25 Stocking Stuffers You Can Get from the Dollar Store

Dollar store stocking stuffers

The dollar store is a great place to get many practical, quirky and fun things. Household goods, decorations, gifts, you name it , you can probably find it at a dollar store!  Because there is so much to find at dollar stores, it only makes sense that you can find some pretty great stocking stuffer ideas!  Best of all, most things cost only $1.00!

Here are 25 Dollar Store Stocking Stuffer Ideas:

  1. Hand Sanitizer
  2. Travel Size Tissue
  3. Chewing Gum
  4. Mini Notebook
  5. Holiday Pencils
  6. Holiday Erasers
  7. Travel Size Lotion
  8. Coloring Books
  9. Candy Bars
  10. Lip balm
  11. Socks
  12. Hair accessories
  13. Nail Polish
  14. Nail Files
  15. Miniature Toy Cars
  16. Playing Cards
  17. Mini Washi Tape Rolls
  18. Crayons
  19. Chalk
  20. Bubbles
  21. Stickers
  22. Key Chains
  23. Snack Size Chips, Crackers, Cookies
  24. Assorted Kid’s Craft Supplies
  25. Night Lights

What are some other dollar store stocking stuffer ideas?  Share them in the comments!

7 Inexpensive Gift Basket Ideas

7 Inexpensive Gift Basket Ideas

Giving gift baskets is a fun way to include a little variety in your gift giving. And, if you coupon, you probably have a lot of extra things that you got for free or very cheap that you can place in these baskets as well. Even if you don’t, doing a themed gift basket can make it easy for you to gift things this holiday season. It’s possible to create a gift basket that is so personalized, the receiver will love it! If you are stumped on what to put together, that also won’t cost you an arm and a leg, here are 7 Inexpensive Gift Basket ideas to get you started.

7 Inexpensive Gift Basket Ideas

Movie Night – Give the gift of a movie night!  This basket simply requires microwave popcorn, some dollar store candy, a $5 movie from the cheap bin at Walmart and maybe some cozy socks. All of this can be purchase for less than $10! If you’re making this one for a teen or pre-teen, maybe add in a gift card for a movie ticket to the local theater.

Manicure basket – Some simple nail polish, a patterned file (can often be bought at Bath & Body Works for cheap!), a small bottle (such as travel size) of lotion or cream and some nice nail decals. This one is perfect for teens and tweens and can cost less than $10. You can also throw in a gift card to a beauty supply shop if desired.

Baker’s Delight – Do you know someone who loves to bake? Buy them some fun patterned cupcake liners, paper straws, cupcake toppers, a new oven mitt and a small spatula and you have a great gift. You could even skip the basket and just place everything in the mitt and tie off with a ribbon. This gift costs less than $15 to throw together.

Homemade Hot Cocoa – Hot cocoa can be made with just a few simple ingredients and packaged nicely in a mason jar. Add in a bag of marshmallows and some dollar store mugs for a finishing touch. This basket costs less than $10 to make and in many cases, less than $5.

Sporty Basket – If you have a sports fan on your gift list, try this one! Place some snacks like sunflower seeds, jerky or popcorn in a basket. Add a small trinket of their favorite sport team such as a key chain, bottle opener or lanyard and finish it off with a set of tickets to watch a minor league team in your area. This basket costs less than $20 to put together.

Pasta Heaven – Got a carb addict in your life? Place some fancy pasta (this can often be bought at a discount at outlet stores or a store like Winners), pasta sauce (homemade or bought), shelf stable Parmesan cheese, and a pasta server into the basket for a great fast dinner. This basket costs less than $15 to make in most cases.

Bookworm Gift Basket – Everyone knows someone who loves to read. This gift basket will delight them! Get a $5 Amazon Gift card (to buy a book or an e-book), a cheap fleece throw blanket, a coffee mug, some tea and a low cost clip-on reading light. This basket costs less than $20 to make.

I hope there were some ideas there to help inspire your gift basket building endeavors!  Do you have any other themed gift basket ideas that you could share in the comments?

8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas: Create Your Holiday Budget

8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas
Are you excited to work your way to a more organized Christmas?  Today marks the first day and task in the 8 Weeks to a More Organized Christmas series that I hope will be super helpful!

Before we get started, I have a whole bunch of printables and checklists for you to print out to help you along:

Alright, on to the first task, an important one. :) This week, if you haven’t already, sit down with a hot cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate… and create your holiday budget.  This is what you think your holiday season will cost and will allow you to put limits on your holiday spending to keep you from shopping regrets if a credit card bill comes your way!

Here is an extensive list of things you should keep in mind when you create your holiday budget:

Gifts:

  • spouse
  • kids
  • parents
  • siblings
  • nieces/nephews
  • grandparents
  • neighbors
  • coworkers
  • friends
  • secret Santa gift exchanges

Activities/Events/Parties:

  • tickets
  • dining out
  • clothing

Food (not including regular groceries):

  • baking ingredients
  • dessert ingredients
  • Christmas eve
  • Christmas dinner/brunch
  • Boxing day
  • parties

Cards:

  • stamps
  • cards/envelopes
  • stationary for family newsletter
  • photos

Clothing:

  • outfits for photos
  • parties
  • Christmas day outfit

Decorations:

  • tree
  • lights
  • ornaments/candles/wreath/etc.
  • craft supplies

Giving:

  • charities
  • volunteering

Now, those suggestions were just a guideline.  Every family is different and has different needs.  My intent is to bring to mind every possible thing that could incur an expense during the holiday season.  I’m sure many of you won’t even see half of these things on your list.   Also, in my mind, a more organized, more stress-free Christmas means not only less stuff, but a simpler season.

As for my family, we only buy gifts for immediate family and a couple of close friends.  My husband and I only exchange stockings. I make some homemade gifts as well as collect credits throughout the year so I can do some online shopping for “free”.  We most likely won’t be putting up a tree this year since we spend Christmas day away from home and I’m afraid of what Sienna will do to it. I stopped buying Christmas decorations a few years ago and will make do with what we have.   The only outfit we’ll buy is for Sienna since she’s constantly growing.  We won’t be hosting any parties, but I like to bring some baking along to parties we’re invited to.  I intend on handing out Christmas cards to a few friends and the grandparents.  (You can find great deals on Christmas cards every year from various places!)

Enough about us.  :)

If after writing down your expenses, you’re scared of the number you see, you have two options:  Decrease your expenses or increase your income.

Decrease your expenses

To make a happy holiday season, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money.  In fact, I’m daring to say, that being extravagant in your spending can be overwhelming not only for you, but the recipient as well.  As a child, one set of grandparents used to be quite extreme in their gift giving.  It was SO exciting, but I remember being quite overwhelmed with all the gifts once Christmas was over.

Gift giving is probably the easiest expense to cut back on.  If you have a large extended family, consider drawing names so each member is only responsible for one gift.  Or do what our family does and only give gifts to the children.  My parents have also started to set a $20 limit on each other in recent years.  Jesse and I exchange stockings.

Setting a price limit on each gift will allow you to shop within that budget.  If your limit on sister Sue is $30, then that $50 purse is off limits.

It’s possible to decrease your food budget too by shopping the sales and limiting the baking and Christmas dishes you prepare.

When it comes to decorations, why not create some memories by making some homemade decorations?  (I’ll be featuring some ideas in a few weeks)  Or read my Fond, Frugal Christmas Memory post for a fun Christmas tree idea.

Increase your Income

If decreasing your holiday expenses is not an option, then consider increasing your income.  Many retailers hire for the holiday season (and may offer and employee discount!).

A couple of other ideas are to:

  • sell extra baking to those that may not have much time to create their own.
  • sell unwanted household items for cash (make room for new stuff too!)

What are your tips for staying on budget at Christmas time?

30 Things You Should Stop Buying and Start Making

If you’re wanting to save some big bucks, it’s time to start thinking about making your own pantry staples and household essentials.  Not only does creating your own stuff keep more money in your wallet, often times it’s better for your health!  I mean how many times are you stuck reading a label in the store wondering what half of the ingredients are?  By making your own essentials, you’re ensuring that you know each and every ingredient involved.

Creating your own products from scratch is simple.  But to make it even easier for you, I’ve rounded up a list of 30 things you should stop buying and start making:

stop buying start making

  1. Homemade Flavoured Coffee Cream | SimplyFrugal.ca
  2. Homemade Peanut Butter | MrsJanuary.com
  3. Homemade Yogurt | Baking Beauties
  4. Homemade Mayonnaise (video) | Simple Bites
  5. Homemade Bisquick | SimplyFrugal.ca
  6. Homemade Ketchup | Cupcakes and Kale Chips
  7. Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packs | SimplyFrugal.ca
  8. Homemade Butter | Unsophisticook.com
  9. Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup | Buns in my Oven
  10. Homemade BBQ Sauce | Simply Scratch
  11. Homemade Bread Crumbs | Make and Takes
  12. Homemade Taco Seasoning | SimplyFrugal.ca
  13. Homemade Ranch Dressing | SimplyFrugal.ca
  14. Homemade Cream Cheese | She Simmers
  15. Homemade Bouillon Cubes | A Return to Simplicity
  16. Homemade Alfredo Sauce | Food.com
  17. Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk | Cooking with Books
  18. Homemade Brown Sugar | Nourishing Joy
  19. Homemade Sour Cream | Oh Lardy
  20. Homemade Powdered Sugar | Mom with a Prep
  21. Homemade Vanilla Extract | SimplyFrugal.ca
  22. Homemade Pizza Dough | SimplyFrugal.ca
  23. Homemade Baking Powder | Mommypotamus
  24. Homemade Refried Beans | Simply Scratch
  25. Homemade Tomato Sauce | Food 52
  26. Homemade Apple Sauce | Beard and Bonnet
  27. Homemade Pop Tarts | Smitten Kitchen
  28. Homemade Worcestershire Sauce | Little House Living
  29. Homemade Laundry Detergent | DIY Natural
  30. Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner | SimplyFrugal.ca

How many of these have you tried?  Do you have any other recipes you can share?

If you’re wanting more ideas for things to make from scratch, you might want to try this book, The Homemade Pantry.  It features 101 recipes that you can try!

homemade pantry

How to Meal Prep for a Week

How to meal prep for a week

Preparing meals ahead of time can be a big time and money saver. You’re doing all of your cooking on one day, and will be saving money because you’re only buying the ingredients you know you need.

Cooking all your breakfasts, lunches and dinners for a week, in one day, may seem daunting, but with these tips you’ll be able to meal prep for a week and not have to wonder, “What’s for dinner?” anymore!

Find your recipes. Before even starting the process, you should print out the recipes you will be using for the week. This means printing or writing down recipes for all meals for 7 days. If you will be making snacks, like homemade granola bars or protein bars, print those recipes as well. Now you have a master list of all the ingredients you will need.

Divide up your grocery store list. Go through each recipe and categorize each item. Your grocery list should have sections broken down into protein, carbs, vegetables, fruits, spices, and other. Doing this will make it much easier (and quicker) to find the things you need when you’re at the grocery store.

Buy the right containers. If this is something you will be doing on a regular basis, you want to make sure you have durable containers that are made to last. Don’t skimp out on this.

Cut your vegetables and fruits. Once you’re back from the grocery store, start by chopping up your vegetables and fruits. Organize them by whether you’re using them as a snack or will be using them as ingredients in a meal.

Use the oven. The oven is great for baking meats, potatoes, vegetables and more. Make a list of every item that needs to go in the oven and put it all in. If your oven is going to be on, you might as well cook everything at once!

Use your slow cooker. Many people who meal prep like to make freezer meals. This can be preparing something, like meatballs, and freezing them to cook at a later date, or preparing an entire meal which will then be thawed and cooked. If you have a slow cooker, doing this is especially easy. Take a look at my post 9 Slow Cooker Freezer Meals or you could Google slow cooker freezer meals to find recipes. Even if you don’t want to freeze your meals, you can still prepare all of the ingredients you’ll need and use your slow cooker to cook the meal. It will save you time all week!

Use different seasonings. One can only eat so much plain chicken. When you go grocery shopping, make sure to pick up different seasonings for each meal. Get creative with how you season or marinate your protein options.

Make one huge dish. If you don’t want to prepare 5 different dinner options, you can make enough of one recipe that will last you a few days. Find one you really like and cook it in bulk. If you have meals or items that will last longer than 3 days, put the leftovers in the freezer and cook it when you’re ready.

Make grab and go meals. The last step is to just divide everything up into your containers. Take each meal and put it in a container so it is ready to go for each day of the week.

Meal prep can be a great way to save time throughout the week. Although it may take a full day on the weekend, once you know what meals you’re making and what ingredients you’ll need, you’ll become more efficient at it. No more worrying about what’s for lunch or dinner!

Do you do any sort of meal prep at your home?  What does your current system look like?

5 Meals to Keep in Your Pantry and Freezer

5-Meals-To-Keep-In-Your-Pantry-And-Freezer

This is a great list of ideas!  Check out these 5 meals to Keep in your Pantry and Freezer to help save you time and money on rushed nights.

What are some simple meal ideas you would add to the list?

How to Save Money on Gas

how to save money on gas

This is a post from simply Frugal reader Stephanie with some great, practical tips that I hope you’ll enjoy! 

After my spouse lost his job, we started looking for ways to save money wherever possible. We live in the Greater Vancouver area where gas prices are always quite high (currently they are in the range of $138.9 to $145.9 cents/litre). I commute 70km per day and our weekly gas fill-up usually costs between $50-55. I need my car for my job so driving to work is a non-negotiable, plus taking public transit to my office is actually more expensive than driving.

Many people I know live close enough to the U.S. border (and have Nexus) so they typically drive into Washington to fill up, but this doesn’t work for our lifestyle. So, here are my favourite tips on how to save money on gas (while staying in Canada):

1. NEVER fill up your tank during your morning commute- gas usually costs an extra $0.05/L during this time. Always wait to fill it up in the evening, either on your way home from work or later at night. I’ve had good luck on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings with finding the lowest gas prices. GasBuddy is usually quite accurate in reflecting the correct prices at the stations near me. If it’s a fill-up day, I always check GasBuddy before leaving work. This practice saves us anywhere between $1.25-$1.75 per fill-up, which may not sound like much on a weekly basis, but in the long-term it adds up to $65-90 per year.

2. GasBuddy can also calculate the most fuel-efficient route for your commute, based on the make/model/year of your car. Plug in a few options for your daily commute and calculate the true cost of the drive (factoring in tolls, the likeliness of idling/being stuck in traffic, and the “life value” of the time you save by taking the most efficient route home- this is way more important than saving a few cents on gas!)

3. Certain loyalty rewards points can be exchanged for gift cards for gas stations. In the past I have used Aeroplan miles and RBC Rewards points to purchase Esso gift cards, and there are lots of other options out there- check to see what you can redeem for with your rewards points (Esso seems to be the major gas retailer participating in these types of programs). Make sure you know what your rewards program gets you- certain credit cards give you double or triple points at gas stations. In addition to your credit card points, the gas station’s own loyalty rewards points (Esso Extra, Petro-Points, etc.) can also be redeemed for gift cards or for fuel savings rewards.

4. Keep an eye out for gas promotions. For example, Kellogg’s is currently running their “Cash for Gas” promo on selected products when you send in proof of purchase from either 2 cereal boxes or 4 snack products. We are big cereal eaters in our household, so this is a good deal for us as we would be buying these products anyways. For extra savings, try and match up with the deals you see on Simply Frugal (ex. Nutri-Grain bars for $1.88 at Walmart).

And of course, always practice safe driving techniques- don’t speed, keep your tires inflated to the correct pressure, gear up, and don’t carry unnecessary weight (roof racks, cargo, etc.). Not only do these promote safe driving, they also maximize your car’s fuel efficiency.

Hopefully you find some of these tips helpful!

Thanks so much Stephanie!  Loved your tips!

Do you have a money saving tip that you think will benefit others?  Send me an email with your tips, here!

Share YOUR Stories and Frugal Tips

In an effort to increase the inspiration levels around Simply Frugal, I’m reaching out to you!

First of all, I’m looking for your stories about your frugal journey.   Have you recently paid cash for something you never thought you could?  Has your family survived a layoff?  How are you making things work financially?  I’d love to post your real-life stories to inspire and encourage others who may be having a hard go of things or simply need a kick in the pants to get back on track!  (or,  for those that like a good story!)

Secondly, I’m looking for your frugal tips and ideas that I’d love to share on Simply Frugal.  Do you know how to buy and sell a great used car?  Are you a gardening guru? How are you saving on gas costs?  How do you save an extra $100 a month? How do you successfully stay within your budget?  Perhaps you have a great frugal recipe or a kitchen hack that will save time and money?  What’s your favourite way to save your hard earned cash?

Those are just some ideas to get your ideas rolling.  I think it would be so great to hear and learn from those of you in the Simply Frugal community.  We can all make Simply Frugal an even better place!

Are you interested in sharing?  Submit your stories and ideas to me here. (make sure to put “reader submission” in the subject line)

Thank you!  I’m looking forward to being inspired!

PS:  Did you know you can see a full list of all the articles I’ve written for Simply Frugal as well as all the articles others have written for Simply Frugal right here? :)

 

Slow Cooker Freezer Cooking: 9 Meals in About an Hour

With summer wrapping up and the back to school rush beginning, there’s no better time to get the dinner time chaos under control. Give this Slow Cooker Freezer cooking plan a try and have 9 meals ready and waiting!
Slow Cooker Freezer Cooking: 9 Meals in About an Hour!

I really wanted to try to get dinner time more under control and I know for me, having prepared meals (homemade and store bought) in the freezer really help me out.  While store bought foods, (think frozen pizza, perogies…etc.) are okay with me once in a while, I love to have homemade meals on the table most nights.

I’ve been seeing freezer cooking posts all over Pinterest lately and knew I had to jump on that band wagon.  Freezer cooking is a great solution to my problem and I haven’t intentionally stocked my freezer with meals since before my daughter was born.

Another one of my favourite things is using the slow cooker.  I love the ease of just throwing things into the slow cooker, turning it on, then coming back at dinner time to dish up!  Sure makes that 5pm toddler crazy time more bearable. :)

So, with those two things in mind, I created a plan for 9 slow cooker freezer meals that I’d love to share with you all!

The plan consists of some of our tried and true favourite family meals.  Here are the meals you will be making if you so wish to join in:

  • Peanut Chicken
  • Beef Roast and Carrots
  • Chicken Tortilla soup
  • Honey Garlic Chicken
  • Meatballs
  • Chicken Vegetable Curry
  • Beef Stew
  • Baked Beans
  • Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

I hope you’ll enjoy them just as much as we do!  (It’s actually 10 meals because the size I roll meatballs makes that recipe enough for two meals)

Click here to download the grocery list, recipes and labels.

All told, everything cost me under $100.  The cost could be much less since I didn’t purchase any of the meat on sale.  I also purchased everything from the Real Canadian Superstore for the sake of time. I think you’ll have many of the ingredients on hand already which also makes the costs go down.

Since nothing in this freezer cooking plan has to be cooked beforehand, I think the best use of your time would be to chop the veggies and meat first. Then for any recipe that requires a sauce, mix those up.  Finally, throw all the veggies and meat into a freezer bag and pour the sauces over top!  Simple as that!

As for the labels included in the plan, simply cut them out, then place them on the freezer bags and use clear packing tape to cover.

Click here to download the grocery list, recipes and labels.

So what do you think?  Will you be trying this out?  What are your favourite freezer meals?

Slow Cooker Freezer Cooking: 9 Meals in about an Hour!

How to Get Tons of Free Books

How to get tons of free books

I love to read when I get the chance, but I don’t love the price tag that goes along with reading.  Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get books or digital books for Free!

Here is how to get tons of free books if you’re on a budget:

Where to Find Free Paperback Books:

The Library: The library is the first place I check if there’s a particular book I want to read.  The only downfall is that there’s usually a waiting list because the books I want to read are usually newer books.  There’s been only a couple of occasions when I’m not able to find the book I want.

Friends: Often times friends of mine already own books that I want to read so I tend to ask around first before I buy.  Of course, I return the favour if I own a book someone want to read.

Swagbucks: While this is not an instant gratification method to getting free books because it takes time to earn Swag Bucks, it’s still worth a mention!  I like to collect Swag Bucks and then redeem them for Amazon gift cards (and Starbucks cards…)  There are plenty of ways to earn Swag Bucks.  Searching the web, shopping online, daily polls, surveys, watching videos and more!  Check out this post for 6 Ways to Earn More Swagbucks.

Where to Find Free eBooks:

Noisetrade: Noisetrade features a great selection of ebooks (and audiobooks) for free.  I’ve gotten quite a few interesting reads from Noisetrade!

eReaderGirl: Check daily for free ebooks, including PDF’s, NOOK, and Kindle versions.

BookBub: BookBub is fairly new to me.  My mom sent me a link to check it out and I signed up!  BookBub alerts you to limited-time free and discounted ebooks matching your interests.

Amazon: Do a search for Free ebooks by either typing in “0.00” or “free kindle ebooks”.

Story Cartel: This one is neat and practically anyone can use Story Cartel! All books on Story Cartel are completely free, but in return you support authors by leaving your honest review, whether good or bad, of the book you downloaded.

Blog email newsletters: Follow your favourite blogs and sign up for their email newsletter if they offer any ebooks they’ve written for free!  This is a great way to support those bloggers you love!

Openlibrary.org: has over 1 million ebook titles available for you to read!

Project Gutenberg: Project Gutenberg offers over 45,000 free ebooks: choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online.

Kobo eBookstore: Visit the Kobo store for a list of Free ebooks

While I’m still a fan of paperback books, my love for eBooks has been growing.  I purchased a Kindle ereader last year and I’ve been loving it ever since.  It’s not easy to carry around hundreds of books at the same time otherwise! ;) Amazon also has a free app that will allow you to read Kindle books on your computer, smartphone or tablet. In case your ebook collection has been growing too, here’s how I organized the PDF’s on my computer.

I’d love to hear all your ideas on how you find free books and ebooks in the comments!