DIY Mason Jar Lunch Kit Tutorial

diy mason jar lunch kit 7Do you ever find that one mason jar is just not enough? But that two mason jars rattling around in a lunch bag together make you fear you might lose your hummus due to breakage? (I guess you are also risking injury, and a mess to clean up . . . but the hummus, people! The HUMMUS!)

Well, if there is more than one person (me) in the world for whom this is an issue, I hope they find this post, because I’ve got the cutest solution!

DoubleJarThis quick DIY hack is inspired by this post by Kayla of Say Not Sweet Anne who calls her creation “DIY Lunchable Jars”. I saw her post and wanted to make some immediately!

So I asked my brother, whom I was visiting, if I could use his soldering iron. His reply?

“Don’t solder. Soldering makes too many fumes.”

Gah! So frustrating! But was I daunted? Oh no—I wanted to make these so bad.

So I asked my Dad if I could use his soldering iron. His answer?

“Don’t solder. It makes too many fumes.”

Do they share a brain those two???

“Why don’t you use tape instead?”

Tape? TAPE?? Tape is no replacement for solder! It would never hold!

I fumed. I schemed. I looked up “How to solder” on Youtube and priced out soldering irons . . . I spent days scheming how I could stitch rings together with jewelry wire . . . And then went absolutely nowhere with it.

Until one day when I was packing up my two doomed-to-rattle-and-endanger-my-hummus Mason jars for my lunch, I thought, “Oh, fine—I’ll try the dang tape.” I grabbed the closest thing, which was I think electrical tape (?) and hastily taped two Mason Jar rings together.

And do you know what? It actually worked. Not only that, it worked brilliantly! It worked so well that the next day I quickly taped together two wide-mouth rings with masking tape so I could bring salad and some crackers. Again, a flawless design (apart from it being really ugly).

But there is no reason to carry around ugly Mason Jars when there is Washi tape! And Washi-inspired tape!

Enter phase II of my design. I’ve always wanted a reason to buy Washi tape. So I picked up some Scotch brand and tried it. Super cute, though the inflexibility of the Scotch tape didn’t seem to grip the Mason jar rings quite as effectively as either of my ugly tapes in the prototype designs.

diy mason jar lunch kit 3

But the next thing I tried, well it combines two of the most beloved low-tech solutions: Mason Jars and Duct Tape. Not just any duct tape; not the ubiquitous silver kind, no. The cutest, girliest Duct Tape at the Staples store.

It did just the trick.

diy mason jar lunch kit 2

Flexible? Check. Sticky? Check. Super cute? Super check!

So please enjoy my super easy tutorial, and let me know what you’re packing in your new DIY Mason Jar Lunch Kit! Remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy (unless you’re secretly hoping someone will put it on Pinterest)!

DIY Mason Jar Lunch Kit Tutorial

Step 1diy mason jar lunch kit 4

Line up two clean same-sized mason jar rings.

Step 2diy mason jar lunch kit 5

Using tape of choice (or of convenience), wrap tape around the rings, keeping them even and together, until the tape goes around the whole circumference.

diy mason jar lunch kit 6Step 3

Put lids onto jars, and screw on rings one at a time. Make sure to decide which one will be upside down, and pack accordingly.

Step 4

Comment below and tell me what you’re packing in your new super cute kit (mine is hummus–of course–with Mary’s crackers on top).


Back to Frugality

A hand-made doll

As I’ve mentioned on here, I haven’t been feeling very frugal these last several months, mostly since my son was born in October, and also during Christmas and our March/April birthday madness (five family birthdays from March 21st to April 5th!). But those seasons are past, summer simplicity is here, so I feel it’s time to bring back the frugal.

In light of this, I’m making May a No Buying Month, with the following omissions:

– groceries (though I will endeavour to stick to my budget)

– gardening equipment and supplies

– some glass freezer containers so I can start making my partner some microwavable frozen lunches

I’ll try otherwise to hand-make gifts, make do with what we have, and avoid the Great Glebe Garage Sale (though that one will be really hard!). I’ll try to focus on gardening, cooking for the freezer before the hot weather sets in, and sewing some gifts.

What do you think? Is May a good time to do a No Spend month for you?

Nerdmobile cleaning cart

I blogged about it awhile back, but I finally did it: created my very own cleaning cart! And yes it is as exciting as it sounds (that is, if it sounds like the most exciting thing ever!).

What you see in the photo is my version of this cleaning cart. On the front is a blue bag for laundry, the inside is for items that belong in another room, with a red bag for small things or things that belong in my daughter’s room. On the back I have a garbage bag and a recycling bag.

This is the tidying version; when I’m doing cleaning too I have a tray with my cleaning stuff and rags that goes on top. The only additional things I have to lug are the broom, mop or vacuum if I’m using them.

The idea of the cart is that you set yourself up to sweep through the house once, tidying (and/or cleaning) as you go, with no time-wasting back-tracking to put stuff back where it belongs. Once I heard the idea, I was intrigued. Once I tried it, I was sold! It really works. It’s super fast to just stick things into the appropriate bags in the cart and move along. Otherwise, I tend to pick up a sock and bring it into the bedroom, there noticing a coffee cup and bringing it to the kitchen, where I notice that the stovetop is dirty, which I clean, and before I know it an hour has gone by and nothing substantial has been accomplished. With the cart, even if I can completely clean/tidy one room before a minor emergency distracts me, my life is seriously improved.

One fantastic additional thing I discovered about this cart is that my preschooler was really into helping me tidy up the living room! I guess she enjoyed sorting the stuff into the different bags. We actually tidied up the entire living room together, which really helped my sanity, and occupied at least 15 minutes of our time.

So, if you have a handy shopping cart like the one in the picture, try out the Nerdmobile technique and let me know how it works for you!

Urban Foraging: Experiment #3–Crabapples!


I can’t believe this is only my third urban foraging experiment. Well, so far this one was more successful than the last two (though I’m not quite done, but almost!).

The beginning of it was particularly lovely. It was a HOT day, but the tree I picked from was in the shade, and as it was right next door, I could zip out while my girl was napping (my husband was there to watch her–don’t worry!) and pick in peace.

The picking was very easy and pleasant. The smell of the crabapples filled the air, and several people, including a small group of visitors from Spain, stopped to ask me what I was doing. It is amazing how impressed people become when they find out there is stuff to eat around them. It’s also amazing how much people want to talk when they come across someone doing something a little out of the ordinary. I think 4 different people stopped to chat or comment while I was out there.

And that was only a span of 15 or 20 minutes. And in that time I easily got the 13 cups of crabapples my recipe called for, and more! It’s so satisfying to hear the heavy plunk-plunk of fruit that is around 1 inch in diameter dropping into the jug (rather than tiny berries that seem to take forever!). On further review of the recipe I saw that it is adaptable for any quantity of fruit (juice), so the 16 cups (or 4 Litres) I gleaned worked out fine.

That was the fun part. The not-so-fun part was when I got them on the table and read the next instruction: “Stem and Quarter” 16 cups of crabapples. Gah! While it was lovely, warm and breezy outside, inside my dining room it was fairly sticky. Moreover, my back and legs hurt, and it turns out crabapples are surprisingly tough little fruit. I spent the next hour and a half chopping the little buggers. Every 5 minutes or so I would think about giving up, but the thought of reporting back to my loyal readers kept me going.

IMG_1422Well, I got through it (but BARELY!) and now had a big pot full of quartered crabapples, fragrant and read for the boil. And boil they did, for about 30 minutes, in the 80% humidity with a humidex of 38! But that’s just how hardcore I am. On reflection, I think chopping them in half only would be sufficient as they break down a lot in the water, and I could always mash them a bit if they seemed to be keeping their shape too much.

After boiling, I strained out the juice using cheesecloth instead of a jelly bag which I don’t have. I suspended the ball of crabapple pulp over a bowl overnight and dripped every last drop out of that ball of goo. I folded the cheesecloth so it was quadrupled, but it was still probably less fine than a jelly bag would have been. i didn’t squeeze the bag, but I suspect I won’t end up with crystal-clear gorgeous jelly, but a semi-opaque pinky stuff that will still be quite lovely.

After all this, I ended up with about 8 cups of juice, which I put in my freezer. THIS is where the satisfaction starts to come in. 8 cups of juice will get me lots of jars of jelly, especially after adding the sugar, and esPECially if I use tiny jars. PLUS if I get my act together today to put the pulp through the food mill to strain out the skins & seeds and then freeze it, I can make crabapple butter with that part. More yummy gifts for xmas!

I will wait until a cooler day in September before boiling the juice with sugar until the gel stage (have never done this–any advice??), pouring it into sterilized jars, and setting it into the hot water bath to finish. The nice thing about the butter is that it doesn’t have to gel, so that one will be even easier.

So my third urban foraging experiment has been a great success so far. I would even recommend it to other northern urban dwellers as a way to take advantage of this abundant fruit. I will report back with photos once I actually get the canning done.

A man, a girl, and a box

It’s the common comment: buy a kid a fancy toy, and they’ll spend more time playing with the box.  Well, yesterday I bypassed the fancy toy and went straight for the box. Actually I found the box in our basement recycling area, probably left over from someone’s August 1st move.

It’s a big box, but not appliance-big: about 3 feet high and 2 feet deep and wide. Just big enough to be a little house for a two-and-a-half-year-old.

I knew she’d have a ton of fun with it, but what I didn’t figure in was how much my husband would enjoy the “project” of building a cardboard box house for our little girl.  To begin with, he opened up and reinforced the bottom (was the top) to give the structure about 6 more inches of height–enough for our girl to stand up straight inside.  Then he got out his X-acto knife and cut out a lovely door.  He’s still planning on making a cabin window in the side for her to look out of, but he’s planning an a-symmetrical design to look x-tra cool.

Well, it was a big hit right from the start: she kept wanting to go in, and her daddy kept on saying, “Not yet” and telling her what the next stage of the process was. Then when he got the door cut out, she went inside right away and hid, and brought her blankie in, and hid . . . it was really fun to watch her play with it.

If it rains today (and probably even if it doesn’t), we’re going to get out the paints grandma gave our little girl for Christmas, and paint the house all pretty.

When I picked up the box yesterday morning, I had no idea that it would make for such a fun family project.  The excitement we all felt about turning this box into a toy was something I will remember, and I hope she will too. I want her to remember that joy of making something from nothing. To me it shows, it’s not the money you spend on your kids, but the time you spend with them that counts.

My Cloth Revolution

Over the past year and a half, I have been a Cloth Revolutionary at my house.  Little by little, disposable paper items are disappearing from our landscape, only to be replaced by colourful, reusable Cloth replacements.

The first step in our Cloth Revolution was the switch to cloth diapers.  We did this when our daughter was 11 months old, after visiting with some friends whose daughter was using cloth. The cloth diapers seemed so cute and cozy, and more “natural” than the crinkly perfumed plastic ones we were using. I was nervous about the workload, but found them not to be that much work. We have a small washer that plugs into our sink, and we dry them (as pictured) on our collapsable drying rack.

The main benefit I saw right away was cost. We went with cotton prefold diapers, which are about the cheapest you can go, and we used some high-tech fleece-lined, microfibre-insert pocket style diapers for night time.  I think the four night time diapes cost around the same as our two dozen prefolds with four or five covers.  It has been great not to worry about having to drive out to Costco to get the best deal on diapers.

My next Revolutionary Act was to replace my tampons and pads with a set of beautiful, comfortable, reusable Lunapads.  This was after doing some reading about how tampons have dioxins in them left over from the bleaching process, which can then be absorbed into your body when you use them.  Also, after having my baby, I found them uncomfortable to use.

As the stickers say, “I ♥ my lunapads”! They are so comfortable and beautiful. The nicest thing about them is that I never run out! I had bought myself an “Intro kit”, and then after using them for a couple of months, I got another kit to round out my collection.  It has a good selection of sizes, thicknesses, etc. for different stages of my cycle. My only disappointment is that I got pregnant again right after my second kit arrived! At least I know they are waiting for me when I start my cycle again.

Next I replaced paper towels with cloth napkins. On a trip to Sudbury to visit my parents I stopped into an adorable new store called Mimi & Lulu. They have all sorts of beautiful handmade clothes, aprons, bags, toys and crafts, as well as a selection of fabrics so beautiful I thought I was looking at a magazine or something. I honestly don’t think I’ve seen such gorgeous fabric in stores, ever.

The best thing (for me) was their remnant bags, a bunch of colour-co-ordinated fabric bits from their collection, mixed with some cute vintage finds, all for $13.  Inside was enough fabric (in the right size) to make more than 10 napkins, some of which I kept & use, and some of which I gave away as gifts.

It’s so nice to use cloth napkins, especially ones in such cute fabrics. They seem to add a touch of class to every meal.

Home-Made Toilet PaperThe next item is a bit more . . . unusual, and I hesitate to mention it in my first post on the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op, but here goes: the next paper product I replaced was toilet paper.  Well, not entirely, but I made some lovely wipes that my daughter and I use for #1. Being pregnant and having to drink a lot of water, this saves me a huge amount of toilet paper. I just throw them in with the diapies and wash them often.

Moving on, my most recent Revolutionary change was to make some cloth kleenex (tissues). Once again, so cute! Once again, so comfortable! I made them from some cloth I had in mystash, so I consider them basically free to me. We haven’t yet been through a major cold or flu with these, but I will report back on how they fare. I just throw them in any wash I’m doing (except for darks!) and they stay nice and absorbant.

Besides these recent changes, I have always used cloth rags for cleaning rather than paper towels or even J-cloths. It’s a great way to re-purpose old towels and t-shirts, and if a rag gets too dirty, I just throw it away.

For me, this process has been about saving money, being green, and more importantly, finding a better product to replace the cheap disposables in my life. If you have replaced something I’ve missed, please let me know! I’m always open to making more frugal & green changes in my life, and sharing them with the world.

An abundance of plastic containers

astroSince we eat a lot of yogurt, and I have not been successful in getting myself to make my own, or to consistently buy the wonderful organic stuff in re-usable glass jars, we are usually overrun with 750 ml plastic yogurt containers.  Given that I am a saver of stuff, and given that they are not recyclable here in Ottawa (update: I just found out they ARE recyclable here–thanks MomRedefined! Maybe just not in my apartment building?  Or maybe I read an outdated flyer? Not sure, but this might solve my problem!), I tend to save these in a drawer in the kitchen for keeping leftovers in, etc.

However, I am quickly realizing that these yogurt containers are not the thrifty boon I often think they are, and the reason is clear: they are not.  That is, you can’t see inside them!  Even if I dig out a transparent lid, it is still pretty easy to ignore whatever is lurking inside.  Whenever I keep a bit of soup or pasta sauce or what-have-you inside, it inevitably gets unearthed months later with blue and black mould, smelling something awful.

I’ve slowly been realizing that these containers are a black hole in my trying-not-to-waste-food universe.  So is there any reason to keep them?  Sometimes I get my grind-your-own peanut butter in them rather than pay the 45¢ for a new container each time (and you don’t even have to tell them “I brought the container from home”!).  But what else can they be used for?  A few random thoughts:

– single-use craft applications, like mixing paint or paste in

– hiding goodies I don’t want my toddler to see, like cookies.  These won’t get wasted anyway 🙂

– picking berries, as long as berries aren’t stored in them

– avoid them in the first place (I know, I know!)

– save them to bring to Sudbury and recycle them there

Does anyone else have the same problem?  What do you do about your opaque plastic containers?

Urban Foraging, Experiment #2: Black Currants!

Today while walking . . . well, somewhere in . . . a city . . . I noticed something dark purple and shiny calling out to me from some shrubbery.  It was . . . it couldn’t be . . . no, it really was a blackcurrant bush!  And there were ripe purple berries dangling there just begging to be picked. (photos to come)

I couldn’t believe my good fortune, that such a treasure had not already been gleaned by another observant forager like myself.  I filed the location and vowed to return at a more convenient time to collect my treasure.  X marks the spot 🙂

So I returned under cover of dusk, wearing a green dress so as to blend in with the shrubbery, and spent a good half-hour picking.  Oh, the smell!  I was in cassis heaven as I plucked the juicy berries from the branches.

I brought my treasures home and marched through my little girl’s bedtime routine all the while thinking about the jam I could make with my find.

Well, after getting her into bed, and chatting with my mom on the phone I got down to the serious business of microwave jam making . . . at 11 o’clock.

First, I found a recipe seemingly from a Four-H club (?) for making small batches of microwave jam.  Aha!  Perfect.  For what I had was the makings of a small batch.

I knew that when I started out, even before I had measured my one-and-almost-three-quarters cups of picked berries.  The recipe calls for 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cut up fruit, but I was willing to go a little on the lean side.  I even included all of the “blemished” fruit, hoping that it wouldn’t spoil the flavour too much.

Then I topped and tailed them, and washed them.  In the measuring cup full of water, several of the more blemished ones floated to the top.  “That can’t be good,” I thought, and took a peek inside. Nope, not good.  It was a dried-out stinky worm-bed inside my beautiful berries.

There was no denying the fact that they most certainly would spoil the flavour, so I went through them again, discarding any berries sporting what looked remotely like a worm hole.  Down to . . . a very respectable 1 cup of washed, sorted, topped and tailed berries.  Sigh.

So I decided to halve the recipe.  “At least I’ll get one jar of jam,” I reassured myself as midnight struck and my dear partner (who had stood by me during the sad, sad culling process) went to bed.

The recipe calls for:

1 1/2 cups of chopped fruit

flavourings and lemon juice (this refers to a mysterious unlinked “chart”)

1 1/2 cups sugar

So I halved the sugar and added a bit over a tablespoon of lemon juice for good measure, and set about following the instructions.

Heat in microwave about 6 minutes, or until boiling–mine took much less time. Stir well, and then cook in microwave 10 to 13 more minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes.  Mine went faster here too, and I was done after about 6 minutes.  It says at this point you should chill a spoonful in the fridge for 15 minutes to test the consistency, but I was pretty sure mine was jelling, so I jarred it*.

And this is what I got:

Approximately 2/3 of a one-cup jar of black currant jam.  Sigh.

Well, what this experiment taught me was respect for two things: 1, the price of high-quality blackcurrant jam, and 2, the value of pesticides.

I’m going to bed now, but at least I can look forward to some tasty jam tomorrow morning.

* Microwave jam is not processed, so it must be refrigerated immediately and will last for about a month in the fridge.


As I mentioned earlier, over my holiday I had a chance to do some canning with my mom.  We did a whole whack of strawberry jam, and another whack of stewed rhubarb, which my mother-in-law kindly and generously cut for me from her garden.  Hooray for free food!  The strawberries were not so free, but at the Sudbury Farmer’s Market they were only $20 for two 4-litre baskets.  Yes, you read that right: $2.50 per litre, and I didn’t even have to pick them myself!

I love making jam and other jam-like things, so it was very exciting for me to find such cheap and plentiful berries to can.  I’m getting a head-start on my Christmas gifts (so anyone on my xmas list, please forget you saw how little I paid for these berries!!!!).  I also have a toddler who tends to go to bed rather late when we are visiting Grandma and Grandpa (Em and Papa), which meant we started around 10 pm and were just finishing up around 1 am.  It was a late night, but I didn’t even look at the clock until the end.

As for the recipe, we just used the one on the pectin box, which called for a bunch of crushed strawberries, plus a bunch of sugar, some lemon juice, and the pectin.  We did 2 batches, separately, which was a good thing because they wouldn’t have both fit in the pot!

Next up, I’m hoping to get enough blueberries on our next Sudbury visit to do a batch of blueberry jam.  And then we should be into apple and crabapple season, and I’m hoping to do some crabapple jelly and crabapple butter.  This will be part of my urban foraging series–I just can’t turn away from free food!  Any advice from other crabapple gleaners, especially from the Ottawa area, would be much appreciated!

Over & out.

Re-Usable Toilet Paper

Home-Made Toilet PaperMy husband thinks I’ve lost it.  He says I’ve crossed a line.  The line between “frugal eco crafty mom” and “I raise my own pigs and recycle my grey water.”  Frankly I would LOVE to be the latter, but maybe that makes him uncomfortable.  If there is a line, I think I crossed it long ago.  But this?  This is just a natural extension of some other trends in my life.

First trend, cloth diapers.  We started using cloth when our daughter was almost a year old.  Our reasoning before that had been that we don’t have a dryer, and we don’t have a house with a separate laundry room so it seemed inconvenient.  But when I saw a friend’s baby with her bum hugged by soft cotton instead of scratchy noisy plastic, I was touched, and inspired to go cloth.  I’m so happy we did!  It’s been amazingly easier than I thought it would be, and it has saved us SO much money (not to mention environmental karma!).

The second trend is my Lunapads.  I did some reading online and got scared of what they put in tampons, and what happens when you put those tampons in you.  Also, after switching to cloth diapers for the baby, I thought, “Why not switch to cloth for myself?”  I did it, and I loved it!  It felt like a little treat for myself each month.

So, see?  This is just the next step in a long progression of reusable cloth products to replace disposable ones.

I first read about cloth wipes on the Lunapads blog, where they linked back to a Crunchy Chicken article about her experiment switching to cloth.  I was inspired!  But I was also lazy, and it wasn’t until a couple weeks later, with my TP supply rapidly diminishing, that I decided to sew some up.  So yesterday, armed with a template, some scissors, my sewing machine, and some super cute flannellette I bought a few months ago, I set to work.

I wanted the wipes to be about the same size as 2 squares of toilet paper, so I made a little cardboard template in that size and drew a bunch of rectangles on the cloth.  Next I cut them out, and then I zig-zag stitched all around the edges.  I got 19 from what was left of the 1/2 yard piece of cotton (I had also made some doll sheets & pillow case out of the fabric).  And voila!  The cutest darn pile of toilet paper you’ve ever seen!  Don’t tell me it’s not!

My plan is to use these just for pee . . . at least for now.  We wash our cloth diapers anyway, so this won’t cause any extra laundry in our house.  I’ll report back once I’ve tried this out for a week or two and you can let me know if you think I’ve completely lost it!  In the mean time, I’ll be singing “You can feel the cottony softness . . . .”