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The Best Frugal Gifts for Foodies

If there are foodies on your Christmas shopping list this year, then there are a number of gifts out there that are a good deal for you and for them.

Shopping for a foodie is generally pretty easy: Artisanal honey, a new cookbook or another kitchen gadget to stuff in the drawer all work as inexpensive, yet fun, gifts. There are also gifts that will help foodies eat well and save money. For example, a nice French press and some gourmet beans could help someone kick their $4-a-day latte habit, while other workhorse appliances encourage more dining at home.

Here are six gift ideas, recommended by chefs and food bloggers, that will work for your budget and the foodie in your life:

Cooking lessons.

If you know a foodie who wants to improve their skills and cook more at home, consider signing them up for cooking lessons.  ”In the long run, the best money-savers are practical subjects that will expand your repertoire and make you more confident as a chef, like knife skills or easy weeknight meals,” says chef and instructor, Alejandra Ramos.

 

Restaurant gift cards.

This time of year, many of the big restaurant chains offer bonus cards when you buy a certain amount. Benihana offers $10 when you spend $50 and Outback Steak House offers $20 with a $100 gift card purchase. The downside to promo cards is that they usually expire soon. For example, the Benihana card is good only until March 31st, but you still carry 20% more spending power than when dining during other times of the year.

Instant-read thermometer.

“This must-have kitchen tool runs less than $10,” says Anne Maxfield, author of accidental-locavore.com. “They’re essential for making perfect roasts every time, as well as a host of other things, like yogurt,” she says. This handy kitchen gadget improves meals and reduces waste.

Tablet sleeve.

A tablet sleeve is something that is on Frugal Foodie’s personal wish list this holiday season. These disposable “chef sleeves“ let cooks use their favorite cooking apps and recipe sites without worrying about splatters. The Service Contract Industry Council estimates that the average screen replacement runs $160 to $350, so $20 for a 25-pack of sleeves seems downright cheap.

Foodie basket.

If you’re going to go the gift basket route, make sure it’s filled with something more interesting than the same boxed mixes and blah cheeses available nationwide. Fit in some homemade goodies, or follow the lead of Seikita Ekrek, author of of kikaeats.com, and head to the local farmers market or holiday market. She found local salsa, gourmet home-brew and artisanal beef jerky, among other treats at a Union Square market.

Vacuum packer.

“It sounds like a thing for suburban housewives, but a vacuum-packer is a great way to preserve things,” says Katerina Wright of  DailyUnadventuresInCooking.com. The appliance runs $150 and up, but it allows chefs to buy large, expensive cuts, like beef tenderloin or a side of salmon, and portion them at home. “It saves me money and allows me to always have great food on hand,” she says.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie http://www.twitter.com/mintfoodie.