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Coupon Lady: Turn to your stockpile for some creative Christmas gifts

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Christmas is almost here. I haven’t felt like doing a lot of shopping, so I find myself turning to my stockpile for some great Christmas presents.

Food gifts are great in a pinch. My favorite food gifts are layered jars.

You will need a few non-food items to make this gift: quart-sized wide-mouth jars, a half yard of Christmas fabric and some raffia or ribbon bought at the dollar stores or fabric stores. You will also need some kind of decorative label, which can be made on a home printer with basic cardstock. These items can all be bought with coupons or found in dollar stores.

Once you have those items, then you need to decide what to put into your jar. My first simple recipe is for Christmas Brownies.

Brownie mixes can be often bought for less than 50 cents after coupons and sales. This recipe requires a box of brownie mix and a bag of Christmas M&M’s. My first step is to put half of the brownie mix in the jar and then add about ½ cup of red and green M&M’s. Gently tap the glass until all the airspace has been removed. Once the M&M’s have settled, add the other half of the brownie mix. Then add M&M’s to fill the top as space allows, no more than ½ cup. You can reduce the amount of M&M’s and add nuts or chocolate chips in the top of the jar if you prefer.

The directions for making the brownies and other ingredients that need to be put onto the label can be copied from the back of the box of the brownie mix.

My second recipe can be easily made with stockpile items. This is Cranberry Pecan Crunch Cookie Mix from the Gifts in a Jar: Holiday Fun recipe book.

You need 2/3 cup of dried cranberries, ½ cup of chopped toasted pecans (completely cooled), ½ cup of dark brown sugar, 1 cup of biscuit and baking mix, ½ cup of light brown sugar and 1 cup of biscuit and baking mix. Layer each ingredient into a wide-mouth quart jar in the order given.

Attach a gift tag with the following instructions: 1 Jar Cranberry Pecan Cookie Mix, ½ cup of butter or margarine (melted), 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, cream the butter, egg and vanilla. Add the mix and stir until well blended. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

After you make your gift, it’s time to decorate! Pick a festive fabric and cut out a circle about 2 inches wider than the lid of the jar. I like to use pinking shears to get a zigzag pattern along the edges of the cloth for a cute effect. Secure with a coordinating ribbon and print out the instructions on a label. Even though the gift is not completely homemade, it will still look very pretty and festive. This is a perfect hostess, neighbor or teacher gift, especially paired with a gift card.

Your stockpile can be an endless source for giving. My family members continue to request my “care package” gift baskets. Christmas-patterned market totes are relatively inexpensive at Christmas Tree Shops. The size allows for a large mix of items that your family or friends could use.

My baskets most often include cereals, pastas, spaghetti sauce, rice, canned foods, pancake mixes, cookie and muffin mixes, condiments, razors, shave gels, shampoos, conditioners, toothbrushes, toothpastes and body washes. Although these items might not seem like a great gift idea individually, packaged together creatively in a cute basket with ribbon and tags they make an impressive display. You can also make it special by adding paper shreds, which can be found at most Dollar Tree stores.


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