Shoestring Wedding - You can afford your cake and eat it too!

Wedding magazines and books are full of pictures of wedding cakes. I actually love to look at them. I love what they are doing with the frosting now and the real flowers and the different shapes and vibrant colors. But have you seen how much a wedding cake costs?!!! You could pay for your honeymoon for the price of the cake. Maybe that's a small exaggeration, but it's not too far off. My wonderfully frugal daughter came up with a very cent saving idea for her wedding cake.
She often frequents a small independently owned bakery in the downtown area of our community. They have started to branch out into selling special occasion cakes. Since they are just starting out, their prices are very reasonable so our soon-to-be-bride ordered a small version of a wedding cake from them. Since the bakery is small, they pay special attention to quality and the little touches and since wedding cakes are a new venture for them the hope is that they will go out of their way to produce a quality product. This way she is saving money and supporting a small business.

Now, a small wedding cake will not feed all of the guests. I'll tell you about our delicious solution to this dilemma in my next Shoestring Wedding post.
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Shoestring Entertaining - Ice Cream Cake that's fit for a dairy queen

Ice Cream Cake is such a treat for a birthday or graduation. But those cool cakes can be pretty pricey at Dairy Queen or Baskin Robbins. Here is a recipe from my mom that is delicious, elegant, and best of all Frugal.

Ice Cream Cake

You will need:

  • Cake mix - your choice
  • Brick of ice cream- your choice
  • Large carton Cool Whip.
  • Your favorite hot fudge or caramel sauce.
  • Your favorite candies or sprinkles and nuts.

Line 13" x 9" cake pan with foil. Make sure the foil comes over the sides so you can easily take cake out of the pan.

Spray foil with Pam.

Follow directions on cake mix package and pour the batter into the foil lined pan. Bake.

Let it cool.

Using the foil, remove the cake from the pan.

Cut the cake into two layers using a string of dental floss.

Cut ice cream in slices and lay on top of bottom layer.

Cover the ice cream with candy, fudge sauce or whatever you’re hungry for.

Put top layer back on and freeze.

Before serving take out of the pan and put on serving tray.

Cover the entire cake with cool whip. Add nuts, sprinkles etc..

It will look so great your friends will want to know which ice cream store you picked it up at. You will enjoy the compliment and happily be counting the money you saved..

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Shoestring Beauty - 52 Card Workout

It's almost summer and that means .....sigh.....swimsuit time. It's time to work off the effects of winter. The stores are brimming over with exercise equipment guaranteed to shape you up and slim you down. Unfortunately those miracles are expensive. I think that we'll all agree that joining a gym costs money - sometimes lots of money. Work out videos and exercise classes can cost a pretty penny, too. Don't despair! Here is a great workout that only costs as much as a deck of cards. My son introduced this 52 Card Workout to me when he was home for break and far from the exercise facilities at the U of I.

Here's how it works:
  1. Shuffle the deck.
  2. Draw two cards until the value of the cards is over 10 ( aces are 20, face cards are 10 )
  3. Complete that many jumping jacks, push ups, and sit ups then rest for that many seconds.
  4. Discard those cards and draw new cards.
  5. Continue drawing cards and exercising until you make it all the way through the deck.
  6. You can treat jokers as wild cards i.e. an extra 20 seconds of rest that you can play whenever you want or double the value of the last card or just count the joker as a face card or ace.
Make it a family affair and workout together, taking turns drawing the cards.
When you first start out you may only be able to make it through a portion of the deck, but don't give up. Soon you'll have a 30 -40 minute strengthening and cardio workout.

How are you getting ready for swimsuit season?
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Shoestring Parenting - Building Self Esteem


As parents we want to help our children learn to love and appreciate the special people that they are created to be. We also want the members of our family to learn to love and support each other. Here is a great project from Miss Kay. Though she describes the process in a classroom setting it is easy to make this work in our families as well. So, go ahead - be a STAR.

Some of the awesome requirements of a kindergarten teacher are to teach their students to have confidence in themselves and how to get along with their classmates. I found that this book that we put together on Fridays was one way to develop my goals and it also became a treasure for each child.

During the school year every student was given a chance to be STAR for one week. He was given special jobs and privileges during the week and a book to take home written and illustrated by his classmates. In preparation for making the book we brainstormed kind words we could use to describe that child, such as: kind, caring, loving, thoughtful, helpful, dependable, trusting, unselfish, sharing, sweet, smart, handsome, cute, etc. We also talked about what the child was good at like: running, jumping, singing writing, sharing, listening, drawing, reading building, acting etc. Each child was then given an 8.5 x11 piece of paper. They each drew a picture of the STAR with colorful markers. As they worked I wrote a sentence across the bottom of each page, dictated by the artist, about the STAR. {As the year progressed some of the students could do their own writing.} I made a special cover beforehand, but that could also be the job of the STAR .We stapled all of the pages together and read the book as a group. Imagine how proud each child was of his page and how thrilled the STAR was to listen to all these kind words and to get to take the book home and read it with his family.

I can also see this as a family project, perhaps at birthday time. I believe it could mean more than a very expensive gift. Think of your own creative ways to make this project happen. What a perfect way to show love and appreciation to each other. Don’t get up tight about your drawing. Stick figures work just fine .For very little money you could even have it coil bound and laminated at an office supply store. What a wonderful keepsake!!!!!

Miss Kay is a retired Kindergarten teacher (and my wonderful mother). She believes in creative hands-on learning. For more ideas from Miss Kay click on Ideas from Miss Kay under Shoestring Parenting Projects and Ideas.

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Shoestring Recycling - the pantyhose stretch

I love it when friends share their shoestring ideas. My friend Lois offers this advice for stretching the life of a pair of pantyhose.

When I was in my teens, back in the '70's, pantyhose were still a relatively new product. The old garter-belt style stockings actually stayed up better (most of the time), and if one stocking got a run in it, I just replaced the one defective stocking and saved the other new one for the next disaster. As long as I bought the same color all the time, this worked well! Pantyhose presented a new problem, because it seemed as if the entire thing had to be replaced when one run got out of control. But my parents had survived the Great Depression, and making do was Standard Operating Procedure in our household. I decided to cut off the damaged pantyhose leg and save the good one until I had a mate for it from the next major run or snag. This didn't always work out right away; sometimes I'd end up with several right legs and no lefts, or vice versa. But eventually it seemed to work out, and I didn't have to buy new ones so often. It meant wearing two "panty" sections at once, one over the other, but I didn't really mind at the time, because it all seemed to stay up better that way.
In recent years, I haven't worn nylons nearly as much as I did back then, so I haven't bothered to do all that. Besides, I seem to wear the entire pair out all at once!! But if I was wearing pantyhose all the time, and wanted to save some money, I certainly could go back to that goofy system once again.

This is a great idea and you can always recycle the cut-off leg by using it to make a Nifty Nylon Deodorant Nixer.

How do you get extra wear out of a pair of pantyhose?

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Free Jewelery! You're Kidding! No, it's really free! (plus shipping)

We recently celebrated our anniversary. My husband bought me a beautiful pair of earrings; amethyst stones in a sterling silver setting. Knowing how much I love a good deal my husband said, "Should I tell you how much I spent on them?" "Of course," I answered. "They were free!" he said with a grin.
Now, I love free - especially when the quality is good. The truth of the matter is that you have to pay $5.99 for shipping. Still, it's a great deal. I looked up the earrings in the store's catalog and they list for $49.00. So I decided to tell my friends and neighbors and become an associate.

The way this site works is that they display a different piece of jewelery every 10 - 12 minutes. You can see what's coming up and have them alert you when a specific piece will be on sale. Enjoy something lovely for free. Click on through the ad above or at the top of the sidebar and find out how beautiful free can be.
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Shoestring Wedding - Elegant Frugality

My daughter is getting married this summer. We have been having such fun designing a wedding that fits her and her fiance's personalities and is still affordable and fun. We have made some fantastic finds on the sale racks and in the creativity department. I have asked her to write a post about how things are going so far and I will keep you up to date with new shoestring wedding developments.

Here is what Britta has to say:
Summer is quickly approaching and with that my wedding day. With the wedding comes much planning and much purchasing. My mom and I have been on the prowl for unique ways to make all my wedding day dreams
come true in an affordable fashion.

Wedding gown: Our first goal was to scout out various bridal boutiques to get a handle on which style and shades of white worked for me.
On our second trip into the bridal unknown we visited a bridal boutique that had both a main store and an outlet store. Being the ultimate deal seekers that we are, we stopped by the outlet store first. It was there that we purchased two wedding gowns for under two hundred dollars! Our thought was to give me a little extra time to choose between the dresses and then potentially make a little extra money on the resale of the dress that I didn't choose.

Bridesmaid dresses: The dresses...well, they have been our best buy yet.
At JC Penny we found three fabulous gowns in each of my three wedding colors on clearance for a total of nine dollars - yes, you heard right, that's $3 a piece. I have to admit that I lucked out in this arena with three brides maids who are very similar in size which made it simple to find dresses for all three. However, I am confident that the real key to this find was the fact that I was open to be influenced by the sale racks.

My parents are known among family and friends for their imagination and ability to creatively make things happen. For instance....

Seating for the wedding: We are having an outdoor wedding. Since seating is often a problem at outdoor weddings, we have come up with an affordable and colorful solution. My dad and friends will be making benches and painting them my three wedding colors with paint purchased from our local Habitat for Humanity for $5 a gallon. The paint was a perfect match which just goes to show that if you keep your eyes out you are bound to find what you want for the right price.

Wedding favors: For the last coup!
For about a year my parents have been mastering the skill of roasting their own coffee. For one of my wedding favors we will be offering freshly roasted coffee. So, for about three dollars a pound for pre-roasted green beans we have a unique, delicious, and affordable option to offer our coffee loving guests!

These are just a few cost effective finds that we have crossed off our list but we will be sure to update you with our future deals as the big day gets closer and closer!

Do you have any ideas about how to put on an elegantly frugal wedding?

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Shoestring Meals - Feeding a crowd

Have you ever been faced with the dilemma of feeding a group of teenagers? When my oldest son was turning 18 we wanted to have a birthday party for him. I thought we'd invite a few of his friends and have pizza. He ended up inviting every person that he had ever spoken to (not really, it just seemed that way). We couldn't afford that much pizza. We knew that the kids were going to be hungry and we didn't want them to think that the party was lame. So, we had to find an affordable yet teen approved alternative.
My husband remembered that his mother used to make these Cheezy Sandwiches. He said that they were great; his friends always loved them. So I said - Let's give them a try.

At first I was skeptical of the strange combination of ingredients, but after trying one I was sold and so were the kids. During the party I put a big bowl of the sandwiches on the counter and left the room. When I came back, just a few minutes later, the bowl was almost empty. Standing next to the bowl was a visiting exchange student from Japan named Yoshi. I asked Yoshi what had happened to all of the sandwiches and he jiggled his tummy and said, "They're in here". Ever since we have always called these sandwiches Little Yoshi's.
The recipe makes about 2 dozen so double it or triple it for a crowd.

Little Yoshis (or Cheezy Sandwiches)
  • 1 lb Cheddar Cheese
  • 3 chopped up hard boiled eggs (No, I'm not kidding. You really put hard boiled eggs in these.)
  • 1 4 oz can chopped olives or about 1/2 cup of olives that you chop yourself
  • 3 green onions finely chopped
  • 1 can tomato sauce (we like to use pizza sauce)
  • 24 Potato Rolls (Potato rolls work best but we have used all kinds of rolls, even hamburger buns. Whatever is on sale - or, if you have time, bake your own rolls)
  • foil

  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees
  2. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Slice rolls 3/4 of the way and stuff with a spoonful of cheese mixture.
  4. Wrap each roll in foil and place rolls in oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until cheese is melted. You can place the rolls directly on the oven racks.
  5. Place all of the foil wrapped sandwiches in a bowl and serve warm.
  6. If you have left overs, store them in the fridge and warm them in a 250 oven.
I wish that I had a picture of these yummy sandwiches but I haven't made them in a while. I think that it's time for another party!

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Shoestring Parenting - Books Offer Cover to Cover Learning

Another Great idea from Miss Kay

I treasure the times that I have spent snuggled on the couch reading to my children. Good picture books can be found for free at your local library or for very little at thrift stores or garage sales. Start a book sharing group with other parents. Whatever it takes get a book in your child's hands and read together.

Here is a wonderful insight from Miss Kay into the value of books for teaching the emerging reader.

It wasn’t until I studied to be a kindergarten teacher that I began to understand why educators stressed so strongly the importance of reading to your preschooler. I only thought of it as a wonderful closeness and bonding time and that they would learn to love books and want to learn to read themselves. I hadn’t thought about the fact that my preschooler was emerging as a reader and that there were many concepts he was learning in preparation for the real thing. Just think of all the seemingly simple but necessary concepts your child can learn as you share this precious time.

1. This is called a book.

2. The book has a front and a back.

3. We start at the front.

4. Each page has a top and a bottom.

5. The pages are in a certain order.

6. The book has a title, author and illustrator.

7. The little marks on the pages are called letters.

8. Each mark has a special name.

9. Each mark has it’s own special sound.

10.The letters go together to make words.

11.There are spaces between the words.

12. We say the words from left to right to tell the story.

13. The pictures help to tell the story.

14. The pictures give us clues to figure out what the words say.

If all this is so, it makes sense that we start with very simple rhyming books with few words that repeat themselves throughout the book. This is so important because the attention span of a preschooler is short and because these concepts can naturally be taught. Point to the words as you read them. As you move along from left to right your child will soon want to try it too. After reading it a few times, your child will remember what each page says by looking at the pictures and remembering the rhymes. Soon, you’ll find him reading the book himself. Of course he has memorized it, but think how he is emerging as a reader. What an accomplishment that is to him. He says “Look, I can read.” and you say “Wow! That is wonderful! How do you feel about that?” You have begun to build his confidence . Continue to follow this pattern. Ask questions as you read. What will happen next? Why is this happening? Where are they going?
What things look the same or different?

The most important thing to remember is that each develops at his or her own unique pace.

HAVE FUN!!!!!! DON’T PUSH!!!!!!! ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Miss Kay is a retired kindergarten teacher. Her approach to learning is always creative and hands on.

For more great books and activities visit my StoryTime blog Wondersome StoryTime.

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