How to Make Any Boxed Cake Mix Amazing

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I feel like I’m always making cakes or cupcakes of some type between birthdays, class parties, holidays, even National Firefighter Appreciation Day.  I’ve really taken a liking to it, and baking my own always is less expensive than buying from a bakery.

So in light of Ben’s birthday party this Saturday, I thought I’d collect all my favorite baking tips, tricks, and easy switcheroos on how to take any $.83 boxed mix and make it taste like its from a bakery.

Ben’s 1st Birthday; and How to Save on Kids’ Parties

Egg Whites– Remove the yolks from the eggs recommended on the back and use just the IMG_6927whites. Then replace each yolk removed with 1 tbs of melted butter. This makes the cake lighter and fluffier and also lightens the color of white cake mix.

Extra Eggs– For a richer denser cake, add one or two extra eggs.

Trade Oil for Butter– Butter obviously makes everything better, but its even more obvious with cake, and it improves the texture.

Instant Pudding– Add a package of instant pudding to the cake mix. This is where I sometimes get creative too. Have a white cake mix? Add a package of strawberry pudding mix. Play around with flavors a little bit and you might discover something you really like.

Switch Out Water for Whole Milk- This makes the cake taste denser like you would get from a bakery.

Switch Out Water for Brewed Coffee- To bring out the flavor in chocolate cake. Ive actually never tried this one before but I’m going to this weekend when I make Ben’s chocolate construction site cake. If you’re not into brewing coffee…

Use Hot Water- For chocolate cakes in the same amount recommended in the box directions. This will bring out the flavor.

Sour Cream- Adding 1/2c of sour cream adds richness.

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People also rave about home made frosting, but personally I’ve never done it. Here’s a quick one from good old Betty Crocker.

For more boxed cake mix tips, here are some links:

All Things Mama

Rachel Ray

Happy Baking!

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Last Minute Thanksgiving Pie

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Need a quick dessert last minute? Or need one on the cheap?

I found this quick, cheap, and easy no-bake recipe on Meatloaf and Melodrama thats perfect for the holidays. It takes about 10 minutes to make, and all you need is a hand beater and a fridge.

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The best part is you can make it on the cheap because it only has 5 ingredients, and one doesn’t even count because everyone has nutmeg (or even cinnamon in a pinch) in the cabinet.

I got everything at Walmart, which I usually don’t go to because I feel like its over priced. But all together I spent $.98 each on the prepared graham cracker crust, the pudding package and the generic cool whip. The eggnog what the priciest at $5.50, but I bought the half gallon because I’m making a punch with it later.

Make it even cheaper: You only need 1 1/2 cups of eggnog for the recipe, so get the single serve containers for $1 each, bringing your total cost to $4.94.

If you can’t stand the thought of a grocery store the day before a holiday, I’ve got great news. You can get the pudding mix, eggnog single serves and the CoolWhip at any convenience store. The one I worked at sold the pre-made crusts too, but if yours doesn’t, heres a link to a YouTube video on how to make a piecrust out of Graham Crackers.

I actually used white chocolate flavored pudding. I shopped yesterday, and was noticing that the regular eggnog was pretty much gone, but with this recipe, you can use light eggnog, or any of the flavored versions and it would still turn out great.

Also did I mention its only 80 calories per serving?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Painting on a Budget

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When we bought our fixer upper house, we knew we had a fair pile of projects ahead of us. Pretty quickly after that, we realized that to get all of these projects done, we would have to figure out how to do them all for cheap.

One of the most expensive projects is painting rooms. Painting requires a lot of disposable supplies and paint itself can be pretty pricey. So this is what I know so far about how to paint on a budget.

Do it yourself. Duh. This is the one thing that will probably save you the most. Painting is a pain in the butt, sure. You have to clean out the room and put your drapes down and tape everything off; it’s the worst. But its really not the hardest thing ever and there are some really good tutorials on YouTube that show you exactly what you need to do to get that not-so-DIY look.

Use free color matching service to get a designer look without designer prices. Lowe’s home improvement store will match paint to anything you bring in, whether its a pillow or a swatch of fabric to an old sample. This lets you get your high end designer color into more affordable paint, and on to your walls without tanking your budget.

Shop discards in the paint section. Every store’s paint section has a shelf or an end cap with already made colors that people have either returned, changed their minds about or never picked up in the first place. These gallons are deeply discounted because the store wants them gone and off the shelf, and you never know what color you might find. Take a quick walk through and you might just score.

Paint DOES go on sale. Sales aren’t just for holiday decorations and school clothes. Big box home stores put paint on sale during summer holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day. Paint companies like Sherwin Williams offer coupons throughout the year, and there are frequently big discounts and Buy 2 Get 1 Free sales at home improvement stores around the holidays when people are likely to fix up their homes for guests.

Hang on to your disposable stuff and left over paint. Clean your brushes thoroughly, rinse out your paint pans, fold up your plastic drapes and drop cloths. A little effort after a project will save you money next time. Also hang on to your extra paint. Instead of tossing it and then having to buy a new gallon to touch up dents and scratches, you’ll already have everything that you need for free. Unopened paint kept indoors can be used up to TEN years after purchase. Opened cans of left over paint keep for around two years.
We had our dining room painted a grayish blue that I loved for years. Now I’m over it. The color that I picked to repaint was so close to the color we had painted our entryway, I decided to just use that old paint in the dining room and spent $0 on the new project.

Don’t forget to ask for your discounts. Lowe’s has a 10% off military discounts. Seniors, police, fire and students are also often offered percent discounts at check out. Also check out sites like RetailMeNot.com and AAA (if you’re a member) for offers like free shipping and percents off a regular price order. If you’re not sure if you qualify, ask the cashier “what discounts are available today?” The worst that can happen is they say “None.”