Creative wrapping adds special touch
photo by almostbunnies
DEAR SARA: I’m always looking for new gift-wrapping ideas. Everyone loves the way I wrap their gifts. I’d like to use the first letter of a friend’s name on a wrapped gift box, but I’m out of ideas on what material to use to form the letter. I don’t want to use cording, satin ribbon or glitter because the wrapping is natural-looking. Any ideas? — Paula, e-mail
DEAR PAULA: Look for baby-leaf boxwood garland. It’s easy to bend and form into letters. It works well as a natural-looking ribbon or edging, too. If you have a hard time finding it, you can buy it from Sunshine Discount Crafts (www.sunshinecrafts.com); (800) 729-2878. If you’re looking for a more frugal material, you can use paper, raffia, jute twine, mini pine cones, seeds, hard candies or crafter’s dried fruit or flowers, fabric, twigs, pine or bark. Give satin, organza or grosgrain ribbon a try. You might discover you actually like the combination once you see it paired.
DEAR SARA: I have two young kids in elementary school. I’m looking for frugal ideas to send to their classrooms for their birthdays other than the standard goodie bags. Help. — Jill F., Ohio
DEAR JILL: School supplies such as crayons can be bought cheap. Look for sales. A box of crayons makes a practical and sugar-free gift. You can add curling ribbon or stickers for an added touch.
DEAR SARA: I have so much frozen ground beef in the freezer. I bought way too much, and I need to use it up, but my family will scream if I make meatballs or meatloaf again. Please help me think of a new way to use up ground beef. — Dana P., Massachusetts
DEAR DANA: Here are two family-friendly recipes.
1-1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef
3 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 can cream-of-mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
10 hamburger buns or French bread, cut lengthwise
Brown ground beef with bacon and onion in skillet. Drain grease. Add flour and salt and pepper; mix well. Stir in soup. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in sour cream. Serve on toasted buns. Optional: Spread hamburger onto French bread. Add diced tomatoes, diced green peppers and shredded cheese on top for added flavor. Toast in the oven at 350 F for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. — Denise, Illinois
1-1/2 pounds ground beef, browned and drained
1 large onion, diced
1 package Hidden Valley Dry Ranch Dressing
1 package taco seasoning
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can rotel tomatoes
1 can corn
2 cans pinto beans
2 cans navy beans
1 can green chilies (optional)
Cook ground beef with onion, drain, and place in slow cooker or stew pot. Add remaining ingredients. Do not drain any of the liquid from the cans.
Slow cooker: Cook 4 hours on low.
Stovetop: Simmer for an hour.
Serve with corn chips and shredded cheese. — Kathy, Texas
DEAR SARA: Do your kids get a new school backpack every year? — Anna, e-mail
DEAR ANNA: My kids get a new backpack as needed. September (after school has already started) is a good time to look for discounted backpacks. You can decide whether you want to buy cheaper backpacks that wear out quickly and need to be replaced, or spend more money up front on higher-quality backpacks.