Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas on the Cheap by Margaret Ullrich

Back in 2004 I wrote this for the CKUW radio show ‘2000 & Counting’.  
Christmas stress and chores haven’t changed.  Darn!!

There are less than four weeks left until Christmas.  
I know, it's more blessed to give than to receive.  But, unless you have ways of shopping that you don't want the police to know about, giving means money. 
It's a little late to start a Christmas account and utility companies really lose that 
Ho Ho Ho spirit if you skip paying their bills.  
If the charge cards are maxed out, gifts are going to take a little ingenuity.  
Desperate times call for desperate measures.       
As we're all stuck with holidays, I'll share some of my desperate measures.
Live off your hump.  You know what I mean.  Things like the 19 cans of tuna you have left from the time you bought 20 cans so you could earn 50 bonus airmiles.  Now's the time to crack them open.  

I know the family hates tuna.  That's why there are 19 cans in your pantry.  
Well, they'd hate a Giftless Christmas even more.   
Lousy dinners happen.  But the family Grinch who's giftless at Christmas gets 
blabbed about throughout the neighborhood, the schoolyard and the generations.  
You don't want to be remembered as Granny Grinch.
Try creative cooking.  Pretend you're on Iron Chef.  You've got a tube of ground beef, a bag of marshmallows, a jar of salsa, a bottle of raspberry vinegar, a carton of frozen spinach, a jar of maraschino cherries and a box of rice-a-roni.  Think only a nut would throw just anything together?  How do you think raspberry vinegar was invented?  
If the family gets snarky, tell them you found the recipe in a magazine.  Drop names.  Martha's good.  And if they can't appreciate all the time and effort you put into making a dinner interesting... Well!  You know the speech.  
Remember, guilt, when another person has it, is a good thing.

Go ethnic.  Granny's recipes aren't just for Folklorama.  Go to an Italian restaurant and see what they charge for a plate of pasta fagioli.  Grandma would die laughing if she saw what they charge for noodles and beans.  Beans got millions of people through tough times.  Go thou and eat likewise.
Beans not good enough?  Go past the recognizable cuts and shop the mystery meats.  Put enough spices on them and the family won't know what hit them.  I once made spaghetti and meatballs using animal organs only a mother could love.  Guess what?  Hubby had invited a friend.  Well, the pal was getting a free meal, so I made like a politician running for re-election: don't apologize and don't explain.  The buddy said it was delicious, like the meatballs they serve at the Bay.  
Hmmm...  I notice the Bay is still in business.      

Grab a bag and shop your house.  Look for things somebody foisted, uh, gave to you.  Well, why should you be stuck with it until you're six feet under?  Unless it was made by your kid - don't even think it, they do remember - you're free to pass it on someone else.  Just don't give it to the person who gave it to you.  

Pack your own.  Ever notice the stuff stores sell as ready-to-go gifts?  One combo is a box of pasta, a tin of sauce, some cheese and two wooden spoons sitting in a large bowl and wrapped in cellophane.  Are you too dumb to do the same thing?  I don't think so.  It's one way to get rid of some of those bonus airmiles purchases.   

Still thinking about the folks in the flyers looking wildly happy over a toaster?  
Toss the flyers.  Those models were paid big bucks.  Stores want you to buy.  A stress free family holiday is not their goal.  If they had their way you'd replace everything and pay 50% interest. 

Remember how the best presents were things that showed that someone cared?  Maybe somebody hunted down an out-of-print book by your favorite author.  
The gadgets that looked amazing seem strange on December 26.  

While you're shopping, get yourself some treats.  
I have a friend who picks up a bag of pfeffernusse cookies every year.  When she feels like all she's doing is giving, giving, giving, she pops a pfeffernusse and gives herself an old time Christmas.  It doesn't take much.  
God bless us, everyone.  

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