It used to be that we could navigate the Halloween holiday without having Christmas thrown in our faces, but those days of innocence are gone. A stroll through my local Costco brought me around to the realization that Christmas is only 2 months away. As I navigated the aisles of ribbons, lights, and wrapping paper, my left arm started to numb as pains shot through my chest… the panic set in. What is a single mom on a tight budget to do?
I have plenty of friends and family members that I would like to acknowledge with a heart-felt gift this holiday season. You see, when you’re a single mom, you aren’t really alone. There are people who will help a girl out, if you let them. I want to do something nice for my helpers and supporters but don’t have the unlimited funds of a lottery winner.
Thankfully Pinterest will save me!
This year I’m making gifts and the projects I’ve picked out are amazingly affordable. As in pennies per gift. But these presents don’t come off feeling cheap.
First off, you may remember that I started making my own laundry detergent. I know, I know, it sounds crazy and almost a little “cabin in the woods writing my personal manifesto” insane, but this is one project I think makes the perfect gift. My sister practically gushed when I gave her a jar of home-made laundry detergent. And it works. One tablespoon per load gets things clean. Like Tide level clean.
The nice part of this project is the yield. At the end of the process, I’ll have two quart-sized jars of laundry detergent that I can split up into smaller containers. Slap on a pretty label and some sort of ribbon and there’s one great gift for under $2 for the entire batch. You can find all of the ingredients at Wal-Mart.
Next on the list, something I’ve already got the gear for and have been doing all summer: home-made jelly. This is a little more expensive if you’re starting out from scratch. The canning equipment and jars can make it somewhat expensive, but if you want to make jelly without having to process it for storage, you can make a batch for immediate use with commercially available fruit juice. Just make sure to pick a fruit juice that is 100% juice with no added sugar. A 32oz jar of juice with the associated pectin and sugar will yield about 8 ½-cup jars. Juices I like are anything from R.W. Knudsen Family (Peach/Mango, anyone?) and Welch’s 100% Juices (Blackberry or White Grape Cherry). Knudsen’s will run about $7/bottle and Welch’s I can catch on sale sometimes for $2.50/bottle. Add in the cost of sugar ($2/bag) and Sure-Jell ($3/box) and you’re looking at $12 max for 8 jars of delicious jelly. You can use leftover jars from other foods as long as you’re not processing them in the canner. Again, add a pretty bow and a hand-written label and you’ve got a nice gift idea.
Here’s another sweet idea, especially if you have a bunch of friends who like to bake. Make a home-made batch of vanilla extract. This is a 9 week project but it doesn’t take much effort other than a daily shake of the bottle. There are three basic recipes, the vodka method, the glycerine method, and the water method (this is the one I’m using). Vanilla beans are a bit expensive if you buy them in the store but I found that Beanilla has great prices, especially if you can split a larger order with a friend (I just completed my first order with Beanilla and I can attest for their fast fulfillment and free shipping!) Hit up the craft store for cute little bottles or jars and you’re good to go. The flavor is supposedly richer than store-bought vanilla extract. I’m still soaking my beans so I can’t comment at this time.
As you can tell, food is a major theme on this post. I also found some fun items over on The 36th Avenue. This jersey knit bracelet is especially cute and I might have to crank out a few of them for all of the teen girls in my family. Use that 50% off coupon from JoAnn Fabrics to really cut down on the cost.
More to come!