Budget Travel

September 18, 2009

Going Green to Save the Green

By Meg Hoppe


Save money the green way!

I know, I know, I just posted a list of money-saving tips. And I know, I know, I always complain that they’re not that helpful. But I found a great list that I wanted to re-post on principle alone; because it’s green! Anytime I can do something to help the environment I go out of my way. If I can help myself at the same time, then I am absolutely game. So here are “Eight Green Money Saving Tips” from EcoVillage Green [a great eco blog that I suggest everyone check out].

Buy Used Instead of New: Personally, I think that used items have more character. That said, there are some things that I won’t buy used, no matter how environmentally friendly they are. Use your imagination and get back to me. Truthfully though, buying used saves a ton of money. Especially if you have kids. I know, that when my brother was growing up my mom went through clothes and shoes weekly for him. The boy just wouldn’t stop growing. So why even bother buying new? There are lots of re-sale stores that have great clothing in fantastic condition. Look into them and save.

Look Online for Free Items: Listening to the news, you would think that Craigslist.org is nothing more than a prostitution hub. But I will tell you that it’s one of my favorite websites [no, not for the prostitution]. When I’m not perusing Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, or Anthropologie for things I cannot afford, I love looking at the free section on Craigslist. That and the apartment section for places I cannot afford. People give things away for so many reasons; they’re moving, divorcing, getting married etc. Often times the things that they have a really nice. For example, my mother [she seems to be a trend in this blog and the last], bought a really nice bunk bed set for my old room from Craigslist. It was in great condition and she got it for a steal. Check out other sites like Freecycle.org to see what else you can find.

Eat at Home Instead of Eating Out: A few friends and I have a weekly

Sunday Dinner NEVER looks this nice

Sunday Dinner NEVER looks this nice

Sunday Night Dinner ritual. Every Sunday around 6p.m. we all congregate at a friend’s apartment and each of us brings something that we made or bought. There is normally a theme for the night [last week it was Cashews; there was Cashew Chicken & I made delicious Caramel Cashew Cookie Squares & brought Chianti]. Sunday Night Dinners are something that we all look forward to and it is a far cheaper option for us to eat in. Honestly, you can cook a meal for a family of 4 on $30.00. You can also buy for several meals instead of just one, it’s win win.

Form a Hand Me Down System w/Friends & Family: Sharing is caring, that’s what I’ve always said. Granted, I normally don’t always care to share, but that is irrelevant. For people with children, you know how quickly the grow out of things. So instead of just throwing clothes and other things away, share them with friends and family who also have children. It saves a lot of hassle and money if you know that you have a network of people to go for something.

Look for Opportunities to Barter: Again, I will point out the amazingness of Craigslist. They have a barter section already on the page. Come on, you can’t hate the site now. If you tactfully barter, chances are you will be able to knock quite a bit off the price. Just make sure you know when to quit.

Be a Frequent Yard Sale Shopper: I love yard sales. Hands down, I love them. Flea Markets are in that vein as well. You can find the coolest one-of-a-kind things at yard sales and flea markets. These are really good places to haggle and get a good deal. But you just need to be prepared to find something that you might have to store for awhile. What you find will be unpredictable, but completely worth it.

Go Green

Go Green

Have a Yard Sale: My mom had a yard sale once when we were little. It’s a great way to make sure that items you loved will pass into the hands of someone else who will enjoy them as much as you did. Even if you just get a couple bucks, it’s a couple bucks that you didn’t have before.

These are some great tips that I enjoy because they stress being green. Take all of the money that you save with ALL of the money-saving tips I find and deliver to you to do something fun and green with your family or friends!

*Meg Hoppe is a freelance writer and marketing professional from Chicago. Visit her other blog here and follow her on Twitter @CallMeHoppe.


June 2, 2009

5 Great Summer Cocktails

By Meg Hoppe

The summer is a great time to just kick back with some good friends and good drinks for a night. So many of my best memories from years past revolve around lawn chair conversation with a pitcher of my favorite margarita being passed from friend to friend. This summer, I’ve picked some of my favorite cocktails to accompany any summer night party.

Habanero Margarita

Mango Habanero Margarita

Mango Habanero Margarita

  • 2 parts tequila
  • 2 parts mango puree
  • 1 part lime juice
  • 2 dashes habanero sauce

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a chilled glass then enjoy.

This recipe is my new summer favorite. I had a great variation of this for the first time at a FlatTop restaurant near my house. When I got home I scoured the Internet for recipes to this great drink and they had ones that seemed close but never necessarily hit the mark for me. I almost gave up when I stumbled across this one that I found on NibbleDish.com. I experimented some with the fruit puree and found that it’s a great drink to mix and match with. So if you’re looking for something a little different with a kick, give this amazing drink a try!


  • 1 ounce Midori
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • Lemonade
  • Club soda
  • Sprite

Pour Midori and vodka into a highball glass. Fill with lemonade and float a splash of club soda and a splash of Sprite on top. Garnish with a lemon twist.

I first discovered this recipe a few summers ago during a July 4th party with friends. The sweet Midori mixes so well with vodka and some lemonade. In fact, it was such a hit at the party that it’s become a staple at any Hoppe party. The mixture is easy enough to make for a large group or small one.


  • 1/2 ounce peach liqueur
  • 1 ounce peach juice or nectar
  • Chilled champagne or sparkling wine

Pour liqueur and juice into a chilled champagne flute. Slowly top up with champagne or sparkling wine.

I have always been a huge fan of the Bellini. The peach mixed with champagne or sparkling wine is a great way to top off a warm evening with a few close friends. The recipe is simple enough to replicate and alter [if you so wish] easily enough.


Mint Mojito

Mint Mojito

  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 8 mint leaves
  • Half a lime, chopped
  • 1/2 ounce sugar syrup; club soda
  • Ice cubes

Mash up mint, lime, and sugar syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add a scoop of ice, then the rum. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled tumbler 1 inch from the rim; top up with club soda.

I remember trying a Mojito at the behest of one of my close friends. While I wasn’t automatically sold on the combination of rum and mint, the drink quickly grew on me. What’s so great about the Mojito is that it’s such a universal drink that can take so many forms. You can easily add a great ingredient like pineapple or pomegranate to make your own twist on a Cuban classic.


  • 5 small chunks watermelon
  • 1 lime, chopped
  • 1/2 ounce sugar syrup
  • 1 1/2 ounces gold tequila
  • Apple juice
  • Ice cubes

Mash up watermelon, lime, and sugar syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add a scoop of ice, then the tequila. Shake vigorously and strain into a tall, chilled glass 1 inch from the rim; top with apple juice.

This recipe is an old favorite of mine because it is a great summer party drink. I made Chapala for the first time for a large group at a BBQ and it went over brilliantly. I love experimenting with this drink keeping the fruit in for a very Sangria feel while introducing other flavors to the mix.

The best thing about these recipes is the versatility in their enjoyment. It is easy to translate these drinks to “mocktail” status for friends who prefer non-alcoholic nights and add different flavors and feelings with the addition of fruit. Enjoy the recipes and never be scared to experiment every now and then with your cocktails!

*Meg Hoppe is a freelance writer and marketing professional from Chicago. Visit her other blog here.

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