Everyone who reads my blog knows I like to bargain shop. I love trying store brand products that are better than the name brand. I recently got the opportunity to try out Giant Food's new World Menu line. It was way better than I imagined.

 Currently, Giant's World Menu line features more than 50 Italian and Asian favorites, found primarily in the frozen section, all featuring quality ingredients and easy preparation. From ready-made meals during the work week, to encouraging kids to try new foods to fun themed weekend meals, I think you could have some fun incorporating GIANT’S World Menu products into meal planning as I have already started to do so. 

I was really excited to see how my family would like some old favorites along with some new selections I had never tasted before. One thing I like the do is to constantly introduce new foods and meals to my family. We tried Italian and had the Gnocchi from the freezer section. I also purchased the Extra Virgin Olive Oil which I used to make Giant's fresh cut pork-chops to go along with the gnocchi. It was amazing! I was afraid the sauce would be too overwhelming but it was perfect. 

This line of World Menu products really is an easy alternative to traditional take-out, and the best part is that it costs far less than takeout from your favorite restaurant and yet tastes just as good or better. This brand new line of products features quality ingredients and easy preparation.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post with GIANT Food Stores but all opinions are my own.

Earth Day, first observed in 1970, takes place on April 22 of each year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 22 million people across the nation joined forces that first Earth Day to advocate for better stewardship of natural resources. The EPA, along with the Clean Water and Clean Air acts, trace their roots to that day.

Over the decades, the event has evolved into a global celebration of nature, with people across the world discussing ways to “go green” and highlighting the continued need to improve environmental protections. April is now even commonly dubbed “Earth Month,” giving this important topic a full 30-days of attention.

There is another green, and related, holiday tucked into this month: National Arbor Day, the fourth Friday of April. It is meant to encourage the planting of and caring for trees. On the first Arbor Day, which took place in Nebraska in 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. By 1920 every state in the country officially recognized the holiday.

Maybe you try to be green all year round, or maybe these April occasions serve as an “Oh, I meant to do that,” reminder. Either way, the reality is while it can be challenging to maintain a green lifestyle, it is ok to begin by doing small tasks on a daily basis. Given enough time, eventually these small tasks build into a routine that becomes natural and expands into new eco-friendly activities.

I am constantly trying to create activities and crafts for my family that have a low impact on the earth, repurposing found objects, connecting with the outdoors, cooking from whole foods. I then share these projects on my blog, Green Owl Crafts (greenowlcrafts.com), using lots of pictures and detailed instructions so anybody can give them a try.

We are not the ‘greenest’ family, but we do things everyday that help reduce our carbon footprint: recycling, being conscious of energy and water use and reusing as many things as possible. No matter where you fall on that scale, you can let Earth Month inspire you to make small changes in your everyday life, and even in your community, that have a positive impact on the world around you.
Try to be even just a little greener this April. Or, even better, make every day Earth Day! Here are some ideas to get you started.

Earth DayPlant a Tree Planting a tree is a great way to celebrate Arbor Day and Earth Day. It’s more than just beautifying an area. Trees are beneficial to the environment in numerous ways. They help produce oxygen and filter out pollutants to clean the air. In addition, trees help prevent erosion and preserve water levels in the soil. If you have the space, add a tree to your yard. Or visit arborday.org/celebrate for nearby tree planting events.

For your home, fruit and shade trees are a good choice. In the first instance, there’s the bonus of enjoying fruit eventually, and as a result providing food for the family, neighbors and friends. Shade trees planted in the right location can help keep a home cool and reduce energy costs.

Start a Garden A garden doesn’t have to be a complex undertaking and it is a great way for families to spend time together. A vegetable garden enables you to enjoy foods that are grown from your own two hands, cutting out the middleman and reducing the carbon footprint made by delivery trucks and trips to grocery stores. Even people who live in apartments can start a small garden on their patios using recycled barrels, containers or window boxes. For those with no outdoor space, many herbs can be grown indoors as well.

Milk jugs can be repurposed as seed starting trays, teaching children about both recycling and gardening.Project: Seed-Starting Trays Teach children that garbage does not simply disappear by finding ways to reuse packaging such as plastic milk jugs. By repurposing these, we can reduce waste, create useful items and save money. All while spending quality time with the kids. This project allows you to enhance your green thumb by reusing items destined for your recycling bin.

Materials: Milk Jugs or 2-Liter Bottles (rinsed well) Utility Knife Scissors Potting Soil Seeds
  • For a perfect seed-starting flat, use the bottom portion of a milk jug.
  • Begin by washing the container to remove milk residue.
  • Next, measure three inches up from the bottom; then carefully cut off the bottom portion with a utility knife.
  • Take the bottom portion and poke 3-4 drainage holes by cutting small slits.
  • Children can fill the jug bottom with soil and plant the seeds according to the package.
  • Place the seed starting tray on top of another jug bottom, without drainage holes, to capture water runoff.
  • After planting, water seeds well and put them in a sunny area. To keep moisture in, simply set the top of the jug back over the planted seeds, creating a terrarium.
Amanda Causey Baity, Prince William Living’s marketing director and photo editor, lives in Montclair with her family. She also blogs about thrifty family activities and recipes on her blog GreenOwlCrafts.com. She can be reached at acausey@princewilliamliving.com.

Published in the April issue of Prince William Living

Family game night is an excellent opportunity to put down the cell phones, turn off the computer and video games, and gather everyone together. Parents and children are able to spend some much-needed downtime reconnecting and creating memories.

Making a habit of game night also keeps the lines of communication open, especially as children grow older. Whether you are just starting this as a family tradition or are looking for ways to re-energize it, here are some ideas that will have you and your little ones looking forward to the next get-together.

Prince William Living Jan 2015Family Fun January Family Game Night
Commit to a date: Families are busy, so choose a date that every family member can agree upon. Whether you decide to have family game night once a week, twice a month or monthly, set a date to which you all can commit. Knowing that every Wednesday or every other Tuesday is family game night will give children and parents something fun to anticipate.

Make an easy meal: When family game night arrives, everyone wants to get to the fun, so planning an easy meal is the best way to get parents out of the kitchen fast so the play can begin. Plan ahead with a frozen pizza or a casserole made the day before, served with a simple salad, raw veggies or cut-up fruit. Homemade hamburgers or grilled cheese sandwiches are also quick crowd pleasers.

Plan some fun snacks: Once play begins, you won't want to stop the fun when everyone gets hungry. Have a few prepared snacks and drinks available or make a special recipe beforehand. Fresh fruit, trail mix, pretzels and popcorn are all good choices that are simple to serve, or make up a batch of cheese nachos that everyone can dig into. Prepare drinks ahead of time to serve with the snacks or have soda, water or juice on hand to quench everyone's thirst.

Have a variety of games: You will want to have a good mix of games that match your children’s abilities. Classic board games such as Monopoly, Life, Clue and Sorry work for almost every age group. A deck of playing cards allows for options that grow with your child, starting off with Go Fish, Crazy Eights, War and Slapjack, with the option of adding more complex games such as Rummy, Spades and poker over time.

Classic games like Perfection and Operation build hand-eye coordination, while Twister will get everyone moving—and laughing. Trivia games can be educational and fun, too. Have the children take turns picking the games, or draw game names from an empty jar to make things fair. Add to your collection by keeping an eye out at yard sales, thrift stores or retail sales.
Keep it fun: The point of the evening is to enjoy each other's company, so don't get too wrapped up in the competition aspect. Make jokes, help each other out and, most of all, remember that being together is what's important.

Personalized Card Holder Young children love to play games like Go Fish, but cards are hard for little hands to manage. If they lay their cards down, it becomes almost impossible to play fairly. Enter the personalized card holder to keep cards organized and out of sight. I’ve seen similiar products at game stores, but these are so much more fun, and only cost about $1 to make.

Start with a chip clip; you can get them at a dollar store if you don’t have any laying around the kitchen. Then, pick scrapbook paper that will load into your printer or use digital scrapbook papers. Sometimes you can find free patterned paper images online, or you may have some clipart backgrounds in Word or other software you already own that will work.

Measure your chip clip so you know how wide the paper needs to be (should be at least width of clip at longest point) and add your child’s name if you wish. Make sure it will go in the right direction; the clip will be held upside down by the spring end when in use. You will want one piece of paper for the front (with name, if using) and one for the back (no name). They will be the same size. Print off your paper, cut out and trim to fit the clip. Mod Podge your paper on the front and back and ta-da… a personalized card holder that will keep the game fun (and fair) for everyone!

Safari Dip
1/2 8 oz. package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 2 - 3 tablespoons milk 2 teaspoons honey
Celery sticks, animal crackers, and/or assorted dippers such as carrot sticks, apple wedges, pear wedges or graham cracker sticks.
Directions For dip, in a small mixing bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in peanut butter, milk and honey until well combined and smooth. If desired, chill before serving. To serve, spread dip in celery sticks and garnish with animal crackers and cut-up fresh fruit. Or, serve with assorted dippers.
Amanda Causey Baity, Prince William Living’s marketing director, lives in Montclair with her family. She also blogs about thrifty family activities and recipes on her blog GreenOwlCrafts.com. She can be reached at acausey@princewilliamliving.com.

Published in the January issue of Prince William Living.

Want an eco- friendly way to coupon? Then you should try Food Lion’s MVP Coupon Hub

This is such an awesome solution to my already hectic and busy schedule. I love to coupon but sometimes I just do not have the time or patience to cut and organize. Then when I get into the store I end up losing a few of them along the way. Here is the solution: Food Lion launched the “MVP  Coupon Hub” which is a simple way for families to save money as they do their grocery shopping. 

This program allows users to load coupons directly to their MVP cards right from the Food Lion website!  This was so simple. It literally took me less than 5 minutes to watch the video on FoodLion.com, register my MVP card (you can easily sign up if you do not already have one), and start loading coupons! One thing I really liked is that there were a large number of coupons that I actually felt like I would use! 

This whole concept is awesome. So now, I don't need to remember anything when I head to the grocery store. I simply scan my MVP card and all the coupons will be right there ready to use at checkout!

This is what you will need to do:
  • Go their website HERE and sign in to your Food Lion account or sign up for one. You will need your MVP card if you are signing up for the first time.
  • Click on the Load to Card or the Print at Home tab to see the available digital and printable coupons.  You can filter the coupons by key work, expiration or coupon value.
  • Once you have loaded digital coupons to your MVP card, you can click on the Print My Coupon List link to print out a list of the coupons you loaded so you remember which digital coupons you have available when you go shopping.
  • When you buy the items that you have digital coupons for, the digital coupon amounts will come off at the register (as long as you use the MVP card you registered with and you bought the correct products).  If the amount does not come off automatically, let the cashier know so they can have a manager fix it.

 Would you like to win one of four $25 gift cards from Food Lion? 
  • Follow @greenowlcrafts and @FoodLion on Twitter
  • Visit the Food Lion Coupon Hub to download at least one coupon to your store MVP Card.
  • Post a tweet letting me know which coupon you added to your card. Tag me @greenowlcrafts and @FoodLion and use the hashtag #FLcouponhub in your tweet, and you’ll be entered to win.
  • Like me on Facebook and then comment on my wall and let me know which coupon you added to your card.
  • Or you can comment on this post letting me know if you are using Twitter or Facebook or Both! That gives you 5 different ways & opportunities to enter! Do them all if you like!
Contest ends on the 30th and the winner will be announced on December 1st!

{Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Food Lion, but all thoughts and ideas are my own.}

Here is a preview of BabyBrother's bedroom. While I am no where near where I want to be with the decorations I have been focused on making sure we had the essentials. 

When I found out I was expecting I immediately thought about finances. How exciting! You find out that you are about to have another little guy or gal in the family and you immediately worry about how to pay for everything. Sadly, that is the world I live in and I am sure many of you are in the same boat. I am already a thrifty shopper and feel like it is a waste to buy new when you can buy used at a fraction of the price (not to mention the eco-friendliness of thrifting). I knew I would easily be able to find everything I could possibly need for our new little bundle of joy by starting early. 

My husband has been after me since I brought home the first thing from the thrift store...."He's not even born yet and he has enough clothes to last him until he is 10!" Well....not quite THAT many clothes but hopefully after this post he will appreciate all the time I have invested in scouring thrift stores and yard sales the past 7 months or so getting our essentials. So....here they are. Just the essentials and a few extras. Things that I felt were needed to provide a well rounded nursery for a newborn. 

It's been ten years since I had to do this and back then I purchased almost everything new....and then donated/sold it because I did not think I would ever have another. Some things were kept and used with my nephew & nieces but the bulk of Big Brother's things are gone. I have his special clothes and blankets and some of his favorite books and toys that were kept and used....but I had to basically start over. I hope this post encourages some of you to take the thrifty route when planning your nursery!

 Before I start getting into detail on the items that are in Baby Brother's room I will go ahead and say that before I purchased some of these items I did check the dates they were manufactured as well as look for any safety recalls. Things from yard sales & thrift stores are not always up to safety standards so shop and purchase at your own risk.

We typically in the warmer months go looking for yard sales every Saturday morning around 8. I use an app called Yard Sale Treasure Map which links to craigslist and imports yard sales that are close by my location. I can't tell you how many times I have found awesome yard sales using this app. Most of the time I don't even have to leave our neighborhood or immediate area! Also, I will say use this at your own risk since the map is not always 100% accurate and sometimes if someone has canceled a sale it will not update in time. Once you get close to the area start looking for signs.

At one of these recent outings I found this wooden rocking chair for $5. I really wanted a cushioned over-sized glider.....but definitely could not afford $450+ for a new one and they are hard to come by in good used condition. Even then you are talking $100. When I saw this rocker I immediately purchased it. I tried to find a cushion I liked for the whole thing but those are also expensive. Do I actually NEED the whole thing padded....no....although I would like for it to be. I found the bottom cushion at the thrift store for $2. **BONUS** it was for two bottom cushions....and we happened to get a Free rocker as well at a yard sale because it was broken and the lady told me to take it. We fixed it up and put it in the living room! The retail price I would put on this rocker is $150....only because Im not sure where it was purchased. I know there is this one on Amazon that looks similar for $299.

The DIY toy boxes were a project that you can find details about here: {click here for the post}

The Ikea plush fox (which has a baby one to match) was found at the thrift store for $1 and the cute little fox book which was brand new was purchased for fifty cents.

The bouncer seat was also purchased at the thrift store for only $3. The batteries were barely working when I tested it so that at least told me that it worked. I typically bring batteries with me when I go thrifting to check things like that but here lately I have been forgetting to. Retail value of this in new condition (and this thing is in excellent condition!) is $65.00 on Amazon.

Another thing I'd like to point out is when buying used products, especially baby products make sure you can thoroughly clean the item. You do not know where this has been prior to you purchasing for use. As a rule....if I cannot take it apart and wash it in the washing machine for cloth/soft items then it better be free because I don't want to spend a lot of time sanitizing and hand/spot washing.

This may spark some controversy but we are using the heirloom crib that my friend Cindy gave us. Her children slept in this and before she moved away from Northern Virginia (sniff sniff) she asked me if I would like to have it. It is an Edison Little Folks Crib and I adore it! I checked all the safety standards and this crib does meet them other than the drop rail side which can easily be made stationary. The only crib like this I could find online for sale was for $450.00 which is because it is a vintage piece. I will put a value on the crib for $119 because you can purchase a brand new (& cute) one for that price.

The mattress was gently used and I got it for free off of a local Facebook yard sale site. New retail value for this is $75.

The rock & play sleeper was a yard sale find and I paid $8 for it. New retail price is $75.

This photo is going to be hard to determine a savings but Im sure most of you will know about how much these little toys and books retail for. A lot of the board books I found for twenty five cents at thrift stores or yard sales or they were Big Brothers & my nephews.

The black bag to the left contains a breast pump that I am borrowing from my dear friend Kelly. The retail value of this particular pump is $300.

The little donkey riding toy was too cute to pass up. It's in excellent condition and while I couldn't put it in the washing machine I was able to sanitize it very well. I couldn't find anything like it online but this is the closest thing to it and it retails new for $56.

Im going to be borrowing the changing table that my boss used for her sons but I have not been able to pick it up & bring it home. Retail value for a new changing table is about $80 and I will have to buy the padded part but I think those are about $10 so I will get that new.

My cloth diaper stash has come from a variety of places. Again, my friend Kelly gave me several of these and she also was able to find a deal for me on some used ones. I have also been able to find several at the thrift store. Retail for cloth diapers varies and it is hard to put a value on them. I have saved a lot this way and a big thank you to Kelly for helping me in my cloth diaper journey.

Let's see where do I begin here. From the right.....I got two Boppies at the thrift store. The "naked" one had a pink cover so I took it off and it is currently in the donate to the thrift store pile. A new Boppy with a cover retail for about $40.

The Bumbo seat with the tray was an awesome yard sale find. They didn't have these when Big Brother was a little guy and my nephew loved his so this was an essential item for me. Got it at a yard sale for $3 and a new one retails for $50.

The Moby Wrap was also a must for me and they are hard to find second hand at a decent price. I saw this one at a yard sale without a tag and almost did not ask the price scared it would be unreasonable. When she said $4 I almost cried....it is brand new! Retail price for a Moby Wrap is about $40.

The tummy time mat was new in the box and my sister had that left over from my nephew.

The two baby carriers are from the thrift store. One was was $1 and the other was $5. The  $1 carrier is Chicco brand. They retail new for $50. The other one is a CatBird Baby mei tai carrier. I got it for $5 and the new retail price for it is $79. The print I have is not being sold anymore though but this one is still in great used condition.

The crib bumpers were a thift store find for $2. They are Eddie Bauer brand and Im not even sure how to price them. The shopping cart and high chair cover was $1 at the thrift store. Retail for this particular one is $30. The My Breast Friend nursing pillow was not an essential item....just something I purchased prior to finding the Boppies. They retail new for $45 and I got this one for $2. Last is the baby bath. I paid $3 for this at the thrift store and this exact one retails new for $25.

I cannot even begin to price out clothes, shoes, etc. I got pieces from numerous places...hand me downs, yard sales, thrift stores, gifts. I have only purchased one thing new for his wardrobe and it was on clearance at Target. The blankets were all gifts and leftovers from Big Brother. You can check out my Thrifty Baby Shower to see more about the gifts I received by following this link.

So here is a roundup of the essentials and the amount of money I saved not buying new:

  • Rocking Chair ($145)
  • Custom Toy Boxes ($88)
  • Bouncer ($62)
  • Crib ($119)
  • Crib mattress ($75)
  • Rock n Play Sleeper ($68)
  • Breast Pump ($300)
  • Riding Donkey ($53)
  • Changing Table ($80)
  • Cloth Diapers (???)
  • Boppies ($72)
  • Sumbo seat ($47)
  • Moby Wrap ($36)
  • Chicco carrier ($49)
  • Mei Tai carrier ($74)
  • Cart/Chair cover ($39)
  • Nursing Pillow ($43)
  • Baby Bath ($22)
Grand total that I can actual say I have saved: $1786.00 and that is just on these items named. There may be close to another $800+ dollars that I do not have the time or want to put the effort into tracking including extra crib sheets (which are expensive and all the crib sheets we have are thrifted) as well as the countless toys he has....Im sure it is several hundred in savings on toys alone!

Now I need a nap after going through all of this....so sweet dreams & enjoy!

most people know that i am a thrift-a-holic. i even have my own thrifting website NOVAthrifting where i write reviews of local thrift stores here in northern virginia. 

anyways...when i announced my pregnancy in may i had so many friends asking me if i were going to have a baby shower and that they wanted to get me a gift. well....while i LOVE giving gifts and making things for others i am not so good at accepting gifts.....let alone opening them in front of people. so i started to get anxiety. also, im a little old school and since i had already had a baby shower with my first born (10 years ago) i felt like it was rude to ask for another shower.

my solution came to me one day while i was browsing through the baby section of one of my favorite thrift stores....why not have a thrifty baby shower?? so i started googling and searching on pinterest and could not find a thing. i find it hard to believe that someone out there has not had a thrifty gift baby shower! 

this is the BEST way to do it y'all and im about to tell you why! i got some really creative and awesome gifts for baby brother! i even had a prize for the person who had the most thrifty gift. i did do a baby registry for some things...not everyone has time to go thrifting or enjoys it like i do so i did not want to exclude anyone. and i do love everything i received....not just my thrifted items.

here are my invitations that i designed and my sister printed and mailed.

i got too many awesome things to list but here are a few things that i photographed to share.

clearance magnetic primer! such a great idea since i love to craft and make stuff!

my mother in law made this scrapbook which was from the goodwill and all the pieces she made were thrifted too!

my sister found this little toy horse at an antique consignment. too cute!

my mom got this bag at a yard sale for me to use as a diaper bag.

some of my favorite...i got blankets that belonged to my nieces, nephews and other family
members as gifts! love knowing that when i use them people i love have used them too!

so the most thrifty gift award goes too......

my former boss and one of my best good friends charlene. she really has a heart of gold. her gift was not only thrifty but the most sentimental. two of the gifts she gave me belonged to her son anthony sanders. he passed away when he was 16 years old on August 16, 2001 after a short battle with cancer. he was her only child and it is heartbreaking to think of the pain of not only loosing a child, but not being able to prevent it from happening. she is like a second mother to me and i love her dearly. the little tennis shoes were anthony's first pair and they even have a little alabama red clay on the bottom to remind me that he wore them in the yard. the baseball was one of his prized possessions...signed by the 1992 atlanta braves team. i will forever cherish these gifts....and all of them i received. THAT is why i recommend a thrifty baby shower. sometimes the greatest gift of all cannot be purchased new off the shelf....it it in someone's home or an item that can be recycled from the goodwill or thrift store.

here are some of the new gifts too. i loved them all! thank you everyone who took the time out of their day to come see us!

oh...and since it's fall i made this little mustache man pumpkin. isn't he cute??

happy thrifting ya'll!

Tired of looking at the nursery's grey plastic storage bin as a toy box I set out on a mission to find the perfect wooden box to create something special for my son. 

Here are my before photos. I got these from Bthrifty. They were 15.99 for the both but it was half off furniture the day we went so I got them for $7.50! What a deal! I instantly knew I wanted to make them toy boxes for Baby Brother but was not sure exactly what my vision was.

I got this Ikea fox plush from The Village Thrift for $1.

This awesome fabric...which took me hours to pick out, was only $2 a yard. I got it at Joann's on red tag half off clearance! The orange paint came from Home Depot and I got the sample size. It was less than $3 and I still have half of it left. The chalkboard paint was in my stock and I have gotten so much use out of the can I purchased about a year ago.

Total project cost: $12.50 for both
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