When I get gifts of cash I try to use it for something that is substantial and an investment in our future frugality.
The 2009 Christmas cash went towards buying our Fowlers Vacola preserving kit. We love the Fowlers kit. We've bottled lots of fruit and add to our bottle collection as we find them at op-shops and garage sales.
At one garage sale (where we bought a second kit and lots of jars) we heard about pressure canning.
The water bath preserving method as used by the Fowlers Vacola kit, is great for things like fruit, but for low acid and protein foods, pressure canning is the way to go.
So with my last birthday cash, we bought a Presto Pressure Canner via Amazon (for nearly half the price of buying one locally, including postage) and have spent a good deal of January canning soups, curries and casseroles.
With our combined food intolerances, we can shelf store our own dairy free, gluten free meals made from seasonal produce with no additives. It frees up freezer real estate, ensures portion control, and there are no excuses to get a takeaway when fast food is sitting on the shelf. We see it as a win all round for a fairly small investment.
The canner will take ordinary glass jars with screw top lids. We can re-use jars from store bought goods, although it is recommended we buy new lids. We are using a mix of Fowlers jars because we have quite a few and because they make uniform canning and storage easier and larger screw top jars, which are really too big for jam etc.
A Fowlers size 27 bottle contains a smidge more than 3 metric cups of liquid. This equates to two servings. So far we've made about 200 servings of soup, curry, casserole and ragu.