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Measuring the cost of candymaking

If you can afford the time, candymaking isn’t terribly expensive. You can actually get by just fine without a copper pot or a chocolate tempering machine. At a minimum you will need a good thermometer or two, but that should only set you back $10 to $30. Look for a recipe of candy you like to eat. Once you find a recipe that intrigues you, start off with a small batch for your first attempt. You will soon find yourself increasing production when you see how much people appreciate the effort and great taste experience.

Economies of scale in candymaking
It generally does not take twice as long to make twice as much candy. It does, however, take twice as long to elegantly wrap twice as many packages. Shipping costs also do not scale well, though I prefer not to ship to anyone within an hour’s drive. Although delivering candies also takes up valuable time, it is a good excuse to see friends with whom we may not have seen since the last delivery. Somehow, people are rarely busy when it is their turn to receive candy!

I bake throughout the year, but usually save candymaking—toffee, truffles and caramels—until the holidays. I typically will spend just over $500 on ingredients, packaging and shipping during my annual holiday candymaking run. This candymaking marathon will yield approximately 40 – 45 gift packages, depending on how judiciously I choose to ration the candy. At roughly $14 a package, it’s a bargain of a gift. When I think about this, I sometimes feel guilty about the apparent frugality.

Are gifts a commodity?
Somehow, in this materialistic, marketing driven holiday craze that now seems to begin immediately following Halloween, my conscience is rife with messages encouraging me to spend excessively for each person on my list; that the candies are somehow insufficient, even when paired with other thoughtful gifts. But then I stop to ponder the time and effort that actually goes into making the candies. The 40-plus hours of chopping, melting, stirring, dipping, more stirring and still more dipping late into numerous evenings—while I work full time as a web developer during the day—makes me realize that my gift of candy is a very generous one, indeed.

I have to admit that last year I scheduled a couple days off from work before the holidays—just to maintain my health and sanity while making candies. I’m planning on taking a couple days off this year, too. It’s only my time, after all.