Be thoughtful with secondhand gifts
photo by foshie
DEAR SARA: A friend’s birthday is coming soon, and, before I started being frugal, I used to spend about $30 on friends for birthdays. But I need to get that number down now. I was wondering if you have given thrift-store finds as gifts and if there were any negative reactions from it. I think this particular friend wouldn’t mind, because she shops at them and is also thrifty, but I don’t know if it would go over so well with other people I know. Any thoughts on this? Good or bad experiences? — Lisa H., California
DEAR LISA: I’ve given and received secondhand gifts without any bad reactions. It depends on what you’re giving and the person to whom you’re giving the gift. You have to have the same thoughtful consideration when giving gifts, whether they’re secondhand, discounted or expensive. These are your friends. Ask them. It’s also helpful to know if they collect anything. Collectors tend to appreciate older items. Think about it: If you’re buying an older item from a thrift store, estate sale, flea market or antique shop, how would anyone know which place you actually bought the gift or for what price? And if it’s new and still packaged, they wouldn’t know at all. But if you want to be safe, there are plenty of opportunities throughout the year to buy brand-new items on sale or at dollar stores. Or invite them over for lunch, treats and a movie rental. The important thing is to keep in mind their hobbies, interests, needs or wants and not your own. The items you love may not be gifts anyone else would enjoy. Listen for small clues throughout the year, and try to avoid last-minute shopping.
DEAR SARA: I am making cookies, and I would like to freeze some for another day. What is the best way to defrost them, on a rack or plate? Do they go soggy afterward? — Kelz, England
DEAR KELZ: Place them on the counter still wrapped, so a rack or plate is unnecessary. They’ll defrost at room temperature quickly and without getting soggy. When freezing them, make sure that the cookies are cooled, and aim for a single layer or with wax paper between layers to prevent cookies from sticking together. Cookie dough freezes well, too. You can roll it into logs. To make dough logs, place the cookie dough onto wax paper or plastic wrap, roll the dough into a log, twist the ends, and freeze the logs. You can place this in the freezer wrapped with just the wax paper or plastic wrap, or place the wrapped log in a plastic baggie, too. When you’re ready to use the dough, thaw in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Then you can slice and bake. Or use a cookie scoop, or roll the dough into balls and drop the dough onto a wax- or parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. Freeze for about an hour to harden so they hold their shape, then transfer into plastic baggies and freeze. When you’re ready to bake, you can thaw for 30 minutes at room temperature, but you don’t have to thaw them at all before baking.