We’re always looking for frugal ways to enjoy the holidays, so we asked Ashley McCann, PushPenny’s expert on running a home on a budget, to give us some ideas we can put into action for Easter. Enjoy!

MomsGetReal Contributor Ashley McCann

Spring is here and that means Easter is on the way. Don’t fall into the trap of waiting until the last minute and being forced to choose from overpriced, picked-through items in the specialty aisle of a convenience store the night before the big day. The Easter bunny can be on a budget and still put together a bountiful basket without breaking the bank, with a few practical and heartfelt homemade ideas to help celebrate the holiday.

The foundation

Get creative with container choices and enjoy long-term use with something like a beach bucket, a hard-sided lunch box, a decorative storage container, a flower pot, a popcorn bucket, or a small wicker laundry hamper. Your Easter basket certainly doesn’t have to be a basket, and doing something different can set the stage for a fun theme or more interesting presentation. Consider containers that may make life easier and see if you can incorporate those ideas.

The filler

Don’t waste your money on that annoying plastic grass; you’ll regret it when you’re vacuuming. Trust me, I know. Use inexpensive tissue or crumpled solid colored paper to prop Easter basket items up. This is more about eliminating a mess than about cost, but they are equally important in creating an enjoyable holiday. I’m just trying to help you out here, from one mom to another! But if you don’t mind the potential mess, you could run some colored paper through a shredder for do-it-yourself Easter grass.

The fun

Of course, the real cost and effort usually comes from what fills the basket, but you can save money and still make it fun by going homemade. Don’t be so quick to dismiss the thought if you’re not so crafty.

Here are a few easy ideas for the Easter bunny to bring, and you can always fill in the blank spots with items found in the dollar aisle:

playdohPlay Dough: Let kids use their imagination with this safe-to-ingest clay that’s so inexpensive that you won’t even mind when your child mashes all of the colors into one big brownish glob. It will be colorful and pretty in the basket, though. Mix together ½ cup of salt, ½ cup of water, and 1 cup of flour. Knead in food coloring until you reach the desired hue and store in plastic eggs, baby food jars or small plastic food storage containers with decorative labels.

Sidewalk chalk: Spring means more sunshine and time spent outdoors so let your kids make a more colorful world with egg-shaped sidewalk chalk. Mix 1 cup Plaster of Paris (available at craft stores), ¾ cup of water, and Tempera paint for color, and mix. Wipe inside of plastic egg halves with petroleum jelly and pour mixture inside. Allow it to dry halfway before reattaching egg halves, and then set aside to dry fully. Once you remove the chalk from the mold, let it harden for 24 hours before use. Wrap in cellophane and tie it with a ribbon or put the chalk in a small egg carton.

Crazy Crayons: Gather up all of the hopelessly dull and broken crayons you have lurking in the corners of the craft box, remove the paper labels, grate or chop them into pea-sized pieces, combine different colors and bake in a mini muffin tin or candy mold at 150 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool before popping the crayons from the mold and packaging them together prettily for your petite Picasso.

tweetiesCandy Krispie nest: For a sweet treat that also looks lovely, use Rice Krispie treats, candy Peeps and M&Ms or jelly beans to create a cute little love nest. Melt one 10-ounce bag of marshmallows and 3 tablespoons of butter in the microwave for about a minute and a half and then stir in 6 cups of Rise Krispies cereal. Push the warm mixture into small, pre-greased bowls or a muffin tin to create a nest shape and add candy Peep chicks and eggs to complete this adorable tasty treat.

The Finishing Touches
Go the extra mile by letting the Easter Bunny make his or her own simple traditions. I always knew my mother was not the bunny because my baskets were shrink-wrapped (and I didn’t know she had the capability to do that with just a blow dryer and a basket bag). Whether it’s a fancy bow or scavenger hunt clues leading to the basket, doing something small but special can help create memories that last a life time.

Easter doesn’t have to be expensive! With a little time, effort, and planning you can create a beautiful basket on a budget that any bunny would be proud to present. So hop to it!