Baking can be both frugal and entertaining, an activity for kids as well as adults, says Sharmila Melwani, owner of Cookies by Shar, a wholesale bakery in Davie. Here's how she stretches the dollar while baking.
• Bulk up and store: Melwani buys all-purpose flour in 10-pound quantities and freezes it in sealed plastic bags. Those steps preserve the flour and save work later. ''It makes the dough firm enough to cut cookies out right away as opposed to refrigerating the dough before you cut them out,'' Melwani says.
• Mix in cream: Adding a tablespoon of sour cream or cream cheese to a recipe extends the shelf life of the dough and cookies by making them less vulnerable to humidity, she said.
• Use paper: ''I use parchment paper a lot. You can actually reuse parchment paper a few times to bake cookies before you throw it out,'' she says. Parchment is also useful for storing dough. Roll cookie dough between two pieces of paper. ''You can store it like this in an airtight bag or container,'' Melwani said.
• Consider craft shop tools: ''Inexpensive craft sticks make a great tool for spreading a thin glaze or icing,'' she said. ''You get enough control to create the effect you want and at the same time, have a disposable and inexpensive tool.'' Melwani also buys inexpensive cookie cutters at arts and crafts shops and cookware stores for under a dollar.
• Cheap icing trick: Place icing in a small plastic sandwich bag. Zip closed or fasten the top with a rubber band and cut a small hole into the bottom. By gently squeezing the bag, you can create piping, letters, numbers and designs on a cookie. For added effect, sprinkle on decorative sugar in different colors.
Sharon is the author of the Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money -- a coming of age memoir about money -- and a contributing writer in Wise Bread's 10,0001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.