Inexpensive Ways to Wrap Those Christmas Gifts

Thanksgiving is over with and Christmas will soon be here. Yes, I know! Don’t shoot the messenger!

Of course, with all that shopping you also need to wrap those Christmas gifts. So, I thought I would help you out and give you some cheap and easy but cute ways to save money on wrapping paper.

Unless you are one of those highly efficient people who actually have money left over after Christmas and buy your wrapping paper then. If you are…..these still might interest you. Then you can save that same money and spend it on a well deserved after Christmas present for yourself! Win, win.

I know there are also some of you who use gift bags (I’m guilty!) and that’s ok, too. But, for some of our more adventurous readers might want to skip the bags and go for a unique way of doing the presents this year.

Also, I needed something to write about and this is what I came up with. 😉

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Brown mailing or craft paper……Get creative and use stampers, unique ribbon, stencils, twine, paint, or glitter to add some holiday flair. Or stickers, which make the paper look super festive.

Jars, Tins and Plates…..You can up cycle medium and large-sized glass jars, or buy some cheap mason jars to gift all sorts of items. Dollar store holiday plates and tins also make great gift packaging.

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Potato chip bags……Yes, you read that right! Only Martha Stewart could come up with potato-chip bag gift wrap, which is not only clever and festive, but eco-friendly. Re-use a large, empty potato-chip bag by opening it up to reveal the shiny silver inside. After a good cleaning and drying, you now have some great foil wrapping paper, which is perfect around the holidays.

Tissue paper…… I use this quite often as it is cheap and it comes in so many pretty colors. Dollar stores carry a nice selection of this.

tissue

Fabric.…If you are a crafter or sewer, I bet you have leftover fabric from your projects. Use them to wrap your gifts! Or cut them into strips and use them for the ribbon. A perfect way to save money and make a present personal.

Newspaper…..Or even those pesky flyers you get in the mail all the time. They’re free and you can really make a present unique with those!

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Maps…..You can easily find maps at flea markets or maybe you have some yourself you no longer want. Well, recycle those things!

 

 

Do you have any ideas for a cheap and easy, yet pretty way to wrap presents? Let us know! 

 

 

 

What To Do With Those Thanksgiving Leftovers

Thanksgiving  is next week in the States (Canada already had theirs), so I thought it would be a good time to bring up what to do with all those Thanksgiving leftovers.

I mean, really, if you are like me, you get tired of the same old leftovers about Saturday night. Yet, there is still so much there!

Well, you could freeze most of it. I do. I freeze the turkey and stuffing. If you don’t want to freeze it, you just want to use it up and get it over with, I have a few recipe ideas you might consider.

The turkey, of course, can be used in many recipes that use chicken or even beef. But what about that stuffing or mashed potatoes? Or even the vegetables? Or that old standby, cranberry sauce?

Here are a few ideas I thought to share with you.

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To use up some of that turkey, vegetables, and even the mashed potatoes, make a Shepherds Pie. Bam! You have used lots of the leftovers in one dish and you wouldn’t even know it’s leftovers when you eat it.

Ok, how about the cranberry sauce? I found a place that lists all sorts of ideas and they all sound amazing! How about using it as a jam on toast? Well, go to this website and get some ideas!

How about the gravy? I always make way too much gravy as the husband and I both love it. With the leftovers, I freeze it and use it as a base in soups, as it works pretty darn good that way. Go here for some more ideas on what to do it all that yummy gravy.

I know a lot of people love their sweet potato casserole. But what to do with those leftovers? Here’s a recipe for making biscuits out of them, even if they have the marshmallow topping!

Now my favorite is the Thanksgiving stuffing. I love that stuff, so I make lots of it, but what to do with the leftovers? I mean, it’s flavored bread……well, here’s some ideas for you that goes from breakfast hash to bacon wrapped stuffing bites to stuffed mushrooms. This site has eighteen recipes to share with you. Go take a look.

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Do you have ideas for those Thanksgiving leftovers? Let us know!

 

Grocery Store Savings

I admit I spend more than I should at the grocery store. I’m guilty as charged. It’s so easy to do!

I go in for a couple of things and go out with way more than I should and I hate grocery shopping! But…I am trying to do better. And you can too. Unless you’re one of those kind of shoppers…..you know….you go in the store and come out with ONLY what you need.

Show offs.

Anyway, I’ve been scouring the interweb for tips on how to become a better shopper. I love research. I hate shopping. I know, I know. I’m weird.

Here’s some tips I came away with, hope they help us all.

Don't shop with kids either! They convince you to buy things you don't need!

Don’t shop with kids either! They convince you to buy things you don’t need!

 

Make a shopping list. Now I do this all the time. Only because I’m old and my memory is not as it used to be. Unfortunately, I sometimes forget the damn list. Sighhhhh. The good thing is…I do make the list and most times do remember to take it with me. It helps so much to just get what’s on the list and not extras. I know my grocery store as well as I know my home. I know where everything is and just go and grab what I need. Most times……..

Don’t go to the store hungry. I’m sure you’ve all heard this one. It is so true. I can vouch for it. Last week I made that mistake and went hungry. I ended up buying twice as much as I planned. Stupid. Have a snack before you go or go just after you’ve eaten lunch. I don’t eat breakfast but I prefer to do my shopping in the mornings. I need to have a snack before I go. An apple, a carrot…something.

Check the upper and lower shelves for cheaper items. I do this a lot and it’s true! There are cheaper items on the upper or lower shelves. In the store I shop at, it’s usually the upper. I’m vertically challenged, folks. The upper shelves are hard for me to reach, so of course, that’s where the cheaper items I want are. I think it’s a conspiracy.  I ask complete strangers (especially the good-looking young men) to get me the items on the top shelf. Most people are very helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  You never know when you might find a new friend.

Don’t buy your toiletries from your grocery store. I usually don’t. There is a nice Shopper’s Drug Mart right across the street from the grocery store and their prices for my toiletries are usually lower. I know it’s much more convenient to buy them when you are grocery shopping but try to refrain. You can save some serious cash buying them at the drug store.

Plan a weekly menu. Sounds easy enough, right? It’s not. At least for me. Hopefully for you. I try to plan my meals for the week. I usually can. Then I make a list of the items I need and buy those items. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out but I still have those items for next week. I do tend to save some money doing this, so it’s all good.

Buy generic. I do this often. I have found that most name brands also manufacture a ‘generic’ or ‘no-name’ brand. It’s the same stuff usually just under a different name. Get into the habit of reading labels. You’ll be surprised. Pleasantly.

Don’t buy pre-cut stuff. I know buying that bag of salad is easier for you. Try to resist. It’s so much cheaper and fresher to just buy a head of lettuce and clean and chop it up yourself. Same with the carrots, cheese and other stuff that you can either buy shredded, chopped or peeled. Do it yourself! Yes, it might take some or your precious time and effort but it will save you bunches. (see what I did there? ha!)

She's way to happy to be grocery shopping!

She’s way too happy to be grocery shopping!

 

Those are some of my suggestions. I bet you have some of your own, don’t you? Let us know in the comment section! 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Hacks to Make Your Life Easier

I don’t know about you but I like to make my life easier. Could be because I’m just lazy or could be because I’m smart.

Okay, we won’t get too far into the reasons…….

Anyway, I gathered together a few life hacks that might make your life easier too.

lifehacks

 

  • You know how hard it is to open blister packs right? Of course you do! I swear everything is in those blasted things and it’s almost impossible to open them. I have almost cut my hand off trying to open one. Then I found an easier way! Use a can opener! Yes, you heard that right. A can opener will zip right through that plastic and let you get what’s inside.
  • Ever have a pot boil over? If you’re like me and multi-task even cooking meals….you have. Stop that by putting a wooden spoon over the top of the uncovered pot and it won’t boil over. Believe me, I’ve tested this one numerous times and it always works.
  • Is your phone battery running low? Need it to charge fast? Put the phone on airplane mode while charging and it will charge up fast!
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  • If you use post-it notes for note taking, before you throw it away use the sticky end to get crumbs and dust from between the keys of your keyboard. Works great!
  • When you want to nail a small nail in the wall use a clothes pin or a comb to hold the nail. Saves on your fingers being hammered instead.
  • Have a dull knife but no sharpener handy? Use the bottom of a ceramic bowl! The rough bottom edge makes for a great sharpener in a pinch.
  • 17-keys

 

 

 

 

I’m sure you can come up with some others! Please share your life hacks with us!

 

 

 

Fun Things To Do For Free

Here on Thrifty Divas, we are here to show you ways to save money or to do with less. We also like to have fun, as I’m sure you do also.

So I’ve compiled a list of free or almost free things to do for fun! I know we don’t all have the same idea of what is fun so I’ve tried to make the list pretty varied.

If anyone has any other ideas please let us know in the comment section! Thanks.

 

Visit your local library.  Libraries aren’t just for book lovers. They also have activities going on for all ages! Most libraries have a website you can check out on what activities are going on at what time. I checked out my local library and even though I don’t live in a big city I was amazed at all the things they have going on. From movie nights to ‘Roving Gyms’ for preschoolers.

board-games

Play Board Games. I know board games aren’t for everyone. They are great for families though! Kids usually love board games once you can get them away from the computer. Even couples could benefit from the togetherness that board games give you.

Have cooking lessons or a cook-along! The husband and I used to cook together on weekends when we were first married. We’d try different recipes or just cook dinner together. It was a great way to have conversations and still do something together. You could also teach a child or even a young adult how to cook.

Learn a foreign language.  Believe it or not, there are ways to learn a new language free. Use YouTube for something other than cute cat videos. There are also online sites like Duolingo and Language Zen. A person is never too old to learn something new!

Do some puzzles! Personally, I love crossword puzzles. I know many people are into Sudoku. There are lots of places online that you can find free puzzles to do or find some really cheap puzzle books at your local dollar store.

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Scan your old photos. This is something I plan on doing very soon. Most people have a scanner at home. Scan those old family photos (and new) and save them digitally. Not only do you safeguard them you can make a screen saver with them or have them handy for “Throwback Thursday”. Saving old photos on a flash drive or even in a memory cloud is just a good idea as old photos tend to deteriorate and fade over time, maybe even getting destroyed by fire or flood.

Write letters.  Yes, I mean actual pen and paper letters. You can write letters to family members or friends (who doesn’t enjoy getting real mail!) or write a letter to your future children or grandchildren. Even write a letter to your future self!

Attend a dress rehearsal. I saw this somewhere a while back and thought it was a wonderful idea! Many performances hold dress rehearsals before opening night and they let people see them for free! Call your local theaters and ask them if they have open dress rehearsals for any of their shows. Many do! It’s a great experience for kids and even adults who have never experienced a live performance.

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That’s just a few things you can do for free or almost free. I’m sure there are lots more. Hope you enjoyed the list. What do you do for free that’s fun?

 

 

 

Vinegar – The Superhero Liquid!

Vinegar, it’s cheap and it works wonders around your house. There isn’t much this superhero can’t do.

vinegar

I always have a big jug of vinegar in my pantry. It’s a whole lot cheaper and better environmentally than those toxic cleaners, especially if you have kids, pets or allergies.

In fact, get yourself a big container of white vinegar and a big box of baking soda (also cheap) and you will have the ingredients for your superhero!

Here’s a list of just some of the things I use vinegar for:

  1. We’ll start with the obvious. Your coffee machine. Not necessarily your coffee pot. I know of lots of people who only rinse out their coffee pot as they think the build up of coffee stains makes for a better cup of coffee. No, I’m talking about your machine. Water will leave residue inside the machine. The best way of cleaning that is to pour several cups of undiluted white vinegar inside the machine and let it work through. Make sure you rinse your machine out by making several pots of just water, otherwise, your next cup of coffee is going to be spit out.  If you are sitting in front of  your computer, well, that might not be a good thing.
  2. Unclog and deodorize sinks. You know how stinky your kitchen sink drain can be, especially if you have a spouse or kids that pour everything down it and then don’t follow with some water. Believe me when I sympathize with you. As often as you need to pour about 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar down your drains and let them sit in there for a while. Flush with cold water and you’ll have clean drains. Not to mention it’s a lot easier on your drains then that toxic drain cleaner crap that smells terrible.
  3. Make carpet stains disappear. I learned this trick many years ago when the ex and I owned a carpet cleaning business. Fill a spray bottle ( I buy cheap ones at the dollar store) with vinegar and spray on  the stain. You can dilute the vinegar with water also, I usually don’t. I’m a rebel that way. Anyway, spray the stain with vinegar, let it stand for a few minutes and pat dry with a clean cloth. Repeat until the stain is gone.
  4. Make water spots from your dishwasher disappear. Put 1/4 cup of white vinegar in the dishwasher’s rinse cycle. Your dishes will come out sparkling and it helps degrease those pesky greasy plastic ware. It’s so much cheaper than that rinsing stuff you can buy in the store. I can’t believe how expensive that crap is!
  5. Many of you will appreciate this one as winter is coming fast. Fill a spray bottle with three parts white vinegar to one part water and use it to spray on your car’s outer windshield. It keeps frost from forming on them for several weeks. It won’t save you from heavy snowfall but you won’t have to scrape that nasty frost off your windows every day.
  6. Use one cup of vinegar in your clothes washing machine. You will be amazed at the many uses this gives you. A single cup of vinegar will kill off any bacteria in your clothes. It will keep your clothes soft and fresh smelling so you can say goodbye to fabric softener! Added to the last rinse it will keep your clothes lint and static free!
  7. Clean your mini blinds. Make a solution of equal parts white vinegar and hot tap water. Use a clean rag and dampen it with the solution. What I usually do is put the rag in the solution and wring it out really well, then I use the rag on the top and bottom of each slat. Easy peasy.
  8. Clean your microwave. If you have a messy spouse (or kids) that refuse to cover their dishes you have a dirty microwave. An easy way to clean it is to put some vinegar and water in a small dish and heat it up. Let it sit for a few minutes then take the dish out and wipe down the microwave with a sponge or cloth. It not only makes cleaning easier, it makes it smell better too.

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Don’t worry about the smell of vinegar smelling up your house. The smell fades rather quickly and leaves behind a nice clean fragrance.

Also, if you have a cat(s), remember, they hate the smell of vinegar. My cats just leave the room for a while. No problem. It’s not toxic to them, they just hate the smell.

I’m sure there are hundreds of more uses for vinegar. So buy a big bottle and save some money!

 

 

 

 

Some Ways to Save Money You Might Not Have Thought Of

I’ve always been willing to learn new ways to save money. Afterall, don’t we all want to save some bucks when we can?

I came across a few other ways to save some money that I hadn’t thought of before. Maybe you know of some ways too. Feel free to let us know in the comment section.

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Have a day of the week you cook a meatless meal for the family. Even one day a week can save you tons of money on meat (which is usually the most expensive part of the meal). There are lots of recipes out there that taste pretty darn good without meat!

People love to shop online. I know I do. There are a lot less people. 😉 But….you might save yourself some money if you don’t buy those items right away. Put it in your online shopping cart and then sleep on the idea of buying your purchases overnight. You might be surprised at how often the next day those same purchases don’t seem quite as appealing, thus saving you money!

Don’t always pass by the generic brands in stores. A lot of generic brands are made by the big name manufacturers, believe it or not. They are way cheaper, though. Try some out and you might be surprised!

Use your slow cooker more often. It uses less electricity than a stove or microwave and if you….um….have a tendency to overcook or burn your food… using a slow cooker will stop that! Plus, you will have a home cooked meal when you get home or as I like to use it….put it to use and do other things while dinner is cooking itself!

Go to your local farmers market near closing time. Lots of vendors will deeply discount what they have left so they don’t have to cart it home! You can save tons of money this way.

Buy at dollar stores! I can buy most cleaning supplies at my local dollar store. Or better yet make your own! There are a lot of websites out there devoted to making your own cleaning supplies. Look them up!

I’m sure there are many more ways people can save money, these are just a sampling of what you can do.

Use Your Freezer to Save Money

If you don’t already own a separate freezer from the one in your refrigerator think seriously about investing in one. They are a huge money saver in the long run, even if you are single or it’s just you and husband.

There are so many things you can freeze, even things you were told weren’t freezable. I experiment with mine, most times it works out, rarely it doesn’t.  I freeze everything from soup to nuts…literally.

freezer

How many of you were told you can’t freeze cheese? I was told that when I was younger. I freeze cheese. Cheese is expensive, so when I find it on sale I buy extra and then shred it (if it isn’t shredded already) and freeze it. Works great when all you need is a little cheese for your recipe. I even use shredded cheese to make grilled cheese sandwiches. Works great as it doesn’t take as long to melt as sliced.

Here is a list of other foods you can freeze……..

Nuts: These are great for the freezer! Freezing them keeps them fresh for months. Nuts have oils in them, freezing them keeps the oil from getting rancid. They only take a few minutes to thaw.

Rice: Cooked or uncooked. I mostly freeze cooked rice. It freezes great and reheats like a champ with a couple of spoonfuls of water. I use cooked frozen rice in lots of recipes. Stir fried rice and soup comes to mind.

Bananas: I’ve frozen bananas for smoothies and banana bread. They work great frozen! (or thawed)

Bacon: I freeze bacon all the time. If you only need a few slices at a time…freeze it that way. It thaws out quickly.

Fresh herbs: I do this quite often too. Most recipes only call for a small amount of fresh herbs, so freeze the rest! Most herbs freeze quite well. I wash the herbs and pat them dry with paper towels, then I lay them flat on a pan and stick it in the freezer for a while. When they are frozen I put them in a freezer bag. That way you can take out as much as you need when you need it. They last for months in the freezer.

Chips: Yes, I’m talking potato chips here. If you buy a big bag, or several smaller bags they can be stored in the freezer. Chips like nuts have oils on them (duhh!) so if you only eat a few chips at a time, store your tightly sealed bag in the freezer! They can last for months, even an opened bag.

Flour: Actually if you are a big time baker you might know this one. Flour last for months in the freezer and professional bakers store it there as it works better in most baking recipes. Go figure!

Eggs: Store them in the freezer without their shells. You can also store the yolks and whites separate! Or you can whip them together (like you would for scrambled eggs) and store them that way.

Chocolate: Now who doesn’t crave chocolate? Even I do on occasion! But…there is a trick to freezing chocolate. If you stick a hunk of chocolate in the freezer straight from the store it will become crumbly when you take it out to take a bit of it later. First, stick it in the refrigerator for a day, then stick it in the freezer. Comes out perfect!

ge-freezer-ad

 

 

 

Have any other freezer tips? Let us know in the comment section!

 

 

 

 

Is Buying in Bulk Worth It?

Is buying in bulk worth it? Simple answer…Yes and no.

Buying some things in bulk is well worth it. Some other things not so much. As to what to buy, well, meat is good to buy in bulk. Especially since that’s one of the biggest costs in a family’s food budget.

Can stuff is great to buy in bulk. I have two big shelves in my mud room full of can foods. From soups to vegetables, I have them.

I realize better than most that buying ‘extra’ food is hard for lots of people. The budget will only stretch so far. I know. I get that. BUT……if you figure in your budget to buy extra once a shopping trip, you’ll have that pantry filled up in no time with extras.

And it won’t break the budget to do so.

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Also, if you can, invest in a machine that lets you wrap that extra meat or dry products. I use a Food Saver machine. It’s a bit of an expense at first but sure pays for itself quickly. If you can, ask relatives to chip in together and buy it for you for your birthday or Christmas. That way you get something you really want and need and there is no outlay of money on your end.

Also, if you qualify financially,  go to a food bank. There’s no shame in it and it doesn’t have to last forever. They are a good source for can goods and dry goods. You don’t always get to pick what you get but whatever they give you can come in handy down the road.

Now comes the question of what you should buy in bulk.  I’ve broken it down and added why it makes a good idea to buy it in bulk. Look for coupons if you use them. I go online for my favorite grocery store and see what kind of sales they have.

If you can, shop at stores that have good weekly sales. It’s very competitive out there. Do your homework. It doesn’t take much. And hell, you’re usually online anyway, right?

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If you have a store like Costco, or Sam’s those are great places to buy bulk. I can’t afford the yearly fee that Costco here charges and since it’s just me and the husband I don’t shop there. But, if you have a family, those kind of places are wonderful.

Oh, and don’t forget about dollar stores. I have a great one near me that sells food items. I buy bulk gravy mixes and some can goods. I can also buy pet food and treats at a great price. Investigate your dollar stores, they aren’t all the same.

Ok, now down to what to buy in bulk.

Toilet Paper: This is always a great item to bulk buy. People use it every day.  It can be stored under the sink, in the linen closet, even under the bed in plastic tubs.

Shampoo: Again it’s something you use all the time. It’s easy enough to store too.

Dry Beans: Ah, one of my favorites. Dry beans can be kept in tightly sealed bags or plastic containers for very long periods of time. They are super easy to cook and are one of the most versatile things out there.

Pasta: Another favorite. Again it can be stored almost indefinitely in tightly sealed bags or containers and is something we probably all use quite often. Like beans, it can be used for salads, soups, casseroles, you name it, pasta has been there.

Oatmeal: I have lots of oatmeal on  hand. It’s great for breakfast or making cookies. It’s cheap and if you look online there are all sorts of things you can do with this ingredient. From cooking to cleaning it’s a gem to have on hand. It’s also cheap and easy to store.

Trash bags: Here is one item that most people don’t think of when buying in bulk. Everyone knows how expensive they can be. My advice….buy good ones. If you buy the cheap ones they usually split when they are full and you have to use two bags. That is NOT saving you money. Buy the good ones like Glad or even try your store brand kind. Some are good and some are not. If you find a good store brand type you’ve struck gold. They are usually cheaper. When you see trash bags on sale grab an extra box of them. You always need them and it will save you money down the road.

Toothpaste: This is another item most people don’t think about. But, it’s easy to store and you use it daily. Unless you’re like my husband and don’t have any of your own teeth, then just pass this one by. 😉

Can soup: Cream soups are always a good buy and lots of people use them in cooking. I have one whole cupboard full of extra can soups and vegetables. It took me a couple of years to stock that much but between the food bank and good sales I now  have them.

Laundry Soap: Again, something everyone uses quite often. If you find a good sale grab an extra box or bottle and stick it in a closet. The same goes for dishwashing soap.

Meat: Well, duh, this is a given. Even if right now you don’t have a food saving machine it’s always a good idea to stock up on meat and poultry.

If you live somewhere that has a nice cool basement. Potatoes and onions are great bulk buys and can be stored in the basement for very long periods of time.

You don’t have to buy things all at once. It’s taken me a few years to work up to a full pantry. I also have an extra closet that I use for dry goods to store. I have shelves too that are dedicated to just extra can goods. It can be done. Try it.

 

Hope this article helped some of you and if you have any ideas let me and Mer know!