My personal holiday gifting is a mix of year round planning and last minute scramble. I prepare homemade jams, jellies and other treats in season throughout the year that can be put together in gift baskets. I also keep an eye out for items at thrift stores and garage sales that I know would be “just perfect” for someone on my holiday list. For several years now I have made personalized family calendars for my immediate family, showing birthdays and anniversaries with photo collages each month that include the persons featured in that month. New pictures are taken over the course of the year and mixed with older family photos. Copies of the calendar inevitably get made right before I visit home. This is my special gift to my siblings and my mom and stepdad. No mall time and very little gas money required.
On the home stretch towards Christmas, the gift baskets get assembled, cookies and other holiday treats get made, and we try to make time to help out friends and family and others in need. I do purchase some things new, but often gently used items or handmade items will serve just as well. I know I was absolutely tickled when my neighbor Betty brought over some extra home-rendered lard. And what more precious gift can you give than your time? Almost all of us know someone in our lives who could use a helping hand.
When it comes to wrapping, greener options can also be more frugal options. I regularly use (and reuse) gift bags, comic strips, and little boy artwork. Fabric gift bags are easy to sew or can be purchased from a variety of sources. You could even repurpose a pretty old pillowcase or sheet for a larger gift. Get creative and think outside the big box store.
Gift Wrap Alternatives — Ideas for earth friendly gift wrapping
DIY Eco Christmas Gifts from A -Z — HUGE article with tons of ideas (and recipes) for those with a little time or a lot.
Common Sense Home Recipes
Coconut macaroons are some of my favorite holiday cookies. I’ve included two versions here, one that’s more traditional with sugar, and one that uses honey. I use unsweetened organic coconut, which has a much richer coconut flavor than the presweetened varieties (extra yummy).
Almond Coconut Macaroons
From Recipe Zaar
1 (8 ounce) can almond paste*
2 egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup toasted coconut, Unsweetened
18 maraschino cherries
Preheat Oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Pat the cherries with paper towels to remove excess syrup, and cut in half. Toasting Coconut: Heat up a non-stick 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat, spread coconut evenly in pan, and stirring constantly, watch as they start to turn golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.
Break almond paste into small pieces and place in medium-size bowl. Add sugar and mix with almond paste until evenly distributed. I find a pastry cutter works really well for this. Add egg whites and mix well. You can use a fork for this. Mix in coconut until evenly distributed. Drop almond mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls onto lined baking sheets about one inch apart. Press cherry half gently into middle of cookie. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Check after 15 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheet on wire racks. Peel macaroons off parchment paper when completely cool. Store in an airtight container.
*Note: Do not use almond paste from a tube — most brands contain sugar.
From Tropical Traditions
1 cup coconut flakes
2 Tbsp. warm water
1 whole egg
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. coconut oil (for greasing the cookie sheet)
Mix warm water and honey together. Add the coconut flakes. Beat in the egg. Mix thoroughly. Form into ball and drop it by spoonful on the well greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degree Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes.
Approximate yield: 1 dozen
Oatmeal Fruit Cookie Mix in a Jar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup golden raisins
2/3 cup flaked coconut
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix the flour, baking soda and salt together.
Starting with the brown sugar layer the ingredients in a 1 liter sized glass jar in the order given. Ending with the flour mixture.
Attach a card with the following directions:
Oatmeal Fruit Cookies
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line one baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Empty the contents of the jar into a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon blend the mixture until well combined.
3. Using your hands work in 1/2 cup softened butter or margarine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
4. Beat 1 egg with 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup milk. Still using your hands or a wooden spoon blend the egg mixture into the dough until well combined.
5. Drop teaspoon sized mounds 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 to 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Place cookies on a rack to finish cooling. Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.