3 Affordable (and Adorable!) Homemade Gift Ideas

Christmas is almost here. I can hardly believe it! Seriously, this year has FLOWN by!

This year, I’m trying to focus on meaningful and homemade gifts. Here are a few of my favorite gifts to give.

1. Homemade Dry Shampoo
Since writing the original dry shampoo post, I’ve found a way to make this gift adorable. I found spice jars for $1. I tossed the spicy hole filled shaker thing in the trash. I don’t need it for this. I fill the jar with my homemade dry shampoo. I ordered small round labels from vistaprint.com and put a cute “Dry Shampoo” label on each lid. I buy inexpensive make up brushes for $1 and include that along with the dry shampoo. The gift is too cute for words. I personally love my dry shampoo and use it weekly. I think it’s a great little gift!

Homemade Dry Shampoo

Homemade Dry Shampoo

A practical and pretty gift!

A practical and pretty gift!

2. Homemade Taco Seasoning
I use this recipe from 100 Days of Real Food. It’s super easy to make and only has 4 ingredients! I found these super cute little mason jars from Target for $1.99 each. Each jar holds 3-4 batches of this recipe. I printed a little label on colored card stock. I used a business card template only to keep the size small and played with it a few times to get the font the right size. I cut it and punched a hole and attached it to the spice jar with some twine. (The twine was a clearance deal at Target- I think I paid 45 cents for it!)

Doesn’t everybody make tacos?

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Handmade Label

Handmade Label

Back of Mason Jar

Back of Mason Jar

Inside the Jar

Inside the Jar

3. Homemade Pumpkin Bread Mix
I love pumpkin bread! I premix my dry ingredients and store them in empty and cleaned giant olive jars. I could use that jar with a pretty handmade label or splurge and buy a cute and new jar. Fill the jar with the dry ingredients. Make a label on card stock including “Homemade Pumpkin Bread Mix” along with the directions. Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 c canola oil, 3 Tbsp of maple syrup & 3 Tbsp water. Add dry mix. Bake for 45-50 minutes for large loaf.

As a gift, the jarred dry mix would look adorable with a can or box of pumpkin puree and a mini maple syrup bottle. I haven’t yet given this as a gift, so I don’t have a photo to share yet. But here’s what the glass jar of dry mix and a box of pumpkin look like together… precious!

Just needs a pretty label

Just needs a pretty label

These gifts are easy to make, useful, affordable and just plain adorable! Merry Christmas and happy gift giving!

Homeschooling my Preschooler: Easy Paint Chip Sample Games

I have chosen to homeschool SG for preschool this year. I am actually a former public school teacher. Once upon a time in a land far far away from Iowa, I taught first grade. For four years!

Today I’m going to focus on easy games that use paint chip samples. I saw a few pins on Pinterest that used paint chip samples (here on out referred to as PCS). The best thing about PCS are they are FREE! SG randomly collects them when we shop at Lowe’s. It keeps her busy while I browse the actual colors I like.

I had a pile of PCS and started there. A quick trip to the Dollar Tree for a pack of paper clips and clothespins and I was ready to go. I also had Sharpies at home and some stickers. That’s all I needed to make a few easy and cute preschool games.

These games don’t have names. I’ll just make some up right now. 🙂

Game 1: Clip and Count
To Make:
Using a Sharpie, write the numbers 1-10 on ten clothespins. Use 10 PCS and color dots using the Sharpie for each number. One dot for one, two dots for two, etc. We currently focus on 1-10, but you could do 1-20 or counting by 2’s to 10 or 20. Store in a plastic baggie.

Clip & Count

I colored circles with a Sharpie.  Round stickers would also work.

I colored circles with a Sharpie. Round stickers would also work.

To Play:
Mix up the cards and clothespins. Count the dots with child and find the matching numbered clothespin. Let child clip it on the correct PCS. You may have to assist several times before child can play alone. For an added challenge, ask child to put the numbers in the correct order after the clips have been added.

Clip & Count

Game 2: Spell My Name
To Make:
Use a Sharpie to write child’s first, middle, and last name on PCS. One name per PCS. Then write one letter per PCS for their full name. Keep the letters for each name in a separate plastic baggie. Put the whole name in front of the individual letters and store on top of the baggie.

We do this for SG's first, middle, & last name.

We do this for SG’s first, middle, & last name.

I store this with the name card on the front so I can easily grab this game & stay organized.

I store this with the name card on the front so I can easily grab this game & stay organized.

To Play:
Place the name card on a surface. (We play this on the floor.) Mix up the letters that spell that name. Show child how to spell her name using the name card as the guide. Eventually, the child can do this by herself. SG now doesn’t need the name card. She uses it to check herself. This game taught her how to spell her name in just a few weeks! And we only played it 2-3 times a week!

Game 3: Paperclip Counting
To Make:
Choose 5 PCS and write the numbers 1-5 and spell it out under each number. One number per PCS. Count out 15 paperclips. Store both in a plastic baggie.

Paperclip Counting

To Play:
Show child the number 1 and point to the word “one.” Explain she needs to put 1 paperclip on the PCS for the number 1. Repeat with 2, 3, 4, & 5. For a challenge, mix up the cards, have her clip the paperclips herself and then put them in order from 1-5 or descending from 5-1.

Game 4: Sticker Counting
To Make:
Choose 5 PCS and write the numbers 1-5 on the PCS. One number per PCS. Choose 5 more PCS and put one sticker on the PCS for the number 1, two stickers for 2, etc. (I chose to use the same stickers for each PCS because I didn’t want SG memorizing a butterfly sticker for number 1, two balloons for number 2, etc.) Store in a plastic baggie.

Sticker Counting

To Play:
Mix up the sticker PCS and mix up the numbered PCS. Assist child in matching the number 1 PCS to the PCS that has one sticker. Repeat. For a challenge, mix them all together, the stickered and numbered PCS. Have child match them alone and order them from 1-5 or from 5-1.

Game 5: Sticker Spelling
To Make:
You will need one PCS per letter of child’s name. I put one letter per PCS. I did it for SG’s first and middle name. I stored both names together in one bag. If child isn’t ready for this, store one name per baggie.

Sticker Spelling

To Play:
Have child spell her name, assisted or unassisted.

Game 6: Paperclip Addition
To Make:
Choose 3 PCS. Write these math problems on them using a Sharpie: 1+1= 1+2= 1+3= On the other side of the PCS, write the answers. 2 3 4 Store in a plastic baggie along with 9 paperclips.

Paperclip Addition

This is how SG checks her answers.

This is how SG checks her answers.

To Play:
Tell child you are going to teach them how to add numbers. Show her the first PCS of 1+1=. Have her put 1 paperclip above the first number 1 and another paperclip above the second 1. Tell her you are both going to add the paperclips. Count them together. Then tell her it’s just like that for the math problem. Point to the math problem and say, “1+1=…” Then count the paperclips again. Ask her what 1+1=. If she doesn’t say two then you can tell her. Show her how to check her answer by turning the PCS over for the correct answer. (Note: My exact wording isn’t needed. I typed it out as an example of how this can be worded. Feel free to say what works for you and your child.) Repeat per PCS and add more addition problems when child is ready.

I keep all of these games in an inexpensive photo box. The box also matches my living room decor, so the games are nicely camouflaged in our living space.

These are some of the skills SG learns when playing these simple games:
1. Following directions
2. Counting
3. Fine Motor Skills
4. Simple Addition
5. Learning to recognize math symbols (+ and =)
6. Able to put numbers in order from 1-10
7. Able to put numbers in order from 10-1
8. Learning to spell name (first, middle & last)
9. Matching number sets to numbers
10. Sitting still to work on and finish a task

(As a side note, SG is 3. She turns 4 in late November. We started these games in August and they are age appropriate for her.)

SG enjoys these games (especially the paperclip ones!). I love that these games were simple to make and have taught SG a great deal already!

I hope this post has brought encouragement to someone out there.

I have more ideas to share for another day.

What about you, friend? Do you have any easy and frugal preschool ideas?

(I was inspired by this blog post & this one.)

Frugalista: Homemade Dry Shampoo

Y’all, I’m just so excited about this post today. I mostly write about faith, family, fertility and food allergies. But today you’re gonna learn something new about me… I’m also a frugalista! Yes, I have a stockpile. But that is not what I’m so fired up about today.

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Dry shampoo. Do you use it? I do. And y’all, it’s SO expensive. I’ve used Alterna dry shampoo for over a year. I believe I pay $22 for it. Yes, honey, that’s spendy! But it’s worth it for the ease of not washing and styling my hair everyday.

Well, I’m kind of a pinning fool on Pinterest. I even have a board I named “Frugalista” for all of those make your own pins or how to do groceries on $30 a Week! pins. Yeah, y’all food allergy moms know we cannot survive on $30 a week. That buys us a few half gallons of dairy free milk and some dairy free yogurts. So, I economize in other areas. And my latest and greatest find is making my own dry shampoo.

The best part? You probably already have one of the just TWO ingredients needed in your pantry. I did. And really, the second ingredient is used for a fresh scent to your hair.  So the second ingredient is optional.

I also texted back and forth with my hairstylist Emily, to make sure I wasn’t going to ruin my hair. I have it colored to hide my tons of gray hairs and I surely didn’t want to ruin my every 6 weeks investment.

So here are the two ingredients… cornstarch and essential oils. That’s it! I already had the cornstarch and bought a little bottle of lavender essential oil for $9.79 at HyVee. The $9.79 seems a little steep for a half ounce of the essential oil, but when I realized I will only use 5 drops of it per batch, it seems like a steal!

Here’s how to make Homemade Dry Shampoo:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of cornstarch
  • 5-10 drops of any essential oil you wish (Optional. I used lavender.)

Directions:

  1.  Mix 1/4 cup of cornstarch with 5-10 drops of lavender essential oil in a bowl.  I used 5 drops.  Mix well with a fork.
  2.  Spoon mixture into a labeled airtight container.

That’s it! Now here are a few ways to use the dry shampoo:
At first, I put my homemade dry shampoo back into the purple store bought container. This didn’t work because my dry shampoo wasn’t thin enough to pass through the little hole in the top.

I solved this by storing my dry shampoo in a plastic GLAD bowl. I use a $1 make up brush from Target and dab it in the dry shampoo and then target the oily zones in my hair. Gently rub in.

Here’s the key for us dark haired girls. Use a blow dryer and brush and blow out that dry shampoo! If you only brush your hair, there will be a few gray-ish spots. Trust me on this one. Thanks Emily for the blow drying tip!

One other way to use the dry shampoo is to put it on before bed. I tried this and it worked just as well. When I woke up, a teeny bit of dry shampoo was visible and a quick run through of the blow dryer was all I needed. This is perfect for hectic mornings. Take a quick shower the night before with a shower cap, toss some dry shampoo in your hair before bed, a quick blow dry in the morning (oh and make up for me) and the morning routine is over in a snap.

Another way to store and use the dry shampoo is to store it in an empty and cleaned spice jar and sprinkle it in your hair.

I like dabbing the exact areas I want with the make up brush. It seems to waste less dry shampoo.

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There you have it. Dry shampoo on a budget. The entire 16 ounce cornstarch bottle cost me $1.69. The essential oil cost me $9.79. $11.48 all in. With a brand new cornstarch, I can make this dry shampoo 8 times. EIGHT TIMES! And I’ll still have tons of essential oil left. Considering the store bought dry shampoo (2.65 U.S. Oz. and $22) last me for approximately 6 months, this is an incredible cost savings!

I’ve only used it for about a week and I see no difference between the way the homemade dry shampoo and the store bought dry shampoo works.

This would make adorable gifts! Use a pretty glass jar and attach a brand new $1 make up brush and you have a thoughtful and very practical gift.

If you end up trying this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I already gave some of this dry shampoo to my mom and sister-in-law and made a second batch for myself. I asked my sister-in-law for her honest opinion and she said, “It’s fantastic!! I may never shower again! You can quote me on that.” Y’all know she’s just kidding about the shower part. She’s a clean lady! 🙂

(P.S. We just got back from a week in the South, and the y’alls are flowing out of me and I just can’t stop!!! And I don’t think I want to stop, y’all!)

*This dry shampoo was inspired from these two websites.

http://lightcleansimple.com/dry-shampoo-recipes-that-keep-hair-fresh-and-save-money/
http://smallhomebigstart.com/2013/02/dry-shampoo-for-light-hair-and-dark-hair.html (This site gave me the great idea to use a make up brush, which was perfect after my original idea didn’t work. She also suggested using a spice jar, which I reference above.)