First, a few thoughts - lessons learned the hard way! Don't try to be Martha. She doesn't do it all herself - she has an army of assistants. So, basically, don't go overboard. Everything that will be on our list will be one-day-or-less projects and recipes, many of which you can do with your kids. Spend your time making memories with your family and having fun. Also, don't break the bank. You know the old saying "it's the thought that counts"? It's true. If your budget is small (and whose isn't these days!), don't overextend yourself. Focus on one or two things instead of a sleighful.
So here are some tips and tricks I've learned to help save time and money.
- Buy pre-made sugar cookie dough, especially if you can find it on sale, and use a coupon if possible.
- Also, don't be afraid to use "break and bakes". Sale - coupon!
- Buy cake mix, but only basic varieties (chocolate, white, yellow), and again on sale and coupons if possible.
- DON'T buy lots of fancy flavorings - stick with vanilla and peppermint. I don't even buy almond extract - for one because I don't like it, but also because vanilla works just as well. Again, think sale!
- AFTER Christmas, stock up on Hershey Kisses and other similar treats at a fraction of the cost, then sort them by color and store in your freezer. This is a great game to play with your kids. You can use silver Kisses all year long, red for St. Valentine's Day and the patriotic holidays, green for St. Patrick's Day, and whatever hasn't been used can be set out next Christmas!
Then came the gluten issues...
I don't keep "regular" white flour in my house any more. To replace the amount of flour I would need, just to do my regular amount of baking would be an added expense, and Heaven help us if I tried to use gluten-free flour to do my baking - it runs about 3 times the price per pound! I can buy pre-made dough and cake mixes for pennies on the dollar of what it would probably cost me if I made everything completely from scratch.
Now I listen to Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade - take whatever help you can from the store, and add those little finishing touches that make something "homemade". No one will notice the difference in taste, and you won't go broke or crazy trying to squeeze in all that extra time for baking. You'll see what I mean over the next few weeks.
Can't wait to get started!!!