9 Meaningful, Last-Minute Gifts for Under $7

A box of multi-colored gumballs. An ornament with the previous year sketched in glitter. A whistle. A bathrobe three sizes too big. A stuffed animal. A set of dishes with playing card designs on them.

What do all of these items have in common? These were gifts purchased for me as an adult… from other adults. I don’t want to sound unappreciative because I am truly thankful every time someone gives me a gift, whether big or small. However, I think those gift-givers would have preferred to give me something that wouldn’t be re-gifted soon after. I’m sure they would have preferred to save their money and gift something a bit more meaningful and personalized. I assume every gift-giver’s intention is to not only say “I love you” or “I appreciate you” with their gift but also “I know you.”

Hopefully, you can find an idea or two from the list below that will allow you to save money, personalize a gift based on the receiver’s interests, and avoid a difficult crafting attempt (and subsequent Pinterest fail).

Simmer Pot

Holiday Simmer Pot

This gift is perfect for a friend who loves Christmas, candles, or just a yummy-smelling home. It’s especially great as a hostess gift! And all that’s required is collecting ingredients from the grocery store or your own kitchen, tossing them in a bag, tying on a cute ribbon, and writing a sweet note, including instructions. (Click on the picture above for details.)

Calendar with Important Dates

Buy or create a cute calendar, then personalize it with events and special dates meaningful to you and the receiver. You can include date nights with a partner or promises for monthly nights out with a friend. You can populate it with family birthdays and add a gift idea. Additional options include concerts or plays coming to town, free events in the neighborhood, and fun festivals nearby. Check out Dripping with Kids for events and activities in the Texas Hill Country.

DIY Seasonal Banner

Easy DIY Banner for a Baseball Fan –
add a team pennant or name for a more personalized touch

Ok, yes, this is technically a craft, but it’s not a hard one. This handcrafted gift is easy to make, and it would be a fun addition to anyone’s decor. Choose colors for a specific season, for a particular interest like a sports team, or just colors that match the receiver’s living room. Purchase fabric in those colors, cut them into strips, and tie the fabric around wire or twine.

Travel Map

For a teacher, friend, or family member who loves to travel, print a beautiful oversized map of the United States or a blank one to color yourself with bold or pastel colors. Another option is to find a fabric print with a map on it. Then, glue or staple the map to cardboard or foam backing and frame it. Finally, purchase small pins for the receiver to use to mark all the states he or she has visited.

Hiking Kit

For the outdoorsy type, purchase travel size sunscreen, bug spray, and a few protein bars. Then, print a list of local hiking trails to add a personalized touch. Dig up your old fanny pack or gently used backpack and stuff the gifts inside. You can also change up the theme for a beach-lover by filling a wide-brimmed hat with sunscreen, snacks, and a list of the best beach hideouts.

Family Game Night Pack

Perfect for your neighbors, a white elephant party, or another family you’ve been hoping to start regular game nights with… pack a wrapped shoe box or decorative photo storage box with a cool deck of cards, a mason jar full of charades clues, easy snacks like popcorn and candy, and an invitation to come over on a specific night to play.

Book with Personalized Review and Bookmark

Everyone has a book-lover on their holiday shopping list. Why not gift him or her a book you absolutely loved with some personal notes inside? Grab a favorite book from your shelf (you probably won’t read it again), as well as a few sticky notes. Find the best chapters or a few pages with character descriptions that remind you of the gift receiver or some mutual friends/family members. Jot down funny or sweet notes for him or her to find while reading the book. Include a clever handwritten review and bookmark at the front of the book.

Cup of Warmth

Small, thoughtful bags to make cider or hot cocoa are an affordable way to show appreciation to teachers that go above and beyond, crossing guards with broad smiles, letter carriers with a skip in their step, or neighbors who always have that spare ingredient you’re missing. Cost for each treat bag is about 40 cents, but with a sweet note added on, it’s worth so much more! 🧡🤎 (Each bag includes one packet of apple cider mix, a small cinnamon stick, and a couple cookies. For hot cocoa, include a couple packets, peppermint sticks, and marshmallows or chocolate chips.)

Baking Kit

You can quickly think up a sweet friend or talented family member who loves to bake. This easy but thoughtful gift will put a big smile on the amateur baker’s face! Include candy molds and chocolate melts, plus a jar of cake or cookie mix, and a few cookie cutters and cupcake liners. Wrap it up in a pretty box, include some family recipes, and write out an invitation to enjoy an evening of baking together.

Although each of these gifts will show a loved one that you care, quality time might be the best gift of all. I hope that each of you reading this gets the opportunity to spend time with your family and friends this holiday season… whatever that may look like in 2020.

DIY Halloween Costumes for Under $10

If your kids are like mine, they’ve probably been talking about their Halloween costumes for the last 6 months. They’ve changed their minds at least that many times as well. When my older two were little, I used to let them have 3 costumes each for the month of October because I knew it was too hard to decide on just one character to dress up as. It worked out well because we attended several fall and Halloween events, allowing them to wear each costume more than once.

But WOAH, costumes have really become expensive … and elaborate … and poorly made. Buying three costumes for each of my four kids might equate to two weeks’ worth of groceries, only to be consumed and disposed of faster than those groceries might last.

Because of this wastefulness of both money and material, I announced to my kids a couple years ago that I will no longer purchase Halloween costumes. I’ve made a few exceptions by purchasing high-quality used items, but they have to be re-used for dress-up year round or be versatile and nice enough to hand down to family in the future.

This non-purchase declaration has led to some creativity in our family’s costume designs. Sometimes they’re a hit, but a few times, they’ve been straight-up Pinterest fails. Below I share some of the good, the bad, and the disastrous with you, as well as additional costumes that are so easy to pull off that you, too, may decide to never purchase a pre-made costume again!

From our Family’s DIY Costume Album:

The Boxer –

Easy DIY Costume - Boxer
An old zombie robe with some duct tape accents, boxing gloves from the garage, and a little makeup make this Boxer costume one of the easiest yet!

LILO (from Lilo and Stitch) –

Easy Lilo  or Moana Costume
Lilo (or Moana) is easy to pull together with a red bikini top, a green skirt from a thrift store, and plastic leaf bracelets/anklets from Amazon.

The Skiier –

Lazy last-minute costume - Skiier
This Skiier costume is about as lazy and last-minute as it gets. I just pulled the ski gear out from under the bed. In the past, I’ve added make up, leaves, and branches to be a Skiier who Collided with a Tree. 😆

Football Fans –

Easy last minute family costume idea - All About Football
This family costume idea is easy-peezy! We just pulled out our team tees and accessories to be obnoxious fans. And the kids used items from their closets as well, adding a baseball helmet from the garage and free pom- poms from a recent game. The baby’s football onesie and high socks were purchased used for a couple dollars.

Easy but Adorable Pirate –

Zombie Baseball Player –

Last minute costume idea - zombie baseball player
We took an old baseball uniform, added lots of fake blood, and cut a baseball in half to glue it to his cap. Voila – zombie baseball player! The zombie makeup attempt definitely leaves room for improvement, but this costume could be really great with a better make up artist.

Party Animals –

Last minute costume idea - Party Animals
I’m pretty sure you won’t find this last-minute costume idea on the beautiful Pinterest boards. 😆 My husband and I raided the kids’ rooms for animal accessories and then added party details to make ourselves party animals. (Insert jokes here.)

Mime –

Easy DIY Costume -  Mime
These mime costumes were for a themed day at school, but they work for Halloween as well. To pull it off, we found striped sweaters and black pants in the closet, red suspenders from Amazon, red bandanas from past costumes, white gloves from our winter gear, and a bit of makeup. Don’t put these cuties in a box!

Firefighters and Their Trusted Pets –

Easy Family Costume Idea - Firemen and Dalmatians
This family costume idea was pulled together with lots of freebies, hand me downs, and easy crafting. Firefighters: used fireman’s coat, free hats from Firehouse subs and a previous birthday party, black pants, red suspenders (from mime costume), and neon duct tape from Home Depot. Dalmatians: hand-me-down Marshall (Paw Patrol) costume, white tank from the closet colored with black spots (sharpie), and a black headband with white felt ears glued on.

Pregnant Mummy –

Last Minute Costume - Pregnant Mummy
Well, this is one way to make a pregnancy announcement. 😂 Throw on a white t-shirt, print a pic of a baby or baby face, wrap yourself up in wide medical tape, and wait several seconds for people to “get it”. 😉

There you have it! The best and worst of our last-minute DIY costumes from the last few years may not have won us any costume contests, but we had so much fun putting them together and showing them off. Plus, we saved a ton of money.

For more awesome DIY costumes, check out these links:

https://pin.it/7tzeAP7

https://www.countryliving.com/diy-crafts/g23785711/last-minute-halloween-costumes/

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/g2750/easy-last-minute-halloween-costumes-diy/

Sunday Surprise: Pantry Clean Out

State of our pantry this morning

When my kids open the pantry door to find it looking like this, let the whining commence: “There’s NOTHING to eat!” If they don’t see their favorite pre-packaged lunch and snack items, they are at a complete loss as to how to feed themselves. But I see several days of meals and snacks in this pantry…

– Noodles (with butter and Parmesan) for my picky eaters or meatless spaghetti for others

– Mac n cheese, Ramen, and Spaghettios for quick lunches (in a thermos for school)

– Canned veggies and baked beans for sides

– Flour and sugar for muffins (paired with nuts and/or the frozen bananas I’ve been saving)

– Oats and peanut butter for homemade granola bars, oatmeal balls, and flourless PB/chocolate chip cookies*

– Loads of cereal for breakfast and the after-school munchies

Red beans and Rice for dinner

– Quinoa and pecans to add to my leftover spinach for a more substantial salad

– Canned refried beans to pair with eggs and diced tomatoes for a Southwest breakfast scramble or dinner option

– Pancake mix for Sat morning hot cakes

– Ritz crackers and PB (and maybe some raisins on top) for toddler lunch or snack

– Rice Krispies and marshmallows for my kids’ favorite treat

– Canned corn for a hearty chowder (can add potatoes and diced ham or bacon for a full meal)

– Popcorn, remaining potato chips, and tortilla chips + bean dip for appetizers, sides, or snacks

– Gluten-free crackers, goat cheese in the fridge, and dates for a hearty and quick Mom-lunch

– Barley for a filling soup

– Biscuit mix + Nutella for another breakfast option

While my kids might see our pantry as half-empty, I see it as a pantry half-full. The above list of options may not be enough to stretch for an entire week if you’re feeding a large family, but if you’re looking for ways to save on groceries, you could add a few reasonably-priced perishable essentials, such as fresh fruit and veggies, milk, bread, cheese, lean meats, and butter. With those additions, I bet your “bare” pantry could feed your family for over a week.

Full disclosure – I did take a trip to the grocery store this afternoon because my fridge was looking a little sad and because I have a 4-year-old obsessed with milk, as well as a 9-year-old who binges on fruit. However, I don’t plan to venture back to H-E-B for at least 2 weeks, and our monthly (food only) grocery bill remains under $550 for our family of 6. For more ideas on how to save on groceries, check out my post, 7 EASY Ways to Save on Groceries.

* For this week’s Sunday Surprise, I used ingredients I always have on hand to make Flourless Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe linked above in list). These are usually a special treat for my husband and me, and the kids have to be quick to snag one for themselves!

Sunday Surprise

Making a Delicious Meal with What You’ve Already Got

My kids are picky. Even my typically non- picky eaters are picky in their own right. I’ve been dodging complaints all week about certain snacks not being in the pantry or about what I chose to make for dinner, even though, in my opinion, we’ve been pretty well-stocked. I don’t think it matters how much we actually have… my children still think, “there’s nothing here to eat!” (Enter eye roll.)

With that in mind, I decided to start a new tradition at our house, called “Sunday Surprise”. We’ll make a meal out of whatever randomness we’ve got in our pantry or fridge for our Sunday dinner. No special trips to the grocery store to fulfill a recipe, no Chinese food runs, and no resorting to frozen pizza. It’s our new family challenge, similar to the ones I mentioned in step 3 of New Year, New FRUGAL You(9 Easy Ways to Save Money in 2020).

One of my favorite aspects of frugal living is making the most of what we already have and really using up what’s in our house, especially the food. As I mentioned before, we’re relatively well-stocked this week, especially with vegetables, after hosting friends last weekend for gumbo night and a family slumber party. But the items I used tonight are likely in your fridge and pantry too.

With canned corn, potatoes, carrots, celery, a simple meat, milk, and a few common pantry items, you can totally pull off this potato and corn chowder! I had several gold potatoes that were about to go bad and some celery stalks that were on the verge of bending like rubber. I also had some leftover ham slices, which by the way, I recommend adding to your regular grocery list if they’re not a part of the rotation already. (Ham slices are a quick plan B option when dinner plans don’t work out.)

I love to make soups in the winter, and I found a yummy recipe on Pinterest. I just tweaked it a bit by adding about 1/2 cup of water and additional milk to get the texture I wanted. Plus, I also added some of my favorite seasonings and about 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese because, well, cheese makes everything better. https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/leftover-ham-recipes/

The chowder turned out to be delicious, and I had enough to bring to a friend for her family’s dinner tonight as well. The first Sunday Surprise actually worked out, aside from the fact that my picky kids still turned their noses up at it. Ah well, such is parenting. Luckily, I keep plenty of marginally unhealthy kid faves in the house as well.

Unrelated to the soup, I also realized today that we were out of coffee creamer, and I definitely did not want to go to the store just to replace that, knowing that I’d end up buying several other items once I stepped inside. So, I used an empty jar we had previously saved and mixed up half and half, a tablespoon (or maybe a tad bit more) of sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla. I gave it a good shake and ended up with creamy perfection without having to run to the store.

Homemade vanilla coffee creamer

I would absolutely love to hear how you make the most of what you’ve got in your fridge or pantry, especially if it’s become a great way for you to save money. I am by no means a chef, so there’s no reinventing the wheel in this house. Please share away!

easy crafts for kids

11 Easy, Frugal Crafts for Kids (with a Purpose)

This morning, my floor was covered in multi-colored pom poms, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, crayons, glue sticks, googly eyes, straws, and empty plastic baggies. Our sweet preschool teachers have been sending home adorable art project ideas and random crafts items. The kids and I have a blast making frog masks, hungry caterpillars, watercolored paper chickens, and sunny scenes with stickers…. but, what am I supposed to do with all of these beloved projects when they’re done? My children are home all the time as we continue to shelter in place, and they are very aware of every single art project they’ve created and where it last hung or which window it was sitting in.

That means there are no opportunities to discretely sneak them into the recycling bin. This issue has led me to start thinking up and researching simple crafts that serve a purpose beyond a fun few minutes with the kids and walls full of half-colored creations. As we enter into our last month of homeschooling for this year, I am feeling a sense of re-motivation and decided to write out my brain-dumped list of purposeful, easy crafts for kids right here. Please share your kids’ creations in the comments below or tag me on Instagram @dripping_with_kids


1. Simple Homemade Bird Feeder

Pull out those dusty popsicle sticks, a few markers, some twine, and glue. Have kids color the sticks as they choose and then assemble a base by placing two sticks a few inches apart and then building a floor on top of that. From there, create sides by gluing each layer in an alternating pattern. Tie the twine on to all four corners, leaving enough length to tie the top around a tree branch. Then, fill with bird seed and watch the sparrows flock your tree. Don’t keep birdseed around? Your local grocery store likely carries it for pretty cheap. We bought some to make ornaments last Christmas and paid less than $2 for a 4 lb bag at HEB.


2. DIY Costumes

Making costumes for small children to play dress up doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. With your children’s help, you can quickly and easily create simple costumes, such as pirate, superhero, Peter Pan, cowboy, Cookie Monster, and book characters to keep them entertained for hours at home. There are countless no-sew links online or you can pull up a picture of your child’s favorite character, look around the house for a t-shirt color that matches, some construction paper, and other random objects to pull together a costume that reasonably resembles the real deal. For example, if you have a Captain America fan in your house, take a white t-shirt, color it with a marker to look like the character’s shirt, then use red duct tape or markers for accents. You can make a shield by coloring the backside of a paper plate, cutting holes in the sides, and attaching string. Then, check links online for no-sew superhero masks that can be made with construction paper or felt.


3. Cereal Box Mini-Storage

I love this frugal way to repurpose what would normally become trash into little storage containers for craft bits and pieces, pens, office supplies, snacks, and any other small items that need to find their own place in your home. To create these mini-storage containers, cut an emptied cereal box all the way around approximately 2 inches from the bottom. Then, strengthen and decorate the cardboard with duct tape you have lying around. Kids can decorate the tape using markers or label it with what will be stored inside. Voila… you crafted something useful that can fit in your junk drawer and keep you organized.


4. Painted Jars for Organizing Colored Pencils or Small Toys

Do you have dozens of acrylic paint bottles set aside for no specific use? How about a few jars tucked away in your cabinets? If so, you and your kids can paint the jars and then set them up on desks or bookshelves as a way to sort and organize colored pencils, pens, toys, erasers, legos, etc.


5. S’more Love for Neighbors and Friends

Looking for a way to spread love during these unique times? This campfire art project allows your kids to make something beautiful and gives you all an opportunity to share s’more love with others. Materials needed: small twigs from the yard, red and yellow paint, thick paper or cardboard, cotton balls, and a small amount of clay or play-doh (colored paper, cardboard, or just about any craft material can be substituted here). To make your campfire, glue the twigs at the bottom of the paper to look like fire starters. Then pour the red and yellow paint onto paper plates. (Mix some red and yellow to make orange as well.) Let kids paint or dip their palms into the paint and make handprints to resemble flames above the twigs on the paper. Make as many or as few prints as you want until you have your desired campfire image. Then, create a s’more above the fire with a rectangular strip or brown paper or cardboard to represent the graham cracker, a bit of brown or black clay to represent chocolate, and a few cotton balls to make your marshmallows. Write a sweet note at the top of the paper, and deliver the beautiful creation along with a baggie of s’mores ingredients to a friend’s front porch.


6. Easy Art Wall

art wall easy craft

There are many ways to make an art wall in your home for all of those beautiful creations mentioned in the first paragraph. The easiest way I know how to do this is simply to hang a wire and use clothes pins to hold up those treasured pieces and continually replace the old with the new. To include the kids in this activity, have them decorate the clothespins. They can make tiny faces and glue on felt or paper clothing. They can make butterflies and dragonflies. They can glue on poms to make cute, colorful insects. The options are endless, and your art wall will be even cuter than you imagined.


7. Birthday-in-a-Box

Bless someone on their quarantined birthday by filling a box full of special decorations and surprises. Think of a theme, create games or activities (pull pages from a themed coloring book, pass down a puzzle, or just include sidewalk chalk and some instructions for a driveway obstacle course), scavenge the house for party supplies or decorations, draw faces on inflated balloons, and make a card. This box will be chock full of love and fun, plus your kids will have a blast doing a crafty and kind act for another person.


8. Homemade Clean-Up Labels

Has your kid ever used the excuse of not knowing where something goes to escape a clean-up chore? This easy craft serves the purpose of giving your child an opportunity to be creative and keep their little hands busy, while also making labels for shelves, bins, and drawers for easy clean up. Print blank pictures of toys or toy categories, such as legos, dolls, trains and cars, costumes, doll clothes, play-doh, or any other favorite toy in your home. Then, let children paint, color, or recreate the printed picture using their own supplies and creative ideas. Glue or tape the new labels in their appropriate location and encourage kids to “sort” their toys to match the labels.


9. Recycled Materials Art

Search the house (or better yet, the garage) for unused, unique items that can be repurposed to make beautiful art. Buttons can be eyes, twine can be a smile, a nail can be a nose, and yarn can be hair. Find an old frame for the artwork, and you have a personal and meaningful piece of art for your wall.


10. Disposable Table Cloth

Cover your table with easel, butcher, or the back side of holiday wrapping paper. Tape it down and let the kids decorate it. This is such an easy and fun way to keep kids busy for a long time! Plus, you can use your disposable table cloth to teach kids how to set the table by drawing plates, silverware, and napkins at one setting or you can practice math skills by measuring the table and using division to separate the table into equal art “squares” for each family member (and then calculate area and perimeter) or kids can simply use the tablecloth as their scratch/note paper while completing their online schoolwork.


11. Painted Rocks as Reward Tokens

Most kids love to paint rocks, but you can use these painted rocks as more than just sidewalk or trail decorations. Think of behaviors you want your children to work on. Then, collect rocks and separate them into piles for each behavior. Maybe you have an “inside voice” pile, a “close the back door without reminders” pile, and a “flush the toilet” pile. For each desired behavior, assign a color. Have your child paint all the rocks in that pile with one specific color. (They can add designs too.) When the rocks have dried, bring them in the house and set them next to bowls or jars labeled with the desired behavior. Each time your child achieves that goal, have him or her place a colored rock in the jar or bowl. When it’s filled, give a reward.

Happy Crafting! Please share your creations below or on Instagram with the tag @dripping_with_kids or #drippingwithkids. I’d love to see your crafts with a purpose!!