Thursday, December 21, 2017

Homemade Gifts




One of our favorite gifts to give to family and friends during the Christmas season are homemade hot coco jars.  It's super easy for the girls to make so it can be a present from them.  I love having them learn to give gifts early on and this is something that can be truly from them, since they can help make it.  Plus it's affordable.

I've shared this link before, but Eating on a Dime  has a great recipe.

This recipe will fill about 3/4 of a jar so 1 recipe = 1 jar gift.

We made 9 jars this year for our family and friends and spent about $20.00. Even with decorating the jars to make them more festive it didn't cost that much to do.

Here was our breakdown:

Jars - free (I just use old spaghetti jars, pasta jars, pickle jars, etc.) You can see my post for that here.
Dry Milk ~ $6.98 ~ I got about 9 jars out of one bag + I've made it a few times for ourselves. 
Coco Powder ~ $1.98 x 3 = $5.94 ~ You can get about 3 jars out of one container
4lb Sugar* ~ $1.78 x 2 = $3.56 ~ You can get about 7 jars out of one 4lb bag
Mini-marshmellows* ~ $0.99 x 2 = $1.98 ~ You can get about 8 jars out of one bag
Bows ~ $2.50/32 = (You could buy these the day after Christmas and save for next year too) ~ This set had green, red, white, blue & purple bows.  I opted to not use the blue and purple, which left me with 29 bows instead. So I could get 29 jars done, or use for my 9 jars and have bows for presents too.
Tags - free (I just download printable tags and let the girls color them) ~ This is optional, but it gives the kids something else to help make.  If you do have your kiddos make tags, depending on how many you do I'd divide up the tags amongst different days.  My girls got bored coloring after a few tags, so I'd just save the others for another day.  It's no fun if you're making them color :)
Construction paper ~ I usually buy a big pack at the beginning of the school year when school supplies are on sale. 

*bought when on sale and stocked up

Some of the items are things you can save again to re-use for the next year; such as the bows or construction paper. You can even freeze the marshmallows to use again, if you have enough will power. Mine always get eaten before the end of December.  

Well I hope this helps you out this season.  I know Christmas is already on Monday, but if you need a last minute fast gift, these are perfect!  Otherwise just pin this post and save for next year! 







Thursday, December 14, 2017

Microwave popcorn



I love popcorn.  I grew up eating popcorn practically every night.  To say my dad is a HUGE popcorn fan, might not be enough.   So, as a family we would have popcorn before bed almost each night.  Even now when I go home for holidays or to visit in the summer, my dad and I will each have a container of popcorn while watching TV or playing games or canning.   I found this great post on Pinterest from Squawkfox about a homemade way to make microwave popcorn.

You can check out her post here.

Plus you can use this to make that popcorn-cranberry garland for the tree without breaking the bank in microwave popcorn.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas Saving



Christmas is almost here and with it comes all the joy and happiness of the season, but sometimes it also can bring frustration with finances.  Christmas can be expensive, from gifts for co-workers, family and friends to Christmas dinner and all the in betweens.

Sometimes I long for the old-fashioned Christmas, the Christmas' of times like in Avonlea.  Recently, my husband and I have been rewatching Anne of Green Gables.  We watched the new season on Netflix, have you seen it yet?  It's not bad, but I still like the original; however, both make me long for the simplicity of life back then; especially when it came to holidays.  Not only was it simple, it was cost-friendly too. So I came up with some old-fashioned Christmas ideas that will keep your Christmas simple and cost-friendly.


1. Popcorn and cranberry garland

Every year I try to have us make this.  I have this vision in my head of us all sitting around the tree stringing popcorn and talking as a family.  Now, I know with three littles 4 and under this vision is not going to be a reality, but I still want to try.  We've yet to attempt this tradition; however, it's on our Advent calendar so this year it's happening.

Another option from is to make a paper chain garland. 


2. Bake from scratch

Cookies, brownies or any other treat, instead of buying them pre-made or as a kit just make them homemade, it does cost less.  Plus by making your own, you can then divide them up and pass out to your neighbors as a cost-friendly gift or advent activity. My girls and I have made and passed out cookies to our neighbors for the last two years, it's such a fun and simple advent activity that doesn't cost a lot.


3. Make your own wrapping paper

I love doing different things for wrapping at Christmas.  A simple alternative, brown packaging paper (or even the brown filler paper you get in those packages).  You can jazz up brown paper in so many ways.  Here are some of my favorite ways.

Brown paper with stamped name and ribbon ~ from: Confessions of a Wisconsin Housewife
Brown paper with twine and felt flowers ~ from: Design Dump
Brown paper with photo of gift recipient ~ from: Our Suburban Farm

Other ideas for brown paper:
add lime green &/or red duct tape or washi tape
add just a large initial of the recipient


4. Go caroling

Just like the popcorn string, I try to find a way to go caroling every year.  This year I was talking to my husband about how in just a few years, we can go as a family because the girls will be old enough.  I use to go caroling with a church group and I think it's such a fun thing to do.  So find some friends and go caroling!


5. Spend time as a family playing games

Play games, get out those board games and spend time together as a family in the evening.  Or do some fun Christmas crafts with your kids.  My girls love crafts, and doing special Christmas crafts is even more fun!  Here are some of my favorites we've done


6. Read the Christmas Story by the tree

Simple and no cost.  The true meaning of Christmas.  Recently I heard on the radio a new song that talks about what wasn't there the first Christmas.  If you think about all that we try to squeeze in and spend money on for Christmas, how many of those things were actually present at the first Christmas?  That really puts it into perspective of what all we try to do or buy during Christmastime.


7. Reuse/Recycle

I'm all about recycling by reusing first.  We get special treats from our hanging of the greens tradition that we do with my husband's family.  Generally they are given to us in Christmas tins.  I don't like to throw them away, but can't save them every year then I'd have too many.  (I will say I've saved some as Christmas decoration holders).  But, I've started using them to put our cookies in that we give to our neighbors.  It actually works out perfectly, now that we have 5 people in our family, because we have 5 neighbors.  This is just one way I reuse at Christmas.  Are there things you are given that you can reuse for anther purpose at Christmas?


8. Simple Advent calendar ideas

Toilet paper advent calendar ~ from: Coffee and Vanilla 
I tried this one last year and it worked really well.  You can see mine here.  
Get the how to on her blog above.

Mason jar advent calendar ~ from: Mama.Papa.Bubba
I loved the simplicity of this idea; however, I'm always having to rearrange my Advent Calendar it seems, so I made another version where the activity is a write in as well.  She has LOTS of different activities already planned so if you are looking for something already made this one is perfect! 

You can also download mine at the bottom of the page if you'd rather a write in option.  

Bible verse banner ~ from: Espresso and Cream 
I love how she ties in a bible verse for each day with this.  Plus, how simple and cost-friendly is this idea? 


9. Simple advent calendar activities 

Make and drink homemade hot coco
Make homemade hot coco as a simple gift for family, friends or neighbors
Make cookies for your neighbors
Wrap presents together 
Read the Nativity Story by the tree
Watch a Christmas Movie
Read Christmas books
Make a paper chain countdown

These are just a few, you can check out more free advent activities here. 







I love this time of year and decorating for it







If you liked this post you may also like 






Thursday, November 30, 2017

Baby Girl makes Three

It has been a crazy month.  We were expecting our third little girl to be born in November, but she decided to come just a tad early, 4 weeks that is and was born in October.  This following me having been on a slight bed rest for almost 2 weeks, due to her wanting to come at 33 weeks.  While we thought the wait for baby girl was long, we didn't realize how long it was going to be after she was born.  Because she was just under 36 weeks she needed to be in the NICU for a small stay.  However, her bilirubin levels wouldn't go down and so we were there for longer than we anticipated.  While it was long for us, there were families that were there longer.  It was hard to see other babies and families who were worse off than our Little Miss and who had a longer road ahead.  While it was frustrating being there for a longer stay than we had planned, seeing those other families helped put it in perspective of what it could have been.  After 11 days of house rest & 11 days of the NICU, I was able to come home with baby girl.  Let me tell you this baby has been different from the delivery to the come home.  Having three girls changes things.  I mean we knew we'd be outnumbered, but staying home with three girls and having those lovely "just had a baby hormones", it's made for some interesting days.

In all honesty, I'm loving my time with my girls even if there are hard days.  There's nothing like getting to be home with them.  Already my oldest is in preschool this year, preschool!! I know, I know, I still have many years of school left for her, but I've already lost her for half the day.  Granted that half day is much needed for both of us, I have realized how close she is to being out of the house.  The last four years have gone by so fast and I didn't get to stay home with her for her first two.  Now that I've had the privilege of staying at home, I try to make the best of it as much as I can.

After being away from home for almost a month, I'm so glad to be home and back to normal.  Now that Thanksgiving is over we're starting to get into a average routine.  I mean, Little Miss still gets up in the night a few times so we have some slow mornings, but we're getting there.  At least, I'm able to get back in the routine of my blogging. 

It's been weird not taking time in my evenings to write down or brainstorm ideas on ways to save money.  I'm glad to be back at it, not only did I take a break from blogging, but I took a break from some of my savings tips as well.  But, as someone once told me, it's 80/20.  This is something you can apply anywhere; saving money, eating healthy, exercising...80/20.  If you are doing what you're trying to do 80% of the time, then you can allow yourself to have 20% of free way.  That's what I've done for the last month, I allowed myself to slide a little in some areas of saving while we're trying to figure out this whole 3 kid thing.  

Well this post was a little bit of rambling, but I just wanted to let you know I'm back to blogging about saving money and thanks for the grace of the time I've spent taking a break as we transitioned from hospital to Home.   

I hope that whatever it is you are doing you can remember 80/20.  We're not perfect, we need rest, we need to give ourselves Grace.  I mean God does and if he can then surely we can for ourselves too. 









Coming next week more ways you can save at Christmas time! 




Thursday, September 21, 2017

Costumes

Halloween is coming up just around the corner.  While, Halloween isn't really a holiday that we particularly celebrate, my husband and I do participate with our friends in a costume party.   Costumes can bust your budget for the month of October, especially as your family grows and those costumes only last a year.  Maybe you can get them to last through a few kids, but not always.

A friend told me of an idea that she had about a costume swap.  She does something different, but thought that maybe doing a costume swap would work as well too.  I have a great group of friends that we try to do things like this with.  Not, only costumes, but baby clothes in general, maternity clothes and so forth.

Get all your costumes that your kiddos have out grown together, have a little gathering with your friends and do a costume swap.  You can even make it a fun little party if you want, I mean what a great excuse to get together with your friends!





Another idea for cheaper costumes, make your own.  Get creative!  Here are some ideas that we've done in the past as a couple and haven't had to buy anything:

1. Mr. & Mrs. Smith: I don't have a photo for this, but we just dressed up a little, black dress pants and a buttoned down white shirt.  Then we took our pellet guns and eye cover and called it good.

2. Switched roles (My husband is a library director and at the time I taught art). These are clothes that we had in our closet, plus I borrowed one of the paint smocks from the school to have him wear, other than that we had the books, paint, and paintbrushes available to us. Nothing to buy!

Bear with the photos, I was a newbie :)



3. Star Wars (pictured at the top) The only thing we ended up buying for this, was my husband's shoes.  Other than that the clothes were items we had in our closet, a sheet for his cloak and we already had all of the light savers even the little one.

4. Color family (This one has been on my list for awhile, but we haven't been able to participate the last couple of years).  My husband would wear all blue, I would wear all red and our girls would wear all purple.  These colors worked for us, it's what we had.  you could easily change the color combo to match colors you already have and that make each other. (yellow + blue = green, red+ yellow = orange) 

Last year the girls wore clothes from their closets as well.  We ended up doing two different events, so they had a couple different costumes, but really we paid nothing extra for them, they were what we had.


     Miss cheerleader & Little Pop-Star                                             Little Dutch girl & Princess Sophia 
  (she even had a toy guitar at one point)                                     (who picked out her costume herself)   
           

So, find some friends and have a fun costume swap, or raid that closet and get creative with what you have, really it comes down to being creative!  

Any other ways you save at Halloween?  Or any other costume ideas?  We've expanded the family so are always looking for more ideas!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Toilet paper roll art





There are so many fun things you can make with toilet paper rolls. And the best part they're free, I mean you already buy the toilet paper, so the roll is just an added bonus of something to use for something fun!


Supplies: 


toilet paper rolls, yarn, string or ribbon, scissors, stapler & hole punch. 




Here are some ways I've seen and tried and love:


1. Princess or Prince crowns:


Here are a few sites on how to's

Moon Frye
This one adds glitter, which is totally optional, but if you're making it for a party or something that would be fun.  I didn't try to add glitter, but it doesn't seem like it'd be much extra work.

Alina blog
This one uses washi tape to decorate with.

You can also go basic and just cut the crown shape and only add a ribbon or string.  The basic brown can be interesting too. 


2. Binoculars: 


One day my daughter wanted binoculars and so while I was cleaning the bathroom I thought I could use toilet paper rolls!

First: Staple the toilet paper rolls together. 









Second: Hole punch the sides and add your ribbon, yarn or string. 




3. Goggles: 


After we made binoculars, then the ball just started rolling, she wanted goggles and I thought I'm sure if I just make them smaller they could work, right?

First: Flatten the toilet paper roll tube. 






Second: Cut a small strip off.  You will need 2 total, so cut a second one as well. 






Third: Staple the two pieces together. 






Fourth: Hole punch the sides and add ribbon, yarn or string. 



4. Telescope:  


What's binoculars and goggles without a telescope.  I mean if you're a pirate, you have to have a telescope as well right?

First: Hole punch both sides of toilet paper roll. 




Second: Add ribbon, yarn or string.  You could also use a paper towel roll for this to make a longer telescope.  You also don't have to add string, my daughter just wanted string on the telescope like all the others. 



5. Toilet Paper Art: 


Finally, check out this craft we did at our family Christmas Creations: Toilet paper Art



Hope you enjoyed the different ways we make believe with toilet paper rolls!  What are some crafts you make, I'd love to hear. 


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Preschool: Letter Art

Last year I started working with my 4 year old on letter crafts.  Before that we just were learning letters, with a few crafts here and there.  However, last year I did more crafts and came up with a list of my favorite letter crafts all the way from A-Z.  I like to try and do crafts that take limited supplies, or that I can substitute what I have so I hope these help you with your letter crafts too.


Letter A is for Alligator: (No Time for Flashcards)

Letter B is for Bee: (No Time for Flashcards)
Here is how my 3 year old's B turned out:




Letter C is for Caterpillar: (Pinterest)
                   (Tie in with the very hungry caterpillar book)
Here is my 3 year old's C:






Letter D is for Duck: (From ABCs to ACTs)
Letter E is for Elmo: (School Time Snippets)

Letter F is for Frog: (Crystal and Co)
Here is my 3 year old's F:



Letter G is for Grapes: (From ABC to ACTs) / Giraffe (From ABCs to ACTs)
Letter H is for Horse: (Miss Maren's Monkeys)

Letter I is for Ice Cream: (Life as Mama)
Here is my 3 year old's I:



Letter J is for Jelly Fish (A Happily Ever Crafter)
Here's her J:



Letter K is for Kite (A Happily Ever Crafter)
Letter L is for Ladybug (The Iowa Farmer's Wife)
Letter M is for Mouse (The Measured Mom) 
Letter N is for Nest: (The Measured Mom)
Letter O is for Octopus: (No Time for Flashcards)

Letter P is for Penguin: (Rockabye Butterfly)
Here's her P:




Letter Q is for Quail (Rockabye Butterfly)
Letter R is for Rainbow (The measured Mom)

Letter S is for Snake: (I can teach my child)
Here's her S:



Letter T is for Tiger (Preschool Crafts) 

Letter U is for Umbrella (No Time for Flash Cards) 
Here's her U:



Letter V is for Vase (The Princess and the Tot) 
Letter W is for Watermelon The Princess and the Tot) 
Letter X is for Xylophone (Pinterest)
Letter Y is for Yarn: (East Coast Mommy Blog)
Letter Z is for Zebra: (Crystal & Co)


Some of them I follow exactly, while others I have to substitute things for items I don't have or want to buy.  Here are some of my substitute options.

Substitutes:
Eyes --- construction paper circles
Stickers --- construction paper cut outs 




Thursday, August 10, 2017

Smoothie 2.0

How to Stock-Up & Save on Spinach







Awhile back I posted about how to save on making smoothies, you can check out that post here. Well I also wanted to make them more healthy.  I started adding spinach to each one; however, even when having a smoothie every morning, I couldn't get through a bag before it'd go bad, I don't like spinach.  Then one day I was talking to my mother-in-love and she told me my sister-in-love had a great idea.  She blends up as much spinach as she can with some water and adds it to an ice cube tray.  Then she freezes it.  That way she has the spinach already to pop in the blender with the frozen fruit and other ingredients.

I took it a step further and started stocking up on spinach when it's on sale, and taking some time to blend it all up, pour in ice cube trays, freeze and pop in freezer bags so they're ready to go for my smoothies.  Plus I got the spinach on sale and was able to take advantage of that for my smoothies.

Here's my step by step: 

1.  Add spinach leaves to the blender or food processor, I don't start with the whole bag, maybe about 1/3. Then add a little of the water.  I use about 1 1/2 cups/ bag of spinach but only add a little at a time.  You don't want to use too much, but you need enough to help the spinach blend up. 



2. Blend, I use the chop button in the beginning. 


3. It can take many times to get it started to blend, but once it does then it goes pretty fast.  I keep adding a little water and stirring it as I go. 


4.  Once it is pretty chopped up I start using the puree button as well and that helps it to blend more.


5.  Then I start adding more of the spinach.  At this point I've pretty much added all my 1 1/2 cups of water, so it's just adding the rest of the spinach a little at a time.  Like I said, once it's been blended the rest blends in pretty easily. 


6.  This is what 1 bag of spinach looks like after it's been blended. 


7.  Finally pour into ice cubes trays and then once frozen, pop into freezer bags and you're ready to go.  You can have spinach for smoothies and not have to break the bank.  




This can also be done with kale or any other leafy veggie that you have in your fridge that's going to go bad before you use it.  Any extra leafy veggie to add to your smoothie is helpful and you save because you don't throw it out.

How are ways you save on making smoothies?







I had some cute little helpers, who also wanted to try the blended spinach.  I know, I could only think "Gross, really?" in my head.  But I let them.  It actually took 2 taste tests to be sure they didn't like it. :) But they are pretty cute! 








Monday, June 19, 2017

Dishes with your little




Washing dishes with your little helper can feel like you are wasting water when you know every dime you spend is important.  I loved letting my little help me with dishes, but I noticed how after I started staying home, I was more concerned about any water we were wasting.  But I loved her helping me and I didn't want to make her feel I didn't want her to help.

So anyways, I came up with a solution.  Honestly, one day I think God gave it to me, I had been praying about it and later it just came to me.

I don't really like her to help me with the glass because of safety, but in general, she really just wants to play in the water.  So I let her have some of our plastic items or stainless steel dishes to rinse/play with while I work on washing the glass dishes.  This way we are "washing" dishes together, but more importantly working/playing together.  Then when the glass dishes are all done, I let her play with the recyclables in the water., while I dry.

This way, I'm not refilling the sink just for her to play in the water, but rather we are working together and I'm not worried about wasting water, because it's water I'd be using anyways.

 Are there things your little likes to help you with?  How are ways you've changed it to make it work better?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Monthly meal plan

Need help planning a monthly meal plan?  Here's my how to:





1st: Write down your meals: 

Write down all the meals that you make and are willing to make.  Ones you know your family eats and ones you know you will use without a doubt.


2nd: Find a way to make the monthly planner work for you:

When I was first starting out, I just used computer paper.  I'd divide it up into a month and then write down each day's meal.  Now, I use something a little more fancy, but at the time I used what I had on hand.  I Pinterested many monthly meal plan ideas and nothing really stood out so I came up with my own,  I purchased a monthly dry erase board calendar like this, although mine doesn't have the cute little frame.

Now what I like about using a marker board, is I'm not wasting paper or having to buy paper over and over to keep using.  However; until you can get a marker board, use paper, and do what I did reuse the back side so you can get 2 months on one piece.

These next steps are totally optional, and it was something that took some time, but after it was done it has been great at saving time and planning.


3rd: Make a template: 

I took the spaces on the marker board and made a template on the computer to fit the space, it took a few times to get it right.


4th: Color Codes: 

I split up our meals into color codes.
Pink: red meat meals
Orange: chicken meals
Yellow: breakfast for dinner meals or meatless meals
Green: soups and salads
Blue: homemade pizza (we do this 1/week it needed it's own color :) )
Purple: Fun events (family visiting, visiting family, bible study, date nights, etc).


5th: Create your pages: 

Once I have all my meals listed on paper and then divided up into the sections that they fit in, I take that template on the computer and I type in each one.  Each page being one section or save each section as it's own doc (I had to do this because I had more than one page for some sections).  So for example I have saved my template over and over as Meat meals, chicken meals, breakfast meals, soups and salads, etc.  Then I type in the different meals on each square template.




6th: Gather & Print: 

Gather paper in the colors you chose.  Then print each section on the designated color you chose.


7th: Cut & Laminate: 

Finally cut out and laminate.  You can do this a couple ways, one is to just use packaging tape, especially with the small squares this is fairly easy.  Or if you have access to one you can use a cold laminator.  Either way, it works way better if you laminate your squares.


8th: Add your meals:

Grab some sticky tack to attach your meals to your calendar.  This way you can change them if need be and they're really easy to add to the board as you plan.





9th: Find a spot for your new menu calendar:  

We keep ours on our fridge.  I purchased some Velcro command strips to add it to the fridge.  It makes it simple to pull off if I need to, but it holds super well to the fridge too.







And there you go, you have a menu calendar with switchable meals that you chose and are made just for your family.






If you are interested in my meal planner, feel free to comment below with your email and I will email you the template for free.  Note not all calendars are the same size, my template square runs 2" x 2" with 1/2" x 1/2" little square cut out for the date.

Interested in the calendar pieces all printed and laminated?  Email me your food list and color codes and I will make your own set.  Also email me the width and height of your square if it's different than what I listed above. Each page can fit up to 12 different meals. Cost would be $3.00/page + shipping. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

15 Summer activities to help your kids appreciate nature'

Summer, the time when your kids are out of school and you need to keep them entertained, but don't want them to have a lot of screen time.  Want some ideas on how to keep those kiddos entertained?  I brought on Joe who's lead editor at Nature Rated, to share his tips on summer activities for your kids.  


What are your kids doing this Summer? For many of us Summer time with the kids is a time to enjoy the outdoors, the sunshine and if you're lucky the ocean.
As much as kids love Summer holidays, keeping them busy can be a real chore! If you've not got the luxury of a Summer camp then it's up to you as a parent to find things for the youngsters to keep busy with.
Failing that, your kids might spend all their time in front of a computer, tablet, phone or other screen and research has shown that spending too much time in front of a screen can have a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of children.
Studies have shown that taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental ill-health and can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. In fact, a daily walk in nature has showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.
One in four people are estimated to experience bouts of mental ill health and it's on the rise. Prescription medication of antidepressants are also at a record high level and the demand for more invasive treatments are also on the rise. Health and social care commissioners are examining and commissioning different options for cost effective services for mental health and one of these options is a daily walk of 90 minutes or more. We need to learn from the past when kids got excited to spend their time climbing trees and building dens rather than spending hours inside.
Joe at Nature Rated understands this all too well and has put together an infographic on 15 Summer activities to help your kids appreciate nature.
This is what it looks like:

15 Summer activities to help your kids appreciate nature

From baking a blackberry pie to constructing a pond or insect hotel, there's plenty for the youngsters to get up to. Head on over to his site for step by step instructions to get your kids out and about enjoying nature.


Bio:

An outdoor enthusiast, Joe is the lead editor at Nature Rated; a website which rates and reviews the best outdoor gear for people who quickly want to know what to get. He believes in no fluff, to the point reviews, which help you choose the right gear for your next adventure.
Whenever daily life gets him down he heads to the nearest lake or river with his kayak and camera spending time recharging his batteries.

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