Wednesday, June 29, 2011

DIY: Picnic Gift Basket

I'm always trying to think of different gift ideas that are practical and can be used up instead of just sitting on a shelf. I recently put together a picnic basket for a wedding gift. You could easily use any type of basket or bag, but I hit jackpot finding this awesome basket at Goodwill - and it was a steal at $5. I love the closure of this basket...the latch slips over one handle and rests between the two handles.

I wanted this basket to be a mixture of items from their registry, snacky things that could be enjoyed on the picnic (but wouldn't spoil before it was used), along with a bottle of champagne and a few personal touches -
I added some games, including a few mini water guns!

For the snacks, I opted for candy and fruit snacks in these homemade pop top cans I wrote about earlier. Its not your typical picnic food, but since the gift would sit while they were away on the honeymoon, I wanted to make sure that nothing would melt or need to be refrigerated. If you were putting together a picnic basket for a different occasion, you could add refrigerated items.

Add plates, cups, and napkins that can be kept in the basket, or a blanket that can be folded up and carried along with the basket!

Do you have any other ideas to add to a picnic basket to make it a special gift?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Children's Place Monster Sale + extra 15% off!

I found some nice discounts on at The Children's Place online today thanks to the monster sale! Sizes are fairly limited, so I ended up using the "check" feature to view multiple items and then see what sizes were available all at once. This saved a ton of time, and I was able to get some real bargains on great quality clothing! Since summer clothes are on sale, I am stocking up for next year. I tried to get basic items (mostly tops) that will be able to go with multiple bottoms.

My best deals were on girls socks (2 pair for $1.69) and boys polo shirts ($3.39 each).

You can take an extra 15% off clearance clothing with the code W2E2011 at checkout. PLUS, shop through Ebates and get an additional 4% cash back.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hot Dog Challenge: Salsa Dog

This summer we're trying out different toppings for our hot dogs instead of the old standbys of ketchup, mustard, and relish. Its been a lot of fun so far!

This was a really simple dog; we just topped it with a favorite salsa from Costco: Mango and Peach! Its a nice sweet salsa that catches you by surprise with a little bite at the end. I'm sure you could do a homemade version of this very easily.

We rounded out the dinner with a veggie stir fry from our CSA veggies...snow peas and garlic scapes! While we didn't add them this time, we have also really enjoyed kohlrabi in our stir fried veggies. I was a little nervous about how we would like kohlrabi, but we've all become fans!

Check out previous hot dog recipes:
Texas Ranger

Saturday, June 25, 2011

CSA Week 4

This week's CSA veggies included broccoli, summer squash, scallions, sugar snap peas (we cannot get enough of these!) and bok choy.

We have never tried bok choy before, but I am looking forward to the challenge! I'm thinking stir fry for now, but if you have any other favorite ways to serve bok choy, I am open for suggestions!

We've really enjoyed getting to be part of the Colchester CSA this year. Joining a CSA is something that we talked about off and on for several years, but it never worked out. This year has been great...despite the 30 minute drive to the farm, its been a great educational experience for our daughter, and for $13 a week we really have gotten a great deal.

Happy Saturday! We are excited to use our $9 movie tickets from the Living Social deal to go see Cars 2 with our daughter today!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Food Waste Friday

Every Friday, I join with The Frugal Girl and other bloggers to clean out my fridge and freezer and take a picture of anything that has gone bad over the last week. This holds me accountable to faithfully check every week, and motivates me to use up our leftovers. This has made a huge difference in the amount of food we waste every week. I encourage you to participate with me in food waste Friday, too!

This week I just had to rinse a few refried beans down the drain! Not too shabby considering it was only a few penny's worth of food. We look pretty set as far as being able to use up leftovers right now too. I'm gearing up for no picture again next week!
How did you do with food waste this week? Even if you have to throw something(s) out, forward progress is still encouraging!
I'll be back tomorrow with a look at our CSA pick-up from this evening. The growing season is shifting, so I think we'll have some different items...I'm excited!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

DIY: Pop Top Can Treats

This project was so fun and simple! Here's a look at the finished product...Pop Top Can Treats:

These cute cans were totally not my idea, I found it over at Our Best Bites. A lot of times when I find a project that looks super cute, it ends up being way more involved and time consuming that I can find space for right now. I was so pleased that these were super easy! I worked on them while I was making dinner since I was already in the kitchen.

Start off with some pop top cans. I made these for a gift, and I wanted several different size cans, so I went with one tiny, two medium, and one large.

Use a can opener to take bottom (very important, not the pop top end!) almost all the way off the can. You can take it all the way off, but it goes back on smoother if you leave it partially attached...ask me how I know! Try to use cans that have something like fruit in them instead of beans; it will make them much easier to clean out!

I washed the cans and let them dry. I also removed the labels and used them as a template for my cute paper. I glued on the paper and then filled the cans with different goodies! I mixed it up, Runts in the little can, larger candy in the mediums, and fruit snacks in the largest!

Leave a little room at the top, so you can fill the rest up with tissue paper. This will ensure that no hot glue gets on your goodies! Hot glue the lid back on the can (remember, this is the bottom of the can!) Flip it right side up and viola!...adorable!

I love how these turned out! Instead of the labels on Our Best Bites, I opted for wedding-theamed stickers since this was part of a wedding gift. You could do these up for any occasion...just change the paper and decoration (and the treats) to fit the person you want to surprise. In fact, I'm never opening a pop top can the right way again! I'm planning to save the cans so I have a supply to whip up a quick treat at a moment's notice.

Hope you have fun with this project! Let me know if you try it!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mexican Pie Recipe

We recently had this for dinner, and it was a hit! Its always nice to find a recipe that tastes as good as you think when you first see a picture of it. The recipe comes from Martha Stewart. Ours definitely did not look as pretty as hers!

Ingredients (my changes in bold)

4 flour tortillas (10 inches) used 8 inch
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno chile, minced (remove seeds and ribs for less heat) used hot sauce instead
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed I only had one can
12 ounces beer, or 1 1/2 cups water I used water
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish I used garlic scapes
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (2 1/2 cups)

Preheat oven to 400. Trim tortillas to fit spring form pan (if needed). Since my spring form pan is an odd size, the small shells I used fit inside without need for trimming.

Heat oil and saute onion, jalapeno, garlic and cumin. Add salt and pepper and cook until soft. Add beans and beer (or water) and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer until almost all of the water has evaporated. Stir in corn and scallions and remove from heat. Add additional seasoning to taste if you choose.

Layer tortilla shell, bean mixture, then cheese. Repeat 3 times. Since I only used one can of beans and smaller tortillas, my proportions were a little different than the original recipe. Top the final layer with cheese and scallions for garnish. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cheese has melted. Remove spring form sides before serving.

We enjoyed this paired with some was reminiscent of our favorite Fish Taco recipe. We served the Mexican Pie with sour cream and tomatoes...amazing!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

CSA Week 3

This week we opted to pick up our CSA items in downtown Middletown. This is an option that is available every week, and would save us a ton of time, but we really wanted to get the full experience of going to the farm every week. Since things were so busy this week, it was nice to have the option to keep it simple yesterday evening. The other downside with the Middletown pick up is that we did not get to pick out our own items. That will be ok once in a while, but its nicer to be able to pick what we like best or need more of on a regular basis.

This week's pick-up included radishes, loose leaf lettuce, kohlrabi, garlic scapes, and sugar snap peas. I'm going to have to be on my toes to get the kohlrabi used up since we still have some from last week...I don't want it ending up in my food waste picture this coming Friday!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thrifty Threads

Thanks to Angela from My Year Without Spending for featuring me on her Thrifty Threads series today!

Here is the post about my salvaged Gap jeans that cost me a whopping $2.50 at Goodwill.

Food Waste Friday

Every Friday, I join with The Frugal Girl and other bloggers to clean out my fridge and freezer and take a picture of anything that has gone bad over the last week. This holds me accountable to faithfully check every week, and motivates me to use up our leftovers. This has made a huge difference in the amount of food we waste every week. I encourage you to participate with me in food waste Friday, too!

Yay! No food waste today! Really, its a pretty decent accomplishment considering that we had the grandparents watching our kiddos while we were away; any time you have extra people to feed it makes it harder to plan to use up all the prepared food. We still have a few leftovers, but I am more than happy to eat those for my lunch(es)...I eat two lunches most days to keep up with the calories I need for nursing. I love having something easy to heat up during the day!

Be sure to hop on over to Angela Barton's blog, My Year Without Spending today to see me featured on her Thrifty Threads series! Every week Angela posts pictures of people wearing clothes they have gotten second-hand in some way...I really enjoy seeing the great outfits that can be found if you keep an eye out for them!

I'll be back tomorrow with a picture from our CSA pick-up. And if you're looking for some thrifty family fun this weekend, why not go berry picking? We pulled in a nice haul yesterday at Lockbriar Farms. Not local? Check out to find a farm in your area!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

U-Pick: Blueberries and Raspberries

We had a great time picking some local blueberries and raspberries earlier this morning. Our favorite place to pick fruit around here is Lockbriar Farms, located just north of Chestertown, on Maryland's Eastern Shore. My husband and I were on our way home from a few nights away (with no kids!!) and stopped to take advantage of the time.

We picked red raspberries and black raspberries! Growing up my grandparents had red raspberries and my husband's had black raspberries, so for each of us, raspberry picking brings back tons of wonderful childhood memories.

We also picked blueberries (2 quarts!)

The blueberries were amazing! The bushes were SO full of berries that we could have filled our containers without hardly moving down the bush. 

We just held our containers under the branches and raked those beautiful berries in by the handful! Here's a look:

The black raspberries were a fun treat! We didn't know they were available until we pulled in to Lockbriar!

If you live in the Delaware area, we highly recommend checking out Lockbriar Farms! Its a a nice country ride, and the location is very family friendly (everything is close together). After you finished berry picking, you should totally take a look around historic Chestertown too. We both are proud to call Washington College our Alma Mater!

We've done a bunch of picking at Lockbriar in the past...check out our pictures from last year's berries and apples!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

CSA Week 2

Here's a look at our CSA goodies this week!

A loose lettuce mix, broccoli, kohlrabi, snow peas and sugar snap peas, cilantro, and garlic.

Our backyard lettuce is on its last leg, so we are so glad to have beautiful CSA lettuce again this week! We got two kinds of peas again this week because we enjoyed them so much this past week. I tried growing peas in our garden last year and it was a bust. Broccoli was a nice surprise this week, and we decided to try another new veggie! Last week it was garlic scapes (which are my new favorite thing to cook with) and this week its the kohlrabi. We'll see how it goes...we are in for an adventure!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Food Waste Friday

Every Friday, I join with The Frugal Girl and other bloggers to clean out my fridge and freezer and take a picture of anything that has gone bad over the last week. This holds me accountable to faithfully check every week, and motivates me to use up our leftovers. This has made a huge difference in the amount of food we waste every week. I encourage you to participate with me in food waste Friday, too!

I was a little concerned about how much food fresh produce we might waste this week after seeing the huge amount of food we got last Friday at our first CSA pick-up, but I am pleased to report that only a few wilty and mushy lettuce leaves are pictured! Unfortunately, I had to throw out half of a container of Ricotta cheese too. I had been meaning to make a second lasagna with it, but did not plan my shopping trips well enough so I was out of sauce and cheese enough for the second one.

Food waste seems a little more manageable in the summer for our family, I think because we are more likely to eat up fresh produce when it is hot, and those are the items that spoil the fastest. Does the summer help you keep food waste under control too?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

$9 for 2 Fandango Movie Tickets

I just picked up ordered a voucher for 2 movie tickets from Fandango for $ awesome deal today through Living Social.

Click this link to get your own! Since this is an online only deal, it is not showing up if you search various cities on Living Social's main site or their smartphone apps. This is my personal referral link.

We usually buy our movie tickets from Costco. Two passes cost about $14, which is still nearly half price - crazy. It makes this deal even sweeter. There is a limit of one pair of tickets per person, but the voucher is good until September!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Freebies: Rebates and Coupons

I've heard many people say that coupons are not for products they actually use or the value of the coupon is so small that it does not make a difference. I think that Mindi at Moms Need to Know has written eloquently about these comments, but I wanted to add a few practical examples from my own life.

I've had to cut back on the amount of time I spend organizing coupons and shopping trips because of life with two small children, but I still love getting a good deal!

Recently at Rite Aid, I spied this Smart Start cereal with a 'Try Free' add on the box. I was able to use a coupon when I bought it, so I'm actually getting paid to eat this box of cereal!

This week (also at Rite Aid) I bought John Frieda conditioner and Blink tears eye drops. I didn't have any coupons so I paid $4.99 for the conditioner and $7.99 for the eye drops, but because of Rite Aid's single check rebate program, I will be getting a check in the mail from Rite Aid for $5 for the conditioner and $7.99 for the eye drops...completely free! (If you haven't already signed up for the Single Check Rebate Program, you totally should! It is free of charge, and is one of the biggest ways that I get our personal care products for cheap...and often for free)

On the left of this picture are items that I picked up for free at Target this week. I had a coupon for a free Children's Tylenol from the recall last year. The Oscar Mayer deli meat was a free coupon from Kraft First Taste. And the Suave Dry Shampoo was a free coupon through Facebook. I also used a BOGO coupon for Frosted Mini Wheats (not pictured) that I got from Vocalpoint (along with a free sample of their new cereal).

Want to get coupons like these for FREE full sized products? I have my favorites listed in the Coupon Resources tab. Be sure to sign up for Kraft First Taste and Vocalpoint -- I am always getting samples and free coupons from these two in particular.

For my instructions on shopping at Rite Aid, check out this post.

Do you have any favorite ways to get things for free with coupons and rebates?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Repurposed: Jar Candle into Hurricane Candle Holder

While doing some cleaning over the weekend, we found some old jar candles that had outlived their ability to burn and were collecting dust on a shelf. I read recently (I don't remember where off the top of my head) about removing wax from jars by putting them in the oven, so we gave it a try!

I put the oven on warm and it took about 30 minutes to get all that wax out. I probably could have used a high temperature to speed things along.

It worked like a charm! One jar was a Yankee Candle with a sticker on the outside, so I'll probably just recycle it, but the other was free of stickers and is beautiful! My husband suggested that it would make a great hurricane candle holder...and so it does!

I tried out a couple different options, and I think for now I like this second one best (with the smaller candle in the jar). It really shows off our beautiful new hurricane holder!

I did a quick Swagbucks search and found a nearly identical hurricane candle holder from Pier 1 that would set me back $10-$18. I love our repurposed one!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture

This year we made the decision to buy a share in Colchester Farm's Community Supported Agriculture program! Have you heard of Community Supported Agriculture? From Colchester Farm's website:

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a mutually beneficial partnership between local farmers and community members. In advance of the season, members buy a share of the upcoming harvest providing the farmer with the funds needed to cover the costs of operation. In return for their investment, members receive a weekly share of freshly harvested produce. In this commitment, CSA members share with the farmer both the bounty and the risks involved with farming.

This is something that I had looked into for several years, and just never felt ready to take the plunge. Yesterday was our first pick-up for the season, and I am SO glad that we joined! We have a small share, which is 5 units every week. A unit is a predetermined size for each type of produce, similar to sizes you buy in a grocery store (a head of lettuce, 8 oz of peas, etc). Our share cost $345 for 26 weeks, which works out to just over $13 a week. Considering that the produce we are getting is pesticide-free, that is an awesome deal!

Colchester Farm is about 30 minutes away from our home in Middletown, and yesterday was my first time to the farm. Colchester offered a pick-up in Middletown, but we would not be able to pick out the specific items of our share. By going to the farm I feel like we are really getting the whole "experience" of being part of a CSA...getting to know the people who run the farm and pick the food each week, as well as the other participants. Also, we are using this as a learning experience for our 2-year-old daughter (and really our son too, even though he is too young to understand). Our daughter was so excited to go to the farm! We talked about it all day, and she helped me to weigh out our different items at the pick-up. She can't wait to go back next week!
Here is what we got this week (isn't that a ton of food??):

(Clockwise from top) We got a head of lettuce, spinach, sweet potatoes, oregano and spearmint, snow peas, sugar snap peas, and garlic scapes. I was a total wuss and got pretty much all familiar foods this week. I could have gotten kohlrabi but I chickened out. I think I will get some next week if it is available again!

We are so excited for the rest of the CSA season! I will be doing an update on our share from the farm every week. Happy Saturday!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Food Waste Friday

Every Friday, I join with The Frugal Girl and other bloggers to clean out my fridge and freezer and take a picture of anything that has gone bad over the last week. This holds me accountable to faithfully check every week, and motivates me to use up our leftovers. This has made a huge difference in the amount of food we waste every week. I encourage you to participate with me in food waste Friday, too!

Well, things look pretty bad for me, but for the most part, it wasn't my fault!

First, the peach was totally my fault. It just got left in the fridge and withered until it's now a mushy mess. The cream cheese is goat's milk cheese that I had back when I was avoiding cow's milk. I didn't love it, so once I didn't have to eat it anymore, it got left.

The bananas are from Costco. We nearly always get them at Costco because they are a great price and we go through a ton of bananas. They come in a plastic bag and are very green, but by taking them out of the bag as soon as we get home, they usually ripen nicely. For whatever reason these went from green to mush without ripening. I'm going to cut some of the less mushy ones up so that I can freeze them (my daughter loves frozen banana as a snack in the summer) and hopefully salvage some of the bunch!

Have you been working on reducing your food waste? Are you seeing progress?

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I feel like things can tend to get really hectic in the summer...places to go, people to see, all sorts of fun things to do...I'm trying to make sure that I take time to be in the moment this summer. Here's a few of the (thrifty) things I'm doing:

Sun-tea (brewed in my backyard). In an adorable mason-jar glass (a hand-me-down from my MIL)

A good detective novel (from my local library).

Watering and tending the garden with my 2-year-old (excited to see how far these zucchini have come already!). And anticipating new recipes to use up the oodles of squash growing in my little raised bed garden!

Grilling for dinner (to keep the heat outside) and working on my hot dog challenge for this summer! (Texas Ranger dogs, copycat of Johnnie's Dog House).

What ways are you enjoying the moments this summer?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hot Dog Challenge: Texas Ranger

This summer I'm trying to mix things up with our normal grill routine! Instead of plain old ketchup, mustard, or relish, we are trying to fancy up our dogs and get really creative.

Have you ever been to Johnnie's Dog House? Its located north of Wilmington, and I just recently learned it has another location in PA. They do all kinds of specialty hot dogs, one of my favorites being the Texas Ranger!

The Texas Ranger is slathered in BBQ sauce and then topped with bacon and onions...mmmmmm so good!

I'm a big fan of trying to recreate foods that we love out at restaurants! Usually, it is not too difficult, and of course, you can save a ton of money making things at home instead of eating out.

 I'll be looking for new hot dog toppings this summer, so if you have a favorite, please be sure to send it my way!
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