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Category: Family, Fun & Holidays

Frugal Christmas Idea: Re-Gifting Get-Together

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photo by

emailed me with a creative idea:

Today I had a Re-Gifting Potluck Lunch at
my home with 6 of my friends.  We have all received lots of gifts over
the year that don't fit, aren't our style, can't use, can't re-gift, etc. So today my girlfriends each brought a lunch dish to share
as well as all their new-in-box-never-used gifts. 
 
Before we enjoyed lunch together we bartered and traded the items
that we brought!  I gave away several of the way-too-many candles I
have received as gifts,
make-up, nail polish, and other items I just won't ever use.

Among
the great "deals" I got was a DVD for my hard-to-shop-for
18-year-old family member and a collection of green-and-red Christmas
themed items for a basket for my sister-in-law (table runner, candle,
fingertip towels, and Christmas platter, each of which came from a
different friend!). In addition, I also got several small children's gifts that I will
be using when my 4- and 7-year olds are invited to birthday parties.

Everyone went home happy and we have already decided
to do this again next year. I have two more people done for Christmas
for free! You can't beat that for a frugal Christmas!  Of course, it
was also a great excuse to get together with friends.

 

I know some folks aren't too keen on "re-gifting" but if it's something you feel comfortable with, this could be not only a fun thing to do in the next week or two, but it could save you some
money.

In a similar vein, I was thinking that if you have friends who are into couponing and bargain shopping, perhaps you could get-together and do an exchange with some of the extras you might have on hand from sweet almost-free or free deals you've picked up in recent months which would be suitable for gifts or gift baskets.

Have any of you all done something like this? If so, I'd love to hear!

Guest Post: Frugal Fall Family Fun

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photo by

Guest Post by Kate from

Fall is such a magical time of year for children. Trees seem to change right before their eyes, bursting into brilliant hues of red, yellow, and orange. The warm air of summer has subtly been replaced with cooler, crisper mornings. Children are amazed by their power to create a frosty cloud when breathing into the cool fall air. It is a season of change, and with that change, comes a limitless supply of family fun that will last until the first snows of winter.

Pumpkins are wonderfully symbolic of harvest time, and most children have an amazing fascination with them. For young children who are not quite ready for the carving experience, paint is a creative option.  Don an old t-shirt, lay out newspapers on the table (I’m sure we all have plenty lying around), and pour paint into old yogurt cups. Voila! You have the perfect recipe for creativity. Cheerful faces can be painted on to adorn your child’s pumpkin, and their creations will last right through the Thanksgiving season.

For older children, carving a pumpkin is always a memorable experience. From the first cut into a pumpkin, the kitchen is filled with the fresh smell of autumn. The seeds that are scooped out can be washed and set aside for later roasting. They make a yummy treat after the hard work of creating a perfect pumpkin.

The designs for pumpkin carvings are limitless. There are several online sites that offer free downloadable templates, with everything from very traditional pumpkin faces, to popular characters, and intricate scenes. Once the pumpkin is carved to satisfaction, a candle can be placed inside, and you have a one-of-a-kind autumn decoration.

Autumn leaves offer a great potential for creativity as well. Placed under paper, children can create rubbings of the leaves they find. Unpeel the paper from your child’s crayon, and rub the side of the crayon against the paper. Children are often amazed that the texture and shape of the leaf magically appears on their paper. As an added learning experience, older children can then identify their leaves, and label them accordingly.

Colorful leaves can also be torn and arranged on a sheet of waxed paper in the shape of animals or other objects of your child’s liking. Once your child is satisfied with his or her creation, place another sheet of waxed paper on top of the leaf design. Carefully iron the creation on low heat. The leaf project will need to cool for a few minutes; afterwards, punch a hole in the top of the waxed paper, slip a string through, and your child will have a unique fall creation to hang up.

Fall projects can also be created through the use of “puffy paint”. Mix equal parts of white shaving cream and white school glue. Add in various colors to create a multitude of options for projects. I often use Kool Aid to color our puffy paint, as it is inexpensive, and forms bright hues. Children can then use this “paint” to make puffy pumpkins or fall leaves (be sure to use heavy paper, as this paint is very thick).  When finished, glitter can be sprinkled on top to give the project a shimmery effect. These should be laid flat to dry for 24-48 hours, depending on how thick the paint is applied.

Of course, if you do not feel creative this Fall, that’s perfectly alright, too. Grab a rake, pile up a mound of leaves, and turn the clock back a few years. Jump with your children and let the leaves fly. It’s amazing how much fun it is to be a child again!  Enjoy your Fall!

Katie is a homeschooling mother of four. She blogs at ,
where she shares money-saving ideas, deals, and frugal activities to
enjoy as a family.

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Share your ideas!

, , and I hope you've enjoyed the ideas we've shared this week for the "Thanksgiving on a Budget" series. Our main goal was to show you how you could create a simple from-scratch Thanksgiving meal for your family without spending a fortune to do so.

To recap, here's the menu we shared:

–Turkey, gravy, and stuffing/dressing (I got a kick out of how many of thought dropping the dressing from your menu was ludicrous! Wouldn't it be a boring world if we all thought the same way about everything?!)
–Sweet potato casserole and make-ahead mashed potatoes
–Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Green Vegetables
Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie

While I'm sure not all of the recipes or decorations would be something you might use for your Thanksgiving celebration, we hope that our ideas will inspire you as you seek to have a memorable Thanksgiving celebration for your family this year.

I'm positive we've only barely scratched the surface when it comes to Thanksgiving ideas, though, and that's why today is the day for all of you–my wonderfully creative readers–to chime in with your own ideas for celebrating Thanksgiving on a Budget.

The floor is yours! Share your favorite recipes, helpful tips, ideas for simplifying the Thanksgiving menu, decorating how-to's, or special traditions your family has. If you have a blog, post about it on your blog and leave the direct link to your blog post below. If you don't have a blog, feel free to leave your ideas in the comments section.

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Decorations from Paper

Guest Post by Monica from

Paper is one of my favorite crafting supplies because it is inexpensive and the variety available creates endless possibilities! Here are some ideas to jump start your Thanksgiving table decorating this year:

Turkey coloring books

::Turkey coloring books::
Details on how to make these are . All you do is print the template, cut it out, and glue together! Bring this idea
to the grown-up table by placing one at each plate. Provide pens or
pencils to jot notes of thankfulness to each other!

Silhouette tablecloth

Image from Martha Stewart Living

::Silhouette Table cloth::
Instructions for making this are . I
haven't made mine yet as I'm not sure how to store it until
Thanksgiving–but I will have my silhouettes all cut out and ready to
go for my littles table!

Bring the silhouette idea to the
grown-up table by creating napkin rings, decorations and place cards
(take it a step further by creating silhouettes of your guests!):

Silhouette napkin rings


::Silhouette Napkin Rings::
Use
the templates provided in the silhouette tablecloth link above to make these. Glue to a piece
of cardstock and staple at the back. Slide over your napkin!

Silhouette jar

::Silhouette Place cards/table decor::
Hot glue a length of ribbon around a canning jar and glue silhouette onto ribbon.

Silhouette on stick

Or, glue silhouette to a stick (from your yard!) and insert into a small jar or votive holder filled with unpopped popcorn.

Silhouettes on table runner

Create
varying heights with jars, upside down sundae dishes, juice glasses,
or anything that is clear or coordinates with what you want to use! You
could also opt to put one of these at each place for name cards!

You
could also have a little stack of these silhouettes cut out with holes
punched in the top and string tied on. Provide chalk for guests to
write things they are thankful for and hang on a branch from your yard
to create a Thankful Tree!

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::Turkey Trivia Place Cards::

Details on how to make these fun little turkey quiz decorations are . Find some interesting turkey facts and

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::Napkin Rings (inspired by Country Living November 2006)::

To make these, cut a small piece of cardstock and decorate with rubber stamps, stickers, or just write a short message. Punch a small hole in each end of the cardstock. Pull
a ribbon through one end, and then through the other. Tip: if you cut
the ends of the ribbon in a diagonal, they will be much easier to get
through the small holes.

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::Favor Tags::

Make up little bags of some kind of treat and add a festive nametag and bow. I
used these for place cards one year and then let them become the favor for guests to take home as well. By the way, this would be a great opportunity to use some of those sugared pumpkin
seeds
!

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::"Thankful For You" breakfast::

A
few years ago I started a new Thanksgiving tradition. It is intended to
be a practical way of showing thanks to someone who has been a blessing
to our family over the past year. I prepare an extra batch of our
Thanksgiving breakfast and pack it up festively to deliver to the
recipient. I like the expression of doing something visible to say "thank you" to one of the many people who encourage us throughout the
year.

I make little tags for each item naming what it is and if
there are any specific heating instructions. Then you can package
pancakes and sausage wrapped in waxed paper and tied with twine. Canning
jars make great containers for syrup and nuts. Put them all in a pretty
gift bag and deliver!

Our traditional Thanksgiving breakfast is:

Pumpkin Pancakes (cooked in a maple leaf shaped pancake mold)
Brown & Serve Sausage
Homemade Maple Syrup & Chopped nuts to top pancakes

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Pumpkin Pancake Recipe from

Whisk:
1 1/4 c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. each cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt
1/8 tsp. nutmeg and a pinch of ground cloves (I use pumpkin pie spice)

Mix:
1 egg
6 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 c. milk

Fold
wet ingredients into dry ingredients.Heat a buttered skillet over
medium heat; pour in 1/4 c. batter for each pancake. Cook about three
minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup. Makes about 10 leaf
shaped pancakes.

Maple Syrup:

Combine in saucepan:
1 3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. water

Bring to a boil, cover, and cook one minute. Cool slightly.

Add:
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. maple flavoring

Cover
saucepan for a few minutes as syrup cooks to melt down crystals; helps
prevent syrup from crystallizing later in storage. From the More With
Less Cookbook
.

::ABC's of Thanks::
My Mom started this tradition
when we were growing up and I have continued it in our home. Print

template, cut the columns apart, and tape together in one continuous line.
Mount on your wall and enjoy giving thanks for God's many blessings!

And here are a couple of other ideas I haven't made before, but think are full of possibility:

Have you made any Thanksgiving decorations with paper? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Monica enjoys blogging about the simple pleasures of faith, family and home over at

___________________________

Note from Crystal: If you happened to miss Monica's previous guest post with lots of fun ideas to do with pumpkins, you'll want to check it out here. There's likely something there you could also incorporate into your Thanksgiving menu or decor ideas. Also, don't forget to check out Monica's brand-new online boutique, .

Thanksgiving on a Budget: Homemade Pumpkin Pie and Our Favorite Apple Pie

Homemade Pumpkin Pie
by Erin at

Crust Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening or butter
2-4 Tablespoons COLD water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place flour in mixing bowl; add butter and cut in with pastry blender.

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Add salt and then add COLD water 1 Tablespoon at a time. Mix/toss with fork until dough ball forms.

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Place in plastic wrap or Ziploc baggie and put into the refrigerator
while you make the filling. Make filling (see directions below) while
dough is in the fridge.Take dough ball from fridge and place on lightly
floured surface. Roll out into a circle at least 12 inches in diameter
and gently fold pie crust into quarters.

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Move pie crust from counter to pie plate.  Unfold. Flute edges in your favorite design. Pour filling into pie shell. Place pie crust shield over the top or use foil to make a shield to keep the crust edges from burning
or turning dark brown while baking. Bake pie at 425 for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 and bake
another 40-50 minutes, until center of pie is done. If
you want a darker crust, remove the foil or pie crust shield 10 minutes
before pie is finished.

Filling Ingredients
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon (You can substitute 2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice for above 3 spices)
2 large eggs
1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk

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Place all ingredients in baking bowl. Blend with mixer or stand
mixer on low for 2-3 minutes. Set aside until pie crust is prepared
and pour into the pie crust. Cost: approximately $2.50 to $3 per pie

Our Favorite Apple Pie

This is one of our family's very favorite pies. If I'm able to snag a good deal on apples, this is one of the first things I think of making. It takes a little bit of work, but once you've made it, it's so worth it! And Thanksgiving wouldn't quite be the same without this pie–though it's great year-round, too!

(Confession Time: I had every intention of making up a fresh pie and
taking pictures of it for you, but time slipped away from me this week.
So I'll just let you imagine how beautiful this pie turns out! Think
something like .)

Pie crust (uncooked, see recipe above or use your favorite recipe)
6 cups thinly sliced, peeled cooking apples (about 2 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tablespoons butter

Prepare and roll out pie crust. Line pie pan with it and flute edges. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add in apples and gently toss until coated. Transfer apple mixture to the pie crust. Dot apples with butter. Set aside.

Prepare crumb topping ingredients by stirring together 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in 3 Tablespoons butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over apples in pie pan. Cover edges of pie with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more or until fruit is tender and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack. This is especially delicious served with freshly-whipped cream or Breyer's vanilla ice cream. Delicious!

Thanksgiving on a Budget: December212012’s Favorite Roll Recipe

If you don't normally make homemade rolls for Thanksgiving, you might just want to consider taking a little extra effort to make these rolls this year. They are just that good. In fact, I've tried literally hundreds of roll recipes over the years and this recipe is hands-down the best one I've ever made.

These are best served within an hour or two of making, though, so if you're planning to serve them on Thanksgiving, you'll want to make sure and allow extra time to whip up the dough. While it's rising, you can do your last minute Thanksgiving meal preparations and then stick these in the oven to bake an hour or so before you're planning to eat.

Yes, it's a little bit of extra work but I think you and your guests will agree it was worth it!

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Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

(Recipe modified slightly from –a cooking blog you ought to be reading, if you're not already!)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 cup warm milk
¼ cup butter, softened or melted
2 cup mashed cooked pumpkin (I usually use one can of pumpkin.)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup wheat germ (can omit and use flour instead)
10-12 cup all-purpose flour (I usually use a mixture of whole-wheat and white flours. I'd recommend going about 1/3 whole-wheat to 2/3 white flour.)
7 teaspoons dry yeast

In large mixing bowl, combine sugar, water, milk, butter, pumpkin, and salt. Mix well. Add wheat germ, 7-8 cups of the flour, and yeast. Mix, and then
continue adding flour and kneading until dough is elastic and not
sticky.

Place dough in greased bowl; grease top of dough, cover with a towel, and set in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hour). Punch dough down and divide into thirds. Divide each third into 16 pieces and shape into balls.

Place on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until almost doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until tops are golden. Brush with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven. (Note: These rolls usually look somewhat dry when first coming out of the oven. Wait about 15 minutes and they will look and taste beautifully. Don't ask me why, but that's how it always works for me!)

Yield: 4 dozen rolls (If you're not expecting a large crowd for Thanksgiving, I'd recommend halfing the recipe. I often do this for smaller groups and it works great!)

Up Next: $5 Dinner Mom's Pumpkin Pie recipe and Our Favorite French Apple Pie recipe