Buying a store bought cake is not something that I normally do. Store bought cakes are so expensive and I find that homemade cakes taste better. Homemade cakes also offer a personal touch to the event.
When my children were very young, I was very fortunate that my mom would make their birthday cakes for me. Here is a Cars Movie cake that my mom made for my son’s third birthday.
My son wanted a Lightning McQueen cake for his birthday. I looked around in the stores and tried to figure out what I was going to do. Then I decided to buy the car figurines from the toy section. At $12 for three cars, I thought it was a bit pricey but it was cheaper than buying a cake and then at least he would have the cars to play with later.
First we started with a 9×13 sheet cake we made. If I remember correctly, we chose chocolate, but any flavor will do. We iced the cake with homemade white icing. Since I had a Lightning McQueen car that had mud painted on the side, we thought it would be neat to create a mud scene on the cake with chocolate icing. We even smeared the icing a little to make it look like Lightning McQueen slid through the mud.
Next, we dyed some of the icing green and used it to pipe grass on the cake. My mom used the rest of the brown icing for the border.
Finally, we placed the other two cars on the cake. My husband looked online and found a Radiator Springs sign to print. He taped it to two toothpicks and inserted it into the cake as a sign.
I thought this was a pretty cute cake and it wasn’t hard at all. I don’t have any cake decorating experience and I feel that I could recreate this cake myself. Sometimes all it takes is looking around for inspiration to trigger ideas.
Do you enjoy making your own cakes?
images (c) Karen Weideman
Back in 2010, I showed you the teddy bear luau cupcakes that I made for my children’s pool party. They were cute, easy to make, and way cheaper than a store bought cake. The do-it-yourself luau cupcakes have been a top read each month since then so I thought I would show you the ones I made in 2011.
I was a little hesitant to show these because they’re not as cute or creative as the teddy bear luau cupcakes. I finally gave in to the idea that we’re all in need of different ideas, no matter how easy they are. Alligator Girl had her first sleepover and since there were just a few girls and no adults I didn’t have the pressure to produce something anything time consuming. These cupcakes were super fast and went along with the pool party/luau theme. They also tasted great.
As you can see from looking at the pictures, there are a few different styles of cupcakes. I mostly used pink and orange to decorate with but I also had a can of rainbow chip icing in the cabinet. Most kids like rainbow chip, so I used that too.
I put piping on some of the cupcakes. I found the paper toppers at the dollar store. You could probably find some cupcake toppers at an arts and crafts store or party supply store.
As you can see, these are nothing extravacant. They are simple, easy, and cute. They are perfect for a girls’ luau party sleep over.
Being a thrifty gal usually means that I am not name brand loyal. In fact, one of my couponing tips is that you shouldn’t be name brand loyal. If I can get something cheap enough or for free then I’ll usually give it a try.
You won’t see generic products in my house very often. It’s not that I’m a product snob and am too good for knock-offs. It’s just that I can usually get name brand products for less money than generics. Stores will usually run a better sale on name brand items than store brands. When you combine it with a coupon these products are less expensive than generics.
Fast forward this whole story to these buttery squeeze spread products. I generally don’t buy the squeeze spread because it’s not as healthy as other products but it works well for our homemade waffles. Last year Food Lion had the Parkay spread for half price and so I picked up two bottles to use for waffles. We were running low a few months ago and so my husband picked up a bottle of the Food Lion store brand to use. We were surprised when we used the product and saw the difference in thickness and overall appearance (for lack of a better word). The pictures will show what I mean.
You may think that maybe we didn’t shake up the bottle or that this was floating around at the top of the bottle. Not so. We used the entire bottle of Food Lion squeeze spread and it had this consistency throughout the whole bottle. Our next bottle we were sure to purchase the Parkay.
I checked the labels on both products and they seemed to be very similar. I am not sure of the difference between the two without doing more extensive research. I am very willing to try other name brands of squeeze spread but will be avoiding the Food Lion brand.
Which name brands are you loyal about buying?
These ideas and opinions are my own. I was not paid for this review. Images (c) Karen Weideman.
One of the things I hear weeks before Thanksgiving and Christmas are people concerned about the amount of turkey they’ll have left over. They want to serve their family and guests turkey, but they’re hesitant because of the waste involved. Rather than letting good food go to waste, try some of these ideas for your left over turkey.
Turkey and gravy - We had this one Friday night. I simply made some gravy out of cornstarch and chicken boullion and warmed the turkey in the gravy. I added some leftover sweet potatoes and rolls and made some green beans and mashed potatoes. The kids enjoyed the meal.
Turkey sandwich - This one is a given, but it is one of my favorites. Some people like their sandwich with mayonnaise and onions. I like mine with mustard on white bread.
Turkey salad - This is another family favorite. I chop up some turkey, add some mayo, diced dill pickles, salt, and pepper, and it’s as good as chicken salad. I also like to make ham salad.
Turkey and rice - Cook rice according to package directions, add desired seasonings. Throw in some chopped turkey and some vegetables. You might also like to make a gravy.
Turkey wraps - Add some turkey, cheese, and fresh vegetables to a lettuce slice or tortilla.
Turkey soup - There are many varieties of turkey soup. You could make a cream based soup or a Mexican style soup. Use your favorite chicken soup recipe using turkey instead of chicken.
Turkey stock – Rather than purchasing chicken stock from the store, make your own and freeze it to use later in soups and stews.
Turkey pot pie – Chop up some turkey, add a bag of frozen vegetables, mix in some gravy, and top with a pie crust or pour on a liquid Bisquick mixture and bake.
Don’t forget to store your turkey properly.
What are your favorite turkey recipes?
One of many things I enjoy about using coupons and sales is that they enable me to help others. I may not have an abundance of money to donate, but I can make a big impact with very little out of pocket expense.
You may look at my website from time to time and think something like, ‘Why would she need 20 boxes of pasta? Who could eat all of that?’ Many times it’s not for me.
Pasta seems to be the thing this month that I can get for free or cheap, so I am “buying” lots of it. I haven’t kept much of it for my family. I’ve been donating it. I have taken it to the school for the food drive, given some to a fundraiser dinner for someone with high medical bills, and saved some for an elderly family member who has a very limited income. Just this week alone, I was able to purchase over 20 boxes of free pasta from Food Lion.
This method also applies to toys, school supplies, and other items. Many times I have taken advantage of 75% and 90% off toy sales. It makes it easier on the budget to donate for Christmas toy drives when you can get the toys inexpensively and you’re able to help more children because your money goes further.
When you’re walking through Harris Teeter on triple coupon day, try to get those free items even though you won’t use them. It’s those items that can really make a difference to someone in need.
One of the most effective ways I have found to cut our budget is through saving money on our grocery budget. One of the techniques I use is building a stockpile, also known as the buy ahead principle. What this means is that when groceries or other regularly used items are significantly cheaper than normal, I buy enough to last me a few months. In my home, I try to never ever pay retail for anything!
For example, a few weeks ago Harris Teeter had their Colgate Total toothpaste on sale for $2.50 per tube. It was also super double coupon week and I had $1 coupons. After coupons and the sale, I paid only $.50 per tube for Colgate toothpaste. Also last week and this week, CVS had their Crest Pro Health toothpaste on sale for $2.99 and you got back a $2 Extra Care Buck (ECB). I also had $.50 and $.75 coupons for the toothpaste. After the sale, ECBs, and coupons, I paid $.25-$.50 per tube. Did I need five tubes of toothpaste right now? Of course I didn’t. But I know that over the next year my family will need the toothpaste. I also know that soon I will be filling shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse and our church is always collecting food and toiletries for the needy. This allows me to get toothpaste for my family and others for less than the price of one tube at regular price.
As you can see in the picture above, I have over 10 bottles of laundry detergent. I don’t plan on doing 300 loads of laundry this week, but I couldn’t resist stocking up because of the deal I found. Some of the bottles were buy 1 get 1 free and I had coupons. Many of the bottles cost me less than $1 per bottle.
I have heard others say before that they can’t afford to stockpile; that they only have money for the things that they need that week. What they don’t truly realize is that when you stockpile, you can make your grocery budget go further and have more supplies on hand.
If you still say you can’t afford to stockpile, then I suggest that you start small. A stockpile isn’t built overnight anyway. Allow yourself an extra $5 or $10 to try to purchase things while they’re at rock bottom prices so that you won’t have to purchase them later. For me, an example of this would be when I purchase canned tomatoes. I know that I’m going to need canned tomatoes. I know that Target has the cheapest prices on them. So, when I visit Super Target, I purchase 6-12 cans. The amount I purchase depends on my stockpile at home. And if you’re getting items for free or almost free (with sales and coupons) that will only allow your grocery budget to go that much further so that you can cut your grocery budget or purchase other things your family needs.
Stay tuned for more tips on stockpiling. Do you stockpile groceries?
images (c) Karen Weideman
An inexpensive breakfast item that I enjoy is grits. They’re easy to make, very inexpensive, and filling. Since grits are so inexpensive, it is one of the breakfast items I occasionally make for the youth group. The problem is, sometimes they eat up all of the grits and sometimes there is half of a pot left over.
One day I had made a pot of grits for the youth and for some reason that day, half of the grits were left. I decided not to let the grits go to waste. I figured I should be able to do something with them. I came home and created a breakfast casserole using grits, scrambled eggs, and sausage gravy.
Last week, I had some grits, sausage, and scrambled eggs left over and decided to make another breakfast casserole. This time I had just a small amount left of each, so I made it in this small oven-safe Pyrex glass bowl.
By the way, my kids really like this dish!
Since this is made with leftovers, there is no exact amount of ingredients.
- prepared grits
- scrambled eggs
- breakfast meat, optional (cooked and diced sausage, bacon, or ham)
- sausage gravy or white gravy
- shredded cheese, optional
Spray your dish with cooking spray. Layer the ingredients as shown above and bake at 350F until hot.
Here is a recipe for sausage gravy. I needed much less so I just used 1 cup of milk and 1-2 tablespoons of flour.
What is your favorite recipe to make with leftovers?
image (c) Karen Weideman
As we all know, it’s back to school time. Many of you will be saving money by packing your children healthy lunches.
Here are some food safety tips, courtesy of NSF International, to help parents and children pack lunches safely:
- Consider packing foods that are nonperishable and won’t require refrigeration.
- If you do pack perishable foods such as luncheon meats or prepackaged cheese & crackers, include a frozen gel pack or a frozen juice carton with the food in an insulated lunch bag or box.
- Pack only the amount of perishable food that your child can eat at lunch.
- Preparing lunches the night before and storing it in the refrigerator until you pack your child’s lunchbox in the morning can help keep food cold longer the next day.
- Don’t reuse packaging materials such as paper or plastic bags, aluminum foil, etc. as they can contaminate other foods and cause foodborne illness. Have your child discard all used food packaging and paper bags after lunch.
- Before eating lunch or snacks at school, be sure your child knows to wash his or her hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Handwashing is one of the best ways kids and parents can protect health and stop the spread of germs.
Remember that perishable foods should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. If left out too long, the temperature of the food can enter the danger zone where bacteria grow most rapidly, which is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
As a teacher, I can tell you that I see many lunches without cold packs that contain lunch meat, mayonnaise, and other perishable items. Please don’t risk your child’s health. Follow these easy steps listed above.
My two youngest children’s birthdays are in the month of July. For now, while they are young, we combine their parties into one. (FYI: They are also best friends.) It also works out to combine the parties because some family members drive a few hours to attend. Sorry if you didn’t need to know all of that. The information just helps to set up the story behind all of this.
With a combined party, I try to come up with a theme that will work for both of them. One year we did Dora and Diego. Another year we did the princess and the frog. This year it was a luau. The luau theme was decided because the kids wanted to have a pool party. And who doesn’t like a pool party?
A few months back I found these nice beach themed supplies at Walmart. The large plates, napkins, and small plates were on clearance for only $.50 per pack for a set of 20. At Walmart I also found a box of 30+ leis on clearance for $3.
Later I found some luau straws at Walmart for about $2.50. They had little flowers around the top. For music, I found a two-pack of Luau cds at Walmart for $5. Yes, Walmart was my go-to store for the party theme.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the way I cut back on the party expense is to make my own cake/cupcakes. I surf the internet looking for ideas of easy things that I can do. I ended up making these cute beach/luau themed cupcakes using miniature Teddy Grahams, fruit rolls ups, candy, and tiny umbrellas. I even found a $1 tear-off coupon for the Teddy Grahams at Food Lion. You can see more pictures of the luau themed cupcakes and also some links to other luau/beach themed cakes and cupcakes.
Of course, a Luau needs to have a cookout. As you probably know, July is the time to get cookout supplies on sale.
Here’s approximately what I spent on this party:
- paper plates, napkins, leis, table cloths, straws - $9
- luau cds – $5
- cupcake supplies (I made two batches.) – $9
- hotdogs and buns – $10
- chili - $0 (my aunt brought this)
- potato salad – $0 (my aunt brought this)
- chips – $3 (bogo)
- veggies (carrots, cucumbers, celery) and dip (used triple coupon sale for the dip)- $4
- sodas – $3
- pasta salad – $3
All in all, I spent less than $50 on everything and fed lots of people, plus we had leftovers to eat. By taking advantage of clearance deals, July cookout savings, making the cupcakes myself, and taking advantage of other sale promotions, I was able to give a nice party for a small fraction of what others might have paid.
How do you save money when throwing a party?
We had a birthday party yesterday for my two youngest. Both of their birthdays are in July and because they are still young, we have a joint party for them. Now that we have a pool, it seemed like a good idea to have a swim party. With that came the luau theme.
You all know that I’m not about to go out and pay $50 for a cake, so each year I surf the internet looking for easy ideas that I can do myself. I found ideas for a beach theme, flipflops, palm trees, pineapples, and more. These teddy bear cupcakes drew my attention though. They looked kid friendly and fun.
For these cupcakes I cheated a bit. I didn’t make homemade icing. I simply bought the vanilla icing in a can and added a few drops of blue food coloring. I found the food coloring made the icing a little runny, so I put it in the freezer for a few minutes.
For these, I put icing on the cupcakes and used crushed graham crackers for the sand. Also used were miniature Teddy Graham crackers, fruit roll ups for beach towels and rafts, tiny paper umbrellas (found these at Hobby Lobby), sour gummy Lifesavers for tubes, and Lemon Heads for beach balls. You could use gum balls instead for the beach balls, but I already had the Lemon Heads.
Here are a few more pictures. Sorry for the poor quality. I was in a hurry because the party was starting.
Other luau cake ideas:
Luau Party Cupcake with umbrella
Shark and Beach Cupcakes from Martha Stewart
Palm Trees/Beach cupcakes from Cake Central
Palm Trees, Pineapples, and Flower cupcakes
Hawaiian Luau cupcakes/cake
Flip Flop Cake from Better Homes and Gardens
Flip Flop Cake from Better Crocker
images (c) Karen Weideman