luckily for us, we found a neat little place near us that sold the jars wholesale and all the labels we designed ourselves. It’s important to look around. Mainly, you want to stay away from those large craft stores (like Michaels) who have you thinking they have 50% off sales almost every week.
High quality, yet uniquely personal
Pieces of you. One of the best parts about giving homemade, is that they’re a part of you. And you’ll never have to worry that you got someone the same exact gift as someone else. We held a Christmas party a couple years ago and one of our friends brought us their own unique Christmas ornament that’s still hanging, year after year, on our tree. In hindsight, I wish I had asked everyone to bring one Christmas ornament. Hm, maybe it’s time for another Christmas party.
Quality and a sense of pride. When you’re giving someone something homemade, you usually strive to make it really good. There’s pleasure from giving something that YOU made. Before making our vanilla extract, we scoured a lot of different sites, just to get the flavour just right and it was well worth it – it’s really good. If you’ve ever bought vanilla extract from the stores, you know how expensive it can be for such a tiny little bottle. But to make it on your own, it’s incredibly easy, a fraction of the cost and much better tasting than the crap you get in the stores. Even in some of the so-called “Pure” vanilla extracts, we found the first ingredient is water! Making our own wine, same net benefit. In terms of quality, it tastes like a $12 bottle of wine, for the cost of just over $4.
But beyond the savings and being different…
It’s a great thing to do with your kids
If you have children, whether it’s decorations and other crafts or cooking or baking, its important to get your child involved, even at an early age. We got our 1-1/2 year old daughter helping to mold our little cookies. I think it’s so important to get the little ones involved. It helps with their self-confidence and feeling a sense of responsibility and that they can contribute. Not only will they remember and hopefully carry on these traditions and others, but learning new things is all about growing up, isn’t it? And what kid doesn’t like learning new crafty things, anyway? What better way to spend your time during your holidays.
Time is probably one of the main reasons some shy away from gifting homemade Christmas gifts. I’m not going to lie, It can be a lot of work. But it also doesn’t have to be. Like I said, make it something that you use frequently, and that you enjoy doing and it won’t seem like a chore, and voila! you have inexpensive gifts. If you provide some sort of service, even better. Be original, not everything this Christmas, has to come from a store.
Do you make your own homemade Christmas gifts? What sort of gifts have you given/received? If you liked this post, or any other post on my site, please subscribe to my email and you’ll be gifted new posts, whenever they happen, right to your inbox.