Every year I promise myself that this Christmas is going to be different – this year I'm not going to cook 87 Christmas cakes (yes, I really did do that one crazy year), and spend the entire summer exhausted.
But every year, I realise it just doesn't feel like Christmas until I've spent time in the kitchen, cooking up homemade goodies to give away. So inevitably I find myself stirring together a huge tub of Christmas Fruit Mince, making trays of Italian Nougat or packaging up little bags of Speculaas Cookies or some other festive nibble.
By making, instead of buying, gifts, you not only stretch your Christmas budget further, but also give your friends a little of your most precious assets – time and care.
The business of homemade gifts can get expensive if you have to buy ingredients and materials, so I like to save up empty jars and bottles throughout the year, soak off the labels and sterilise them well. Cut circles from fabric scraps to decorate the lids, and tie pretty bows with ribbon recycled from gifts you've received.
Instead of buying labels, make your own or print out the free downloadable labels and tags from my website. For an extra personal touch, include a hand-written copy of the recipe.
It helps to keep an eye out for recipes that use affordable ingredients. Strawberries are getting cheaper every day as they come into season, so now's the time to bubble up a big pot of everyone's favourite Strawberry Jam.
Another winner is the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Sauce recipe from my new summer annual Annabel Langbein A Free Range Life. It uses the simplest of ingredients – water, cornflour, cocoa, sugar, golden syrup and vanilla – to make a delicious, rich sauce that lasts forever in a sealed jar or bottle.
Just make sure you save a bottle for yourself – it's perfect to take on holiday so you can transform ordinary ice cream or a slab of brownie or cake into something special in seconds.
See these other blog posts for more ideas for Christmas gifts:
Hello World blog:
- Christmas Kisses
- Christmas Snowballs
The Joy of Giving blog:
- Chilli Jam
- Lavender Syrup
- Raspberry Jam
- Gingerbread Cookies
- Chocolate Truffles
- Overnight Christmas Cake
- Annabel's Christmas Cake
- Cathedral Cake
- Christmas Fruit Mince
- Festive Fruit Mince Tart