Giving homemade gifts is a good way to save money during the holiday season because you can give a special and elegant homemade gift for a fraction of what you would have paid retail for a similar item. If you think that you don’t have the talent or are not “crafty” enough, read on and you will see that it is possible for you (yes, even you!) to create your own homemade Christmas gifts!
Homemade food gifts
Some of the best gifts are homemade food gifts! Everyone likes food, so get your appetite ready and whip up something delicious to delight your friends and family!
* Colorful Holiday snack mix: In a large bowl combine red and green M&Ms, raisins, butterscotch chips, mini twist pretzels, Golden Grahams cereal, and dry roasted peanuts. Mix thoroughly and put into clear jars. Cover the tops of the jars with pretty fabric and secure by tying a ribbon around the top. This is a Christmas gift idea that is especially well-suited for the kids’ teachers and casual acquaintances.
* Nut bark: Making homemade nut bark is easy and makes an impressive gift. Use one kind of nut, or a mixture. Mix 12 ounces of semi-sweet or white chocolate and spread it evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with 2 1/2 cup of nuts and chill until firm. Break into pieces.
* Biscotti: Biscotti is hard Italian cookie. When you make your own biscotti, you will have a delightfully elegant gift that is sure to impress even the gourmet on your list. It is also a very crisp cookie which makes it stay fresh much longer than softer varieties, so you are not rushing around as much at the last minute. Put them in a pretty jar tied with a ribbon, or in a tin or include in a homemade gift basket.
* Infused Vodka All you need to make your own fancy infused vodka is: a bottle of vodka; glass bottles with tight seals; and flavorings such as halved and seeded jalapenos, vanilla beans, or cherries. Divide the vodka and flavorings between the bottles and refrigerate 3 to 7 days. Remove the flavorings and keep refrigerated for up to two months.
* Candied Nuts This sweet treat is easy to make, but so impressive looking that no one but you will know how easy they are! Toast 2 cups of mixed nuts on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for 6 – 8 minutes until fragrant – do not burn! In a skillet mix 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt and 2 Tbsp. water. Simmer this mixture and occasionally swirl the pan until the liquid is amber colored – about 12 to 15 minutes (do not stir the mixture – this will cause it to crystallize).
Stir in the nuts and spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper – let cool.
* Stuffed Fruits Delicious as candy and full of all the good nutrients of fruit and nuts AND it is quick and easy to make! Stuff dried seedless prunes with walnut halves and seeded dates with whole almonds. Arrange on a plate or in a pretty tin lined with waxed paper.
* Cocoa Mix: Cocoa mix is a homemade food gift that is a welcome treat for kids and adults of all ages! Create a homemade gift basket with cocoa mix and a pretty mug, or simply tie a festive ribbon around the container.
Packaging tips for homemade food gifts:
* Over-sized coffee mugs make good reusable containers for food gifts. Fill to a bit overflowing and place the filled cup on the center of a large piece of colored cellophane, gather the ends at the top and secure with a ribbon.
* Baskets are always a favorite, and can be decorated with paint or lined with a pretty napkin – paper or cloth.
* Pick up orphan plates and platters at yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, or store bargain bins to use for giving cookies and cakes. Cover them with plastic wrap, foil, or cellophane.
* Save empty potato chip cans (such as Pringles and Stax). Wash insides and let them dry thoroughly. Use decorative contact paper or glue on gift-wrapping paper to cover the outside of the can and stack cookies or fill with spiced nuts or candies; seal and top with a fancy bow.
More homemade Christmas gifts
Teacup Candles: * If you have (or can find) mismatched or odd teacups (or small cream pitchers or sugar bowls), you can make easy homemade candles tailored to your recipients tastes and decor. Flea markets, garage sales or your grandma’s cupboards are great places to look for odd but pretty teacups.
* Decoupage Trinket Box You can buy inexpensive boxes made of lightweight wood or heavy cardboard and easily transform them into attractive trinket boxes. This is an excellent Christmas gift idea for kids who want to make their own homemade Christmas gifts. The boxes can be covered with fabric or decorated with stickers, cut outs from magazines or photographs and covered with Mod Podge (available at craft stores).
* Tile Trivets Find some beautiful tiles at your local home-improvement store. Look for clearance-priced tiles (left overs that are not enough for a large job) and you can get them at a greatly reduced price. Attach a layer of felt to the back of each tile (at least 6 by 6 works best) to create a useful trivet and a lovely homemade gift!
* Cork Trivet If you have a bunch of corks that you have saved from wine bottles, you can make a cork trivet. If not, you might be able to get some from a bar.
1. Find a picture frame that’s large enough for your project. You can use a frame you have or get an inexpensive wooden one at the dollar store or a yard sale. It needs to be as deep as the corks are wide so they will fit inside it.
2. Remove the glass and any wire or brackets from the frame.
3. Put a piece of heavy cardboard on the back of the frame and glue it into place.
4. Arrange corks inside the frame – move them around until you come up with an interesting design that you like. You can put a champagne cork upright for a different look (you will probably have to cut some off of the bottom of it so it won’t be too tall.)
5. Once you are happy with your design, glue the corks in place using the hot glue gun.
* Herbs in a Cup Buy vintage floral pattern teacups at secondhand stores and plant chives, oregano, rosemary, or basil in them. Decorate with a bit of ribbon and a card describing how to care for the plant.
Homemade gift baskets
* Favorite recipe: For someone who is a particular fan of one of your recipes (or a dish served at a local restaurant) – print the recipe, purchase all the ingredients, and package it all together in a basket. Include a wooden spoon or nice new dish towel for an added touch.
* Movie time: For the movie lover, create a basket with a coupon for movie rentals or a movie or two on DVD. Add either homemade pre-popped and seasoned popcorn, a package of microwave popcorn, or other crunchy movie-time snack. For additional items, think of things you would want when watching a movie at home – drink coasters? a bottle of gourmet root beer or other beverage? Be creative!
* Car care bucket: Buy a plastic bucket and fill with chamois, car wax and car soap. If you want to add something more, what about a car accessory such as a CD case, steering wheel cover, or cup holder?
* Beauty Gift Basket Use a cosmetic organizer or a basket to create a beauty-themed gift basket for the teenage girls on your gift list. Include any type of makeup, nail or hair care products, and/or
lotions. Add cotton balls, q-tips, emery boards, tweezers, and a beauty book or issue of a magazine related to beauty or hair care.
* Cocktails Gift Bucket Use an ice bucket as a unique vessel for this gift. Fill it with the recipient’s favorite spirits and mixers. Ideas for additional items include: coasters, fun cocktail napkins,
swizzle sticks, shot glasses, bottle pourers, bottle opener, cocktail strainer, or a jar of cherries or olives.