Posted on 6/19/2013 12:53 EST
America's birthday, Independence Day, the Fourth of July, call it what you will, is a day for causal celebrations. A favorite holiday that's relatively stress free, filled with outdoor fun and fireworks, it goes hand in hand with low-key cookouts. For the cook in the family that means recipes that are cheap and easy to prepare. Here are our tips for Fourth of July desserts and side dishes.
Photo by elen_studio/Shutterstock
Ingredients to Use.
The Fourth of July is a standout holiday for fresh food. It falls in early summer when the best of the year's harvest is just beginning to come in, ripe and ready to savor. Fresh ingredients to incorporate into Fourth of July recipes include fruits such as blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, honeydew melon, raspberries, and bananas, and vegetables such as corn on the cob, tomatoes, chard, peas, and more.
The red, white, and blue theme is an obvious way to add Fourth of July sparkle to any recipe. With a little food coloring, or red and blue sprinkles, you can make numerous dishes festive. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and bananas, based on their colors, are natural choices. You can also get creative and cut star shapes out of many different foods; the traditional cubes and slices of watermelon, honeydew melon, and cantaloupe could do with such a makeover. One patriotic touch is to dip strawberries in white chocolate, rather than the usual dark chocolate, and then dab the tips into blue sprinkles.
Photo by Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock
Fourth of July Desserts.
There are scores of Fourth of July desserts you can whip up in a matter of minutes, at very little cost. Here are a few of our favorites:
- American Flag Fruit Pizza (courtesy of Skinny Mom): For the crust use sugar cookie dough rolled out flat and baked; top with white icing and strawberries for the stripes and blueberries for the stars.
- Dessert Kebabs: Skewer strawberries or raspberries, bananas or marshmallows, and blueberries on wood skewers and drizzle chocolate over the top.
- Patriotic Cupcakes: Bake your favorite cupcakes and decorate with white icing topped with blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.
Any side dish can complement a Fourth of July cookout, but a fruit-based
side can sweeten up the fun and the day's patriotic flavor. Here are two ideas:
- Patriotic Fruit Salad: Cut chunks of watermelon and pineapple into star shapes. Mix in blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.
- Flag Fruit Plate: Arrange strawberry and banana chunks into alternating rows to represent the stripes in the flag and lay out blueberries in a square in the corner to represent the stars. Substitute Swiss or mozzarella cheese chunks for the bananas if you want to make this Fourth of July recipe a fruit and cheese plate instead of just fruit.
Posted on 6/19/2013 9:08 EST
This week's top picks for family and kids deals include a Philips AVENT bottle lot, a glow stick bracelet bundle and a Curious George infant or toddler t-shirt.
1. Philips AVENT Bottle Lot 20% Off
This lot has four clear bottles made of BPA free natural polypropylene material. They're easy to sterilize.
AVENT Bottle Lot
(Amazon $23.19, 20% off from $28.99 - $5.80 savings)
2. Glow Stick Bracelet Bundle 47% Off
3. Curious George Infant or Toddler T-Shirt 53% Off
These 100% cotton T-shirts are adorned with playful Curious George designs and are available in toddler and infant sizes.
Curious George Infant or Toddler T-Shirt
(Groupon $6.99, 53% off from $14.95 - $7.96 savings)
Posted on 6/18/2013 14:13 EST
All you really need to enjoy a summer picnic is a blanket, warm weather, good food, loved ones, and an assortment of cheap picnic supplies. Here are some of our favorites, chosen for convenience and money-saving price tags.
When you think of a traditional picnic one of the first things that probably comes to mind is a red-and-white
checked blanket and a wicker picnic basket. Cute, for sure, but not the most practical of picnic supplies. If you plan to pack any type of substantial picnic fare, you'll need some way to keep the food cool, which means a hamper that's insulated. A cooler is the obvious choice but if you don't have one, Living on the Cheap
recommends the DIY approach: line a cardboard box with a trash bag and chill with ice packs. Alternatively, pick up a cheap picnic basket, like the $20 Picnic Time Topanga Insulated Cooler Tote
, which users say provides excellent insulation and holds a lot of food (the equivalent of 24 cans of soda). One user notes it has stood up to more than two years of frequent use at large picnics.
Tableware and Cutlery.
There are several options when it comes to cheap picnic tableware (in this case, blanketware). You can go the disposable route to minimize cleanup and buy the cheapest of the cheap plastic plates and cutlery. Better yet, go green along the reusable path while hewing to your cheap roots. We're partial to this reusable set for 10, costing just $21, from Preserve
. Sure, you'll need to pack everything up and cart it all home, but cleanup is a breeze because all 10 large plates, 8 small plates, 24 pieces of cutlery and 10 tumblers are dishwasher safe and designed to hold up to dozens of outings.
Where to Find Picnic Supplies.
The best place to start looking for cheap picnic supplies is your own home. Take stock of what you have lying around -- plates, cutlery, blankets, etc. Consider packing up your own salt and pepper shakers, corkscrew, cloth napkins, cheese board and knife, etc. If you don't have a lot to work with, the local dollar store is a goldmine for cheap picnic supplies during the warm months; packs of reusable plastic plates, cutlery, cups, and more for, literally, dollars. Online retailers such as Amazon and Wayfair also offer low-cost
picnic supplies, as do online dollar stores like Dollar General.
As you plan your picnic don't forget non-food
picnic supplies, such as trash bags (stock up for less from bulk retailers like Sam's Club and Costco), bug spray, and sunscreen. Check out our cheap sunscreen
buying guide for the best and most affordable product to bring along on your next picnic.
Posted on 6/18/2013 9:16 EST
This week's top picks for home and garden deals include a Cuisinart tabletop grill, a Rival vacuum sealer kit and a Thermos grocery bag.
1. Cuisinart Tabletop Grill 44% Off
Grill at home (outdoors or inside) with this portable tabletop grill. It has 145 square inches of grilling space and is easy to tote and store. Shipping and returns are free.
Cuisinart Tabletop Grill
(Groupon $99.99, 44% off from $179.99 - $80.00 savings)
2. Rival Vacuum Sealer Kit 63% Off
Seal foods for long-term storage with this vacuum sealer and bag starter kit. Vacuum sealer provides a strong, airtight seal with simple operation. Shipping is free.
Rival Vacuum Sealer Kit
(Amazon $29.99, 63% off from $79.99 - $50.00 savings)
3. Thermos Grocery Bag 23% Off
Posted on 6/17/2013 13:38 EST
With a free navigation app guiding your way, say sayonara to getting lost. Whether you're an Android or iPhone user, at least one of these apps should meet your directional needs. And in many situations, a navigation app beats out the GPS alternative.
1. Google Maps App.
The Google Maps app is a multipurpose navigation platform that gives turn-by-turn
voice prompts and clues you in about where to stop with reviews of restaurants, bars, retailers, etc. It provides routes for walking, driving, and public transit, as well as live traffic reports with an accurate view of where you are or where you're heading. With the iPhone version you should be able to sign into your Google account to sync searches, directions, and favorite places between computer and mobile phone.
PC Mag gives Google Maps App a score of 4 out of 5, a level the editors deem "excellent." They note that the car navigation could use some work (e.g., speed limit display and lane assistance would be useful), but other features (e.g., accurate routing for walkers and drivers, sharp street views) make it a best pick among iPhone navigation apps. Reviewers for the Android version who posted at Google Play award this app an average 4.4 out of 5. Most applaud the accuracy but grumble about its memory-hogging
Photo by visuall2/Shutterstock
2. Scout GPS Navigation and Traffic App.
The Scout GPS Navigation and Traffic App claims to be as much about the journey as the destination. This free navigation app provides commute times, up-to-date
traffic information, and voice turn-by-turn
directions and lets you choose routes without tolls or highways. If using Scout while driving, you can keep your focus on the road by speaking to the app and asking to view saved maps or directions. You can also let folks know your estimated time of arrival with a tap on "share ETA." Of course, the app is loaded with plenty of POIs.
The experts at PC Mag assign it a "good" rating (3.5 out of 5) and list it as one of the best navigation app for iPhones. The review lauds the timely voice prompts, clear visual cues, and easy-to-understand
interface but notes the absence of aids like walking directions and 3D lane assist; it calls the voice prompts "choppy." At Google Play, Android users give the free navigation app an average 4.3 out of 5. Many reviewers assert it makes traveling more fun and is driver-friendly
, although complaints about frequent crashes are common.
3. Waze Social GPS Maps & Traffic App.
Waze is a bit different from the other free navigations apps listed here -- this one is community-driven
, which means some 50 million users update the app about road incidents, such as accidents, hazards, police activity, and current traffic conditions. Waze automatically reroutes you based on the data and pinpoints the cheapest gas stations based on your location.
Once a favorite free iPhone navigation app of the reviewer at Lifehacker, Waze has been displaced Google Maps. The reviewer reports that it can seem cluttered and some users aren't keen on the directions, but he high-fives
traffic information. iPhone users give the latest version 4.5 stars out of 5 and users of the Android app rate it a 4.6, noting how it helps them avoid bad road conditions. Users also appreciate the opportunity to give back by providing real-time
updates. One downside: Android users report frequent crashes.
4. HopStop Transit Directions Map.
HopStop veers away from the free navigation apps crowd with its purpose of getting you to your destination via public transportation, be it bus, subway, taxi -- or foot. Using this app you'll find the nearest station and the cost of taxis, get biking directions in select cities (New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco), locate handicap-accessible
routes, and see the number of calories you're burning and the amount of carbon emissions you're saving. And for good measure, you can save your searches.
Android users give HopStop Transit Directions App a score of 4.2 at Google Play. Many tourists who visited major cities, such as New York and Chicago, claim the app helped them get around almost like a native. Locals, on the other hand, say the app doesn't always list the most efficient routes. Another gripe concerns crashes and error messages. At the iTunes store, iPhone users assign it 4.5 out of 5 stars and say the app never steers them wrong.
Posted on 6/14/2013 14:56 EST
Don't forget Father's Day this weekend -- surprise dad with a cooking accessory for the grill. Get ready for a summer road-trip with money saving gas apps and hit the beach along the way with a pair of cheap water shoes. Stay connected on the road with data and Wi-Fi while browsing free job search websites for a new career path upon return.
Find your next job with the help of a good free job search website, your own hard work and perseverance. Our brief review identifies the top websites and describes important features.
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When playing in the sand or diving into water sports, make sure your feet are properly protected. Check our roundup of the top cheap water shoes and sandals for men, women, and kids.
Whether you're traveling domestically or abroad there are cheap and free Wi-Fi
and data options available. Find out how to stay connected during your trip.
The right accessories make grilling all the more enjoyable. We found five cheap and useful utensils that even grill aficionados can appreciate.
Cruise down the hi-ways
this summer without busting the bank. These five gas apps help steer you towards the cheapest nearby gas stations.
Posted on 6/14/2013 11:36 EST
This week's picks for top travel deals include a Dublin & London vacation and a beach resort.
1. Dublin & London Vacation 30% Off
Get to know London and Dublin at your own pace on this eight-day vacation. Deal includes roundtrip airfare and hotel accommodations.
Dublin & London Vacation
(Groupon $1,399, 30% off from $1,999 - $600 savings)
2. Beach Resort 52% Off
Escape from everyday responsibilities to this beach resort in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Deal includes a couples massage, three daily meals, daily-refill mini bar, daily alcoholic beverages and 24-hour room service.
(LivingSocial $799, 52% off from $1,666 - $867 savings)
Posted on 6/13/2013 13:05 EST
With summer travel in full swing, now's the time to get acquainted with the best money-saving gas apps. We took the guesswork out of choosing among the plentiful supply and compiled a list of the best gas apps. Each has its pros and cons, but any, or all, should have you speeding along cheaply to your summer destinations. Better yet, they're all free.
Unpassable in the fast lane of gas apps, GasBuddy helps you locate nearby gas stations and supplies real-time
gas prices. How are prices so accurate? This best gas app motivates the community of users to update prices with weekly offerings for the chance to win $250 worth of gas.
Pros and Cons:
GasBuddy garners nearly all positive reviews and a 5-star rating. iPhone users who commented in the iTunes store say the gas app is extremely user friendly, the navigation feature works like a charm, and prices are almost always accurate. Blackberry users who posted reviews on App World praise its accuracy and say the gas app saves them big time.
iPhone, Android, Blackberry
Zooming into the fast lane, Waze has already made a big impact on the driving community. As a social media driving app, Waze uses a community approach to "Outsmarting traffic, together" (its slogan) by asking users to report traffic issues; the navigation system then reroutes you when road conditions change. Waze also lets drivers report real-time
gas prices, which clears the path to taking the cheapest route. Additionally, Waze users get special discounts at select gas stations.
Pros and Cons:
Most app users are true Waze believers, and like how interactive and personalized it is. What makes this a best gas app is the opportunity to choose a route that avoids traffic and/or one that saves money on fuel.
A gas app that reports gas prices and helps you locate businesses, such as bars, restaurants, hotels, and doctors, YP Mobile (YP stands for Yellow Pages) is a best gas app that saves users money while on the go.
Pros and Cons:
YP Mobile gets mostly positive reviews at the Google Play app store, but some say this best gas app runs a little slow and occasionally lists businesses that have moved or shut down. Aside from these few gripes, most users report success in finding the lowest gas prices nearby.
iPhone, Android, Blackberry, other smartphone devices
Gas Guru, another app brought to you by YellowPages.com, focuses primarily on finding cheap gas prices. Based on your location (or your saved "favorite" location), the gas app identifies the cheapest gas stations and labels them best, good, or other. "Best" means the prices at that particular station are among the top 20 percent of cheapest gas stations, "good" means they're in the top 50 percent, and "other" means the station's prices fall outside the top 60 percent.
Pros and Cons:
Gas Guru gets a big nod of approval from Appolicious, which says this best gas app is very useful in scouting out cheap gas stations and can help drivers plan an entire outing based on the cheapest fuel stops. Most users applaud its accuracy but some reviewers report kinks with the GPS.
AAA Mobile encompasses the functions of three apps: AAA Discounts, AAA Roadside and AAA TripTik Mobile. The TripTik feature focuses on trip planning and directions, but also provides gas station locations and current fuel prices and helps users find accommodations, restaurants, attractions, and more. The AAA Mobile app lets users request roadside assistance if they're AAA members and can locate member discounts.
Pros and Cons:
AAA Mobile ranks last on our list because users in both the iTunes and Google Play app stores write that the gas app just doesn't meet AAA standards. Many users complain of frequent crashes and hard-to-use
Free (even for non-AAA
||iPhone, Android, Blackberry
||5 stars current version, 5 all versions
||4.6; 432,793 reviews
||4.5; 8,146 reviews
||5 stars current version, 4.5 all versions
||4.6; 601,151 reviews
|3. YP Mobile
||iPhone, Android, Blackberry, other
||4.5 current version, 4.5 all versions
||4.5; 74,200 reviews
||3.5; 91 reviews
|4. Gas Guru
||4.5 current version, 4.5 all versions
||4.4; 935 reviews
|5. AAA Mobile
||4 current version, 3 all versions
Posted on 6/13/2013 10:30 EST
This week's top picks for health, fashion and beauty deals include an ASICS women's track shoes deal, a nail shaping kit and a caffeine tablet lot.
1. ASICS Women's Track Shoes 55% Off
These stylish lightweight ASICS track shoes are built with sprinters and jumpers in mind. Choose from 2 styles with free shipping and returns.
ASICS Women's Track Shoes
(Groupon $44.99, 55% off from $99.99 - $55.00 savings)
2. Nail Shaping Kit 55% Off
3. Caffeine Tablet Lot 45% Off
Get two 100-count Prolab bottles for the price of one. Each tablet has 200mg of pure caffeine.
Caffeine Tablet Lot
(Groupon $11.99, 45% off from $21.98 - $9.99 savings)
Posted on 6/12/2013 13:37 EST
To make your outdoor cooking experience even more enjoyable, load up with these cheap grilling accessories. We found five helpful grilling utensils for less than $12 and one for nearly double that.
Weber 6432 Silicone Basting Brush
The Weber 6432 Silicone Basting Brush is a penny shy of $10 and a best seller in the "meat & poultry basters" category at Amazon. A cheap grilling accessory that wins 4.7 stars out of 5, this stainless steel basting brush has silicone bristles and safely goes in the dishwasher. Reviewers say it comes at a very reasonable price given the stainless steel handle and easy clean up. And, it neatly holds the juices and flavors that you'll be slathering on food as it grills.
Brinkmann Stainless Steel Grilling Tongs get a cool grip, for just $5, on whatever you happen to be grilling. Made of stainless steel with hardwood handles, the tongs are easy to clean and can be locked when not in use. This cheap grilling accessory garners a 5-star rating at Home Depot.
Fire Wire Stainless Steel Flexible Grilling Skewers hold more meat and vegetables than you could possibly string on a traditional straight skewer. Each skewer is curved and flexible, so you can bend it to fit the grill and leave the ends hanging over the sides; the ends stay cool for easy flipping and lifting off the grate. Although somewhat odd looking, according to many reviews at Amazon, these cheap grilling utensils are effective. Reviewers note they fit almost any shape or size grill and are a snap to clean. Ten dollars gets you a set of two kebab skewers, which boast a 4.7 out of 5 rating at Amazon. Tip: Depending how you place the skewers on the grill, veggies and meat might not cook evenly; check carefully before consuming.
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel BBQ Turner
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel BBQ Turner is a hair short of being a 5-star winner at Amazon, where one user deems it "almost perfect." Reviews for the $11 grilling accessory rave about the sharp serrated edge, which makes it easy to flip or lift whatever is on the grill. The spatula comes with an extra-long handle that users say feels very sturdy in your hand. It's also dishwasher-safe and has a hole for hanging.
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Barbecue Fork is another $11 product from OXO that finds favor with grill cooks. As one reviewer explains on Amazon, the prongs on this cheap grilling accessory are flat enough to roll hot dogs but can also be used to lift hardy meats. As with the BBQ Turner, the long handle keeps the heat at a distance and the utensil cleans up nicely in the sink or dishwasher.
Additional Hard Anodized GrillGrate Panel helps distribute heat evenly and prevents flare-ups. Reviews posted at Amazon say this cheap grilling accessory lives up to its marketing claims and award it 4.8 stars. According to the manufacturer, juices cook with the meat while fat drains off, leaving a moist finished product. One review notes food is properly seared and doesn't stick to the surface and others laud the easy cleanup -- just place the $23 accessory in the sink and let the water run over it.