Great Ways to Host a Frugal Thanksgiving Dinner

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, many are looking forward to spending time with their friends and family, all while enjoying their favourite foods, drinks and desserts. The truth of the matter is, amidst all that wonderful gratitude, bonding and eating, hosting thanksgiving can put a real dent in your finances. Between the cost of decorations, dessert, the main and the sides and even the beverages, hosting Thanksgiving can leave your wallet feeling less than grateful.

Luckily, there are ways to host a frugal Thanksgiving dinner, all while keeping it memorable and delicious.

Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

Make Your Own Decorations

Rather than going out and spending an inordinate amount of money on thanksgiving decorations, make your own. Thanksgiving decorations can consist of inexpensive items or things you can find around your house already. Things like fallen leaves, small gourds and even pie pumpkins work well as table décor. In fact, you can even hollow out the pie pumpkin to make dessert and place the empty pumpkin on the table with a lit candle inside.

Table setting made with everything found around the house
Its easy to set a Thanksgiving centerpiece on a budget

Shop Creatively

Rather than going out and spending an inordinate amount of money on thanksgiving decorations, make your own. Thanksgiving decorations can consist of inexpensive items, or things you can find around your house already. Things like fallen leaves, small gourds and even pie pumpkins work well as table décor. In fact, you can even hollow out the pie pumpkin to make dessert and place the empty pumpkin on the table with a lit candle inside.  

Make It a Potluck

A potluck dinner gives lots of options and makes for less work.

Thanksgiving is traditionally a potluck like holiday to begin with, so it’s not uncommon to have your guests bring at least one dish to contribute. Rather than taking on all the work and expense yourself, a potluck thanksgiving saves you money, makes sure that every guest has a dish they love and lessens your work load. Just make sure to keep a running tally of what everyone is bringing and ensure there is a variety in the dishes. Otherwise, you could end up with an abundance of different variations of pumpkin pie and absolutely no side dishes. 

Get Creative with Leftovers

A big Thanksgiving dinner can create enough leftovers for many meals to come, but you may find yourself getting sick of turkey sandwiches. Using the turkey carcass to create a delicious turkey stew or soup is a great way to repurpose some of your leftovers and they freeze well too for future meals. Stretching the meal out to serve future meals helps to save a lot of money.

Hosting a frugal Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, as long as you make your own decorations, shop creatively, make it a potluck and get creative with your leftovers, Thanksgiving will not only be delicious, but it will also be inexpensive. Get ready to gobble up your delicious and frugal Thanksgiving dinner and make even your wallet feel grateful

How to Plan a Staycation

Sunnyside Beach

Wouldn’t it be great to escape the chaos and day-to-day responsibilities of our everyday lives for a week of fun and relaxation somewhere far away?  But what if it’s not in the budget?  Airfare, hotel rooms, rental car, dining out, and other travel expenses can make getting away very expensive.  And even if money isn’t a factor, sometimes health issues or work obligations prevent us from going away anytime we feel like it. Downtime is great to take.

But that doesn’t mean when the kids are home from school for summer vacation or March Break that you can’t still have a great time! Why not plan to take a vacation right in your own backyard?  A true Staycation is more than just time off at home, it’s an intentional time of fun and relaxation for your family.  It may take a little effort to do it right, but ultimately, it can be just as fun as going out of town.

  1. Set ground rules. The point of a Staycation is to make it feel as much like a real vacation as possible, without leaving home. To make sure the whole family is on the same page, it’s good to set some ground rules that everyone can agree on.  These could include some or all of the following:
  • No email
  • No computer or video games
  • No work
  • No fighting
  • Family time only—no independent activities
  • No cooking, cleaning or doing laundry
  1. Spruce up your bedroom. Make sure you have cosy soft sheets and that they are freshly washed. Add some scented fabric softener to the laundry so they smell great.  Unplug the alarm clock and hide it in the closet.  Put fresh flowers on your nightstand along with a book you’ve been looking forward to reading.  Fill a basket with your favourite snacks and some bottled water to keep in your room.  Place scented candles around to encourage relaxation.
  2. Be a tourist. Do you live in or near a city like we do where there are lots of tourist attractions?  If you do, you’ve likely never been a tourist in your own hometown.  This is the time to explore where you live.  Visit local museums or monuments, try out a couple of the “hot spots” for dinner, go to the zoo, attend a sporting event or get theatre or concert tickets. Here in Toronto, there are lots to do, and lots of them are free.
  3. Spend time in the great outdoors. Go on a nature walk at a nearby national park. With Rouge Park being a National Park it makes a great spot to get into the outdoors. The TTC even takes you close to the park entrance.  Do you live within a couple hours’ drive from a beach?  Take a day trip. If you’re not close to a beach or hiking area, go to a local park for a game of Frisbee, a long walk or some fishing.  Go camping or watch movies in the backyard. Here in Toronto, you might want to head over to the Toronto Islands which are just a short ride away.
  4. Enjoy a family night in. Play a board game together.  Have a movie night complete with popcorn and hot fudge sundaes.  Work on a puzzle or invent a new game.  Build a fire to roast marshmallows and tell scary stories.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money, or even travel out of town to enjoy a fun and relaxing family vacation.  I hope these ideas have inspired a few ideas of your own! We are looking forward to our next staycation right here at home.

How to Save on Book Purchases

Are you like me, an avid reader? Do you have a pile of books on your night table? I have something to admit: I read every day. I go to bed with a book in my hand and am transported to the most amazing worlds. From fiction to kids books to self-development and business books, I read them all. My daughter is an avid reader as well, so we have shelves of books in our home. Because we love the feel of books and love to own books, we are always looking for ways to save on books.

So how do we save on books?

  1. We will do book swaps with friends. It’s kind of like a clothing swap but for book lovers like me.

  2. We look for the best deals on books.

We shop online for books. Often times, we will check out books in person at a local bookstore, but then check online to find the best price.  Most often we end up buying from BookOutlet.ca.  Why?

We love that we can find books for 50-90% off the retail pricing. We also love that when you spend more than $45 your purchase is shipped for free. It’s best to stock up when you order.

What are some great current deals?

Anyone who knows me, knows I love Tony Robbins. I have read every book written by him. You can get his most current book, “Unshakeable” for 65% off retail. That is a great deal!

Recently, in the morning I have been reading personal development books as a way to start my day. One author and speaker a friend introduced me to this year was John C Maxwell. If you are into entrepreneurship, leadership and growth you want to read his books. You can find many of his titles for 60% or better.

I am also trying to get healthier so another of my recent reads is “The Mind Gut Connection.” Did you know the the mind and gut are connected? They are and you can read about it for 59% off retail.

At bedtime, I read more fiction. There are some great reads to be found on BookOutlet.ca no matter who you like. Do you love romance? Thrillers? You can find them all at a great discount.

There’s even plenty of books for young children and tweens. I love that the Book Outlet has so many classics like Alice in Wonderland, one of my daughter’s favourite books. They also have a great selection of Disney books for a great deal.

If you’re stocking up on books, have a look at the site and and save on purchases and shipping.

Let me know what you are reading this month.

 

How to Survive Cold and Flu Season on a Budget

No one likes getting sick. This year, in the past week it seemed like a large number of my friends were battling cold and flu bugs. At our house, we were as well. It was no fun. No one likes waking up at 2 am in a coughing fit and no one likes taking their little one to the hospital for a brief stay. Both happened in our house last week.  So how can you survive cold and flu season on a budget?

With the reality being most of us take unpaid time off to battle the flu or cold, each bout will affect the pocketbook. So how can we best be ready? Prevention matters but when it happens it is best to listen to your body.

The Flu Shot

Flu shots have been proven to lessen symptoms or even help you get through the season flu-free. This year though there are several strains that are resistant to the shot so what is a family to do?

Rest

Do yourself and your work/school mates a favour and take the time to heal. Rest. One of the best things you can try to do is sleep. Sleep helps you to build your immunity system and helps fight germs. Sleep is a free way to help your body get better.

Wash Your Hands

Handwashing frequently especially in this season matters. Handwashing helps prevent illness but it also helps it from running through the family as well.

Drink Water

Water is good for you. It helps to flush out impurities. I have been drinking at least 2 litres a day of water. For me I have added a few drops of lemon essential oils to help flush toxins away. Even adding fresh lemon will help.

Eat Well

There are many foods that help fight food and colds.  Mushrooms, green tea, sweet potato and chicken soup are on the list. We keep cans of chicken noodle soup stocked just for sick days.

Stock Your Medicine Chest

There is nothing worse than having to do a run to the pharmacy when you feel terrible. I do quarterly checks on our basic meds and stock the cabinet when things are on sale. We buy just enough and I do check the expiry dates.   We keep Advil, Neo Citran, Vicks Vapour Rub, Gravol, and a few other medications on hand. Did you know you can often find these for sale? Remember to check your flyer apps like Flipp for sales and rebates. Other apps you may want to check include CheckOut 51 and Caddle.

We also buy Kleenex when it is on sale. Even after using about 3 boxes in our house last week I think I have a few left in my stash.

What are your favourite ways to save and battle a cold or the flu?

 

Tips for Hosting the Best Holiday Dinner

 

Can you believe it, Christmas is just days away! There is so much to do!  If you’re like me, your mind starts racing… gift lists, shopping trips, recipe ideas, and there are more holiday dinners than you can count on both hands. Where do you start?

If you’re like me, hosting a holiday dinner are at the top of the list. How do you ensure they go off without a hitch? Here are a few simple tips and tricks that will make every meal a hit:

  1. Make a list and check it twice. There are great organizational apps (I like to think of them as my virtual assistant) that can help you prioritize. From stocking up your pantry and creating menu ideas to managing RSVP lists, storing these items in one place can help you organize and strike off those to-dos!  Plus, the feeling of accomplishment you get when you check an item off your list is always a bonus (whether it’s on paper or on your phone!)
  1. Get the fancy silverware and dishes ready. Holiday feasts and festive parties mean bringing out your best silverware and serving dishes. To refresh your silver, try Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. Just rub a paste of three-parts Arm & Hammer Baking Soda and one-part water onto the silver with a clean cloth or sponge. Then rinse thoroughly and your dinnerware will be sparkling-ready to impress your guests!
  1. Expect the unexpected. For that unexpected guest who drops by, not-so-holiday-specific items like stationary, pens and notebooks are a nice last-minute gifting idea that anyone will appreciate. Taking a non-holiday themed approach means items can be purchased well in advance of the holiday shopping rush.

  1. Keep messes to a minimum. Having a trusted stain fighter on-hand to tackle those holiday spills and stains is a must! My go-to products are the OxiClean MaxForce Foam Laundry Pre-Treater and MaxForce Spray Laundry Pre-Treater. Both can treat wine stains, gravy spills and stains from sticky fingers to keep linens and napkins table-ready for next season. The Pre-treaters can stand for up to a week before washing.
  1. Pamper yourself! Treat yourself to that festive latte, Santa-shaped cookie, or extra hour in bed without the guilt! You deserve it for all your hard work, and it may be just what you need to keep your spirits up and stay energized for your next dinner party!

What are your tips for easing dinner party prep and clean-up stress? I’d love to hear them! May you have a great holiday dinner with friends and family.

* this post has been sponsored by Church and Dwight and I have been a brand ambassador for them for the last 3 years. We love our Church and Dwight products! 

Put Your Best Self(ie) Forward #ChurchandDwight #ad

Are you like me? Do you take selfies every day? I may not always post the photos I take on social media but there are plenty of ways to put your best self(ie) forward. From the equipment, you use, ( I have a special mic and light I use for mine) to the prep work there are lots of ways to get ready for this season of selfies.

Gone are the days of shoving embarrassing holiday photos in a drawer never to see them again. Whether its Instagram, Facebook or everything in between, you can’t hide from an onslaught of holiday photos that you cannot escape from. I bet you’re thinking – so, what’s the secret to selfie success? It’s the prep you do even before the presents are wrapped and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care…!


Don’t let a stain spoil the occasion

Get the kids to pick out their holiday outfits well before the festivities begin. Nobody likes to find a stain on their favourite outfit, or worse, notice it once a photo has been taken.  Have them check for stains and spills and use Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean 3-in-1 Power Paks to get the job done. OxiClean stain fighters help to remove stains, plus the formula freshens and deodorizes with the freshness of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda.

Keep up the good smile

Maintaining good oral health shouldn’t be reserved for the holidays. However, if you need to brush up (pun intended) on your smile, I suggest switching to the Arm & Hammer Spinbrush Sonic Pro Pulse Brush. Can you believe that its brush removes two times more plaque than the regular, manual brush? That’s because its head spins around as you brush to reach back corners. When paired with Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant Bright & Strong toothpaste, you’ve got a winning combo to strengthen and clean. And smile your best for that selfie, teeth showing!

 

Cut down on prep time

Beauty prep, that is. If you’re like me, that fabulous blow out only lasts a day before you need to rinse and repeat. Until now. Dry shampoo is the latest trick up my sleeve. I love Batiste Dry Shampoo — it instantly refreshes hair between washes by absorbing excess oil from the roots and leaving hair looking and smelling clean and fresh. Now I no longer stress when I’m running behind schedule and don’t have time for a full wash or styling session before heading out to visit the in-laws. Batiste Beautiful Brunette dry shampoo plus a hint of colour compliments medium, brunette and auburn hair tones. Genius!

What is your favourite selfie success story?

*this post is sponsored by Church and Dwight. I have received financial compensation for this post as always my opinions are my own.

Two Things You Can Do Today to Start Living Frugally

Ever feel overwhelmed at the thought of living frugally. Sometimes we are living on tight budgets, paycheck to paycheck and things can seem daunting. Sometimes we say we are too busy, we don’t have enough cash flow to make any changes. Ever talked yourself out of making a change? If you ever wished you were more frugal, today is the day to start. There are two things you can do to start this journey today.

Learn to Prioritize

It’s great that you want to save money. Really, it is but it does take effort. If you want to start living frugally you must be committed to a lifestyle shift.  Please realize I do not spend oodles of time each day thinking of ways to save money every day. After a while, it does become automatic but first, you have to learn to say no, you have to learn how to prioritize. Yes, you will need to cut some things. When I cut the cable, it seemed like I would have nothing to watch but I have found ways to watch great shows while maintaining my budget. You will learn you need to cut the fluff to make room for things that are actually important like planning for the long term, thinking of family vacations, that major purchase you have dreamed of making, retirement and the like.

Set Realistic Goals

Have you made the commitment to live a more frugal life? That is great! Let’s build on that commitment, by setting realistic goals. Let’s get cozy. Sit down with your spouse or family and have a real talk about what is important to you as a family. What are the things you love? What is important to you? Knowing what is really important to you as a family moving forward will help you set realistic goals. You will know your why.  Pick two or three.

Start with two or three long-term goals, if you choose more you may get overwhelmed. For instance, if you set the goal of being debt free, taking a trip, planning for retirement, planning for an emergency fund all at once you may feel overwhelmed. It is okay to take baby steps but you have to get started and the best way to do that is by making two or three realistic goals. Once you have those goals in place, you can chunk it down it to smaller goals.

Here is an example:

You want a new car and you plan on saving so you can pay cash for that car. Your car budget is $10,000 and you would like to purchase that car in the next two years.

You have to save $5,000 a year or 416.00 per month or 96.00 every week.

When you lay out your goals, know where the money is coming from, if you have cut from one area you can move that money to your savings. Are you going to also sell things to help get you there? Are you going to look for extra work? Part of realistic goal setting is knowing how it can be achieved. Make a plan, the work the plan.

Yes, making goals takes time but it is time well spent. Once you have started working on your goals, you will want to track your progress as this will keep you motivated.

By learning to prioritize and making goals you are starting to take baby steps to a frugal rewarding life. If you were just starting on a frugal lifestyle what tips or tricks have worked for you?

 

Getting Your Back Yard Canada Day Ready

If you’ve visited your local home and garden store in the last couple of weeks, you likely noticed that the seasonal aisle is stocked full of BBQs, patio furniture, and oh-so-fabulous backyard lounge chairs. Everything is red and white and definitely Canada Day ready. It can definitely be tempting as it is to toss out the old stuff that’s been sitting in your garage all winter – or worse, taking a beating outdoors for the past few months – a few simple, budget-friendly tips and tricks will help to make everything old look new again. It’s easy to get your backyard Canada Day ready.

1.      Make old, new again. There’s nothing worse than removing your patio furniture cushions from storage and realizing they’re all stained. Before you think about tossing them, give them a clean. Mix OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover with water and let the cushion covers soak for 1 to 6 hours, depending on the severity of the stain. Wash as normal and your cushions should come out stain-free and look brand new. This is great to get those cushions Canada Day photo worthy. 

2.      Win the weeding war. Did you know that watering your weeds makes it easier to pull them out? If it hasn’t rained in a few days, water your weeds before yanking them. Fun fact: If the soil is moist, you are also less likely to disturb any plants nearby. With all the rain we have had in Toronto this shouldn’t be a concern but might be a great trick for other parts of Canada. 

3.      Save with a little scrubbing. There’s a simple solution for removing dirt, grime, and stains from patio furniture and even your deck. Mix OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover with water (following the instructions on the package) and apply the solution to almost anywhere. Let stand for a few minutes and scrub as needed. It will leave everything looking neat and clean again. There is nothing worse than dirt when you are throwing that family barbecue. 

4.      Wheel your way to wonderful. Re-arranging rather than replacing is also a good way to give new life to your backyard. Consider moving planters and patio furniture to different spots within your space to give it a wonderful new look and feel. Remember, you’re not alone when moving heavy items like lounge chairs… there are wheels to help! Wheeling your furniture around doesn’t eliminate all the hard work but will put less strain on your back.

5. Add Simple decor items.  Have red and white items in the house. Bring them out for your celebration. Did you know those white Christmas lights make for a great late night get together as you watch all the fireworks going off in your neighbourhood.

Be prepared that after a weekend of weeding and wheeling, your back, arms, legs – yes, your whole body – may be aching with pain. Make sure you leave yourself enough time on Sunday evening for a warm bath and a few hours curled up with a good book or movie. Before going to bed, rub and soothe your sore muscles (all of them!) with Rub A535 Extra Strength Heating Cream. The best things about this product is that it works fast and is non-greasy so you can put it on right before going to bed and it won’t stain your sheets.

Have you started prepping your yard for your Canada Day celebrations? What’s different this year?

*I am a #ChurchandDwight ambassador and have been compensated for this post, as always my opinions are my own. 

Mothers Day Gifts

Mother’s Day Gifts from Hallmark #LoveHallmarkCA

Becoming a mom is one of the best experiences a woman feel. I remember the first time I held my daughter, motherhood was something I always wanted. Even though motherhood did not come under perfect circumstances for me I have been blessed and changed by motherhood.  This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day to celebrate all the moms we know.  We cherish all the times and special moments we have shared over the years. We talk, we share and we have bonded more over time and memories.  I won’t be able to spend the day with my mom since she lives far away, but I will give her a call and chat on Mother’s Day.

I recently received a box full of Mothers Day gifts.  It was a rainy day and I couldn’t wait to get outside and use my new umbrella. The Catalina Estrada Flourishing Blooms Scarf is one of my favourites. It is something that just adds style to just about any outfit I put on. It has been a great fashion accessory and has been spotted wearing it often.

Mothers Day Gifts

Mothers Day Gifts from Hallmark

Mothers Day Gifts

There are a variety of gifts that will be a sweet addition for anyone’s taste. Your mom will love any of these Hallmark items.

  • Catalina Estrada Springtime Petals
  • Catalina Estrada Flourishing Blooms Scarf
  • Signature Gift Bags
  • Catalina Estrada Flourishing Blooms Cuff Bracelet
  • Blue Ceramic Tea Mug with built-in Infuser win a
  • Catalina Estrada Hummingbird Haven
  • Catalina Estrada Blue Rose Cosmetic Bag
  • Signature Greeting cards

Shower mom with love and make it a special day full of fun and memories to last a lifetime.

mothers day gifts

It’s time to enter and win a special gift or two for Mother’s Day. One lucky reader from Canada will win a Catalina Estrada Flourishing Blooms Scarf

and a Catalina Estrada Flourishing Blooms Cuff Bracelet.

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Cut the Clutter: Cleaning Your Closets

Cuttheclutter

It’s time! From personal experience, I have learned I like stuff. It can accumulate quite fast. As a blogger, we often get sent stuff to review, swag and gifts. Then there is the fact I work for a toy company. Then there is the stuff I buy. It all adds up. Having lived in the same home now for five years, we have lots of stuff. I am living in clutter. It is time to cut the clutter and to live with the stuff I love, will use and need.

Join me this month as I cut the clutter and live with the stuff we love. I was at an event two weeks ago and one of the speakers mentioned, if you live in clutter, you do not get much done. I believe this to be true. So where do we start? I am starting with my closet.

How do closets get so overcrowded?  We start with just a few basic pieces, and then as we get older and head out into the work world, we seem to need more to wear.  And if we have a walk-in closet and not enough clothes to fill it . . . we need to buy more!

We even hold on to clothes that no longer fit because we’re hoping they will fit again one day.  Clothes that need repairs because at some point we’ll get them to the tailor.  Or clothes we don’t really like because we spent so much money on them.

It’s time get realistic about the clutter we have in our closets and start getting back to basics.  You only need ten essential pieces, yes ten!  Here’s how to start paring down and decluttering:

closet purge

Step No. 1: Confront your closet head-on. Do you even know what’s in there? First, empty your closet of everything. If you do not love it. If it does not serve a purpose, it will not go back in your closet. Start by grabbing everything you love. If you hesitate, for even a second, you don’t love it, and you need to ditch it.

Let’s start with the clothes. Place the clothes you love on your bed and arrange them by type: jeans, pants, sweaters, etc.

Step No. 2: Take a look at everything on the bed to see if a pattern emerges. Is everything black? Or maybe you chose clothes that only have comfortable fabrics. Did you select only your best-fitting jeans? Did you leave all the dresses in the closet?

By looking at the clothes you love all together, you will start to see a pattern. Maybe you like striped tops. Or only love pants and jeans. Next time you’re thinking about buying something new, think back to this moment and about how the new piece would fit in with your favorite items?

See that loved dress you haven’t worn in two years? Is it just taking up space? Can it find a new home?

Step No. 3: Put together outfits. How many different ways can you mix your key items to create different looks? Lay out as many outfits as possible.  Next, take photos of your outfits so when you don’t know what to wear, you can refer to the outfits you already put together.

Step No. 4: Edit. Are there some favorite pieces that you weren’t able to make outfits with? Take them out of the pile. Are there things that do not fit? Are you saving them for when you lose weight? Get rid of them. Clothes you have not worn at least once in the last year need to go.

Step No. 5: Pick and choose. Are there any essential pieces missing? What are your needs?

Step No. 6: Fix or donate. If an item doesn’t fit right or needs a replacement button, take it to the tailor.  If you don’t want to spend the money, get rid of the piece. Don’t let it stay around, taking up space if you can’t wear it.

Step No. 7: With everything out of your closet, store away non-seasonal items. Vacuum sealed bags work great for this. You want to create space.

Step No. 8: Think about where you are placing your loved items.  Which were the key pieces you used to create the most outfits? Put them back in your closet or on shelves where they are visible and accessible. Make it a joy to go into your closet.

organized closet

This is just the first step to a clutter free life. Let’s cut the clutter in our homes and lives this month. Join me on the journey and let’s see where this takes us.