Shoe String Living

Having a Creative and Fun Frugal Life

They Work Hard for the Money July 20, 2010

Filed under: DIY,Saving Money — trntm @ 1:54 am

I tend to make things work hard in our household. We wear things out and down until it’s crying and holding on to the last inch of life. Even my bush clippings work hard in my house.

After clipping the bushes in preparation for a murder mystery party, I took the clippings and filled a white trash can with the clippings and extra water.

I also took extra clippings to fill vases in the house

to provide a bit of nature indoors

and provide extra fillings for my flowers

that made a $4 bouquet spread throughout the house.

What have you done with branch clippings?

 

Birthday Grocery Store, Part 2 May 2, 2010

Filed under: DIY,Saving Money — trntm @ 10:32 pm

Remember this?

Well if you guessed I was making her a kit to take over the world, you were right!

Ok, not really.

I had to put aside my own dreams and ambitions-I really wanted the firefighter set-and think about the little one. What would she like? Thankfully she was a pro at pretending, so I decided to run with that.

My inspiration was the cute little baskets, don’t they look like they belong in your local market?

Add a few fake fruits and veggies and my idea for a full-fledged grocery store was taking shape. Welcome to the world of small business ownership little one!

I had to bring my dreams down a bit as I reminded myself that she’s only 2 and I didn’t know how much room was available to set up an actual storefront and bins full of fake produce a la the one that Pam from London made.

Instead I made sure that everything would be able to be corralled into a big red basket for easy clean-up.

So what does a market need? Well, you need produce-which was easy enough, simply cute off the tags and pop in the baskets.

You need bags to bag all your groceries in. Placing lunch sized brown paper bags in the printer created personalized bags for the store.

What about processed foods? After trying my hand at creating personalized food labels and running out of cute ideas for cereal names, I googled vintage images and found quite a few images of retro cereal boxes and canned goods.

Pasting them to repurposed boxes and paper towel rolls created enough processed food for a little shelf. Yummy, healthy foods like prunes.

Great, the store is stocked and the little one can practice her language skills by identifying everything, but produce doesn’t come for free. Little Elmo grinned up at me from the activity book I also purchased and the foam sheets wiggled and giggled at me. Ok, maybe it was getting late…

Anyhoo, I cut the green foam into dollar bills. I thought about finding a photo of her and making her the center of the bill as the future president…maybe next birthday.

After the dollar bills were cut, I needed a place to store them-thinking of future clean-ups. I quickly glued two foam sheets together to form a wallet and then cut out circles to make a grinning Elmo. Elmo looked lonely on the big wallet, so I added a large letter L for her name on the front. Once it was stuffed with dollar bills it was so cute.

Now she could learn math skills while purchasing her groceries.

After taking photos of the finished product, I realized that I forgot the coupons! You can’t go grocery shopping without coupons! Oh, what about a credit card!

A few snips of the scissor and I had coupons and a credit card ready for the little one.

Now, the finished product.

It was so much fun to make this for her and get this, it was all less that $8. Yep, everything in the basket, less than $8. I wonder if she’ll let me play with her?

What was your favorite gift as a child?

 

Birthday Grocery Store, Part 1 April 30, 2010

Filed under: DIY,Saving Money — trntm @ 10:24 pm

I’ve been invited to the birthday party of a little girl who I’ve been blessed to have monthly picnics and tea parties with when I serve in the church nursery.

Those who know me, know that I’m a pretty nerdy gift giver. Usually hubby helps me find something not so nerdy and is more fun for a child. Well, hubby wasn’t with me this shopping trip.

I searched the aisles looking for a unique gift that would knock down barriers and society’s expectations and at the same time intellectually challenge the little girl. Since she was turning two it had to be fun too. Did I mention that I’m a nerdy gift giver?

My basket was full of ideas and supplies including:

  • A pizza baker and owner with a little felt pizza and interchangeable felt toppings. Add a cute little personalized apron and pie pan for the ultimate fun in pizza making and introduction to small business ownership.
  • A personalized firefighter (not fireman) kit with jacket that I would embroider her name to along with several tools and a cute little red bucket that resembled a fire hydrant to store it all in.
  • Lots of pink princess stuff that jumped into my basket in spite my search for items that would break gender barriers.

This is what I brought home with me

Any guesses as to what I will do?

linking up with these parties – Life as Lori, Someday Crafts, Beyond the Picket Fence, Somewhat Simple, The Shabby Chic Cottage, Everything Etsy, Fireflies and Jellybeans,

 

My Guest Box March 5, 2010

Filed under: DIY,Guest Room,Home Decor,Organizing,Saving Money — trntm @ 3:26 am

Someone asked if I could show a photo of the wrapped soap that I made for my in-laws visit. Instead of just showing you the wrapped soap, I thought I’d show you the secret to being able to entertain my guests on a whim.

I introduce you to the “Guest Box”. It’s a simple shoebox that I wrapped and is kept in the linen closet. All guests are made aware of the wonderful box of fun after being shown to their room.

The box contains several supplies for overnight guests so that they’re comfortable. Things like band-aids, sleeping masks, tissues, cough drops, hand sanitizer and more. My handy box makes everything so easy. I love to entertain, which sometimes includes hosting guests overnight. When a person stays in my home, I try to make their stay like a luxury hotel as best as I can. This often includes a personalized guest basket to make their stay comfortable.

A friend came to visit me recently, so I grabbed the guest box and a large basket from the linen closet. I took out a small bottles of tolietries and included a fuzzy photo-album and a notepad since this friend loves to take photos and journal. Each basket also gets a welcome note explaining little things like the location of medicines and instructions to not allow the cat to take showers with you-no matter how much he begs-and generally just wishes of how much I hope they’ll enjoy their stay with us.

Everything gets put inside the basket, including a set of towels for my guest to use during their stay. It doesn’t cost much to maintain the basket, a trip to the dollar store every now and then to restock on soaps or toothbrushes, but I like to think that my guests appreciate the gesture.

What do you do to make your guests comfortable?

 

Freezer Meals, Week One February 22, 2010

Filed under: Cooking,Healthy Me,Saving Money — trntm @ 1:49 am

Finally sat down and made some concrete plans about this freezer meal thing. Actually, I made one week of plans. Pizza Wednesday is because instead of $5, pizza is on sale for $3, a great day for pizza, don’t you think? 

I put some of my own recipes in the menu plan, but otherwise used supercooks for some recipes.

Monday B Goulash
L Steak Burrito with Avocado
D Garlicky Crab  and Salted Cod Pasta
Tuesday B Cinnamon Rolls
L Tomato Brie Bow Tie Pasta
D Szechwan Shrimp and Rice
Wednesday B Bacon and Eggs
L Pizza
D Pizza
Thursday B Cinnamon Rolls
L Steak Lettuce Wraps
D Spaghetti Squash with Garlic
Friday B Bacon and Eggs
L Lentils & Bacon
D Honey Ginger Shrimp
 

  

Cooking Plan 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with a fork, prick squash in several places. Place on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until soft to the touch, about 1 hour.
  2. Chop bacon, potatoes, 4 garlic, steak, crab and salted cod, remove shrimp tails
  3. Add chopped bacon, lentils and water to pot. Boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes
  4. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add 2 servings of pasta, cook, drain.
  5. Heat 1 can of tomatoes over medium-high heat. Bring to a slow boil and stir in ¼ lb cubed brie cheese. Reduce heat to medium-low, and stir to melt cheese. Package sauce.
  6. Follow honey shrimp recipe, then SS, then lettuce wrap steak. Package.
  7. Add cinnamon rolls to oven
  8. Finish spaghetti squash recipe, package
  9. Finish lentil recipe, package

  

Tomato Brie Bow Tie Pasta 

 
1/2 (12 ounce) package bow tie pasta1 (14.5 ounce) can Italian-style diced tomatoes  1/4 pound Brie cheese, cubed1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil 
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat tomatoes over medium-high heat. Bring to a slow boil and stir in cheese. Reduce heat to medium-low, and stir to melt cheese.
3. Toss pasta with tomato sauce and top with chopped basil before serving
     

  

Spaghetti Squash with Garlic 

  • 2 spaghetti squash (2 pounds each)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, slivered
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a fork, prick squash in several places. Place on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until soft to the touch, about 1 hour.
  2. When cool enough to handle, halve squash crosswise. Scoop out seeds; discard. Scrape flesh into strands.
  3. In a large skillet, heat oil over low heat. Add garlic; cook until fragrant and just starting to color, about 5 minutes. Add squash; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing frequently, until squash is very hot, about 5 minutes.
Szechwan Shrimp  
1 tablespoon water1-1/2 teaspoons ketchup 

3/4 teaspoon soy sauce 

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch 

1/4 teaspoon honey 

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper 

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger3/4 teaspoon vegetable oil 

1 tablespoon sliced green onions 

1 clove garlic, minced 

3 ounces cooked shrimp, tails removed 

1. In a bowl, stir together water, ketchup, soy sauce, cornstarch, honey, crushed red pepper, and ground ginger. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in green onions and garlic; cook 30 seconds. Stir in shrimp, and toss to coat with oil. Stir in sauce. Cook and stir until sauce is bubbly and thickened
     
Honey Ginger Shrimp  
1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 

1/4 teaspoon chopped garlic 

1/8 yellow onion, chopped 

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger1/4 teaspoon honey 

1/4 pound medium shrimp – peeled and 

deveined 

salt and pepper to taste 

Heat the olive oil and red pepper flakes in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and honey; cook and stir until fragrant. Add the shrimp, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring as needed, until shrimp are pink and opaque. Serve immediately

  

Lentils And Bacon  

  1 Pound Lentils6 Cups Water 

1 Pound Bacon — chopped 

3 Medium Potato — peeled and cubed 

1/2 Cup Vinegar 

1/4 Cup Sugar 

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 

2 Medium Onion — chopped 

2 Tablespoons Parsley — chopped 

combine lentils, water and bacon in saucepan. boil, reduce heat, cover, simmer 45 minutes. add potatoes and simmer 15 more minutes. stir in vinegar and sugar. In saute pan, saute onions and parsley in olive oil, until onions are transparent. stir onions into lentil mixture and serve.
Monday B Goulash
L Steak Burrito with Avocado
D Garlicky Crab  and Salted Cod Pasta
Tuesday B Cinnamon Rolls
L Tomato Brie Bow Tie Pasta
D Szechwan Shrimp and Rice
Wednesday B Bacon and Eggs
L Pizza
D Pizza
Thursday B Cinnamon Rolls
L Steak Lettuce Wraps
D Spaghetti Squash with Garlic
Friday B Bacon and Eggs
L Lentils & Bacon
D Honey Ginger Shrimp

  

Cooking Plan 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with a fork, prick squash in several places. Place on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until soft to the touch, about 1 hour.
  2. Chop bacon, potatoes, 4 garlic, steak, crab and salted cod, remove shrimp tails
  3. Add chopped bacon, lentils and water to pot. Boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes
  4. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add 2 servings of pasta, cook, drain.
  5. Heat 1 can of tomatoes over medium-high heat. Bring to a slow boil and stir in ¼ lb cubed brie cheese. Reduce heat to medium-low, and stir to melt cheese. Package sauce.
  6. Follow honey shrimp recipe, then SS, then lettuce wrap steak. Package.
  7. Finish spaghetti squash recipe, package
  8. Finish lentil recipe, package
 

Freezer Cooking February 17, 2010

Filed under: Cooking,Saving Money — trntm @ 2:52 am

So freezer cooking is a concept where you prepare all the meals and then freeze then. It usually requires one full day of cooking. I’ve done variations of this in the past and the biggest hurdle for me is the clean-up. However, I want to try it again-this time including breakfast for me; lunches for hubby and I; and of course dinner for hubby and I. Instead of a month’s work of meals, I’ll just do two weeks of meals.

The steps seem easy enough.

  1. Decide what to cook. Plan around what’s on sale or what’s on hand.
  2. Gather recipes.
  3. Shop
  4. Cook! Broken down into preperation, cooking, assembling and freezing.

Since I’m still dealing with just me, I decided to experiment with two weeks worth of solo meals.

1. Decide what to cook. A quick look in the freezer pantry provided some clues of what needed to be cooked and fast.

  • Shrimp
  • Potatoes
  • Steak
  • Winter Squash

2. Gather recipes

3. Shop. No shopping needed, I have everything I need.

4. Cook

  • Thaw meats
  • Print recipes
  • Pre-chop as needed
  • Cook & Freeze
 

Pantry Challenge: Week One’s Results February 15, 2010

The Plan: I decided to start the first official week and eat all the perishables first. This included yogurt, brie, salted cod, tapenade, a cooked steak and some potatoes that were quickly growing into plants in the pantry.

The Plan for Week One.

The Results

Day 1
    Breakfast: “Goulash” (my former coworker named this). Yogurt & Cereal mixture
    Lunch: Peanut Butter and Tropical Fruit Sandwich on Wheat with Hot Blueberry Tea
    Dinner: Steak and California Veggies

Day 2
    Breakfast: Canned Tropical Fruit
    Lunch:  Lettuce Wraps
    Dinner: Lettuce Wraps

*I cheated and went grocery shopping-twice. I wanted some fresh fruits and vegetables and there were none in the house. I stocked up on fresh spinach, apples, lettuce and avocados. Then I spotted almonds on sale, imitation crab for some homemade sushi, balsamic vinaigrette on sale (note to self, plan on cheating more to stock up on the vinegar), my breakfast cereal on sale, pomegranate juice on sale and two types of yummy cheese, not on sale, but yummy.

Day 3
    Breakfast: bacon and eggs
    Lunch: olive garden with a friend
    Dinner:

Day 4
    Breakfast: apple
    Lunch: McDonald’s with a friend
    Dinner: boiled crab legs

Day 5
    Breakfast: Bacon and Eggs
    Lunch: cheese and apples
    Dinner: steak and veggies

Day 6
    Breakfast: apple
    Lunch: rice, cookie, bagel chips
    Dinner: Roasted Veggie Pasta

Day 7
    Breakfast: Eggs
    Lunch: Canned Soup
    Dinner: sushi

I noticed that I tend to snack through the day or do without meals. Why? Because I don’t want to exert the effort to cook the meal. To combat this, I will try the method of freezer cooking so I will always have meals to pull out and warm up with minimal effort. Also, I’ll actually eat something more than an apple!

Ugh, time for plan b!