While shopping in bulk for onions and potatoes will keep the costs of latkes down, the real challenge is how to give presents to everyone on your list without cringing when you see the final bill.
When it comes to sticking to a budget for eight days of gift-giving fun, having a plan is a must. Consider making gifts using household staples you've already purchased. Here are eight great gift-giving ideas so you can surprise family and friends with delightful homemade goodies tailor-made for them. After all, it's the thought that counts; not the price tag.
1. For Teachers:
Individually Wrapped Cookies
Your kids will strike a sweet note with their teachers when they give homemade cookies creatively gift-wrapped in transparent envelopes.
Package oversized oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, or old-fashioned spice cookies in a CD envelope with a see-through window (available from stationery and drug stores). Seal the envelope with a festive sticker.
Kids can make personal stickers or tags by decorating adhesive paper with Chanukah messages and designs. Cut out, fold in half and adhere to the envelopes.
[See Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookie recipe below]
2. For Your Best Friend (or Carpool Buddy):
Your friend will love turning a regular bath into a blissful spa experience with this homemade gift. To make bath salts, start with 4 cups of sea salt or kosher salt. Mix in several drops of aromatic bath oil (available at drug stores or bath and beauty stores). For added fragrance and color, add dried aromatic plants or herbs, such as lavender, eucalyptus or rosemary. Pour the salt mixture into a jar; tie a gift tag that says, "Use a few spoonfuls of salts per bath. To keep the herbs from floating, spoon the mixture into a spice sachet or organza bag."
3. For Your Niece or Nephew:
Delight your niece or nephew with a set of homemade finger paints. To make, combine 2 cups cold water, 3 teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 cup of cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk over low heat for 5 minutes until the mixture is thick and clear. Stir in 1/2 cup of light corn syrup. Pour the paint into small containers with lids. Add a few drops of food coloring to each and shake until the colors are well mixed. Complete the art set by presenting the gift with a set of thick paper.
4. For Extended Family:
Before the holiday, have family members email favorite recipes based on a culinary theme, like salads or cookies. Encourage them to include a few words explaining why they like the particular dish. Turn the recipes into a booklet by stapling them together with decorative ribbon.
Distribute copies to the attendees of your family Chanukah party. If the cookbook is a success, present your family with a new chapter of the heirloom cookbook every year.
5. For Friends:
Celebrate the holiday with friends by surprising them with a custom-made musical sampler featuring Chanukah songs. Create a mix of your favorite holiday tunes that showcase different Jewish artists. Once you burn the CDs, affix with colorful labels you've printed so your friends can remember "Chanukah 2009."
6. For Neighbors:
Who won't love a practical homemade gift from the kitchen? Make a big batch of caramel popcorn, granola or an exotic spice rub and present it to your neighbors in inexpensive containers from the dollar store (or thoroughly washed pasta sauce jars). Decorate with Chanukah stickers or labels printed from the computer.
7. For Kids at Your Chanukah Party:
Outrageous Art Projects
If you're having a kid-centered Chanukah shebang, instead of giving a present to each kid, order inexpensive art projects for them to do at the party. From sand art mezuzahs to bencher boxes, Jewish craft suppliers like Kosherkrafts.com or Jewishcrafts.com offer fun and extremely inexpensive craft kits based on Jewish themes. To keep the prices low (many projects are less than .99 each) most kits come in sets of 12. Not only will the crafts double as entertainment, but the kids will leave with a special something they made as their Chanukah present.
8. For Adults At Your Chanukah Party:
While it would be wonderful to give all of your guests a Chanukah gift, save yourself the hassle (and money) by adopting the Jewish version of the "Secret Santa" gift-giving strategy. In the party invitation, include the name of another person for whom that guest should anonymously bring a present. At the party, have people go around the room and open their gifts as they guess who gave them the present.
Get baking! Try this recipe for Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies!