Link UP Week: Penny Pinching Party

link up week

Last link up of the day everyone, this one is about saving a little cash and it comes to you from The Thrifty Home. She has so many great ideas {as do her fellow party attendees} on great ways to save cash without limiting yourself. Do yourself a favor and check out her blog if you haven’t already. More specifically, check out the links that have been shared in her weekly Penny Pinching Party.

 http://www.thethriftyhome.com

You may not know that I am currently reading the fantastic and terribly intimidating book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Monday. Basically this rock star family of 7 has found a way to live off of $350/month in groceries. Yes, I’m flabbergasted. And nowhere near their success I might add. BUT, the few chapters I have read have definitely sparked the desire to find ways to be thrifty, one of which I’m super excited about and thought was worth sharing.

Backstory: when Z first went on the 17-day diet I started looking for new ways to get creative in the kitchen without breaking his dietary restrictions. One of our fall-back dinner choices was turkey patties but I didn’t want them to be the same boring patty each time so I started experimenting with ingredients. Adding this, substituting that, you know the drill. It was then that I fell in love with sun-dried tomatoes. I put these little bites of heaven on EVERYTHING now! Homemade pizza, in meatloaf, in my spaghetti sauce, you name it. The funny thing is, I’ve never really been a tomato fan but these are like culinary crack! They are delish and I would eat them with every meal if I could. I would also be eating out of our car because I would have spent all our life’s savings on buying the darn things! Holy mother are they pricey. The good kind at least. So I decided I had to find a way to keep my tastebuds happy without going over the grocery budget. ENTER PINTEREST AND YOUR GLORIOUS GLORY!

I stumbled upon a pin from Better Hens and Gardens for HOMEMADE sun-dried {oven-dried} tomatoes. Hallelujah.

Just grab some cherry tomatoes – cheap-o at any grocery store. Slice them in half and lay them face up on a baking sheet.

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Put them in a 200 degree oven for 6-12 hours. YES, 6-12 hours.
This is how easy this all is… slice em’ and forget em’. The time it takes will depend on how large your tomatoes are. Mine were on the small side so it only took them around 6-7 hours. Leave them alone as long as you can and check on them at around 6 hours to see how they are doing.

Once they are done you can easily pop them in a zip lock back and straight into the freezer… Me on the other hand, I wanted to add some extra good ju ju so I separated the tomatoes into smaller freezer cups. {I used to use these for Keelin’s homemade baby food, great buys at the dollar store}

Then I added a mixture of olive oil and my favorite spices – garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano. THEN I popped them in the freezer.

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You can do these in big batches and store them away in individual portions to use whenever you need them. For most recipes you don’t even need to defrost them, just toss dump them into the saute’ pan with the rest of the veggies and prepare for a party on your tastebuds. Plus, it’s far cheaper than spending $4.00 on a single jar of the good stuff at the grocery store!

Join Jen and share your own Penny Pinching tips!

Until next time…

The Bean’s 1st Birthday Bash

It seems only fitting that since it took about a month for me to post Keelin’s birth story after she was born, I should take even longer to share the deets on her 1st birthday celebration, right? {You like how I made that sound like it was a strategic decision and not a total inability to get my shiz together?}

Regardless of being super late sharing this with you, I’m so excited that it’s finally happening! Prepare yourself for adorable pictures, tips on how to throw a fun and inexpensive 1st birthday party, and even a fantastic SMASH CAKE recipe!

Because Keelin’s birthday is right around Christmas, a fact that people CONSTANTLY remind us of with snarky make-me-want-to-punch-you-in-the-throat comments like, “Oh, poor thing”, “I hope she doesn’t get gipped on presents”, or “Well that wasn’t very good planning on your part, was it?”, I knew I wanted to make a point of having a NON-CHRISTMAS themed party. But I also didn’t want to break the bank with fancy favors or decorations, so I decided that keeping things simple and having a few flashes of our Winter Wonderland theme would be plenty. Especially for a 1st birthday that she will never remember. Seriously parents, it’s all for us anyway. So here’s a layout of what we snagged for the event, which ended up hosting about 20 people.

FOOD: 
Our party was at 6:00pm but we didn’t want the expense of providing a “full meal” and it was far too cold for the cheap-o option of burgers and dogs on the grill. So we decided to keep things simple and opted for “heavy” finger foods like chicken wings, meatballs, pig-in-a-blanket bites, etc. We also had veggies, fruits, cheese/crackers, and chips/dips to choose from. We snagged most of it from Costco which worked out great because we had plenty to feed the masses and enough left over to freeze and munch on later. I also busted out the homemade chocolate-dipped pretzel rods which were a huge hit. I normally do them as Christmas gifts for co-workers and friends, but since Keelin is my only ‘co-worker’ I decided to hold off and save them as a party treat.

BEVERAGES: 
Keeping with the wintery theme we had a yummy fruity “frosted” punch using raspberry sherbet and cranberry Ginger Ale. Cheap. Delicious. AND PINK!  Plus I also fired up the crock pot for some hot and spicy apple cider. Both were a huge hit. Since it was a kid’s party, and again to save money, we opted for a ‘dry’ night, although I’m pretty sure the hubs tapped into his own stash for a few friends toward the end of the evening.

DECORATIONS:
NONE. Lame? Maybe. I had every intention of using left over Christmas tissue paper to make giant snow puffs similar to the ones in Keelin’s nursery. But combine lack of time, plus mommy brain, plus the sheer guilt that hit me when I thought about taking the tree down before the New Year, and they just didn’t get done. Since there was only 1 other little girl {I have no friends} I wasn’t too worried about making things ‘festive’  for the adults.  No one seemed to mind, and to be honest they were all too busy chatting and watching Keelin run around like a diva to worry about what the house looked like.  I did however, get a little cooky-crazy with some 90% off snowflake printed plates and napkins from JoAnn. WATCH OUT MARTHA STEWART! So yeah, outside of the Evite invitations, which also had a snowy-wintery theme, my dinnerware served as enough decoration for me.

SMASH CAKE:
Even before I’d gotten pregnant I thought about how much fun it would be to present my future kiddos with a smash cake to tear into on their 1st birthday. Obviously I wanted to have one for Keelin and I decided that I would make my own! While I could have just grabbed a box of cake mix from the grocery store, I wanted to get creative, save a little cash {sensing a theme?} and make something that wouldn’t send Keelin into a full-on sugar spaz. In other words I wanted something “healthier” that what your average bakery or cake mix generally doesn’t provide. So where did I turn to find the perfect smash cake recipe? The Blog-o-sphere of course. Thanks to the lovely Rachel at Our Havenhill, I found a simple, healthy, and DELICIOUS recipe for a smash cake. I made a tiny 2-tier birthday cake complete with cream cheese icing {ok not healthy, but the kid deserved a little treat on her birthday} and pink sprinkles.

Overall it was a wonderful party! Friends and family were there to celebrate with us, Keelin had a blast opening gifts playing with tissue paper and although she was a dainty little priss when it came to SMASHING into her smash cake, she LOVED her special treat. Here are a few snapshots from the day, because it’s fun to share joy. 🙂

 

 

Lessons learned from planning my first FIRST birthday party…
1. The KISS rule holds true for just about anything. Simplicity is key.
2. As long as friends and family are there to share in your celebration, nothing else really matters.
3. Do NOT turn to Pinterest for party inspiration unless you are rolling in dough. You will only feel poor and inadequate if you try to attempt any one of those EPIC party themes while on a tight budget.

Until next time…