I’ve been inspired! Once Upon a Company A True Story by Wendy Anderson Halperin tells the story of kids, parents and other relatives making and selling Christmas wreaths (and assorted other things in different seasons) to earn money for the kids college fund.
You may know that each year, for my two Grandchildren, I hold a camp I call Grandma Rie’s Money Camp. For the past few years, the kids have had a one time ‘business’ during camp. They usually opt to sell drinks and snacks (which they purchase and mark up) at the lake.
This year, I’m hoping to start a new tradition – similar to what the kids in Once Upon a Company did. But instead of wreaths, I want to start with Christmas goodies sold only to family members. I’ve already gotten my son’s ok to get that started. If the kids are in, then during Money Camp, we will cook sample cookies and other treats, create business cards and order forms and send the samples along with the literature out to our considerable family units. Hopefully some of them will repay Grandpa and I for all the support we have provided to their causes over the years and order something.
Then, close to Christmas time, I’ll get back together with the kids for a bake fest. We will package everything up and hand deliver it – saving on postage and getting and giving a bit of Holiday cheer.
The only fly in the ointment is the cost of ingredients for the cookies and treats I usually make! I’ve been on a search for affordable Christmas treats.
To hold down costs, I’ve been looking for recipes that are more thrifty in their use of things like nuts, chocolate and sugar (all the good stuff!). I’ll try out some recipes that call for butter – using oleo instead – to see if the flavor or texture suffers. I used to use oleo for everything back when we couldn’t really afford real butter.
We may decide to offer a line of holiday door decor as well – if I can find some that are easy enough to make, yet beautiful enough to keep and purchase. I’m thinking those bleach bottle Santa door hangers might work!
Here are the results to date of my search for affordable Christmas treats.
When I worked, I used to buy tins of popcorn from Topsy’s to treat the folks I managed. We all loved their caramel corn and cinnamon corn.
Caramel corn recipe
This seems like something a 9 and 11 year old could handle with some supervision from me.
We will buy bulk popcorn (the kind we all used to use – not the kind you throw in the microwave) and pop it ourselves in a pan with some shortening.
Then we will cook up a mixture of brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and salt, boiling it for about 5 minutes, then we will put the popped corn on a cookie tray, warm it in the oven a bit and pour the liquid candy mixture over it. After we stir it up, we will bake it for about 45 minutes stirring it once in a while to get it coated all over, then take it out, spread it on aluminum foil and let it cool (spraying the foil with cooking oil first!). After it cools, the kids can wash up and break it apart, sample it and package it in an air tight container for sample shipping.
Bulk popcorn is pretty reasonable. The receipe (to make up 4 quarts of caramel corn) only takes 1 c of brown sugar, 1/2 c of Karo corn syrup, 1/2 c margarine, a bit of salt baking soda and vanilla extract.
Pretty inexpensive! Especially considering what Topsy’s charges!
We’ll have to be careful to make sure there aren’t any un-popped kernels or we might cause some dental issues!
Cinnamon corn recipe
Guess what, there isn’t powdered cinnamon in cinnamon popcorn! You use those candy red hots instead.
This is another easy and pretty cheap recipe. You can get a package (6 ounces) of red hots at Walmart for less than a dollar. The recipe calls for 5 ounces to make 8 cups of the finished product. It also requires only 2 tablespoons of corn syrup; half cup of butter (we will try oleo) and a bit of shortening to pop the corn. You can either melt the red hots, butter and corn syrup in the microwave or on the stove. If you wanted to you could put the popped corn in a sturdy bag and pour the melted mixture over the top then shake until all kernels are coated; or you can do as the caramel corn recipe called for – spread the warmed popped corn on a baking sheet, pour over the melted mixture and bake for about 1/2 hour. That is how we will proceed.
We will also do cookie recipes that have less expensive ingredients:
Old fashioned ginger snaps (yes the molasses costs a bit but the recipe doesn’t call for much);
Danish Christmas Tree cookies (which are heavy on the flour, light on the sugar and shortening). These take a while to cut and decorate but they really can dress up a box of cookies as you die the dough (red for half the cookies and green for the other half).
Peanut butter criss cross cookies with sprinkles on top;
Oatmeal cookies, maybe with a few raisins or chocolate chips in the batter.
Spritz pressed cookies. I already have the cookie press and the recipe is just a butter cookie. You can die the dough to make them Christmas-y.
For candies (which are usually either chocolate or sugar intensive and require a lot of boiling) we will probably stick to tiny pretzels covered with almond bark and then sprinkled for festiveness.
What are your favorite lower cost holiday treats suitable for kids to make and sell?