Mothering's "Frugal Holiday Gift Ideas" Contest - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 70 Old 11-11-2009, 05:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Please Enter Mothering's "Frugal Holiday Gift Ideas" Contest

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Mothering is on the lookout for some frugal and unique gift ideas and tips to share about how our own natural living families plan to inexpensively spread holiday cheer via frugal gift giving. Mothering plans to run an upcoming online article and would like to include your inexpensive gift-giving ideas, and we thought "who better than our MDC members to share their frugal wisdom?"

How the contest works:
1. Make sure you're a registered member of MDC so you can post to enter. Registration is free and open to anyone 18 years and older.

2. Post your 75-150 word tip as a reply to this message by Wednesday, November 18th. Your tip can focus on frugal holiday gift ideas, preparation, presentation, shopping, etc. and should come from your own experiences. No external websites will be linked to and if outside references are needed they must be properly cited. We prefer easy and economical tips anyone can use that focus on natural family living and are safe for everyone in the household. One entry post per member, please.

3. On November 23rd, 10 winners will be chosen from the entries posted to receive a complimentary one year MDC Supporting Membership III which includes gift subscription to Mothering Magazine (in both print and digital format) and the publication of their tip in a upcoming online mothering.com article.

Please note that this thread is for tips and ideas only and is not for discussion posting so please do not reply to this thread with questions or responses to other's ideas/tips. Questions regarding the contest may be submitted to me via PM or submitted via email: administrator {at} mothering.com. All winners will be announced on the boards on Monday, November 23rd and will be notified by PM. Published tips will be edited for length and clarity.

We look forward to your frugal holiday gift ideas and good luck!

I have retired from administration work, so if you have a question about anything MDC-related, please contact Cynthia Mosher. Thanks!
 
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#2 of 70 Old 11-11-2009, 06:39 PM
 
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This is a frugal gift idea for anyone; adults or children. My suggestion is to create your own book. The pages can be made out regular paper, poster board, or recycled materials such as cardboard. If using a thick material such as cardboard, I recommend taping the pages together with clear packaging tape. The book can include pictures of you and the person to whom you are giving the book as a gift. You can draw your own pictures, cut out pictures from magazines and print your own pictures from the world wide web to include in the book. Some ideas for written content in the book can include captions, inspirational quotes, jokes, interesting facts, poetry, or a creative story. You may want to type the written content on to the computer and print out the pages in sections, or you can write directly on the book's pages.

Traditional & nutrient-dense foods/Weston A. Price Foundation advocate, Reiki II practitioner, EFT practitioner, past life & life between lives Hypnotherapist practitioner. Home birth with DD 2007 = never vaccinated, breastfed 3 years

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#3 of 70 Old 11-11-2009, 07:21 PM
 
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My frugal gift idea this season is to make recipe card boxes out of wood, actually my husband will be doing that part . Then I am going to decoupage them and fill them with recipe cards that have favorite recipes from family and friends and myself. I sent out an email several months ago asking for specific recipes that I love from specific people and then for everyone's fave recipe. I am printing out home-designed recipe cards on my printer, but you could easily just use lined or unlined index cards and embellish them with stamps, stickers, markers etc. I'll be adding several blank cards(embellished but no recipe) for future use, too.
I have been saving brown paper sacks from WF to use as wrapping. I'll just turn them inside out, stamp them with a stamp I made out of linoleum with stars on it(which I plan to use forever, kind of a personal wrapping paper idea) and then tie some braided yarn around et voila!





Thats all I got!

This is a fun contest!
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#4 of 70 Old 11-11-2009, 07:48 PM
 
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This idea is both green & frugal!

Are you tired of spending good money on wrapping paper that is promptly ripped to shreds and discarded for garbage? Did you ever wonder what to do with the wonderful art your kids create throughout the year? Don't agonize over throwing away your little Picasso's creations. Use them to gift wrap!

If you know anyone who works for a design firm, print shop, or construction - you would be surprised by the amount of large format waste paper created daily. Contact your friend and see if you could lighten their trash load by having a few of their large "oops!" papers. Most will happily help you with your project - remember, it costs them to recycle, you're saving them money!

Your family will be delighted to receive their gift wrapped in a work of art - many were saved to hang on refrigerators. Two gifts in one!

This part puts me over the 150 limit, but if you have room:

This year we're taking it another step and DS is also painting little wooden shapes (stars & trees for about 10 cents each) that we are going to use as gift tags that can then be used as an ornament.
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#5 of 70 Old 11-11-2009, 08:57 PM
 
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This year our family is making homemade organic jams and pear butter with fruit from our garden, as well as chocolates with nuts from our hazelnut and walnut trees. We will put them in a recycled gift basket with recycled ribbons (left overs from previous holidays or bought from the thrift store).

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#6 of 70 Old 11-11-2009, 10:16 PM
 
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A green, homemade cleaning kit, complete with handknit dish rags, phosphate-free dishsoap, castile soap, one or two essential oils, a couple of empty spray bottles and a repurposed ketchup squirt bottle. I also include printed recipe cards for an all-purpose cleaner, non-abrasive scrub, glass cleaner, and floor wash.

I like the idea that I am giving something lovingly handmade that provides its recipient with an environmentally friendly alternative to harsh, toxic chemicals. It also is a gift that keeps giving: a new, safe and frugal way to clean their family's home.

If selected, I just wanted to share that I originally got this idea from another MDC mama, but I can't remember who. She called hers a Happy Hippie Cleaning Kit.

Happy wife to DH superhero.gifand mama to DS signcirc1.gif11/05 and DD energy.gif8/07.
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#7 of 70 Old 11-11-2009, 10:34 PM
 
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This year I am making my kids unique, warm UPCYCLED wool sweaters and pants! These "warm woolies" are perfect for playing outside on cold days. They are cute too and the boys (at least at 1, 2 and 5!) always love wearing things handmade by mom.

Here's how to do it:
1. Clean out your closet or go to goodwill to find wool (100% cashmere, merino or lambswool) sweaters. The sweaters do not have to be in perfect condition, but pick sweaters in colors or patterns you like.
2. Toss the sweaters in the washing machine for a hot wash followed by a cold rinse. Lay flat to dry. This will shrink and "felt" the sweaters.
3. This is where the fun begins. Using a pattern for a kid's t-shirt or pants (I love the patterns from Ottobre), imagine how you can recreate the sweater. For example, ribbing can become a waistband for pants or the sleeves can become leg warmers. Make a smaller version of the sweater you are cutting up, or change it completely to make a dress or pants.
4. Cut out your pieces and sew toegether. For stretchier wool, like cashmere, it is best to use a serger. For thick, felted lambswool, you can sew with a straight stitch on a sewing machine.
5. Add unique details! Buttons, felted flowers, mittens sewed on the front of a sweater or shapes on the pants...

Wear your woolies often and wash gently (cold cycle with wool-friendly soap, lay flat to dry).
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#8 of 70 Old 11-11-2009, 11:43 PM
 
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If you are a sewer or crafter of any sorts, make a committment to only use what you already have to make gifts. This is not only a frugal way to do the holidays, but it can really help bring out your creativity. This year I have been able to make my children a doorway puppet theatre out of leftover fabric. For my husband I made a flannel rag quilt. The quilt is patches of leftover flannel, the inside batting is an old quilt that is really past looking pretty, and the backside is yards of flannel I got for another project that I never ended up making. Total cost was $5..for a whole quilt that is fantastic! I am also making simple, but cute and very effective potholders using leftover yarn. And I just went through my CD's and ended up with a good many that I was going to throw away. Instead I am turning them into snowman ornaments by adding a lid from any old jar lying around, which will make the head to add onto the CD body. Then I'm painting them white (paint I already have), adding a carrot (leftover craft foam) and some embellishments from stuff I already have; like pipecleaners for arms and legs. These will make great gifts for anyone, including nieghbors and one for our own tree. Using what you have requires for you to get even more creative, is very frugal and definitely green! And whatever I can have the children involved with is always a bonus!

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#9 of 70 Old 11-11-2009, 11:55 PM
 
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Our frugal gift-giving involves cooking. For family and friends who live nearby, I like to give a notecard that entitles the recipient to a homemade dinner in January or February. When the time comes around, I use their taste preferences to make them a soup in the crockpot and a homemade loaf of bread in our breadmachine. Many of the family members get a huge batch of a bean and veggie soup and a loaf of rustic country bread. Easy, yummy, and soul-satisfying!
~maddymama
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#10 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 06:42 AM
 
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We are planning to make toy swords using 3/8" plywood and a jigsaw to give as holiday gifts to some of my kids' cousins & friends. A full sheet of plywood = ~$10 (although you might have or be able to scrounge scraps as well), the jigsaw could be borrowed from a friend or relative if you don't have one, and you probably have some sandpaper sitting around. Paint is optional. Make sure to check with the giftees' parents about family rules re:toy weapons before giving! If you have scraps of fabric, making cloth sheaths for your gifts is a nice touch and very easy - just trace around the "blade" and sew two pieces of heavy fabric together on three sides - hem or zig-zag the top opening and attach a long ribbon or strip of cloth for a belt or strap.

Here as mama to W (2/04), R (5/06), D (7/09), and J (12/9/12!), co-parenting with my DH

I WOH part-time, am a doula & childbirth educator, home/unschool, and hope we are nearing the center of chaos


 
  

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#11 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 08:32 AM
 
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Money will be extremely tight this year for our family of 6, so I have to be very creative. Starting after Thanksgiving, I will be wrapping items for a special activity. We will have at least 5 boxes (one for each child to open). Examples include.. baking day box with all the supplies for cookies including special sprinkles (most of which I have already), a holiday movie, hot chocolate and popcorn (movie borrowed from library), a craft supply box and holiday craft book (we already have), and a fondue kit (found at goodwill for $3) and all the goodies to go with it. I'll be shopping at goodwill and coming up with more ideas as I go so the time leading up to the holiday will be speical this year.

Debbie P.
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#12 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 10:11 AM
 
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Another wrapping paper idea:
We went to our local newspaper office and asked if they had any of their roll ends left. They usually charge the general public for them, but not educators. We are homeschoolers so they gave it to us for free. It had paper at least six inches thick left on the roll. We are going to be decorating it with potato stamps and markers and wrapping our gifts with it this year. Also, instead of buying bows, I am using yarn and strips of fabric to decorate the packages with too.
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#13 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 10:32 AM
 
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Every year on Christmas eve, I make my grandmother's recpie for rasin bread - about 12 loaves & give one to everyone in the family. My grandmother passed away over 15 years ago so this is such a special treat - plus its a fun tradition knowing that we will be baking with the family every christmas eve! Another idea: I have made cloth gift wrap bags with drawstrings - they can be used year after year and are such a time saver, no tape or waste. Plus the festive holiday prints look so pretty under the tree!

Mama to Jocelyn 3/04-5/04, Lucy 3/05, Nate 1/07, Tessa 5/09 , due 12/2011!!!

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#14 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 11:24 AM
 
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Last year I wanted to green our Christmas wrapping- so I saved empty food canisters, like those that oatmeal and breadcrumbs come in. I then glued scrapbook papers or wrapping paper around the canister. Pop in the gift, and add the lid- some lids needed decorating, so I glued on a circle of paper, others were left as is. Voila, a lovely reusable container to give your gift in.

Laura, Mama to Mya 7/02, Ian 6/07 and Anna 8/09
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#15 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 12:01 PM
 
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This year I'm going the homemade route. I've got an absolutely delicious recipe for cranberry sauce (I'd be happy to share.) Its a snap to make and very inexpensive. Then I buy a set of mason jars and fill them up with the sauce and print out sticky labels to put on them. Finally I use a little leftover fabric to cover the top and a piece of raffia or ribbon to hold the fabric on. I've also been known to attach an index card with the recipe onto the jar so it becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

I like to couple this gift with a loaf of homemade bread. Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day has a wonderful recipe which is quick, cheap, and comes out delicious. I'm sure my friends will love receiving a homemade gift.

Cindy + DH Paul = DS1 (4/26/06), DS2 (11/30/07), DD (12/20/10) & surprise 4th edition coming in April 2014.

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#16 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 12:34 PM
 
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my frugal idea:

I'm drawing a coloring book for my daughter. It is full of pictures of things we find on our nature walks, and little bits of information about them. I do have some fancy software for putting it all together and printing, but you certainly don't have to. To make a half page size book, you simply draw pictures on half a sheet of paper. Then trace over them with a permanent marker and erase the pencil marks. You can cut and rearrange them if you need to, then take it all to your local library or copy place to photocopy and print front and back. Stack and assemble with a stapler.

If you don't draw, you can go to etsy and search for coloring books. Printable versions are cheaper, and you can download and print them almost immediately, plus it supports handmade artists.

Mama to two little ones,

& one in heaven

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#17 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 01:31 PM
 
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My four year old son just figured out how to dial phone numbers independently (read, follow along, and copy into action), and he is so proud. I am making him his very own "phonebook" with numbers of his friends and family in the local area. I hope I don't regret this, as I am not sure he'll know what to say once he calls LOL.

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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#18 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 01:34 PM
 
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I am also going to make both my kids lowercase letter-writing practice books, similar to the commercial Kumon lowercase letter "write-and-wipe cards" in terms of how the letters are written, but probably in the form of their names, commonly used words, etc....with illustrations.

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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#19 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 01:39 PM
 
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Finally, I am thinking about making the kids (ages 3 and 4) some personalized stationary with my own minimal-artistic abilities and/or a few artsy rubberstamps I have. If I can pull together a little money for mailing label paper and stamps, I'll write up mailing labels (one half sheet for each potential "pen pal"/important person in their lives) and postage stamps.

At this age, they love their newfound abilities to communicate to others outside the family fairly independently.

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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#20 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 01:42 PM
 
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I just thought of one more thing I can do. Lately, my kids have been dictating stories to me that I write down for them. I might collage together images to go with the stories and turn a couple of their stories into illustrated "books." I am pretty sure contact paper is available periodically at the dollar store, and with cardboard backing, and ribbon to bind it together, it should be good to go. To this day I still have some books my mom made for me from my stories as a kid.

I'm pro-adoption reform, but not anti-adoption.
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#21 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 02:38 PM
 
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I've noticed that the two most common spots for excessive wear in t-shirts is the seam around the collar and the seam under the arm. Fortunately, this project is perfect for shirts like this.

Whenever I visit my local thrift store, I keep my eye out for unusual t-shirts. I also stash away ones that my family wears out. I turn them into simple reusable bags. Once I had plenty for myself, I got the idea to make them for the people on my holiday list.

Simply stitch the bottom of the shirt closed. Then cut off the sleeves along the seam. Fold in half sleeve to sleeve. Cut widely around the collar. Open the bag to see if the hole is big enough. You can roll back the raw edges to make a neat hem, but it isn't necessary since the knit won't fray.

Pattern adapted from Martha Stewart's website.
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#22 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 03:25 PM
 
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My 150 word submission:
My extended family does an ornament exchange - each person brings a wrapped ornament, everyone draws numbers to see who picks first, and then the subsequent gift choosers can take from the wrapped pile or one of the ornaments already opened. We make up our own rules about how many times and ornament can change hands, etc. Each family begins to jockey for the coveted ornaments, using the picks of mom & dad to secure the ornament their child wants. It's become sort of a contest as to who can bring the most popular ornament to the exchange. We also get a good laugh out of the "ugly" ornaments people bring. Another variation with the same rules- "white elephant" gift exchange - The rule was you had to bring something that was in your house, new or gently used, and you were not allowed to spend any money.


What I've learned:

From the white elephant family gathering. It's amazing what people want that you had considered clutter. Our red leather dice coaster set (wedding gift) was snatched up by my cousin who thought they'd be great for teaching her daughter to count. I would have never in a million years thought of that - granted it was before kids. Another cousin brought a small kaleidoscope that he was given by a client as a promotional item. This was popular with everyone and my grandmother ended up with it. We brought home a DVD of Schoolhouse Rock. My husband felt all nostalgic and had to have it. And the funniest gift was the "Gots'ta Party" jello shot drink mix set - my uncle had assisted the inventor in securing a trademark or some such legal advice and as a thank you the inventor gave him 20 or so boxes of the jello shot kit. That was snatched right up by my college aged brother! I do have one Aunt who can't seem to get on board and always brings a small food item for everyone, jar of homemade jam, prahlines, etc.

The lesson we've learned through this is that it is fun to be together and the holidays don't have to revolve around each person buying a gift for everyone or the stress that goes along with it.
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#23 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 03:41 PM
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I bought unpainted wooden ornaments & mini picture frames on clearance last Frberuary for 10 cents each. On a rainy summer day, I covered the kitchen floor with newsprint, got out the paint and set my kids (ages 2 & 8) to work. We will be giving hand-painted ornaments and picture frames (with adorable photos) to all of our extended family members this year.

"Isn't life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?" - Andy Warhol
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#24 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 04:40 PM
 
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I made a dozen presents for practically nothing by creating scented drink coasters. Use scrap fabric and cut out squares. Stitch most of the way around and fill with uncooked rice that has been tossed with a few drops of any essential oil. Stitch up and tie a couple with a bit of ribbon. A warm drink on them will release the scent. But the real gift is a handwritten letter to go with it, sharing appreciation for having this person in my life and how much I love them.

Mama to DD (06/30/07).
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#25 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 04:50 PM
 
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For my friends and family who like to cook, I am making up jars of dried organic herbs from our garden such as parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage and even dried hot peppers. Even in cold climates you may still be able to do this now in time for the holidays, since many perennial herbs stay green year-round. I simply cut bouquets of herbs, wash them gently, and hang them to dry in a warm, dark place. When they are fully dry, I will crumble them up over a large container, pick out any sticks or stems, and fill up small spice jars. I have been hoarding and washing jars all year to re-purpose for this project. As a finishing touch I'll print decorative labels on the computer for each one.
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#26 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 05:20 PM
 
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My frugal gifts this year include:

apple peel jelly-we went apple picking and with apples that we're going soft I made apple sauce for the kids. Ds doesn't like the color when you make it w the peels, so I saved the peels/cores and made jelly. So for the price of jars(which I always get back) sugar and a package of pictin I made 6 gifts each costing less then 50 cents each

I also pickled green cherry tomatoes from the garden w garlic/chilis/thyme all freshly picked and again only cost me the price of jars and vinegar

Instead of making a jack o lantern w our pumpkin I just set it out and then after halloween I cut and steamed it making pumpkin puree which I've froze until closer to Christmas and I'm going to make pumpkin muffins...which are beyond yummy!

I also knit all my gifts using yarn/wool I buy at thrift stores or that I have in my stash. I look for patterns that work w the amount of yarn I have.

I buy reusable grocery bags for gift wrap, they are usually a $1.00 a bag,which is how much "gift bags" cost BUT everyone can always use more grocery bags

mommy daddy son daughter = our family
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#27 of 70 Old 11-12-2009, 10:21 PM
 
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I have a great pancake mix from www.allrecipes.com that I use all the time. I plan on making a large batch and putting it in a mason jar. Then I will give the recipe on how to make the pancakes, along with a jar of local maple syrup. I will probably get a large jar of syrup, and then divide it up into smaller jars myself (other people's babyfood jars work great!) I also make jam in those jars and will be giving those away.

April. Homeschooling mama who is living for balance in life.

 

~Live simply...so others may simply live.~

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#28 of 70 Old 11-13-2009, 10:52 AM
 
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Frugal gift idea: dress up box! I am making a box of dress up stuff for my daughter. I have picked up various items at yard sales and consignment stores/sales. Plus I went through my closet at my parents' house and found some fun stuff to add. I'm planning on covering a big box with fun fabric for storage!
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#29 of 70 Old 11-13-2009, 08:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi

Please keep the great ideas coming! I wanted to remind everyone that we aren't hosting discussion posting in this particular thread, thanks!

I have retired from administration work, so if you have a question about anything MDC-related, please contact Cynthia Mosher. Thanks!
 
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#30 of 70 Old 11-13-2009, 09:23 PM
 
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I make frozen cookie dough for extended family for Christmas. I tailor the recipes to the family; BIL is allergic to nuts so I can make a nut free cookie dough mix for him or use old family recipes.

I make the recipe, chill the dough, and cut into cookie size pieces. I put wax paper between the layers and freeze them.

I use re purposed tupperware, plastic containers, metal coffee cans with lids, or reused cookie tins. I cover the coffee cans and plastic containers with old brown paper bags decorated by my son with markers, Christmas stamps or stickers.

I put the frozen dough in a large plastic bag and put it in the container with instructions and use by date. Most cookie dough is good frozen for 6 to 8 weeks. Most people have tons of cookies in late December, but in February
in the frozen Northeast, freshly baked cookies are heaven.
The cost in minimal, about two dollars per batch and the cost is about $30 for my large extended family. It's one present everyone seems to like.

For my son, I found several old Calvin and Hobbes books at the Goodwill. He will be seriously excited about this, he's seven and learning to read.
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