As the holiday season quickly approaches many people become overwhelmed with all of the activities, decorating, and shopping that needs to be completed. Here are a few tips to save energy, time and your nerves.
Let’s begin with 5 Steps to Seasonal Savings:
- Recognize Your Seasonal Stressors: Know your personal stressors—such as family, friends, work, travel, social outings and traditions (both old and new)—then you can be less stressed this holiday season. Marketing ploys sneak into every stressor, and retailers want to ensure they get their piece of the holiday pie by using marketing gimmicks to lure you into shopping with them. Do you find yourself with the overwhelming desire to get everything on your child’s list? If so, consider going without a list or setting limits, and communicate with your child. Often, parents do not involve their children in the holiday spending process. Children need help recognizing when and how they have been targeted and persuaded to want the latest and greatest item. Children also need to understand that a budget is necessary and saying “no” to an overpriced item is okay.
- Develop a Holiday Spending Plan—Make a Budget: Ask yourself: How much have I saved? How much can I save before the holidays? Am I comfortable creating debt? Am I comfortable saying “no”?Start with knowing how much you can spend and create a spending plan, which is critical for successful money management for the holidays and all year long. A few dollars from your paycheck each week adds up quickly over a year. You can also take advantage of weekly automatic transfers into your bank account, or join a holiday savings club at a local credit union. If your holiday budget shows you are spending more money than you have, then you’ll likely take on debt. If this is the case, you should also create a plan for paying off purchases made with credit. Prioritize your purchases and consider omitting purchases that require taking on debt.
- Develop a Holiday Spending Plan—Create a List and Stick to It: Make sure you have a list of everyone you plan to buy for during the holidays and of other additional expenses. Decorations, cards, postage, gift wrap, food/entertainment, and travel are additional costs that can drastically impact the holiday budget. Don’t forget to use catalogs, internet surfing for comparison shopping, and barcode scanning apps. Shopping online also limits impulse purchases, and it allows you to avoid long lines, huge crowds, and the lure to eat out while shopping. Be sure to use coupons whenever possible, and be sure to take advantage of the year-end sales. Once you’ve researched and set your budget, you’re ready to start shopping.
- Alternatives to Pricey Presents: If you have a large family, start by thinking outside the box. Consider a gift exchange by drawing names from a hat, which can allow you to put more thought than money into selecting a single gift. You can also buy a single gift for an entire family—perhaps an entertainment basket filled with DVDs and microwave popcorn. Oftentimes, thoughtful and more creative gifts can come from shopping with local businesses. Locally grown fruits and vegetables, honey, or an item from a local artist are just a few suggestions of local products. If you are feeling crafty, then you could make and give holiday arrangements such as centerpieces and decorations. Another idea for the holidays is to donate to a charity in someone’s name instead of gift giving. You can even take the idea of giving to charity to your office. Pool money you would have spent on gifts with your participating colleagues, draw a colleague’s name, and donate the money to a charity of his or her choice. Another gift idea for close friends and/or family is the “gift of time.” Create a coupon book or certificate that gives a loved one the gift of your time (a specific chore, a trip to the park, babysitting, slumber party for the kids).
- Fine-Tuning Your Financials: Use cash and/or debit cards when at all possible. Money coming directly out of your pocket will likely make you think harder about your purchase. If you are going to use a credit card, make sure you have a plan in place to pay it off when the bill is due. You also need to understand the allure of paying with credit. When you’re not paying with “real” money, your buying can easily get out of control, and the shopping process may not seem as painful in that moment. It may be appropriate to tell your older children how much they each have in the budget for holiday spending. When the family is on the same page, it can alleviate some stress. Refocus your family’s thoughts from the material goods to the real meaning of giving and receiving. Knowing your specific situation, making informed decisions, and communicating with loved ones can reduce the effects of holiday stressors.
Let’s take a look at some affordable and DIY Christmas gifts that will be truly appreciated by the recipient.
For the gardener in your life:
- One – 3 1/2″ x 7″ canning jar with top
- Small stones (enough to fill 1 inch in jar) You can buy pretty river rocks at your local garden shop or just collect some stones outside.
- A few tablespoons of activated charcoal (found at any pet store’s aquarium section)
- 1 small Ziploc bag
- 3 1/2″ x 5 1/4″ printed terrarium instructions card on card stock (download from witandwhistle.com or create your own)Step 2: Slide an instruction card into the front of the jar. Secure the card amongst the rocks. Step 4: If you’re feeling crafty you could add a decoration or two (plastic or clay mini mushrooms, insects, gnomes, fairies, etc.) in your terrarium kit.
- Step 5: Tie some twine or ribbon around the jar, and you’re done. You don’t even need to wrap it!
- Step 3: Pour a few tablespoons of activated charcoal into a small Ziploc bag and add it to the jar.
- Step 1: Put about an inch of small stones in the bottom of a jar.
For the spa lover in your life:
Basic Silk Bath Bomb
- 1 cup Citric Acid (found in canning section of grocery store)
- 3 cups Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon Essential Oil (purchase at local health food store)
- Witch Hazel Spritz (purchase in pharmacy section)
- Dry Pigment Colorant – if using
- Round mold to shape the bath bomb (Molds are round plastic ornaments found at your local craft store.)
- Blend the citric acid and baking soda—add colorant and fragrance oil.
- Spritz, Witch Hazel onto your batch using a squirt bottle with one hand while stirring with the other until the bomb sticks together when squished. (it will have the consistency of wet sand)
- Form the bomb in the molds.
- Air-dry for 3 or 4 hours spritzing a few times – allow to set overnight (The Witch Hazel forms a crust on the outside that prevents them from cracking and falling apart; however, they’re still fragile)
- Wrap in tissue paper or cellophane. Tie a bow and you’re done.
Other DIY ideas…homemade soaps, herb infused oils, jams and jellies, baked goods, hot cocoa mix, etc.
When we think of the holidays, we often think about family, togetherness, giving, and celebrating. While the holiday season should be a time of enjoyment, there are many events associated with the season that can cause stress. Remember, in the long run the memories will be of time spent together, not the gifts they received. So, be sure to plan ahead, take a deep breath, and enjoy the special holiday moments.
If you have further questions, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.
“Five Steps to Seasonal Savings” – UF/IFAS EDIS Publication #FCS5267
“Managing Stress During the Holidays” – UF/IFAS EDIS Publication #FCS5266
It’s the fall season, and Satsumas are hitting the shelves at your local grocery store. Satsumas are a seedless variety of the mandarin orange, and are harvested during the fall and early winter. Satsumas are grown in the cool, sub-tropical areas of California, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Because of their thin skin, satsumas are sweet and easy to peel. Whether you are buying satsumas from your local grocery store, farmers market or roadside stand, it is very important to purchase all of your citrus from a reputable vendor.
Satsuma trees are small to medium in size, and can easily tolerate the cooler fall temperatures that the Florida Panhandle is known for. Satsuma trees are relatively easy to grow and make an attractive addition to your home landscape. Picking fresh fruit off of your own tree provides a much fresher, and cost efficient treat. Satsuma trees are best started in a container and then transferred into the ground. When choosing a spot to plant a satsuma tree, remember that citrus trees need full sun.
“Before planting any new plants, you should always conduct a soil sample, to determine if there are any issues in the soil where you will plan the satsuma tree” said DJ Wiggin, Small Farms Agent with the Florida A&M University Extension Program in Gadsden County. If you would like to request a soil sample test kit, you should contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
Fruit Bearing Season:
Satsuma oranges have a relatively brief fruit bearing season, between October and December. This short season give the satsuma oranges their rich flavor. A few nights with temperatures that drop into the 40s, help improve their sweetness. However, the fruit of the satsuma tree should be picked promptly when ripe, because the heavy fruit could cause damage to some weaker limbs of the tree.
According to DJ Wiggins, “When properly stored, satsumas have a shelf life of several weeks”. Satsuma oranges can be juiced, eaten as a snack, or used in recipes, including Orange marmalade.
Recipe Source: Adapted from So Easy to Preserve, from the Cooperative Extension at The University of Georgia.
Yields about 7 half-pint jars
• 4 cups thinly slices Orange Peel (about 6 large oranges or 32 Satsumas)
• 4 cups Orange Pulp, cut up (about 6 large oranges or 32 Satsumas)
• 1 thinly sliced Lemon (about 2 medium)
• 6 cups of Water
• Sugar (about 6 cups)
To Prepare the Fruit- Add water and fruit together in a saucepan. Heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and let stand 12 to 18 hours in refrigerator. Heat and cook over medium heat until peel is tender, about 1 hour. (Note: When peeling citrus fruits for marmalades, be sure to include some of the white membrane found just under the skin. This is where most of the pectin is located.)
To Make Marmalade– Sterilize canning jars. Measure fruit and liquid. Add 1 cup sugar for each cup of fruit mixture. Bring slowly to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to the jellying point (25 minutes), stirring occasionally. Pour hot marmalade into hot, sterile ½ pint jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe jar rims with a dampened clean paper towel and adjust lids. Process 5 minutes in a Boiling Water Canner.
Interested in Learning More about Canning Fruits and Vegetables? The Gadsden County Extension Program offers Water Bath Canning Classes throughout the year, to learn more, call us at (850) 875-7255.
University of Florida IFAS Extension. The Satsuma Mandarin, Peter C. Andersen and James J. Ferguson, Revised November 2015
University of Alabama Extension, Satsuma Season: Enjoying the Christmas Orange, James Miles and Emma Sager, November 10, 2014
University of Georgia Extension: Citrus Fruit for Southern and Coastal Georgia, Krewer and Powell, Extension Fruit Specialists.
Recipe: Reynolds, Susan, Paulette Williams, Judy A. Harrison, and Susan J. Reynolds. So Easy to Preserve. Athens: Cooperative Extension Service, U of Georgia, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 2006. Page 218
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.
Laurie Osgood, Family and Consumer Science Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Gadsden County
DJ Wiggins, Small Farms Agent, Florida A&M University Extension, Gadsden County
Many of us can agree, being around family can make simple things in life more special! Whether it’s time spent together during holidays, celebrating birthdays, or simply enjoying togetherness, family events can make life memorable. Why wait until special occasions to show your family that they matter? Dining together can make simple things feel special every day!
Dining in with your family is one of the easiest ways to incorporate spending quality time together… on a daily basis. Knowing that schedules can make this task very difficult to implement but understanding the benefits will help encourage us to make the time for this important ritual. Research studies show that frequent, positive mealtime experiences can lead to better communication among family members, improved performance at school, and enhanced reading levels, as well as better overall nutrition. During meals, parents are able to teach their children how to actively listen and express themselves through conversation. As a result, these mealtime conversations expand children’s vocabulary and increase their reading skills. Equally important is that eating together helps encourage healthy eating habits.
Make plans to set aside December 3, 2016 as Dine in Day. This initiative, started three years ago by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) promotes the importance of group meals in fostering family and community relationships, encouraging healthy diets and stretching food dollars. AAFCS cares about family mealtimes and is spreading awareness.
Here are some Dine In Day conversation starters and tips to create an enjoyable and relaxing atmosphere for your family:
- Start with minimal distractions. Turn off all devises…televisions, iPads, laptops, and set aside cell phones.
- For families with preschoolers here are some conversation starters
- If you could be any animal in the world for a day, which animal would it be? Why?
- What made you happy (or sad) today? Why?
- Who did you sit next to (or play with) at school today? What did you talk about?
- Would you like to help plan dinner for tomorrow night? What foods would you like to help cook for dinner?
- For families with adolescents and young adults here are some conversation starters
- Ask about their hobbies, clubs, or extracurricular activities
- If you could have one day free of all responsibilities what would you do?
- Share funny stories and discuss light current events
Remember, eating together matters. Try to create a positive atmosphere before and during meals.
- Respect and involve every family member giving everyone an equal opportunity to share an opinion without teasing or criticizing.
- Download free conversation starters at www.school-wellness.org
- Background music can be a nice addition!
Individuals, families and groups can pledge to dine in December 3 at http://bit.ly/2dPj58G . Diners can also participate on social media by sharing photos and using the hashtags #FCSdayFL and #healthyfamselfie.
Build stronger relationships and positively impact your children’s growing values. Don’t wait until special occasions to reap the dining together benefits, dine in now!
For more information on the importance of family meal
- Lyttle and E. Baugh, The Importance of Family Dinners (FCS2286), Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (Archived).
- Paredes and K. Shelnutt, Raising Healthy Children: The Importance of Family Meals (FCS8925), Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (06/2010).
Tamarah Ulysse FSU Intern, Family and Child Sciences
Edited by: Heidi Copeland
Extension Agent I
Family and Consumer Sciences
615 Paul Russell Road
Tallahassee, FL 32301-7060
I don’t know about you but to me it seems we just finished shopping for the holidays and they are here once again. Holiday shopping can be a whirlwind and we forget to take time to stop and think about how much we have spent until the bills arrive. Having a budget for the holidays can be your best defense to not overdoing it this holiday season.
If you plan for the holidays, it can save lots of time, energy, and of course, money. It is important to prepare a budget, make the budget realistic and base it on your cash flow and financial obligations. Once your budget has been created, stick to it!
The next step – make a list of gifts you want to give. When shopping, use cash whenever you can as this helps you watch how much you are spending. When you have reached your budget limit, your shopping should be done! If possible, do not use credit cards to buy gifts. If you use credit cards, keep track of the amounts and stop when you have reached your budget limit.
Gift cards appear to be great but be aware of fees or usage terms that can reduce the value of the gift. Before buying gift cards, ask if the card can be used for online purchases. This may not affect most retailers but some online retailers do not allow using gift cards.
If you want to stretch your budget, you don’t have to purchase all of your gifts. Try making gifts such as food or give a coupon book volunteering your services (i.e. babysitting or yard work). Below is a mix ranch dressing recipe you can give to family and friends this holiday season.
To help with your shopping next year make your list early, then spread your shopping throughout the year.
Use these tips to help you enjoy your holiday.
Spoonful Mix for Ranch Dressing
2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1 tsp. salt free herb seasoning blend
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. dried basil leaves
- Mix all ingredients in small bowl.
- Place mix in to plastic wrap and attach to spoon.
- Decorate spoon with a pretty bow.
Remove decorative wrappings from spoon, leaving the mix inside the plastic wrap and still attached to spoon.
- Empty ½ cup low-fat mayonnaise and ½ cup low-fat buttermilk into a medium bowl.
- Hold spoon over bowl and cut open bag of mix, allowing mix to fall into bowl onto mayo and buttermilk.
- Mix until very well blended (use gift spoon to mix). Refrigerate 30 minutes up to 8 hours to blend flavors.
For more information on holiday shopping, contact your local Extension office.
It is that time of year when we think about giving special gifts to the people in our lives that mean the most to us. Your list might include teachers, neighbors, friends and co-workers. Gifts don’t have to be expensive, it is the thought behind the gesture that means the most to your friends and family. Whoever is on your list this year, think about using your kitchen as grand central for gift making. Gifts of food are heart felt and send a message that you spent time making something special that looks good and tastes yummy. These gifts say thank you in a thoughtful way. Don’t forget to include your kids in the process of cooking and assembling gifts to teach them something about budgeting and enjoying the simple pleasure of gift giving.
The way the gift is presented can be just as important as the food itself. Try to pair up containers with the food gift that will be used after the food is gone. This can be a gift that keeps on giving. Examples are a decorative plate filled with cookies, pie plate filled with your favorite pie or a trifle bowl filled with goodies. You get the idea. Another thought is to put together items that say “sit and take a break” like a loaf of quick bread paired with a pound of coffee, homemade salsa with chips and a favorite beverage. The main goal is to show that you put thought in the gift and spent time preparing the presentation.
With everyone watching their budgets this year, plan ahead to get the creative juices working by purchasing ingredients on sale and found locally. Local products in December include pecans, sweet potatoes, honey, peanuts, persimmons, satsumas and jams and jellies sold at local farmers markets. So get going and unleash your creativity, and give a few gifts from your kitchen and your heart. Have fun making these gifts, and remember to enjoy the process.
One of my favorite festive cookie is the Chocolate Crinkle. The crackle on top with the chocolate and white sugar says it is holiday time. These cookies make a good food gift as they stay firm and will last up to a week. They also freeze well if you need to make ahead of time. Package the gift by placing on a nice festive plate and wrap with clear wrap and decorate with ribbon.
Chocolate Crinkle Cookie
½ cup of shortening
1 2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Two 1 ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate (melted)
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1/3 cup of milk
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
Cream together the shortening, sugar and vanilla. Beat in the two eggs then add the melted chocolate. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture slowly to creamed mixture alternating with the milk until thoroughly blended. Stir in walnuts. Chill for 3 hours. Form in 1 – inch balls and roll in confectioners’ sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet 2 to 3 inches apart. Bake in moderate oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool slightly then remove from pan. Makes 48.
They are now ready to put in a container and give to friends. This cookie freezes well.
Prepare this nut bread then decorate with wrapping and ribbon. You might include the loaf pan as part of the gift. Include a brick of cream cheese along with a decorative butter knife for a complete package.
Cranberry Nut Bread
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
2 tablespoons shortening
1 egg, well beaten
1 tsp vanilla flavoring
1 1/2 cups Fresh Cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in orange juice, orange peel, shortening and egg and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Stir in cranberries and nuts. Spread evenly in loaf pan. Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely. Makes 1 loaf (16 slices). Bake loaf in decorative pan as part of the gift. Make sure you cool after cooking then replace in pan and wrap as part of the gift.
The Real Sweet Potato Pie
Use local sweet potatoes to promote locally grown produce. After baking, cool then give as a gift in a nice pie plate. Wrap, refrigerate with instructions on reheating for serving. For added effect, bundle with whipped cream and pie knife.
Prepare your sweet potatoes for the pie mix. Select 6 – 7 large sweet potatoes and cut in half or quarters. Boil potatoes slowly for about 30 minutes. Let cool. Peel potatoes after they cool. The peel should come off very easy. Measure six cups of sweet potato in a mixing bowl. Use a stand mixer to beat the sweet potatoes and do not scrape off any mixture from beaters. This will contain the stringy part and you do not want it in your pie. Discard the strings.
6 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup evaporated milk
½ cup butter
2 tsp vanilla flavoring
2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp butter flavoring
1 cup sugar
Mix all ingredients in a stand mixer until well blended. The mixture should be smooth and free of lumps. The mixture will keep in the refrigerator up to a week and may be frozen for future use. Be sure to label with date and amount before placing in freezer.
For the Pie
Place mixture in unbaked pie shell and smooth to the edges. You will need about 2 ½ cups for each 9 inch deep dish pie shell. Mini tart shells may also be used for individual pies. This recipe makes about 3 pies or 12 individual mini pie tarts. Cook at 350 degrees until puffed and browned slightly on top. About 40 minutes.
Visit your local farmers market to purchase local nuts, honey, produce and jams and jellies. Be sure to look for locally grown and support our area growers. For additional information about local produce visit: http://wfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/panhandle-produce-pointers/
During the holiday season nothing carries good cheer and holiday spirit across the miles like receiving a package full of homemade treats.
If you go to the effort of preparing food gifts, you want to be sure the contents arrive in the condition they were sent in. The first step is to pack it right.
- Select a strong sturdy cardboard, plastic, or metal container. Round oatmeal boxes or coffee cans with re-closable lids work well.
- On the bottom of the container place a generous layer of filler, such as crumped tissue paper, waxed paper, brown paper bags or plastic bubble wrap.
- Next, wrap baked goods individually or in pairs placed back to back. Begin with the sturdiest first. Moist, firm baked goods ship better than the brittle kind. Brownies, fudge and moist cookies pack well. Top with another layer of filler and repeat ending with a thick layer of filler.
- Fill the container full so the contents can’t shift when it is shaken.
- Be sure to pack several inches of cushioning material in the bottom of the shipping carton and enough material around, over and between items so that the contents cannot move easily. Brown paper bags and newspaper provide adequate cushioning for most packages. Save Styrofoam peanuts or foam packing pieces in packages for use when cushioning your packages.
- Place a card with the address of the sender and the receiver inside the carton, just in case.
- Wrap the carton in heavy brown paper, if desired, and seal it securely with transparent packing tape. Clearly label the carton; put the transparent tape over the address to keep it from getting wet and smeared. Mark it “perishable” to encourage careful handling. One of the best ideas yet is to give a gift within a gift that serves as its own alternative wrapping. Great tasting recipes become even more special when attractively packaged for giving.
- Embellish small metal coffee tins for packaging tiny truffles or other candies. Replace plastic tops to seal.
- Consider using an empty potato chip canister for packaging. Cover it with Christmas wrapping paper, fill it with cookies, candies or salty snacks, and replace its plastic top to seal.
- Fill a Christmas stocking with a favorite snack mix or nut mix. Package the mix in a re-sealable plastic bag and tuck it and holiday napkins into the stocking.
- Top off decorative jars of homemade desert sauces or jelly with raffia or decorative ribbon. Attach a homemade gift tag and a spoon.
- Bake and transport homemade bread in light weight recyclable aluminum pans available at most supermarkets. Wrap pans of bread with a large linen napkin or place bread in gift bags and tie with holiday ribbon.
- When giving a variety of foods together, include items to be eaten with your goodies or utensils that might be needed for further preparation.
Remember it’s the thought behind the holiday package that counts; the link with loved ones and the knowledge that someone is thinking of you during the holiday season. A package filled with homemade treats says “love” with every bite.