Mix it up to expand your gift-giving dollar

By Tanya Davis | Published Wednesday, December 4, 2013

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When the holiday season rolls around, many family budgets become strained. With a long list of family and friends, finding enough money to go around may be challenging. To help reduce the stress of your next holiday season, try making gifts instead of purchasing them. Consider these fun and economical gift ideas that were shared by our friends at the University of Nebraska Extension Service.

Create gift baskets. For the family member who loves movies, make a “night-in” basket. Get a large bowl for popcorn to use as the container. Add packaged popcorn and a coupon for a free movie rental. Gardening, sports or any other themed baskets also work.

For parents with young children, provide a homemade coupon good for free baby-sitting. Other ideas include coupons for helping walk the dog, painting or cleaning.

Create a recipe booklet with favorite holiday recipes. Copy the recipes onto festive recipe cards, punch a hole in the corner of the cards and tie them together with a red ribbon. Holiday photo albums also can be used to hold recipes.

Fill a holiday mug with packets of flavored tea, hot cocoa or coffee for those who enjoy warm beverages or tie a packet of soup mix to a large wooden spoon. Include a bowl and package of biscuit mix for a complete gift.

Repurpose old tins, filling them with cookies, muffins or other holiday goodies. A gift like this will be a delight to anybody who has little time for baking.

And finally, make homemade mixes in a jar. Mixes for soups and cookies are popular gift items that are fairly inexpensive to make. The gift recipient will appreciate the attractive and thoughtful gift and also will value the convenience.

Try the following inexpensive recipe during this holiday season. You can decorate the jar with fabric and a ribbon.


  • 1/2 c. dry split peas
  • 2 Tbsp. beef bouillon granules
  • 1/4 c. pearl barley
  • 1/2 c. dry lentils
  • 1/4 c. dry, minced onions
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 c. long-grain white rice
  • 1/2 c. macaroni noodles

In a clean, quart-sized jar, layer all the ingredients except the macaroni. Place the macaroni in a sandwich bag and place it on top of the other ingredients. Cover the jar tightly with a lid, decorate it and attach a copy of the recipe card

To obtain a copy of the recipe instructions to make the dish, go to www.wcmess.com/recipe or come by the Extension office, 206 S. State St., in Decatur.

Tanya Davis is a Wise County Extension agent.

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