I like helping Santa fill our Christmas stockings with unusual, fun, and somewhat useful stocking stuffers. I’m stepping up my gift giving game this year.I hope if I do a good enough job at helping Santa fill our stockings the Big Guy will reward me with an Instapot under our Christmas tree.
If you are in the same boat or are running out of gift ideas for your favorite baker or cook (or person who could use some help in the cooking department) I put together the perfect stocking stuffer gift guide for you!
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20 Essential Cooking Techniques (w/ Brendan McDermott) – Learn 20 accessible techniques that make cooking faster, easier and more delicious in this on line video class. It includes 9 Streaming HD video lessons with anytime, anywhere access, class materials - including recipes, and the ability to email the instructor with questions you may have about the lessons in the course.
Star Wars R2 D2 Kitchen Timer – Keep dinner from burning with everyone’s favorite mech driod as he counts down up to 60 minutes with his rotating head.
Most days, Lacey has her anxiety and behavioral issues in check thanks in no small part to the work our fantastic dog behaviorist helping Husband and I help Lacey with her issues.
But, my friends there still are things that throw Lacey is a blind panic tizzy. The best way to snap her out of it is with a positive distraction like her Buster Cube. If you aren’t familiar with it, a Buster Cube is nothing short of a miracle because it the treat dispensing puzzle changes every time the dog plays with it and holds her attention longer than the toys Lacey has already figured out.
What can I say? Lacy is a genius.
Who needs a bunch of healthy low calorie dog treats for her Buster Cube to cope with the holiday madness.
Butternut Dog Treat Recipe
After a quick check with Lacey’s veterinarian they confirmed butternut squash is safe for dogs to eat. Lacey later confirmed that dogs like to butternut squash. It’s a win - win!
Pin this easy dog treat recipe for later!
If you don't have a dehydrator (Husband bought me a Nesco Dehydrator and I love it! IMHO it is much better than the Excalibur) you can make my butternut squash dog chews in the oven although they may be a little less dry as the dehydrator method. I would store them in the refrigerator or freezer just in case.
One Thanksgiving my assignment was to bring pumpkin pie for dessert. Husband found a no bake pumpkin pie recipe. He wanted to make it to add something a little new and different to the Thanksgiving dinner menu that has been set in stone since 1986.
Keep reading to learn how to make this simple and delicious pumpkin pie dessert!
He makes the pie. The family enjoys the pie and Husband and I are high fiving ourselves because it is a much better tasting pie than the dry and/or slightly burnt pumpkin pies we’ve had in years past.
Yay for trying new things for Thanksgiving dinner!
I needed a graham cracker pie crust for a no bake pie recipe (which I will post soon on Lazy Budget Chef!) As I read the graham cracker pie crust labels in the grocery store and I was ever so sad to find out every single one of those store bought pie crusts have butter in them.
I’m sure it tastes great but it isn’t something I should taste test with a dairy allergy.
Fortunately, the pie crust label also told me it takes a mere three ingredients to make a graham cracker pie crust. So I popped over a few aisles, bought a box of honey flavored graham crackers because I was feeling fancy, raced home and started to experiment.
And ta da! I made a milk allergy friendly graham cracker pie crust!
You can use plain, cinnamon, chocolate, etc. graham crackers in this recipe of you like. I went with honey because it will compliment the pie filling I will use to fill it.
How to Make a Quick and Easy No Bake Graham Cracker Pie Crust
Trying to let yeast bread dough proof and rise without my bread machine is a recipe for disaster and ruined bread. I just can’t make it work.
On the other hand, sometimes baking bread in a bread machine start to finish makes it come out as a very dense loaf of bread which is OK for toasting and soup dunking but not so great for sandwich making.
What can I say? I grew up on light and fluffy grocery store bread.
Then the clouds parted from the sky, a rainbow appeared, and a unicorn slide down it to give me the secret to making life and fluffy bread machine bread:
Use the bread machine to make bread dough and bake the bread in the oven.
I have been working on a surprise project for quite awhile. It is finally ready. I can't wait to tell you I opened a funny printed t shirt and gift store called LNW Creative Gifts!
Once upon a time I was a professional jester. It was a fantastic gig and especially fun because kids where drawn to me like a magnet since I was hard to miss with my bright colored clothes covered in jingle bells. I may have left the jester job but the jester never left me. I decided to put my sense of humor to practical use and open a gift shop.
Even better, you can customize my products to suit your fancy!
This is what happens when your in laws invite you over and ask you if you want some tomatoes from their garden.
I think Mom and Dad were secretly shoving produce in our pockets when we weren’t looking
I’m truly grateful Mom and Dad shared their bountiful garden harvest with us. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, a big chunk of the tomatoes were so ripe they couldn’t wait for me to buy more canning supplies in the next day or so, oh no.
Both Husband and I knew we would be haunted by our ancestors if we let even a fraction of this generous gift spoil before I could preserve it for later.
One of my favorite daydreams as a kid was to have the ability to jump into my favorite books to interact with the characters and explore their world. And that’s exactly what happened when Husband and I visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter section of both Universal Studios Florida parks!
JK Rowling approved every. single. thing. in Hogsmede and Diagon Alley all the way down to the food. Universal set up a test kitchen in England so JK Rowling could select what she imagined when she created pumpkin juice and all of the other fantastic wizard food and drinks that appear in the series.
Unfortunately the way I envisioned the taste of pumpkin juice does not match J.K. Rowling’s vision of pumpkin juice.The official Harry Potter version of pumpkin juice is a sweet apricot juice based drink.
It is too sweet for my taste. Not to mention, I expected pumpkin juice to have more pumpkin spice in it than what I drank at The Wizarding Worlds. I expected something like a spicy fall apple cider but with the mild taste of pumpkin instead of apples.
So I decided to make a less sweet and more spicy pumpkin juice recipe myself!
I grew up hearing the saying, “Money doesn’t grow on trees” (although technically it does because we make paper out of trees.) But that saying didn’t really hit home until I was on my own at 18 and putting myself through school. Stuff costs money!
I won’t claim I created a perfect frugal budget back then or that I have all of the budgeting answers now. However many of my frugal hacks started as a necessity so I could splurge on frivolous things like food and rent.
Pin this list of money saving ideas for later!
Even though I don’t have to follow such a strict money saving plan today, most of these frugal habits and tips are in my Swiss Army Knife of Frugal Hacks so I can make a truly frivolous splurge like travel and eat all the things!
26 Frugal Hacks and Tips
1. Date it to find out how long the package lasts. This is super duper anal tentative but it works to keep me from automatically buying staples every time I see them on sale.
My in laws gifted me with several summer squashes from their gigantic and prolific vegetable garden. I’m the only human in the house who likes summer squash and quickly found that there is only so much I can eat day after day without getting sick and tired of eating homegrown summer squash.
Which I suspect is why my in laws gave them to me in the first place.
I need to figure out how to preserve the summer squash for later this year when it is out of season. I don’t have the space to freeze it and can’t can it. That leaves my favorite lazy way to save summer vegetables – dehydrate it!
And since I jumped on the spiralzied vegetable pasta bandwagon like everyone else, I’m going to make dehydrated summer squash zoodles to use in place of whole wheat pasta when the mood strikes.
I got a phone call from my mother in law asking me if I need any tomatoes or garden vegetables because they grew too many. I chuckled and said, "you say that every year!"
I swear all my in laws need to do is squint their eyes in the direction of their garden, and their plants burst forth with more tomatoes than the vines can hold.
Although they tell me actually watering plants helps them to grow too. Who knew?
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Mother in Law has canned just about every variation of tomato recipe there is and in mega large quantities, dropped off bags of homegrown tomatoes to friends and pantries, and practically snuck a bunch in my pockets when we met at a restaurant to celebrate a family birthday and two anniversaries last Sunday.
Unless you've been living under a rock, even if you do not have any serious allergic reactions that require an emergency one dollar dose of epinephrine to keep you from drying, you know Mylan the company that makes Epi Pen has raised its price by 400%. According to a price comparative search of Epi Pens using GoodRX, the cheapest you can fill an EpiPen prescription in Columbus, Ohio is $616 after using a GoodRx coupon. No GoodRx coupon? Plan to pay $738.
Since everyone is required to have health insurance what's the big deal? you say?
The big deal is a lot of health insurance companies are prepared to cover the skyrocketing cost, especially if a family can only afford a plan that has high out of pocket deductibles, which means allergy patients are forced to pay up to $600 for one prescription.
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What you also may not know is that you have to carry two EpiPens with you at all times in case the first one doesn't work. Rarely does an allergy patient only has two EpiPens in case of emergency. Typically you carry two on your person, two at home, and two elsewhere such as at work or school. EpiPens expire after one year. So you have to cough up at least $600 - $1,800+ per year in hopes you never have to use the medication.
Even though the calendar says we have one more month of summer left, it's time to think about Back to School shopping.
Or you might want to take advantage of the summer clearance and back to school sales to save a little cash on what you want or need. There's no shame in that.
Or it's a Tuesday and you need to buy food.
Either way, in one form or another you're going to go to the store to buy something and want to get the best return on investment for your hard earned dollar. I can help you with that. I put together some of my favorite Ninja Bargain Shopping tips, tricks, and hacks to help you save money on what you need or want without blowing a hole in your budget.
I'm always looking for ways to thank you for being The Most Awesome Blog Community on Planet Earth.
Unfortunately, I can't do it in person or by anonymously mowing your lawn but I can thank you with a giveaway of something that always fits -cold, hard, Paypal cash. $100 dolla, dolla bills to be exact!
I love using grilled vegetables in summer recipes. It is a super quick and easy way to add a little pizazz that impresses to an otherwise simple recipe.
Although now that I spilled the beans on that little fancy but ridiculously easy secret, I doubt my local friends are going to be impressed the next time they ask me to make and bring my grilled red pepper pasta salad to the next cookout.
Pin this recipe for later!
On second thought, they are probably more than happy I finally wrote the recipe down because this simple pasta salad tastes swanky and always gets rave reviews, especially when I make it a day ahead and let the dressing do its marinade magic in the refrigerator overnight.
Food Allergy and Vegan Friendly Pasta Salad Recipe
What tastes better than ice cream on a hot and sunny July day? Maybe that’s why National Ice Cream Day is smack dab in the middle of the month on July 20th.
Unfortunately for us diary allergy and lactose intolerance suffers and vegans, we can’t always indulge in summer’s most cold and sweet treat. That’s not to say there isn’t dairy free ice cream available, there is but in my experience most of it is vanilla which highlights everything a dairy free ice cream lacks such as taste.
But never fear my food allergy friends! I put my taste buds on the line and after some arduous research, I collected a round up of 12 dairy free ices cream recipes that are easy to make and good to eat!
Pin this milk allergy friendly recipe collection for later!
I wanted to make a vodka watermelon. Some people call it infuse a watermelon. Some people charge a watermelon.
Whatever you it call it, it is the same thing. A 21 years and older watermelon filled with booze with a 50-50 chance of either coming out perfect or not infusing at all.
I’m not trying to scare you out of a spiked vodka watermelon recipe. I’m letting you know up front, if your vodka watermelon didn’t work, keep reading this post to learn how to fix a drunken watermelon that won't absorb vodka on the first go round.
I went to a Meijer 40% off store closing sale and came back with a ton of frozen vegetables. I didn’t have freezer space for them because I also loaded up on frozen seafood (a sad fact when you live in land locked Central Ohio.) My plan all along was to dehydrate the frozen vegetables, vacuum seal them in mason jars, and use them in crock pot meals. Our slow cooker is the hardest working member of the Lazy Budget Chef kitchen and Thunderdome.
I flip flopped about writing this tutorial because I was afraid it might make me sound like some sort of hoarder or weirdo. I could see the flood of comments on the post telling me buying a freezer is easier. True but our condo is small and we often have storm related blackouts.
We haven’t had a major power outage in awhile and I was lulled into complancity. As I was mulling over how to fit a chest freezer into our condo, our neighborhood had a three hour power outage as I was unloading the dehydrator on a beautiful sunny day.
I took it as a sign to write this post.
Next time if someone wants to send me a Sign you don’t have to go so such extremes. A text message will do just fine.
How to Dehydrate Frozen Peas, Corn, Onions, and Green Peppers
It is embarrassing for how long I didn't
know I could make and use homemade house and kitchen cleaners to clean my house
for cheap. My light bulb moment was the I walked up and down the conventional cleaner aisle in the grocery store trying to find a floor cleaner that didn't have petrochemicals in it that could potentially harm my dog. It was a practically impossible task because cleaning products do not have the ingredients listed on the bottle.
I left the store frustrated.
Well, if the companies aren't going to tell what is in their products, then I'll make something myself! Then I'll know my household cleaners are made with safe ingredients! So take that companies!
Turns out my DIY household cleaning solutions are not only nontoxic and use less resources to make, but they also cost less money. Which means you can live green without the pretentiousness and high cost associated with some of the eco guru products now in stores.
Or you can make your own cleaners just for the sake of saving money. That's OK too.
Sixteen of the Easiest Homemade Cleaning Recipes You Can Make for Cheap!
I know I’m supposed to like having a decorating space on top of my
kitchen cabinets. I tried hanging plates on the wall because that is
what you are supposed to do in a kitchen, right?
I didn’t like it.
tried groupings of doodads on top of the cabinets - meh.
I just can’t
make it work.
Besides, what I really need is more storage in my small condo kitchen, not more doodads. A kitchen remodel isn’t in the plan this year. Moving to a bigger house
is too much work. I need to find some space in the kitchen I have...
Like above the kitchen cabinets!
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I couldn't find matching storage that fit above my kitchen cabinets and the ceiling. What I did find cost an arm and a leg so I made my own! This is a super simple project anyone can do and get professional looking results.
I like my HE (High Efficiency) front loading washing machine. It never smells moldy. I think I am an anomaly. I seems like the rest of the Internet has dirty and smelly washing machine issues and even more people need to lean how to clean their washing machines.
I have to be honest and admit, the only way I remember to clean the washing machine is when it starts to smell. Thankfully that isn’t very often but boy oh boy do those washing machine cleaning tablets cost a pretty penny! A package of two Afresh tablets are almost 8 bucks a pop. The Tide washing machine cleaner tabs are a little less but I stay away from the Tide tablets because their detergent makes me break out.
Still, 4 dollars to clean a washing machine each month adds up. There has to be a cheaper way to clean a moldy washing machine that is just as lazy as popping a cleaning disk into the machine and turning it on.
I’m not sure how I ended up with a pouch of tuna fish in the pantry.
It was something I regularly ate when I first set out on my own at the tender age of 18 because it was cheap. I can barely stand tuna fish salad now. I think I hit the lifetime limit.
Which is probably why I found it in the back of a cupboard.
It was lunchtime and I wanted something easy and quick. I started poking around the kitchen to look for ingredients that were not tuna salad or any way shape or form of tuna casserole. I had a few little odds and ends in the refrigerator and I figured that this was a good opportunity to combine the ingredients into a recipe, throw it onto the wall, and see if it sticks.
A quick and easy lunch or cleaning out the pantry or both recipe!
Metaphorically specking. I do not recommend you toss cooked food onto the wall.
April showers bring May flowers. They also brought ants who tired of the lovely outdoor all you can eat buffet in our compost bin and decided take their Spring Break vacation in our kitchen. Friends I hope you never, ever have to experience innocently pouring a bowl of cereal in the morning and seeing a flood of ants rise to the top of the bowl just before you take a bite after pouring the milk. Never, ever.
I had a severe allergic reaction to a medication as a child. The topic of getting me a medical alert ID bracelet often came up and went. I didn’t wear one and didn’t think much about it until I recently saw a display of children's food allergy awareness bracelets while grocery shopping.
At first I frowned because of course no one would make food allergy bracelets for adults since everyone thinks food allergies are a “new” children’s issue. (News flash. Food allergies aren’t new or worse or just for kids. Our science and awareness has gotten better at detecting food allergies before someone dies from them.)
Fortunately I have a 6 inch wrist and the kid’s milk allergy bracelet fit me on the last snap. I bought it since my milk allergy is more of an issue in my day to day than my medication allergy.
Pin this post for reference!
Now hanging out with Mr. Moo the Milk Allergy Mascot on my wrist is no big deal to me because sometimes I want a big screaming sign that says I’M ALLERGIC TO MILK!” when I’m at a potluck dinner and the like. Other times, like work meetings, dressier occasions, performances, or days where I don’t feel like being a billboard I’d like a medical bracelet that is more sublet and fashionable. More importantly I need an emergency ID bracelet with the medicine allergy on it too just in case I need it to speak for me if the unthinkable happens and I cannot.
Depending upon your food allergy or medical condition, Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal City Walk (collectively called the Universal Studios Orlando Resort) is either very good or disappointingly bad about accommodating food allergies. Universal Orlando wins awards for their food but don’t expect to be able to eat any of it. In my experience:
If you are one of the 60% of the US population that can’t digest milk, you’re screwed. Don’t even think about eating any of the specially themed food, treats, and drinks. I got so sick it almost ruined our trip.
If you are of the 1% of the population that has to be gluten free, you get all sorts of special menus, accommodations, food safe treats and drinks in both parks, City Walk, and the resorts.
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I’m sure many of you food allergy moms are clutching your pearls a gasp I didn’t research every single ingredient served in every restaurant before Husband I left for our vacation at Universal Studios. I thought I did. I read the Food Allergies Or Intolerances? No Problempage on the Universal Studios Resorts website before we left. I thought I could indulge in food allergy safe specialty junk food like the other amusement park patrons while we focused on our Big Three: Harry Potter, Minions, and Marvel.
Sadly this is not the case.
Tips to Survive Universal Studios Florida and Universal Island’s of Adventure with Food Allergies
March 14th is Pi day to celebrate the first three digits of Pi (Greek letter π.) Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter - 3.14159 (the first 6 digits.) Pi can be calculated until infinity beyond its decimal point which is pretty snazzy for a math equation. It also makes a cute design on Pi pie dish (affiliate link.)
This dish makes me giggle every time I see it. I need to buy one.
Pi day is also a great excuse to make and eat pie! Not that you ever need an excuse to eat pie because, pie.
Pin this post now for pie later!
Pie Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert
Break out the rhubarb! It’s time to celebrate Leap Day!
Don’t worry if you don’t have any idea what I am talking about (actually most people tell me on a daily basis they often have no idea what I’m talking about.)
I didn’t know Leap Day was a Thing until a friend told me he was going to rub shoulders with Leap Day Williams, eat rhubarb, and trade candy for children’s tears on Leap Day February 29th.
26 of the Best Rhubarb Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Drinks, and Dessert!
Basically a bunch of local businesses are getting together to hold the made up holiday celebration from the 30 Rock episode named “Leap Day.” I’m all over making a ho hum time of the year a little more fun with a dash of silly.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate and referral links.
Oh Zulily how I love you. I resisted your on line flash sales for so long because I thought you sold children’s clothing and toys. Once I learned Zulily expanded and now sells men’s and women’s clothing along with home and garden items, I took a look.
And I was hooked.
So much so that I bought the majority of last year’s Christmas gifts from Zulily and saved up to 75% off the regular price AND I finished my shopping before December!
Pin this post and your wallet will thank you!
With some of these money saving tips you will be able to shop and save even more money with Zulily on the things you need and quite possibly on the few things you want.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Heart Truth®. All opinions are 100% mine.
Most of the meals, dinners in particular, in The Lazy Budget Chef Household feature lots of vegetables, a starch, and meat as a condiment rather than the star of the show. Husband and I originally started cooking and shopping this way at our local international grocery stores to save money in our early days of marriage.
We accidentally turned into foodies who love trying new things. Yay!
The one thing we didn’t expect was for our food bill to go down and our health to improve. Sometimes we eat what our niece calls, “weird food” – lots of whole grains and such. Sometimes we make something quick, easy, and unglamorous like the Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash pictured below because we are on the go.
Pin this post for the next time you need a quick, easy, and CHEAP healthy dinner idea!
The one thing that does stay the same is that our meals are full of heart healthy ingredients and we have our families to thank for that.
One of the small regrets I had during a trip to New Orleans to eat! all! the! things! was not being able to sample King Cake. King Cakes are a lovely buttery coffee cake type cake with even more butter and cream in the filling, and decorated with icing or sugar (or both) in Mardi Gras colors: purple representing justice, green representing faith, and gold/yellow representing power.
New Orleans style King Cake with a secret - it's dairy free!
King Cakes are typically enjoyed during the Mardi Gras or Carnival season starting January 6th (Twelfth Night) to Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) and ending on Ash Wednesday. Each King Cake comes with a surprise inside. Somewhere inside the cake is a small plastic baby figure (or the more traditional dried bean or pecan) and if you are lucky enough to find the baby, according New Orleans tradition, you have to bring the next King Cake or host the next Mardi Gras party.
I’ve spent most of my life living in almost all of the corners of Ohio which means I’ve experienced more than my fair share of blizzards, snow storms, and blackouts.
Fun fact: The first Christmas we spent in our new Condo, a freak ice storm knocked out our power for almost a week. Good times!
After that experience and especially after our multiday summer blackout Husband and I figured we should probably keep a few things on hand and ideas in mind in case we have a weather emergency in the future.
Now, I don’t want to insult anyone reading this post but Husband and I are not Doomsday Preppers. We’re not into learning how to wrestle a bear or hoarding our collective weight in beef jerky when we see a snowflake outside of the windows.
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We’re interested in what to do if the electricity or heat goes out during a snowstorm. How to stay warm and what items we should have on hand to make waiting out the storm more comfortable when everyone else is experiencing Winter Weather Amnesia like this funny tweet:
like getting a free pen or tote bag at the state fair just as much as
the next person. I appreciate free hotel toiletries so I don't have to deal
with them on airplanes. I am pretty darn lucky we have local events with
sponsors that offer us little advertising trinkets we find useful and
allow us to learn about new products or businesses. As long it is something you can use and you only take your fair share, I don't think it stealing or being dishonest.
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What I do have a problem with is someone who tells you to save money by taking more than your fair share, ripping other people off, or outright stealing something like enough ketchup packets from a fast food place to refill your empty household ketchup bottle. Seriously?
After reading another article about getting stuff for free that is borderline illegal and made me greatly annoyed, I put together my own list of how to get stuff for free that won't get you arrested and let you sleep with a clear conscious at night.
On snowy Saturday afternoons, I used to go to a cozy little coffeehouse and curl up with a cup of Hum and a good book. The coffeehouse is long gone but my favorite steamed milk and honey recipe lives on courtesy of my kitchen.
The coffeehouse named the recipe Hum after the sound steaming milk makes using an espresso machine steamer. I never could get the hang of using the steamer on my espresso machine so I took the easy (and lazy) way out by heating the milk in a pot on the stove or in a mug in the microwave and frothing it afterwards.
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The original recipe calls for cow’s milk. Fortunately, it also works with your favorite non dairy milk so allergy sufferers do not have to mess out on this sweet drink that warms you from nose to toes on a chilly day.
At first glance, my tiny pantry looks organized. I'm surprised at how much more space I have in the pantry after decanting my kitchen staples into glass jar! It looks pretty too.
What you don't know is that my kitchen jar project is really an ant
proofing project that turned into a surprise free organization project.
I'll give you the details on Lazy Budget Chef in a later post.
I found a crazy amount of Husband's pancake mixes hidden behind the aprons I had hanging off a coat hook attached to a pantry shelf. It is a result of our Out of Sight Out of Mind Disease because organizing the aprons that way blocks our view of what is stored on the pantry shelves below.
Pin the tutorial for later!
Time to get those aprons hanging on the wall and blocking the view to
our food! I made strong and durable pantry apron hooks from wine corks,
wall anchors, and scrap wood. Scoot on over to DIY blog Condo Blues and read this post: