Remember to Feed the Birds


As promised, I’m going to start posting Christmas ideas. Frugal Christmas ideas. But fun and different and special ideas–that is the secret to being frugal. Cheap, but special! (Don’t laugh! That’s me. Cheap, but special!) And a little unexpected, yet just right. And you will have to think of the people in your life you would like to give something to and sort amongst the ideas to see what might work for you and the people on your list this Christmas, because everyone is unique, but I have learned well the true significance of a well-considered gift. The thought really does count.

Most of what I’m going to talk about are food gifts because, well, I love food, but 52, the gift-giving king among gift-givers, often gives me things that cost next to nothing, as surprises, and yet they are so perfect that I am all jumping up and down and he’s all saying, “Calm down.” Like the 2009 Old Farmer’s Almanac. Or a box of wildflower seeds. Recently, my sheep farmin’ friend Kathy gifted me with an entire stack of pie plates she got at thrift sales–for me to turn around and use to make pies and give as gifts, the gift including the pie plate AND a pie. (Now there’s a gift that keeps on giving!) If you know someone who loves old cookbooks, go to an antique or thrift store and find one then wrap it in a vintage dish towel. Or find them some vintage dishes or cake stands or pie plates or anything! A lover of all things kitchen will adore an unusual find at a yard sale or thrift store or antique mall. Gifts don’t have to be new. (Home-canned goods, especially jams, make great gifts, too!)

If you know an avid baker, give them Homemade Vanilla Extract. Or Homemade Dough Enhancer.

Give a loaf of fresh-baked Raisin Bread, or a Homemade Dump Cake Gift Basket. (By the way, if you are so inclined, give a 2009 Chickens in the Road Calendar.)

And if you have a bird-lover on your list, they’ll love homemade suet. The average, ordinary bird lover has never thought of making their own suet and doesn’t know how and would be amazed, awed, and bedazzled that you did–not to mention excited! And it costs next to nothing.

Homemade suet is made from lard, peanut butter, leftover bread (any kind), flour, cornmeal, sugar, and fruit. See my full homemade suet instructions by clicking here. To give suet as a gift, take a prepared loaf, slice it, lay it between pieces of waxed paper, stack inside a large storage baggie, and freeze it. This is a great make-ahead gift because you can just pull it out when it’s gift-giving time and stick a bow on it or slide it into a gift bag. And it costs next to nothing. Did I mention that part? Yet, the bird-lover on your list will love it. And think you are so freakin’ awesome.

The birds will love you, too.

I have more and new gift ideas coming, so stay tuned! We’re just getting started here!

And if you have some great frugal gift ideas, be sharing them! No holding back! Tell me your latest, greatest cheap-but-special gift ideas. I want to know.


  1. Kelly says:

    I have quite a few bananas in my freezer that will become one egg banana bread
    ( I goggled the recipe and I add candied walnuts or candied pecans and a teaspoon of good vanilla to the recipe)
    that I will give to friends .
    Sometimes I make a much coveted Peanut Butter Fudge ( my Nana’s recipe ) .
    I have had friends fight over my fudge .
    I would love to receive some homemade hard candy .
    That was a childhood favorite of mine.
    If I was your friend I would dearly love ,
    a recipe box with Georgias’ painting of the slanted little house on the front
    and all the recipes you have shard with us inside !!!

  2. wammy says:

    I am in the process of making an starter herb garden for a fiend out of an old egg carton and egg shells. She is going to love it!

  3. Kathryn says:

    I love to sew. I find material all the time that I love, and not just at fabric stores. A lot of times I will find great material at estate sales, yard sales, or in a Goodwill. I make anchorback aprons for girlfriends and girlfamily, barbecue aprons for the men, and even napkins and placemats. There are free patterns on the Internet, even!

  4. beekudzu says:

    I knit dishcloths as gifts. Once I made my mother an angel out of old chair parts. I need frugal this year, so this is a great post. I’m thinking that same mother will get some homemade suet in a bird feeder.

  5. Beckynsc says:

    Most of the time I crochet items to give away.
    An I’m usually baking and cooking for gifting.
    Thanks for the tips, Suzanne.
    Can’t wait to hear more.

  6. Tressa says:

    We are doing a Home Made Christmas.

    Betsy McCall paperdolls – found them online, for FREE!! Starting from 1950. Printed them out, will paste onto oaktag, cut out and voila! Paperdolls!!

    Funky, fleece winter hats – Found tons (well, maybe a few pounds) of remnant fleece at half price. Already had the pattern. Now we’ll all look really cool (or really silly) in our new jester fleece hats. But, hey, our noggins’ will be warm! Burda patterns 2620 4219

    Now, to find something to make for my son, who makes everything from duct tape…

  7. mim says:

    I crochet….toboggans & scarves, afghans, ornaments etc. Also like to find vintage material to make pillows. I primitive stitch a “quote” onto unbleached or tea-dyed muslin and then sew this onto the pillow. I am waiting to see if my boss comes thru with some antlers…they make really neat buttons for the haversacks that I make and give as gifts.. :treehugger:

  8. Heidi says:

    Isnt it fun to make those!! The birds eat them faster than the ones in the store because they are FRESHER!!!

  9. Holli says:

    Great Ideas!! :purr: ~fect

  10. Kacey says:

    I knit a lot of gifts I give. Though sometimes the yarn isn’t cheap so it’s not exactly thrifty!

    I also make these darling antique teacup candles from inexpensive teacups I find at antique malls. I wrote how to make them here:

    I’m going to have to make your homemade suet for my birds. I have an empty suet cage on the side of my bird feeder begging to be filled!

  11. Matthew Burns says:

    We make gift baskets that are usually really cheap (less than $10) each, that people think are wonderful. We buy a cheap basket ($1) at Dollar Tree, line it with a piece of Christmasy cloth ($2/yard at Walmart). We put in it homemade soap with dried homegrown herbs (Lavender or Lemongrass is great) and costs about 25cents a bar), then a bottle of homemade lotion (you can re-use lotion bottles or buy them new at Soap Wholesalers for a few cents each, and get a gallon of Lotion base (around $15/gallon but a gallon will make about 50 bottles)…scent with essential oil or strong smelling herbs steeped in oil (Sweet Annie is great), also we include a foam soap (like Bath & Body works)..we re-use foam soap bottles (or you can buy them on soap wholesalers for a few cents each). It is the pump that makes the foam. Use 1 part liquid soap, 2 parts hot water. You can use scented soap or add essential oil. People are amazed at that, they don’t realize it is just the pump that makes the foam. Also, we include a little jar of bath salts, mix dried herbs of choice and Epsom Salts. The basket is usually bulging full and people think you spent a ton on them, but as you can see, you can make many baskets for very little money.

  12. Katy says:

    I always make several kinds of Christmas candy and put them in stacking tins for my father. The more tins I can find (always at thrift stores for about a quarter) the better.

    This year I’m going to stitch up several fabric grocery bags. The fabric won’t cost me anything as my mom has rolls of it in her garage collecting dust.

    Definitely think I need to make some of those cute teacup candles.

    Tressa, I had to laugh at the comment about your son. One gift my son ALWAYS gets for Christmas is a large roll of duct tape and a bag of beef jerky.

  13. tillie says:

    This is perfect!! My dad will love receiving it and my son will have a blast making it! Thank you!! :elephant:

  14. JoAnn says:

    I buy tablecloths at the thrift store – the woven plaid kind – and cut them up into napkins. I find that most of my friends don’t use tablelcoths any more but they sure love the hand made napkins. So far this year I have a nice stack of blue/white plaid, red/green plaid (perfect for the hostess gift), green/white plaid, red/white coca cola and a wonderful fall plaid with pictures woven into each square of the plaid. My best find was four of the same tablecloth – and each was only 2.00. Perhaps they thought that with so many they would never sell them for 7.00 each – little do they know me.

  15. Leah says:

    One year I made some chalk board grocery list/memo boards.. Got some med sz wooden framed chalk boards,little painted wooden decoration of roosters,chickens,milk jugs, etc to glue here and there on the frame,a picture hanging thingey, or maybe it was already on there, and of course some chalk. They were relatively inexpensive and cute. :sheep: :heart: :heart: :chicken:

  16. Stefinity says:

    I LOVE the suet cake idea — I’m going to make some for my own birds! Some other good ideas would be to include recipe cards for some other ideas for feeding birds:
    sliced apples
    hard boiled eggs
    corn bread
    rolled oats
    cooked rice
    brown suger

  17. Melanie says:

    I do the “mix in a jar” thing. Mostly cookies or cocoa mixes. If you can find canning jars at garage sales, etc., it’s a fairly cheap option. Of course this only applies to giving to people who love to bake. I would LOVE to receive a mix in a jar, but I never seem to get them. Heck, I’d love it mainly for the jar so I can quit trying to hunt them down! ha.

  18. nursemary says:

    I am working on baskets with a “happiness is homemade” theme. Everyone gets a 2 oz bottle of homemade vanilla extract, a store bought bottle of organic cinnamon, shaker jars of homemade vanilla bean sugar and cinnamon sugar, and spiral bound recipe cards. I printed out recipes for my favorite vanilla and/or cinnamon foods, even beautiful pictures on the cards. In November I made cinnamon rolls and took a picture of them. My granddaughter pointed out that one looked like a smily face with raisin eyes and a cinnamon mouth. I photoshopped it into the cutest cinnamon roll snowman and the picture adorns the cover of the recipe booklet. I bought green and white checked dishcloths with a cream colored square on front. In the square I primitive embroidered “happiness is homemade.” I bought plain forest green dishtowels and embellished them with fabric with an organic farming theme. I also used pinking shears to cut circles of the fabric and covered the lids of the shaker jars. I found the prettiest sets of porcelain measuring spoons at World Market and each basket will be tied with a big bow around the spoons. I bought mini loaf pans made of brown corrugated cardboard at Michael’s and I am baking mini rhubarb breads and including one of those in each basket. Last night I made vanilla biscotti and each basket will have a small brown paper bag of cookies. Today I will be sewing pot holders with the farming themed fabric on the front and green/white gingham on the back. If I have time, a lucky few will get aprons as well. I am making twelve baskets in all for closest family and friends. I am not sure how frugal I have been but I have enjoyed every minute of the process. Happiness IS homemade!

  19. Jill S. says:

    The kids and I took old puzzle pieces, spray painted them green, hotglued them haphazardly together in about a three inch round wreath, added a red ribbon and voila, a cute little Christmas ornament, made all the more special if you glue a small 3×5 picture into it.

  20. Susan says:

    We make place mats on an old loom. And couple of skeins of yarn isn’t all that expensive.

  21. Brandy says:

    I don’t have any ideas, but am loving the ones listed!

  22. catslady says:

    One thing I’ve done lately is buy in bulk all kinds of different nuts, cranberries, raisins, soy beans, yougurt covered nuts or raisins, M&M’s etc. to your liking and get some decorative jars, add a ribbon and it makes a wonderful gift for those who like nuts.

  23. Susan Flemming says:

    We’re also having a mostly homemade Christmas this year. I love sewing so I’ve been using fabric and scraps from my stash to make the gifts. So far, I’ve made tea wallets and hankies and I’ve half finished sets of little felt Christmas mice. And if there’s time… larger felt elves like the pair I made years ago that our children have been begging to have for their homes.

    One project I just completed today are puppets and a puppet theatre for my husband’s grandson. I sewed the puppets together but they could just as easily have been carefully glued together. I can’t post pictures of any of the other projects on my supermom blog in case one of our children sees it… but I did do a post about the puppets.

  24. Donna says:

    Suzanne, I think those are all wonderful gifts – I would love any one of them. :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: You are so creative!!!! :guitar:

  25. Peggy says:

    Wonderful ideas! Yours and the ones in the comments. So many creative people! I’m crocheting a few small items for friends, but now I am inspired to do more!

  26. IowaDeb says:

    I have made Concrete stepping stones using the clear plant trays as a mold and added broken bits of ceramics and marbles. Also have Decoupaged on those cheap clear glass plates.The plates are a nice gift when paired with cookies.

  27. NorseCookie says:

    I’ll throw out my ideas for the year. I have inherited a huge stash of crafts and fabric, so I rarely have to buy supplies. Even so, I know the evil empire (Wal*Mart) has cottons for a buck a yard and large packs of embroidery floss for less than 5 bucks.

    *beaded eyeglass chain
    *dough enhancer (wonder where I got that fabulous idea…) 🙂
    *wool coffee sleeves (makes takeout lattes a little greener) with silly embroideries to suit the recipients
    *reuseable square-bottomed grocery bags, also with silly embroideries (like quotes from “The Office” tv show) You can stitch them up in 20 minutes flat, no measuring or patterns or putzy stuff – look for the ‘jordy bag’ tutorial on
    *caramel corn
    *homemade marshmallows (super easy recipe on the Martha Stewart site)
    *sugar cookies with royal icing
    *heirloom tomato seeds I saved from last summer
    *little potted ivy plants from cuttings

    Some things my friend and I have crafted together in the past: melted LP “candy dishes/plant pots”; bath salts/bombs;tea blends from the bulk aisle in the grocery store; fridg poetry using free promo magnets, magazines, and glue sticks; fleece scarves from the good old remnant bin

    Also: it’s really really fun to melt records. Especially while sipping a merry beverage. 🙂

  28. Kristin says:

    That dump cake sounds and looks amazing. I made dump cake a few times this summer, but I used the box and cans. I wonder if I can pull this off for the potluck tomorrow. Probably not, but I can probably get this together for the next one!


  29. greenbelle says:

    Loving all these ideas! Several years ago, my family wanted to do a “make-it-yourself” Christmas and we liked to wrap the presents in fabric rather than paper that would just get thrown away. The recipient could then make something out of their “wrapping paper.”

  30. Carla says:

    OK, I had to jump in and throw in my 2 cents worth on the cheap Christmas gift ideas. When my children were in grade school, I usually managed to come up with some “home-made” type gift for their teachers. A few years back I did a memory jar. Take a large (and pretty) glass jar. Decorate it real pretty with the family name, “Smith family memories” (I used stickers cos I’m a scrapbook addict), tie a pretty bow around the top. And I included a pad of colorful spiral 5×5 size note pad I picked up at the office supply for a few dollars. I bought the glass jars at a craft store in the silk flower sections cos they were the perfect shape. Lemme see if I can send you a picture. If you will tell me how to send it to you, I’ll send the ones that I made that year. The first one I ever made was for my family and at that time I only had a very tall spaghetti glass jar with a cork in the top. That worked great too. Then I wrote a cute poem instructing the family to record their memories and drop in the jar to read on New Years Eve. It’s kinda like the gift that keeps on giving… you use it all year! My children loved it when they were younger. When their friends would come over, they would write “Sally was here on (date) and (whatever fun thing they did that day). Just remember to instruct the receiver to date the notes before dropping into the memory jar. It really is a blast to dump them all out on New Years Eve and read.

    I have a to-die for EASY cookie recipe that I am making to give this Christmas.

    Oh and there’s always the POOP gifts…

    Last year I made hot chocolate mix and put in cute snowman containers.

  31. Kris says:

    While you’re making homemade vanilla, use some of those beans to make vanilla sugar! Recipes vary but scrape 1 bean in 2-4 cups of sugar, bury the bean in it and wait at least two weeks. Great in coffee. Sprinkle on cookies. Best use? Process the sugar into powdered sugar and sprinkle on French toast!

  32. nanaK says:

    One of my favorite things about living on the edge of the country, was always having bird feeders; and watching the flurry of activity- both in the warmer weather and the winter….
    Sadly, we’ve had to shut down our bird feeders ( & hopefully others will continue) > We developed a terrible infestation of RATS. Rats EVERYWHERE… jumping in the trees, climbing over our fence (and along the top of it, etc…disgusting !! I’m talking about good sized ones with bodies well over 6″….it was also driving our cat crazy. She’d howl at night (we can’t let her outdoors at night)> something larger might get her (coyotes or the occasional cougar, or even a raccoon). And besides, it made me shiver to think of those rats crawling all over furniture & whatever outdoors> let alone, the possibility of them making some kind of home in our yard somewhere.
    Once we removed the feeders – – the rats disappeared.
    We actually live in a suburban area, but it is within miles of the mountains that surround us.

    Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to your other holiday craft projects:-)

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