Holiday baking doesn't have to be a big, expensive production. With a little planning and some careful shopping, you can turn out a generous parade of cakes, cookies and candies on a less-than-generous budget. Here are five tips for baking up a storm without breaking the bank:
1 Shop for spices carefully. If you are making recipes that call for just a few teaspoons of seasonal spices like ground cloves or allspice, skip the bottles on supermarket shelves and find a store that sells spices in bulk. Buying just the small amount you need right now will be cheaper than paying for a whole bottle that will likely just sit on your shelf getting stale for the next year or two. If you're making a recipe that calls for a large amount of spices, shop at ethnic markets, where the prices are cheaper and the selection is usually fresher.
2 Take a trip to a restaurant supply store. Well-stocked restaurant supply stores will have sturdy baking equipment, bulk ingredients like chocolate chips, sugar and icing, and even packaging for giving your baked goods as gifts — all for much less than you would pay at a grocery or craft store.
3 Split expensive ingredients with friends. If you have friends or family nearby who also like to bake, consider splitting the cost of expensive ingredients like vanilla beans by ordering in bulk together.
4 Look for sales on staples and stock up. You can't have too much butter, flour and sugar during the holiday baking season. Keep an eye out for sales and snap up more than you think you'll need when you find a good price. (Or sit down before you start shopping and figure out exactly what you'll need for the next couple months of baking. Then buy that plus a little extra to cover any mistakes or last-minute baking.)
5 Use what you have. This goes for ingredients, but also for equipment. If you don't own a springform pan, skip the recipe that calls for one. Immersed in the buy-buy-buy mentality of the holidays, it's easy to become convinced you need to make that recipe that calls for 15 ingredients you don't have, baked in a special mold you don't own. You don't. Remember that the recipes your loved ones come to look forward to every year are often the tried and true, the ones that don't require any special ingredients or fancy equipment.
Do you have any tips for holiday baking on a budget?