I’m so excited to share my experience with hosting our first Chuck E Cheese birthday party! I’m a bit of a control freak, so I can’t say I wasn’t worried about how this party would go down, but it was even better than I could have expected.
It’s important to note here that I’m in no way affiliated with Chuck E Cheese nor am I receiving anything in return for this post. It’s simply an experience worth sharing with other mommas in need of party planning help!
How does a Chuck E Cheese birthday party work?
When my daughter announced she wanted to hold her 4th birthday at Chuck E Cheese, my frugal brain immediately went to the cost. So I went on the Chuck E Cheese website and was pleasantly surprised by the affordable options. Even when we go the party-at-home-DIY-route (like we did for our Dr. Seuss birthday party!) there’s still the stress and time planning it all.
I truly love to throw parties, but not necessarily during the cold days of February, which happens to be my daughter’s birthday month. So this time I handed over the party planning reigns and here’s what happened…
Chuck E Cheese Birthday Party Review
What’s the schedule like?
We arrived at Chuck E Cheese about 15 minutes before the party was set to start. Everything was set up in the back already and our host greeted us. She handed over a bag of play passes as well as a birthday bracelet for my sweet birthday girl.
Our host then went over our order (we opted for extra pizzas and drinks for the adults). From there, she went over the schedule, which looked like this:
12pm – party starts, kids play
12:45pm – pizza time! Our host served the children and made sure they all got what they needed.
After pizza, Chuck E himself came out to dance with the kids. We then sang “Happy Birthday” while the host cut and distributed the cake. Since we got the Mega Super Star package, it also included Dippin’ Dots (yum!!)
From there, it would’ve been gift time, but we nixed that to do gifts at home.
After cake, it was ticket blaster time! My daughter wasn’t too keen on it, so her big brother stepped in.
Do they have to do the ticket blaster?
Our host was kind enough to show my daughter how the ticket blaster worked, but even then, my daughter wasn’t interested. My 5yr old son was all about it, though, so he stepped up to get those tickets. That said, there was also the option to skip the ticket blaster and simply collect 200 tickets (plus her 1000 bonus tickets as a part of the party package).
After the ticket blaster, the kids are then welcome to go back to playing.
Can you bring your own cake to a Chuck E Cheese birthday party?
Absolutely! While Chuck E Cheese offers a number of gorgeous cake options, you can also bring in your own cake and ice cream.
Do you tip for a Chuck E Cheese birthday party?
I’ve actually reached out to Chuck E Cheese to see if they have a policy/common practice on this. While I in no way felt pressured to tip, there’s no doubt our hostess deserved it! Our total party cost was $300, on which we tipped $40. This might seem like a bit much to some (like my husband…hehe) but I’ve worked in food service before and the tip was well earned.
Is the Mega Super Star package worth it?
It really, really is. It was so nice to not have to worry about goody bags or ice cream, plus the unlimited play for the 2 hours really helped parents better enjoy the experience and not worry about watching (or having to re-up!) their child’s play points. I also love that the goody bags allow for every child to leave with something, regardless of how many tickets they earned.
What happens if you have no-shows?
Sure enough, on the day of the party we had a couple children who suddenly couldn’t make it. Luckily Chuck E Cheese offers a 2-child no-show policy so we weren’t charged for the absent children.
The Easiest Birthday Party Ever
Overall, I truly could not have been happier with the whole experience. I did EVERYTHING online on my own schedule and it was the smoothest, most relaxed party I’ve had. Frankly, I’m considering hosting my own next birthday party there – they do have beer, after all! 😉
Have you had a Chuck E Cheese birthday party experience?
Would love for you to comment below and share your thoughts!
I’m a big fan of Alton Brown and his idea on single-use items; there are a lot of really odd, single-use kitchen gadgets out there that might seem cool at first but will honestly just take up space and you’ll end up selling them at a garage sale and all you’ll have is .50 cents and a small pile of regret.
That said, there are some really cool items that fill a niche role but do it so well – or can be used for other things – that they’re absolutely worth having in your kitchen, pantry, or in your grill kit.
Amazon is a fantastic resource for cheap prices and lightning-fast shipping, but Its catalog has gotten incredibly vast over the years, so shopping for that perfect item is a slog. We’ve put together a list of 10 fun, useful, and best-of-all cheap kitchen gadgets that will delight anyone who rules the roaster in their household.
10 Must-Have Single Use Kitchen Gadgets for Under $20
Please note that the links below are affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission should you click through and make a purchase. This in no way impacts my recommendations or the cost to you.
Our son LOVES buttered toast but for real, cold butter is a substance that defies physics and destroys all bread it touches. This knife fixes that problem by allowing you to cut razor-thin slices, fun spirals, or spaghetti-esque noodles of butter, straight from the fridge!
My husband is Italian, so we eat a lot of pasta during the week, but my husband is also absent-minded, so we clean up a lot of boiled-over pasta water during the week, too. This silicone lid sits on top of your pot in lieu of your traditional lid. It allows steam and bubbles to escape without boiling over and covering your stove or putting out your burners. They’re also adorable and can help strain pasta as well!
If you don’t drink wine, you know someone who does. I personally am not fond of digging around in the utensils drawer for the corkscrew and then trying to stuff the cork back into the bottle without sending it spiraling down into the wine itself and then having to Google if drinking cork-wine will kill me. This set has a foil cutter, a corkscrew, an aerator spout, a stopper, and even a drip ring, if you’re messy. It’s all stored in a convenient, cute wine-bottle shaped spy kit. How fun is that?
We had a small air fryer and we hated it – it just wasn’t big enough for anything useful. We got this particular air fryer for Christmas and it’s AMAZING. Food comes out crispy, it cooks quickly and with minimal oil, and it doesn’t take up much space on the counter. My husband uses it at least 4 times a week for dinner, and I love it because I can toss some hashbrowns or bacon into it for breakfast and go get ready while they cook perfectly. We have the manual one which is a dream, but there’s a digital one as well with more settings, if you’re into that.
Wire brushes are, while commonplace in grill-cleaning kits, very much not ideal for the task. The shards of wire can seriously hurt someone if they ingest them and it’s more common than you think. This brass – well it’s not a ring exactly, but it’s definitely a shape – cuts through stuck-on food and carbon extremely well and can fit nearly any standard grate-spacing, without the fear of metal shavings in your burgers.
Ice cream is, like revenge, a dish best served cold. This makes it fun and delicious, but also a pain in the wrist to scoop efficiently without flinging it all over your kitchen. This particular heat-conducting scoop is leagues above the traditional scoop with the little level that dishes out ice cream. Heat from your hand travels into the spoon and cuts through the icy treat and the heavy-duty utensil will stand up against even the coldest, hardest-packed ice cream possible.
Finding a place to put your spoon isn’t a difficult task, but this cute, fun utensil rest really makes a “splash”. With its vibrant color and deep grooves, it should keep a handle on any size spoon you need to set down for a moment.
The cutest things often come in small packages, and this little hot dog …dog… is proof of that. Sometimes it only takes a little bit of fun to encourage kids to eat their dinner, and this cutter makes small enough pieces for little hands and then holds them in place. Bonus doggie dish for ketchup or mustard dipping!
Look, nobody is going to argue that pizza is the best but sometimes the cheesy pie is difficult to cut and serve without losing all your toppings. This pizza cutter gives you ultimate control, cleans up quickly and easily, and you can use it on anything that needs sliced. I use it on my kids’ pancakes in the morning, on grilled cheese, and quesadillas and while it seems such a simple thing, it really does make a big difference!
Do you have any single-task or highly specialized kitchen gadgets that you’ve found you simply can’t do without? Let me know and I’ll add them to this list!
When not turning into wine, vinegar is my second favorite use for grapes (and getting that nasty gunk off ’em!) Vinegar also makes for a fantastic part of a salad dressing and it’s a nice way to marinate some meat, but it’s a high-performer elsewhere in the house as well. That said, please note that my suggestions below are just that – suggestions. Don’t use vinegar on something without spot-testing first as I am in no way liable should you use vinegar in a way that causes unfortunate results.
With that out of the way, we use so much vinegar in our house that we have to buy huge jugs of it from Aldi almost every week so we can use it on things such as…
Vinegar Uses – Home and furniture
De-decal your windows – If you like to put up window clings during the holidays, or your children love to put stickers on…everything, you can use vinegar to remove all traces! Simply apply undiluted vinegar to the grimy aftermath of the stickers or decals and let it sit for 5 minutes. A credit card or other thin piece of plastic will help you scrape off the bits and then a good scrubbing should remove the rest of the remnants.
Erase pen marks – Undiluted vinegar and some elbow grease can remove your children’s artwork from hard surfaces. It may take a few applications and some assurances to your kids that you still love their art, but it works!
Undustify your blinds – Venetian blinds are the worst to clean, but you can make it far less terrible with vinegar! Get a bucket of equal parts vinegar and water, wet the fingertips of a cloth glove or a rag, and use your index finger and thumb to glide along each slat. The vinegar helps get rid of the oil and dust incredibly well.
Spruce up wood (haha, “spruce”) – Wood ages like anything else, be it paneling or furniture. A mix of 1 cup warm water, 4 tablespoons of vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil will help bring it back to life. Mix it up and wipe it onto the wood with a cloth. Let it sit and soak for a few minutes, and then buff it up with another dry towel.
Hide scratches in wood – A mix of undiluted vinegar and iodine (small amounts) can conceal scratches in wood. Use more vinegar for lighter woods and more iodine for darker woods, and then apply with a small brush (a nail brush works well).
Keep your computer clean – Get rid of oil and dust buildup on your electronics with a mix of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar. Use the mixture to dampen a cloth and wipe down your electronics and accessories. Don’t use a spray bottle, and don’t overly saturate the cloth. Again, I’m not liable for bad results, so be smart here and use common sense!
Clean carpets – A mix of 1/2 cup vinegar with 2 tablespoons of salt will remove minor carpet stains. Simply mix the two together and rub into the stain with a cloth and then let it dry. Once it’s dried, vacuum it up.
Vinegar for the Kitchen
Pickle EVERYTHING – If you have a bumper crop of peppers, onions, or (of course) cucumbers from your garden on a budget, you can whip up a pickle in an instant. Mix 1 cup vinegar with 1 cups water, 2 tablespoons salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar, and bring it all to a boil. Chop your veggies and add them to jars (you ARE re-using jars from the store, right?), and pour the brine on top. Let them cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge. After about 3 days they’ll be delicious and pickley.
Perfectly poached eggs – Poached eggs are really delicious but it’s super easy to obliterate the egg on accident. Adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar to your water along with 2 teaspoons of salt, and adding your egg in just before the water reaches a boil will help keep the egg together. Cook for about 2 minutes for a nice soft poach, or 3-4 for if you like them a bit firmer.
Clean your garbage disposal – You can’t really scrub your disposal for at least several good reasons. Fortunately, lemons and vinegar will do it for you. Take an ice cube tray and put a wedge of lemon in each cube. Then, fill each cube up with undiluted vinegar, and freeze them. When they’re good and frozen, pour 1/2 cup of bakin soda into the offending garbage disposal, add 3-5 lemon cubes and run the disposal until they’ve stopped rattling. This will do a great job of deodorizing your garbage disposal.
Unclog your drains – 1/2 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, poured directly into the clogged drain (you can use a funnel) will help unclog drains. Once the commotion and bubbling stops, run hot water from the tap. Wait about 10 minutes, and then run cold water. This is also a great way to deodorize your drains (particularly if they’ve been clogged for a while).
Fight that grease! – Getting rid of grease from your hard surfaces doesn’t require harsh cleaners. Simply wet a cloth with an equal mix of water and vinegar and wipe down the greasy surfaces. It may take some muscle, but it will work. It’s also a great idea to mix up a spray bottle of 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 cups water, and 3 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid. Use this daily on surfaces to keep them clean and repel grease.
Clean your nasty microwave – If microwaved food explosions have you in the pits, place a bowl with 1/4 cup vinegar and 1 cup water into the microwave, and then turn it on for 5 minutes (on high). The steam it creates should loosen any food or stains and they should easily wipe away with a damp towel or sponge.
Disinfect all the things – Undiluted vinegar is a very potent antimicrobial. If you read my post on interesting ways to save money, you know that we use vinegar as a cleaning solution every day! Wipe down surfaces you cut raw meat on, especially counters and cutting boards, with undiluted vinegar. Creating a spray bottle full of undiluted vinegar for optimal disinfecting is another way to help kill nasties like staph, e.coli, and salmonella. A solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar is also very good for disinfecting kids’ cups or sippies that can harbor mold growth. Just let them soak and wipe them down.
Make metal magnificent – Silver soaked for a few hours in 1/2 cup white vinegar with a tablespoon of baking soda will regain it’s luster. Be sure to wash it off in cold water and dry with a soft washcloth. A paste of vinegar and baking soda (equal parts) can be applied to copper and brass to remove tarnish. Again, this might take some elbow grease but it’s very effective.
Sanitize water bottles – If you use BPA-free, reusable water bottles day-to-day, you really need to keep them sanitary. Every few days, fill it 75% full with equal parts vinegar and warm, soapy water. Shake it up well to get into all the crevices and then let it sit for half an hour. Rinse it thoroughly with warm water and let it air dry.
Clean kitchen shears – Don’t use water to clean your scissors or kitchen shears – it will rust them. A better idea is to use undiluted vinegar and wipe down the blades and then wipe them dry. This will also disinfect them. You can use this for regular scissors as well, as rusting is not good for them, either.
Ungunk your can openers – Can opener blades are disgusting, let’s just admit to that. You can make them reasonably not-disgusting again by using a toothbrush and undiluted vinegar to scrub in all the nooks and crannies. You may need to scrub a lot, but a douse in cold water should remove all that gunk afterwards.
Get rid of gnats (fruit flies) – Whatever you call them, those tiny little bugs are the bane of kitchens everywhere (especially if your husband forgets to leave a dry piece of cardboard over the top of your DIY worm farm…) Make a vinegar trap to catch and eliminate those little buggers! Take a jar with a lid, poke some holes in it, and fill it about halfway with apple cider vinegar, and place it where they’re the worst. If your kids eat yogurt a lot, you can also re-use those cups before they hit recycling – pour about a 1/4 inch of ACV into a coffee mug, poke two or three holes into the bottom of a cleaned yogurt cup, and then put the cup into the mug. It should do a fantastic job of getting rid of them, no matter what you call them.
Clear the air – If you burn food or simply cook something smelly, you can boil 1/2 cup vinegar with 1 cup water until it’s evaporated (or very nearly). It will get that smell right out of the air and remove all traces of that sardine-and-cabbage casserole your husband burned yesterday.
Clear away mineral deposits in a teakettle or coffee pot – Boil 2 cups of undiluted vinegar in your tea kettle or in a pan to then pour into your coffee pot. Let it sit for a minimum of 4 hours but overnight works well, too. Rinse it out the next day and it should be sparkling clean.
Naturally non-stick – Boil a cup of water until it evaporates in a frying pan to give it a natural non-stick coating that lasts on average about a month.
Homemade cottage cheese – Bring 1 gallon of whole milk to a near-boil (around 190 degrees Fahrenheit), then pour in 1/2 cup of vinegar. Once the mixture is cool, it will be separated into curds and whey. Pour it through a strainer and add the curds to a bowl, mixing in salt and whatever other spices you want. A smidge of cream here makes it smoother, but it’s not necessary, and it’s read to eat!
Clean Your Car with Vinegar!
Prevent frost in the winter – At night, spray your windows down with a solution of 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water. This will help prevent frost from forming and it will help reduce the impact of ice buildup. It’s not going to stop snow from building up, but at least you won’t likely have a hard layer of ice to deal with after clearing snow away.
Windshield wipers – Dirty wipers will streak your windows and that’s pretty much the exact opposite of their intended use. A cloth soaked in undiluted vinegar, wiped up and down the blades a few times will get rid of the grimy buildup and get your wipers back to fully functioning fabulousness.
Remove old bumper stickers – If you’ve got the ghost of an old bumper sticker sticking around, undiluted vinegar applied directly on top and to the sides will help get it off. Use a thin piece of plastic like an ice scraper to remove the paper parts, and then reapply the vinegar to get the sticky icky glue-bits off, too.
De-grime wheel wells – If you’re prone to muddy driving, chances are good your wheel wells are less than sparkling. That’s okay, because a solution of 1:1 vinegar to water will help clean them off and also aid in repelling dirt!
Laundry Room + Vinegar
Deodorize that washer – So it’s not doubt that washers can get stinky. You could use bleach but vinegar is far safer and not likely to ruin clothes if it doesn’t get washed out completely. Run an empty small, hot wash cycle and add 1 cup of undiluted vinegar. If you can, add a second rinse cycle to make sure it’s all gone.
Pre-treater for stains – Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, and 1/3 cup borax in a spray bottle, directly apply to stains, and then let it sit for at least an hour before throwing in the washer.
Deep-cleaning towels – Mildew buildup can still leave towels smelling awful, even after being washed. To remedy this, toss your towels by themselves into the wash. Turn the water on hot, and use 1 cup undiluted vinegar and 1/2 cup baking soda to wash them 1 full cycle. This will banish your mildew and get them smelling like things you’d want on your body again.
Destinky stinky shoes – Spray the insides of the offending footwear with 1:1 vinegar to water solution and let it sit overnight. Then, add a few drops of an essential oil of your choice to a cotton ball and put it in the shoes and let THAT sit overnight. The vinegar solution should kill odor-causing bacteria and the cotton ball should give your shoes a much more pleasant scent.
Miscellaneous Uses for Vinegar
Remove dry skin from your feet – This one is weird and I know it’s going to sound weird, but bear with us. 1 cup of Listerine and 1 cup vinegar with 2 cups of warm water makes a foot soak you’ll soak in for about 15 minutes. Then, apply a pumice stone or foot file and the dry, dead, gross skin should come right off.
Non-toxic weed killer – Fill a spray bottle with undiluted vinegar and then add 1-2 teaspoons of dish soap, and apply to weeds and the ground around them. The acetic acid in the vinegar will burn the weeds and alter the pH of the soil, killing the root, too. This solution is non-toxic, but it will murder any plant it touches, so be careful what you spray it on. Dish soap helps it stick to the plant, and the pH imbalance will wash out after a good rain, making the ground suitable for planting again.
Disinfect your mops – If you have mops with removable heads, you can use vinegar to disinfect and deodorize them. Simply toss them in your washer, add a cup of vinegar and wash on “hot”. They’ll be whiter, brighter, and actually CLEAN.
Everyday scented spray cleaner – Take an empty spray bottle and fill it with 2 parts water to 1 part vinegar, 1 tablespoon of dish detergent, and the peels of lemons, oranges, or other assorted citrus. Let that soak for a few days before using and you’ll have a great, all-purpose cleaner that smells divine.
Stretchmarks are one of the most unpleasant side effects from a pregnancy, or any type of rapid weight gain. And they are very hard to eliminate, if not impossible. Stretchmarks are even tougher than cellulite! But still there is hope! And before you jump into buying the next expensive hyped cosmetic product, try my natural toxin-free suggestions. They might put all the commercial creams in their pockets with regards to effectiveness and price!
But first let’s talk a little bit about the benefits of making your own cosmetic formulas:
Homemade cosmetics do not contain artificial chemicals, which are proven to damage our health. Substances like parabens, petroleum derivatives, synthetic aromas and preservatives, are proven to cause allergies, eczema, dermatitis, and some even claim they can cause some types of cancer! So, having full control over the ingredients is a big plus.
We help the planet as well. Pollution coming from the above mentioned chemicals is a huge problem right now. By choosing natural cosmetics, we decrease the detrimental effects of the commercial products. And also, we weaken the power of companies that use animal testing for their goods.
DIY cosmetics are totally adjustable. You can devise your own formulas and use the oils and butters you like best. We are all different and our skin’s needs may vary. So, at the end of the day, you can change the recipes and experiment to find which ingredients fit best for you.
Last, but not least – making your own beauty products is a wonderful hobby, which can occupy your free time and give you some positive emotions. After all, dealing with natural aromatic substances is a very pleasant and therapeutic activity!
But let’s get to the recipes!
Here are my favorite natural stretchmark creams and ointments suitable for anyone who wants to improve their skin elasticity and texture —
(Please note this post contains affiliate links, which means I may make a small commission should you make a purchase. This comes at no additional cost to you and in no way impacts my recommendation of any products or services.)
A few drops Essential oil of choice (except the citrus ones)
Place the apricot oil, the calendula and the ginger powder in a double boiler. Heat the mixture on low temperature and stir for about 30 minutes. Do not let the water boil and burn the oil. Strain the infusion.
Place the infused oil back in the double boiler and add the coconut butter and the shea butter.
Melt the oils and blend them completely. Take the mixture off the heat and let it cool off a little. Add the essential oils and stir well.
Pour the lotion in a glass jar with a lid.
It is best to start applying this lotion during pregnancy before the stretchmarks appear. Remember to choose a suitable essential oil which is safe to use during pregnancy. Consult with your doctor beforehand!
The cream is also applicable for people who quickly build muscles (bodybuilders) and those who gain weight rapidly.
Melt the cocoa and the shea butter in a double boiler. Add the sesame and the tamanu oil and stir well.
Take the oil blend off the heat and leave it to lower its temperature for a couple of minutes. Next, simply mix all the ingredients well and blend them completely.
Apply on the problem areas daily. If you are currently pregnant, massage your thighs, belly, lower back, and upper arms to prevent form stretchmarks formation.
Store the oil in a glass bottle in a dark and cool place.
1/2 cup Cocoa butter
1 Tbsp. Wheat germ oil
1 Tbsp. Apricot kernel oil
1 Tbsp. Vitamin E oil
2 Tbsps. Grated beeswax or beeswax pastilles
Mix the ingredients in a double boiler until well melted.
Pour the mixture in a container and store in the refrigerator.
Apply the cream every day after bath/shower and let it stay for 20 min before you put your clothes on (so the cream won’t be absorbed in the fabric).
You can use the cream until full recovery of the skin.
Apply these natural remedies daily during the pregnancy (or during the period of muscle/weight gain) to prevent from stretchmarks. If you already have them, do not despair – keep massaging the skin with these ointments and combine them with regular dry brushing and skin exfoliation. In time, the scar tissue will fade away and the marks won’t be so visible or they might completely vanish!
If you liked these recipes, like and share this article or leave a comment below and tell me about your favorite natural skin remedy!
Growing a garden on a budget seems a bit “duh”, doesn’t it? Isn’t gardening an automatic money-saver, grow your own produce and all that? Well, not always…
When I quit my job to focus solely on Thrifty Guardian, our already-tight budgets were tightened a bit more to ensure we could maintain our savings and allow for a cushion should the momentum on my site slow.
One thing I cut (much to my husband’s dismay) was our previously robust gardening budget from previous years. Normally our gardening budget allotted for more than just vegetables and included landscaping – that we of course did ourselves but nevertheless could get pricey as we worked to turn our backyard into a sanctuary.
Gardening on a Budget
As I considered the cost of our garden versus what we’d end up spending at the Farmer’s Market for produce, I realized we still needed to allot something for the garden lest we go over-budget on food. We do almost all of our home shopping at Lowe’s and while I do love their prices (especially if you have their credit card and get 5% back!), we still had to find a way to cut back a bit.
So what are your options? Can you have a beautiful, bountiful yard on a budget?
Well, of course!
Gardens on a shoestring budget are how our grandparents and great-grandparents survived the Great Depression, and there are certainly some modern and some not-so-modern ways to get back to truly enjoying a gardening hobby without spending an absurd amount of money.
You might find the ingenuity needed to cheaply garden can be as rewarding as biting into a juicy tomato or the crisp green beans you grew yourself.
Getting Started – Garden Beds, Containers, and Soil
Raised beds made from store-bought lumber look beautiful and they’re quite useful (especially if you have a male dog who likes to “mark his territory”…), but fresh lumber is expensive.
There are a few other options that are readily available in most places that won’t cost you an arm and a leg:
Palettes – chances are good you know someone who is always making insanely cool stuff from palettes. Well, that’s because once you’re comfortable with it, they’re a cheap source of lumber that has a rustic appeal to it. Check out your local Facebook re-sale groups or Craigslist and you’re sure to find some at a low cost. Picking apart some decently fresh palettes and reassembling them into garden boxes of various sizes is a great way to cut out the price of raw materials, and it also allows you to be one of those people. Ya know… those people; Pinterest palette people.
Cinder blocks – these guys. LOVE them. They’re everywhere, and even brand new, they’re only about a dollar at Lowe’s. They’re great for many reasons, but here’s two: you can use them as the border of a raised bed, then use pond liner or tarp as a liner for the inside, creating a pretty easily constructed garden bed. OR you can use them as individual double-planters. We did this last year; I used some painter’s tape and spray paint to stencil on a cute little design. They’re great for planting in your front yard and can add a nice POP of color!
Containers for individual plants – those great little greenhouses with the individual cells are nice but of course cost money we don’t want to spend. A great way to start plants is in cardboard egg containers, just make sure you poke a hole in each bottom for drainage. Once you’ve got your young seedlings, you can widen the hole and then plant the entire carton in the ground. Cat litter containers are also great for individual plants that like space, like tomatoes, and are easy to move around as needed. Upcycle!
Get dirty with me – Soil is often easy to get ahold of if you look on Craigslist or Facebook resale groups. People are always moving tons of dirt when building, and will often welcome someone willing to come by and take it off their hands. While I don’t recommend using this soil when starting your seeds, it can be great to fill in beds, flesh out your lawn when re-seeding, or used to help landscape.
Frugal Seeds and Starts
Again, since quality seed packs can sometimes be expensive, finding other ways to get seeds and starts is essential.
A few options are:
Joining a seed bank or trading group. Again, Craigslist or Facebook are great for this!
Better yet – talk to your neighbors! We have all sorts of plants, particularly hostas, that we gladly divide up and share with friends or neighbors. Let your friends and neighbors know you’re looking to flesh out your garden and they might have some plants they’d gladly give you starts of.
Use discarded food scraps. We got all of our tomato plants this year from a mushy tomato in the fridge. I literally tossed it into a pot of soil and about three weeks later we had a dozen healthy tomato starts to separate and transplant. Any fruit or veggie with seeds would work (in theory).
Some plants, like green onions, will grow back quickly if you just put the remaining roots in water after you’ve cut the green off.
Fresh basil (and other herbs for that matter) will often root easily when the bottoms are cut diagonally and placed in water. We have a few herbs outside this year that are remnants from store-bought herbs we had this winter, that we put in water, grew roots, and then transplanted.
Potatoes are great because they do the work for you. The “eyes” they grow are basically starts. Chop them into cubes and plant them (as long as they have eyes). You’ll have more stalks than you know what to do with.
Though a much more extensive topic than can be covered here, harvesting, drying, and storing seeds from your produce is a great way to ensure you have seeds for the next year, particularly if you’re growing heirloom varieties in their original forms.
Tend Your Garden
Once you’ve gotten your containers and your seeds, it’s simply a matter of the day-to-day tending of your garden. Soon you’ll have bountiful crop of cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and all sorts of delicious goodies, allowing you to trade or sell your the excess of your bounty.
The simple act of gardening is a great way to get exercise (just make sure you wear some sunscreen!) and it provides a great return on a minimal investment, while allowing you to recycle things you were probably going to throw out anyway.
And if you’re looking to add in some decor, sign up for programs like SnagShout and there’s a good chance you can find a bunch of cheap (if not FREE) garden decor – it’s where we got all of ours from and we didn’t pay a cent! All it took was a few minutes of reviewing the product, which is something we often do anyway.
Add in a good compost heap (or create your own DIY warm farm!) for your food waste and you’ll reduce your spending, your carbon footprint, and your waistline – all of which of very thrifty ways to live!
My personal favorite thing about gardening is the time spent watering. Sometimes I let my son help, but often I’ll sneak out in the evenings, using the time to reflect on the day and enjoy a few moments of peace and sunshine to myself.