How to Save Money on Halloween Costumes

Kids love dressing up, and they often have very specific ideas of what they want to wear for Halloween. Over the years, I have loved helping my kids fulfill their visions, but I have never wanted to break the bank on something they are only going to wear once. Today, I am sharing my best tips for saving money on Halloween costumes.

1) Get crafty - Making costumes yourself is awesome because it saves money AND you end up with unique creations. The best thing is... you do NOT need to be super crafty. I have OVER 20 ideas (that require NO sewing) on my blog here. (e.g. I made this Ninja costume using black shirts and red duct tape!)

2) Buy second hand - Search "buy and sell" sites, ask friends, and visit second hand stores. There are a lot of fantastic deals to be had!

3) Shop at the Dollar Store - The dollar store has tons of masks, wigs, accessories, etc... It's a fantastic (and inexpensive) place to get inspiration and purchase what you need to pull together a wonderful costume on a budget.

4) Use what you have - Sometime you don't need to spend ANY money on a costume. With a little imagination, you can create a costume using what you already have in your home. For example, my son used a t-shirt he had to create this simple Clark Kent costume. We grabbed glasses, a dress shirt, and a tie from his closet, and we were good to go! You can also recycle old t shirts into costumes. You can find "use what you have" inspiration here.

5) Take advantage of "after Halloween" discount - If you really plan ahead, you can stock up on "after Halloween" clearance items and save them for the next year. 

How do you save money on Halloween costumes? Have your kids picked their outfits yet? I love these ideas for saving money on Halloween costumes, don't you?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

You can find more easy and inexpensive Halloween ideas here.

Shortcut Family-Friendly Lasagna

Weeknight dinners can be a struggle, so I'm always looking for shortcuts to make my life a little easier. This family-friendly lasagna is one of my favorites. I love that it makes enough for two nights, my kids will it without complaining (a rarity around here), and it's easy to make. Keep reading to check out my recipe for family-friendly lasagna... and the shortcuts I use.

Shortcut Family-Friendly Lasagna


  • 9-12 oven ready lasagna noodles (Short cut - you don't have to cook the noodles before assembling the lasagna.)
  • 1 pound / 500g hamburger (Short cut - have cooked hamburger ready to go in the freezer or fridge.)
  • 2 (640mL) jars of pasta sauce (Short cut - use jarred sauce.)
  • 500g lasagna style cottage cheese (regular cottage cheese or ricotta would work too)
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley (Short cut - you can use fresh, but using dried is quicker.)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups grated mozzarella cheese (Short cut - you can buy pre-grated cheese.)
  • 6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (Short cut - you can use fresh, but using the canned/shake version is quicker.)
  • 3/4 cup water


1) Fry hamburger and add 2 jars of pasta sauce.

2) Combine cottage cheese with parsley and an egg.

3) In a 13x9 greased baking dish:
  • spread 1/3 of sauce
  • top with 3 1/2 lasagna noodles
  • top with 1/2 the cottage cheese mixture
  • sprinkle with one cup mozzarella cheese and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese 
  • spread another 1/3 of sauce
  • top with 3 1/2 lasagna noodles
  • top with remaining cottage cheese mixture
  • top with 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • top with 3 1/2 lasagna noodles, remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella cheese and remaining Parmesan cheese
  • drizzle with water 
4) Cover with tin foil and bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 50-55 minutes. Remove covering for the last 10 minutes.

5) Let stand for 15 minutes, and then serve.

I like to serve my lasagna with garlic bread and a simple salad. (I love spring mix with strawberries, a crunchy salad topper, and an olive oil/balsamic vinegar dressing.)

I highly recommend this simple, short cut family-friendly lasagna. It's fantastic for a weekday, but works well for a Sunday supper too. Who doesn't love a meal that feeds a crowd and everyone enjoys?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

PS - You can find more family friendly recipes ideas here.

10 Questions to Ask your Kids After School... that won't get one word responses

Now that the school year is well underway, you might be finding it difficult to get information about the school day from your children. After school, kids are tired, and getting more than a "fine" or a "good" can be a challenge. Today, I am sharing 10 questions that you can ask your kids after school... that will get more than a one word response.

1) What did you do at recess / lunch? Who did you play with? Who did you sit beside at lunch? - Great questions because they lead to a bigger discussion about who their friends are, what they are interested in playing, and what sort of drama is happening on the playground.

2) Did anything funny happen at school today? - A simple question with a positive focus.

3) Did you find anything hard or upsetting today? - A great question for uncovering emotional struggles.

4) What are you working on in math? What are you reading? - Wonderful questions for showing interest in the academic part of a child's day.

5) What was the best part of your day? What was the worst part of your day? - Simple questions that can lead to more detailed discussions.

6) What did you learn today? 

7) What are two positive things that happened today? What is one negative thing that happened today?

8) Did anyone get in trouble in your class today? What were they doing? - This is a wonderful question to ask because it allows you to talk to your kids about acceptable and unacceptable behavior and what your expectations are for them.

9) Did you eat your lunch? Why or why not? - Sometimes kids don't eat their lunch because they were worried about something and had a sore belly. Or, sometimes they don't eat their lunch because they were in a hurry to get outside to play with a new piece of playground equipment. Either way, it's a good question that can help uncover further information.

10) Do you have any homework? Do you have any projects or tests coming up?

  • Of course, you aren't going to ask all these questions every day. Pick the questions that work for you, and feel free to "mix them up". You should also consider the timing of asking your child questions. Some kids love a chat while enjoying an after school snack, but others prefer to share information at bedtime. You know your child best, so go with your gut.

  • What's your favorite question to ask your kids after school? Did any of your favorites make my list?

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Movie Night Snack Board

Spending time together as a family is not always easy... especially when kids are busy with after school and weekend activities/sports. In our house, we try to have a "family movie night" every Friday, and it is the highlight of the week for all of us. Making it special with simple snacks adds an extra element of fun. Check out our latest movie night treat... a movie night snack board.

I started with a few of my family's favourite snacks, small bowls I had in my cupboard, and a tray from the dollar store.

I covered the tray with popcorn, inserted the bowls, and filled the bowls with candy. Soooo easy... but soooo much fun!

This movie night snack board was a definite hit at our last movie night. I think my boys are going to be looking for it next week too!

I love a charcuterie board, and I think this is a really fun "sweet and salty" version the whole family will love, don't you? I highly recommend making this movie night snack board for your next movie night. It's simple, fun, and really tasty!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

Neighborhood Photo Scavenger Hunt

I love an activity that gets kids outside (and away from electronics), don't you? So, what could be more fun than a neighbourhood photo scavenger hunt? Today I am sharing a fun, printable scavenger hunt that is perfect for kids of all ages. It's a fun activity for a family, but it would be a fantastic group activity too.

To play, every kid (or team) needs a list and something to take pictures with. I gave my kids my phone, and this is what they came back with...

Cute, right? 

To download a copy of the list I used with my boys: click on the picture below, save it to your computer, and print it on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet piece of paper.

OR... you can download a pdf version here.

I hope you enjoy this neighbourhood photo scavenger hunt with your family. It's a great activity for spring, summer, or fall.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

How to make a PAPER SPINNER

Sometimes simple, old fashioned ideas are the best ones. These paper spinners are a perfect example. They are easy to make, and they are a lot of fun to play with. I remember making them when I was a child, and then I made them with my boys. It's a craft and a game... the perfect 2 for 1 idea!

To make a colourful spinner:

1) Cut two identical circles from a piece of heavy cardstock, and poke holes in the centre of the circles (about 1cm apart).

2) Use bright colours to colour the two cirles.

3) Use a glue stick to glue the insides the circles together... being careful to line up the holes.

4) Thread the piece of string through the holes and secure with a knot.

5) Hold the ends of the strings, twirl the circle, and watch the circle spin when you stop twirling.

Check out this video for a visual description of the instructions:

Isn't this a fun little activity? It really is a great craft for children of all ages. Tweens and teens will like it too!

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

First Day of School Photos... my favourite back to school tradition

When my oldest started school, I had him hold his "first day of Preschool" photo for a picture. The rest (as they say) is history. It has become an annual first day of school tradition for my boys to get a picture holding the picture from the first day of school the previous year. Here are our photos from this morning. We always start with a group a photo, and then they we do individual shots.

Here is my oldest, 13 years old and heading to Grade 9. I can't believe he is starting high school! I love his confidence, focus, and strong work ethic.

Here is my middle son, 12 years old and heading to Grade 7. I love his pleasant attitude, kind heart and outgoing personality.

And here is my "baby", 10 years old and heading to Grade 5. I love his sweetness, his quirky sense of humor, and his cuddles.

I am already missing my boys, but I can't wait to hear all about each of their days. I hope their classes are filled with friendship and fun.

Taking these photos on the first day of school really is my favourite back to school tradition. I am hoping that when my boys graduate from high school, we can look back at all their first day of school pictures and remember how special these days were.

Gina (aka East Coast Mommy)

You might also like these school lunch ideas... 

Don't miss any of the fun....