Cheap kitchen must haves

While we’re on the topic of little things…I came to the realization the other day that many of my “can’t live without” kitchen items happen to be small and cheapity cheap.

Well ain’t that good news for you ’cause I like to share!

So here goes my short list, complete with my personal review:


As a working lady who also likes to make dinner every night, my crock pot is my savior.  However I have an oldie (but a goodie) crock pot which means I was limited to meals that required 10+ hours of cooking, since I could never make it home in time to turn off the pot.  Guess what?  I started to run out of 10+ hour meals!!!  Then I found this $15 gadget that plugs into both the wall and the crock pot, and allows you to set the “off” time for 1, 2, 4, 6, or 8 hours.  Just plain genius.

slow cooker timer
Available here.

For the amount I rave about mason jars on this blog, you’d think I have stock options with Ball Jar manufacturers… But nope – I just love them that much!  They are just so versatile and are perfect in a storage pinch.  As you can I use them for sugar, pens, scissors, and cous cous.  This is kitchen gadget diversity at it’s finest.

mason jars

See ya later overpriced “chip clips”.  Clothespins are perfect for closing half eaten bags of cereal, chips and chocolate. Okay confession, there is no such thing as a half eaten bag of chocolate in this house…. But you get my point.  You can even decorate them with washi tape as you can see I’ve done here, for those special baggies 🙂


Afraid to try poached eggs?  No problem.  These non stick silicone pods guarantee that even your husband can do it.    Disclaimer:  I sometimes take advantage of my poetic freedom here on the blog, so must come clean that breakfast is the one meal my husband actually rocks at.

silicone pods
Available here.

My aunt and uncle gave this to me in a house warming gift when I moved into my first apartment.  And it has come with me to every home since because, well, it’s freakin awesome.  Never again will you struggle with a jar top when you have this tool.  Albeit a bit sexist, I still have dubbed it “I don’t need no man” tool because I refuse to let any dude open my pickle jars.  Maybe I should change the name to “I don’t need no ‘person who may or may not be stronger than me’ tool.  Hmm… doesn’t quite have the same ring to it…

jar popper
Available here.

Last but not least, this one my mother-in-law got me after I melted way too many spatulas by letting them rest on the cooking pot/pan.  First you fasten this silicone cutie onto the side of the pot, and then there is a slot to rest your spatula.  This is another “why the hell didn’t  I think of that?” item!

spoon restSimilar here.

So what are some of your under $20 can’t live without kitchen recommendations?


The little things…

Don’t forget to enter the $50 Etsy shop giveaway!  Free stuff, yay!  Click here to enter.

A lot of times it’s the small and inexpensive home improvements or decor that make me the happiest.  This week, it’s our new kitchen trash can.

Yes that’s right… I’m excited about a trash can.  What can I say, I’m easily pleased!

When we first moved in, our trash can sat awkwardly against a wall, no where near the kitchen counter. That got annoying after like 5 minutes, so we decided to move it into a cabinet.

trash can pic

The cabinet to the left of the fridge seemed to make the most sense, as it was oddly narrow and thus not great for storage.

Of course, our current trash can didn’t fit.  Of course!  So off to the interweb I went in search of a tall skinny can.  Took me a while, but I finally found it at the Container Store.  We went with the second from the left.

Via Container Store

And for a year, this worked well, but it wasn’t perfect.  I hated having to pull out the can every time I wanted to throw something out.  Especially when it started to get full and heavy.  Tough life, I know…

So we decided to upgrade again, and this time Home Depot was our savior with the ingenious pull out can!

Via Home Depot

We found a lot of these cans on tracks, but had trouble finding one that was thin enough to fit into our small cabinet.  This was the only one that worked.   At first I was worried it would be too small, but turns out we recycle far more than we throw away, so this bag usually lasts us a full week!


Pretty sweet, huh?  It slides in and out really nicely!

I’m thinking to upgrade even more, we might find a way to attach it to the cabinet door so when you open it, it pulls out automatically.

Spending this much time and energy upgrading your trash can is totally normal, right? 😉


Sneak Peak: Backyard Makeover

Winter has definitely meant a lull in our house renovation calendar… a welcome one at that.   It’s given us time to relax, recoup, plan, and most importantly, save money for the next projects!!!    And the next big project on our agenda is actually about half way done (oh I’m so sneaky) and so I thought I’d catch you up a bit before things move too far.

Welcome to our backyard!

For the town we live in, we were incredibly lucky to get a large plot of land – much of which is taken up by our backyard.  In fact, our plot spans the entire street, meaning we don’t have back yard neighbors, but rather a private way behind us.  This is great for privacy, resale, and what else – backyard PARTIES!!!

We had a few bashes this summer, but the yard was definitely in need of some work.  Let’s start with a visual.

This is the back of our house, and the grass area you see is the bottom tier of the yard.  The patio that was there when we moved in was functional, but cracked so needed to go pretty early on…

Now in this shot, your back is to the house, and you’re looking at the upper tier of the yard – divided by a very large and ruthless patch of bushes. I’m sure there was some design reason these were added way back when, but by the time we moved in they had gotten a little out of control, and well, they took up prime yard space!   You can sort of make out our DIY Adirondack chairs hanging out…

So our plan:
1. Have steps put in (which you can read about here).
2. Remove the bushes (marked by the X)!  We had to hire someone for this job, as the roots were so deep they required some major machinery.
3. Remove the other shrubs that were on their way out
4. Tear out the patio, and put in a new, larger one.

These four steps are now complete, but you’ll have to wait for the weather to get warmer for some shots!

Still on the to do list:
1. Build a rock wall in place of the old bushes (hiring out for this).
2. Put in stepping stones to create a path from the private street behind us, down to the main part of the yard.
3. Seed the lawn… you know, make it look pretty.
4. Fix and add some fencing.

Here my very talented husband put together the plans for the makeover using Google Sketch Up.

I’m not going to show you too much just yet, as there is plenty of work that still needs to be done when the weather warms up – but here’s a look at the backyard during the new patio installation.  Welcome to the Danger Zone.

Sorry for the strange shot – our backdoor was blocked due to the gaping hole outside of it, so I had to shoot this one through the window screen!

So stay tuned for updates… and a MAJOR party this summer to celebrate the new yard!!!

And don’t forget to enter the $50 Etsy shop giveaway!  Free stuff, yay!  Click here to enter.

Sponsor Welcome and Giveaway

Lindsay will be contacting you for your address and item choice.
Thanks to everyone who participated!


I’m super excited to highlight my new sponsor this month:  Welcome Lindsay at Small Home Design!

SMD logo

At Lindsay’s beautiful Etsy shop she specializes in unique home decor items, clothing and printed goodies.  And the best part about her shop? You can personalize just about anything!  Her stuff is great for those like me who like when their home decor has meaning, and a lot of the items she sells are perfect for baby, bridal shower, or birthday gifts!

This month we’re featuring her personalized recipe towels, which is pure genius. How many of you have that killer handwritten recipe from Grandma sitting in an old box or recipe book?  Well now you can have it printed on a hand towel for preservation and a killer conversation piece.  I’m thinking my grandma’s famous meatball recipe is a dead ringer for this one….


 Or get a jump start on Valentine’s day with these personalized hand towels!

Oh and it gets better…
Lindsay is offering HFoP readers a chance to win a free gift from her shop, worth up to $50 buckeroos!  To enter the giveaway, just use the tool below.  You have a few ways to enter and the winner will be emailed for their item of choice and mailing address.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Link to Small Home Design Facebook page here.
Link to Small Home Design Etsy shop here.

Interested in a sponsor spot on HFoP?  Click here for more info!

Etsy Find

Did anyone else know that Etsy has an entire category dedicated to storage and organization?   Well I just stumbled upon it, and let’s just say it made (killed two hours) of my weekend!

Click here for a full list of the goodies…

And here are some of my personal favorites!

Plumbing Pipe Storage Bar. $156  Source

Natural Wood Jewelry Organizer. $56 Source

Custom XXL Hamper.  $88 Source


$57. Vintage Wooden Storage Box Source

$12.50 Cast Iron Wall Hooks. Source

$175. Wooden Desk Organizer. Source

Oh Etsy, you never cease to amaze me 🙂


Happy Houseversary!

Happy one year anniversary to our house!

I can’t believe it was one year ago today that we closed on our first home.  One year  (and a lot of sweat, sand paper, early morning trips to Home Depot, beers and frozen dinners, plenty of paint cans, and a ton of internet research and calls to our parents) later, I can honestly say we made one of best decisions of our lives.  Yes, there’s always more work to be done, and blog posts to write, but we could not be happier in our home!

Special shout out to Redfin‘s Sandy Rosen, and Leader Bank‘s Chris Butts for playing such an important role in the big day!

So in honor of the special day, I thought I’d do a recap of a few of my most reminiscent house posts.


The pre-planning, shopping, designing and researching for the kitchen reno took a lot longer than the actual work.  Thanks again to my amazing husband and father in law for all of the work they put into it!  I on the other hand learned so much about kitchen appliances during this process, I pretty much deserve my own Home Depot orange apron.  There are still a few things we’d like to update down the line, like the countertops, floor, and possibly cabinets, but being the most frequently used room in the house, it’s worked really well for us.  I don’t play appliance favorites, but if I did, I would say the fridge is the winner 🙂

[Click image for original post]

kichten reno

April 25, 2012

This one not only made a huge improvement on the look and feel of our house, particularly from the outside, but has and will make a drastic difference to our heating bill.  I need to thank Mass Save again for their incredible energy rebates and loan programs which helped make this major purchase possible!

October 15, 2012

I owe a lot of our living room makeover “whoa” moments to how horribly decorated it was to start.  Not only was there wall to wall pepto bismol pink carpet, and a wall made of mirrors, it was filled with statues.   Yes that’s right… Statues!  This room is living proof that you need to look past the decor when looking to buy a house… as hard as it may be sometimes.

February 6, 2012

And this one is just a fun favorite, because eight months later, I still LOVE my kitchen TV.  I can proudly say I get dinner on the table almost every night, while never falling behind with Parenthood.  Bam!

May 21, 2012

Oh the memories…

For anyone going through this home buying or renovating process, I highly recommend documenting the process with photos.  Whether or not you choose to share them on a blog, Facebook, Instagram or other public medium, it’s incredibly rewarding to have a visual reminder of how far you’ve come.   

Well so long year one… You’ve been a lot of fun.  But year two I’m ready for you!




Sunk Down

Whenever I day dream about my fantasy home… which I plan to live in in 10 years of course… I tend to focus on strange details and little unique elements that might not necessarily pop up when you google Dream House.

Well one such element is a sunken living room.  I don’t know what it is about the step down access that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, but I just love it.  I doubt it’s common and most likely not a renovation project we could do ourselves… but hey, it’s fun to dream.


sunken livingroom





So do you love additional steps for no apparent reason, as much as I do?  Here’s one place where my practicality does not trump my design taste 🙂  Or what out of the box items are on your dream home wish list?

Love it or Leave it: Painted Ceilings

Love it or Leave it

When we painted every-single-freakin-room in our house, we never considered painting the ceilings anything other than white.  But now I’m starting to reconsider the possibilities….








So what do you think about brightly colored painted ceilings?  Love it or Leave it?



Scenes from my Stay-Cation, Part 2

Ready for another thrilling vacation story?  This one is even more exciting than the garage post, I swear.

So it was particularly cold during my time off, which meant I didn’t feel guilty staying in my sweatpants all day and never leaving the house.  No judgment friends, I know many of you did the same 🙂

Well one of the PJ days I decided to devote to organizing the kitchen.  One of my biggest pet peeves is not knowing what’s hiding deep in the back of my cabinets, leading me to buy duplicates or even triplicates (is that a word?) of random ingredients.  Anyone need corn starch?  I have 3 full boxes looking for a new home!

Now organizing your kitchen can be quite a daunting task, so make sure you take it one step (or cabinet) at a time.  However I highly recommend doing this at least twice a year to avoid an abundance of expired and bad food.  Here are some helpful tips to tackle the room:

1. Empty out the entire cabinet onto the kitchen table, so you can see everything.

Here’s one shelf in the pantry:

2. Throw out anything that’s old.  Confession: We had 3 cans of Cream of Mushroom soups from 2010.    Yum!

3. Wipe down anything that has collected grease, dust, grime, etc…

4. Group things in some type of order and utilize spare storage containers (bins, baskets, pop tops, etc…) to keep them together.  It’s much easier to pull out a bin and find what you need then try and make your way into the back of the shelf.

5. For cooking ingredients, spices or other things that last a while, write down the items on a sticky or cute piece of card stock before putting them back.

6. Place the items back in the cabinet being strategic about placement!  For example, if you have multiple cans of tomato sauce, place them one in front of the other so that you can see the front one, and know there are spares behind it.

7. Take that sticky you made and place it on the cabinet, bin, or near the shelf for quick and easy reference!    You can cross off the items as you use them which will help for your future grocery list.

I found this labeling tip particularly useful for my spice cabinet, since I can never remember those random spices I buy once for a recipe.

Spice List

Once I loaded everything back in, I was amazed at how much extra room we had!  I smell a Costco trip!

Oh but I’m not done!

I also found an old dry erase board that happened to be about the same size as the cabinet I use to store all of our baking ingredients.  I remembered seeing this clever idea on Pinterest, and quickly wrote out some of the most frequently used measurement conversion for easy reference.  Using picture mounting strips I attached the board to the inside of the cabinet.


About three hours later our kitchen did not look all that different, but just knowing the organizational heaven that was hiding behind the cabinets made my day.

Alright, I think it’s time to leave the house.


Scenes from my Stay-Cation

With the holidays falling mid week this season, I was fortunate enough to get a few days off from work.  And since traveling wasn’t in the plans for this year, Tony and I made the most of our stay-cation by getting lot’s of things done around the house.  

Ok so it’s not Jamaica, but checking things off my house to do list and getting organized is music to my ears. Note:  If anyone wants to send me to an all inclusive beach resort, I’m not going to protest.

So one looming project took place in our garage.  After the big demo day, we now had all of this extra room – which somehow quickly filled up with tools, man toys, our spare wood, ladder and trash cans.  Now as all you New Englanders out there will likely agree…. isn’t a garage for a car?  Specifically my car? 🙂  

Culprits 1, 2 & 3.

First a quick trip to Home Depot to pick up some concrete wall mounting supplies, including an 8ft 2 x 4, a pin driver, and some brackets.  Fun fact:  I learned that the max a Rav 4 can fit is an 8 foot long piece of wood.  In case you were wondering…


And off to work Tony went.

About an hour later, the wood and ladder were mounted, allowing us to move the trash cans back against the wall…

And in came the car!

See the tennis ball hanging from the wall?  This is a perfect (and cheap) solution to avoid driving in too far and hitting said man toys…  Not something I have ever done, of course…. but taking precaution 😉

Car’s happy, Jenny’s happy and I’m pretty sure the trash cans are thrilled too.

Stay tuned for more super exciting scenes from my stay-vacation!


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