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Easy homemade-gift ideas

By on November 14, 2008

spiced nuts
photo by chotda

The holidays are almost here. Many people could kick themselves for not setting aside money. Again. Not to mention the long list of people to which they “need” to give gifts. More people are making homemade gifts this year. Many of my frugal readers share their anxiety over whether their homemade gifts will be well received. Here are a few ideas for gifts you can make that will be appreciated, and they can be made ahead.

Spiced Nuts

3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 egg white, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup pecans, halves
1/2 cups whole almonds
1 cup walnuts
1 cup cashews

Preheat oven to 250 F. In a large bowl, mix together everything but nuts. Stir in the nuts until coated. Place parchment paper on cookie sheet or grease cookie sheet. Spread nuts evenly on cookie sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread out on waxed paper to cool and dry. Store in an airtight container. Give as a gift in mason jar or a tin. — Loretta H., Indiana

Potpourri Soap

3 bars of facial soap (4 cups of grated flakes)
4 teaspoons water
4 teaspoons glycerin
3 drops soap colorant, powdered or liquid
5 drops essential oil
1 cup herbs such as rosemary, chamomile, peppermint, sage, small pulverized pieces

Using a box-style grater, grate the bars of soap using the side of the grater with the largest holes. Place soap flakes into a microwave-safe bowl. Add the water, glycerin, food coloring and essential oil to the grated soap. Microwave the mixture on medium until the mixture begins to foam and bubble. Remove the bowl from the microwave, and stir the mixture until it’s smooth like frosting. You can add more water and microwave it more if the consistency is too dry. Sprinkle potpourri onto a cookie sheet. Transfer the soap mixture onto the baking sheet. Mold soap and potpourri together into small soap balls. Let them dry for four days. Wrap them in cellophane bags, mason jars or in a small box lined with tissue paper. Makes eight soap balls. — Sandy, New York

Lemonade Syrup

juice of 6 large lemons
grated rind of 3 lemons
4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon citric acid
2 teaspoons Epsom salts
1 quart boiling water

Juice and grate zest of lemons, strain juice, and add remaining ingredients. Stir until dissolved. Let set for a few hours before pouring into bottles. Refrigerate. Serving suggestions: 1 to 2 tablespoons per glass, topped with chilled water or soda. — T. Bell, Chicago

Peanut-Butter Balls

2 cups peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1 pound powdered sugar
paraffin wax
1 (12-ounce) package milk-chocolate chips

Mix peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar together. Roll into small balls, and chill. Grate 1/4 block paraffin wax. (While wax might seem like a strange addition, these Peanut-Butter Balls will taste fine.) Melt chocolate chips and grated paraffin together in microwave for 1 minute. Stir. Continue microwaving until completely melted, making sure to check every 20 seconds, or melt in a double boiler. Using a toothpick, dip balls into chocolate mixture. Place on wax paper to cool. Keep in fridge in covered container. Optional: Use crunchy peanut butter and/or drizzle second type of chocolate on top (white or semisweet chocolate). — Kimberly, New York

Here’s some additional Christmas gift ideas on a budget

Even more homemade gift ideas can be found on the forums:


  1. Kim

    11/23/2008 at 11:16 pm

    Chocolate covered pretzels make great easy gift.
    all you need is almond bark and a bag of pretzels.

    You can also make peanut butter and ritz cracker sandwiches and dip those in chocolate too.

  2. Arlene

    11/30/2008 at 10:10 am

    Love the ideas here. Don’t forget easy homemade microwave fudge.

  3. Ira Mann

    10/14/2009 at 3:03 pm

    These are wonderful ideas. I have been baking cookies for years. My childred would rather have pies, I think I will try your ideas. Thanks.

  4. Hedva

    11/15/2011 at 3:59 am

    These are great ideas.

    How about using personalized stamps on the soaps (and on cookies – put your initials or some other signature – this will make your cookies look like gourmet cookies).

    For gifts in a jar – make homemade private label stickers – “From the kitchen of..”, “Happy Holidays from the …”

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