10 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Plants

10 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Plants - Food, Wine & Poopy Diapers

10 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Plants - Food, Wine & Poopy Diapers

Spring is here! Who’s excited? THIS GIRL! Although I’m becoming more of a winter person the last couple years, mostly due to my love of ice fishing with my family, I absolutely love Spring, and the change of seasons we get to enjoy here in Iowa.

Spring is a refreshing change of pace, and it feels so good to get some sun on your skin again after being cooped up inside! Working in the yard is one of my favorite things to do after the thaw. However, I get sticker shock every time I have to make a trip to the nursery for plants and supplies!

Frugal gal that I am, I set out on a mission to find the cheapest (or FREE) plants that I could find. Here are the best sources that I’ve found!

10 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Plants - Food Wine & Poopy Diapers

Join the National Arbor Day Association – Become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation and receive 10 free trees as well as tree nursery discounts.

Craigslist – Check out the free section, or search under”free plants”. Any avid gardener would shudder at the thought of dividing up their lovely landscaping, only to throw it in the trash. They want it to go to a good home, yours!

Garage Sales – Garage sales are a common place for people to sell their extra cuttings for mere pennies.

Plant Sales – Plant sales are frequently held by churches and community organizations as a way to raise money as well as improve the environment.

Free Plants By Mail.org – Free Plants by Mail was started by local growers to help find a solution to the plants that were grown for nurseries but never purchased. They send you a free plant every month, you just pay shipping.

10 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Plants - Food Wine & Poopy Diapers

Nurseries – Nurseries frequently discard their lowest performing plants and flowers that look a little shabby, the ones nobody wants to buy. With a little TLC, however, you can bring these beauties back to life! Call your local nursery and ask if you can have what’s just going into the trash bin.

Neighbors doing yard work – Next time you see your neighbors out doing yard work and weeding their flower beds, offer to lend a hand in exchange for some divided perennials or cuttings.

Garden Clubs – Nearly every town has at least one garden club with members who meet frequently to discuss the trials and tribulations of gardening. Most members also love to trade and giveaway their own plants to spread the joy to others.

Dollar Tree – When starting plants from seeds, you can’t beat Dollar Tree’s price of 4 packets for just $1! They don’t have the seed selection of the big nurseries, but if you’re looking for the basics, it’s a good way to go. Remember, just because something is cheaper, doesn’t necessarily mean the quality isn’t as good.

Split or take cuttings from your current plants – Most perennials need to be split every year or two. So, remember, two hostas will quickly become four, and four will quickly become eight. Splitting your plants is a great way to get more plants for the cost of just one.

I hope this helps you save some money on your Spring & Summer landscaping! Happy Planting!

10 Ways to Get Cheap or Free Plants - Food, Wine & Poopy Diapers

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Food, Wine & Poopy Diapers Featured in Woman’s Day Magazine

Some cozy blankets from Goodwill, including a wool throw from Faribault Woolen Mill.

Kelli Brink Woman's Day

Over the Summer, I had the huge privilege of working with Woman’s Day magazine as a contributing blogger on an article titled, “Secrets of the Super Savers“. I was honored to be featured in the September 2015 issue, where I shared some of my favorite frugal ideas and thrifty finds.

You can click here to read the entire article online!

Kelli Brink Woman's Day

This article also featured some fantastic money-saving ideas from the gals over at The Frugal Navy Wife, Cheapsters, Live Like You Are Rich, His And Her Money, Stacking Benjamins, and L Bee And The Money Tree.

In the article, I mentioned that I love finding cozy, high-end blankets at thrift stores and Goodwill. Even though our home is warm and toasty, I just love the added coziness that baskets of blankets add to a room. It just makes you want to grab a soft throw and snuggle up with someone you love.

Some cozy Goodwill blankets piled into a $10 antique milk crate I found on a barn pickin' expedition. :-)
Some cozy Goodwill blankets piled into a $10 antique milk crate I found on a barn pickin’ expedition. 🙂

When I’m shopping, I look for wool blankets from Faribault Woolen Mill in Minnesota, as well as Indian blankets, and hand-made afghans. These items are unique, and can be expensive when buying new. I pay special attention to the tag…you want to make sure it’s machine washable and dryer safe!

Be sure to check out the September issue of Woman’s Day magazine for great money-saving ideas, from our family to yours! 🙂

Plaid blanket from Goodwill, paired with matching pillows from Gordmans.
Plaid blanket from Goodwill, paired with matching pillows from Gordmans.
Some cozy blankets from Goodwill, including a wool throw from Faribault Woolen Mill.
Some cozy blankets from Goodwill, including a wool throw from Faribault Woolen Mill.
My cozy front porch Christmas display. I love the look of plaid blankets thrown over a chair.
My cozy front porch Christmas display. I love the look of plaid blankets thrown over a chair.
Soft, thrift store blankets in a recycled basket.
Soft, thrift store blankets in a recycled basket.
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20 [Mostly] FREE Things to Do With Your Toddler This Summer

Summer Fun With Your Toddler!

Summer’s here. Actually, it feels like it’s almost over. July has just started, but it’s already a blur on the calendar, filled with one event after another. And by the time August arrives, I’ll feel like it’s practically time for school to start!
The days have a way of getting away from me too fast, only realizing at dinner time that we really didn’t do anything fun today. That’s why I made this list of some fun (and mostly free) things to do with my little ones during the day. Although each activity on this list is very simple, they’re all things that my Littles LOVE to do, and a guaranteed way to make them happy and wear them out! 🙂
1. Go to the beach. For us, it’s just a lake or river beach, but it might as well be an ocean to a kid. Pack towels, sunscreen, snacks, and water. Kids will splash and play for hours. You don’t need fancy shovel and pail sets for sand castles, just use your old plastic leftover containers, plastic cups, and measuring spoons.

2. Fill a plastic storage tub with water and toys and watch them stay busy for at least an hour! My kids love splashing and being messy, and they have as much fun doing this as they do splashing in the pool!

3. Go to the splash pad! It’s fun, and FREE!

4. Play date at the park! Meet up with some other tots & parents at the park, where you can enjoy some adult conversation while the kids have a ball.

5. Go tour your local nature center. They usually have free tours and classes where kids and parents can see many different types of plants, animals and nature.

6. Get a library card and enjoy tot story time, new books, free DVD rentals, children’s programs, and so much more. All free!

7. Go to Barnes & Noble and play at the Lego table. We love going to the book store, even when we don’t buy anything. They always have lots of stuff to see, and this really cool Lego table that kids are always welcome to play with. This is also a great way to get your child socializing.

8. Visit the pet store and teach your kids about all the different animals and fish. We have a great pet store with an awesome tropical fish department. My son loves to go visit “Nemo” there!

9. Go for a nature walk. Let your kids pick up leaves, sticks, flowers & rocks. Make an arrangement out of them when you get home and let it be your table centerpiece.

10. Run through the sprinkler in your yard.

11. Let your kids play outside with shaving cream, hose them off when all done.

12. Build a blanket fort inside on a super hot day. Have snack time inside with flashlights.

13. Collect fireflies in a jar with your kiddo at night and let the jar sit next to their bed till they fall asleep. (Then set the fireflies free).

14. Splash & play outside in a kiddy pool. The hard plastic ones are only $4 at walmart.

15. Find a free petting zoo and let your kids visit and learn about all the animals.

16. Check out free summer kids movies at your local movie theatre. Most towns offer these weekly through the summer.

17. Throw water balloons! You can get a large bag of balloons for just a buck at Dollar Tree!

18. Draw a hot wheels track in your driveway using sidewalk chalk and watch your child have fun with all their cars!

19. Have a picnic lunch on a blanket in the grass. Have yummy sandwiches, a special drink and a treat for dessert.

20. Go to the lake or river and throw rocks in the water. You’d be amazed how exciting this is for kids. The bigger the splash, the more laughs you’ll get!

Enjoy your Summer days! Time goes way too fast to miss out on the sunshine! 🙂


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How I Turned a $30 Goodwill Cabinet into a Pottery Barn Look Alike!

Goodwill Cabinet Makeover

As you know, I’m sort of a Goodwill Groupie. I frequent all 3 of my local stores, looking for deals. I especially love getting cool pieces of furniture there that are in major need of some TLC.

I’ve recently been looking for the perfect piece to complete our screened-in porch. I needed a spot for the TV to sit. I was looking for a specific style and height, so I jumped on it (pretty much literally) when I found this piece at Goodwill!

Was it nice as-is? Sure. But it was much too modern for the look I was going for. It was contemporary, and a dark Espresso finish, but it had good bones. I envisioned a more rustic piece, very shabby chic. Our screened-in porch is where we display all of our fishing-themed antiques, along with rustic cabin decor. This piece needed to look old, like it belonged in a cabin.

Here’s how I transformed it.

I first covered the glass panes with tape, and then I used a hammer to break them and pull them out. I mean… my husband did. I beat those glass panes until they were black & blue, and they wouldn’t even crack! Darn safety glass!! So, Mr. B came to the rescue.

After I got all the glass safely out, I used a coat of Rust-Oleum Professional Primer. This is THE STUFF to use when you’re painting a slick surface that can’t be sanded, like the cheap particle board wood that ready-to-assemble furniture is made of.

After that dried for several hours, I applied several coats of Krylon ColorMaster spray paint in Italian Olive. It dries so fast, you really only have to wait about 5-10 minutes in between coats. Make sure you apply very THIN coats, though, or else your paint will run. And if that happens, you’re basically stuck with runs, because it’s hard to sand over coats of spray paint without ruining all your work.

After this was all dry, I mixed a cup of water with about 3/4 cup of some really old dark brown stain that I found in the basement leftover from staining the deck. Literally, any old brown stain or paint will do! Just make it very thin and watered-down. I mixed it well, and then, with a paint brush, I lightly ran my wet brush across the cabinet in long strokes, wiping off any excess. This helps achieve a rustic, aged look.
Once the piece was dry, I took a screw driver (I used the first tool I saw when I looked around, poor planning!) and I  just scratched off paint in corners to give it an “antique” finish. Sandpaper works great, too, and is probably what you should be using. 🙂 Try to sand off the paint in areas where normal wear would occur over time, like corners and knobs.

Once this was all done, I got out my trusty electric stapler (I love this tool! I use it for crafts, home improvement projects, reupholstering…) and I stapled chicken wire in where the glass once was. Just measure your size first, cut with wire clippers, then staple. Be careful! I used to think of chicken wire as just harmless, cute and crafty. Wrong! It’s SHARP! You may want to use gloves.

At the end, for added cuteness, I pulled the back off and I re-covered it with some cute red & white gingham fabric I had. Don’t look too closely, because it’s not even. 🙂 Oh well, still cute!

And here is the finished project! The perfect place to sit the TV in our cozy, comfy, cabiny, “fishing room”! I just love it, and it looks like something right out of Pottery Barn! Not bad for around $30 from Goodwill!!


SUPPLIES USED: (click on the links to purchase)
Rust-Oleum Primer
Rust-Oleum Paint
Drop Cloth
Safety Glasses
Face Mask
Electric Staple Gun
Paint Brush

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Week 3: How I Fed My Family For Under $50 This Week!


If you like my frugal meal plan series, you’ll LOVE my Ebook! 1 Month of Dirt Cheap Dinners brings you an entire month of easy, frugal & delicious recipes, along with meal plans and shopping lists! Best part, it’s $1.99!


Hi guys! It’s been FOREVER since I posted meal plans for Week 1 and Week 2, and I’m so sorry for the long delay! Life, ya know?!

Without further adieu, here is Week 3! Be sure to check out Week 1 & Week 2 if you missed those!

The details:
We live on a budget to help bring us closer to achieving our dream of being completely debt free!
We cook at home because it’s healthier, it tastes better, and it’s a fraction of the price of eating out. We feed our entire LARGE family on a budget of under $200 per MONTH! This is less than what most people spend in a WEEK! Our average shopping trip is under $50 per week. We only shop once a week, on Saturdays. We ONLY shop at Aldi. They have, by far, the best prices and quality.

Save money at Aldi stores!

This week I fed our family for $46.37!!!! This makes me so so so happy! 🙂 The bill keeps getting lower every week (pat on the back)! 🙂

This is based on a family of 5… Actually, 7 now! (5 adults, 2 toddlers) My parents also live with us now (don’t be alarmed, it’s great!) and eat dinner with us frequently, although not every night. Since my last meal plan post, our youngest is eating big boy food, and our oldest has turned 18. Ohhhhh how time has flown since I started blogging!

My meal plan includes a week of dinners and breakfasts for us all, plus lunches for 1-2 adults (since the entire family isn’t always home during the day).

These calculations assume that you already have some basics stocked in your pantry, like seasonings, oil, butter, etc. Also, it doesn’t figure in the things I buy in bulk and stockpile, like canned veggies, because I only buy those 1-2 times per year when I can get them on sale (or use coupons) for about 20 cents per can. We also can, or vacuum seal and freeze veggies in the summer and eat them all year long. We also enjoy fishing, and have friends who hunt, so we have access to free meat sometimes. Told ya were frugal!

A couple things to note, I use meat sparingly in dishes and bulk things up with veggies to save money. Also, the price of beef, even ground beef, has sky-rocketed recently. Ground turkey is super inexpensive at Aldi, so that’s my new go-to meat on-the-cheap. It’s healthier, too!

Main courses for our dinners this week will be:

Monday: Beans & Rice
Tuesday: Alfredo Pasta with Chicken & Veggies
Wednesday: Homemade Crockpot Veggie Stew
Thursday: Grilled Chicken Salad (salad greens & veggies topped with grilled chicken we cook in bulk once weekly)
Friday: Turkey Tacos (simple tacos using ground turkey instead of beef)
Saturday: “Thai” Ramen Noodles with Peas & Mushrooms
Sunday: Tater Tot Casserole

Our breakfast options this week, based on our shopping list, are:
Cereal, Greek yogurt, toast, eggs, omelets, French toast, fruit.
Lunch options this week will be mainly left overs, because the dishes I’m preparing make TONS of food!

Here’s my shopping list, and the prices I paid. I shop at Aldi and ONLY at Aldi!

Dried beans- $1.29
Rice- $1.19
Chicken broth- $.89
Pasta- $.89
Alfredo sauce- $.99
Frozen veggies- $.89
Chicken breast- $1.89/lb
Veggie stock- $1.19
Canned tomatoes- $.58
Canned corn- $.58
Canned green beans- $.58
Canned carrots- $.58
Canned kidney beans- $.58
Canned mixed veggies- $.58
Lettuce- $1.19
Shredded cheese- $2.89
Eggs- $1.49
(2) Ground turkey- $1.49/lb
Tortillas- $1.29
Salsa- $1.49
Ramen noodles (6)- $1.49/12 pack
Frozen peas- $.89
Fresh mushrooms- $.49
Tater tots- $1.89
Cream of chicken soup- $.79
Frozen veggies- $.89
Bread $.89
(4) Greek yogurt $.85
(2) Milk $3.09
Waffles $1.49
Cereal $1.69
Apples 3 lbs – $2.99

=TOTAL $46.37

I hope this post helps you with your meal planning this week, and helps you make your money-saving goals!

Don’t forget to check out Week 1 & Week 2 in my budget meal planning series!

Photo Credit: Mary LaFrance, publicdomainpictures.net

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Tater Tot Casserole

Tater Tot Casserole
Tater Tot Casserole
Tater Tot Casserole

Tater Tot Casserole is one of our favorite go-to cheap meals. It makes mass quantities, everyone loves it, and it’s oh-so-cheap. I always include this on my “favorite freezer meals” list.

Tater Tot Casserole
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Freezer Meals
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
My version of the classic comfort food fave, Tater Tot Casserole. This is also one that I ALWAYS include on my freezer cooking days!
  • 1 Bag Tater Tots
  • 1 Steamer Bag Frozen Mixed Vegetables
  • 1 lb Ground Turkey
  • 1 Can Condensed Cream Soup
  • ¼ Cup Milk
  • Shredded Cheese
  1. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Add a single layer of tater tots in bottom of pan.
  3. Brown ground turkey and layer over tater tots.
  4. Steam veggies for 3 minutes in bag, add layer over turkey.
  5. Mix cream soup with milk and pour over entire mixture.
  6. Top with shredded cheese.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly.


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My Version of “Thai” Ramen Noodles with Peas & Mushrooms

Thai Ramen Noodles
Thai Ramen Noodles
Thai Ramen Noodles

I love Ramen. I could eat it daily, but, sadly, I think it may shorten my lifespan and I’d swell up like a hot air balloon. Did you know that if you ate Ramen Noodles for every meal, every day, for a year, you’d only spend $140 A YEAR on groceries?? It’s true! The dirt cheap price of Ramen has made it a staple for college co eds for years, and that’s the very same reason YOU should add it to your menu plan, as well! (IN MODERATION)!

This recipe is not the Ramen of your college glory days. This is, dare I say…GOURMET! We love it in our house, and I think you will too!

My Version of "Thai" Ramen Noodles with Peas & Mushrooms
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Asian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
Doctor up those 10-Cent packages of Ramen Noodles by adding spices and veggies. It's cheap and DELICIOUS!
  • Ramen Noodles (one package per person)
  • Frozen Peas
  • Fresh (or canned) Mushrooms
  • 1 Tablespoon Peanut Butter
  • A Pinch of the Following Spices: Curry Powder, Garlic Powder, Paprika
  • Sriracha
  1. Cook noodles according to directions on package. 1 package per person. Do not drain.
  2. Warm up peas and a few teaspoons of water in a bowl in microwave for 90 seconds.
  3. Slice and quickly sautee mushrooms in some olive oil and garlic powder.
  4. To cooked noodles and water, add your peanut butter, spices, and sriracha to taste. Mix well until peanut butter is completely melted and evenly dispersed.
  5. Add peas and sauteed mushrooms.
  6. Mix.
  7. Serve while hot. Eat with chopsticks and enjoy!


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Best-Ever Beans & Rice

Best cheap meal ever: Beans & Rice!

This is one of my all time favorite meals! It’s dirt-cheap, healthy and it makes a gigantic pot that you can eat all week or freeze for another meal (freezer meals, yay!!!!)

Best-Ever Beans & Rice
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Southern Food
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10
This meal makes a ton & sticks to your ribs! It's also dirt-cheap and SUPER healthy!
  • Dried Beans (any kind)
  • 1 Carton Chicken or Veggie Broth
  • 1 Diced Onion
  • Spices: Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Paprika, Pepper, Salt, and anything else you like.
  • Rice
  1. Rinse & sort beans.
  2. Add to large pot.
  3. Cover with broth.
  4. Add onion and spices.
  5. Bring to a boil; let boil for 10 minutes.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer on medium low for 90 minutes or until beans are tender and ready to eat.
  7. Cook rice according to package directions.
  8. Serve beans over rice and enjoy!


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Cheap Alfredo Pasta with Chicken & Veggies

Poverty Pasta - Feeding a Crowd on the Cheap
Poverty Pasta - Feeding a Crowd on the Cheap
Poverty Pasta – Feeding a Crowd on the Cheap

Ok, so this isn’t exactly made-from-scratch…BUT, this is a quick, easy and cheap meal that is great for busy nights. You can even make it ahead and freeze it. Gotta love those freezer meals! And it’s fairly healthy, too, made with grilled chicken and a big dose of veggies! This is definitely a go-to meal in our family. Everyone likes it, even the kids!

Cheap Alfredo Pasta with Chicken & Veggies
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Freezer Meal
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
This is a quick, easy and cheap meal that is great for busy nights and it feeds a crowd for very little money. You can even make it ahead and freeze it. Gotta love those freezer meals! And it's fairly healthy, too, made with grilled chicken and a big dose of veggies!
  • 1 Box Penne Pasta
  • Grilled Chicken (we grill a bunch on the weekends & use it all week)
  • 1 Jar Alfredo Sauce
  • 1 Steamer Bag Veggies (broccoli or mixed veggies)
  1. Cook pasta according to directions on box.
  2. Cook veggies according to directions on bag.
  3. Add both to a 9x13 baking dish.
  4. Add 1 cup diced grilled chicken.
  5. Pour alfredo sauce, plus ½ cup water, over other ingredients, and mix.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees until warmed through and bubbly.
  7. Top with cheese if desired.



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