Frugal Living

How to Save Money on Halloween Pumpkins

Halloween can be sort of an expensive holiday, what with the cost of costumes, decorations, candy and whatnot. And while the traditional Halloween pumpkin for Jack-O-Lanterns is not usually the most expensive item on the list there are ways to cut the cost down some, and in this economy every penny counts.

Skip the Pumpkin Patch

Yes it is really fun and sort of a tradition to take the kids out to the local pumpkin patch and do the corn mazes, take pictures sitting on hay bales, taking a hay ride, drinking cups of hot apple cider, bobbing for apples and picking out your own pumpkin straight from the patch. However, most of the time the cost for all those extras are usually figured into the cost of the pumpkin thus the cost per pound is often twice the cost per pound of what you can find in your local grocery stores. Now mind you, the local pumpkin patches are usually small local farmers and by buying your pumpkins through them you are supporting your local economy. While most grocery store pumpkins are grown by large corporate farmers. It is a choice to make. A middle ground might be to see if local farmers offer their pumpkins at a local farmers market instead; the cost may be lower since there is not as much overhead as there is at a fancy patch with tons of extras.

Buy at the Grocery Store

If money is tight the best bang for your buck is going to be commercially grown pumpkins sold at the big chain grocery stores. Prices will vary depending on where you live and what this year’s weather conditions were like. But pound for pound this is usually the cheapest way to go. Last year for example I spotted pumpkins for 18¢ a pound, while this year’s prices are higher (due to bad weather in most parts of the country) at around 28¢ a pound in my neck of the woods.

Opt For a Fake Pumpkin

If pulling out the “guts” and seeds of a real pumpkin grosses you out or you don’t like the idea of buying a food item, carving a face into it and then tossing it the day after Halloween. Then purchasing a fake pumpkin is an affordable alternative. Faux pumpkins come in a wide variety of sizes, colors and shapes these days and also in a wide price range. I have seen them for $5.00 at Walmart to $20 at more expensive stores like Grandin Road. You can get fake pumpkins already carved into silly faces or spooky designs or you can even get artificial pumpkins that you can carve yourself so that you do not miss out on the creative fun of a real jack-o-lantern. So while the initial outlay of money for a fake pumpkin might be a tad bit higher than a real pumpkin the plus side is that these last for years and years. We have had out fake pumpkins for 5 years now and all they need each year is a damp rag to swipe away the dust from being stored in the garage and the occasional new light bulb.

Skip the Pumpkin and Do Something Else

Who says you have to have a carved jack-o-lantern for Halloween. While they are traditional nothing says that you have to have them. In fact if you are not going to be home for Halloween because you will be out taking the kids trick-or-treating or at a Halloween party or some other event, I suggest just skipping this decoration and the expense. However there are alternatives to pumpkins that are still festive. Decorate empty milk jugs into ghosts and light them with Christmas lights, paint empty jars with faces and light them up with tea candles. Or even the old fashioned paper bag luminary works too for some Halloween light and décor.

Grow Your Own Pumpkins

While this is not a viable option for this year, if you have a green thumb and a little extra space you may want to consider planting a few pumpkin plants next spring for next year’s Halloween harvest. A packet of pumpkin seeds usually costs about a dollar and you can get a lot of pumpkin plants from a packet of seeds. They are relatively easy to grow provided you give them steady water and plenty of sunlight. This is a great gardening project for the kids. In fact, if you buy a real pumpkin this year save some of the plumpest and biggest seeds from inside, rinse them and dry them on paper towels and store in an envelope for growing in the spring!

Don’t Let Your Pumpkin Go to Waste

No matter what cost you spent on your pumpkin, if you bought a real pumpkin do your best not to let that pumpkin go to waste. I think it is shameful to throw away food items when not needed. And while most pumpkins grown for carving into jack-o-lanterns are not really the best pumpkins for making pies with you can eat the flesh from them if you want. Also roasting the seeds makes a tasty treat. Sometime zoos are looking for leftover pumpkins to feed to the animals so if you live near a zoo you may want to donate your pumpkin there. Otherwise, cut it up and add it to your compost pile.



Cold Weather Stockpile Storage {via HotCouponWorld.com} - If you have your grocery stockpile stored in the garage or other unheated space you need to read this article on what grocery items you can and cannot store in the cold. Don't let your groceries go to waste!

Cold Weather Stockpile Storage {via HotCouponWorld.com} - If you have your grocery stockpile stored in the garage or other unheated space you need to read this article on what grocery items you can and cannot store in the cold. Don't let your groceries go to waste!Cold Weather Stockpile Storage

Many people store their stockpile in places where the temperatures can get below freezing in the winter. I personally store most of my food stockpile in an insulated garage. And winters here in Wyoming can definitely get well below zero. So that means I have to move around some of my stockpile items to protect them from freezing and being ruined by the cold.

This is not one of my favorite fall activities but it is something I do each year before winter sets in. I try to look at this chore of moving my stockpile around a bit as a time to access my stockpile too though. As I move things around I get things reorganized, make a list of things we are running low on or things I want to stockpile for holiday baking or for some of our favorite winter recipes. And then I use that list each week to narrow down deals for things we need.

[click to continue…]

One of the ways to save money on meat is to purchase a whole of half cow from a local farmer. When you order a side of beef direct from the source you may also be asked to select which specific cuts you want. The infographic above is a great resource on knowing which cuts of beef to select when purchasing your side of beef.

Even if you are not purchasing an entire side of beef the infographic shows which specific cuts of beef are and how they break down by price which can be great information to have when shopping for meat in the grocery store.

[click to continue…]

26 Foods That Don't Freeze Well

 

26 Foods That Don’t Freeze Well

Being a frugal gal with not one, but two deep freezers, I know that freezing food items is one of the easiest ways to preserve food. The mantra buy now when the price is low and put up for later is one every smart shopper should live by. Of course you can preserve, pickle, can, dehydrate foods but those methods take more time and popping something in the freezer is easy!

But there are some foods that should not be frozen or if you freeze them their uses are different than if you were to use them fresh.

Here is our list of 26 foods that don’t freeze well…

Vegetables & Fruits

Fruits and veggies with high moisture content can become very mushy when thawed and the texture is greatly affected. When the water in the fruits and veggies freeze it expands and breaks open the cell walls creating a mushy unappetizing texture. If you are planning on eating these items in their frozen state they are OK or some may be OK to cook with. Just don’t expect the same texture.

  • Apples & Pears – they discolor and turn mushy. Cooked apples and pears in pies or pie filling are OK though.
  • Celery – like onions they turn to mush when thawed but are ok in cooked dishes.
  • Citrus – Thawed citrus that has been frozen is not going to compare to fresh. Juice your lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges instead and freeze that. However frozen slices of citrus make for pretty ice floats in lemonade, iced tea and party punches.
  • Cucumbers – again these turn to mush. Don’t freeze.
  • Grapes – fine to eat frozen (in fact frozen grapes are one of my kids favorite summertime treats) but they are pretty gross when thawed.
  • Mushrooms – they turn to slime when frozen. Don’t freeze.
  • Onions – fresh onions when frozen are mushy when thawed. They are fine in soups, stews and casseroles but don’t expect them to be any good on a hamburgers.
  • Peppers – ok in cooked dishes but otherwise you don’t want to eat thawed peppers.
  • Potatoes – raw potatoes cannot be frozen, they turn a funky color and taste horrible. You can however freeze well cooked potatoes. If I have extra potatoes I usually make a large batch of Totally Loaded Mashed Potatoes and freeze that instead.
  • Salad greens – lettuces and other greens turn into a soggy mess when thawed. However fresh spinach can be frozen and used in dishes that call for frozen spinach such as this Spinach Dip.
  • Sprouts – thawed frozen sprouts are a mushy mess.
  • Watermelon – turns to mush when thawed. If you have excess fresh watermelon you can juice it or puree the flesh in a blender and freeze that instead for smoothies. If you want to eat your melon frozen you can do that too.
  • Herbs – Basil, chives, parsley and other soft herbs are no good frozen on their stems, however you can make them into pesto or blend with oil or water and freeze in ice cube trays and plop those ice cubed into soups and stews.

Dairy Products

Dairy is one of those tricky items to freeze, some dairy products freeze just fine like fluid milk while others have a texture change once frozen.

  • Cottage Cheese – does not freeze well at all.
  • Cream Cheese – if you plan on cooking with it (like making a cheesecake) it will be OK however don’t expect to spread cream cheese that has been frozen on your morning bagel.
  • Creamy Salad Dressings – dressings like ranch and Caesar do not freeze well.
  • Custard or Pudding – does not freeze well, you can however make pudding pops and eat them frozen.
  • Mayonnaise – mayo separates when frozen and no matter how much you blend, whip or stir it will not go back together.
  • Soft Cheeses – like cream cheese these just don’t hold up well but if you are cooking with them or are going to melt them into a fondue you should be OK.
  • Sour Cream – the texture changes however you can use it in cooked dishes like casseroles.

Other

Here are a few other items that don’t freeze well…

  • Eggs in the shell – if you freeze eggs in their shell they will explode (what a mess!) instead crack your eggs and scramble them and pour into freezer containers. Thaw and use in any recipe that calls for scrambled eggs or eggs for baking.
  • Fried foods – Greasy foods just don’t do well in the freezer. French fries and onions rings are the exception. You can reheat these and they will come out crunchy.
  • Frosting – egg white and cream based frostings do not hold up well in the freezer.
  • Gelatin (Jell-O) – when frozen your Jell-O will weep or turn runny when thawed.
  • Sauces – Sauces that are thickened with cream, eggs, cornstarch or flour do not freeze well. Think sauces like hollandaise, alfredo, etc.

I hope you enjoyed this article, if you have any questions, tips or suggestions on this topic of freezing foods please feel free to leave a comment below!

Mason Jar Soap Dispenser

Mason Jar Soap Dispensers

I LOVE these mason jar soap dispensers! They are so cute and save you money on soap by helping you to not squirt so much on the sponge. I read several tutorials on how to do these (I apologize I don’t have the original links) before I decided to give it a go. These are so easy to do and you most likely have all the items needed already. I am the fortunate owner of a good sized stash of Blue Ball Mason jars which what I started with.


I made a second one with a regular clear mason jar. You could really use any jar as long as the lid fits. Since making these (one for my dish soap and one for my hand soap in the kitchen) we are using a lot less dish soap when washing dishes. I would say we are using 1/2 the soap we were.

Mason Jar Soap Dispenser - Tools Needed

Items needed:

  • Clean jar, lid & ring. (You can use a used lid since you’re not canning this)
  • Pump from lotion or soap
  • Work surface like an old cutting board (you need to be able to hammer on it & it will get marked up
  • Hot glue & glue gun
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Pliers (needle nosed worked best for me)
  • Dish soap, hand soap or lotion to put inside

Mason Jar Soap Dispensers Instructions:
Plug in glue gun & be sure to add glue

Remove tube from pump & set aside

Make a hole in the lid. I used a nail & made several holes. I then used my needle nose pliers to pinch and pull it until it was big enough. You could do this with a screw driver too.

Just be careful! The punctured lid is sharp! Test the size of the hole by inserting the pump.

It should fit snugly & allow the bottom of the pump to be flush with the lid.

Mason Jar Soap Dispenser - Gluing Pump In Lid

Insert the pump through the lid. Apply a generous amount of glue around the pump where it meets the lid on the inside. I did a few rounds of this. Let dry. You don’t have to glue the pump but I felt like it made it sturdier & also protects me from slicing myself on the lid when refilling it.

Insert tube back into pump. If the tube is too long to fit in the jar use a pair of sharp scissors to cut it until you can fit the lid on & screw it tight. Cutting the tube with slight angle will help with the soap flow.


Add soap or lotion, admire your handiwork & enjoy.

Two Finished Mason Jar Soap Dispensers

Find more great frugal DIY ideas!

Twine Covered Vases

Twine Covered Cool Vases

Twine Covered Cool Vases

These super cute cool vases cost me next to nothing. I used Starbucks Frappuccino bottles (these were a gift so they cost me nothing), hot glue that I have oodles, acorns for the fall ones & mini pine-cones for the winter ones (free 😀 ) & twine that was left over from another project. We all have bottle and jars we can re-purpose so just find ones that you like the shape of.


What you will need:

  • Bottle or jar
  • Hot glue gun & glue
  • Twine
  • Embellishments

Instructions:

  1. Prepare bottle by cleaning & drying. There was a sticky residue left on mine from the label. I didn’t bother trying to remove it since it would be covered by the twine & could even help hold it in place.
  2. Put a small line of hot glue on the bottle (I started along the edge of the lip of the bottle) and lay the twine on the glue
  3. Keeping the twine taught wind it around the bottle putting a small line of glue every couple of rounds
  4. When you reach the bottom cut the twine and secure the end with hot glue.
  5. Yes, it really is that easy.

Embellish anyway you’d like. For my acorn cool vases I hot glued the acorns to a length of twine and then tied it around the vase. For the pine-cone vases I tied twine bows around the vases & hot glued the pine-cones to the bows.

I think these would look great as a centerpiece on a table (maybe even with some greenery of wintry stems) or you could even make them into place holders & add name tags to them.
Find more great frugal DIY ideas!

Easy Frugal Christmas Wreath

Easy Frugal Christmas Wreath Idea

I love Christmas wreaths & I love the use of deco mesh in them that is so popular right now. What I do not love is the price of pre made wreaths that are a minimum of $25.00 and go up to the too ridiculous to mention price. I didn’t want to do a 100% deco mesh wreath because of cost & I wasn’t going for the Candyland look. I made 4 of these for about $8.00 each. This project was fast & easy. I bought all my wreaths & a roll of deco mesh at Hobby Lobby for 50% off. The bows I bought at Big Lots. If you wanted to wait to make these after Christmas you could make them even cheaper with clearance prices!


What you will need:

  • Artificial greenery wreath
  • Roll of deco mesh (I used one full roll for my 4 wreaths)
  • Bow &/or other decorations
  • Scissors

Christmas Wreath Idea Instructions:

  1. Prepare your Christmas wreath by removing any tags & fluffing out all the pieces
  2. Unroll a few feet of your deco mesh (do not cut it yet)
  3. Loosely fold the mesh in half and pinch the end together
  4. Place the end of the deco mesh into the wreath so the end is not showing
  5. Take a piece of greenery from each side of the deco mesh & twist the greenery around it just like a twist tie. (This secures the deco mesh without needing any other fasteners)
  6. Move down the wreath a few inches keeping the deco mesh loose and make a poof
  7. Put the mesh down into the wreath and secure it the same way
  8. Repeat all the way around then cut the deco mesh before securing the last section.
  9. Secure the last piece & be sure to tuck the end inside the wreath so it will not be seen.
  10. Attach your bow using the wire on the bow or looping a piece of greenery through the back.
  11. Hang wherever you like & enjoy! (I used large suction cups to hang mine on my windows. You could also use Command hooks.)

I love mine! They look so nice on all of my windows & I know they will last for years to come.

Find more great frugal DIY ideas!

Frosty Tea Light Holders

Frosty Tea Light Holders

Tea Light Holders

Create a wintry frosty setting yet warmed up considerably from the soft glow of flickering candlelight with these super easy and inexpensive frosty tea light holders. This is a great way to upcycle food jars that otherwise would go in the recycling bin.

The cost of this project is super cheap and you may already have all the materials on hand except the Epsom salts which can be found at just about any grocery, drug or national chain store.

Materials Needed:

  • Jars of any size(s) you wish. Cleaned & dried
  • Mod Podge (or white school glue mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with water)
  • Paint brush
  • Epsom salt
  • Ribbon, embroidery floss or any other pretty thing to tie around them
  • Shallow pan or box
  • Wax paper, foil or paper plate to sit you candle holder on to dry

Tea Light Holder Instructions:

  1. Pour a layer of Epsom salt into your pan or box.
  2. Coat your jars with Mod Podge using a paint brush.
  3. Sprinkle, roll or whatever method you like the Epsom salt onto the jar.
  4. Sit on wax paper to dry.
  5. After it’s completely dry tap the jar to remove excess salts & tie a pretty bow, drop in a tea light candle & enjoy!

Notes: I sprayed mine with with a clear gloss to make sure it was more icy looking but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think I want to see what it looks like with glitter too! These look great on my cake stand with some pine cones & ornaments.

Find more great frugal DIY ideas!

Thumbprint Heart Christmas Ornaments

Homemade Christmas Ornaments

Every year I make some kind of Homemade Christmas ornament for my family that involves my girls. This year I made thumb print heart Christmas ornaments. One side of the heart is my 3 years old thumb print & the other is my 15 month olds thumb print. This is a great way to preserve how little their precious fingers are and I hope they will treasure these homemade holiday ornaments when they are all grown up.


What you will need

  • Crayola air dry clay (I used white)
  • Rolling pin
  • Skewer or small straw
  • A cookie cutter, glass or other container with an opening the same size that you’d like your ornament to be. You can also cut it free hand with a knife.
  • Acrylic craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Embroidery floss or similar to string the ornament
  • Thumbs  😉

Instructions

  1. Roll out your clay to about 1/4 inch thick
  2. Cut out shapes (I used a wet finger to smooth all the rough edges out but you don’t have to do this)
  3. Press thumb into the clay angled slightly then repeat angled the opposite way so that just the bottom of the thumb prints are touching forming a heart shape
  4. Use skewer or small straw to make a hole in the top
  5. Let dry completely (a couple days)
  6. Paint with desired colors, string & hang!

I also added my daughters names & the year to the back with a Sharpie marker. The hearts aren’t perfect but Grandma will sure think they are!

Find more great frugal DIY ideas!

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

There are a lot of recipes out there for homemade laundry detergent and to be honest I have never given them a try for a couple of reasons.

  1. I usually can get laundry detergent pretty cheap with coupons – my stock-up price is about 7 to 8¢ per load and to me that is pretty inexpensive.
  2. Many of the recipes I have come across for homemade laundry detergent require cooking and big 5 gallon buckets of what ends up being described as “snot” textured laundry detergent. And call me weird, but I already hate doing laundry and the thought of a 5 gallon bucket of “snot” does not make me want to drag my butt down to the basement to do yet ANOTHER load of laundry.
  3. Even if I was going to give this homemade powdered laundry detergent idea a try, I don’t want to experiment with 5 gallons of anything. What if it was a failure? Then I am stuck with 5 GALLONS of laundry detergent that I don’t like….sorry I will pass.

But then I came across a few recipes for powdered laundry detergent and I thought “OK I can do that”. I researched a bunch of recipes to see what the pro’s and con’s were, read all the comments from others and decided to give it a try. This recipe is what I decided on and I am actually happy with the results.


[click to continue…]

1 2 3 4