Archive for the ‘Frugal’ Category

“Use What You Have” DIY Advent Calendar

Monday, November 26th, 2012

 

It is that time of year again and that means another Advent season.  You don’t have to have a fancy advent calendar to celebrate the advent season, in fact, I have a DIY Advent Calendar made from items you already have in your home. This free DIY Advent Calendar is the perfect way to celebrate the holiday season without breaking the bank.

Today I wanted to share with you a “use what you have” Advent calendar that we created last year. It was such a hit that I plan to make another one for this year! This requires no pricey materials and is based around what the holiday season should be all about… being together!

In the years past, we have always had a Christmas Jar of activities. Each day we would randomly draw from a set number of activities and enjoy a holiday activity together as a family. This year, our life with our two children has become increasingly busy and scheduled. We have two school schedules, extracurricular activities, homework, holiday programs, holiday family events, and so much more going on. Our life of leisure seems to have taken a detour and I have had to be more thoughtful in our approach towards carving time out for what we would hope to accomplish this year.

I wanted to create our own countdown to Christmas in a creative way, but I didn’t want to spend any money on it. I decided to use what I had to create our homemade Advent filled with fun activities and wanted to share with you what we created!

 

Homemade Advent Calendar

Supplies needed:

A large circle punch (in scrapbook supplies at craft store) or a jar or glass for tracing
Tape
Scrapbook or festive holiday gift wrap
Ribbon
Marker
2 Muffin Tins
A picture frame stand or a place to prop your finished tins


I began this project by punching out 48 circles. On half of these write the numbers 1-24 and on the other half you can write fun activities to do with your children in anticipation of the big day.

Stick your holiday activity folded up inside of each muffin tin and then attach the numbered circles to each individual muffin tin. Secure with tape on both sides to hold your activities in securely.

Break out your trusty calendar and jot down the activities for each day to remind yourself what you need to plan for and what supplies will need to be purchased to accomplish the activities.

Add a little festive ribbon to the top of your muffin tin. Display the muffin tin by using a picture frame stand or finding a sturdy wall to prop it up with. Have your child draw an activity each morning to complete as a family.

 

Here are 24 Ideas for Advent Activities

1. Decorate the Christmas tree.
2. Big bubble baths with holiday music playing.
3. Go to the library to pick out holiday books.
4. Special popcorn and hot cocoa snack with a holiday movie.
5. Head to a holiday concert.
6. Decorate gingerbread houses.
7. Make Christmas cards for your special friends.
8. Watch a holiday movie.
9. Color a holiday coloring page.
10. Bake Christmas cookies.
11. Go see holiday lights.
12. Go see Santa in your local downtown.
13. Write a letter to Santa.
14. Pop popcorn & play a board game together.
15. Host an ornament decorating party.
16. Make gingerbread waffles or gingerbread donuts for breakfast.
17. Wrap holiday gifts while listening to holiday music together.
18. Go to the dollar theater and see a movie.
19. Go see the Christmas lights in your pajamas.
20. Deliver holiday treats to your friends & the firefighters in town.
21. Watch your favorite holiday movie.
22. Open one gift early.
23. Go caroling.
24. Do a holiday puzzle together

Total cost for this project was zero and very little money will be spent to do these activities together. The memories I hope to create with my children though, I hope those will be priceless!

Do you do an Advent calendar or have a special way your family celebrates the countdown to Christmas? I would love to hear your ideas!

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Fun Halloween Costume Ideas For the Whole Family

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012






We are looking forward to another fun Halloween! I wanted to show you our Halloween costumes this year. Outfitting the whole family in costumes can be a challenge, but we tend to embrace it with a lot of enthusiasm.

Emily’s masquerade ballroom gown has to be one of my favorite costumes we have ever gotten her. I found it at Marshall’s for $24.99. I hate spending more than $20 on a costume, but this is one she is planning to use for dress-up play and it is so beautifully made that I am sure we will find many uses for this elegant dress (complete with a hoop skirt, cameo necklace and little masquerade mask).

We found Ethan’s knight costume inexpensively online and I was excited that their requests coordinated this year. Of course, we always manage to make it coordinate for photos, even if it doesn’t always really work!







For a couple that doesn’t really watch a lot of television, we embraced the television themes this year with our costumes. Our favorite show happens to be, “Glee.” I might be alone in this one, but I can’t get enough of that show!  For our couple costume this year, we gleeked it out with a Glee cheerleader costume for me and my husband pulled off the Coach Sue Sylvester costume far better than I could ever imagine.

We partied it up in these hilarious costumes and every time I saw this man out of the corner of my eye, it put me in a fit of giggles. Of course, following this year’s rocking costume party, we were already brainstorming what we would wear next year.

I was able to find these costumes on clearance for $10 each. My best friend altered the costume a bit for me (because one size does NOT fit all). What a rock star best friend to sew my cheap polyester costume for me!


Our Bunco theme this month was also Halloween themed so my best friend and I schemed a costume from our other favorite show, “New Girl,” I have a serious girl crush on Zooey and her character, “Jess,” on this show. For this costume, I just raided my own little retro wardrobe, threw on my nerdy glasses, curled my hair and slipped on a pair of ballet flats. I had the picture frame in my craft supplies and use that like she does in the intro of the show.

Becky went as Cece, Jess’ supermodel bestie  on the show.  Of course she just straightened her hair and wore her most awesome model clothes from her own wardrobe with a killer pair of heels.

You have to love a costume you can create from found items in your closet.

Looking for more last minute Halloween costume inspiration? Be sure to visit my Scary Deals on Halloween Costumes and our easy DIY Halloween Costume round-up with eight great costumes for the whole family. Happy Halloween!

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DIY Salad Bar For Summer

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Healthy eating should always be a priority, but making it a priority in the summer seems to be more challenging because we seem to always be eating on the go. I decided to create an easy DIY salad bar that you can create on your grocery day and enjoy all week long. This DIY salad bar can be on hand in your fridge and I wanted to show off an easy way you can enjoy this DIY salad bar on the go too!

All of the supplies can be found at your local Walmart store. You will need a Freezer Storage Basket (found in the same aisle as the plastic containers in the housewares section of the store, $5.97), three Fresh Take Arm & Hammer 5 cup containers ($2.87), and 1 Sterlite Ultra Latch 12.5 cups container ($5.47).

Chop up your favorite salad ingredients and organize them in your containers like this. The largest container does not sit firmly flat, but it still wedges in there nicely so that you can place all of these neatly in this wire organizer.

Don’t you just love summer? I love having such fresh ingredients on hand to choose form and creating a salad bar couldn’t be easier with the fantastic selection we have of fresh fruits and vegetables. Pictured here are just a few of the basics I love in my salad. You could definitely fill your produce drawer up with a few other great salad add-ins!

Ingredients for a Great Salad Bar

Lettuce
Spinach
Kale
Egg
Tomato
Cucumber
Bell pepper
Sunflower Seeds
Croutons
Cheese
Mushrooms
Carrots
Corn Kernels
Onions (none for me please!)
Beans
Artichoke Hearts
Apples
Avocado
Broccoli
Shrimp
Steak
Homemade Dressings

One ingredient I always have on hand in the summer for quick summer salads and wraps is roasted chicken. I don’t keep a lot of fresh chicken around and prefer to buy the frozen chicken breasts instead. There is money to be saved in buying and preparing whole chickens, but my family only likes white meat  so for convenience sake (and to get them to eat it), we stick to the chicken breasts.

I buy the 3 pound bag of chicken  cook and slice all of the chicken for the week. The chicken is then ready to go to be made into wrap sandwiches, fast paninis, a protein addition to my salads for lunch, and it helps me save a step for our dinners for the week.

It is a matter of preference how you like to cook your chicken, but I will share my favorite way that I do weekly!

Roasted Chicken Breasts for Bulk Cooking

Preheat the oven for 375 degrees. Spread the frozen chicken breasts out over one or two cookie sheets. Drizzle a little olive oil over the chicken breasts and then sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest ten to fifteen minutes (to allow the juices to redistribute within the meat). Dice, slice, or shred for your recipes for the week.

Here is my beautiful salad bar on full display! Isn’t she pretty? It makes me really happy to have all of our fruit and vegetables chopped and ready to go for our week. It is something I vow to try to do regularly for our family so that we can, literally, enjoy the fruits of our labor all summer long.

Since we are a family on the go, I wanted to show you a fun way to enjoy your salads while you are out and about.

Over by the other food storage containers were these cute Salad Break Bowls. The set came with two complete sets and cost $3.97 total! I picked up this collapsible basket (in the same aisle) for $6.97. Inside I placed our outdoor blanket, salads, fresh cut fruit, and homemade iced tea for an afternoon picnic. I plan to use these a lot this summer and think it will be a great way to encourage healthy eating wherever we might be.

I am a part of the Walmart Moms program, and Walmart has provided me with compensation for these posts. My participation is voluntary and opinions are always my own.

 

I hope this inspires you to make healthy eating a family priority this summer and would love to hear what summer shortcuts you use to achieve healthy in the summer months in your house?

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10 Unique Ideas for Projects To Do With Goodwill T-Shirts

Friday, April 13th, 2012

If there is one craft material I love, it is t-shirt material. You are going to love my post this week on the Goodwill Tips Blog because I am sharing ten unique craft ideas for projects you can create using t-shirts found at your local Goodwill store. Be sure to swing by to find out how to make these nine great projects, pictured above, and find my own cute t-shirt flowers made from a Goodwill t-shirt paired with a spray painted earring for a cute embellishment!

(All images belong to the bloggers. Please visit the Goodwill Tips blog for links to each of these great projects and the amazing bloggers that created them.)

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How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

Six years ago I bought the best pair of jeans of my life. They were a classic pair of black Gap Straight Fit Jeans that I found from Goodwill with a Fall ’03 label on them. They fit me like a glove, made me feel slim, and hit at the perfect length. Have you ever wondered what to do with an old pair of jeans you really love and that are really starting to look like they should be retired? Well, today I wanted to show you how I dyed my black jeans black again and restored this old pair into something that looks like brand new for less than $5!

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

These jeans were black, but they have faded after a million times in my washing machine. I actually think these would have been cool in eighth grade when I begged my mama to buy me a pair of stonewashed jeans that looked like they had been beat to death. Sadly, I am no longer an eighth grader and I am starting to feel self conscious when I wear these out. I’m tired of being judged.

Time to hit the craft store. Grab your coupons!

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

I headed to Joann Fabrics and over by the t-shirts and t-shirt decorating supplies is an aisle filled with fabric dyes. You will need two boxes of the powdered Rit dye in your desired color. They do offer a liquid version, but it is my understanding that the powder seems to be a bit more concentrated and adhere a little better to the fabric. I haven’t tested this theory, but I wanted this color to stick so I went with the powdered version.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.Back to black, old friend. It makes me want to break out my Amy Winehouse playlist right now.  I used two boxes of this Rit dye in black for my jeans. If your aim is to go back to blue with your jeans, you will want two boxes of Navy (for dark jeans) or Indigo (for a lighter wash). Be careful with the Indigo & Navy though as there are many comments reporting that this one can turn your jeans more purple than blue. Always follow the package directions for the best advice!

My only experience is with the BLACK dye. As you can see in the after pictures, it isn’t a true black so this is the color that I would recommend for a dark wash jean!

Let’s get started!

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

Our family has a HE washer so I am sharing with you how to dye your jeans using your HE washer. At the end of the post, I will share the other Rit recommendations depending on your own scenario. All scenarios create a big mess, but just think of your new-to-you jeans!

Did I already warn you?  This is going to get really messy. I recommend throwing on old clothes and a pair of rubber gloves while you mix this.

In a glass measuring cup add four cups of the hottest water possible out of your tap. VERY carefully, add 1 cup of table salt and the contents of two of the powdered packet. Using a metal spoon and VERY carefully stir the contents.

In your laundry sink, wet your jeans in warm water and then place them in your washer wet.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.It is important to use the washer’s hottest water setting. Additionally, a wash cycle of at least 30 minutes is recommended to obtain a satisfactory dyeing. I set my washer to the Whitest White Cycle because it had hot water and was one of the longest running cycles on my washer. Consult your washer manual to figure out which setting would be best for you. Go ahead and start the cycle with your wet jeans in there.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.Here comes the super scary part. VERY carefully pour your dye solution into the spot where you put your detergent after you start your cycle. Try to not panic like I did. I promise it will all work out.

Once the dye goes into the cycle (you will be able to tell when you open up your detergent compartment and see the dye filling in the washer) fill it with four cups of the hottest tap water possible and put it in the same exact spot you put your dye in (the powdered detergent holder) to flush the color out.

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

If you value your sink, this might not be a good thing because your sink will turn blue from the dye. You will have to bleach it if you want to maintain a pristine sink. Ours is obviously very classy down in our basement with a single light bulb attached to a piece of string. Try not to be jealous of my laundry room.

Once your jeans are done, run it through another round or two of a warm wash cycle with detergent. You want to check the water to see when it begins to run clear before you dry them to make sure all the color has absorbed into the jeans. As a precautionary measure, wash the jeans separate from other items until you are completely sure that the dye will not transfer.

After that, just run them through the dryer on your usual cycle.

Notes on Retaining Color and Resisting the Fade

Other readers have shared that Retayne is a great product to use to help your fabrics retain the rich colors that you have dyed them. Soaking your already-dyed garment in salt and/or vinegar will not set your dye. At best, it will just add another washing, which will help to remove some of your excess dye. The salt in the dye bath, however,  helps the dye to approach the fabric instead of staying in the water, and vinegar can helps dye nylon or wool, but not cotton (like these jeans). Neither salt or vinegar is actually a dye fixative for already-dyed fiber.

 

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.After you are done, you will want to clean your washing machine. Clean your washing machine immediately after dyeing has completed using the hottest water setting. Since the machine automatically weighs fabric to determine the water level, place 3-4 old towels into the washer along with detergent and 1 to 2 cups chlorine bleach. Wipe spills with chlorine bleach solution. Plastic or rubber parts may be tinted but will not stain laundry.

I happened to have a box of this Tide Washing Machine Cleaner and I used that in lieu of messing with the bleach.

That’s it. A day of effort with less than $5 in supplies for a pair of new-to-you jeans.

Without further adieu, here are my new-to-me jeans…

How to Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

My faded barely gray jeans are now a much richer and more solid color. I still can’t believe that this is the same pair of jeans. Just to be up front, I used the same exact spot in my house, same time of day, and same settings on my camera so this is no trick in photography. It really has restored the color in my jeans.

How To Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.Here is a side by side of the jeans. When they are lined up next to each other, you can see just how dramatically different this pair of jeans is. I am amazed at the results and feel like I got a brand new pair of jeans for less than $5 in supplies.

How To Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.The one thing I was worried about was that the seam would be dyed along with the rest of the fabric, but the seam actually didn’t absorb the dye. This was a lovely, lovely surprise!

If you are in love with a pair of jeans at the thrift store or simply want to restore some color in your old jeans, I encourage you to pick up some Rit fabric dye and give this a try! The results are dramatic, while still being easy on your wallet!

How To Dye a Faded Pair of Jeans from MomAdvice.com.

Other Methods of Dying With Rit Dye

For Top-Loading Machines

Fill machine with enough hot water for fabric to move freely. Refer to the chart below for the right amount of dye to add. Pre-dissolve powder in 2 cups of hot water. Add pre-dissolved powder or liquid to hot dye bath.

Wet fabric in hot water. Uncrumple and add to dye bath.

Set machine for extended wash cycle. Fabric should be in dye bath for at least 30 minutes before rinse begins. (You can reset your washing machine before the rinse cycle begins for extended wash cycle.)

Rinse in cold water until water runs clear. Wash deep shades in warm water with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly in cool water.

Dry item in dryer or hang to dry.

Clean washing machine using highest water level with hot water, detergent and 1 cup chlorine bleach using complete wash cycle. Clean lint traps. Plastic or rubber machine parts may be tinted but will not stain laundry.

For Front-Loading Machines

The settings and options of various front-load washing machines vary among manufaturers. Even though there are slight differences among differing manufacturer’s wash settings, they are common in that they all introduce water to the tumbler once the garment is placed inside. They allow a time period to introduce detergent (or dye in this case), and they all finish with a spin cycle.

It is important to use the washer’s hottest water setting. Additionally, a wash cycle of at least 30 minutes is recommended to obtain a satisfactory dyeing.

Because front-load washers have built-in heaters to maintain the washer’s temperature and the water to fabric ratio is relatively high as compared to top-load machines, deep rich colors can be achieved using Rit dyes.

For Stovetop

Fill pot with enough hot water for fabric to move freely. Remember: Use 1 package of Rit powder or 1/2 bottle of Rit liquid dye and 3 gallons of hot water for each pound of fabric. Pre-dissolve powder in 2 cups of hot water. Add pre-dissolved powder or liquid to dye bath. Stir to mix.

Wet fabric in hot water. Uncrumple and add to dye bath.

Bring dye bath to simmer. Stir constantly (back and forth, up and down) at least 30 minutes.

Rinse in warm water, then gradually cooler water until water runs clear. Wash item in warm water with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly in cool water.

Dry item in dryer or hang to dry.

Clean containers immediately with chlorine bleach. Scrub with chlorine-based powder, liquid, or gel cleanser, if necessary.

*This post contains affiliate links*

 

Have you ever used fabric dye for any projects? Any tips or recommendations for fabric dying? Let’s share!

 

 

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How to Make T-Shirt Flowers

Friday, February 17th, 2012

This week I am blogging over at the Goodwill Tips Blog and sharing a project you can do using common items you can find at your local Goodwill store. Today’s project is a simple t-shirt flower pin made from a t-shirt in your favorite shade with a clip-on earring center to add a unique flair.

Visit my step-by-step tutorial on how to make these sweet little pins for someone in your life!

Happy crafting, sweet friends!

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Behind the Scenes with Aldi Supermarket

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

This past week I got the unique opportunity to step behind the scenes and find out more about Aldi Supermarket and the products that they offer their customer. As a longtime fan of the grocery retailer, I could not wait to see how this company operated and, frankly, how in the world they can offer food for such a low price.

During the trip I got to do a wine and cheese tasting, got a grocery store tour to learn more about how their stores were set up, and then I got to participate in a blind taste-testing of the products to see how they compared with other national brands.  There was truly not a single element of this trip that I was not fascinated with.

The first question on everyone’s mind was how do they get their prices so low?

This is an answer that we were told would take years to explain, but the main points all pointed to simple cost-cutting measures, employee training that goes beyond other grocery stores,  a limited selection of items, smart store design, and in-house private labels. The savings are in the big things like having baking items on pallets and dairy items on rolling carts so the employees don’t need to stock shelves and then are reflected in the smaller things like the quarter deposit for your cart and bagging those groceries yourself.

All of these little and big things translate into great prices for their customers.

If you have ever stood in a line at Aldi, one thing you will see is that these cashiers work at lightning speed and can wait on customers quicker than any other store I have ever been to. You may not know it, but Aldi offers smart packaging that can speed up your wait time at their store. In this picture is a single bag of chips, simply held at all different angles. Practically every corner of their bags and boxes have a UPC code that can make scanning your items that much faster.  Go ahead and take a peek in your pantry at your Aldi items and you will see it too. It is one of those things that you may have never noticed, but translates into saving time for you.

The typical Aldi store only has between 6-8 employees and it is common for their employees to celebrate 15, 20, or 25 years of service. They pay their employees significantly higher than the national average and with 20 hours a week, they give their employees full health insurance benefits. Employees go through extensive training and they do everything from putting out the new pallets of food to ringing up the customers to tidying the store. It is this efficiency and the smaller pay rolls that translate into big savings for their customers.

Perhaps, the most surprising thing for me was discovering the amazing wine selection that Aldi offers. I admitted that I walked by the wine section of the store because the low prices on the bottles made me question the quality of the wine. I will never look at their wine section the same again after their wine tasting.  Don’t believe me? Aldi has received many awards and accolades for their wines.

Here are just a few of the accolades that Aldi has received. Did I mention these bottles are all under $6?

Wine Spectator

Sunshine Bay 2009 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc
Best Values Award
Received 85 points

2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti
Received 85 points

Beverage Testing Institute

Landshut (Germany) Riesling Mosel 2010
2010 World Value Wine Challenge- Top 10 White Wine $8 and Under Exceptional Value
World Wine Championships Award Silver Medal (2009)

Landshut (Germany) Sweet Red Rheinhessen 2010
World Value Wine Challenge- Top Dessert Wine $8 and Under Best Value German Dessert Wine
World Wine Championships Award Silver Medal (2009)

Toca Diamonte (Argentina) Malbec Mendoza 2009
World Wine Championships Award Bronze Medal

2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti
World Wine Championships Award Bronze Medal

Of those wines that I sampled, I fell in love with the Sunshine Bay 2009 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc, the 2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti, the Toca Diamonte (Argentina) Malbec Mendoza 2009, and the Landshut (Germany) Sweet Red Rheinhessen 2010.  Most of the bottles were $4.99, which make them quite affordable both for entertaining and for giving around the holiday season.

We paired these wines with some of Aldi’s cheese offerings which included a delicious goat cheese, a Havarti cheese, and Brie cheese. All of the cheeses were equally delicious and I am looking forward to offering these with these wines around the holidays.

I am a longtime customer and super fan of the products that Aldi offers, but the blind taste test that I participated in surprised even a super fan like me.  Aldi is challenging shoppers to switch from national brands to their private label Aldi brand for the holidays, to save their families up to fifty percent on their shopping.

We sampled many items from their holiday line and compared them to the national brands. Even though I love Aldi, I can be a bit of a food snob when it comes to certain foods like high quality cheeses and meats.

When we taste tested Tyson chicken versus Aldi chicken, I truly loved the Aldi brand better. I knew the meat that I had tasted must have been the Tyson meat, but I was dead wrong. It goes to show that sometimes we are just conditioned to believe one brand is better than the other.

Another surprise was the difference between Mrs. Smith’s apple pie versus the Aldi Belmont Deep Dish Apple Pie.  The Aldi pie is pictured on the right and you can tell just by looking at the bottom of the crust that the pie cooked and browned more evenly.  The difference in the taste was significant and the price was 28% lower.

Even being the Aldi fan girl that I am,  I came away feeling validated that the choice that I had made to shop at the store, out of necessity due to the financial strain we had been under, for our family was a good one.  The cost-cutting measures of the store do not cost-cut on the bottom line of the quality of the items in the store. In fact, the company does their best to offer a better product that the name brand.  After doing this blind taste-testing, I believe they have exceeded the standard.

If you haven’t checked out the store before, you really are missing out on so much.  I can feed my family of four for $220 for three weeks by shopping there. I do not clip coupons. I do 95% of my shopping at this store. I am rarely disappointed in the quality. If I ever was disappointed though, they offer a double guarantee and I could bring the item back for a refund and get it replaced. I don’t know very many places that offer that to their customers.

If you want to learn more about shopping at the store, I have several resources that you can check out on the site:

Aldi Supermarket

Aldi Menu Planner

Aldi Fall/Winter Menu Planner

The Aldi Queen Blog

If I was a fan girl of Aldi before, this trip took it to another level for me. I can confidently say that this store is THE place for families on a budget.  I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Let’s talk! Have you shopped at Aldi Supermarket before? Did anything surprise you about the behind the scenes look? What is your favorite item to buy at the store? Please share!

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Quick Frugal Tip: Leggings Refashioned

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

My daughter has an unbelievable collection of leggings that we have relied upon all year, since she loves wearing a dress almost every day. Now that summer season is finally here, our legging collection has gotten a little short and a little worn out. I hated to give these a toss though and just knew there had to be a good purpose to these.

With a set of scissors, I cut these off just below the knee. Now we have a perfect pair of shorts that can be worn underneath our sun dresses! Leggings that were too short and leggings with worn out knees,  have a fresh new purpose in our wardrobe.

Cute, chic, ladylike, and frugal.

Revealed: 30 Day Cut the Clutter Challenge Results

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Last month I decided to challenge myself to cut the clutter in our home over the course of thirty days. My house and my life has been feeling chaotic these days and I knew that a thirty day challenge is just what I needed to get back to the roots of the organization in my home. If you have been a long time reader, you may remember the results from my clutter challenge last year. I am finding by making this clutter challenge a yearly one that it helps bring me back to center again in my home.

The closet, pictured above, is representative of what my home has been looking like. The bones of organization are there, but they are hiding amidst the overflowing drawers, shelves, and cupboards of endless amounts of unnecessary items. I planned to get rid of four car loads of items from my home and challenged myself to a weekly stop at Goodwill.

Pictured here are my first three drops to Goodwill. I have another round of items leftover from our home renovation to take over to the ReStore that are currently sitting in my garage. Once our weather finally warms up, my husband & I have a Saturday date planned with our cluttered garage.  All in all, I removed FIFTEEN garbage bags and three totes of random uselessness from our home. In these bags you would find books that we will never read, toys that the children have outgrown, clothing that is too small, a bazillion plastic containers that I do not need, bedding & blankets that are never used, shoes, & items from household projects that have been abandoned.

Can I say,  I was not sad to see any of these items leave our home?

Maybe when you see some of the corners of my home now, you will know why!

There is still much more clutter to be conquered in our home, but these corners that I have worked on really have me reassured that having our home organized is an attainable goal. If I was going to offer any advice on tackling the clutter in  your home, I would say this:

Start Small…Really Small- When I would survey my house as a whole, I could immediately become defeated. There is so much to do and my to-do list on any given day is enormous. Adding on trying to organize my house to the list and it just did not even seem like a feasible goal. Instead, start with one small spot in your home that has been bothering you. It could be as small as the kid’s bath toys, a junk drawer that could give under its weight of uselessness, or simply a single shelf in your home office.  I found that once I began a junk drawer, for example, I would then start moving into the drawer below it, and then I would move to the next drawer. Most of the time it is just getting the momentum to climb that cluttered hill that holds us back from achieving a little organization that is the hardest part.

You Don’t Need Another Basket, But You Might Need Another Donation Bag- I remember when I first began organizing my home, I considered home organization to be about buying organizers, storage containers, and pretty baskets to house everything. All of a sudden my home was filled with a dozen baskets of items I didn’t need or never used. Instead of thinking of how to make the items you have more attractive, consider if you really need the items themselves. If you don’t really and truly love or use them, get rid of them!

Sentimentality & “This Was So Expensive” Has To Be Set Aside- Two things get in the way of me letting the items go in my home. The first is the sentimental feelings that I have about things in our house. Usually it is a gift, an item that was special to my children when they were small, or something that was special to me that I would like to push my children into also loving. The other thing that gets in the way is my, “This Was So Expensive,” feeling about items that we spent too much money on, but no longer have love for.  If I could get rid of these two feelings about things, I could almost gather another car load of items. Instead, I have dedicated one tote in our basement that is specifically for sentimental mementos and we are working on passing on the gadgets in our life that we don’t use on to others that can use them.

Your feelings about items might be different than mine and it may take some time to figure out what holds you back from letting things go in your life. When you feel an attachment to an item, try to address where that attachment is coming from and if there is a way that you can manage those attachments to achieve the space you desire.

Embrace Your Power to Live Small- The more I cut the clutter in my home, the more I find that I have just the amount of space that I need in my home. When my closets began to feel too small, when the cupboards are bursting at the seams, when the basement is overflowing…those are the times when I think how nice it would be to move to a bigger home. Each time I cut the clutter in those spaces, I rediscover how perfect our home is for us. Basically, I save myself from a heftier mortgage payment AND I find a renewed sense of commitment to stay right where we are.

Our story of giving things away didn’t end there though, in fact, this is a story about the coolest thing that I have ever gotten to give away.  My husband had his ’99 Ford Focus for almost eight years and it was very good to us over the years. For the last five years though, he had been price researching his dream car and dreaming of the day that he could own a Lexus.  At the end of this month, his dream car dropped below the price of my Subaru wagon and with some serious negotiating and a couple of hours in the hot seat at the dealership, he drove that car home.

We talked a lot about what we wanted to do with our Ford Focus. While we could have gotten a little money to trade it in, we knew we could make my brother’s whole year if we gave him our old car. That very day we bought our new car, his car began to leak gas and he had no idea how he was going to get around. Later that afternoon I called to tell him that we had a birthday present for him.

I felt a little like Oprah handing over those keys.

He told me he felt like he won the lottery.

We both couldn’t stop grinning.

I don’t say this to brag, but to showcase how wonderful it can be to pass on the things we have in our lives to others. No matter how much or how little you have, you can always give with your whole heart. Look for creative ways to give back to your community, pass the items on that you no longer use to someone in need, use your talents to bless someone else in your life, and live a life of great thankfulness for all that you have.

If you have taken the clutter challenge, feel free to link up below and share some of the spots in your home that have been transformed or what you plan to work on this month. I can’t wait to see your projects and hear what you have learned from this experience!

Poor Man’s Date Night: Linguine With White Clam Sauce

Monday, February 21st, 2011

There was a time in our married life when even an inexpensive steak dinner was far from something we could afford. When the grandparents would offer to take the kids for us for a date night, we would run to the supermarket and buy ingredients for a date night at home. At the time, it wasn’t because I was such a great cook and because we loved to be home so much, but it was because we had no money to spend on a night on the town.

I really did try to do what I could to make our life feel special, no matter how much or how little money we had. Through that effort, we began a tradition of making Linguine With White Clam Sauce for our fancy dinner  together, and it became a tradition to make that every time we wanted a date night at home. We would indulge in a loaf of artisan bread and bakery cupcakes for dessert and then indulge all week long in the leftovers.

To be honest, I had never thought to serve it to the kids, but one night the pantry was bare except for a few ingredients for that dish. I decided to go ahead and make it for the kids and had a back-up plan of eggs and toast if it didn’t work out. To my amazement, my kids went nuts for mommy’s linguine and have been begging for it every day since.

It seems those kids are always teaching me a lesson about my own inhibitions towards foods when I was young, and this linguine is now not only a date night treat, but a fabulous treat for them too. Your kids might be different than mine, but it is always worth a shot!

Gather all of the ingredients you will need to make your Linguine with Clam Sauce for your fun weeknight dinner (or poor man’s date night). You will need butter, olive oil, garlic (fresh or bottled minced), one or two lemons, white wine (I love boxed wine for this dish), two or three cans of whole baby clams, linguine noodles, and fresh parsley.

Now you can certainly subsitute with real baby clams, but I live in Indiana where it is harder to get the real deal anymore and they add a lot of expense to the dish here. They have a couple of varieties of clams on the shelf and you definitely want to go with the fancy whole baby clams over the minced clams that come in the smaller cans. Trust me, your dish will taste much better with the whole clams then those smaller clam pieces.

Heat a large pot of boiling water for your linguine noodles. Meanwhile, chop, chop, chop up a generous amount of fresh parsley to be mixed into the linguine and for garnish on top of your dish.

In the bottom of your pot, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. You like how well-seasoned my dutch oven is? Yeah, should probably pay more attention to it, but I think it showcases how loved it is in our house.

Add the olive oil and quickly saute your garlic. You want to make sure your pot isn’t too hot or your garlic will burn.  Next add your white wine, the juice from the canned clams, and the zest of one or two lemons. Allow this to cook for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol and season generously with a little salt and pepper.

Once your noodles are about done, you will want to add the baby clams to your sauce.

Squeeze in the juice of one or two lemons, depending on how much you love lemon flavor.

Finish with your generous handfuls of fresh parsley. Don’t skimp on the parsley since it adds so much fresh flavor to those canned ingredients.

Add your drained linguine noodles and toss everything together, incorporating all of those delicious flavors. Add a little bit more salt and pepper, seasoning the dish to your own personal taste.

The final touch to bring everything together is a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese. Don’t skimp on this, it really is what brings the sauce together and makes the sauce hug the noodles.

Finally, revel in being the cheapest date in town as you bask in the glory of the compliments from your significant other.

Sweet.


Linguine with White Clam Sauce

1 pound linguine
Salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped,
1/2 cup wine
Juice and zest from one or two lemons
2-3  (15-ounce) can whole baby clams, with their juice
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the linguine and cook as directed or until al dente. The linguine will continue to cook in sauce, later. To a large skillet heated over medium heat, add oil, butter, garlic. Cook together. Add wine, the juice from the clams to the pan, and the zest of one or two lemons. Finally, add the clams and the juice from one or two lemons. Drain pasta and add it to the clam sauce. Toss and coat the pasta in sauce with clams until the pasta absorbs the flavor and juices, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt, add parsley and serve with a loaf of crusty bread.

Do you attempt fancy date night dinners at home? What is your favorite frugal date with your significant other?