A Frugal Christmas

So what does the frugal family do with those well-intentioned gifts that are not really wanted or needed? Here are some suggestions:

• Sell them and save the money or use it to buy something you do need.
• Give them away as a present to someone else – but be careful not to give it to the person that gave it to you! The easiest way is to keep the card it came with, or write the name of the giver on the parcel.
• Return or exchange the gift – but you will need the receipt or an exchange card.
• Donate the gift to a relative/friend or to a charity shop.
• Use it for some other purpose. For example, if someone gives you an unusual shirt you could put in the “fancy dress” box.
• Swap the gifts with others who also received “unwanted gifts”

Even if the gift is totally inappropriate, it should be gratefully received as there are always opportunities to benefit. We know of one oily rag family that are not wine drinkers but they happily receive it as gifts because it is like a “gift currency”.

With summer comes the annual abundance of fruit, which means lots of free fruit from your oily rag orchard and cheap produce in the stores. Here are some suggestions to make the most of the season’s bounty.

For a special peach pudding, take 450g peaches, simmer in a little water and sugar until soft, then drain and place in a shallow heatproof dish. Sprinkle over 50g toasted almonds or sunflower seeds and leave to cool. Whip 300ml of cream until it is thick, and spread evenly over the fruit to completely cover it. Sprinkle 100g soft brown sugar evenly over the cream and place under a hot grill until the sugar melts and caramelises. Serve at once.

A reader writes, “The favourite breakfast of our grandkids is American style pancakes, which we embellish with summer fruits. We have lots of berries from our garden so we top the pancakes with cream or yoghurt and strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries.”

To make the pancakes all you need is 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of milk, 1 egg, a couple of tablespoons of sugar, two teaspoons of baking powder, a tablespoon of melted butter, and a pinch of salt. Mix the egg, milk and butter, and add to the dry ingredient mix. Blend to form a creamy batter, then pour about a quarter of a cup into a hot, lightly greased frypan. Cook until bubbles break the surface, flip, and finishing cooking. Pile the hot pancakes on a warm plate, with a dot of butter between each.

We like this dairy and gluten free banana ice cream recipe sent to us by a reader from Napier. “To make banana ‘ice cream’, cut up ripe bananas into chunks and freeze them. Take them out of the freezer and straight into the food processor and pulse till smooth and creamy, then serve. You would never be able to tell that it was just frozen banana – it has a beautiful creamy consistency. I also add other fruits when in season – strawberries go very well with the banana. My kids are dairy and gluten intolerant and they think this banana ice cream is fantastic.” It’s a great way to use those overripe bananas and home-grown ones if you happen to live in the warmer areas.

And here’s a final Christmas treat for children – and adults! – from KJ of Whangarei: Santa-hat strawberries! “I cut the bottom off each strawberry to remove the leaves and stem (the green bits). Dip the bottom into melted white chocolate then dip into coconut. That makes the fluffy white rim of the Santa hat. Repeat for the tip of the strawberry to make the fluffy white pom-pom. My kids love them.” To melt the chocolate for dipping, break a block of white chocolate into pieces, and put into a metal bowl above a pot of boiling water.

Let us know your favourite Xmas treats so we can share them with others – and tell us what low-cost pressies you are giving this year.

Bon Appétit – and Merry Christmas from the oily rag team.