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A Frugal Family Valentines Day

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If you’ve been following me on Instagram you’ve probably learned quickly that my philosophy on parenting (and basically life) revolves around easy and cheap!  Our Valentines Day Celebrations are no different.

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I read the other day that the average person spends just under $140 on Valentines Day.  This shocked me!  I understand that it’s fun to splurge a few times a year and I am a big fan of celebrating love and budgeting for joy.…but, I really believe this can be done without spending a lot of money.

Our Valentines Day is a celebration that includes my husband and I, and our three children.  I like to include my children because I love them too!  Valentines Day doesn’t have to only be about romantic love, it can be about all types of love!

Because we celebrate as a family my husband and I don’t usually have a typical Valentines date.  BUT!  For those of you who might prefer a date night out, I have some great free date night ideas just for YOU!  I’ll add the links below!

10 Ideas for Date Night at Home

20 FREE Valentine Date Ideas

Family Celebrations

Our Valentines Day may be frugal, but that doesn’t make it any less special.  This is a message I would love for everyone to embrace.  I spend very little money, but our day is just as lovely and fun as ever.  My 6 year old has actually been counting down to the day for weeks (not joking).

Mailbox Love

Technically our valentines day traditions begin a couple of weeks BEFORE February 14th.  Years ago I bought these darling tin mailboxes at the Target dollar spot (I love Target!).  I believe they were about $5 a piece, so not super frugal, but they have lasted us for years, and have been one of my favorite purchases ever (for reals).  I found a similar mailbox on Amazon here.

 

We use these mailboxes to “deliver” little love notes and handmade gifts to each other in the days leading up to Valentines Day.  It warms my heart every single time I watch one of my kids put a kind note into their siblings mailbox.  Real talk…..my kids fight a lot…..so these moments of kindness are just so so special to me.  I’ll usually give them a little pencil, eraser, or some type of treat and a few love notes.

Morning Love

Our Valentines breakfast is always heart shaped pancakes (click here for my fave pancake recipe).  This isn’t anything fancy, and my hearts are never perfectly shaped….but guess what!  My kids never care.  They love their heart pancakes, misshaped and all (kids are pretty awesome this way, aren’t they??).

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School lunchboxes are packed in the morning as usual, with the exception of a few extra goodies.  I throw in a 25 cent box of conversation hearts and a little love note from me.    Although, now that my oldest is 13 and in middle school I might just put her love note in her mailbox rather than the lunchbox….I have learned that teenagers aren’t the biggest fan of mom notes in their lunchboxes….go figure!  😉

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Dinner Love

Decorating is not my forte, but I try to set the dinner table a little fancier for this holiday.  I use our nicest tablecloth (which is really a cheap one I bought from Walmart 8 years ago), I light a few candles, and cut out some red paper hearts to place around the table.

 

I try to keep the dinner simple, yet fun.  One year we had a heart shaped pizza, this year I will be making a chicken pot pie with the top crust decorated as hearts.  The amount of money I spend on dinner is always in my regular weekly grocery budget, so no excess spending here!  Woo!

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Frugal Valentines Gifts

Every year on our dinner table I include a small gift for each of my kids, and something for my husband.  This year I bought them each a small box of chocolates from the Dollar Tree, my daughters both received a small necklace from Jane, and I bought my son a stuffed animal from the Dollar Tree.  My husband is getting a larger sized box of chocolates and a love letter.

 

These aren’t anything fancy and hardly cost me anymore, but the gesture means a lot to my kids and I have found them trying to follow my example.  The past few years my kids have been making their own little valentine gifts, and they secretly place these on the table before dinner.

If you are needing a more Valentines Day Gift ideas, I have a few guides listed below:

10 Valentine Gifts for Her under $10

10 Valentines gifts for him under $10!

Gift Ideas for Teen Girls under $25

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

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

Mothers Day Gift Guide: 15 FREE Gift Ideas

 

This is what Valentines is all about!  Not feeling sorry for yourself if you don’t have a special romance, not spending a fortune to prove your love to someone, it’s about spending time and thought to give service and love to someone you care about.

I was going to buy some strawberries and chocolate for an after dinner dessert and activity, but it honestly didn’t fit in this weeks grocery budget, so I didn’t.  I felt a little sad, because I knew the kids would’ve really enjoyed some chocolate dipped strawberries.  But, I ultimately decided they will have just as special of a day without that one activity.

What does Valentines look like at your house?  Share a few of your celebrations in the comments.  I would love to hear all about it!

 

 

 

You might be interested in a few of my other Valentines Posts:

Yarn Hearts: An Easy Valentine Craft for Kids

Chocolate Dipped Valentine Cookies Recipe

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How to Make Your Very Own Pom-Pom Garland

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I recently discovered how to make Pom-Poms out of yarn.  These pom-poms turned out to be incredibly easy to make and so addicting!  My daughters and I spent all evening making pom poms and experimenting with different sizes and techniques.

We decided to turn these yarn pom poms into a cute garland for Valentines Day.  I love how it turned out and am already planning more garlands in other themes and colors!

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These were so fun to make, I thought I would share an easy tutorial with all of you!  I was able to use items I already had at home and didn’t need to spend any money (yay!), but you can find some quality yarn for less than five dollars and it will make hundreds of pom-poms!  I linked one of my favorite yarn brands on Amazon here.

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Take a small string of yarn (the softer yarns seem to work best!) and begin wrapping it around two of your fingers.

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Keep wrapping until the yarn looks a good size.  I just eyeballed it, but I probably twisted the yarn about 70-100 times.

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When the pom-pom looks right, cut the yarn leaving about 6 inches of a tail.  You will then push the tail through your two fingers and pull it out the other side.

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Bring the tail up on top of the yarn and push it through the top of your two fingers.  Pull it tight.

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Now, gently slide the yarn off of your fingers, making sure to keep the yarn pulled tight and kept across the middle.

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Knot the tail and wrap the remaining tail across the other middle, this will form a plus sign.  Pull it tight and knot it.  This will form four sections.  Tie another knot securing the yarn.

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Next, you will need to grab some sharp scissors.  I used my fabric scissors (aka:  “if anyone uses these for anything other than fabric they will be in HUGE trouble” scissors).  Begin cutting the loops apart in each section.  Make sure you do not cut the tied tail.  We only had this happened once, but it’s important to remember.

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Continue cutting all of the loops.  Once finished, it will not look very good and you’ll wonder if you did it right!  You did.  The pom pom just needs some fluffing.  Shake it, separate the pieces and try to fluff it out as best as you can.

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Once your little ball of yarn is all fluffed out it’s time for a haircut!  This is when you will see your pom pom begin to take shape.  Trim the yarn pieces until they are all even.  I also like to cut them fairly short, but not to short.  Play around with it a little bit and you will find the style you like.  My daughters kept theirs a little more long, it’s all personal preference.

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That’s it!  Your pom pom is done!  Isn’t it cute????  The first one takes the longest…..to be honest, I threw away my first five.  But, once I had a little practice I was able to whip them up much quicker.

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Stick some googly eyes on those pom poms and make little monsters for your kids, OR you can string it together to form a cute garland.  I chose the garland.

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After browsing through my house unable to find a string for my garland I resorted to the garage (I was refusing to spend money on this project!).  I found some string in mu husbands stash of “stuff” and it worked really well.  I have also heard that twine or even embroidery thread would work for garland.

Tie a knot at the end of your string and use the string to thread a needle.  You will then stick your needle right through the middle of your pom-pom, pull it along the string until it reaches the knot, and continue until your garland is at the desired length.

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Knot off the end and you are done!  You can hang your yarn pom-pom garland around your house, but we came up with a different idea.

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We decided to decorate one of our little Christmas Trees as a “valentine tree.”  We have been making little crafts for it all month and decided this garland would be the perfect addition!

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Let me know if you make a pom pom garland!  I would love to hear how it went.

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How to Slowly Restock Your Pantry after Completing a Pantry Challenge

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I recently completed an intense Pantry Clean out Challenge.  The goal was to cut my regular monthly grocery budget ($400) in half.  By doing this we would focus on eating the items I already had stocked in my freezer and pantry.

I was fortunate to have had many friends on Instagram join me in this challenge.  I loved watching all of the progress and having a group to encourage each other and share all our frugal ideas.  To find more info about doing your own pantry challenge check out my article; What I Learned From the July Pantry Challenge.

What’s Next?

My most asked question about this challenge has been, “Will you spend a lot of money on groceries in February to restock the pantry?”  The answer is No.  That would defeat the whole purpose of the challenge.  Today’s article is going to explain how I will slowly restock my pantry while staying in budget!

ways to restock your pantry and stay in budget

Here are five ways I slowly restock my pantry:

1.  Budget for the Pantry

I have a weekly budget dedicated to pantry stock up.  This is $15 per week.  This pantry money is taken out of our $100 weekly grocery budget.  Because it has been budgeted and planned for, restocking doesn’t require any extra money or stress.

Some weeks the pantry budget is spent at local sales.  Other times it’s stashed away to save for another week.  It all depends on our current needs.

2.  Buy Multiples

It is very rare for me to buy just one can of soup or one bag of sugar.  The way I see it, if I’m going to buy one item, and I have a few extra dollars in my budget, than I might as well grab a few more.

I do 90% of my shopping using Walmart’s Free Grocery Pick (get $10 off your first order using this link).  I love this service for about 1 million reasons (really.), but a huge reason is the ability to watch my grocery total as I add and subtract items to my order.  Whenever I am below my budgeted $100/week, I will add on a few more pantry staples.  This helps my pantry to grow and keeps me in budget.

3.  Buy in Bulk

Watch for opportunities to buy grocery items in bulk.  Many groceries will be priced much lower if it is bought in bulk.

This could be done by shopping local grocery case lot sales.  To find a case lot sale near you be sure to talk to your local grocer.  In many areas these sales might be called different names or even unadvertised.  So, don’t give up easily, keep digging and talking to grocers!

Another way I love buying in bulk is through a meat co-op.  I have recently started buying my chicken from Savory Butcher.  Their chicken is priced right and are delicious high quality.  If you need some direction of what to do with your bulk chicken read my article; What to do with your bulk chicken; including 6 Freezer Chicken Recipes.

4.  Shop Sales

When you are trying to stock up a pantry, shopping the sales and deals will make this much more budget friendly.  Whenever I find a good deal on one of our many pantry staples, I stock up (even if it wasn’t on my grocery list!).  I do it within my “pantry budget,” and only on items I would normally pay full price for.

My favorite app to check for deals is the Flipp app.  It is completely free to download and extremely user friendly.  The app is updated weekly as the new grocery ads come available.  I browse it every week to find what the sales are and plan my menus/pantry stock up around those deals.  Many weeks I can’t find anything worth buying, but other times I find some really great deals worth buying.

5.  Take Advantage of Cashback

Always, ALWAYS take advantage of the cashback apps available!  These are not huge money savers, but every.single.little.penny adds up.  Whenever I see my husband throwing away a receipt without scanning it for cashback I ask him, “Would you throw 25 cents in the trash???”   Of course he wouldn’t.  But essentially you are losing out on free money if you toss a receipt without first scanning it into the apps.

A few of my favorite cashback apps for grocery shopping are:.

Ibotta:  This is my most used app.  Ibotta offers cashback on hundreds of items every time you scan your grocery receipt.  My favorite cashback offers are the “any brand” items.  These offers include items in the dairy, produce, and other grocery departments.  *If you sign up for Ibotta using my link you will receive up to a free $20 bonus!

Checkout 51:  Checkout 51 is similar to Ibotta, in that it gives cashback on participating items when you scan your receipt.  They don’t have as many offers as Ibotta, but it is still always worth checking.                                                                                                                        *If you sign up using this link you will receive $3 when you redeem your first offer.

Fetch Rewards:  Fetch is so easy!  This is by far the most user friendly app.  All you do is scan your receipt and you automatically earn points.  These points can be redeemed for gift cards to just about anywhere.  My favorites are Target and Amazon.  I really like Fetch because you can redeem your points at as low at $3.                                                          *Use the code: W1CTU for an automatic 2,000 points ($2) when signing up.

I will be using each of these 5 strategies as I restock my pantry AND stick to my normal budget.  I’m not perfect when it comes to a grocery budget, but I’m trying!  Just like I know we all are!

What do you do to stock your pantry AND stay in budget?  I would love to hear all about it in the comments!

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20 Family Friendly Board Games, all Under $20

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If you know me, even at all, you know that I LOVE to play games.  I love the competition, I love the laughs, and I love spending an evening with my favorite people……while not having to spend any money.

Our little family has Family Game Night every Sunday evening.  I brought this tradition with me from my childhood and I have loved sharing it with my children.  I will usually pop some popcorn and cut up some fruit while my kids pick out a pile of fun games.  Everyone has their favorites and we try to play as many as we can.

I also love to get together with friends and family members for game nights.  The great things about games is that their is always something for everyone.  With hundreds and hundreds of games to choose from, every personality and preference can find a favorite.

Games are easy to share with others, making it so cheap for everyone involved.  Think about it!  If everyone bought just one game, and then gets together to share the games, you get to enjoy multiple games for the price of one!

Thrift stores are also loaded with games.  I can almost always find a high quality game for just a couple of bucks at my local thrift store.  They may not be the “new on the market” games, but they are always big favorites!

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I wanted to share a few of my families favorites game so that you can start your own regular game nights.  Each of these games are under $20 and family friendly!

Strategy Games

Citadels

Citadels is a quick game to play and easy to learn.  It has the perfect mix of strategy and lightheartedness.

Citadels Classic

Sheriff of Nottingham

If you are a good bluffer you will probably be great at Sheriff of Nottingham.  I am personally not a good bluffer, so this game is a little stressful for me!  But, I do really enjoy playing it.  It requires some strategy, the ability to bluff, and a little bit of skill.

Arcane Wonders Sheriff of Nottingham

Bohnanza

Bohnanza is a great game for older kids/teens.  It is a game of trading “beans” to plant in your bean fields.  It takes a little practice to learn the game, but once understood it is very addicting and has a fun strategy involved.

Rio Grande Games Bohnanza

CodeNames

Codenames is a very popular game, and for good reason.  You play on teams and use word association to try to get your teammates to guess which words you are thinking of.  It feels a little complicated when you first open the box, but it is actually really easy to learn.

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island is interesting because you do not compete against each other.  It’s a strategy game, but everyone is on the same team.  Together, as a team you try to “save” the island before it sinks.  It can get a little stressful, but I love when our little family is forced (encouraged???) to work together.

Forbidden Island Card Game

 

Party Games

Watch Ya Mouth

Watch Ya Mouth is such a fun party game.  It is impossible to play without laughing the entire time.  Promise.  It is probably one of the funniest games I have ever played.

Mad Gab

It’s easy for all ages to play Mad Gab.  The game play involves scrambled words that you sound out to try to guess the correct phrase.  It’s so funny to listen to your teammates trying to guess the phrase while they sound the words out over and over.

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples Junior is one of our families very favorite games.  It’s so easy to play and the rounds go very quickly.  Even my 4 year old enjoyed playing his cards and trying to keep up with the game.  I love that it is a game for everyone, even people who don’t like games!

Catch Phrase

My favorite party game is Catch Phrase.  The game is played in teams and you use word association to try to get your team to guess the word on the game unit.  The game goes fast and is easy for all ages.  The cool little Catch Phrase Unit even keeps score for you!  Yay!

Pit is fast paced and interactive.  You try to convince others to trade crops with you while they are trying to convince others to trade with them.  It is a race to be the first to collect all of your crops.  My kids love playing this game and it’s a great way to bring others out of their shell.

Telestrations

Telestrations is a mix between Pictionary and Telephone.  Everyone draws a word, then passes their drawing to the next person who guesses what you drew, this continues through everyone.  It’s so funny to see what the end product is!

Easy to Play Games

Cover Your Assets

The game Cover your Assets is fast, easy to learn and seriously addicting.  I’ve always loved money games and the ability to feel like a “quick millionaire.”  This is a great game for families!

Anomia

Anomia is a fun group game and works well for all personalities, even those normally quiet will start shouting and laughing while playing.  You do need to be able to read, so it is more fit for older kids.  It is small and compact which makes it easy to carry around on trips or over to someones home.

Everest Toys Anomia Card Game

Bananagrams

I absolutely love Bananagrams, or as my family likes to call it, Speed Scrabble.  It has the same strategy as scrabble, use your letter tiles to connect a words together in a grid.  But, it is fast paced and has an extra element of stress (in a good way).  If you are a fan of word games, you will love bananagrams!

Bananagrams Party Edition

Farkle

Farkle, or The Dice Game as I grew up calling it, is a game of luck and risk. The more you risk, the more lucky you might get.  It’s very easy to play, just simple rolling the dice and keeping score.  Farkle can turn into a lengthy game or played as a quick time filler.

Spot It

There is really no game like Spot It!  It is easy for all ages to play, has many different game play options, and each round goes quickly.  My kids can seriously play Spot It for hours!  We absolutely love it and I recommend it to everyone!

Spot It!

Clue

Clue is a classic, and for good reason!  It’s a good old fashioned mystery game as you make guesses trying to guess who committed the crime.  My kids love getting to go from room to room and write their suspicious in their “clue notebook.”

Kids love Exploding Kittens!  It’s simple to learn and so much fun to play.  The idea behind the game is so unique and original.  There is a little bit of strategy involved, but not necessary to enjoy the game.

Sequence

I grew up playing Sequence and it’s been fun to introduce it to my kids again.  It’s a very simple strategy, easy enough for young kids to follow.

Sequence Game

For Sale

For Sale is a game of buying properties and then selling properties.  It requires a little bit of strategy and a little bit of luck.  It’s easy for kids to understand and fun enough for adults to enjoy.  This travel version is cheaper than the original version, and more compact!

For Sale - Travel Edition

 

I’m always looking for new games to play with my family.  Comment below with YOUR favorite games!

 

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Stock Piling your Freezer: How to freeze Pancakes for a Quick Frugal Breakfast

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for all ages

I really think my mom was supermom.  Granted, I didn’t think that when I was growing up….but now that I have become a mom myself, I am able to look back and realize just how hard she worked for our family.

I feel fairly confident when I say that many of you are supermoms as well.  You wake up early, spend all day serving your family, and go to bed late worrying about your kids.  My goal is to be supermom!  I fail about everyday, but I continue to try!

One of the many “supermom” traits from my mom was her willingness to make us a hot breakfast every single morning before school.  I knew that when I walked upstairs after getting dressed the table would be set, and a fresh warm breakfast would be served.  I TRY to do the same with my kids….but I REALLY struggle some mornings to find the energy and motivation.

I’ve recently started batch cooking many breakfast items and stocking up my freezer for quick breakfasts for my kids before they head out the door for school.

Making large batches of pancakes not only saves me time in the morning…it is also a VERY frugal breakfast!  You can spend 30 minutes one afternoon each week making a large batch of pancakes for the freezer, or the next time you make pancakes for breakfast simply double the batch and freeze the extras!  Here’s how!

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Make your pancakes following your favorite pancake recipe.  You can find my fave recipe here!  Let them cool completely.

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Place pancakes on a cookie sheet in a single layer making sure the sides aren’t touching.

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While the pancakes are in the freezer you can prepare your freezer bags.  All this takes is writing what “pancakes” and the date on the bag.

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Put the cookie sheets in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Once frozen take the pancakes off of the cookie sheets and place them all in your freezer bag.  It can be full as large as you need to.  Because you pre-froze them, they should be easy to break apart when you need to use them.

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Stick the bag of pancakes in the freezer and you are done!  Yay!  Easy peasy!

When you are ready to use the pancakes, simply take out the number of pancakes you need and microwave them until they are warm.  I usually microwave them for about a minute.

These are also easy for the kids to get out of the freezer themselves!  If I’m busy getting ready in the morning I sometimes tell my oldest to get out a few pancakes for all of the kids.

You might be interested in my other INCREDIBLY easy and frugal breakfast recipe:  Quick and Easy Overnight Oatmeal.

 

 

 

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25 Completely Free Family Winter Activities

 Sweet Frugal Life is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

I absolutely love the snow!  I love to snowmobile, sled, and snowboard.  I love waking up to a fresh blanket of new snow and the sparkle it makes in the sunlight.

The only negative about the snow is that it’s so cold!!  Unfortunately, I live in an area where it stays cold for many many months!  We all get a little stir crazy around here being cooped up for so long.   I’ve learned to get creative during these cold months to help us stay sane and stay in budget!

2019 Goals

Fun In the Snow

1.  Sledding

Try a few sledding hills around town.  See if you can find a new favorite.  Enjoy spending the day laughing with friends and family.

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2.  Snow Cave

Spend the day outside building a snow cave as a family.  You could even have a contest to see who can build the best.  Turn it into a castle, add some stairs or windows.  Get creative and have fun!

3.  Snow Candy

We fell in love with Snow Candy a few years ago after reading the Little House on the Prairie series. Simply place a bowl outside while it’s snowing.  When the bowl is full of fresh clean snow, immediately bring it in and pour pure maple syrup on top.  The syrup will harden to make a sweet treat!

4.  Winter Walk/Scavenger Hunt

Bundle up and go for a walk in the freshly fallen snow.  Make a game of it by putting together a list of different items to find; a pine cone, icicle, boot tracks, animal tracks, a snowman, etc.

5.  Snowball Fight

Have a family friendly snowball fight.  This is guaranteed to bring a lot of laughs and memories!

6.  Build a Snowman

Why build one snowman when you can build a family of snowmen???  Have everyone build the snowman that fits their unique personality!

7.  Snow Ice Cream

Search Pinterest to find hundreds of easy snow ice cream tutorials. It is a simple recipe using a few cheap ingredients.  This is a fun way to enjoy the snow…while staying indoors!

 

Fun at Home

8.  Movie Night

Snuggle up together, pop some popcorn and have a family movie night.  Watch a few old classics or try something new.  All that matters is that you are spending time together.

9.  Bake Bread

I love spending cold winter days in my kitchen baking something warm.  Try baking a loaf of homemade bread!  Lather it with homemade butter and eat it together as a family.

10.  Homemade Cocoa

It only takes a couple of minutes and a few ingredients to make a big batch homemade cocoa.  Make the hot chocolate together as a family and enjoy sipping it next to a warm cozy fire.

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11.  Family Slumber Party

Haul blankets, pillows and sleeping bags onto the living room floor.  Have a large family slumber party together.  Your kids will remember this forever!

12.  Read a Novel as a Family

My family loves to read a novel together every winter.  I usually pick a classic and read it to the kids for 20-30 minutes every evening.  A few favorites have been Little House on the Prairie, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.

13.  Paper Snowflakes

Spend an afternoon cutting out paper snowflakes and hanging them around your home.  We like to tape a few to the windows and use invisible thread to hang some from the ceiling.  You can find countless Youtube video tutorials.  This is such a fun, cheap and easy craft!

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14.  Play Dough

Make some homemade play dough at home!  Use it to build snowmen or other fun creations.  You can use my favorite recipe or search pinterest for other variations!

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15.  Indoor Picnic

You don’t have to have warm weather for a picnic!  Spread a blanket out on the floor, bring a few of your favorite picnic foods and enjoy a picnic indoors!

16.  Make a Fort

Gather all the blankets and chairs in your house and build a gigantic blanket fort.  Play games, read stories and spend the day hiding out in the fort.

17.  Make a Sock Snowman

All it takes is a little creativity and a few random items found around the house to turn an ordinary sock into a snowman!

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18. Board Games

We love board games in our family!  You can find some cheap ones at your local thrift store, but there are plenty of fun games played with just a deck of cards or dice.

19.  Make Friendship Bracelets

My kids love spending an afternoon making friendship bracelets!  You can do an easy braid or something fancier.  Be sure to make two bracelets!  One to give away and one to keep.

20.  Family Dance Party

Sometimes our family (or maybe just this tired mom! 😉 ) just needs a good old fashioned dance party!  We crank up a few of our fave dance tunes and dance the grumpy faces away!

 

Fun in Town

21. Visit the Library

The library offers a lot of free activities for everyone in the family.  Take advantage of all the many free programs and be sure to check out a book or movie while you are there!

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22.  Serve a Meal at a Homeless Shelter

There is nothing better for a child to learn than how to care for others.  Pick a day as a family to help serve a meal at the local homeless shelter.  This is such a humbling experience!

23.  Visit a Pet Store

It’s so simple, but so fun!  We love walking around the local pet store and visiting the cats, dogs, and birds.  My kids ask to go regularly and I never complain!

24.  Donate to a Thrift Store

As a family go through all of the toys, clutter, and household items.  Fill up a large box of items to donate to a thrift store.  It feels so good to start the new year fresh and clutter free!

25.  Visit a Neighbor

Do you have an elderly neighbor who might need a visit?  Or maybe someone new to the neighborhood?  As a family pay a special visit to someone needing company.  It’s a great way to brighten their day and get to know someone new!

 

What do you like to do with your family during the cold winter months????  Bonus points if it’s FREE!  Comment below with all your good ideas!

 

 

Affiliate · Amazon · Christmas · For the kids · Frugal Life · Holidays · Homemade · Recipes

Christmas Hard Candy 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.”

I was introduced to Christmas Hard Candy when I married my husband.  It is a Christmas staple in his family.  It’s also so easy to make, and even more fun to eat! 😉

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I made Cinnamon version.  But, you can also make a peppermint version (tinted green) which is equally as good!  It’s fun to make both and have both red and green candy to give to neighbors.

You will need cinnamon oil or peppermint oil.  These are not usually found at a grocery store.  I buy mine at a craft store in the cake decorating section.  I also found them for you on Amazon.  Do not use cinnamon or peppermint extract, it won’t turn out as good!  (I promise, I tried!)

Christmas Hard Candy Recipe

3 1/2 cup sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup water

1/2 tsp cinnamon or peppermint oil

1 tsp red (for cinnamon) or green (for peppermint) food coloring

In a large heavy saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Cook on medium to high heat until candy thermometer reads 300 degrees (hard crack stage), stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in oil and food coloring, keeping face away from mixture as odor is very strong.  Immediately pour onto an oiled cookie sheet.  Cool and break into pieces.  Store in air tight container.

 

 

Let me know if you try it and like it!  It puts a big smile on my husbands face every year!

Check out my other Christmas Recipes:

Christmas Tree Cookie Recipe

Easy Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

Affiliate · Amazon · Bargain Buys · Christmas · Family · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Holidays · Parenting · Recipes

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!

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.

 

 

 

Affiliate · Amazon · Christmas · Family · for free · For the kids · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Good Ideas

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!