Printable Meal Planner and Grocery List

After taking a look at our monthly spending, I was horrified to see how much we spend on groceries. It’s so easy when you own a business directly next to a grocery store in a super small town, but those quick and little purchases add up FAST. Great for convenience, horrible on the checking account.

The solution we came up with was a menu plan and grocery list combined. I’m still “old fashioned” and like my pen and paper when it comes to making lists. Sorry, I just don’t care to type out my list on any digital device. Although I did design the template on the computer, and have found it SUPER easy to print out just before I go shopping.

We started with a monthly menu plan, which did work for the most part. The end of the month got a little stretched, though, so we switched to a 10-day plan. This actually covers about 2 weeks worth of meals and snacks for us. It also limits our shopping trips to about twice a month, ultimately saving us from too many in-store impulse buys yet still leaving room for changes in the menu.

Since this has been so successful for us, I thought it only right to share with everyone. Click on the picture below, save to your computer, and print off on a sheet of cardstock or other heavier paper. We fold ours in half, so the grocery list is on one side and the meals on the other. It’s easy to stick in my purse, but then still stash it in the kitchen when we bring our groceries home.

Printable meal plan and grocery list

Printable meal plan and grocery list

Teaching Your Kids to Save Money

Saving MoneyMoney can be tempting to spend for everyone. Kids especially want to immediately spend it on toys, candy, or other cool items that are a “must have”. This is why it is so important that we teach kids to save money. If we as parents effectively teach them the importance of saving money and buying only necessities, then we hopefully will raise responsible, self-funding adults.

Here are a few ideas you can use to help teach your kids the importance of money. Some ideas involve crafty ideas that fully involve the kids in counting, saving, and goal setting.

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How to Shop for the Holidays Without Going Broke

Guest Post by Matt Hoff

Anyone with a family knows how expensive it is to deck the halls these days. Maybe it’s because of the sagging economy or maybe it’s because our kids have more “refined” tastes than we did growing up, but the price tag for providing your little bundles of joy with presents seems to get larger every year. Luckily, there are a few tricks crafty parents can use to keep their wallets stuffed as full as their stockings. Some of them are obvious. Others you might not have considered before. But they’re all sure to save you some green this holiday season.

  • Stay away from layaway. Retailers like Wal-Mart are trying to capitalize on the slow economy by reviving their layaway plans. Don’t fall for it. Fifty years ago, when only a few people had credit cards, these plans were a great way to get a big-ticket item that you couldn’t really afford by paying for it in installments. Today, they’re nothing more than an overpriced way to buy something on credit. If you don’t have the money to pay for a present up front – don’t buy it.
  • Use online coupons. Online coupons are, hands down, the best way to outfit your family with gifts on the cheap. By shopping for discounts on daily deal websites, you can get up to 90% off of show tickets, fancy dinners and all the toys your kids can handle. To sweeten the deal, a lot of online coupon sites are running holiday specials right now that will save you even more on your purchases.
  • Homemade is where the heart is. Nothing says “I care” like a homemade present. These crafty gifts are a great way to get your family into the holiday spirit, and they’re much cheaper than anything you’ll find in a store. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your crafts when deciding what to make for your spouse and kids. You can find a huge list of homemade present ideas on Family Crafts.
  • Skip the paper Christmas cards. Pretty much everyone has an e-pad, smart phone or Internet-connected computer these days, so it doesn’t make much sense to blow a load of money on expensive Christmas cards to send to your friends and family. You can find a variety of free e-cards online that you can customize send to everyone on your contacts list. Nobody will think any less of you for making your season’s greetings digital.

It isn’t hard to see more green than red this season. By following these tips and using things like online coupons and homemade presents to cut costs, you can guarantee that your whole family will have some very happy holidays. And with the money you save, you will too!

Repurposing Candle Holders

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “repurposing” items. Why not? It saves money, and it cuts down on the junk in our landfills, and is best for the environment.

Since I’ve begun a little indoor gardening, I was recently checking out flower pots for my new office garden. While there were some really cool flower pots at Amazon for relatively cheap, I really didn’t want to pour a whole lot of money into this projects. Although I still may get the LED flower pot regardless.😉

Instead of spending money on a dozen or more flower pots, I went digging through closets looking for old items. Being a candle-maker’s daughter, I have plenty of candle holders around the house.

This particular holder pictured is one I’ve had since my high school days (I won’t tell you just how long exactly, but let’s just say it’s at least 10 years old). Unfortunately, it’s developed a large cracked and can no longer be used for melting wax. It is, however, just perfect for indoor flowers.

Other items I found included small containers from a fondue set we never use that my daughter painted, an old bank, generic pots that we’ve decorated, and a few other miscellanous containers we weren’t using.

Overall, we’ve had a lot of fun finding items and decorating them to be used for something new, and have made plans for other “repurposing” projects we hope to post soon.

What items have you used in the past to make flower pots from? Do you have another use for your used candle holders?

Looking forward to seeing your responses!


Discount Code for Elf Cosmetics

First let me start off by saying that Idea Queen is no girly girl. Make up does not interest me usually, and I can be quite picky. Also, I’m not the type that will pay ungodly amounts of money for something I hardly wear.

However, my friend turned me on to E.L.F. Cosmetics simply because of their prices. I was absolutely floored to see how cheap some of their items were, and how many deals they have on dang near a daily basis. Because I love a good deal, I felt the need to share what discount codes for Elf Cosmetics that I’ve found. I’ll try my best to update this page on a regular basis as well.

*Last Updated: March 23rd, 2010*

Discount Coupons for Joann Fabrics

It’s no secret I’m a frugal mom. I’m a bargain hunter just like my grandma, and often times won’t even think of buying certain items unless it’s on sale. This is especially true with crafting supplies. Fabric and fun toys, I’m all over it if I can buy for less than retail price. Thus why I was so excited to see this new promotion at

Coupon Details: 40% Off the Regular Price of One Item at ( Code:AE74 )

Clicking on the link above will also show you a few other promotions and the restrictions around them. There’s a lot of choices here, so if you have some big purchases to make, this code would be great (I did happen to see sewing machines are excluded though on this one, but other higher ticket items might not be).

Hopefully these discount coupons from Joann Fabrics will help you find some items to keep you occupied while the weather has you stuck inside!

3 Fun Places to Find Handmade Goodies

No matter if your a crafter or just like buying handmade goodies, here are a few sites to check out.

Probably the largest site to find homemade products. Just about anything you could think of (and some you may NOT think of) is here. Not everything is “cute” either – I’ve stumbled on things such as bone necklaces and some pretty wild art. Makes the shopping options all the better, in my opinion.
(Be sure to see my daughter Etsy store while your there!)

Cafe Handmade
They have a fun “virtual craft show” theme going on here, where you “rent a booth” for a little bit of nothing. There’s more individual promotion going on here, with twitter posts directly to your store and encouragement each week to vote on your favorites. Prairie Soy Candles has just been listed here, and there’s some other nice looking stores. Smaller yes, but much more personal for shoppers and crafters both.
(See our listing here!)

Handmade Craft Show
Very similar to the previous site, but includes a “Gift Guide”. We haven’t purchased a booth on this site yet, but probably will in the near future. If your needing some gift ideas for whatever holiday is coming up, it’s worth checking out.

Feel free to comment on your favorites as well!

Is a Wii Worth It?

While I really complained about the cost of a new Nintendo Wii since they first came out, I can’t say the $267.49 (tax included, purchased new at my local GameStop) I paid was really of that bad of a deal. Not only are they still selling for insane prices online, but when you figure in how much they are really WORTH, it makes all the difference.

Think of it this way….

– The price of home gym could be anywhere from $300 clear up into the thousands. Plus once you get the home gym, what is there to add to it, and how fun is it?

– A fitness club, at minimum, is going to cost you over $400 a year. Again the fun factor may be missing in some programs.

– YMCA membership in our area costs over $500 per year for a family. Our local Y is pretty sad looking, too, and no where near worth that cost. Plus most the ‘classes’ cost extra.

– Within three days of playing Wii Sports, we played about $200 worth of bowling games, which wouldn’t even include “extra” stuff at a bowling alley or the cost of gas to drive there.

So is the Wii worth the cost? Without a doubt! And with the price finally coming down at a lot of places, now would be a PERFECT time to latch on to one. Check locally or even at Wii on Amazon for some good prices and games to buy. Even after a year, we still play our Wii on a regular basis.😉

Why I’ll Buy Less Processed Food

The other day I decided to make our “mountain pizza” for supper. I’ve gotten a tad lazy and been using premade pizza crusts quite often. It’s been forever since I’ve actually made pizza dough in the bread machine, but this little incident made me think twice about starting it up again.

I opened the package only to find the crust MOLDY. Yes little green fur growing all over this pizza crust that had just been opened. No there was no holes in the packaging, and I did check the expiration date. April 2010, and last I checked it was only January. So there was absolutely NO reason this crust should have been bad.

It got me thinking about all the recalls we’ve had lately,  and I cringed. This was an isolated incident I’m sure, so how many other times have we eaten foods that have been poorly packaged? How much illness can be pinned on bad foods even if we aren’t aware of it? What silent damage have we done to our bodies eatting them as well?

Luckily I had another pizza crust package (a different brand even, THANK GOD) since there was no time to make the dough myself, but it will be the last time I use one at all most likely. It will be back to the bread machine for us for probably everything bread related, since I just don’t trust what’s being put into packages anymore.

Dinner in a Box – Is it Worth It?

Maybe it’s because of my upbringing, but I never could understand the concept of a meal in a box.

Once in a great while, I’ll wander down the “box dinner” section of the store, and pick up something that’s “super easy to make and ready in 30 mins or less”. However, I still have failed to see the real purpose of them, other than cleaver marketing.

We made a hamburger helper  beef stroganoff only once. After having to cook the hamburger and add a few other ingredients, I stood scratching my head as to WHY I bought basically the pasta and seasoning in a pretty box when I could have spent the same amount of money (or less) and time doing it from scratch. (Which we have ever since – see our Hamburger Beef Stroganoff recipe here)

Just a month or two ago, I got curious again about the boxes. As you may already know, we have a bread machine that is used on a very regular basis. A box for a wheat bread mix jumped out at me in the store, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Again, I was quite disappointed as I had to add a few of my own ingredients and it was nothing really special (we’ve had better bread from our own recipe collection).

So what about you? Do you use box dinners at all, or are you like me and questioned their purposes?