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The Skinny By Elaine Langlois

Christmas on the Cheap

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Gifts from Your Kitchen

No one has time to cook anymore. That's why a savory gift from your kitchen will be so very welcome.

  • Cheese sauce makes such a thoughtful present. How often do we need cheese sauce and not want to go to the trouble of making it ourselves? Empty the refrigerator of cheeses that are too hard or old to eat, cutting off the moldy parts. Don't forget those packaged cheese spreads left over from gift sets you received the last two holiday seasons.

    As you melt the cheeses in a saucepan, get in a little bonus playtime with your toddler by allowing her/him to "discover" various items in the pantry and
    stir them in. Food coloring, unflavored gelatin, bay seasoning, lemonade mix, you name it! Yummy-yum-yum!

  • Choose cookie recipes that do not require expensive ingredients. In fact, you can plan your holiday baking around whatever you need to get rid of. The hot pink spray-on frosting you purchased for Valentine's Day cupcakes. The vegetable shortening that's caked, cracked, and turning a sickly yellow.

  • Party mix is great to have on hand for unexpected guests. Empty all your old stale cereal into a bowl. Mix with melted margarine and seasonings, dump in a roasting pan, and bake for an hour at 250 degrees.

  • Who can resist the warm appeal of a gift basket? Dig out those old baskets you've had in the basement for years. If they were Easter baskets, you can reuse the grass; otherwise, shred up some newspaper in the food processor.

    Fill with items from your pantry. The gourmet sauces your significant other bought last year and never used. Canned goods you were planning to
    contribute to a food drive. Tea bags banded together with twist ties. Don't forget the leftover Halloween candy that nobody ate and, of course, some paper clips and Post-it Notes from work.

Entertaining

Entertaining for the holidays need not be time-consuming or expensive:

  • Plan your party for a time between meals, so people will not expect a lunch or dinner. Or ask your guests to bring their own food.

  • If you did not start cleaning in midsummer, invite only short people who will not be able to see the filth on top of your refrigerator or cackle over the fact that you haven't dusted your upper cabinet shelves in ten years. To further reduce the chance that guests will observe how dirty your house really is, entertain by candlelight.

    Cleaning can be a terrific ice-breaker at parties. Put all your cleaning supplies by the front door. As you greet your guests, hand them a squeegee, Handi Wipe, toilet bowl cleaner, and so on.

  • For party favors, fill Ziploc bags with little bottles of lotion and shampoo that you've taken from hotels or that people have given you over the years.

    Add some packets of condiments and dental floss. What a useful gift!

  • For additional savings, turn off the furnace. The accumulated body heat and esprit of your guests will lend a warmth that mere fossil fuels cannot provide.

The Christmas holiday is truly about giving. So, in these last few days before the 25th, open your heart, fire your imagination, and let the people around you know just how much you really care.

© 2002 Elaine Langlois