Please upgrade your browser

Sign up for our daily email newsletter:

Sign In:

  View changes →

Hip2Save This Holiday: Homemade Christmas Gifts (Fudge, Christmas Salsa, Apple Butter & More)

2:40 PM MST
The links in the post below may be affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.

Hip2Save This Holiday Guest Post Submitted By Reader Katie…

Probably the BEST way that I save money during the Holidays, is by MAKING the majority of our Christmas gifts.  Each year I make all our teacher’s gifts, extended family gifts, and neighbor gifts.  I wanted to share with a few of my “frugal faves”!  The fudge is the easiest, most crowd-pleasing treat I’ve ever given, and the apple butter is a close second.  Even if you aren’t very comfortable in the kitchen, the three recipes below will turn out amazing!  And at the very bottom you’ll find a “recipe” for homemade hand warmers.

5 Minute Fudge:

This is hands-down the simplest, CREAMIEST fudge I have ever found…


*12 oz pkg semisweet chocolate chips
*14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
*1 Tbs butter
*1 Tbs cream
*1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, if desired


*Place chips and milk in microwave safe bowl.  (You can just use the semisweet for a “darker” flavor, or add the milk choc. chips for a sweeter flavor.)
*Microwave on medium power for 2 minutes and stir.
*Microwave and stir at 1 minute intervals until all chips are melted and mixture is thick & smooth.
*Stir in butter and cream until combined.
*Pour into greased 8″ square pan and cool completely before cutting and gifting!

(Photo credit)

Christmas Salsa:

I love gifting savory treats at Christmas when I can because so many people are overrun by sweets.  I typically give this out in inexpensive tupperware type containers from the Dollar Tree.  It will stay good refrigerated for up to three weeks (but it’ll never remain un-eaten for that long!).

In a bowl combine:

*1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
*2 fresh seeded jalapenos, chopped
*2 fresh seeded long green chili peppers, chopped
*1/4 – 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
*1 clove minced garlic
*1 teaspoon lemon juice
*1/4 cup cilantro leaves, freshly chopped
(Collin, the salt addict, thought she’d also mention – “Add in Salt too!” ;) )

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender to desired consistency and ENJOY!

Homemade Crock Pot Apple Butter:

This recipe is so easy and will make you feel like a ROCK STAR!


*5 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored and chopped
(I use Rome apples, but really any type of sweet, mealy apple will work great!)
*3 cups sugar
*2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
*1/4 teaspoon salt


*Place apples in large bowl of Crock Pot.
*Combine sugar and spices and pour over apples in Crock.  Mix well.
*Cook on high for 1 hour, then decrease heat to low and cook for 9 – 11 hours or until thick and dark brown.
*Stir occasionally.
*Uncover and cook on low for one more hour
*To reach desired consistency, either whisk (if you want it lumpy) or blend (if you want it smooth).
*Either can in Ball jars, OR can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.
*All done and ready to go into the jars to be canned and gifted (top right picture)!  One batch makes about 10 8oz jars.

Homemade Hand Warmers:

I just love these little cuties!  I used fleece fabric scraps (most of which were purchased with 40% off coupons!) to make little heart shaped, rice-filled hand warmers. This year I’m gifting these along with gloves I bought on after Christmas clearance from last year for $1.45/pair!


*Take two pieces of felt or fleece (these are nice and soft and will not fray)
*Cut them into your desired shapes
*Line them up and begin to sew around the edges
*Use a sewing machine or by hand with needle and thread.
*Leave a small space open to pour the rice into.
*Using a small funnel or measuring spoon, fill about 2/3 full with whatever rice you find on sale!  ;)
*Sew the opening closed and admire your “handy” work!

TO USE – Heat these in the microwave for 30 – 45 seconds and pop them in your pockets.  They’ll stay warm for about 30 minutes!

For more information on my Hip2Save This Holiday series and to learn how you can participate in the fun, click here!

Join the Discussion

Post Your Comment
  • Edie says:

    I’ve heard you’re not supposed to use instant rice for any type of handmade warmers, just a word of caution. :) Those are cute though.

  • vicki says:

    Love these ideas!

  • kema says:

    I love the hand warmer idea. Really cute!

  • Nicole says:

    I’m absolutely going to make some hand warmers! A sewing tip when using fleece or felt (since these fabrics don’t fray): pin a paper template of your pattern and sew through it with both your front and back fabrics (leave a hole for filling). The needle punctures the paper and it comes right off. Cut the fabric shape out after it’s sewn. That way you don’t have to match up the separate pieces or worry about it slipping around while sewing.

  • Katie says:

    So neat and creative! Good for you!

  • Kristi says:

    Thanks so much for the fudge recipe & the apple butter recipe!!! I’m really excited to try the fudge recipe!

  • tricia says:

    rice smells when you heat it- you can add some lavender oil from Bath and body works or somewhere else to help hide the smell. I can’t stand the smell without the oil.

    • Cakie says:

      But remember that many asthmatics can’t be around lavender or eucalyptus oils, so if you’ve got a wheezer on your list (like me), then choose a different oil for them!

    • Brenda says:

      I’ve done larger rice packs or rice socks (knee socks–for around the neck & shoulders) and added whole cloves, allspice, & broken up pieces of cinnamon sticks. We use the rice packs ALL THE TIME for aches & pains or just to get warm on a really cold night. They also work in the freezer.

  • Heidi says:

    Great ideas, thanks for sharing!

  • Kelly says:

    Collin, Thank you so much for this holiday series. I have taken away so many ideas to either use this year or to file away for next year. This has hands down become one of my favorite topics to see on your blog– so many wonderful and creative ideas!

  • Ger says:

    Thanks for sharing, Katie!

  • Erin says:

    I’m hesitant to give homemade food gifts because I imagine much of it is tossed. Can any teachers and bus drivers weigh in on whether they actually eat homemade food gifts?

    • Lori G says:

      I am a kindergarten teacher with a family of 5…all food gifts are appreciated and eaten at my house :)

    • Lisa says:

      I am a preschool teacher and I LOVE homemade gifts! There have only been a few kids over the last 15 years that I would even question eating something that they brought in… you can usually tell if a child comes from a home that you would feel safe eating things from :)

    • AG says:

      Erin, I have many friends who are teachers and they do not eat anything their students bring in. I also have relatives who are teachers and they do not eat homemade treats either. It’s a very kind thought, but you never know what someone could put in something they made for you. There have been stories about kids bringing tainted treats to school. People do crazy things sometimes. Also, you never know how clean someone’s kitchen is or how they are about food safety when they cook (handwashing, licking the knife and then using it, etc.). For a close friend or relative I think homemade items or fine but for someone you don’t know well I’d say no. My mailman, paper carrier and children’s teacher always get store-bought or non-food homemade gifts.

    • Danielle says:

      I thought the same thing… I don’t really trust food from someone I don’t know well/or haven’t been to their house… BUT these sound like great gifts for neighbors/coworkers that you know/trust, but don’t want to spend a ton of money on!

      • Ashley57 says:

        My uncle is a postman and he loves homemade gifts…I say go for it if you want.

        • shannon says:

          I say go for it too! All of the teachers at my husbands school absolutely LOVE homemade treats, baked goods, and food brought in by the students. Teachers with allergies are rare and they are the ones who know they cannot eat certain foods but a person that won’t eat the homemade food because they are worried about cleanliness, etc. is very rare. Always appreciated and shows alot of personalization, appreciation, and love to the teachers.

          • Sarah says:

            I used to be a teacher before I had kids and I didn’t know at the time that I have food allergies. I can’t eat a lot of foods and I try really hard to stay away from them, but I am quickly learning that even if you tell someone that you have an allergy they may not be that careful to make sure that what they make you doesn’t contact the allergy food. If I was teaching now I would HAVE to throw everything homemade away even if it looked safe because the person making it may not have been careful to avoid contact with my trigger foods. Just my personal experience, I am not trying to say don’t make homemade stuff for people you don’t know but please keep in mind how serious food allergies can be.

        • Lucy says:

          My dad is a mail carrier and also loves gifts of goodies. He says veteran carriers know who to trust and who not to- you can tell a lot about a person by what they’re getting in the mail -lol!

    • zoe says:

      most of my family are teachers and we usually ate some of it, depending on who made it. we don’t have any allergies and like just about all foods, which i think would be the big thing, what if you gave someone something that they were allergic to?!

    • Em says:

      At the firehouse here we generally don’t eat anything homemade. The nicest, most normal looking family can live in the grossest, nastiest houses…

      Now if its a little old lady that we’ve helped numerous times getting her husband off the floor or something than we’ll eat it and love all over her for bringing it in, or other examples like that we’ll eat and enjoy.

      But just a random we don’t remember, we’ll still thank them, take the kids on a tour, let them sound the siren, but the food goes in the trash. After all we’ve seen, well, it’s just hard to eat it.

    • Nicole says:

      I always eat them if they’re from my students!

    • Ashley says:

      growing up, my best friend’s mom and dad were both teachers. i’d always them eat all their goodies they received

  • Hope says:

    Such great ideas!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  • Maysie says:

    Awesome, thanks so much for posting these! I’m going to be making the fudge for use and probably the apple butter :D

  • Lisa says:

    Oooo! I’m gonna make some football shaped handwarmers for the guys too!

    Hope this add-on to Collin’s idea helps someone else with hard-to-craft for guys.

  • Daphne says:

    Just be careful putting fleece in the microwave, it is polyester and can melt.
    I have made those hand warmers out of flannel with great results.
    I will definetely be making some of that fudge, thank you.

  • michelle says:

    I make a bigger version of the hand warmers every year. I use the fat quarters you can get at any store, esp at Jo anns or michaels with coupons. I cut them in half and double up with old receiving blankets (holds the heat in better and protects from burns if they heat too long). Everyone loves them and ask for them so I end up making 20 every year lol. It’s an all day project

  • Ashley says:

    Ok I dont bake alot so in the fudge recipe it sounds very easy but what is cream? coffee cream, heavy cream etc? help!

  • Laura says:

    Does anyone know if I could substitute anything for the cream? I would have to buy the carton and would only use the 1 Tablespoon since we don’t really use heavy cream in my house, I wouldn’t like wasting it! Thanks if anyone has any ideas on this!

  • Rose says:

    I received a quart jar layed with a bunch of different dried beans. This was bean soup mix. The metal top and lid had a beautiful Christmas print circl of fabric that ruffled about an inch out fro ring and tie with small ribbon. Attached to the ribbon was a small sealed Baggie of seasonings. ( taco seasoning woul work great). I loved this home made gift and I will be giving them to special friends and family this year.

  • Ang says:

    that apple butter looks great! AND easy. can’t wait to use my apple peeler / corer / slicer cuz getting those apples ready is now going to be a CINCH!!! :) I bought mine at and she gave me a FREE cookbook, too!

  • shannon says:

    What is the “cream” you are supposed to use for that portion of the fudge recipe?

  • Mo says:

    Thank You for the ideas and instructions!! I’ve got a question how many ounces is the tomatoes? a large for me is 28 oz, but want to make sure.

  • hipsaver says:

    What is the diffrence between apple butter and applesauce?

    • Katie says:

      Typically, apple butter has more sugar, cinnamon and/or spices and a much smoother consistency while apple sauce is less sweet a chunkier. HTH! :)

  • cindy says:

    Collin – how much does the salsa recipe make?

    • Katie says:

      The salsa recipe usually makes about 4 8 ounce jars. I almost always double it, though since it’s so easy! (SO that would be about 7-8 jars doubled.) HTH! :)

  • Jo says:

    Thank you for the apple butter recipe. We had some apples get too ripe to eat but perfect for this use. The house is going to smell amazing!!

  • Diffused win says:

    How long does it take to dry???

  • Brittany Granger says:

    I was just wondering how thick is “thick” in the apple butter recipe. Thanks!

Comment Here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Want your own personal icon next to your comment? Head over to

Related Posts