A Simple Christmas Workshop

cinnamon ornamentsA couple of years ago, I put together a short online workshop on how to simplify your holiday celebrations.  I thought for those of you who may have missed it, you might want the opportunity to work your way through the simple thoughtful practices.

You can find Day One at the following link:

A Simple Christmas Workshop – Day One

I hope you find these exercises helpful.


Funding a Frugal Holiday Season


With the holiday season upon us, we often hear the familiar refrains of our favorite Christmas carols and seasonal music. But too many of us tend to sing different words to the familiar tune of Jingle Bells:

Dashing to the mall,
In a light blue mini-van,
Stashing all our loot,
Behind the garbage can.
We think the kids need more,
‘Tho their closest’s full of junk,
Then someone sends unneeded things
We’ll just stow into a trunk!

Christmas bills! Christmas bills!
For Christmas we must pay!
See all of our Christmas bills
Still here on New Year’s Day!… Hey??!!!
Christmas bills! Christmas bills!
We can’t pay today…
We have so many Christmas bills,

There’s got to be a better way… !

Do the phrases “frugal living” and “holiday giving” seem to be at opposite ends of the spending spectrum? Is it possible to spend no more in December than during other months? Will your family still love you if they don’t find “the latest and the greatest” under the tree?

Our families deserve the best we can give. But if we’re paying our Christmas debts for the next five years, complete with all the stresses that usually accompany outstanding bills, what good is it? No matter what our personal financial situation, we all could use a few simple money-saving ideas for the holidays.

1) Try checking out books from the library on holiday customs and crafts from other lands. These books can provide a wealth of innovative ideas, often for minimal expense. Last year, in a book on Swedish customs, we found instructions for making an evergreen Advent wreath. Old newspapers soaked in water and wrapped around a wire coat hanger were decorated with pine boughs from a backyard tree. Four large nails stuck through the paper wreath held the candles, and we added finishing touches of small pine cones and red bows. The Advent wreath was beautiful, incredibly simple, and made from items found around the house. It also added a meaningful centerpiece to our holiday celebrations.

2) Do you have solid-colored glass ornaments that you’re tired of? Let your children decorate them with glitter glue, holiday stickers or craft paints. This tip serves a dual purpose: new decorations for very little money, and an inexpensive, fun holiday activity for the whole family!

3) How about giving a homemade “Dessert-of-the-Month” gift certificate to someone special on your gift list? Or maybe a “Cookie-of-the-Month,” or “Dinner-of- the-Month?” Each month you would deliver a different home-baked goody to the recipient. This gift is especially enjoyed by people who might not eat a lot of home cooking, i.e., college students, singles, elderly shut-ins. These are also appreciated greatly by moms with multiple children (a treat they didn’t have to prepare! They’ll be so thankful for you and your thoughtfulness!)

4) Learn to do calligraphy. (It’s much easier than it looks!) You can make personalized gifts by writing the person’s name and framing it in a simple mat with a pressed flower or two glued to the picture or mat.

5) Do you enjoy sending actual Christmas cards (not ecards), but find that the price of store-bought cards is making this tradition almost impossible? Make your own cards by decorating card stock with rubber stamps, pressed flowers, or calligraphy. Better yet, make your own personalized Christmas postcards and save on postage, as well!

6) For beautiful, inexpensive gift wrap with a country look, sponge-paint the plain side of flattened brown grocery bags with green, red or white tempera paint. Use holiday shapes (trees, stars, candy canes, etc.). Tie the wrapped gifts with raffia or twine. The finished product is rustic, yet very elegant! This is another dual purpose tip: a money-saver and a fun (but messy!) activity for the whole family.

7) Do you take lots of photographs and never know what to do with all those extra prints? Small photo albums with nice snapshots of your children taken throughout the year make great gifts for the grandparents. Also, an album with current photos of various extended family members is a welcome gift for out-of-town relatives who can’t make it home for the holidays. Small photo albums can often be found at variety stores for less than $2.

Careful stewardship of our resources during the holidays doesn’t have to mean deprivation and joylessness. Spend time this year thoughtfully identifying your personal priorities for your family during the holiday season.

When your children have grown and moved on to start traditions of their own, will they remember the gripe sessions their parents had over the stack of past-due Christmas bills? Or will they treasure the memories of quiet times of family togetherness and joy throughout the Advent season?

Will they look back with reverence to a time spent in reflection and thankfulness, understanding the true meaning of the season? Or will they focus on the crazy times each year when Mom and Dad flew through the house, cleaning wildly and snapping at everyone in sight because the house had to be “perfect” before the guests arrived?


Christmas Tree Poll

Use-It-Up Quiche (a great way to use up leftovers!)

Basic “Use-It-Up” Quiche Recipe
(6 servings)

You can use almost any leftover vegetable or meat in this recipe. If you have eggs, milk, rice and cheese, you can practically clean out your fridge right into your quiche pan. I always add the cheese last when making this quiche. The cheese makes a beautiful mellow-brown crust on the top. I usually add a bit of chopped onion to my quiches for flavor, and broccoli makes an especially nice vegetable quiche.  And it’s gluten-free, too!

Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice, cooked (white or brown)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp soy sauce

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb any leftover vegetable or meat, chopped (single vegetable or a mix)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, or light cream
  • 1 cup cheese, grated (your choice: Swiss, Cheddar, Jack, etc.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Dash nutmeg, or ground mace

Crust Directions:

  1. Mix together cooked rice, egg and soy sauce.
  2. Spread evenly to cover well- buttered quiche pan or pie plate.
  3. Bake rice crust at 350 F for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven.

Filling Directions:

  1. Place chopped vegetable/meat onto the bottom of crust.
  2. Mix together: eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour over broccoli.
  3. Top with grated cheese. Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, or until set.
  4. Remove from oven, and let sit ten minutes before slicing, if serving fresh; or wrap pie pan, label and freeze.
  5. Quiche can be served cold after thawing for a yummy hot weather treat; or heat the thawed quiche at 350 F for 20 minutes.



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Power Outages and Freezer Safety

If you suffer a power outage, keep your freezer closed!   Little or no thawing should occur within the first twelve to twenty hours.

If you know a storm’s heading your direction, fill empty milk jugs with water and freeze them solid before the power goes out.  A full freezer will stay frozen longer than a partially empty one.

A simple way to know if things have thawed and perhaps refrozen during a power outage is to put a bowl of ice cubes into the freezer prior to a problem.  If the ice cubes have melted and become just a bowl of water (or refrozen into a bowl of ice), you’ll know that the contents of your freezer have experienced the same thing.  Your frozen goods would no longer be safe to eat in that case.

It’s actually a good idea to keep a bowl of ice cubes in your freezer at all times in case the freezer comes unplugged or if the power goes out at some point when you’re not home or on vacation.  I keep my ice cube “indicator bowl” inside a freezer bag so the ice doesn’t dry out and evaporate.

If your freezer is full of food and the power will be out longer than one day, you have two options.  You can either move the contests of your freezer to a rental frozen food locker, or you can purchase dry ice for your freezer.

If you use dry ice, lay cardboard over the packages in your freezer and place dry ice onto the cardboard.  Never place dry ice directly onto your packages of food, and always wear heavy safety gloves when handling dry ice.  A 50-pound block of dry ice should keep your food frozen for two to three days.

Stay safe!

~Debi (author of Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month)

 You can order your copy of Frozen Assets right now from Amazon.com by clicking here. (Currently discounted!)