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.

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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.

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  • 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.

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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?

 

 

 

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.

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!

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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!

5 Things to do with 5 Bucks

When I was little, 5 bucks to me felt like 100. I was a child millionaire. I could buy any kind of candy that I wanted and still have enough to buy a few cans of ice cold Coca Cola.

These days, 5 dollars isn’t much. But you can still have a mildly good time if you use your imagination.

Here are 5 things to do with 5 dollars.

Go To The Flea Market

I have found some really cheap finds at the flea market for under 5 dollars.

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I got this vintage tin sign for $2!!!

I don’t drink pop, especially Dr. Pepper, but my daughter loves the stuff. I have it hanging above my kitchen sink. It’s selling on Ebay for $30 right now.

Treasure hunting is totally doable with little cash!!

Feed The Wildlife

Go to a store that sells baked goods at discount prices or just your regular store will do. Buy a couple loaves of stale bread (or fresh if you’re feeling charitable) and find your nearest lake or pond. There are bound to be a few ducks or gooses around. They love bread!

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Pigeons will also appreciate your efforts.

Just be careful, though. I once got chased by a pissed off goose.

Go See A Cheap Matinee

The majority of theaters have a discount movie day. Where I live, it’s on Tuesdays, although I haven’t had the chance to go in a long time. $5 will get you in, but you are on your own with concessions and they are really against bringing in your own food.

I’m a rebel and do it anyways.

Buy Some Really Nice Nail Polish

If you’re into doing your nails yourself, you deserve a decent bottle of nail polish once in awhile. I just got one for a dollar on clearance, Maybelline Color Show Street Art called Nighttime Noise.

Mer’s Thrifty Hint: Always take a gander at clearance items!

I had four dollars left, so I just stuffed that away for next time.

Coloring Is Fun

Most of the dollar stores near me sell various adult coloring books, colored pencils and markers. If you haven’t tried coloring as an adult, I highly recommend it. Anyone can do it regardless of artistic talent, it’s cheap to get started if you shop at the right place and it’s relaxing.

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For a few dollars more, you can even get a swear word coloring book. I am gonna ask Santa for one this Christmas.

 

So you see, there are plenty of things that you can do with 5 measly dollars. Who needs a Caribbean cruise, anyways?

If you have any other ideas, please let us know!!