Frugal Life · Travel · Uncategorized

New York City in a Weekend

I have always dreamed of visiting New York City.  There is just something about the lights, the buildings, and the hustle and bustle that appealed to me.

I’ve talked about this dream with my sister for years and one day she stopped me and said, “Let’s do it! Let’s go visit New York City this year.”  And I said, “Ok!”  We decided to try to keep the budget low and to only visit for 3 nights, one weekend.  We made our list of “must stops” and started planning.

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Day 1:  Thursday

We arrived in NYC at around 6 pm and after checking into our hotel we hit the streets!

*Money Saving Tip*

–We booked our hotel Priceline.  We found that they had the best deals (this is NOT sponsored!).  We also used ebates which gave us an extra 6% off the price.  We scored a boutique midtown hotel (with a king bed) for only $200/night.

Our first stop was pizza at Uncle Pauls Pizza.  The pizza was delicious and only $4/slice.  Win, Win!

After dinner we walked around and enjoyed sight seeing.  We visited Grand Central Station, St.Patricks Cathedral, window shopped down 5th Avenue, and ended the night in Times Square.  Everything we saw Thursday night was completely free!

 

Day 2:  Friday

Breakfast Friday morning was at Home Front Deli.  This is a small little restaurant, but boy was it delicious!  They made the best bagels I tried all weekend!  I highly recommend!

After breakfast we headed to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met for short.  This was one of my favorite stops of the entire trip!  It is WELL worth the money!  You could spend DAYS in this museum.  We focused on the Egyptian Room, The American Wing, and European Art.  Everything was absolutely incredible!

 

*Money Saving Tip*

–To help on costs we bought the Explorer Pass.  This was the cheapest option we found for us to be able to see our “must stop” places.  We used it for The Met, Top of the Rock and 9/11 Memorial Museum.  You can customize the Explorer Pass, enabling you to pick and choose the places you want to go.

After The Met we rode the bus down to Top of the Rock and were treated to absolutely amazing views of New York City.  Going to the top of Top of the Rock is not only cheaper than the Empire State Building, the views are also better.

 

Next, was lunch at The Halal Guys for the best Gyros I have ever had.  This is seriously a must stop.  The portions was huge and only around $8 for a platter.

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That night we had tickets to go see The Lion King on Broadway.  This was one of our big splurges for the trip and it did not disappoint!  We paid full price for our tickets to The Lion King, but there are ways to get discount Broadway Tickets.

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*Money Saving Tip*

—You can buy same day Broadway tickets at the TKTS booth located right in Times Square.  These same day tickets are heavily discounted for a select shows.

–For Hamilton tickets download the Hamilton app onto your phone.  You can enter a lottery with the winner given the option to buy two Broadway Hamilton tickets for just $10 a piece.  Warning:  I have entered this lottery numerous time with no success!

–Check out Today Tix for discounted tickets that can be bought in advance.  We used this service for a Broadway show Saturday night and were very pleased with it!

Day 3:  Saturday

Saturday breakfast was at Zuckers Bagels.  I didn’t enjoy this breakfast quite as much as Home Front Deli, but it was still really good!

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Immediately after breakfast we headed to the 9/11 museum.  We were treated to an amazing museum full of heart wrenching photos, survivor stories and gut wrenching facts.  We spent about 3 hours walking around and taking it all in.  We honestly could have spent all day there, they had so many exhibits and information to look through.

 

 

After the museum we headed Downtown to hop onto the Staten Island Ferry.  This is a completely FREE ferry that takes you right past the statue of liberty.  It was so simple to walk right on to the ferry.  I recommend going to the very back so that you can also be treated to a view of the NYC skyline.

The views of the Statue of Liberty were even better than we had expected!  Once we arrived to New Jersey, we walked off, went around the corner and walked right onto the next ferry to ride back to Manhattan.  This was really easy, and you just can’t beat FREE!

Next, we headed to Brooklyn for a walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a wet and stormy day, but we still enjoyed the views on the bridge. The architecture was incredible!

 

That evening we had dinner at The Melt.  They make gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.  The food was amazing and very budget friendly!

After dinner we headed to another Broadway Show, Waitress.  To save money on this show we bought our tickets using TodaysTix.

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Day 4:  Sunday

We had half a day on Sunday before needing to catch our plane.  Breakfast was at Wafels and Dinges.  Which is absolutely delicious, and a MUST stop when in New York City.

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Following my sweet tooth we went straight from breakfast to Levain Bakery for the absolute BEST cookie I have EVER had!!!  You MUST, I repeat, MUST stop by Levain Bakery.  Their cookies were absolutely amazing!

 

We ate our cookies in Central Park and then spent the rest of the morning wandering the paths and enjoying the day.  It truly is a beautiful park with so many unique areas and sights.  I loved strolling through all of the different areas.

 

Our trip was a busy whirlwind, but I wouldn’t change anything!  We were able to see everything we wanted to see, and had a lot of fun doing it!  I can’t wait to go back again one day and visit even more of the amazing sights.

Be sure to check out my post 20 Completely Free Things to do in New York City for more budget friendly New York City ideas!

 

 

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Frugal Life · Travel

20 Completely Free Things to do in New York City

Did you see my post about our recent whirlwind of a trip to New York City?  We had so much fun in the big apple!  I fell in love with all of the beautiful buildings and delicious food.  We tried to keep costs low and were still able to find plenty of fun activities to do.  During all of my research and planning I just couldn’t believe how many completely FREE things there are to do in NYC.  I’m sharing a few of those ideas with you today!

nyc on a budget

20 Free Things to Do While in NYC

Explore a City Park

1.  Wander Around Central Park

You could literally spend DAYS in Central Park.  There is SO much to see and do!  We loved wandering around watching the performers and enjoying the beauty.  Be sure to visit The Mall, Belvedere Castle and Bethesda Fountain.

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2.  Walk the High Line

The High Line is a beautiful elevated park.  It was made from an old railroad no longer in use.  The High Line provides a miles of walking paths and gardens.

3.  Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park has over 9 acres of beauty located in Greenwich Village.  It is well known for the landmark Washington Square Arch.  This park provides many different things to see and do.

4.  Bryant Park

Bryant Park is located right in midtown, making a visit quick and easy.  We visited Bryant Park in late October and they had their Christmas Shops and ice skating rink set up.  It was so fun to walk around looking through the cute little shops.

5.  Battery Park

Located near the entrance to the free Staten Island Ferry you will find Battery Park.  It is another large city park with paths and many statues and memorials.  A visit to Battery Park will also give you a good view of the Statue of Liberty!

Famous NYC Landmarks

6.  Take the Staten Island Ferry to Statue of Liberty

You may not be able to go visit the Statue of Liberty for free, but you can get a free boat ride that will take you right past Lady Liberty.  The Staten Island Ferry is a completely free round trip ride with fantastic views!

7.  Visit Grand Central Station

It only takes a few minutes to pop in and visit Grand Central Station, but it is WORTH it!  The architecture of the building is absolutely breathtaking!  I loved ever minute we spent inside.

 

8.  Walk Across Brooklyn Bridge

We had so much fun walking across the Brooklyn Bridge.  The architecture is absolutely beautiful and it only takes about 30 minutes!  The best views are when you walk from Brooklyn into Manhattan.

 

9.  9/11 Memorial Plaza

To gain entrance into the 9/11 museum you will need to pay, but walking around the grounds and seeing the site of the beautiful memorial is completely free!  There is a special reverence on the grounds that will touched me.

10.  Times Square

There really is nothing quite like Times Square.  A true melting pot of lights, colors, people and sounds.  Times Square is completely free to visit and a great place for people watching!  It’s fun to visit at least once, but I wouldn’t recommend staying for more than 5-10 minutes.

11.  Rockefeller Plaza

Home of the famous Rockefeller Skating Rink is Rockefeller Plaza.  It’s a fun section of the city to walk around and explore for a few minutes.  We visited when the ice skating rink was set up and we loved watching the skaters for a few minutes and window shopping past the buildings.

 

12.  Flat Iron Building

The iconic Flat Iron Building is a perfect spot for an Instagram photo!  It is such a unique building and I can’t wait to visit it someday.

10.  New York Library

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t really believe a library was a worthwhile stop on our trip, but I was SO wrong!  This building is absolutely beautiful!  We spent about 20-30 minutes to quickly walk around and view the different rooms (be sure to stop at the Rose Reading Room!).  This was one of my favorite buildings we saw.

 

11.  Charging Bull

If you are in the Wall Street area, you must stop by and see the famous Charging Bull.  It’s another picture perfect spot!

Free Museums

12.  Bronx Museum of the Arts

The Bronx Museum of the Arts is the home to many unique art exhibits.  It is large and open and rarely ever crowded.  The best part is it is completely free!

13.  Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology

If you have any interest in clothing and fashion, you would probably enjoy the free Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  It’s exhibits showcase the history and workings of the exciting fashion world.

Visit an Old Church

14.  Trinity Church

A visit to Trinity Church on Wall Street gives you not only a visit to a beautiful old church, but it’s also has an old cemetery on the grounds.  You will be able to find a few historical figures buried there, including Alexander Hamilton and his wife.

15.  Cathedral of St. John the Divine

The Cathedral of St.John the Divine is the largest cathedral in the world.  With plenty of detail and beautiful stain glass windows, it is worth stopping at!

16.  St. Patricks Cathedral

St. Patricks Cathedral is a must see when in New York City.  I originally thought we would only stop by for a few minutes, but the cathedral was so gorgeous with lots of details to look at, we ended up staying much longer.

 

Explore a New Neighborhood

18.  Walking Tour

Google “NYC Walking Tour” and you will find countless free guides that tell you exactly where to walk and what to visit in each neighborhood.  One of my favorite parts of New York City was taking in the beauty and uniqueness of each neighborhood.

 

19.  China Town

There is really nothing like visiting China Town.  I love walking through the streets, browsing the shops and taking in all of the sights, sounds, and smells.  China Town is a place you could spend hours in, or just walk through quick, it’s completely up to you!

20.  Window Shop on 5th Avenue

We had so much fun walking down 5th Avenue and peeking in all of the different stores.  This is not shopping for the cheap!  But, it is free (and fun!) to look!

 

There really is nowhere like New York City.  You can enjoy this great city, without breaking the bank!

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Be sure to check out New York City in a Weekend for more budget friendly NYC tips and tricks!

Christmas · Family · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Gift Ideas · Good Ideas · Holidays · Homemade · Recipes

Easy Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

Hot cocoa is such a fun staple to have in your home during these cold winter months.  My kids will spend hours playing outside in the snow and the first thing they ask for when they come inside is some hot chocolate!

Back in my “spender” days I use to buy hot chocolate mix at the store like it was nobody’s business!  Once I started learning how to save and live a frugal life I learned how to make hot chocolate mix from scratch and I have never looked back!

Not only does making your own hot cocoa save you money, it is also so quick and easy to do.  It also tastes much better than what you will buy from the store!

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Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1/2 cup powdered creamer

1/8 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well.  Store in a tightly covered container.

To make hot chocolate:  Stir 1/4 cup mix with 3/4 cup boiling water.  Enjoy!

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We usually make this mix for our family to enjoy all winter, but it would also be a really frugal christmas gift for friends and neighbors.  Whip up a large batch, portion it into cute jars and tie a bow around it. Done!

 

Family · For the kids · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Parenting

Teaching Kids to Help with Family Chores: Including free chore chart printable

Teaching my kids how to work is a huge priority for me.  In today’s world with busy schedules and so many kids focused on screens, it’s hard to find the right way to instill a hard work ethic.

I’ve tried so many different methods to try to encourage my kids to be hard workers.  Many of those methods have failed, but the method we are using right now has been going strong for 5 years.  That’s definitely a record in my house!  I don’t know if it is teaching them the hard work ethic I desire, but I know it has been teaching them a lot about household chores and so I am happy with it!

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My cleaning system is nothing fancy, SO un-fancy in fact that it probably shouldn’t even be called a “system”! 😉

My kids have 4 main household chores that they are responsible for each week.

Bedrooms

The kids’ bedrooms are expected to daily be kept clean and tidy, including making their bed each day.  This usually only takes 5 minutes each morning, sometimes more or less.  Once a week they are required to vacuum and clean their rooms.  I always check on Saturdays to make sure they did what was asked of them and to verify that they haven’t stuffed anything under the bed or in their closets.  😉  One of my printables includes our Bedroom Responsibilities chart.  This is hung up in each of my kids rooms so they can make sure the chores are completed correctly.

Dishes

We have three “Dish Duties” that we rotate each week between our three kids.  These duties are:  Load the Dishwasher, Sweep the Floor, and Wipe the Counters.  After our nightly dinner the family all cleans up the dishes together with the kids each helping with their specific assignment.

Household Chore

Each week my kids are assigned a Household Chore.  The Household Chore is usually centered around a room in the house; one that the entire family uses, so we all need to help keep it clean.  These chores are rotated each week through each of the kids.

Our current list of household chores are:

-Kitchen

-Bathroom

-Great Room

-Basement Family Room

-Your Choice

I include a Your Choice week so that the kids have one week where they can have a little control over the area they clean.  They really look forward to this week!  The Your Choice options are:

-Do the Laundry

-Wash the Walls

-Clean the Car

-Clean out the Refrigerator

-Wash the Windows

These household chores are rotated weekly between each child.  This way everyone gets an equal amount of turns with each chore.

Paid Chore

I assign my kids one paid chore each month.  (other paid chores are given when they request it).  Our paid chores revolve around taking care of our animals (six chickens, one dog and one cat).  They will ONLY get paid if the chore is completed.  These chores are rotated monthly and the kids are paid monthly.

You can read my article Teaching Kids Smart Money Habits to learn more about my views on giving kids an allowance.

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This is how we do chores in our house.  Are my kids perfect?  No way!  Am I perfect?  Not even close!  But, we are trying.  And for now, this is what has been working for us.

I have turned my Family Chore Chart and Chore Responsibilities into free printables for you!  These are the exact charts we use!  You can get them emailed to you by following this link:  Free Chores for Kids Printables.

How to Use Chore Chart Printables

I highly suggest laminating the Family Chore Chart after printing it.  Or, you can just stick it in a page protector like I do!  😉  This way I can use a dry erase marker to write down all of the chores and adjust them each week.

You will want to cut the Clean Chores printables into sections and laminate each section.  This is obviously not necessary, but I have found it helps to keep the instructions more durable with my kids use.

I keep the chore instructions hung up in a bag for my kids to pull out of when it is their turn for that particular chore.

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I truly believe one of the greatest gifts we can give a child is teaching them how to work.  They WILL look back one day and thank you for giving them this gift.  I whined and yelled and cried and complained and told my parents they were the meanest in the world…..but I grew up….and I realized just how GRATEFUL I am that they taught me how to work!

The saying says there is more than one way to train a horse!  That falls true with kids too!  This is what works for my kids, you might find something different that works for your family.  All that matters is that we are TRYING.  Keep trying mamas!  We got this!

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Christmas Tree Cookie Recipe

“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

One of my favorite Christmas Traditions as a young girl was my mom making these delicious Christmas Tree Cookies!  I knew it was Christmastime when I came home to these delicious treats after school.

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My mom is no longer living, so I have continued on the tradition by making them for my kids.  They are SO easy and I love the hint of almond flavor!

One of the best parts of making Christmas Tree Cookies is getting to use this fun Wilton Cookie Press.  It’s really easy to use, and you can usually find one under $10!  It comes with a dozen different plates with fun shapes for cookies.  All you have to do is fill it with the cookie dough, turn it upside down and press the trigger!  Out comes a cute little tree.

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Christmas Tree Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp almond extract

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

green food coloring

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar together in mixer.

Beat in egg and almond extract.

Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Gradually add to mixer.

Add a few drops of green food coloring.  Mix well.

Fill Cookie Press with dough and insert the tree plate.

Use Cookie Press to make cookies on ungreased cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with red sprinkles.

Bake in hot oven for 8 minutes.

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They are so easy!  Your kids will look forward to them every year, I promise!

Crafts · Family · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Homemade · Parenting · Recipes

How to Make Homemade Butter

I had a container of heavy whipping cream sitting in my fridge for a few weeks.  I kept looking at it, knowing I needed to do something with it, but never knowing exactly what!  My sister finally suggested to me that I should use the cream to make butter with my kids.

This actually turned out to be the best idea ever!  Making butter was so so easy, cheap, and my kids absolutely LOVED it!

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My kids loved shaking their jars and checking every 5 minutes to see if the butter had formed.  My daughter even said, “Wow!  They use to have to work hard in the olden days!  I can’t imagine doing this every time we needed butter.”  This led into such a great discussion about the conveniences we have now and how hard our ancestors had to work in order to survive.

You can make your very own butter; all you need is a mason jar and heavy whipping cream.

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Pour some whipping cream into the jar.  I filled our jars about half full, but if you are doing this with your kids I would recommend only filling it about 1/4 full.  I think it would’ve been easier and quicker for the kids if the jar had less cream in it.

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Now, you shake it!  Shake, shake and shake!  This took us about 45 minutes of hard shaking.  If I had done less cream I’m sure it would’ve been much quicker.

We turned on some music and danced while shaking our jars.

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The cream will slowly become thicker.  You will eventually notice the butter separating from the cream. The butter will form together in a nice solid ball.  Once this happens, you are done!  See, so easy!

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Drain the leftover cream, rinse your butter, and then transfer it to a plate.  Wah-lah!  You have made butter!

Now is the fun part!  Enjoy your butter on some fresh bread or rolls.  It really is delicious!

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Affiliate · Amazon · Recipes

What to do with your bulk chicken; including 6 Freezer Chicken Recipes

“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

I will receive compensation from purchases made through links in this post.  Thank you!

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I just tried out Savory Butcher for the first time, and I was SO impressed!  The customer service was incredible!  The meat was high quality and delicious!  And the price is right!

I bought the 40 lb case of chicken for $1.99 lb, which is an awesome deal.  Their chicken comes fresh from the farm, already trimmed, and no added hormones, anti-biotics, or preservatives.  Savory Butcher also offers high quality bacon and ground beef.

Savory Butcher has limited delivery locations, so check to see if they will be delivering near you.  Currently they deliver to areas in Washington, Oregon, Utah and Idaho.  If you live in one of these areas, look into when they will be delivering near you.

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I just spent a couple of hours prepping my bulk chicken.  I love stocking my freezer full of chicken for quick, easy dinners.  I prepped 8 ready to cook dinners; and 6 bags of plain chicken.  It does take a little bit of effort to prepare your bulk chicken, but the amount of money you save is SO worth it!

 

Freezing Your Bulk Chicken

When preparing chicken for the freezer I highly recommend using a vacuum sealer.  The vacuum sealer will make the process simple and helps prevent any freezer burn.  My sealer was not working (resulting in quite a bit of frustration on my part!).  I decided to freeze my chicken in freezer bags instead.  The freezer bags will work, just not as well as the vacuum sealer!

Separate your chicken into dinner sized portions, this resulted in about 2-3 chicken breasts per bag for my family.  Place each portioned chicken into freezer bag, remove all of the air and seal tightly.

These will store well in your freezer for 6 months.

 

Freezer Chicken Recipes

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Slow Cooker Honey Chicken

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2 lbs. chicken breasts

Salt and Pepper

1 cup honey

1/2 cup soy sauce

4 Tbsp diced onion

4 Tbsp ketchup

2 tsp garlic powder

4 tsp cornstarch

6 Tbsp water

 

Combine chicken, salt, pepper, honey, soy sauce, onion, ketchup and garlic powder in a freezer bag.

Let all air out of bag.  Seal tight and freeze.

When ready to prepare take it out of freezer and allow to thaw.

Dump entire bag of chicken and sauce into slow cooker.  Cook on low for 3-4 hours.

When finished cooking take chicken out of slow cooker and leave the sauce.

Combine cornstarch with water, stir well.

Add it into slow cooker with sauce.  Cook sauce on high until it begins to thicken (5-10 minutes).

Slice chicken into small chunks.  Return to slow cooker and stir with sauce.

Serve over rice.

Barbecue Chicken

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2 lbs. chicken breasts

1 container of barbecue sauce

 

Put chicken in a freezer bag.  Pour entire container of barbecue sauce on top.

Let all air out of bag.  Seal tight and freeze.

When ready to prepare take it out of freezer and allow to thaw.

Cook on grill.  Top with barbecue sauce to serve.

Lemon Garlic Chicken

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2 lb. chicken breasts sliced thin

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup lemon juice

2 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

 

Combine chicken, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper in freezer bag.

Put chicken in a freezer bag.  Pour entire container of barbecue sauce on top.

Let all air out of bag.  Seal tight and freeze.

When ready to prepare take it out of freezer and allow to thaw.

Cook chicken on grill.

Serve with rice and veggies.

Balsamic Chicken

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This balsamic chicken recipe is available as part of my Free 14 Day Frugal Living Challenge.  You can sign up using this link and my 15 favorite frugal recipes will be e-mailed to you on Day 3 of the challenge.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Tacos

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2 lb. chicken breasts

1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

 

Combine chicken, tomatoes, brown sugar and red pepper flakes in freezer bag.

Let all air out of bag.  Seal tight and freeze.

When ready to prepare take it out of freezer and allow to thaw.

Pour chicken and sauce into slow cooker.

Cook in slow cooker on high for 5 hours.

When done cooking shred chicken in sauce.

Serve in flour tortillas with your favorite toppings.

Grilled (or baked!) Island Chicken

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This grilled island chicken recipe is available as part of my Free 14 Day Frugal Living Challenge.  You can sign up using this link and my 15 favorite frugal recipes will be e-mailed to you on Day 3 of the challenge.

Favorite Baked Chicken

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2 lb. chicken breasts

3/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tsp garlic powder

 

Combine all ingredients in freezer bag.

Let all air out of bag.  Seal tight and freeze.

When ready to prepare take it out of freezer and allow to thaw.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Serve with baked potatoes and veggies.

Honey Lime Enchiladas

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1 lb. chicken

6 Tbsp honey

4.5 Tbsp lime juice

1 Tbsp chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

10 oz. can green enchilada sauce

flour tortillas

shredded monterey jack cheese

 

Combine chicken, honey, lime juice, chili powder, and garlic powder in freezer bag.

Let all air out of bag.  Seal tight and freeze.

When ready to prepare take it out of freezer and allow to thaw.

Pour chicken and sauce into slow cooker.

Cook on low for 8 hours.

Shred chicken in sauce.

Pour a small amount of green enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 pan.

Fill tortillas with shredded chicken and cheese.  Place in pan.

Pour the rest of the green enchilada sauce over the tortillas.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake uncovered in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

 

 

 

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20 FREE or FRUGAL Family Christmas Traditions

“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

Christmas is just my very very favorite season.  I love the lights, the snow, planning that perfect gift for a loved one, and the joy I feel from everyone around me.  It truly is the most magical time of the year!

December is the perfect month for establishing family traditions.  My hope is that one day my little family will look back on their childhood and remember the sweet memories and traditions we made together.

You do not have to spend a lot of money to make these memories with your family.  A lot of activities can be done completely FREE!  Here are 20 FREE or FRUGAL Family Christmas Traditions!

family traditions

Free or Frugal Family Christmas Traditions

1.  Decorate the Christmas Tree

Each year our family hikes through the forest to cut down our Christmas Tree.  After finding that “perfect” tree we bring it home, turn on some Christmas music and spend a fun evening decorating it together.  Our Christmas tree is decorated with salt dough ornaments, candy canes, and all the things that bring sentimentality and love to my life.  The ornaments made by the hands of my sweet children are ones I will cherish forever!

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2.  Christmas Stories

Every night for the entire month of December we turn off the lights in our house, sit in front of the lit up Christmas tree, and read a Christmas Story.  Short stories can easily be found and printed from the internet, or you can usually find Christmas books at your local thrift store.

3.  Christmas Lights

Take a drive as a family and look at all of the Christmas lights around town.  We have found a few favorite neighborhoods that we enjoy visiting each year.  I always pop popcorn for the kids (and me!) to snack on during the drive and the kids bring a blanket and wear their pajamas.  Of course, we have our favorite holiday music on in the background.  It is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to enjoy the holidays

4.  Holiday Baking

I mean really, does it get any better than holiday baking??  I think NOT!  With hundreds of different recipes and treats to choose from, we could be baking all month long!

Holiday baking is a fun tradition to do with your kids.  My kids love to help in the kitchen, ESPECIALLY if they know treats are involved!  A few of our holiday favorites are gingerbread men, peanut brittle, pretzels dipped in chocolate, and homemade toffee.

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5.  Neighbor Gifts

After all the holiday baking it’s so fun to deliver those yummy goodies to friends and neighbors.  We like to get the kids involved in this.  We package up the plates together, make cute little cards and spend an evening bringing some joy to our little neighborhood.  I love this tradition and the way it brings a community together.

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6.  Advent Calendar

Years ago I made a Christmas Advent calendar.  It was quite a bit of work and honestly, there are so many cheaper and easier options out there.  But, my kids love this calendar.  It’s nothing fancy.  They don’t receive a treat or activity each day, they just put a little felt ornament up on our felt Christmas Tree.  When the tree is full, Christmas is here.  It makes the long wait a little bit easier for the excited kids!

7.  Christmas Movies

Have a Christmas Movie night.  I love snuggling up with my family and enjoying a feel good holiday movie.  We enjoy classics like; It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas; or a newer family favorite is Elf.  Netflix has a lot of great options, or check out a few from your local library.

8.  Christmas Crafts

There are hundreds of darling Christmas Craft ideas all over Pinterest.  I like to do a few of these during the school break with my kids.  You can always find some ideas using items you already have in your house.

9.  Paper Snowflakes

Cut out paper snowflakes and hang them around your house.  You can find many tutorials on YouTube.  These are usually easy enough for younger kids to enjoy.  I will usually fold the paper for my preschool kids and then let them be in charge of cutting out the fun shapes. It’s such a joy to see every snowflake with a different unique design.

 

10.  Christmas Eve Dinner

I like to have a big fancy dinner with my family on Christmas Eve.  When we have our big dinner on Christmas Eve, we are able to just relax and enjoy Christmas day stress free.  We invite over extended family and everyone brings a side dish to share.  When everyone helps contribute to the meal, it keeps the costs low.

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11.  Letters to Santa

My kids like to write letters to Santa Clause every year.  I am personally not a huge fan of the traditional letters to Santa, where the kids ask for all the things they want to be brought to them.  Instead, I have my kids write to tell Santa about all of the good and nice things they have done throughout the year.  I have told them this is how Santa decides if he will bring them a present or not.  My hope is this will encourage them to focus more on being kind and less on materialist things.

12.  Light the World

We have been participating in Light the World for the past few years.  Light the World is a campaign sponsored by my church.  It encourages families to look for ways to serve within their family, community and in the world.  It is absolutely open to EVERYONE!  The focus is less about religion, and more on service.

There are so many different ways to serve and love others.  Bake cookies for your local fire department, participate in Operation Shoe box, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, or become “Secret Santa” for a family in need.  I love having my kids participate in this and have found it really brings the true spirit of Christmas into our home.

13.  Act out the Nativity

Every Christmas Eve, after our special dinner, my kids act out the nativity as an adult reads the story out of Luke 2.  The kids dress up as mary, joseph, donkey etc.  I love this tradition!

14.  Make a Ginger Bread House

Spend an afternoon making a ginger bread house with your family.  You can usually find fairly cheap kits at your local grocery store.  One year we just used graham crackers and homemade frosting.  For decorations we used items already in my pantry, like chocolate chips, marshmallows and almonds.  It really doesn’t matter how fancy of a house you build, all that matters is that you’re spending time with your loved ones.

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15.  Christmas Cookie Exchange

Invite some friends over for an annual Christmas Cookie Exchange.  Ask everyone to bring a dozen cookies and enjoy socializing and taste testing all of the different holiday cookies.  You might even find a new favorite recipe!

16.  Send out a Christmas Email

Ditch the traditional Christmas card and instead send out a Christmas e-mail.  You can include a few pictures and a short update of what your family has been up to over the past year.  I have even seen some free email card services you could look into!

17.  White Elephant Party

Host a White Elephant Party at your home.  Ask everyone to bring a wrapped gift (something they already have around their house).  Play a fun gift exchange game (these can be found on Pinterest) to decide who will open which present.

This is a fun way to exchange gifts with friends, without having to spend a lot of money on everyone.  It also brings a lot of laughs!!

18.  Hot Chocolate Bar

Set up a hot chocolate bar on Christmas Day.  Keep it simple to prevent overspending.  A few peppermint sticks, some marshmallows and whipped cream are all easy ideas.  Search Pinterest for easy homemade hot chocolate mix.

19.  Christmas Concerts/Events

Look to your community for free Christmas Concerts and Events happening around town.  Does your community put on a free nativity, light parade or other special concerts?  You can usually find at least a few Christmas Concerts at the local high school.

20.  Cookies for Santa and Reindeer Food

Set out milk and cookies for Santa Clause on Christmas Eve.  Go one step further and make Reindeer Food.  Mix together oats and glitter for magic reindeer food.  Sprinkle it out in your yard to help the reindeer find your house.

Christmas Traditions

I am always searching for fun new traditions!  What are some of your families favorite holiday traditions???  Let me know in the comments!

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Christmas Gift Ideas for Teen Girls under $25

“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

Are you needing a gift, maybe a Christmas present or a birthday present, for the teen girl in your life?  Are you on a budget and don’t want to overspend?

Well you have come to the right place!  I have researched all of the best gifts for teen girls!  The best part?  Everything is under $25, so you can stick to that budget!

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Gifts for Fun

This Karaoke Microphone would be so fun for some teen girl parties or for anyone who loves to sing!  It is compatible with both android and iOS.  It is only $24.99.

 

Adult Coloring Books are so fun and relaxing.  I loved the inspirational sayings in this book.  Every teen (and adult!) needs a good motivational quote every now and then!  this coloring book is a really good deal at $6.22.

What teen girl wouldn’t love a itunes gift card.  This way she can pick and choose what she wants!  You can decide how much money you want on your gift card, with the lowest gift card at $25.

Amazon.com gift card design

Let’s face it, teens love to take pictures!  This Phone Tripod looks so fun for setting up cute group photos or selfies.  It is currently only $13.98!

Accessories

CC Beanies are all the rage right now with teen girls.  These darling CC beanies are only $8.99, with dozens of colors to choose from.

Trendy Warm Chunky Soft Stretch Cable Knit Slouchy Beanie Skully HAT20A, Teal

 

These blanket scarves are so popular right now and would be perfect for the cold months.  This one is less than $15, and there are many other color options to choose from.

Bess Bridal Women's Plaid Blanket Winter Scarf Warm Cozy Tartan Wrap Oversized Shawl Cape (One Size, Camel)

I never thought scrunchies would come back, but they did, and are super popular with the teen crowd right now!  These Scrunchies are darling and only $12.99.

KECUCO 12A Colors Women's Chiffon Flower Hair Scrunchies Hair Bow Chiffon Ponytail Holder,Including 8 Colors Chiffon Flower Hair Scrunchies and 4A Solid Colors Chiffon Hair Ties (STYLE 1)

I’ve seen so many people wearing a bag similar to this Mini Backpack Purse.  They are really cute, and a fun alternative to the traditional purse.  This backpack is only $24.99!

 

Beauty Gifts

This set of bath bombs comes with 6 different scents and colors.  It’s a fun “luxury” gift for your teen.  The entire set is only $12.99

Aprilis Large Bath Bombs Gift Set, Organic and Natural Bath Bomb, Lush Fizzy Spa to Moisturize Dry Skin, Perfect Handmade Birthday Gift Ideas for Women Best Friends, Girlfriend and Kids, 6 x 4.0 oz

This Tabletop Makeup Mirror would be such a fun gift to receive as a teenage girl.  I was excited to see the price was only $22.49!

What teen girl wouldn’t like a makeup kit???  This one includes a little bit of everything; blush, lip gloss, and eye shadow.  It is only $10.35!

SHANY Glamour Girl Makeup Kit - 48 Eyeshadow/4 Blush/6 Lip Glosses

This 20 Piece Makeup Brush Set is a great deal at only $7.99.  You will never want for a makeup brush again!

EmaxDesign 20 Pieces Makeup Brush Set Professional Face Eye Shadow Eyeliner Foundation Blush Lip Makeup Brushes Powder Liquid Cream Cosmetics Blending Brush Tool

I love the colors in this Gel Nails Set.  This kit is the perfect way to get beautiful gel nails, but for only $17.99 it is at a fantastic price.

 

Gellen Gel Nail Polish Set - Nude Gray Series 6 Colors Nail Art Gift Box, Soak Off UV LED Gel Polish Kit 8ml

This Curling Wand has over 7,000 positive reviews and makes the most beautiful curls.  It is currently only $21.73!

Remington Pro 1-1½” Curling Wand with Pearl Ceramic Technology and Digital Controls, CI9538

When you are not wanting to curl your hair, this Hair Straightener is amazing!  My daughter has had this same one for a couple of years, and I love it.  (yes, I might “borrow” it from time to time!  😉 )  It’s very easy to use, and works great!  It is a great deal at $19.99.

Anjou Hair Straightener Brush with Anion Hair Care Electric Ceramic Heating Straightening Brush

I have had an ipsy Subscription off and on for 4ish years now.  It is a fun beauty subscription service where they will send you 5 beauty products and a cute makeup bag every month for only $10!  When you set up the subscription service you will feel out a form detailing what types of beauty products you would prefer, your coloring and more.  This would be a fun gift for a teen girl to receive, even if you only sign up for 2-3 months worth of subscription.  It’s a great way to learn new makeup skills and try out new products.

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Books

I bought this hair styling book for my daughter last Christmas.  She loved it!  It gives easy to follow instructions for fixing hair.  It is currently $12.98

The Fault in our Stars is a story of a sweet teen romance. It has been a best seller for a few years.  The paperback is just $7.59

Keeper of the Lost Cities:  Flashback is the newest (just released in November) of the hit series Keeper of the Lost Cities.  If your daughter is a fan of this series, she would be thrilled to receive this newest book.  It is currently priced at $13.24.

Room Decor

I love this Bluetooth Nightlight.  It has so many functions including night light, speaker, handsfree calling and more.  For only $18.95 it really is a great deal!

SHAVA Night Light Bluetooth Speaker, Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speakers, Touch Control, Color LED Speaker, Bedside Table Light, Speakerphone/TF Card/AUX-in Supported (White), 7

Felt Boards are super trendy right now!  Most teen girls would love having them in their room to be able to make fun and cute sayings.  It is only $20.99!

You can choose any letter you want with the Marquee Letter Sign.  It would make such a fun room accessory!  It is currently only $12.99.

 

Practical Gifts

This Duffel/Sports Bag comes in a dozen different colors.  My daughter has been wanting a bag like this to carry her sports gear to school, it would also be great for a teen that is on the go or traveling.  This bag is $23.99.

I love the rich colors on these Stainless Steel Insulated Water Bottles.  They are practical and cute!  These water bottles are currently $15.95.

It’s always fun to change up the look on your cell phone.  These marble Cell Phone Cases are only $8.99, and have a few different designs and colors to choose from.

 

You might be interested in a few of my other gift lists!

25 Gift Ideas for 5-7 year old boys under $25

10 Valentines gifts for him under $10!

10 Valentine Gifts for Her under $10

25 Gift Ideas for Tween Girls; all under $25!

Affiliate · Amazon · Bargain Buys · Birthday · Fabulous DEALS Friday · Family · For the kids · Frugal Life · Gift Ideas · Parenting

25 Gift Ideas for Tween Girls; all under $25!

“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

Tween girls can be hard to shop for!  They are growing out of the little girl toys, but not quite interested in the teen girl life.  My tween daughters have consistently been the hardest to shop for!

I did some research and compilied a list of 25 AMAZING gift ideas for tween girls.  The best part???  They are all under $25!  Yay!

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Gifts for Reading

Keeper of the Lost Cities:  Flashback is the newest (just released in November) of the Keeper of the Lost Cities Series.  This is a really popular series and is currently priced at $13.24.

I absolutely love the concept of Wreck This Journal.  Each page gives different prompts of things you can do to the journal.  It literally gives the kids permission to “wreck” the journal.  It sounds so so fun and only $12.00.

The Tail of Emily Windsnap is such a darling book!  Both of my daughters absolutely loved it; AND it is a series!  That is a huge win for me!  The paperback book is $5.99.

Tween Accessories/Jewelry/etc.

Unicorns are super popular among the tween crowd!  These Unicorn Slippers are so sweet and fun.  The price varies depending on size, but is between $11.99 and $19.99.

Unicorn Animal Fleece Slippers | Indoor Outdoor Home Slippers | Cozy Plush Memory Foam

I never thought scrunchies would come back, but they did, and I am actually not mad about it!  These Scrunchies are darling and only $12.99.

KECUCO 12A Colors Women's Chiffon Flower Hair Scrunchies Hair Bow Chiffon Ponytail Holder,Including 8 Colors Chiffon Flower Hair Scrunchies and 4A Solid Colors Chiffon Hair Ties (STYLE 1)

My daughters go to nail polish is always the Essie brand.  These colors are beautiful and the polish is easy to use.  This set of 4 is $18.00.

essie Spring 2018 Nail Polish Collection, Set of 4

This faux leather jewelry box is a beautiful shade of blue and a perfect beginner jewelry box for a tween girl.  At $15.58 it is a great price!

I adore this dainty initial necklace.  It would make such a special gift!  The necklace is a great price at $14.99.

MignonandMignon Gold Initial Necklace Initial Pendant Necklace Graduation Gift Personalized Necklace (M) - RCIN

Gifts for the Room

Felt Boards are super trendy right now!  This would be so fun in a tween girls room.  It is only $20.99!

You can choose any letter you want with the Marquee Letter Sign.  It would make such a fun room accessory!  It is currently only $12.99.

It’s no secret that teens love emojis.  This emoji pillow is sure to be a hit!  It is currently priced at $7.99.

I always wanted a lava lamp as a young girl.  There is something so relaxing about watching the colors move and change.  This Lava Lamp has really pretty colors are costs $13.34.

It’s so fun for kids to have their own alarm clock, and a great way to teach responsibility.  This Alarm Clock is adorable and only $12.99.

Educational/Craft Gifts

Help your tween feel a little more grown up with an Adult Coloring Book.  I loved the inspirational sayings in this book and it is a really good deal at $6.22.

Now a days, tweens can never have to much slime!  Here is a a fun Glow in the Dark Slime Pack with fun neon colors!  This 12 pack is only $13.99.

How fun does this Lip Balm Kit look?  It is a fun mix of science of pre-teen glam.  The reviews are all really positive and would be a fun activity to do together.  It is priced at $17.51.

MindWare Science Academy (Lip Balm)

American Girl just can do no wrong!  This American Girl Baking Cookbook is darling and looks so fun.  It would be a great way for tween girls to learn to bake.

This American Girl Sketch Book looks so fun for learning how to draw, and being able to use some creativity with fashion design.  It is currently priced at $12.65.

Gel pens are so fun, and this kit has 100 colors including glitter and metallic.  I know my tween would love having all of the many color options!  The kit costs $19.99.

 

It is NEVER to early to teach kids the importance of saving money.  I love this Savings Bank that offers the options of save, spend and share.  It is only $17.99.

Gifts for Fun

This Karaoke Microphone would be so fun for girl parties or for anyone who loves to sing!  It is compatible with both android and iOS and it is only $24.99.

My tween daughter always asks for a Squishy.  They are a great stress relief, and fun for kids who need to keep their hands busy.  This squishy is $6.38, and their are a lot of other cute options.

I always wanted my very own gumball machine as a kid.  This cute Gumball Machine comes with gumballs already stocked and is only $20.99.

My daughters LOVE their roller blades.  They spend more time roller blading than riding their bikes.  I was excited to find these Roller Blades for only $22.49!

This Family Version of Wits and Wagers is so fun for all ages.  It is a huge hit in our family!  I was happy to see it is just under $20 at $19.99.

 

You might also be interested in my other gift guides:

Christmas Gift Ideas for Teen Girls under $25

25 Gift Ideas for 5-7 year old boys under $25

10 Valentines gifts for him under $10!

10 Valentine Gifts for Her under $10