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How to Bake Your Way Through the Holidays on a Budget
Baking is not only one of the most delightful and delicious ways to celebrate and fully feel the holidays, it’s also practical and budget-friendly. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on holiday events, plays or fancy parties, try immersing yourself in holiday baking as an alternative. It is not difficult to learn. Plus, baking is fun and creates something delicious to eat or give away.
The first tip to avoid expensive baking extravaganzas is to stick with the basics. Think more along the lines of homemade goodness than pastry chef perfection. Many times scenic decorating increases the cost with equipment and special ingredients. Get rid of those right away to save money. We focus on creating something that looks, tastes and smells like it came straight from grandma’s kitchen.
To start, use what you have in your own kitchen. With a recent move across country I gave away most of my stuff, including my baking and cooking equipment. Armed with cookie sheets, a pastry sheet, a saucepan, a skillet, and my soup pot, I discovered that the large soup pot doubled well as a large mixing bowl. I quickly discovered the difference between wants and needs.
Realizing that I had everything I needed opened my mind to fresh possibilities. Before, I thought with regret about everything I had to give up and leave. There was a sense of longing for what was in the past, when I had no end of various sized bowls, equipment and spices. Then, it occurred to me that this attitude had brought me down. Instead, I needed a new approach: how creative could I be with basic ingredients and supplies? With a Christmas book of 15 holiday baking recipes coming out in a few short months, I needed to finalize the recipes for Chewy Gingerbread, Linda’s Christmas Wreath Sweet Bread, Pumpkin Nut Bread, Willa’s Apple Cookies, and Kaityln’s Favorite Christmas Cookies. I had to wash the dishes a few more times, but I was able to do everything.
For purchases, I stuck with the essential ingredients. This was tough because the home goods and grocery stores are two of my favorite places to shop. I found the tools I needed: a rubber spatula, mixing spoons and a peeler, plus heating pads at a dollar store. Groceries were found at sale prices in stores.
After some research I discovered from America’s Test Kitchen culinary expert Bridget Lancaster that all-purpose flour would work for my bread- with just a slight variation in texture. Since bread flour is more expensive, I chose to go with my favorite flour: unbleached all-purpose flour. I bought from brand name spices and chocolate chips. If I’m doing Rocky Road or Christmas Bark, I’ll buy my favorite chocolate. After all, that is the majority of the taste. But when I tasted semi-sweet chocolate chips in cookies, I don’t taste that much of a difference.
To save a little more money, I scoured the end clearance aisles for any possibilities for discounted items. Sometimes damaged cans, spices and flour are found on the open spaces. Check the date for expirations. If the store wants to give me a discount because the pumpkin is spoiled, I’ll take it!
In the end, the bill for all my baked goods: flour (10 pounds), white sugar (8 pounds), brown sugar (2-16 oz. bags), chocolate chips, apples, baking powder, baking powder, all spice. , raisins, cinnamon, oatmeal, molasses, ginger, salt, unsalted butter (2 pounds), eggs (2 dozen), 29 oz. of pumpkin, walnuts, a rubber spatula, mixing spoons and a peeler was less than $65 ($56.83). I didn’t buy everything at once; the purchases were divided between three trips.
With those ingredients, I baked Willa’s Apple Cookies, Chewy Gingerbread Men Cookies, Linda’s Wreath Bread, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and an Apple Cookie. I think I got a bunch of Snicker doodles in there too. Each batch of cookies made between three to five dozen medium-sized cookies. I will be baking Pumpkin Nut Scones this weekend and will have all the ingredients to do so.
When you factor in the cost of buying ingredients from scratch versus buying ready-made baked goods, the difference is staggering. If you bought cookies at a specialty cookie store, you could easily spend $12 to $15 for a dozen. Pies from a bakery can cost anywhere from $8 to $16. Grocery stores sell pies and cookies at a lower cost, but they still can’t replicate the taste and goodness of homemade goods.
In addition to budget friendly baking, I have total control over what goes into my cookies, cakes and breads. No artificial ingredients, no extra preservatives or “fake” ingredients.
If finances are tight this Christmas, you don’t have to give up baking. Instead, holiday baking is a great way to gather friends and family in the kitchen and have a fabulous afternoon of food fun. Food is the universal relaxer and ice breaker of conversations. Working together in the kitchen to make the food is one step deeper into more intimate relationship building. Something happens when people work together in the kitchen, something wonderful happens as relationships grow and laughter fills the kitchen. People work together. We are forced to share spaces and share a bit of ourselves as personalities emerge through the joy and, let’s be honest, challenge of working together in the kitchen.
Share the season with friends and family in your kitchen. Host a baking party and have fun together.
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