Category Archives: gifts

How to get rid of old spices…craftily

IMG_5022 I know, I know…not only is this not exactly a food post, but I’m advocating getting rid of otherwise perfectly good* spices! In this case, though, two wrongs do make a right, especially if you have kids and are jonesing for a Pinterest-y activity that won’t require trashing the house after a $50 trip to Michael’s Crafts.

(*Yes, spices do go bad, and this is of particular concern to budget shoppers, both because we tend to buy in bulk and thus perhaps not repackage the spices as well as we should [i.e., leaving them in their original baggies…anyone? No? just me?], and because cooking on a budget requires adding more flavor through inexpensive ingredients like spices rather than meat or fat, and older spices = less flavor, especially if they come pre-ground. Always buy your spices whole when possible!)

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Bacon jam: $1.69/jar

If you’re concerned about the presence of what’s essentially a novelty condiment in the $35-a-week plan, rest assured this was a host gift for my father-in-law’s Easter dinner, à la the jars of custom barbecue sauce I made for Christmas. I wanted something that was complementary to the meal being served (barbecued ribs) yet also unique and inexpensive, so I brought a couple jars of this “jam” along with a large homemade boule. I’ve made bacon jam before (Sur La Table sells it for $9.95 a jar, so it’s not that far out of left field), and while I wasn’t 100% happy with how it turned out this time, no one seemed to notice or care, so I’m recommending a couple of different methods here based on your personal limits of time and patience. It’s great on bread, peanut butter sandwiches, pizza, crostini, biscuits, a spoon…you get the idea.

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Inexpensive Holiday Gifts: custom BBQ sauce

As a card-carrying broke person, it should come as no surprise that I’m all about the handmade food gifts. However, not everyone likes sweets, and cookies and candy seem to dominate every “Food Gifts to Make” list on every website in the known Internet-verse.

But my potential recipient doesn’t barbecue! you say. It doesn’t matter. Barbecue sauce—especially good barbecue sauce—is great on hamburgers, meats broiled in the oven, rotisserie chicken, meatloaf, or as a dipping sauce. Vegetarians on the list? It’s great on pasta mixed with sautéed onions. Seriously—try it.

All you need is a canner (a few years ago we bought an enameled water-bath canner with rack and jar lifter at a thrift store for less than $10), some new half-pint jars, and your favorite barbecue-sauce recipe or two. It helps to have a few sheets of adhesive printer paper and some basic Photoshop skillz, but that’s by all means optional.

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