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How To Save Money When Cookie Decorating

Any hobby can be expensive, but royal icing cookie decorating can add up pretty quickly! Especially as a beginner it can be hard to know what is really necessary to purchase and what’s not.

So, I wanted to compile a list of areas I think you can skimp/cut back/skip to save a bit of money (please note: many of these adjustments may affect the end result). I’ve also included a few areas that I would NOT skimp on.

example of cookie decorating: watermelon cookies

*DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links which means that, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase from one of my links. I greatly appreciate your support!

Bare Minimum Cookie Decorating Supplies for the Beginner

First off, let’s go over the basic supplies I think beginner cookiers need (or really most cookiers–you’d be surprised what you can accomplish with just the basics!).

All of the various tools and gadgets can be SO overwhelming these days! The bare minimum that you need to get started are (see specific products on the Cookie Decorating Supplies post): 

  • Baking supplies to bake your own cookies
    • If you’d like a great alternative for practice that doesn’t require you to bake a thing, check out the Notta Cookie
  • Basic cookie cutters (but even then, you can always cut your own with a knife!)
    • If you’re looking for a great set of basic cutters, check out the Beginner’s Bundle I put together with Brighton Cutters
  • (Tipless) piping bags
  • Some sort of scribe (i.e. a toothpick is fine!) 
  • Food coloring (I recommend using gels for beginners) 
  • Meringue powder
  • Drying method (i.e. fan) 
  • Basic sprinkles

How to Save Money When Cookie Decorating: Ingredients

[Check out this post for my cookie recipe and this post for my icing recipe.]

Skip Vanilla Bean Paste

Skip vanilla bean paste in the cookie recipe and use (imitation) vanilla extract

vanilla bean paste

Use a Vanilla Icing Recipe

If you can’t access bottled lemon juice for my icing recipe (fresh lemon juice does NOT work), make a vanilla icing instead (see notes on recipe for vanilla swap).

Use a Cookie Recipe Without Cornstarch

Cookie recipe: while I love my cookie recipe and how crisp the edges are, if you don’t want to buy corn starch I recommend Sweet Sugarbelle’s basic recipe.


Make the Icing WITHOUT Meringue Powder

For many it can be challenging to find meringue powder and/or it’s not in budget. You CAN make royal icing with fresh eggs or liquid egg whites (that’s how the original royal icing was made).

meringue powder

Please note: I have personally never made it with anything other than meringue powder. If you’re not able to access meringue powder and need to use a different egg white product, I’d suggest checking out Haniela’s royal icing post.

  • Powdered egg whites: I’m fairly certain you can use powdered egg whites in a 1:1 substitution with meringue powder, however I’ve never tried it myself.
  • Please note: if you use egg whites, do NOT follow my storage instructions as meringue powder makes the icing fairly shelf stable. Otherwise the icing is NOT shelf stable!

How to Save Money When Cookie Decorating: Products/Tools

[Check out this post for all of my favorite products/tools.]

The cost of products, tools and supplies for cookie decorating can add up SO quickly. A lot of them are nice to have, as you can either skip them or use an alternative you already have at home.

Discount Codes

Use my discount codes for any applicable products

Skip the Scribe

Use a toothpick instead of a scribe (I used a toothpick for years before scribes were popular!)

different cookie scribes

Skip the Edible Marker

When an edible marker is used just for sketching out a cookie design on the bare cookie first, you can often skip this! It’s a nice to have moment and can make the actual decorating easier, but it’s absolutely not necessary to have. You also typically have to buy a whole set when you only need one or two, and sometimes they can dry out before you can even use them all.

Sometimes, you can just use the tip of your scribe or toothpick to loosely carve out your design on the cookie itself.

Skip the Cookie Cutter (depends on the set)

Now this can heavily depend on the set, but if you’re super crafty you can often skip purchasing the cookies cutters. It takes more time, but you can print the shape, cut it out with scissors and then use a knife to hand trace/cut the shape onto the dough. Or, if you’re just doing circles: use a water glass!

Skip the Dehydrator

While a dehydrator is a nice luxury, it’s absolutely not necessary. A table fan is good enough 😉

Skip the Thingamagenie

One of my absolute favorite tools is the Thingamagenie by The Cookie Countess. I use it equally as a decorating tool and a tool to fix mistakes. That said, usually a flat kitchen knife will do just fine!

Skip the Tipless Bags (depends on the set)

Depending on the set, you can skip using tipless piping bags or even proper piping bags entirely. I’d only recommend this for sets that use just a flood consistency, like my beginner cookie decorating classes.

Instead, you can use either something like the thicker Wilton piping bags (or I believe Walmart has piping bags like this in a different brand). These types of bags are meant to be used with piping tips to get a round tip of icing, but you can get away with these bags for sets that just use a flood consistency as the icing is so thin it will come out “round” no matter what. Or, you can use Ziploc/sandwich bags (these will be harder to handle/pipe with than proper icing bags just FYI).

Skip the Ruler

Similar to the edible marker, I will often use a ruler to mark out straight lines on the cookie before decorating a design that requires a straight line in the flood. Helpful, but not necessary!

How to Save Money When Cookie Decorating: Decorations

[Check out this post for all of my favorite decorations.]

Skip the White Food Coloring

It is NOT necessary to color white icing white! It will give you a brighter white, but not necessary. Most extracts and lemon juice are obviously not white, so they’ll give you a slightly off white icing. Honestly, I didn’t start coloring my white icing until a couple years ago! (I’ve also heard you can add the TINIEST bit of purple to your white to make it pop…but that makes me nervous!)

Skip the Luster Dust (Depending on the Set)

While it adds a nice touch, the luster dust is not a *necessary* element for most designs. If you skip it, you might want to substitute it either with an icing color in the set or one close to the luster dust color for a similar aesthetic (golden yellow for gold and grey for silver).

Skip the Small Scoop for Luster Dust

While the tiny scoop I use to portion out my luster dust as I’m using it is both adorable and useful, it’s not necessary. I only recently got the tiny adorable scoop for my luster dust, but prior to that I just tapped it out of the jar (that said, I’ve definitely tapped too much and wasted product!).

Skip the Special Dish for Luster Dust

While not necessary, I did use a spot on a paint tray for awhile. That said, using a small container allows you to continually use the same product (so you’re actually saving money!).

Areas of Cookie Decorating You CANNOT Cut Financial Corners

Brand of Meringue Powder

If you are going to use a recipe with meringue powder (like mine), do NOT just buy anything. These are the only brands that I can personally (or tangentially via friends) vouch for:

Food Coloring

Not all food coloring is created equal! There are cheaper brands, but I’ve heard that you have to use a lot more coloring to achieve a good color. These are the brands I can personally or tangentially vouch for: Americolor, Wilton, Chefmaster and Artisan Accents.

Do NOT use water based food coloring (only gel or powdered) because water based will thin out the icing a lot

Bottle Lemon Juice

Do NOT use fresh lemon juice for my icing recipe even if it’s more available. Bottled lemon juice has consistent/predictable proportions regarding acidity. Fresh lemon juice is unpredictable and doesn’t produce the same result.

Proper Piping Bags (Depending on the Set)

When decorating a set that requires any sort of piping consistency, I do NOT recommend skipping proper piping bags (whether they be tipless as I recommend or you purchase reusable bags with piping tips/bottles). You need a lot of control for all of the piping details with soft/medium peak piping consistency, which is incredibly hard to achieve with say a Ziploc bag.

Liquid for Luster Dust

Do NOT skimp on the liquid you use to mix with the luster dust! If it’s not clear and/or not a high enough alcohol content, it won’t pain on smooth, have good enough coverage or dry properly.

Using Proper Brushes for Luster Dust

When decorating with luster dust, it’s very important to use the right size and shape brush. Without the right size/shape you will use too much product and/or not be able to effectively decorate the small or large elements without too much product creating a puddle on the cookie.

Small detail brush: if your brush is too big, it will make painting any of the fine lines or lettering very challenging. In fact, you will probably have too much product on the end of the brush which will result in bleed over the edge. Believe me, you won’t regret having the proper brush!

Medium/large flat brush: while this is not as crucial as the small detail brush, if your brush is too small for painting the gold on the cake stand, it will take forever to paint it and probably a lot more product to do it.

Other posts you might be interested in:

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