Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 17 - Get Organized for Catalog Shopping!

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas

Ready to shop for Christmas gifts? Between mall madness, high gas prices and lack of time, it can be the holiday season's greatest source of stress.

There's got to be an easier way!

Organized gift shoppers know there's an alternative to crowded malls and long lines at the checkstand: shop online or from catalogs!

We'll make it easy with catalog shopping tips and a printable order tracker to organize catalog and Internet purchases.

Will you do this year's Christmas shopping from your easy chair? It's time to begin shopping catalogs and the Internet!

To Do Today

Get organized for catalog and Internet shopping

Catalogs! Stacks and stacks and stacks pile into the mailbox, streaming in from August onward. They can be a boon to busy holiday shoppers, if you keep them under control.

Today, we'll organize catalog and online shopping for stress-free gift-giving. Use a printable Catalog/Internet Order Tracker forms to keep track of purchases.

Get-organized tip: use a three-hole punch to add a large manila envelope to your Christmas planner. Place shopping receipts in the envelope to track purchases and provide for easy returns.

Three Tips for Smart Catalog Shopping

Overwhelmed by holiday catalogs? Get organized for catalog or internet shopping:

Planning for Christmas, catalog or online shopping has many advantages over the holiday mall scene.

No long lines. No sore feet. No staggering to the car, weighed down by parcels and shopping bags.

Shopping becomes a pleasure, conducted from a favorite chair. Phone in your selections (or place them from your computer terminal), sit back, and wait for the UPS man. Ahhhhh!

Still, it's possible to have too much of a good thing! The catalog tide sweeps in at the end of August, engulfing mailboxes and tabletops with untidy stacks and piles--and disorganized catalog shopping exacts a high price for convenience.

Unbridled catalog shopping can be a real budget-buster, the very ease of the transaction encouraging free spending. Scattershot orders pay high toll in the form of shipping and handling fees. Returns can be problematic, especially when the receipt has vanished in the flood of greeting cards and torn-out recipes.

How to shop smart and save? Try these three tips to organize catalog shopping.

Corral 'em!
1. First problem for any catalog shopper is keeping the little beasties in check. Try a records box or similar 1 cubic foot container to corral those catalogs. Toss each day's quota in the box. When the box overflows, it's time to weed out the duplicates.

2. Second "corral 'em" strategy: save all receipts and shipping invoices in a special envelope in the Christmas planner notebook. Punch holes in a manila envelope, and entrust it to the jaws your three-ring binder, or use a special pocket to track receipts. If returns are necessary, you'll know where to find the necessary paperwork.

Consolidate your orders!
3. Savvy catalog shoppers know that shipping and handling charges are the bane of catalog shopping. These fees can add as much as 25% to the cost of the merchandise! Piecemeal orders require multiple trips to the post office to collect packages. Best strategy: order as many gifts as possible in a single order from one catalog source.

How to consolidate? The secret: removable adhesive tape flags. As the catalogs arrive, browse through them during television commercials or while waiting in the car. When you see an item that would make a good gift, tag the page with a colorful tape flag.

Ready to order? Look for the catalog or two with the greatest number of flags! The colorful display makes the decision for you--and a consolidated order saves money, time and aggravation.

Control your enthusiasm!

Savvy consumers use a credit card for catalog transactions so they can dispute charges for undelivered or unsatisfactory merchandise.

The downside? Credit card shopping can lead to over-spending--and the catalog people are masters at provoking impulse purchases. Unbridled catalog shopping can easily tip the holiday budget into a financial morass.

Use a free printable catalog/Internet order tracker and master gift list to control catalog shopping.

Keep your lists before your eyes as you make out catalog orders. If the item isn't on the list, it's an impulse purchase--so don't buy it! When you phone in an order, say "No, thanks!" to all telephone specials, today-only offers, and other temptations that will be led across your path.

Second control issue: once you've placed your orders, stop reading catalogs! You'll want to order early, to make sure items are in stock, and can be delivered on time--but there's a danger to early shopping. Those crafty catalog folks will try to entice you back for more, with sales flyers in the box and a renewed freshet of brochures in the mail. Be firm! Once the master gift list is satisfied, ignore the siren songs, sales, and special offers for your financial well-being.

Ready? Set? Shop those catalogs carefully . . . to get ready for Christmas.

Today's Recipe

texas cornbread recipe

Ready for some real Texas cornbread? Try this gift version, which can be shared in a mason canning jar or gift bag.

Paired with Confetti Bean Soup Mix in a Jar, this Texas treat makes a make-ahead treat for holiday gift baskets. 

 The free printable gift tag coordinates with the Confetti Bean Soup recipe, to make a pretty gift basket.

Golden and sweet, this cornbread mix is a perfect partner for Confetti Bean Soup! Packaged together in a pretty gift basket, they're perfect for thoughtful, frugal Christmas gifts.

Use free printable gift tags to decorate pint canning jars filled with Texas Cornbread Mix, or package the mix inside a holiday-colored paper bag. Instructions included for both packaging alternatives.

Includes free printable gift tags!

1 wide-mouth pint (2-cup) canning jars with lids and rings or holiday-colored paper lunch sacks
1 cupyellow corn meal
1 cupsifted flour, all purpose
1⁄4 cupsugar
1⁄2 teaspoonsalt
4 teaspoonsbaking powder
Sift flour before measuring. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all dry ingredients.

To package in jars:

1. Wash, rinse and dry canning jars, lids and bands.

[Packaging note: pre-mix ingredients thoroughly before filling wide-mouth pint canning jars with 2 cups each of the finished mix. Mixing ingredients permits the finer flour granules to fill spaces between the cornmeal, and allows a single recipe to fit inside a pint jar. Layering ingredients for this recipe will require larger jars.]

2. Place two cups Texas cornbread mix in each wide-mouth pint canning jar.

[Hint for FoodSaver brand vacuum sealer owners: use the jar sealing attachment to seal jars for longer storage.]

3. Cut appropriate amount of 7-inch circles from cotton fabric. Top each jar with fabric circle, and tie with ribbon.

4. Print appropriate number of gift tags with recipe instructions. Cut gift tags apart and attach to ribbon. Or, hand-write a gift tag using the recipe below.

To package in bags:

1. Place 2 cups cornbread mix in each zipper food storage bag. Seal bags.

2. Place bagged mix inside holiday-colored paper bag. Fold down paper bag top, and tape or staple closed.

3. Cut 12-inch lengths of craft ribbon. Tape craft ribbon around paper bag.

4. Print appropriate number or gift tags with recipe instructions. Cut gift tags apart and attach to ribbon and paper bag using double tape, glue or staple.

Texas Cornbread Recipe
1 container (2 cups) Texas Cornbread Mix
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup soft shortening (Crisco)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease one 8-inch square pan, or 8-inch cast iron skillet, or cast iron cornbread mold.

Place cornbread mix into bowl, mix thoroughly. Add egg, milk and shortening. Hand-beat until smooth, about one minute. DO NOT OVERBEAT!

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for pan or skillet, 15 to 20 minutes for cornbread mold.

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