Pumpkin Prize Punch (using dollar store supplies)

A few years ago, I came up with the idea to make a prize punch for one of my boys' parties. Since then, prize punches have become party staples for us. I have done party punches to match all of my boys' parties' themes, and today I am sharing a fun Halloween version. I love that you can make this festive pumpkin prize punch using inexpensive dollar store supplies.

To make this Halloween pumpkin prize punch you'll need: a piece of dollar store foam core, plastic cups, orange tissue paper, a glue gun, green card stock, and green curling ribbon.


Cut tissue paper squares slightly larger than the top of the cups. Fill the cups with trinkets, and then use hot glue to cover the tops of the cups with tissue paper. I use two squares per cup for added strength (and so the kids can't peek inside to see the prizes).

Next, you'll want to position the cups on the foam core (in a pumpkin shape), and use hot glue on the bottom of the cups to attach them.

Use glue to attach a card stock stem, and embellish with a bit of green curling ribbon (if desired).

Someone can hold onto the prize punch, or you can lean it up against a wall, chair, or tree. Then, kids can poke through the tissue paper to claim their prize.

I have been making prize punches for years, and they are always a huge hit with kids. I know my boys are going to love this Halloween version!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Halloween "Booo"bles... with free printable tags

Halloween can be filled with sugary treats, so I love the idea of sugar free and allergy safe Halloween treat ideas. Check out the adorable tags I designed for Halloween "Booo" bles!

It's such a great option for kids carrying teal pumpkins (i.e. kids with allergy concerns). I love a good treat that everyone can enjoy, don't you?

To download the tags I designed: right-click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it like a regular 4X6 photo.

Then, use some curling ribbon to attach the tags to containers of bubbles (which are often on clearance this time of year).

These Halloween bubbles are wonderful for trick-or-treaters, and they make fantastic class treats too. What are your favourite allergy safe Halloween treat options?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Lunchbox Shortcuts for busy moms and dads... and a chance to win a $500 Visa Gift Card

Packing healthy lunches doesn't need to be stressful for busy moms and dads. Sometimes a few little shortcuts is all that is needed to make life a lot easier. Today, I am sharing a few lunchbox shortcuts that will help you make school lunches like a boss!

1) Pre-made or "make ahead" smoothies - My boys are always in a rush to get outside and play, so they like when I pack them things that they can eat quickly. Smoothies are perfect!

Hans Dairy* makes a pre-made smoothie with all natural ingredients that your little ones are sure to love. My boys are big fans of the strawberry flavour.

Or you can make a big batch of homemade smoothies, stick them in the freezer, and pop them in the kids' lunchboxes each morning.

2) Lunch of snacks - My boys aren't huge fans of sandwiches, so I often fill their lunches with their favourite healthy snacks. Using individual containers makes it easy to customize lunches for picky eaters. Check out this lunch of carrot sticks, strawberries, Hans Dairy's* rice pudding, a hard boiled egg, pretzels, applesauce, and a homemade ginger cookie

A yogurt parfait is another fantastic choice for a healthy lunch that feels like a snack. You can mix fresh fruit and Hans Dairy* natural yogurt with some granola for a tasty and nutritious lunch that kids will love!

3) Quick grab bins - When it comes to making lunches, a little prep goes a long way. Pack your own single serving snacks and lunch staples in bins so that the contents can be easily "popped" into lunch bags.

4) Fill a freezer - Filling a freezer with individually packed homemade goods can save time and money... and it will help you avoid filling lunch boxes with processed snacks that contain unwanted preservatives. Freezer staples in our house include: lunchbox biscuits, chocolate chip cookies, and ginger cookies.

And if you need a little back to school help, Hans Dairy* has a great contest you can enter. One (1) Grand Prize Winner will receive: A (1) $500 Visa Gift Card (CDN) for a Back-to-School Shopping Spree and Five lucky Secondary winners will each receive a Hans Dairy Prize Pack (est. retail value $70.00 CDN). Enter here (before October 6th!):
Hans Dairy Back to School Giveaway

What are your favourite lunchbox shortcuts? I hope you find my tips helpful, and I encourage you to check out Hans Dairy's* healthy choices for school lunchboxes. You can feel good about their products because they are free of any artificial sugars, flavourings, colourings, and preservatives.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

*Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and Hans Dairy and have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own.

5 Birthday Party Hacks Every Parent Should Know

When it comes to planning kids' birthday parties, the pressure can be overwhelming for parents. But you don't have to be Pinterest-perfect to make your child feel special. Today, I am sharing 5 birthday party hacks that will help you reduce party planning headaches, while still creating a special celebration for your child.

1) It's OK to let someone else do the work - There are tons of fantastic places that will host parties for you. Check out local movie theatres, indoor playgrounds, rinks, swimming pools, and bowling allies. The "per child" fee is usually pretty reasonable.

2) You can easily (and inexpensively) make your own cake/cupcakes - You don't have to make a fancy cake or pay a lot to have one made. Using the recipe you can find here, you can make delicious cupcakes (from a mix) that your party guests will love. 

You can also buy party themed toys, and pop them onto a simple slab cake. It's an easy way to make a basic cake look custom... and the birthday boy/girl will love the toy.

3) The dollar store is your friend - The dollar store has many of the things you need to host an inexpensive and fun party. My boys love the prize punches I make for their parties using dollar store foam core, plastic cups, and tissue paper. Find the full step by step tutorial here.

4) Keep the party small - No one says you have to invite the entire town to your little one's birthday party. If you want to keep things simple, have a "just family" celebration or limit the number of guests to the age of the birthday boy/girl.

5) Netflix - Netflix is granting parents the ultimate birthday gift with the launch of 14 Birthdays On-Demand featurettes starring the characters in your kids' favourite shows. Clever, right? Your little one will feel like the characters are singing just for them. (Simple search "Birthdays On Demand", and choose the characters you want to sing Happy Birthday to your child.)

What is your biggest birthday headache? I hope you find some of these birthday party hacks helpful.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Disclosure: I receive special gifts and perks as part of my affiliation with Netflix.... however (as always) the opinions on this blog are 100% my own.

Hockey Tape Organizer

I love a good dollar store HACK... especially one that is simple and helps me organize my chaotic life. With three boys in hockey, I often have hockey tape all over my house, and no one can ever find it when they need it. So recently, I headed to the dollar store and came up with a solution for my hockey tape tape problem... a wire paper towel holder.

Don't you love finding a simple solution to a simple problem? This paper towel holder makes a perfect hockey tape organizer.

My boys will love being able to quickly find the hockey tape they need, and I will love having it organized all in one place. And if you are looking for more clever dollar store organization ideas, you can check out a few more here.

Fun, right? Do you have a clever dollar store organization idea that works well for you? I'd love to have you share it in the comments.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

No Bake Energy Balls (with ancient grains & super seeds)

When my boys get home from school, they are starving and looking for snacks. I struggle to find options that offer a compromise between something healthy and something sweet... but the recipe I am sharing today checks both boxes! These no bake energy balls are delicious, and they pack a "power punch" that comes from the PC Blue Menu* ancient grains & super seeds blend.

To make these no bake energy balls, you'll need the following ingredients:
  • 1 cup (uncooked) oatmeal (I used quick oats.)
  • 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (So they are not safe to send to school if food allergies are a concern.)
  • 1/4 cup PC Blue Menu* ancient grains & super seeds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl. (I find it easiest to just use my hands.)
  2. Cover, and let chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Once chilled, roll the mixture into 1" balls. (I used a cookie scoop to measure so that I was able to create 20 uniform balls.)
  4. Enjoy! You can store these energy bites in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.

What's your favourite after-school snack/recipe? I'm always looking for new ideas!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

*Disclosure - I have partnered with President's Choice and have received compensation for this post. However, as always, all opinions in the post are my own.

Simple "make ahead" Meatballs

Now that school is back in session, weeknight meals are becoming increasingly difficult. I like to have a few simple meal ideas prepped and ready to go, and meatballs are always a crowd pleaser. Today, I am sharing my recipe for "make ahead" meatballs. You can cook a big batch in the oven, and freeze them for when you need them.

I like to make a big batch of meatballs on a foil lined tray. I use half for dinner, and I freeze the other half. 

To make a double batch of meatballs, you'll need:
  • 2 lbs (0.907kg) of hamburger
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (powder)
  • 2 eggs

Mix all the ingredients together, and roll into balls. Place the meatballs on a foil lined 9x13 cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until no longer pink (approx. 18-22 minutes). Drain fat.

I like to place half the meatballs in a dish for that night's supper, and the other half goes in the freezer.

I usually turn my meatballs into "sweet and sour meatballs" using sauce made from the following:

  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 cup water
  • spices (as desired)

I just take half of my "big batch" of meatballs, put them in a roaster, and pour the sauce over them. Then, I cook them in the sauce for 30 minutes at 300 degrees.

These sweet and sour meatballs are great served over rice with some grilled broccoli on the side.

Does your family love meatballs? If you make the meatballs ahead of time, they make a wonderful and easy weekday meal.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)
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