Mar 162018

This post contains affiliate links.

January has a reputation for being a recovery month.  Coming off several large holidays, one may find they are feeling a bit down, are having a rough time with cabin fever due to colder weather, or perhaps feeling overwhelmed by their goals for the upcoming year.  While January was, personally, an odd month, I did not find myself struggling through it.

My slump came during the last half of February and the beginning of March.

I suddenly felt like I was spinning my wheels in a spot of slick mud, not gaining ground yet exerting a lot of energy.  My actions were taking me this way and that without a clear direction.  Looking back I realized that I was heading in a direction, that it took working on a bit of this and that and trying different things to find the firmer ground.  Or so I hope.

My main focus so far this year has been on homemaking, personally following routines and habits to help me run our home better and feel a certain way.  While I want to have the kitchen picked up before bed, that does not mean I need to spend all my waking hours at the sink waiting for a dirty dish to appear.  Instead, I also can work on something else.  Some of the areas I have been tackling are:

  • finding a new rhythm for grocery shopping
  • trying a few new ways of saving money, and joining online groups to help in learning
  • sticking to a laundry routine
  • keeping the house picked up, or picking it up once at minimum
  • focusing on one main garden activity each month (compost tumbler, rain barrel, new flower bed)
  • finding a bedtime routine which works for everyone, and writing it down to post on the wall
  • participating  in one or two home school playgroups each week
  • offering to help others, in general being a friend who actually thinks about others and acts on it
  • having music playing throughout the day
  • clearing out unneeded items – donate to others, give away, recycle, reuse, or throw away
  • compare insurance quotes before renewing
  • encouraging kids to take along a book, instead of an electronic, when running quick-ish errands
  • make small changes in how I approach and plan our school week/month
  • begin to think about school over the summer, implement some of the routines now
  • send the kids outside to play, “and don’t come in till supper”

A lot of small things, which add up to a larger, hopefully positive, change in the feel of our home.  It is not perfect, far from it.  What it is is better.  I may spin my wheels more than I like, but I am heading in the right direction.

 My mother-in-law was also able to come for a week long visit.  Jack enjoyed having her here all day. She would chat online with her sisters in the morning, Jack sitting right beside her doing whatever it is Jack could get away with doing because “Grandma is here and we should not have school”.  Let’s just say that picking up his room was not high on his list of priorities.

We also took a few days to get away to a city we had never visited before.  While there was nothing wrong with the trip or the location, the timing was not the best.  It took us all a few days to identify what we had all been feeling, we just wanted to be home.  The last day we cut short possible plans and headed home, all sleeping better that night.

The next few weeks might see my husband traveling some.  Or perhaps not.  It is all up in the air.

What I have decided to do is set a goal for myself and tell you all what I plan to accomplish.  When I did this a few years ago I was amazed at how much I was able to accomplish.  Not only then, but in the time following.  Momentum begets momentum.  I have been lacking momentum as of late and am starting to feel like I will never get unstuck from where I am.

While I am not ready to share it all right now, it will be coming soon.  As in the next week or two soon.  If I delay too long I wouldn’t be surprised if a few seasons pass before I gain motivation again.  🙂

Something I have been working on a bit each day, which has paid for my compost tumbler and rain barrel, is Swagbucks.  This is another area I have been trying out a few new things, as well as joining an online group in hopes of increased learning and earning.  So far it has worked well, though I did ease up a bit this past week as my focus needed to be elsewhere during those early morning hours.

Every little bit helps

Want some extra boost for your budget this month?

If you haven’t tried Swagbucks before, you can get a bonus $3 for signing up as my referral in March. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me, you can earn an additional $3 bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 4/1/18. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you want even more bonuses, you’ll get a $10 (1000 SB rebate) bonus for making your first shop purchase! That’s in addition to the SB you earn for every dollar you spend.

My earnings for this month are a bit shy of 1,200 points called SB.  That is equivalent to $12.  This time around I am working toward reducing the cost of building a flower bed and purchasing seeds.  While my costs may not be covered completely, every little bit helps.

The same goes for compost – “every little bit helps.”  This is how I was able to turn shredded documents, coffee ground, kitchen scraps, and other compostable items into something that resembled black gold.  No one part was large, often I doubted if I was even making a difference.  As I added the not yet fully composted mix on top of cardboard for a new flower bed, I no longer had my doubts – I was thrilled with “free” organic matter to utilize.

What are you working toward currently?  Do you have a plan to accomplish it?  A timeline?

Feb 222018

I was compensated for this post. This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

When I first heard that Easter was on April 1st, I thought for sure someone was trying to pull an early April Fool’s joke.  Turns out I was wrong and they were right – Easter is on April 1st this year!

As if to continue the odd joke, it is the middle of February and our weather currently feels like spring.  Never before have I felt so far behind so early.  Goodness Golly, it is the middle of February!  While it is a warmer winter/spring than what is normal, and we may still get a freeze, it is a good reminder that Spring is on our doorstep.

I have been doing better at getting ahead of things this year.  While the pre-planning for Valentines Day this year did not happen as I had hoped it would, I did hit the after-holiday sales and am set for next year’s gifts, treat bags, and cards all at 50-75% off!!!

To keep the ball rolling, I decided to tackle a few other ideas and get a step up on Easter decorating.  We are not huge Easter Bunny fans, so no Easter Egg Trees like I had growing up.  Instead our decorations will focus on the Christian aspect of the Easter celebration – Jesus’ crucifixion (Good Friday) and resurrection  from the tomb (Easter).

The decorations this year will fulfill two roles – a garden craft and an update of a front door wreath that really should have been tackled a few years back. Looking to keep our budget small and incorporate several items we already had, I made my plans then loaded up the kids and headed to the local Dollar Tree.

The Front Door Wreath

When we were moving a year ago, there were items I had to decide whether to take or pass along.  This wreath was one items that I hemmed and hawed about for a few minutes.  It was an item I had picked up second hand years ago. By this point in its life, the accessories has seen better days – they were looking faded, dusty, and fairly droopy.  However, the wreath itself was in good shape, a nice big twig wreath.  So, it made the move with the intent to update it once we were here.

When I decided to add a seasonally themed wreath to the door, this sorely outdated wreath came to mind, “If I take off the current accessories and add new ones, the whole wreath will look brand new.”  That is just what I did.

After a quick stop at the Dollar Tree, I found a sign to use.  It was large enough not to get lost from a distance and simple enough to read as one goes my the house.  I then chose flowers along a complimentary color scheme.  Too many colors would have made it look busy and lacking.

Then the hard messy part began – clearing off all the old accessories (ivy, fake flowers, ribbons, etc.).

The ribbons were fairly easy to remove, as they were stuck in between the sticks of the wreath with short metal spikes.  The greenery, however, was harder.  The flowers were hot glued on and the ivy was tied on with small bits of wire.  A little muscle and an old pair of scissors made short work of getting down to the base.

I could now see what I had to work with, thankful I did not throw this out last year.

To make the most of the two flower bunches I had, I removed each flower stem from the group.  There is wire in the middle of each plastic stem, though not too thick so a pair of scissors and slow firm clips easily separated them.  Now I could mix them up and weave them in place as I wished.

I tried a few ways of arranging the flowers before choosing one method.  A ribbon was even added at one point, so see if something further was needed.  By taking pictures, I was easily able to compare various looks and see the overall effect from further away. (These photos were taken with utility in mind, not aesthetics for posting online.)

After looking, and asking opinions, I decided to nix the ribbon and keep it simple.  If the ribbon had been wire trimmed then perhaps it would have worked.  As it was, this was a bit of very floppy ribbon from my craft supplies and was not laying right.

I think the over all reinvention of this wreath was a success.  I love how it goes with the color of my door and has a fresh clean look to it.  All for only $3! Easter At Dollar Tree – Everything Is Just $1

note: I am aware it is hanging crooked and it is driving me crazy.  I tried to fix it at that time, but had to head inside to make supper.  I did straighten it some this morning, but need to go back out and do a better job of getting it all hanging correctly.  Right now I am happy to have it hanging and not still sitting in the attic and on my to-do list.

Resurrection Garden

While at the Dollar Tree getting supplies for the wreath above, I also picked up a few supplies I needed to finish making a resurrection garden.  This is an idea I saw online and thought would be a great reminder to have at home, to bring our thinking back to what we are celebrating. Contrary to what the kids may think, the main focus of Easter (for us) is not eating chocolate Easter bunnies and finding brightly colored eggs around the yard.  Sorry, kids.

I already had an extra pot, but needed to pick up: soil, a small clay pot, stones, and grass seed.  3 of those 4 things were to be found at the Dollar Tree.  A few dollars more were spent on a small bag of seed from a big box store nearby.


The supplies for this project included:

*I have yet to acquire these items, but am on the look out for them.

The time to put this together was less than 5 minutes, though it will take several days for the grass to sprout and begin growing.

First, due to the depth of my pot, I added soil to the bottom.  Not wanting to have to cut a pot in half, as I had seen other tutorials do, I turned the pot on its side and partially buried it in the soil.

I then covered the back of the clay pot and the back half of the larger pot with extra soil, making a mound.

The smaller clay pot is set off-center, allowing me to make a trail out of the pebbles leading up the mound. Once I find some small sticks I will add 3 crosses to the top of the ‘hill’.

Lastly, I sprinkled grass seed on the soil and moistened it with a spray bottle.  Each day I will moisten it again and should see grass appearing in about a week’s time.

This will make a great visual aid in telling the Easter story, as well as a reminder of why we are celebrating the season.

There you have it, two fairly quick, budget-friendly Easter decorations for your garden.  This last one would be especially great to bring some green to your home if you are in the midst of a dreary winter and are antsy for something to grow.

What are some of the ways you are decorating this year?  Share in the comments below, I would love to hear about or see what you have been working on.


Feb 102018

This post contains affiliate links.

January seems to have the reputation for being the slower month.  Coming off almost two months full of celebrating holidays, I can see why.  However, that was not the case for me this year.  Instead, January ended up being a fairly physically restful, emotionally eventful, finding our groove month.

February…I can not say the same for so far.  Yes it has only been 10 days, but that is 1/3 of the month already!  That 1/3 has included getting sick, rain, rain, and rain.  Come on!  Rain is grey and makes mud.  At least snow is white and reflects the light to make it seem bright. Alas, rain it is.  A great reminder for why I am saving my earning from Swagbucks to use towards purchasing our first rain barrel.  Our back yard is muddy. Sticky, clay muddy mud which stains.  Yuck times 10.

I actually have enough points on Swagbucks earned, as well as other bits of earnings added to PayPal, to purchase a rain barrel.  After reading reviews, I decided to buy a larger one to accommodate what I know is a large volume of storm runoff from the roof.  This means I have to earn a bit more before purchasing the size and style I want.  I think it will pay off in savings of frustration by avoiding a smaller barrel which would fill too quickly.

Today I went to a local nursery to hear a talk about growing fruit.  The attendance was great, the setting had plenty of room, and the speakers were knowledgeable workers who had been doing this for a number of year.  The one down side?  The rain. Yes, rain. Again.  The class was inside a greenhouse, which was a very appropriate and accommodating setting.  However, greenhouses are built to grow plants, not be acoustically quiet.  The roof acted like a hug drum, make it very difficult to hear the speaker.  As long as I could see the lips of the speaker I was fine.  However, the talked ended about 40 minutes early and turned into a Q&A session around a table, looking at various products, and handouts.

In the end, I am glad I went.  They are holding future talks which I plan on attending.  Hopefully the rain will stay away.

One of the points I took away, and which I fully agree with, is to choose one or two new things a year.  Learn all you can about them, then try/grow/implement it.  Do not say, “I want to have bees”, go buy them, then get a book from the library or contact the local honey club to learn what you need to do.  By that point it is too late.  You will be spending the rest of the season playing catch up, or be the owner of dead bees.  The same can be said for growing a new vegetable, a fruit tree, trying a new gardening method, trying to attract butterflies…you get the point.  Take the time to read and do research, it will pay off leaps and bounds.

Oh, and take time to research prices as well.  That rain barrel I said I needed to save more for…seems it is back in stock in the color that is at a lower price.  While looking for the picture above, I saw a different store had restocked it.  Another lesson, if you are not set on color or store, make sure you look at all the options.  I will save $10-$20 by not being particular about the color, and another $6 by using discounted gift cards redeemed for a different store.  At this lower price, I will be able to purchase this item sooner than I anticipated.


Why go through the ‘trouble’ of a rain barrel?  This is where Grow Your Cents comes in to play.  By spending some upfront costs or time on a container to catch free water, I will not need to pay the local utility for the same amount of water to use in the yard or garden.  Last year we did not have a lot of watering needs, though I see that increasing in years ahead.  Why not collect the water that would otherwise run to the street and down the storm drain?  Or, in my parents case, which would run down the driveway and into the creek?

With increase non-porous surfaces, storm water runoff issues are increasing.  Whether it be pollution, swollen ditches and streams, or lack of ability to be reabsorbed into the soil, these issues are not going away.  Not only will we save on water usage, but will also be able to slow down the water and allow more of it to be added back into the local soils rather the the local storm drain.
Want an extra boost to your budget in February??

If you haven’t tried Swagbucks before, you can get a bonus $3 for signing up as my referral this month. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re probably doing online already, like searching, watching videos, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or PayPal cash.

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a $3 bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 3/1/18. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you want even more bonuses, you’ll get a $10 (1000 SB rebate) bonus for making your first shop purchase! That’s in addition to the SB you earn for every dollar you spend.

That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. If you are not sure, reread the post above. 😉


Tip to earn more: One thing I have been doing since the beginning of the year, is participating in a Facebook group for other people using Swagbucks.  This has saved me time on finding deals, figuring out which things work, being alerted to how to make opportunities work better for me, and see what is not working.  This has resulted in higher earnings for me, as well as trying different activities I have otherwise avoided.  This is something to keep in mind if you have tried this before, but found it too hard or confusing.  Or perhaps you want to try it, but are overwhelmed with the options of ways to earn.

Remember, you will not get rich from this, but you can earn enough for a rain barrel…or two.


Jan 242018

This post contains affiliate links.

What an interesting month this has been.  Part of me is shocked, when looking at the calendar, to find next week will bring about a new month.  Where did the time go?  It feels as if nothing has happened, while also a lot has happened.

This past week found me finally at a place I thought I would be a few weeks ago – in a routine which I hoped would bring some sameness to our days and weeks, allowing for a balance in various areas of life.  Why didn’t it happen sooner?  Well, apparently when you live in a place with no public snow removal equipment (a.k.a. snow plows and salt trucks) even an inch or so of snow can throw life for everyone out of kilter.  Add to that snow which melts then freezes again, then melts and freezes again…especially on roads which are not flat…well, let’s just say life shut down for a few days. (FYI: the picture above was from when we lived in Small Town. I am pretty sure people here would think the world was ending if they woke up to this bundle of fun white stuff.)

Not only were things like grocery shopping and extracurricular events affected, but also “snow days” from public school and work. With extra people in the house, it was very difficult to convince Jack our home school did not have a snow day.  We had taken enough days off due to moving, sicknesses, and doctor’s appointments this year that we needed to keep going if I wanted to stay on track at all.

It was also hard to overcome the feeling of still being on vacation and winter break.  It didn’t help that we were coming off of three weeks of a break, visiting friends and family, only to have a federal holiday and then three or four “snow days”.

Not all has been disruptive, several good things have also taken place, namely, my husband began a job with a new company.  We knew this was coming, obviously, though it meant again a subtle change in routine of the household, in good ways thankfully.  It was one of those blessings which came from a less than desirable experience.  While all is not roses and rainbows, things are going well and we keep being reminded of the good of this situation.

Blog wise, I am thrilled to have a computer to use again.  For the past month plus, I have had to type up posts and edit pictures on my phone.  In December our desktop made its last final funny noise and refused to start up again.  Purchasing a new computer at that time was not in the plan, so we didn’t.  Instead, we waited to see what it was that we really wanted or needed, checked out several options, and finally decided on something once we had returned in January. Knowing it was an intentional decision to wait, I chose not to complain about the situation or whine about it, choosing instead to make the most of my new reality.  This led to me finding a few new short cuts on my phone to make the process easier.  However, let me just say, it is much easier to type out posts on a keyboard rather than with one finger on a small phone screen and I am  thrilled to be able to create a post without causing pain in my hand from finger strain. 🙂

We are also experiencing an increased involvement with our church, as well as looking at becoming involved in another (non-church) ministry.  These are both things which would have been difficult to do while living in Small Town.  Again, another reminder of how this move was beneficial, even with all the bumps along the way.

Through it all, I am sticking with the “keep it simple” motto.  None of the aforementioned events were things we added in addition to a full schedule.  I have enjoyed not feeling “busy” and plan to work at keeping it that way.  It is time we started adding things back into our lives, especially those which encourage us to grow and  bless others.  This is what I see this upcoming year holding – finding more of what we would like to give our time and energy to, while keeping things family focused.

We’ll see how it turns out. 🙂

Another thing I am so glad we agreed to years ago, was setting a budget for Christmas spending.  Over the years it has taken on different looks – some times it is using only the rewards from our credit card to purchase gifts, other times it meant using gift cards and cash earned through Swagbucks, while other times it involved homemade items, using store reward points or credits, or even choosing to gift experiences or family gifts rather than individual presents.  No matter the form, the one thing which remained consistent was that we do not go into debt to give gifts.

The best way I have found to do this is to plan ahead.  Already I have several gifts purchased or started for this upcoming Christmas season.  As well, I was able to purchase items for birthdays and other occasions during after Christmas sales.  While this added extra spending to our budget at the end of the year, when I would rather have been saving it, I knew what my spending limit was, did not go outside it, and kept to my list.  I also knew I would be doing this and planned (ahead) accordingly.

By planning ahead I not only save about 50%, spread the spending out over 12 months instead of 1, and enable me to relax during the end of the year months, but I also do not spend the first 6 months of the new year paying off last year’s purchases.

If you find yourself in the other situation, paying off for months what you spent previously, I would greatly encourage you to spend some time today or this week looking at how you can change your spending this year.  You can still give great gifts without overspending.

My gardening goal for this year is to set a foundation for future gardening years.  While I plan on having some produce this year, my larger focus is on getting a framework in place.  The first step in doing so was to begin composting.  I was able to redeem Swagbuck points, called SB, in order to purchase a compost tumbler online.  Not only did I pay no money out of pocket and was able to have it shipped to my house, but I also earned SB back on the purchase by clicking through Swagbuck’s website to make the purchase.

Up next is a rain barrel, to help dry out a certain part of our yard which remained wet all of last year.  So far I am half way to my earning goal for this particular item, using Swagbucks as well as another source or two of side income.

After a rain barrel, fruit trees and vines will be on the list.  These will need to be planted in the Spring, so I will watch for various deals from garden companies, as well as calling local green houses.

Once these four parts of the garden are started I hope to begin working on some of the smaller aspects.  Who knows, bees might even make an appearance this year. Though if that were to happen it would need to happen quickly as March seems to be the time to get new hives started in this area.

Looking to begin shopping for the next holiday season or to start your Spring shopping? The online rewards site Swagbucks has a smart and fun way for you to earn and save when you spend. Swagbucks helps supplement the cost of gardening and other household purchases.  While the main way I earn SB is by watching online videos (which I have running as I sit and type up this post) and taking surveys, I also do earn some SB via online shopping. So far this year I have earned 3,262 SB back, either from online shopping or rebates from in-store shopping.  Not bad for the few extra seconds it takes to click through Swagbuck’s website!

Swagbucks is hosting another round of Shopping Swago! What is SWAGO you ask? It’s a bingo-inspired promotion run by Swagbucks, a website that rewards you with points (called SB) for completing everyday online activities. You can redeem those SB for free gift cards. If you’ve never used Swagbucks, participating in SWAGO is a great introduction to the site and an easy way to earn a good amount of points quickly.

Click here to get started!

Here’s what you need to know to get your 300 SB Bonus (and don’t worry, you don’t have to make a purchase to complete a pattern):

  • Go to the Swag page and make sure you hit “Join” otherwise you won’t get credit for completing the action items. Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete.
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete.
  • You have a limited amount of time to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely.
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value – up to 300 SB – enough for your first $3 gift card.
  • Once you’ve achieved a pattern the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely.
  • The game ends Friday, January 26th at 12pm PDT/3pm EDT. So make sure to hit “Submit” on the pattern you wish to submit. If you don’t hit “Submit” before the game ends you won’t receive your SB bonus.Also, if you sign up through me this month, you’ll get a $10 rebate when you make your first purchase via Swagbucks Shopping! You can activate it in the “Swag Ups” area of “My Account”
Jan 142018


According to

There is no exact number, but the world gene banks set the count at about 40,000 different types of beans,

though only a very small number of these bean types are mass-produced for common consumption.

These little orbs of understatedness are great sources of fiber and protein.  They are easy to grow, can be dried and stored, and are light to transport.  They can be cooked, baked, roasted, or eaten raw.

They are also mushy. And have funny smells.  Did I mention they are mushy?

This past fall we had significant decrease in our income, with an unknown end in sight.  Therefore, even that extra $.10 at the store felt like $1,000.  The extra trip across town caused pain as I thought about the cost of gas to get us there, all while hoping no one would hit us.

Among other things I did to give some immediate relief was to take up couponing again.  I had never fully stopped, but had relaxed on it a bit.  Now I pulled out all the habits I used to do, while learning new ones.  New rebate apps were installed on my phone and new websites found which helped me find deals at my local stores.

We were very blessed that first month or two with a lot of “free after rebate” or “free with a coupon” items.  Between those items and our pantry we were doing okay in the food budget arena.  There was no steak on the menu, though ribs were in the freezer.

Then IT happened.  I saw a deal at a local grocery for another free item!  I quickly checked it out only to my horror to find myself torn.

“But…but…I don’t like those!” said my selfish side.

“They are good for you.  The kids don’t know you don’t like them. Mom would get quite the laugh.  And they are FREE!” said my more rational side.

“But I don’t like them!” I repeated.

Two nights later we were having (free) beans and cornbread for supper.  I was pleasantly surprised that the beans were actually good.  Though you would have heard this conversation at the dinner table:

“Come on, boys, eat up.  Your supper is better warm than cold.” (trust me I know, I wanted to add.)

“But…Mom, I don’t like these.” Boy 1 said.

“These are good for you.  If you eat them with the cornbread you can’t even taste them.”

“But, Mom.  I don’t like them.”

“Sorry, Sweetie.  This is what is for supper.  If you want dessert you need to eat what is in your bowl.” (Did I really just say that about beans????  Me!?!?!)

There was a lot of thought taking place in their brains as to whether it was worth it to eat the beans or not.  Eventually all kids ate their supper and earned dessert (i.e. choice of leftover Halloween candy).

Frugality won out over great dislike in this case.  While I did not run out immediately to buy a year’s supply of this item, I did realize that even I survived eating something I did not think I would like.  Our bank account thanked me that week.

We are now at a place where our income is back up.  However, at that time, we did not know if it would for 6 month, a year, or longer.  We gave great thanks for our safety net, for skills we have learned over the years, for a plan we formulated early in our marriage if such a thing ever happened, and for all the blessings we saw happen after this time.

And yes, I even gave thanks for the beans.

Jan 052018

Growing up, I was the kid in the house who loved when we had beans and cornbread for supper.  Loved it!

I was also the kid who was at the table two hours after supper was done because I still had the required 3 beans sitting, cold, on my plate.  Yes, I took only the exact number of beans I was told I was required to eat.

I HATED beans. (Though I did eat them when I was at other people’s homes because that was the polite thing to do.)

Yes, this meant I technically loved it when we had bean broth and cornbread for supper.  What can I say, apparently it was not the flavor which turned me off. (Yes, it was sort of a running joke as years went by and I never gave in to actually eating the beans.)

Once I was off to college and had begun to grow even more in my frugalness, I didn’t want to spend extra money on the few meals I needed to eat outside of the dorm cafeteria.  Sometimes I would spring for a pudding cup and pack of peanut butter crackers from the vending machine, but not regularly. After all, that cost me a whole $1.50!

My favorite money saving ideas were:

  • take the extra piece of fruit we were allowed when leaving the cafeteria, resulting in my first attempts at shakes for breakfast
  • skip breakfast and eat lunch early at the cafeteria where you could go back for more.  That way I only needed two meals in a day
  • to make the most of what I could get from the to-go cafeteria when I did eat there


Hummus was a new food for me.  Well, sort of.  I had heard of it, but it was not on anyone’s meal plan in the rural, Midwestern county I was from.  Less you think there were no culturally significant food options growing up, we had lovely cuisine choices, such as:

  • turtle soup – preferably cooked in a big pot over a fire, in the fall, with a gathering of friends
  • burgoo – preferably cooked in a big pot over a fire, till you could not distinguish what anything really was, in the fall, with a gathering of friends. Hey, what can I say?  If you are going to be cleaning out your freezer, may as well enjoy it in the company of friends.
  • meatloaf, with ketchup on top
  • green bean casserole

But, back to hummus.  I knew hummus was good for you, that it was nutritious.   I also knew that I liked the flavor but NOT the texture.  I knew I could get a fair amount of it from the to-go cafeteria and add it to raw vegetables for a lunch/snack while between classes.  What I did not know was what it was made of.

Imagine my surprise when I learned it was made from…well, chickpeas of all things. Yuck! Those plump, squishy, horridly textured chickpeas.  BUT, I was cheap and looking to eat somewhat healthy.  So, I sucked it up and found a way to each hummus – by putting it on the top of the vegetables so it did not touch my tongue as I ate it.  And that is how I came to eat hummus.

After I graduate and got married, I had not fully gotten into trying new meals, or meal planning. Nor was I very educated in the use of coupons and shopping sales.  My idea of keeping the budget in-line was to find the 5 or so meals I liked and rotate them.

I was okay with having pretty much the same thing for lunch every day.  For weeks.  No worries, there was variety – I would change the fruit I had with my sandwich and the flavor of yogurt.  See, variety.  🙂

My husband, who did NOT grow up in the Midwest, but actually came from a place that used spices beyond salt, pepper, and ketchup, requested I learn some new recipes.  Apparently he did not like the same 5 basic meals over and over.  Hmm.

Over time we came to find that we both liked particular beans.  Usually the same ones – black beans, lentils, baked beans, and limited amounts of chickpeas.  I do buy green peas because I love my husband who loves early peas.  However, that does not mean I also need to eat them.  Now that I am a parent, I silently say nothing as I spoon them up on the kids’ plates, while leaving mine void of any green orbs.

As for other beans, well ….”Grandma makes great lima beans.  Perhaps you can ask her to make you some next time you go there.”

to be continued…

Jan 022018

This post may contain affiliate links.

Needing extra encouragement with your meal planning resolution? Looking for new ideas? Are you more of a visual learner? Then you do not want to miss this 3-hour live Meal-Plan-Along with 5 Food Bloggers on Wednesday January 3, 2018.

They’re dealing with the same responsibilities as you: laundry piles, bedtime stories, snow shoveling, bill paying, work stress…

And still they get delicious, wholesome (and even pretty) meals on the table? What gives?

Well, you’re about to find out by going behind-the-scenes, and right into their kitchens!

It’s called the Meal-Plan-Along, and here are all the can’t-miss details:

Five VIP bloggers are joining forces with Ultimate Bundles on January 3rd from 4-7 pm ET/1-4pm PT. 

You can curl up with a warm drink, and maybe a basket of clean laundry, and join us virtually through your computer or mobile device.

Wardee Harmon of Traditional Cooking Schoolwill be spilling her time-saving secrets using the slow cooker and pressure cooker to meal plan.

Does meal planning feel stressful? Get this: Katie Kimball from Kitchen Stewardship will be talking about how meal planning can reduce your stress.

If the whole idea is a bit daunting, fear not… Kresha Faber from Nourishing Joy will be sharing meal planning techniques for beginners.

One big reason for meal planning is to save you money! Susan Heid from The Confident Mom will be dishing out her tips for meal planning on a budget.

If any member of your family has allergies, don’t worry! Elise New from Frugal Farm Wife is going to drop some knowledge bombs on how to meal plan around food allergies.

And to finish it out, Stephanie Langford from Ultimate Bundles will be hosting the whole event and will be chiming in with some ninja batching and freezer cooking secrets (when you’ve got five kids who want to eat every day, you find shortcuts).

Follow along to see how six different women feed their families using simple strategies to stay more organized, make meals come together more easily, spend less time cooking, and ensure healthy meals make it to the table even in the busy times.

2018 doesn’t have to be the year of food waste, sky-high grocery bills, unhealthy meals, and last-minute takeout. You can do this, and we can’t wait to show you how to make it all easier and more doable!

Register for the FREE live event on January 3rd right here.

Dec 312017

This post contains affiliate links.

What if there was just one thing standing between you and a healthier life?

I know it seems hard to believe but hear me out…

Healthy meals don’t just happen.

(Wouldn’t that be nice!)

You have to decide what you are going to eat, make your list, buy the ingredients, and then prepare everything.

And the domino that starts it all is knowing what you’re going to eat.

In other words, the path to health begins with a plan.

Today, you can get your hands on ready-made meal plans for just the way you eat – complete with shopping lists and fresh recipes – for a ridiculously low price.

It’s called the Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle and here’s how it works:

It’s a complete meal planning solution made up of 10 mini-bundles.

Each bundle contains digital cookbooks, fresh meal ideas, and ready-made plans (and even grocery lists!). No matter how you eat, there’s a mini-bundle that’s perfect for you and there are two buying options:

Option 1: find a mini-bundle that works best for your life right now – quick & healthy, budget-friendly, Instant Pot & slow cooker OR diet-specific options like vegan, real food, paleo, keto, gluten-free… there’s one that’s right for you.

Option 2: For less than the price of two mini-bundles, get the ENTIRE package with over 3,000 recipes and 100 weeks of made-for-you meal plans, so you’ve got total control no matter how your food needs change.

You really can get healthier, starting today.

Not sure which mini-bundle might be right for you? Each mini-bundle is linked to a full description of what it contains:

Budget Meal

Freezer / Batch Cooking

Gluten Free

Instant Pot & Slow Cooker


Paleo / Primal

Quick Meals

Real Food / Clean Eating


Meal Planning

Make those dominos fall and start your New Year right by picking up your copy of the Ultimate Healthy Meal Planning Bundle (or any of the mini-bundles) right here.  This offer disappears after Friday, January 5th @ 11:59 p.m. EST. 

Healthy Meal Planning

Dec 262017

This post contains affiliate links.

This sale will be over in a flash! December 26th only, stock up on new faves for your family and save 75% off your order at with promo code FAST75.

Schoola has been one of my favorite ways to save money on clothes and save time by shopping from home.  With a kid who has grown, again, I will definitely be checking here today to see if I can help fill in a few current needs. This is also a great time to begin thinking ahead to spring and summer clothes.

Send a friend $10 off to shop the amazing deals on children’s clothes at and you’ll get $10 off too. Shop now!

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Sale ends 11:59 PM PST December 26


Dec 212017

Looking for a quick craft to add interest and color to your garden? How about a gift without spending a lot of money? Glass Garden Flowers, also known as plate flowers, are the perfect fit!

Materials needed:

  • tube e6000 glue
  • acetone
  • cotton swab
  • various plates, saucers, cups, candle holders, lids, condiment dishes, etc.
  • PVC elbow pieces, conduit connectors, bud vases, etc. for back
  • paper towel
  • sheet/drop cloth – not mandatory, but will make clean up easier
  • Pipe or rebar, to act as a “stem”

Step 1

Gather various ceramic or glass pieces. Plastic ones work, too, but may not hold up in cold weather. I picked up an assortment while at a thrift store. Turned out to be “50% off everything” day. The pieces I picked up ranged in price from $0.25-$1. I could have spent more, but was looking to make several without spending a lot out-of-pocket.

Step 2

Clean pieces. To get glue, residual stickers, and marker off, use a cotton swab dipped in acetone. (You can pick up a bottle of finger nail polish remover and cotton swabs from the Dollar Tree if you do not have any.) I find it easier to pour a bit into the lid and wet the swabs from there.

Dry thoroughly.

Step 3

Pair pieces together to get the look you want. Play around with the arrangements. Not all combinations looked like I thought they would, while others surprisingly worked.

Once you get them arranged like you want, take a picture if you plan on moving them. 😉

Step 4

Glue pieces together. Working with one group at a time, deconstruct the stack. Working from the bottom up, glue pieces together.

Step 5

Glue connector on the back. After letting the pieces dry enough not to move, flip the stack over and glue a connector piece on the back.

There are many various ways to do this. I tried three – using a bud vase, using conduit connectors and using PVC pipe elbows. Each has their benefits and drawbacks.

Bud vases – can be found cheaply and often in abundance. However, if the vase is too big, the flower will “dropped” on the support post. These also add weight.

Conduit connectors – cost a bit more (around $0.40 each in a pack of 5), are stocked at local hardware stores, and lighter in weight than vases.

One potential downside I noticed is the open side pointing up. This means rain can go down your support pipe, if it also happens to be hollow. If you live in a cold region this may result in snow, ice, or freezing of precipitation in this area. A solution would be to glue a coin or small metal piece on top of these.

PVC elbows – light weight, cost me around $0.40 each, found commonly at local hardware stores (or leftover from a DIY project), easy to attach, and snug fit to post. Not sure how these hold up in cold weather, as I have not tested them.

One lesson I did learn, thankfully before the glue cured completely, was to place the metal connectors far enough back from the edge of the plates so the posts can actually fit into them. Be aware of the lip along the bottom of the plate!

Step 6

Create, install, and attach to a support stem. This can be a variety of items, anything which is strong enough to support the weight of the flower. Some use rebar, conduit pipes, or other metal structures. PVC pipe is too flexible to use and would potentially break under the weight and deteriorate from being exposed to the weather.

If your flower is small enough, you may be able to use copper pipe.  I love the color these add, though it is more expensive and was too flexible for the weight I was working with.

I cut my poles to 2.5 ft, pounded them into the ground about 6 inches (till they felt secure), then placed the flowers on top. While I did not use rebar the help support the flowers, I believe I will do so in the Spring, due to the kind of soil we have. Inserting a foot or foot and a half into the ground, then sliding the “stem” over it would be an even sturdier option in my garden.