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.

 

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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!

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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.

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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?

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

Dining Out on a Budget

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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!

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.

Cowboy Fuel

I’d like to share a recipe from Ladybuggz aka Teresa, a long time blog friend of mine.

If you’d like to share a budget friendly recipe, please email either Jackie or myself.

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I call this recipe Beef, Beans & Biscuits or Cowboy Fuel!
Most of us on a small budget have these ingredients in our fridge and pantry….it’s a rib sticking, great meal!
Ingredients needed: Ground Beef, Onion, BBQ Sauce, Brown Sugar, Salt, Refrigerated Biscuit Dough (premade) or make your own… 1/2 cup of Shredded Cheese (your choice/or not). You can also add more veggies to it if you have them..like celery, carrots, & green  pepper.
cowboy
Step 1:
-Use as much Ground Beef as your family usually uses……
-dice 1/2 medium  onion or more (to your liking)
-Brown Ground Beef and Onion together…Keep on low
Step 2:
-Add 3/4 cup of your fav. BBQ Sauce to the beef and onion mix & next  3 ingredients
-Add 2 Tbsp of Brown Sugar/ or what ever sugar you have on hand
-Add 1/2 tsp Salt
-Mix in 1- 16oz can of your fav. Baked Beans, bring to a gentle simmer….
Step 3:
Pour meat and bean mixture into a casserole dish big enough for all to fit! (or see end of step 4 for alternative).
Step 4:
-Either Make or use pre packaged Biscuit Dough, place Biscuit’s on top of beef and bean mix, cover with 1/2 shredded cheese and bake according to Biscuit recipe. Or bake biscuits separately and keep meat mix hot on top of stove ( I do this to keep bottom of biscuits from getting soggy).
This will fill your bellies and keep your house warm in more way’s than one!
Enjoy!
Thanks Merry and Jackie for considering this recipe for your new site!
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You’re welcome, Teresa! I’ll have to give this one a try (and light a candle!)

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.

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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!

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

 

 

 

 

Zucchini Pizza

I like to make easy appetizers for the weekly football game, but I’m trying to mix things up a bit this season. I am also currently trying to stay away from processed foods, which is not an easy feat.

I stumbled across this simple and delicious recipe that has only 3 ingredients. It’s carb friendly and much healthier than your standard helping of nachos or slice of za.

What You’ll Need:

2 large zucchini’s, sliced

1 jar of pizza sauce

2 cups of mozzarella cheese

Place the zucchini slices on a baking sheet. With a spoon, put a dollop of sauce on top, then cover with cheese. Put in the oven for 20 minutes on 350 degrees.

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They looked better before everyone started eating them!

They were a hit! Even my husband loved them. We didn’t miss the pizza crust at all.

I swear.

Do you have any easy, simple appetizer recipes to share? Let us know in the comments and we’ll feature them in a future post!

Beware the Money Suckers

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I recently sold some of my clutter at the flea market. I didn’t make much money, but it felt good to finally get rid of some of the useless items that I’ve accumulated over the years. The things that didn’t sell were given away to charity.

But wait, I hear you asking. This is a blog about being thrifty, not decluttering your home!

Give me a second to explain.

I realized that even though I am as thrifty as they come, I do have an issue with buying things that I don’t need or won’t ever use.

For example, I am always trying different dietary supplements. I bought 3 bottles of something at a website (buy two get one free!!) only to end up getting sick from it. I should have gotten a small bottle to try instead.

I sold the two never opened ones for a dollar each and I lost money.

We don’t even realize how much cash we spend on useless items, or as I like to call them, Money Suckers.

Take a look in your junk drawer to get an idea of what your “Money Suckers” may be.

Mine is full of things that I don’t even recognize, although most of it was purchased by my husband. (Don’t tell him I said that.)

I currently have 3 decks of playing cards, a set of stress relief balls, 10 keychains, 20 pens, a bunch of staples (no stapler) and enough paper clips to last two lifetimes.

Every little thing counts when you’re trying to save money.

Do you have any thoughts on this topic? Please let us know!