Homemade Vanilla Extract and Why It Pays to Give Christmas a Passing Thought During Summer

It’s that time of year again. The time when I remind everyone that Christmas isn’t that far away, and it would behoove you to start thinking ahead. No, I am not one of those crazy Christmas people who count down the days like an obsessed fiend. What I am is a mom on a severe budget, and I’ve learned that pushing off Christmas until Fall/Winter means that I end up stressed out and financially tapped out. While it does pay to wait in some cases so that you catch those holiday mega sales, your budget will thank you if you start the small gifts now. I try to knock out teacher gifts, neighbor gifts and some extended family gifts during the summer. Most of my smaller gifts for this group are handcrafted, and by using those craft store coupons, I slowly put a major dent in that list. In the past, I’ve posted about some of my homemade gift ideas here, here, here, here, and my craft category is full of ideas too.

Today, the Heathens and I started homemade vanilla extract that will be used as teacher/neighbor gifts this year. If you are interested in this idea, start ASAP, as it really needs five or six months to marinate.

This is about the easiest, kid-friendly activity you can do. All you need are some glass bottles, vanilla beans, and vodka (the cheap, rot-gut, can-double-as-gasoline stuff…don’t waste good hooch here).

I picked up a bunch of bottles at my local craft store using coupons to get the already cheap price tag even cheaper. Looking at the size, I figured three vanilla beans per jar would suffice:

Better to have too much vanilla bean than too little. The kids were able to distribute the vanilla beans among the jars, so they got to feel some ownership in their teacher gifts.

**A quick word on buying vanilla beans. Your local grocery store is the MOST expensive place to purchase these!!! If you live around a specialty spice store or a World Market store, you’ll find better prices. Ordering online is a good option, but it pays to look around a bit. Don’t believe me? Two vanilla beans at my supermarket cost about $9.99, while World Market sells them for $2.99 (and I had a coupon for them too). See? Shop smart!**

Anyway, then I (not the kids, so don’t freak) poured vodka into the jars until the beans were covered. The kids closed the jars and we were done! Three minutes of effort:

And we got six teacher gifts that stayed firmly within my budget. Better yet, come December, that’s one less thing I’ll have to worry about. We are storing these in a cool, dark cabinet, and once a week, we will give them a quick shake just to keep things going. By Christmas, the vodka will be dark brown and infused with vanilla. We will do up some cute labels on the computer, and maybe pair them with a set of measuring spoons if I have any extra money in the budget by then. If not, no biggie. Regardless, we have a handmade gift that my kids helped create and will feel excited about. It also helps reinforce to them that it really is the thought that counts and that there is more care in “doing” than in “buying.”

So, what’s the moral of the story? Even if you aren’t particularly crafty, nearly every major craft store chain has weekly coupons of 40% to 50% a single item, so you can still pick up stuff on the cheap, including things like kids’ art supplies, home décor stuff, picture frames, and more.

Now, back to beating the heat with cocktails, fun times, and trashy TV that I’ll never admit to actually watching.

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