Crafts · Family · Farmhouse · Frugal Life · Get Away Today · Good Ideas · Halloween · Holidays · Homemade

The Easiest Halloween Pumpkin Tutorial

I pulled out all of our fall decorations the other day and had fun getting the house looking a little more festive.  I decided I wanted a few more small decor items, but didn’t want to spend very much money.

My friend showed me how to make these toilet paper pumpkins a few years ago, and I knew they would be the perfect addition to my house this fall.  The best part about these pumpkins is they cost less than $1 to make!  Yep, you read that right!

The only item I bought for these pumpkins was the fabric for 97 cents each.  If that’s not frugal, I don’t know what is!  Not only are these crazy cheap to make…..they are also one of the easiest crafts ever!  I spent less than an hour making all three of these darling Halloween Pumpkins.

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Halloween Pumpkin DIY

For each pumpkin you will need:

One roll of toilet paper

One square of fabric (I bought the fat quarter fabric from Walmart for $.97)

Hot glue gun

A twig for the stem

Lay the square of fabric right side down on the table.  Place your toilet paper in the middle.

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Now, tuck the ends of the fabric into the middle of the toilet paper.  I try to pull the fabric tight as I go, this helps makes some cute textures and creases for the pumpkin.  Keep stuffing the ends of the fabric into the toilet paper roll until all the ends of the fabric are hidden.

You are almost done!  For the stem, I simply went into my backyard (or you can try to search a park) and cut a piece of a twig to the size I wanted.  Hot glue a small amount of glue into the middle of your pumpkin.  Stick the twig into the hot glue, making sure it is sticking up correctly.

And you are done!  Easiest thing ever, right?!?!

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You can play around with the toilet paper to make different shapes and sizes.  For the polka dot pumpkin, I took off about 1/4 of the toilet paper to make a smaller pumpkin.  I also wrapped some toilet paper loosely around the entire roll.  This gives it a slightly more rounded look.

I wanted my other black pumpkin to be a little bit larger.  I added extra toilet paper to the roll, and tried to give it a rounded loose look.

I loved the way this one turned out!  There really are some many possibilities!  And for a whopping 97 cents…..you can make a dozen of these without breaking the bank!

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Have you ever made a toilet paper roll pumpkin before???  Let me know if you try it out, I would love to hear how they turned out.

Happy frugal crafting!

 

You might also like Rice Krispie Halloween Monsters Recipe and No Sew Trick or Treat Bag Tutorial.

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Finances · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps

Debt Snowball Vs. Debt Avalanche

Two of the most common methods for paying off debt is the Debt Snowball and the Debt Avalanche.  Neither of these methods are superior to the other.  They both have great qualities and offer excellent motivation for getting rid of debt.

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Debt Snowball

The Debt Snowball is the method Dave Ramsey recommends.

When using the Debt Snowball you will list your debts in order from the smallest debt to the largest.

While continuing to make minimum payments on all debts, begin actively trying to pay off your SMALLEST debt FIRST.

This will mean that you will use ANY extra money that comes your way to paying off this one debt.

The reasoning behind the Debt Snowball is while starting small, you will gain confidence and traction.  As you pay off those small debts you will have more practice and motivation to be able to tackle the larger debts.

For Example…..

$5,000 Car Loan

$800 Credit Card Payment

$25,000 Student Loan

Pay off the credit card first, while continuing to make minimal payments on the other two debts.  Next you will pay off the car loan, and then lastly you will tackle the student loan.

Debt Avalanche

In the Debt Avalanche you will list your debts in order from the highest INTEREST to the lowest interest.  You will then continue to make all minimum payments for all debt while focusing all extra cash to paying off your debt with the highest interest rate.

The point of the Debt Avalanche is that by getting rid of the debts that charger higher interest you will be able to pay off the debt quicker.

The Debt Avalanche WILL have you spending LESS money overall than the Debt Snowball.

For Example…

$5,000 Car Loan with 4% interest

$800 Credit Card with 10% interest

$25,000 Student Loan with 5% interest

If following the Debt Avalanche method you will pay off the credit card first, followed by the student loan and then you will pay off the car loan.

What Works for You?

Soooo……what does this all mean for you?

The answer to that question will be personal.  It will be different for everyone.  There is no RIGHT or WRONG method.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and unsure of yourself, then perhaps the Debt Snowball would work best in favor.  It helps you start small and gain quick wins at the beginning.

If you are feeling super motivated and you want to get rid of that debt ASAP, then you might prefer the Debt Avalanche.  This method will get you aggressively paying off that debt and will cut out some of those interest costs.

What do I recommend?

I personally recommend you research, research and more research.  Study everything you can about both the Debt Snowball and Debt Avalanche.  Once you have studied everything you can, make your decision.  You will naturally feel more comfortable and be drawn to a certain method.

Once you make the decision best for you, GO WITH IT, own it.  Do everything in your power to get rid of that debt.  Check out the article What we cut from our budget to save over $2500 a year, for a few ideas on finding some extra cash in your budget.

I promise paying off debt WILL be hard…..but I also promise that your future self will THANK YOU for being willing to put in the work.

 

Good Ideas · Grocery Haul · Homemade

Grocery Haul 10/08

This week I spent $100 on groceries and a few other needs.  I have included my weekly dinner meal plan for the week as well!

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Other Needs

I bought shampoo and dog food (not pictured).

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Produce

My produce this week was cuties, two oranges, potatoes, spinach, carrots, apples, and lettuce.

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Dairy/Meats

In the dairy department this week I bought whipping cream, greek yogurt, blueberry yogurt, string cheese, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, butter and italian sausage.

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Bakery

This week I bought two loaves of wheat bread, blueberry bagels and a can of yeast.

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Cereal

I bought two boxes of cheerios, a box of rice krispies, and a bag of malt-o-meal frosted mini spooners.

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Other

A few odds and ends were marshmallows, candy melts, pumpkin puree (yay for pumpkin!), and 4 packets of taco seasoning.

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All of this came to $102.10 after taxes.

 

Affiliate · Amazon · Crafts · Family · For the kids · Gift Ideas · Good Ideas · Halloween · Holidays

The Easiest No Sew Halloween Trick or Treat Bag

Disclosure:  “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.”

Halloween is just around the corner!  I love this time of year!  I love the pumpkins, the crisp cool air, the changing leaves, and the excitement in my children.  My kids love to dress up as anything they want and run around the neighborhood trick or treating.

I got the urge to craft the other day and decided it would be so fun to make my kids new bags for trick or treating.  I wanted to create something cute, but also simple and frugal (because that’s how I roll!).

I came up with the idea of a no sew trick or treat bag.  I’ll be honest with you….it was even EASIER than I originally had planned!  (win!)

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Trick or Treat Bag Tutorial

Supplies Needed:

– Canvas Craft Tote

– Scrap fabric

Wonder Under

– Iron/ironing board

– Pattern for tracing

Let’s Begin:

You will first need to find your pattern for tracing.  I asked my kids what picture they wanted on their bags and they requested a spider and a cat.

After a quick google search I was able to find a couple of good tracing patterns.  Print these off and then cut out the shape.

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Now, follow the directions found on your wonder under fusing.

I cut out a large square of wonder under (large enough to cover the entire shape), and ironed the rough side onto the wrong side of the fabric.

Use your tracing pattern to trace the shape onto the paper side of the wonder under.

Once the pattern is traced, cut the picture out (fabric and all).

Last, you will gently pull off the paper backing of the wonder under.  Center it on the bag, and then iron it.

I have found that holding the iron steady for 5-10 seconds over each section of the picture helps give the applique a nice firm hold.

That’s it!  You’re done!  See, I told you it would be easy!!  It probably took me a total of one hour to finish both bags!  Quick crafting, is my type of crafting!

There are so many fun possibilities for these bags!  Pumpkin, ghost, witch hat, bat, skeleton, or lettering would all make darling trick or treat bags!

I can’t wait to watch my kids go trick or treating with their new bags!

 

 

Family · Finances · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Parenting · Travel

The life lessons that taught me to budget for JOY while living in the present!

budget for joy

I’ve been asked a few times my opinion about spending money on life experiences right now, or if it’s best to keep saving and wait for the future.

The obvious answer from a frugal, budget loving blogger, who loves to encourage everyone to spend conservatively and plan for their future, would be to advise everyone to wait until later and build your wealth now…..

However……..

I actually feel very strongly about the importance of budgeting money to experience JOYFUL experiences right now.  In THIS moment….because, you know what, those golden years you are anxiously waiting for, they just might not come…..

My sweet mother was a huge saver.  I have learned ALL of my frugal ways from her.  And, the truth is……I’m still not as frugal as she was, I don’t think I’ll EVER be as frugal as she was.

I think the thing I admire most about her is the fact that she did NOT need to be frugal, she had a very comfortable income.  She CHOSE to be frugal because she understood the value of saving money.

She passed away when she was 48.  I was 22.

Losing her at such a young age has had a HUGE impact on the way I view life.  I have developed the mindset that life is temporary, short, and fragile.  It is a gift to be treasured and celebrated.

I am fairly confident in saying that my natural instincts would be to save EVERYTHING for the future and look forward to enjoying life once that comfortable retirement kicks in.

But…..my life experiences, have taught me a different lesson.  I do believe in saving for your future…..I ALSO believe in spending some money on enjoying life in the present.

I have begun to focus on BALANCE.

It MUST be a priority to pay off all debt, save aggressively for your retirement, save to send your kids to college, try to build wealth, etc…..

At the same time, you need to budget for a little bit of JOY.

This does NOT mean it’s ok to go on a luxury vacation while charging everything to your credit card.  This is NOT an excuse to blow your budget because you are “enjoying life.”

It does mean it is ok (and I would argue important) to give yourself some fun money, take a break every now and then, explore the areas around you, and LIVE life to it’s fullest.

This will look different for everyone.  For some this could be a weekend road trip, others might prefer a quiet stay cation.  It doesn’t matter what it is you do for JOY, it only matters that you are taking the time and effort to do it!  (and…you know what, it actually doesn’t need to cost a lot of money to have meaningful, joyful experiences!)

Be intentional with your spending.  Intentional with saving money.  Intentional with budgeting and building wealth.  But also, be intentional with your life experiences.  Life is to short to only enjoy it when you get older…..make sure you are experiencing it right now too!

I would love to know your opinion on this subject!  We each have had different life experiences that have shaped us into the people we are today.  Do you agree or disagree with my thoughts?  Are you trying to be intentional with budgeting AND enjoying life?  Let me know in the comments!!

 

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Budgeting for Beginners: FAQ

Disclosure:  “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 receive so many messages on a daily basis from people wanting to start managing their money and living frugally, but they don’t know how to take that first step.  I admire everyone who wants to improve on their life and financial situation, it can be scary trying to make such a big change into the unknown.  I decided it was time for a FAQ article for all you brave beginners.

I asked my followers on instagram for all their budget beginner questions and today I will be answering a few of those.

A great place to start for a beginner is with my Free 14 Day Frugal Living Challenge.  This is a challenge made specifically for those just starting to manage money and live frugally.  This will give you a good starting place and should help you develop frugal habits.

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Where do I begin?

The best place to begin is your budget.  It is vital you have a working budget.

If you are new to budgeting, it might take you a while to figure out just how much money to budget for each category.  This is normal!  A budget is fluid, meaning it is always changing.  The budget below is one that I made as a free printable.  It has many of the categories I use in my personal budget and is also easy to customize and add your own.  This (along with the spending tracker below) is available for free in my 14 Day Frugal Living Challenge.

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You will also need to begin tracking all of your expenses.  This helps you keep your budget accurate, and gives you a great window into your spending habits.  By tracking your spending habits, you will be able to see what areas you are over spending in and areas you could cut back.

A great resource, and the book that completely changed my financial views, is Dave Ramseys book, The Total Money Makeover.  Check it out from your library, borrow it from a friend, or order it from Amazon.  No matter how you get it, I HIGHLY recommend everyone read it.  Dave Ramsey uses easy to understand terms as explains exactly how to fix your financial situation.

What is the best way to keep track of day to day spending?

There are a few different ways of doing this.  It doesn’t quite matter HOW, it just matters that you do it and that you stay consistent.

For years we used an excel spreadsheet that my husband made.  It took quite a bit of work for him to put it together, but it worked out really well.

About 7 years ago we discovered You Need a Budget.  It is so user friendly and very affordable.  You can download the app onto your phone and update it as you spend.  This is not sponsored in any way, we REALLY do love it!  A similar program is Every Dollar, I have never tried it, but have heard lots of good things.

There is also the good ol’ standard paper and pen method.  I’ve never tried this method, but I do know other people who enjoy it!

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When tracking spending it is important to stay consistent.  Pick a day of the week, schedule a time, and develop a routine for tracking your spending.  We do it every Monday evening.  We save all of our receipts and go through each item one by one and write it down.  It is not necessary to write EVERYTHING down, for example:  when buying groceries, just write groceries and the amount.  There is no need to write down bread and bananas, etc.

You could track your spending daily on your phone, or weekly like we do.  Try a few different things until you find a good fit for you.

How do you start the envelope system?

Using cash envelopes is a great way to limit your spending.  I have an article written all about how to get started and the benefits you’ll gain.  You can check it out at The Envelope Money System: A Beginners Guide.

How do you make a grocery budget?

My grocery budget has been all over the place.  When I first started budgeting, I set the grocery budget FAR to low.  I kept going way over the budgeted amount and couldn’t figure out how to cut the costs down.  I finally decided that I needed to budget more money for our weekly groceries.

I tell this story to give you encouragement that all budgets, but especially grocery budgets, are trial and error.  It might (and probably will) take you a few months before you have the best budget for you.

While you are tracking your spending you should be able to see how much you are normally spending on groceries.  This gives you a good ballpark figure to begin with.  If you feel it is unnecessary spending, you can try to slowly bring the budget down week by week until you get it to a place you feel comfortable with.

How do you minimize grocery costs?

Groceries are one of the biggest expenses for most budgets.  This is one of my personal struggles.

The number one way I have found to keep those costs low is to meal plan.  Plan out every meal you want to eat for the week.  As you meal plan, write out your grocery list, and stick to this list while you shop.  I’ve found using Walmart Grocery Pickup has helped me to stick to my list, AND my budget.

A few other ways to lower grocery costs are to cook from scratch (avoid convenience foods), shop sales, and use the cashback apps regularly.

What are the easiest apps for frugal beginners?

I love cashback apps!  Long gone are the days when you have to sift through ads and cut out coupons, now all you need is a receipt and an app on your phone!  I actually love these apps so much I already have an article written about all my favorites.  You can find it here:  My Favorite Cashback Apps.

What should my budget look like?  What is normal for our family?

No two budgets will look the same.  My normal will be different than your normal.  What I spend on groceries, will be different then what you will spend on groceries, etc.  This is one of my favorite parts of a budget.  You can customize it and find something that works for you personally!

I prefer a zero based budget.  Start with the amount of money you expect to make for the pay period.  Then, using your budget, find a spot for every single one of those dollars.  Keep budgeting until you have “spent” on paper every dollar of your paycheck.

This WILL take some adjustments and some TIME.  Focus more on giving every dollar a place in your budget, and less about how it compares to other budgets.  Again, I recommend Dave Ramseys, Total Money Makeover book.  He gives good advice about how much your percentage you should be spending in each category.

Coming Soon:  I am currently working on an article to share my personal percentages in each category.  Hopefully this can help you get an idea of where to start.

What can you do when you cut back, budget and still don’t have enough?

I loved this question; because it is such relatable and real situation for many of us.

My first piece of advice is to keep your head up!  You are NOT alone!  There are so many dealing with similar struggles.  I strongly believe that together, we CAN help each other reach our financial goals.  Reach out to facebook groups and instagram accounts that discuss this issue.  Surrounding yourself with others in this situation should give you the strength, support and ideas to help get you through it.

I love Dave Ramseys quote to be “gazelle intense.”  When you have done EVERYTHING you can think of and the money is just still NOT adding up, that means it’s time to take more extreme actions.  Here are a few ideas to take when you need to be “gazelle intense.”

  1.  Sell items in your home (see 10 Items In Your House You Can Sell Quickly To Make Money  and 5 Places Online To Sell Your Clutter and Earn Cash).
  2. Start a side hustle.  Is their a side job you could take on to earn some extra money?  Google side hustles ideas and you should be able to find a good variety of ideas.
  3. Look through that budget one more time, what else could you sacrifice?  Could you cancel your tv subscription, quit eating out, lower your phone data plan, cut out all entertainment, etc.  None of these things are FUN, but they might be necessary in this situation.  Here is an article where I share What we cut from our budget to save over $2500 a year.
  4. Could you ask for a raise?  Would it be beneficial to make a job change?
  5. What could you downgrade?  Perhaps trade in your car for a cheaper model or move into a more affordable home?

I understand it is NOT easy when the money just ISN’T there.  ESPECIALLY when you feel as if you have sacrificed again, and again and again.  I get it.  I have been there!  Keep your head up.  Keep trying.  Be “gazelle intense.”  I believe in you!

FAQ from Budget Beginners (2)

I hope these questions and answers helped you in some way as you begin the exciting, yet sometimes difficult world of budgeting.  It’s never easy to develop new habits and start fresh.  Most things in life that are hard, and the ones worth doing.  I can guarantee keeping track of your finances are one of those things.

 

Date Night · Family · for free · Free Fun · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Parenting · Valentines Day

10 Ideas for Date Night at Home

Date nights are so important to all relationships.  I’ve been married 14 years and life has HAPPENED.  Right now the majority of our time is spent taking care of our three kids, working our jobs, and maintaining our home (with our slightly to big yard!).

It’s been so easy to get consumed with all of these “to dos” and leave less time for my spouse.  We have learned that we MUST make date night a priority, or else it probably won’t happen.

I get it!  Dating can be expensive!  Just dinner and a movie could easily cost you a quick $50.  PLUS, when you have to hire a babysitter….those dates can add up fast.  I have BEEN there!

One thing my husband and I have learned to do is to have date night at home.  This saves us the added cost of hiring a babysitter and is almost ALWAYS cheaper than the dates we have outside of the home.  We plan a night each week, put the kids to bed, turn off the TV, put away all phones and other distractions and we spend time TOGETHER.  It has done wonders for our relationship!

I’ve made a list of a few of our favorite at home date night ideas.  Hopefully this will help you brainstorm a few that you and your significant other can enjoy.  For EVEN more FREE date night ideas check out my post, 20 FREE Valentine Date Ideas.

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Here are 10 of our Favorite At Home Date Night Ideas

1.  Candlelight Dinner

There’s no rule that says you have to go out to a fancy restaurant in order to enjoy a romantic dinner.  Cook a special dinner, put the kids to bed and enjoy a quiet dinner for two.  Set the mood by lighting some candles, dimming the lights, and adding a pretty tablecloth.

2.  Put Together a Puzzle

I am not usually a huge fan of puzzles (I lack patience!), however, my husband really enjoys them.  Through him I have learned to better appreciate puzzles.  Often when we do a puzzle together it has turned into sweet moments where we are able to just talk and laugh.  It’s fun to have a project/goal we can work towards together.  I have surprised myself by saying I enjoy puzzles…..as long as they are done with my husband!  😉

3.  Would you Rather

Ask each other “would you rather” questions to get to know each other a little better.  It’s such a fun way to learn more about each other.  You can ask serious questions, or be a little more lighthearted and fun.  I’m still surprised at all the random idiosyncrasies I keep learning about my husband!

4.  Food Tasting

Try some new foods together with a food tasting.  Look for new food at the grocery store that you normally wouldn’t buy.  Perhaps, some fancy cheeses and unique fruits.  You might even find a few new favorites!

5.  Personality Quizzes

I’m a bit of a nerd in the fact that I seriously love personality quizzes.  I’m betting there isn’t a personality quiz out there that I haven’t taken.  For a fun date night you could both take a personality quiz and then read each others results.  It’s such much easier to understand why someone is the way they are if you understand their personality better.

6.  Dream Board

Dream up your future together!  Set goals and put together a dream board of what the two of you hope to accomplish within the next 5, 10, 20 years.  The best way to achieve a dream, is to have a dream!

7.  Outdoor Picnic

If it’s warm outside, set up a little outdoor picnic.  Lay out a blanket to sit on, pack all your favorite finger foods, and enjoy time together in your own backyard.  Try to schedule it right before the sunset so you can enjoy dinner and a show.  Be sure to bring an extra blanket for snuggling.

8.  Ice Cream Sundaes

Who says ice cream is just for kids????  My husband and I have a serious deep love for ice cream.  It’s fairly common for one of us to buy a pint of ice cream as a sweet gesture to the other.  How about making gourmet ice cream sundaes, WITHOUT the kids around?  Pile it high with all your favorite toppings, finish it off with a cherry on top (of course!), and enjoy talking and spending time together while you eat your ice cream sundae!

9.  Play Name That Tune

Test each others music knowledge with a friendly game of name that tune.  Travel back in time and play some of the hits from when you were kids.  Turn it into a friendly competition with a small wager (maybe loser has to make the bed the next morning????).

10.  Learn a New Skill

Watch some youtube videos about a new skill you have both been wanting to learn.  These could be a few weeks worth of dates, as you continue to learn and improve your new skill.  Perhaps you will want to learn about photography, cooking, art, or a foreign language?  The options are endless!  Maybe you could each pick a new skill you would personally like to learn and you can take turns supporting and learning the others chosen skill together.

Date night has truly become a night I look forward to ALL week!  Sometimes us moms just need a little adult interaction, amiright?!?!?!

What are some of your favorite at home date night ideas???  Let me know in the comments!  The more ideas we share, the better for all of us!!

 

 

Affiliate · Amazon · Bargain Buys · Farmhouse · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Homemade · Recipes

How to Make the Perfect Zoodles

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.  As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My zucchini plants have been generous this year, and I have loved cooking with this delicious vegetable!  Zucchini is one of my favorite veggies because, it’s the vegetable that just keeeeeps on giving, and it is also so versatile!  We have been enjoying zucchini in bread, cookies, on the grill, fried, etc.

One of my very favorite ways to cook zucchini is to turn it into zoodles!  Zoodles is a great, healthier alternative to noodles. (and if you pick the zucchini from your garden….it’s also FREE!)  I will usually serve it under marinara or alfredo sauce, but any of your fave pasta sauces will work great!  If cooked correctly, the zoodles are really not a lot different from regular noodles.  They are also much more filling, with much less calories!  Sometimes my kids don’t even realize what they are eating……emphasis on the sometimes.

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Homemade Zoodles Tutorial

A vegetable spiralizer is my best friend when it comes to homemade zoodles.  I couldn’t find the exact one that I use, but this spiralizer on Amazon is very similar in price and design.  It is also only $15.99, great deal!

First things first, if your zucchini is long, you will want to cut it down into smaller chunks.

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Next, you will need to prep your vegetable spiralizer.  I use the Thin Spiral for my zoodles.  Put your thin spiral attachment in the spiralizer and then stick one of the zuchinni chunks into the middle, in between the handle and the blade.

Now, all you need to do is twist!  This part is so simple (and…kindof fun….really!).  The zucchini will spiral through the blade, be sure to have a plate to catch all the spirals!

You can eat the zoodles raw or cook them over the stove.  I prefer cooking them for a few minutes (don’t worry it is quick!).

Heat up 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil in a sauce pan.  Once the oil is hot, add the zoodles.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss in oil.  Continue to gently toss the zoodles while they cook.  Cook for 2-5 minutes.  I like them to be soft, but also slightly firm.

Serve with your favorite pasta sauce.  ENJOY!!!

 

 

 

 

Bargain Buys · Family · Finances · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Parenting · Recipes · Walmart Grocery Pickup

What I Learned From the July Pantry Challenge

I am a member of online affiliate programs.  I may receive compensation for purchases made through links in this post.  All opinions are my own and I only recommend things I truly use and love!

I just finished my month long pantry challenge!!  If you’re not aware of the term, a pantry challenge is meant to encourage you to use up items you already have in your home, (pantry, fridge, freezer, shelves, etc.), instead of spending money at the store on groceries.

My goal was to save a little extra money during the month by spending less on groceries.  To do this I decided to cut my regular grocery budget of $400 a month in half.  This would mean I could only spend $200 for our family of five.  This was no easy task and I was incredibly intimidated from the beginning, but I was determined to make it work.

The pantry challenge is now officially over (thank goodness) and I am proud of how the challenge went.  I would LOVE to say that I was able to only spend $200 on groceries….but I didn’t quite accomplish that.  I went over budget by $1.98.  I spent $201.98 on groceries for our family of five….and you know what I am so PROUD of MYSELF!!!

I wanted to share all about how I was able to make it work and what I learned during the process.

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Make a Plan

The ONLY way I could be successful with this pantry challenge was to plan ahead. I’ve always been a meal planner, but I learned quickly I needed to be much more detailed about planning every snack and meal.

At the beginning of each week I looked through my pantry, made an inventory of all our food.  I wrote down the meals and snacks we could make with what we ALREADY had in the house.

I was able to eat out of the pantry exclusively about 50% of the time.  The other 50% of the meals I tried to only plan really frugal meals with only a few cheap ingredients I would need to buy.  This meal planner that I use is available as a Free Printable in my Free Frugal Living Challenge.

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Successful Meal Plans

I listed out a few of the meals and snacks I found to be the most helpful in keeping the grocery costs low.  A few of these recipes (starred) are also available for free in my Frugal Living Challenge.

Breakfasts

*Fluffy Eggs

Pancakes

Eggs and Toast

Oatmeal

*Breakfast Potato Casserole

*Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Lunch

Muffin Tin Lunch

Sandwiches

Salad from Garden

Leftovers

Dinner

*Freezer Burritos

Layered Zuchinni

Spaghetti

*Taco Soup

*Balsamic Chicken

Pasta Bake

*Taco Tortilla Soup

Grilled Chicken

*Korean Beef

*Baked Island Chicken

Snacks

Pretzels

Homemade Cookies

Energy Bites

Popcorn

Canned Fruit

Bananas

Homemade Pudding

Homemade Bread

Grocery Shopping

I am a little obsessed with grocery shopping using Walmart Grocery Pickup (hello, shopping in my PJs and groceries loaded in the car FOR ME!  Sign me up!).

With my $200 monthly grocery budget, I was only allowed $50 a week.  One of my favorite things about Walmart Grocery Pickup is the ability to watch my cart total while I’m shopping.  (I know I COULD use a calculator at the store, but I’m just not great at it….) Being able to see how much I’m spending WHILE I’m shopping was crucial for me during this challenge.

If my cart ever went over the $50 amount I knew I needed to go back through the cart and delete a few items.  This was MUCH harder to do than I had anticipated!  My family all had to sacrifice a few items we were use to having regularly in order to make the month work.

Getting the Family Involved

I would LOVE to tell you that my family was totally on board and excited about my little July Pantry Challenge Experiment……but, they didn’t really love the idea.  When they saw the amount of food I was bringing home with each grocery trip they started complaining about the lack of food.

I tried to get my kids excited about the goal and had them help me make a lot of our homemade snacks.  They liked being able to help and were somewhat excited at the thought of having a challenge.

Unfortunately, this only lasted a couple of weeks.  As the month went on they began to get a really tired of the challenge.  The biggest problem was the snacks.  They are use to having snacks in the pantry, and we just couldn’t have those this month.  I decided to make a list of snacks we did have available and I hung it on the fridge.  This helped them a lot!  I think they had gotten so use to those convenience snacks (not awesome parenting, I know) that they had forgotten about all the other great options we had.

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Even though my family didn’t necessarily ENJOY the pantry challenge, I am really glad they were able to go through it with me.  It was such a good life lesson for my kids to learn about stretching dollars and how much food really costs.

What I learned

My biggest takeaway from the July Pantry Challenge is that I CAN live on less than I usually do. Yes, it took A LOT more effort, (preparing a lot more food from scratch and a lot of time planning), but I CAN do it!  We survived.

Moving forward I have a new sense of motivation to stay in budget, shop my pantry, and really spend with a purpose.  I’ve always told myself the lie that I HAVE to spend money on this food because we NEED it……but, we don’t!  We were just fine having less food around.  I am excited to take this new knowledge and adjust my grocery shopping from here on out.

What’s Next

My pantry challenge is over!  Does this mean I get to spend a lot of money next month restocking my shelves?????  Absolutely NOT!

I will be going back to my regular grocery budget of $400 a month.  I will slowly try to restock my pantry, but I will always stay within that $400 budget.

I honestly was terrified for this challenge!  I really didn’t know if I would be able to meet my goal, $400 a month is usually a little bit of a challenge.  But I did it, and I’m so glad I was willing to try!  If you are wanting to find a way to save a little extra cash, try having your own personal Pantry Challenge.  Be sure to come back and let me know if you did it and how it went!!

Finances · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Side Hustle

10 Items In Your House You Can Sell Quickly To Make Money

Did you see my post 5 Places Online To Sell Your Clutter and Earn Cash?  I am a HUGE fan of selling ALLLL of my house hold clutter (because let’s be honest, there’s a lot of clutter) and making some quick and easy money.  I make the goal to sell a few items every month.  It’s not a huge money maker for me, but it gives me a little extra spending money!

I’ve had a few people comment to me that they just have “nothing to sell.”  I truly believe EVERYONE can find SOMETHING (probably even a few things) to sell.  The more desperate you are to earn some money the more likely you’ll find something.

Today I am sharing a few household items that will usually sell quickly.  I am hoping these ideas will inspire a few people and help you brainstorm what YOU have in YOUR house to sell.

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10 Household Items You Can Sell Easily

1.  Children’s Clothes

Children’s clothes are ALWAYS a hot item to sell online.  Clothes will need to be in good condition (no stains or rips) in order to have a good chance of selling.  Brand names (think Gymboree, Gap, etc.) will sell best.

2.  Furniture

Used furniture is a GREAT sell.  There is always someone wanting to buy.  The great thing about selling furniture is that it doesn’t matter if the furniture is older or newer, you will most likely be able to sell it.  There is a different market for all types of furniture.  The older items will usually be bought by someone looking for a DIY project and the newer by someone looking for a good deal.

3.  Electronics

Do you have an old phone or ipad laying around?  Or maybe a computer that doesn’t work anymore?  Electronics is a popular item to buy/sell used.  Phones are so expensive to buy new which makes for a lot of people jumping on the opportunity to buy a cheaper used phone.  Try selling your non working electronics as well!  There are a lot of people out there who will buy something that doesn’t work so they can use the parts out of it.

4.  Baby Items

Baby items are some of my FAVORITE things to sell.  High chairs, strollers, bumbo seats, cribs, bouncers, etc.  These are all hot items to buy used.  Use a magic eraser and washcloth to clean them up for an easier sell.

5.  Kids Toys

If your kids are anything like mine, you probably have toys laying around that never get used.  Clean those toys up and sell them!  Popular items include plastic play toys (such as play kitchens and slides), barbies, hot wheels tracks, etc.

6.  Tools

Do you have a garage full of tools like I do?  Look through all those tools (or ask your husband to do this) and find a few that haven’t been used in months (or maybe years???).  We have been able to sell MOST of the tools we have tried, but not all.

7.  Decorations

Search your house and try to find a few household decorations you could part with.  Maybe your style has changed or you just want to scale back a little bit on the decor.  Either way, there is always someone looking to update their home and will love getting a good deal on used decor!

8.  Clothing

Look through your closet (or your husbands closet) and find a few items that haven’t been worn for weeks.  Sell them!  If you’re not wearing something regularly, there’s no reason to save it in your closet.  I’ve sold shirts, pants, shoes, etc. If the price is right, it will most likely sell.  Be sure to get out all stains before trying to sell any clothing.

9.  Holiday Decorations

I have WAY to many boxes of holiday decorations.  I have found that all I really need are a few favorite pieces and the rest of the holiday decorations are just not necessary.  List these items for sale about 3-5 weeks before the actual holiday.  This will increase your chances of being able to make a sale.

10.  Outdoor/Yard Items

Do you have a swing set that rarely gets used? Maybe a hose that just seems to sit around.  I have always been successful in selling outdoor items.  Things like bikes, slides, lawn mowers, sports equipment, etc. all sell really well.  Look through all of your yard/outdoor items and if you find anything that seems to take up more space than necessary, sell it!  Try doing this during the late spring months when everyone is anxious to get outside.

 

What did I miss?  What are some of the items you sell that are always bought quickly? Share below in the comments so we have even more ideas!