Frugal Friday: Pack a Lunch

One of the easiest ways to save a few bucks every day is by packing a lunch. And by this we mean both for the kids school lunch and for your lunch at work.

Buying lunches every day can add up to a lot of money. Think about it – the average meal out for one person can cost anywhere from $5 and up, while school lunches cost $3 or $4 a day. That’s at least $15-20 per kid a week, and $25 or more a week for adults. If more than one person in your family works or you have more than one kid in school, you could be spending hundreds of dollars just for daily lunches.

If you shop smart or send leftovers, you could be cutting that cost clear down to just a few dollars a week, saving you hundreds a month.

Take a minute today and figure up how much you currently spend every day on lunches, and see how much you could possibly save with this one small tip.

Salsa Without Onion Recipe

It might be a bit early to be posting salsa recipes, especially since the tomatoes were probably just planted (Actually we didn’t plant them this year, but a few plants came up anyway just this week). But I figured why not post a quick an easy salsa recipe right now? You can at least bookmark it for later. 🙂

As the title suggests, my salsa recipe is without onions. Don’t know why, but I just don’t care for them in salsa. There’s plenty more that can be added though, making it extremely delicious. You’ll need the following:

– 4 or 5 tomatoes
– 1 or 2 jalapenos (depending on how spicy you want it)
– 1 or 2 green peppers
– Garlic salt (to taste)

Cut all the ingredients and put in a small sauce pan on high. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low. Simmer until it’s the consistency you want (you’ll need to keep an eye on it).

That is! Pretty simple and tastes VERY good. It’s best to use home grown tomatoes and peppers, but you can make it with store bought if you need to.

Enjoy!

Frugal Friday: Meal Plans

One of the easiest ways to save money on groceries is to create a meal plan for the week. Of course you can vary on this plan depending on what you find on sale, but for the most part try focusing on only what you need for specific meals.

When making your meal plans, always leave room for leftover nights so you aren’t wasting food.  This is especially useful if you’ve made the same meal several times and know there’s going to be enough leftover for at least most of your household. Leftover night should be scheduled on nights with limited time, and after at least 2 or 3 nights of actual cooking.

You can also plan to make extra meals based off of your leftovers. Pork, for example, can be put into new dishes like fried rice or casseroles. We love fried rice, so whenever we buy pork chops we pick up an extra along with a box of rice knowing it will make two meals.

The basic idea is to make a plan so there’s no wasted food or money spent on food you really don’t need.  Plus you’ll be more motivated to make inexpensive meals instead of running down to the local fast food joint.

6 Ideas for Painting Crafts

When I was a kid, I had a very crafty aunt. I couldn’t wait to go to her house for the day, because I knew she would always turn me loose in her craft room with paint and other supplies. It didn’t really matter what we made, painting was half the fun.

Now that I’m all grown up and have my own kids, we do lots of crafts together. Sometimes we go in search for specific crafts depending on the holiday or season, but other times we just get out the paint and have a good time.

Just today I started to tell my daughter we’d do something crafty tonight with paint, and she was running for craft drawer. She didn’t even care what as long as it involved painting.

Here’s a few ideas of what you and your kids can do with paint.

1. Paper Pictures
What could be more simple? You’d be amazed how much this can entertain them. Shake it up a bit with different types of paint like water colors, finger paints, or just regular craft paint. Kids have a wonderful imagination, so let it shine!

2. Paint Shirts
One of “coolest” things I ever did with my aunt was painting shirts. You can either buy kits that have designed already printed on the shirt, or you can just let the kids make their own designs. You’ll need special fabric paint for this project, so do keep that in mind.

3. Paint Purses or Totes
Another craft that requires fabric paint and similar to the shirts. You can either make your own designs or use stencils. Kits are also available if you are looking for something specific. Don’t stop at the paint though – you can really get crafty with items like this!

4. Paint Glasses or Jars
To paint glass items you probably want to have paint that works for glass. It’s not very expensive and you can get some pretty cool looking paint as well (check for paint that gives a stained glass appearance).

5. Picture Frames
Have some popsicle sticks? Make some picture frames! One of the easiest crafts for little hands to make and get creative with.

6. Decorated Toy Boxes
If you have a few spare boxes, get the paint out and let them decorate them for toy boxes. This one is pretty popular since it’s not only useful, but fun as well.

These are just a few craft painting ideas for kids. Look around the house and see what else can be painted to entertain them!

Mini Pizzas

Saturday we spend the day doing some hard core cleaning, so I was absolutely exhausted come supper time. We had all the makings for pizza, but I just didn’t feel like going to all that trouble. Plus someone always has a complaint about something.

So instead we did “mini pizzas” and everyone got to do their own. I had some leftover biscuits (the dough in the can – I cheated with something and can’t remember what), so we just added the toppings to that. Come to find out my 8yr old now dislikes cheese for whatever reason, and he was happy to leave the cheese off his.

For the three of us we used 2 cans of biscuits – everyone used two per pizza. Since they were so small we didn’t even use a whole package of pepperoni, nor a whole jar of mushrooms. We barely used any pizza sauce at all.

The “crust” was a little big for being “mini” pizza, so you might want to just use one biscuit per pizza if you don’t like a lot of crust. My kids liked it though, so no big deal.

Once all the toppings were on, we tossed them in the oven as instructed on the can of biscuits. No extra time needed, but do keep an eye on them.

They came out really yummy, and since everyone had made their own they were just perfect. Everyone ate every bite!

Tidy Tuesday: Flower Garden Work

The weather is finally nice enough that it’s time to venture outside!

Over the weekend I realized how much my yard needed attention. Not so much the yard itself, but my flower beds had far too many weeds. The bad thing is they weren’t just any weeds, but the kind that sting me. Thus the reason why I’ve been putting this off.

But this weekend I grabbed the gloves and started pulling. The side of the house looks so much better than it did, but it still needs some work. While I love my lily of the valley, it just doesn’t look good where it’s growing. It’s next to impossible to pull weeds and grass around lily of the valley so it’s just got to go (and for those who have never seen lily of the valley, it’s not much bigger than grass and will NOT kill off the weeds like tiger lily will).

Luckily I have some friends at a greenhouse that can point me in the right direction as to what to plant on the side of the house. Since I can’t be trusted to constantly plant things every year, I need perennials. No more lily anything though, I have far to many as it is (the tiger lily is slowly taking over my entire back yard!). No, we need something small that will not only take over a small area beside the house, but kill off the weeds too. Hey it worked for the back – even though I had to pull some weeds, the amount gets smaller and smaller every year thanks to the tiger lilies (and the iris that was planted last summer).

So anyway, because of the nice weather, this week is perfect for tending to the flower beds outside. Go pull some weeds, plant some flowers, or just clean up the yard if you don’t want to go all out. The important thing is you get outside and make your house look nice. =)

Memorial Day Side Dishes

The other day I wrote an article on Associated Content about Memorial Day grilling, and other foods that just seemed “American” to me. While I don’t usually like to grill, this seems to be one time of year that is acceptable. Especially if it involves steak (YUM!).

Here are a few ideas for side dishes to go with your grilled food:

– Mashed Potatoes
– Potato Salad
– Deviled Eggs
– Pasta (just about any kind really)
– Vegetables (steamed or grilled)

You can pick up some potato recipes and pasta recipes at Idea Queen if you need some specific ideas. Personally I like garlic mashed potatoes and summer pasta w/ balsamic vinegar with a nice grilled steak. What you cook is really up to you!

Frugal Friday: Homeschool Materials

The other day I read an article about how homeschooling is just “so expensive”, estimating anywhere from $600 clear up to $1200 per kid for one year.

Wow. They must not know how to bargain shop, huh?

Of course we want the best homeschooling materials for our kids, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be smart shoppers.

It also doesn’t mean we have to actually buy many of the resources either – how much can be made at home or printed off? I don’t know about you, but even though I’m just starting to look for homeschooling materials, I’ve found THOUSANDS of printable worksheets and activities.

I’m a bit of an eBay addict too, and have found quite a bit of items there. This includes books, games,and a whole lot of extras. Some of the stores there focus specifically on homeschool and teaching materials while others just have some “extra stuff” to sell. The drawback to ebay is you pretty much have to know what you are looking for. That’s really not as hard as you think though.

Not only can you get your supplies super cheap or free by using very simple frugal ideas, but many things you really don’t even need (despite was the companies selling prepackaged materials tell you). For my 2nd grader the only two books I need to buy are for math and English. Even then I really don’t NEED to buy them, and I really just want them as a guide for my own peace of mind. Worksheets can be printed, real life activities can be done, personalized spelling and vocabulary lists can be made (he’s very much into Garfield right now, and I’ve noticed there are quite a few “big words” in those books he stumbles over), and other things can be personalized. The school seems to think he has a reading comprehension problem, but the fact is he just doesn’t LIKE the stories he’s being given. When a book interests him, he tells you ALL about it.

Another thing I noticed from this article was it talked about how much you’d be spending on “extra” activities, trips, and games. I don’t know about you, but I spend money on these things anyway. I take my kids to fun places in the summer and on weekends. I buy them educational games because I want them to be ahead of the class. I put them in dance, Tae Kwan Do, swimming lessons, and so on. What’s “extra”?

So saying homeschooling is “expensive” is really not true. Does it cost more than sending them to public school? Absolutely! But it’s a far cry from hundreds or thousands of dollars quoted if you are frugal mom. 😉

Summer Sewing?

You may or may not have noticed there isn’t a whole lot of sewing projects posts here this time of year. That’s mostly because I don’t have a whole lot of interest in sewing in the summer for some reason.

I don’t know why, but I usually don’t get the “sewing bug” until winter. Maybe it’s because I prefer to be out in the garden this time of the year, or playing outside in some way. Something about warm weather and sewing just doesn’t appeal to me.

There ARE projects I probably should be doing, including some dress ideas and shorts. Luckily I did make my daughter a pair of shorts for Christmas so she’ll have at least one handmade item to wear this year. But aside from that I really don’t have anything and the motivation is gone. Maybe it’s just me – I tend to lose interest in ideas and projects after a set amount of time.

What about you, do you sew during the summer?

5 Gift Ideas for Girls

The following low cost ideas may help you decide what to get your girls this year for Christmas or their birthday. Each of them can be very cheap if you look in the right places or make them yourself.

1. Handmade Items
This may work better for little ones, but if you can sew you can create all kinds of handmade items. Doll clothes, clothes for the kids, bedding, and quilts are just a few. My daughter absolutely loves getting clothes for her dolls. Granted it’s usually mom dressing them, but she likes it anyway.

Last year for Christmas I found tiny iron-on ballet shoes to put on a doll shirt. Since she is very much into dance right now, she absolutely LOVED this.

2. Toy Collections
This may not always be low cost, but asking all family members to buy certain types of toys can help your kids keep their toys organized better. Plus it’s always exciting to have entire sets of certain toys.

Things like My Little Ponies, Webkinz, and My Littlest Pet Shop are great toys (and often inexpensive as well). Check with mom to see what the little girl likes. There’s always accessories and different items to buy for each of the sets listed.

3. Dollar Stores
While they may not always be the best quality of products, with some children this may be your best bet. As much as we try to teach our children to be good with their toys, sometimes it doesn’t matter and they get broken anyway. Buying cheaper items may cut down on your costs.

Coloring books work well, as do stickers and other “general” toys like jump ropes, bubbles, and chalk. At a buck a piece, you won’t break the bank and they’ll be entertained for hours.

4. Personalized Items
A special gift for kids can be as simple as an item with their name on it. There is no shortage of personalized products out there – they can be CDs, books, pencils, clothes, and other items.

Lots of personalized gift ideas can be found at Idea Queen.

5. School Supplies & Clothes
While they may not always be appreciative of “boring” gifts, you can sometimes get away with buying something useful. School supplies featuring their favorite characters they would love, as would special outfits in colors or characters which interest them. If they are starting kindergarten soon, this could be an exciting gift.

Be careful on the items you buy though, as they may not be able to use them. Most schools have very specific lists of items that parents can vary from. Also if the child is being homeschooled, be careful not to get them something the parents won’t be using. “Safe” items usually include pencils or writing tablets (the kind you use to print letters) for little ones.

These are just a few gift ideas for girls. More kids gift ideas can be found on Idea Queen for both boys and girls.