Archives for July 2011

Upcycle Glass Bottles into a Garden Border

I love this idea to upcycle glass bottles into a colorful border for a flower garden.

Glass Bottles border flower bed

The next time you get ready to toss a bottle into the recycling bin, you may want to rethink that move.  Save them instead! By burying the tops and leaving the colorful ends exposed, you end up with a beautiful flower bed border. If you are worried the bottles will break due to edging, rest assured they are sturdier than you think!

Glass Bottle Border Close-up

If you don’t regularly buy bottled drinks, you might try using colored glasses you find at Goodwill or yard sales. You should be able to find them for pennies. Or, request bottles from your favorite restaurant. Often times they will allow you to pick them up after a busy weekend night.

However you accumulate your bottles, upcycling them into a garden border can be a fun addition to the garden that is both frugal (maybe even free?) and fun!

Love the idea of upcycling glass bottles? How about trying this project to upcycle apple juice glass bottles or this project to upcycle Starbucks Frappacino glass bottles?

Upcycled glass garden border

Upcycled glass garden border

How to Get Free Products and Coupons in the Mail

If you are looking to save on natural and organic products, sometimes you need to reach out and ask! Often times they have coupons available on their websites or facebook pages.

These are some of my favorite companies to register with to get coupons, samples and free products:

To see how I recently got a FREE product PLUS FREE coupons in the mail, watch the following:

Can’t see the video? Head to The Natural Green Mom Channel.

What are your favorite company websites to register on?

What to do with a Fire Pit During a Fire Ban

Fire Pit Coffee Table

Over Memorial Day weekend we bought a patio set that included a fire pit since our last patio set was destroyed by hail. My dream was to have backyard summer BBQs with a nice fire in the fire pit as the sun went down. Then, we’d finish our perfectly lovely evening with the kids making s’mores. Sounds like the perfect summer plan, doesn’t it?

Well, we’ve had one fire. We all woke up smelling like we’d been camping. Everywhere I sat, I swear the smoke followed me and burned my eyes. Of course, the s’mores were well worth it!

After the only time we used it, the summer turned dry. Hot and dry. We’re used to Colorado being dry. Not so used to it being this hot.

The combination of hot and dry has led to fire bans across the state. And just like that – my dreams of backyard s’mores went up in smoke. This website is about being eco-friendly. Setting fire to the neighborhood does not qualify as eco-friendly by most definitions.

What to do with that fire pit? How about creating some backyard ambiance instead?

I started by caulking the hole in the bottom of the pit so it would hold water.

Caulk screw and hole

I felt that looked a little like a bird had flown over and maybe left me a little present. So I covered that up with some glass floral beads.

Glass Beads in Fire Pit

Still, not brilliant looking but getting better. I filled the fire pit up with water and while it was filling, I cut some flowers out of my garden.

Floating Flowers in Fire Pit

Pretty, isn’t it? A great look for early evening or even having a brunch outside. But I took it one step further. As evening approached, I added floating candles.

Floating Candles

So that’s what you do with a Fire Pit during a Fire Ban. Do you own a fire pit?

For another way to spruce up your patio in an eco-friendly way, be sure to check out my Solar Path Light Candles.

How to Save Money on School Supplies

What do you consider the most expensive month of the year?

In our house it’s a toss up whether December or August is the most expensive month. December is expensive for the obvious reason of the holidays. But I find we can budget for it. We agree to only spend x-amount per person, and I can buy those items all year long. August is expensive because of everything that comes with the start of school – new clothes, replacement backpacks, fresh clean lunch boxes, school supplies… Plus, I find I always get requests for money I didn’t plan on. It might be a school bus or field trip fee, or having to pay more for gym shorts that meet the uniform code because my girl’s legs are so long, or my girls now want “spirit wear” or something.

My strategy to combat some of those expenses is to try to save as much as I can on school supplies. This video – that is not worthy of even a RAZZIE from the critics – shows how I’m saving on supplies this year. (By the way – yes. I really do wish I brushed my hair a little better.)

Can’t see the video? Find it on The Natural Green Mom Channel

First let’s get one thing clear. No, I am not a Walmart representative. I realize they should pay me for this wonderful piece of amateurish advertising, however, I have heard from several of you that Walmart is your only game in town. You know what? I’ve been there. I lived in small town Texas for 3 years. It was either hit the Walmart or hit the road – and drive 3 hours to the nearest town. But if you aren’t a Walmart shopper, you can apply price matching just about anywhere.

Second, in case you are wondering how easy check out was, it was sooooo easy! I laid the competitor’s sales circular on the check-out belt and simply laid the items I wanted to price match right on top. Since I’d taken the time to make certain I was buying the SAME EXACT product, I knew they had to do the price match. I was sorta gunning for the cashier to try to object to the price matches. I’ve heard of those of you who’ve had difficulty. But, what can I say? I was so prepared, there was no need to get huffy. (read that in a smug, self-satisfied tone.)

Third, was it worth it? Oh yes. The items I bought saved me an additional 38% over Walmart’s prices. That said, I did find that Walmart was not stocked well. Some of the coupons I wanted to use and some of the price matching I wanted to do I couldn’t because the product simply wasn’t there. There is not a lot any of us can do about that!

Do you price match? What has been your experience?

Submitted to The Mommy Club and Coupon Teacher

Meatless Monday: Tortilla Pie

Tortilla Pie

I debated if I should feature Tortilla Pie for this week’s Meatless Monday recipe. It does require that you turn on your oven, which I’m betting many of you are reluctant to do. Even here in Colorado it is smoking hot. But all of the ingredients were either in my garden or in my pantry – which makes it kind of a no-brainer. If you keep the items on my pantry staples list – such as black beans –  on hand, this is a quick and easy one to whip up.

Tortilla Pie

2 t olive oil

1 chopped green pepper

1 chopped small onion

1 4.5 ounce can chopped green chiles

1 t oregano

1 t chili powder

2 T chopped fresh cilantro

2 C tomato juice

1 can black beans

1 can cannellini beans

1 C shredded cheddar cheese

6 tortillas

1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add peppers and next 7 ingredients. Saute 5 minutes or until tender. Add tomato juice; cook an additional 8 – 10 minutes.

2. Drain beans. Add black beans to one bowl with half the tomato sauce. Add cannellini beans to a second bowl with the remainder of the tomato sauce.

3. Line a 9 inch pie plate with foil, allowing 6 inches of overhang on each side. Repeat in the opposite direction.

Layer Foil
4. Coat foil with cooking spray. Place first tortilla in the bottom. Cover with a thin layer of black bean mixture. Sprinkle with some cheese.

First Layer Tortilla Pie

5. Place another tortilla over the first layer, pressing down gently. Repeat with the cannellini mixture. Continue making layers alternating bean mixtures. End with a bean and cheese layer on top.

6. Wrap the foil edges around the tortilla pie.

Seal Tortilla Pie

7.  Bake at 325 for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Remove foil packet from pie plate and unwrap pie. Slide it onto a serving dish using a spatula. Cut into wedges to serve. Feeds 6 to 8.

Happy Meatless Monday!

Linked to Tasty Tuesday

DIY Cork Cheese Markers

Cut a cork in half and use it to make cheese markers for your next wine and cheese party. Check out my video for a quick lesson in how to cut a cork in half.

How to Cut a Cork in HalfMy name is Andrea and I drink wine. I drink wine from bottles with corks. And I drink wine from bottles with screwtops. And occasionally I’ll even drink wine out of a box.

My most important factor in choosing a wine to drink is the label. I love me a good looking wine label! I could care less what the cork looks like. But when the wine is done, the bottle with it’s pretty label gets tossed in the recycling bin ~ and I keep the cork. I do very little with these corks but keep them and occasionally wash out the decorative container where I toss them.

Corks

Until now.

At the wine and cheese party I had last night, I decided to use the corks to make DIY cork cheese markers for all the gourmet cheese I bought {on a budget}!

As with any crafty project I do, this is incredibly easy.

First, you need a serrated knife to cut the corks you choose in half.

Cutting Cork in Half

 I tried to choose cute corks that would have some sort of decoration on the back. Sorta like how we all want to make sure our jeans look good – both coming and going! For example, the cork I choose for the Brie said “Bonjour” on the back. For the manchego, I chose a cork that said Rioja on the back – since this was the wine I was pairing it with. My guess is I was the only one that noticed this detail – but it made me happy. Perhaps your friends are more observant?

Next, write the name of the cheese on the cork with a sharpie in your “very best handwriting.” I say that because I don’t have “very best handwriting.” I have chicken scratch, and I have legible. But only just legible. That’s my “very best handwriting.”

Finally, use a skewer, or a toothpick, or whatever else you have lying about to skewer the cork. Your DIY Cork Cheese Markers are now done!

Cork Cheese Markers

Might I make one teensy-weensy recommendation? Make sure you spell your cheeses correctly. People will call you out for bad spelling. However, you can pronounce them however you’d like! If they call you out for your pronunciation, I recommend a good eye-roll that says “like you know how to pronounce it.”

Your Cheese Markers will look simply stunning and you will look like the hostess with the mostess:

DIY Cork Cheese Marker

Once you get your first compliment (and you will get compliments!), the resulting DIY Cork Cheese Markers  are well worth the 5 minutes it took you to do the project. Plus, you are upcycling something that is otherwise purposeless and protecting a natural resource. What’s not to love?


Linked to tip me tuesday

and works for me wednesday and Mommy Solutions

How to Save on Gourmet Items

Brie with peelie coupons

If you’ve been couponing for any amount of time, you know that it is rare to get a good coupon deal on gourmet foods. If you follow your weekly grocery ads, it seems the same products are advertised over, and over, and over.  And it sometimes feels as if we get the same coupons in the Sunday paper week, after week, after week. Fiber One bars, Fruit by the Foot, Yoplait….

Life includes special occasions. Ones for which we want to treat and indulge ~ without causing our budgets to go into nuclear meltdown. Tonight there is a wine and cheese tasting event at my home. Amy from the Vine Sleuth is the one actually putting on the event. It is an “Unofficial Event” before this weekend’s Savvy Blogging Summit I will be attending. Since Amy is coming in from out of town, and the event will be held here in our own beautiful Colorado, I told her I’d do the hoof work to buy all the food recommended – and buy it on a budget. After all – this site is dedicated to trying to “Live the Dream on Very Little Green.”

I was given a shopping list by the wine expert for items to buy:

  • Jarlsberg Cheese
  • Manchego Cheese
  • Olives
  • Salami
  • Crackers

None of those items are showing up in my weekly grocery circulars. Not even in the Whole Foods ad.

What I found is there are ways to save, and there are coupons on gourmet items available, but it helps if you plan ahead and you may need to hoof through several stores to scout out the deals on your own.

The first way I was able to save was by digging into my stockpile. Remember the Whole Foods great deal on Back to Nature crackers I told you about several weeks ago? Every time I went by Whole Foods for the 2 week period the sale was on, I picked up boxes of crackers. Now I’m feeling a wee bit smug because I’ll set out three boxes worth of crackers tonight – and I will have paid only .99 total for them. A box of water crackers costs $2.99/pkg. So having a cracker stockpile is looking a little less like crazy hoarding and a little more like a true saving strategy, wouldn’t you say?

If you aren’t finding coupons on the products you want, does that mean they don’t exist? Sometimes. But I have a few places I’d check for them before coming to any conclusions. Start at home by:

  • Checking out the company website
  • Trolling through a coupon database

Any luck? I didn’t have any for the cheeses I wanted, so I headed out to the stores. I do say stores because I checked all three of my local grocers: King Soopers, Albertsons and Safeway. Were the savings big enough to warrant going to each store? My total savings was over $10 by scoping out and getting the deals at each store. Was it worth it? Given that the wine tasting tonight is for budget wines, and some of the bottles only cost $11 – the savings does add up.

Safeway is where I hit the jackpot of gourmet cheese coupons. The next time you are in Safeway (or really wherever you shop) look for any kind of coupon display next to the gourmet cheeses.

Cheese Coupon Display

Look at the picture! It says “Please Take Some!” The expiration date on these coupons was into 2012! Take some I did.

They also had a coupons for $1/1 deli cheese when you bought olives right next to the olives. Score! However, even after finding the coupons for cheese, my coupon savings only came to $5.

The rest of the savings came from buying Jarlsberg cheese at $7.99/lb instead of at $12.99/lb. Pretty big price difference between stores, wouldn’t you say? Then I added a $1/1 coupon and my cost went down even further.

Conclusions?

  • Having a stockpile is worth it – especially on products you know you’ll use
  • Prices vary greatly by store – it is worth it check them out before you buy
  • There are coupons out there! They just don’t come in the Sunday paper. Look on or near what you want to buy.

More on the wine tasting to come!