Monday, May 13, 2013

Embellished Tea Towel {Frugal Teacher Gift}

As the end of the school year approaches I wanted to thank the teachers and helpers in our enrichment program in a personal, but frugal way.  My sweet sister-in-law gave me a cool embellished towel last year for my birthday, so I copied that idea using fabrics I had on hand, since I love to get gifts I can really use.  The flour sack towels came from One Kings Lane.

To start out, I prewashed all the towels and then pressed them before adding the embellishment.

To make the embellishment strip I gathered or cut 45" wide strips of fabric.  The strips were about 3" wide, but could be any width you desire.  When I had a bunch of strips I sewed them together and added a few more strips until I had a big piece which was more than the width of the towel I was going to put it on (to allow for shrinkage and leaving enough at each edge to neatly turn it under on the edge of the towel. At this point I laundered the whole piece because I wasn't sure I had washed all the fabrics I was using and I really did not want it to bleed in the wash for the recipient of this gift. After ironing all the seams, I cut the large piece into strips (perpendicular to the seams), folded down and ironed the top and bottom edge of each strip and top-stitched them to the flour sack towels.  Using strips that were 45" wide I was able to make 10 of these towels, just enough for our teacher list.  :)

I paired these with some extras I had around the house, things like dish soap, hand soap, candles.  Since those items were on hand, along with my fabric and thread stash, I really only paid for the flour sack towels, which came to a whopping $.75/piece.  Of course, our teachers are worth so much more, but with our current budget, I hope they enjoy the gift even if I didn't spend much out of pocket.

What's your favorite little gift to give or receive?

See also: wrapping paper teacher gift & another towel gift for teachers

Mid-May Menu

This morning I ran out to pick up our Bountiful Baskets and do a quick stop at the grocery store and now I'm feeling a little overwhelmed (so much produce!) and tired, much like the rest of life these days.  We're busy wrapping up the school year and sports seasons.  My husband is working on his finals for his first semester toward an MBA.  I'm still plugging away at spring cleaning, very slowly. I feel a pretty big clutter purge coming on in the near future.  And our kitchen is jam-packed with produce and a big purchase of dried beans.  Time to get a plan and work toward some order.

Several goals guide our menu this time around:
1. Eat lots of produce and don't let any go to waste.
2. Eat a bean-based dinner at least once a week.  I found 3 lb. bags of organic sprouted beans at Costco for $2.97.   Inexpensive, high in protein and fiber, quicker-cooking, a pleasant taste...yes, we'll make these a staple until our 50 lb. supply is gone.
3. Get back to making whole wheat bread.  We haven't been eating much bread lately simply because I haven't been making it and it does help to round out a meal in a healthy way.  I haven't done any real research, but at this point I still think that homemade bread from freshly ground, high-protein, chemical-free wheat is part of a healthy diet.  Anyone else feel overwhelmed that eating "healthy" has so many different definitions depending on who you are talking to and what you are reading? I'll try to keep doing my best with the budget we have. 
4.  Cook a little extra ahead every day so I'm not starting from square one for each lunch and dinner. 
5. Avoid much food shopping until the end of the month.

5/11 - B: oatmeal & yogurt
L: sandwiches, watermelon
D: burgers w/ homemade buns, corn on the cob

5/12 - B: bagels & yogurt
L: Mother's Day request - croissant turkey sandwiches, chips, key lime pie
D: artichokes w/ garlic butter, cantaloupe, rolls

5/13 - B: bagels & yogurt
L: leftovers or pasta salad w/turkey
D: beef taco salad, watermelon

5/14 - B: soaked oats w/strawberries
L: southwest salad (beans, corn, onion, pepper, etc.), chips & artichoke dip
D: ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, broccoli

5/15 - B: ww toast, yogurt
L: leftovers or sandwiches
D: stuffed peppers (beef, rice, beans), cantaloupe

5/16 - B: cream of wheat w/berries, yogurt
L: omelets (broccoli, turkey, cheese, etc.)
D: BBQ beans w/ham, tossed salad

5/17 - B: granola & yogurt
L: BBQ beans, fruit salad
D: potluck - huge salad w/dressings, cheddar & feta, cucumber, onions, croutons, etc., whole wheat rolls, main dish?

5/18 - B: pancakes w/berries
L: lunch out at the park(use a gift card for pizza) or leftovers at home
D: runzas (cabbage, onions & beef in a homemade bread pocket), fruit salad

5/19 - B: blueberry muffins (extra to freeze), yogurt
L: runzas, fruit
D: green beans with ham, quinoa, apple crisp

5/20 - B: scrambled eggs, yogurt
L: leftovers
D: broccoli cheese soup, whole wheat rolls, fresh fruit

5/21 - B: ww toast, yogurt
L: soup, rolls
D: spaghetti & meat sauce, tossed salad

5/22 - B: ww toast, yogurt
L: pizza soup
D: sausage quiche, strawberry rhubarb crisp (I sub o.j. concentrate for the liqueur), orange juice

5/23 - B: oatmeal, yogurt
L: leftovers
D: beans & rice w/toppings, fruit

5/24 - B: blueberry muffins, yogurt
L: leftovers
D: pulled pork on homemade buns, coleslaw, fruit salad

How do you cook through busy seasons?  Hitting the drive through or stockpiling frozen food sounds appealing to me, until I count the financial and health cost.   Suggestions?