How to Bake Cheap Holiday Cookies and Breads

Holiday baked goods can make an excellent gift – for someone on your list, or to take to the cookie exchange at work.  However, unless you are careful, those baked goods can break the budget.

To be economical, avoid the special flours, the real butter, chocolate, nuts and other special ingredients.  Dress up a plain product with colored sugars or sprinkles or icing decorations.  I do use real vanilla extract now, but for years I used the less expensive imitation extract.   Vanilla and other liquid flavorings (lemon, peppermint, almond and etc) are not cheap so don’t overuse.

If you are making up a gift box of cookies, you can spice it up with a sprinkling of colorfully wrapped small candies, candy canes or paper decorations your kids make.

Here are a few of my favorite, relatively cheap, holiday treats.

Cookies and Candy

Oatmeal cookies with raisins and sprinkles

Just follow the recipe on the oatmeal box, adding some raisins and sprinkling them with colorful sugars or sprinkles prior to baking.  Use oleo instead of butter in the recipe and avoid adding nuts.

Peanut butter cookies with colored sugar

My recipe calls for a cup of peanut butter (which yes, is expensive) but it makes eight dozen cookies!  We like the ones where you make crisscrosses in the dough with a fork prior to cooking.

Popcorn balls

A bit of corn syrup, some popcorn and a bit of flavoring and you are set to make these.  They can help you fill up that big treat box fast, or wrap them in clear wrap and tie  them with a bow for a stocking stuffer.

Danish Christmas tree cookies

These cookies have very little sugar, but do use almond.  Using red and/or green food coloring in the dough before you cut them into tree (or other holiday) shapes makes them festive.  A few of these in the treat box really liven up the appearance of your cookie gift.

Candy Cane cookies

Basically these are sugar cookies, with half the dough colored red.  You twist a little ball of white dough into a strip, then do likewise with a little ball of the red dough.  Twist them around each other then to form a candy cane!  They look great in your holiday cookie box.


Pumpkin bread

Use that jack-o-lantern (the one you should have cooked, pureed and frozen in 2 cup batches) to make loaves (no nuts).  Drizzle a little confectioner’s sugar glaze over the top.  You can either wrap with clear wrap and tie with a bow for a nice hostess gift, or slice into small pieces to include in a cookie box present.

Poppy seed loaves

Homemade yeast breads topped with poppy seeds make a large, wonderful and welcome gift when wrapped in clear wrap and tied with a bow.  Yeast, flour, sugar, salt and water are about all you need (except the poppy seeds of course) to make this.

What are your favorite holiday treats?  Are they expensive to make? For fun, I have shared a few of my favourite recipes below: 

This post was written by Marie.


Oatmeal cookies with raisins and sprinkles

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

  • 1 C vegetable shortening
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 C brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T milk
  • 1 ½ t vanilla
  • 1 ½ C flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 4 C quick oats
  • ¾ C raisins

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  In large bowl, blend shortening with sugars, adding sugar gradually.  Add eggs, milk and vanilla to sugar mix and beat well.  Add flour, salt and soda and beat well.  Stir in the oats and raisins.  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle with different color sugars and sprinkles. Bake 13 – 15 minutes. Place on wire racks to cool.

Peanut butter cookies with colored sugar sprinkles

Males 8 dozen cookies.

  • 1 C shortening (I use vegetable)
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 3 C sifted flour
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 C peanut butter
  • 2 t baking soda

Cream shortening, sugars and vanilla.

Add eggs, beat thoroughly.  Stir in peanut butter.  Sift dry ingredients into a different bowl.  Stir into creamed mixture.  Form tiny balls (about ½ inch in diameter) place on ungreased cookie pan.  Press with back of fork to make crisscrosses.  It helps to dip the fork into water once in awhile (but shake off the excess) while making crisscrosses.  Sprinkle with colored sugars or sprinkles.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.

Popcorn balls

  • 4 quarts popped corn
  • 2 C brown sugar
  • 1 C light corn syrup
  • 3 T butter
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 t vanilla
  • ½ t soda

Place brown sugar, syrup, butter and salt in a pan.  Cook on top of stove to hard ball stage.  Add soda and vanilla.  Pour over popcorn.  Mix well, then form into balls.  Be careful not to burn your fingers!

Danish Christmas tree cookies

  • 1 C soft shortening (I use oleo)
  • ½ C sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • ½ t baking powder
  • 3 t flavoring (I use almond)
  • red and green food coloring
  • decorative sugars

Mix shortening, sugar and egg thoroughly.  Stir in flour sifted together with baking powder.  Add flavoring.  Divide  dough into 2 parts.  Color ½ of the dough red and the other ½ green.  Chill well.  Roll each piece of dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut into desired shapes with a cutter.  Sprinkle before baking with colored sugar.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet, at 425 degrees for 5 – 7 minutes, just until set.  Cool on wire rack.

Candy Cane cookies

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix thoroughly:

  • 1 C soft shortening (part oleo)
  • 1 C sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ t almond extract
  • 1 t vanilla

Sift together and stir in:

  • 2 ½ C sifted flour
  • 1 t salt

Divide dough in half.  Blend red food coloring into one half.  Roll 1 t each color dough into a strip about 4” long.  Place strips side by side, press lightly together and twist like rope.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Curve top down to form handle of cane.  Bake about 9 min. or until set at 375 degrees.  Remove with spatula from sheet while still warm and sprinkle with mix of ½ C crushed peppermint candy and ½ C sugar.

Pumpkin bread

Makes 2 loaves

  • 2/3 C shortening (I use vegetable)
  • 2 2/3 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can (1 lb) or 2 C frozen pumpkin
  • 2/3 C water (only use this if you are using canned pumpkin)
  • 3 1/3 C flour
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t ground cloves

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pans (you can also use wax paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan).  In large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.  Stir in eggs, pumpkin and water (only if using canned pumpkin).  Blend in flour, cinnamon and cloves.  Pour into pans. Bake about 70 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan for ½ hour.  Remove from pan and cool completely on wire racks.  Make a glaze of powdered sugar and water and drizzle a zig zag design on top.  Sprinkle with colored sugars. These freeze well.

Poppy seed loaves

Makes 2 large loaves


  • 2 pkgs active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ c 105 – 110 degree (warm) water

Measure into a large bowl:

  • 6 C flour
  • 1 T salt

Make a deep well and pour in the yeast mixture.

Combine the below and add to the flour:

  • 2 C 105 degree (warm) water
  • 3 slightly beaten eggs
  • ¼ C vegetable shortening or oil
  • 3 T granulated sugar

Beat well until a ball of dough is formed, then turn out  a floured board and knead about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl, turn, cover with damp cloth and allow to rise until doubled in bulk (about an hour).  Punch down and divide dough into two sections, kneading each for several minutes.

Make braids: Cut each section of dough into 3 parts and roll between the hands or on a board into long tapered cylinders.  With the three ropes of dough lying side by side on a greased floured sheet, start to braid loosely from center to end, then braid the other portion from center to end.  Finsh the ends by tucking them under.  Repeat for the second loaf.  Cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk.

Brush the tops with an egg yolk mixed with 1 to 2 T milk.  This will give the dough color and gloss.

Sprinkle the top of the loaves with poppy seeds. Bake 15 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake about 45 minutes longer.


How to Bake Cheap Holiday Cookies and Breads — 11 Comments

  1. Thanks for this – I have printed it to give to our cooking-10-year-old son! (Who also knits and embroiders as well as plays rugby, cricket and most sports in case your think we are living with a Jane Austen product).

    In fact he may well cook Christmas dinner for us – or at least ‘assist’.

  2. I didn’t really think I liked raisin cookies, but one of my patients brought me some last year that were simply delicious!!!! I also love pumpkin bread too but haven’t had any in years. Thanks for the recipes.

    It’s a little ironic that the article immediately preceding this one was is about fitness 🙂 That’s how it works though. Cheers!

  3. Printing this! My 8 year old is getting an apron and a few cooking bits and pieces. These are great recipes to put it all together. Thank you!

  4. @Ultimate Smart Money We should trade! My hubby likes hard and I like soft. Maybe that is one of those questions that should be on the pre-marital question list! To get harder cookies, I just bake them a bit longer. To get softer, I pull them out a bit earlier.
    @Hunter – enjoy your son’s efforts!
    @Krantcents – I love them too – they were also my Dad’s favorites – hot out of the oven is best.

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