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.

jar

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!

newspapergift

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! 

 

 

 

Homemade Sugar Scrub

Christmas is coming, you guys. You know what that means, don’t you?

Yes, cookies galore. But that’s not what I’m talking about.

Presents! Oh, crap. So many presents to buy.

Wait a second, I’m too broke to buy presents except for my daughter, niece and nephew. I try to do what I can for them. My mom and aunt also get a little something. 

But as for the adults, they are just happy enough to have me get drunk on wine and sing carols for them.

This year though, I have found a way to actually make the females in my life real gifts with my own two little hands.

What woman doesn’t enjoy slathering goop on their face? I know I do.

So I had a super idea (it happens sometimes) to make some kind of facial scrub.

There are so many recipes out there for sugar scrubs it truly boggles the mind. I found one that is the most affordable to make from saltlicklessons.com.

Vanilla Sugar Scrub

What you’ll need:

Sugar (Obviously. You can also use brown sugar as well. Yum. )

Coconut oil or aloe vera gel (the cheapest of the two)

Real vanilla extract

A mason jar with lid

  1. Combine the coconut oil or aloe vera and one cup of the sugar in a bowl. Mix until creamy.
  2. Add the vanilla extract while continuing to stir. This is when you would add coloring too if you wanted to get fancy.
  3. Add the remaining sugar until the formula reaches the desired consistency.
  4. Put in a mason jar and decorate as desired.

I plan on using some ribbons and whatnot to decorate mine.

You might be tempted to eat it but I don’t think that aloe vera gel tastes good.

 

lavender-vanilla-scrub-1

This is an example, mine will be better.

 

You can mix this up by using any sort of essential oil or extract that you’d like. I just happen to have some real vanilla extract in my kitchen.

Do you have any homemade budget friendly Christmas gift ideas? Let us know in the comments!

When to Buy What

I’ve traveled the web for hours looking at puppies looking for new ways to save money. Although I’m a Thrifty Diva, I also admit that there is much more that I need to learn!

I found this simple to follow guide on when the best times are to buy certain things.

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It seems to me that July is not only temputure hot, it’s also a hot time to buy almost anything.

I’ll keep that in mind when I’m ready to buy my next Mercedes.

If you have any thoughts, please leave us a comment! We love comments!

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! 

 

 

 

 

 

Are Expired Foods Safe To Eat?

canned-food

I recently cleaned out my cupboards and threw away 3 boxes of macaroni and cheese. The dates on them were well past a year. My daughter no longer asks me to make her mac and cheese, which makes me nostalgic.

She loved it when I would cut up hot dogs and mix those in.

My husband noticed the missing boxes and asked me what happened to them. I told him and he got all huffy about it.

“But those were for emergencies, the oh no we have nothing left to eat stash!”

I am weird about expiration dates, I’ll admit it. Having worked in many industrial-sized kitchens and having a mother who is also weird about food going bad, my natural instinct is to toss it out.

I decided to investigate further. I found some information in this article on the topic.

  • ‘Sell by.’ This is the date by which manufacturers suggest that retailers remove the product from shelves. The goal is to ensure quality for a period of time after you buy it. That can be several days to several weeks, depending on the item. For instance, milk, assuming proper refrigeration, should last five to seven days past its sell-by date before turning sour.
  • ‘Best by’ and ‘use by.’ Those terms tell you when to eat (or freeze) a product for the best quality. A jar of salsa may not taste as fresh and tangy as it’s supposed to, for example, and crackers may be soft instead of crisp after those dates.

Hmmm. They might taste funky but not be dangerous to consume.

Maybe I had been a little too quick to discard those boxes of mac and cheese. When you’re really hungry, even powdered cheese sounds like a gourmet meal.

 

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Yum!

 

The next time you go through your cabinets and see that a can of corn is past its due date, I say open it. I wasted at least 3 dollars tossing good mediocre food away, which is not the thrifty diva way.

Do you have any thoughts on expired foods? Let us know in the comments!

Lasagna Dip

I found this delicious looking recipe on Facebook and saved the link. It only has 4 ingredients (besides good crusty bread) as well.

We here at The Thrifty Divas are all about easy and affordable recipes!

I can whip up a wonderful lasagna, but it’s a real time-consuming entree to make, what with all of the layering of noodles and such.

But this lasagna dip is a snap to make! I can’t wait to serve this on football game day Sunday! I just know that it’s going to be a hit.

 

game-day-easy-lasagna-dip-ohsweetbasil-com-5h

Please wipe your drool on that washcloth over there.

 

Here’s the basic recipe.
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or Italian sausage
  • 1 cup tomato sauce 
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella, shredded
  1. Cook the meat, drain, then add the tomato sauce and simmer for about 3-5 minutes. 
  2. Spread the ricotta over the bottom of a baking dish, the meat sauce and then top the whole shebang with mozzarella cheese.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Put fresh basil (like the song Hey Mickey) on top. (Optional. Just sprinkle some Italian seasoning and call it a day.)

Use crusty bread (or not crusty, it’s cool) as dippers.

Do you think you’ll make this recipe? What would be some alternate versions of this? Let us know what you think in the comments!

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.

s-crossword

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?

 

 

 

Generic Meds Do The Job

Whenever I can, I buy generic over-the-counter cold meds, muscle rubs, cough drops and stomach ache remedies. My local drugstore has their own brand. I’ve found absolutely no difference between name brand cough syrup and Drug Mart cough syrup other than the packaging.

I usually stock up on these items once every three months. That way, when my daughter tells me that she has a headache, I can point to the kitchen cupboard and go back to watching Netflix.

I bought some muscle rub for $4 dollars the other day, instead of paying $9 for the “real” stuff.

muscle-ultra-carton

Non-greasy is an important feature.

It smells like Pepto, but it does an amazing job of helping with my muscle pain/twitching.

If you haven’t been using generic meds, give it a try at least once. You’ll save money, which is what we strive to do here on this blog.

Do you use generic drugs? Let us know in the comments!

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.

cleaning

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Dining Out on a Budget

eatingoutonabudget

No matter how broke we were, Friday was always “dining out” night when I was a kid. Somehow, my parents were able to pull this off every week. We’d order a pizza, go to McDonalds, or to an affordable family restaurant. I would always get the cheeseburger and fries off of the children’s menu.

It was our splurge for the week. As much as we enjoyed my mom’s cooking, dinner out was a special occasion. (Not to mention a well deserved break for our mom.)

It’s not that difficult to find a decent restaurant to visit at least once or twice a month to give you that feeling of treating yourself. We all deserve that, no matter what our bank account looks like.

Here are a few tips…

  • Ask around. Most people love to share where they go for an affordable tasty dinner.
  • Check out the appetizer menu. Despite what anyone says, onion rings can be an entire meal.
  • Find a place that doesn’t upcharge you for salad, soup, bread and side dishes.
  • Ask for water to save extra money.
  • If you’re old enough, order something from the senior menu. Sadly, I have a few more years before I can do this. Boo.
  • Tip nicely and be amazed when your regular waitress doesn’t charge you for coffee and throws in an extra roll. (This actually happened.)

And remember, always use a napkin and excuse yourself when you belch.

Do you have any tips on dining out on a budget? Let us know in the comments!