Living The Frugal Life
I'm not a terribly organized or foresighted person. I'm often caught up short on occasions when it's appropriate to give a gift. Just because I resist the pull of consumer culture doesn't mean I don't enjoy giving things to those I love. Indeed it's far more satisfying to give gifts that I've had a hand in growing or otherwise producing. So I'm making an effort this year to prepare and set aside things from my kitchen, garden, and other home production for holiday gift-giving or other occasions. Jellies, jams and other garden preserves are obvious choices, and for good reason. I now have a small supply of either raspberry or strawberry jam in jars sized for giving. But in thinking a bit about other things I want to have on hand come the holiday season, I've come up with a few ideas I thought were worth sharing.
Herbal salves for skin - I'm collecting calendula (pot marigold) blooms, comfrey leaf, and lemon balm leaf now, in the height of summer, to infuse in olive oil. Later I'll strain out the herbs, warm the oil and melt pure beeswax into it. Some of the beeswax might even be from our bees this year. This makes a lovely soothing salve with anti-microbial properties which promotes the healing of burns, abrasions, and insect bites. I gave it away in four ounce jars last year and have gotten several compliments and requests for more. I'm happy to comply.
Herbal teas - Bee balm (monardia), New Jersey tea, and lemon balm all grow in my garden. They all make lovely tissanes after simply being cut and hung up to dry. I'm still looking for pretty jars to put them into to make the gift look special, but the herbs from my own garden are a pleasure to give.
Elderflower cordial - This non-alcoholic drink made from our elder blooms is wonderfully refreshing in ice water during summer, and lends a festive touch when added to champagne. This is something I feel is quite special, so I've just made my third batch of it. I'm glad to feel I've got enough of it to give some away.
Felted mittens - I am especially having fun pursuing this project. I've scoured rummage sales for cheap wools sweaters and my own closets for those I've outgrown or worn holes in but couldn't bear to part with. Now I have the chance to re-purpose them with very little effort. After felting the sweaters in a hot wash cycle, and possibly dying some of them, I'll be making dense, warm mittens out of them. This page explains the details.
Garden seeds - This one is for gardeners and seed savers more accomplished than I am. I can manage a few of the easier seeds. But if I were more meticulous, knowledgeable, and skilled, I'd love to assemble a collection of seeds for giving, from my garden to a friend's. Even better would be the ability to give an aspiring gardener the diverse stock of seeds he or she needs to make a start.
Hand crafted gift wrap - The Japanese have a lovely custom of wrapping their gifts in cloths, called furoshiki. Selecting lovely bolts of cloth to make my own double-sided wraps was a pleasure as well as a chance for me to learn some basic sewing skills. I chose fabrics to pair up with the idea that each wrap would have a side appropriate for Christmas, and another appropriate for birthdays or any other general occasion. Whether or not you chose to include a hand crafted wrap as part of the gift, or ask for it back, it makes a lovely impression. Best of all, with every re-use, you'll be saving paper and tape that would otherwise be manufactured as future landfill.
Loofahs - I'm growing loofah (luffa) gourds for the first time this year, and hoping for a bumper crop to give away as scrubs for the bath and shower. We'll see what the harvest brings, but as the scrubs wear out, this could become a perennial gifting favorite if the plants do well for us.
What other things do you produce or make yourself that you give away as gifts? Please share in the comments!