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

A Month of School Lunchbox Ideas

After writing A Month of After School Snacks, I decided to start documenting our daily packed lunchboxes.  These are all very basic lunches, nothing fancy here. but this is our real life.  Real talk from a busy frugal mom who is trying her best to save money and raise great kids.

I am able to save roughly $350 per year simply by packing a lunchbox for my kids to bring to school.  It is one of the ways we cut unnecessary expenses from our monthly budget.

My parenting philosophy is always, “Keep it Simple.  Keep it Frugal.”  This article will not show you fancy ways to prepare your kids foods or creative new lunchbox ideas (those articles are fabulous, just not my talent); it WILL give you a small peek into what I pack inside my kids lunchboxes each day.

Full Disclosure:  I started writing this article in October, and then kind of forgot about it until February…..so this wasn’t one complete month, but a couple mashed together.  It IS a wonderful example of our regular lunches.

Tastytreats.com

Week 1

Day 1:  Bagel with cream cheese, goldfish crackers, orange, two peanut butter cookies

69817D3D-BEBC-451C-B718-D063F1DF09ED

Day 2:  Cut up pancake, syrup, oranges, gogurt

867FCF04-7F4D-4E7A-A827-7E2C2CADFA53

Day 3:  PB&J Sandwich, pretzels, oranges

CE173B8B-F85D-4FCB-BFA6-A6930E3493D8

Day 4:  Pear Butter Sandwich, oranges, goldfish crackers, granola bar

7D3EC259-4DEB-4AA9-ADCA-904780221864

Day 5:  Bagel with cream cheese, banana, granola bar

28528D0D-BA3E-4037-A6AC-1FC32A3C9323

Week 2

Day 1:  Cheese and lunch meat sandwich, applesauce, granola bar

1C5A3AC0-DA57-4348-95FD-39B07250DAFE

 

Day 2:  Two Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, granola bar, animal crackers, grapes

8BE27B37-B41B-466A-9EB2-80566CEA4D7F

Day 3:  PB&J sandwich, carrots, dried apples, cookie

E0014F2D-0F8D-4E53-8DB6-9E8633025E69

Day 4:  Crackers, pepperoni, lunch meat, applesauce, homemade graham cracker

63947073-1785-41BE-A459-09C3394A82E4

Day 5:  Pear butter sandwich, orange, gogurt

5A76CE0A-8F62-4778-8995-C82B6E8FD7B8

Week 3

Day 1:  Tortilla wrap with lunch meat and mayo, roll, applesauce, peanut butter crackers

C85529D9-D868-486C-8247-04B76EB8140C

Day 2:  PB&J sandwich, dried apples, carrots

F831997E-4569-40F3-A9A1-25033C1CAF64

Day 3:  Turkey/Cheese on a Dinner Roll, Pretzels and Raisins, Orange slices

C92033AE-D62C-46D2-9C9A-6343C85D42A0

Day 4:  Lunch meat and cheese sandwich, orange, applesauce, rice krispie monster

9AE6F7EC-D3DA-4EDE-8985-A94317F23062

Day 5:  Crackers, lunch meat, pepperoni, applesauce, grapes

5721187F-7042-4643-9C07-D1590AF49E14

Week 4

Day 1:  Waffle Strips, syrup for dipping, orange, and a granola bar

644ba2b7-edf1-4f23-b75e-e7faab704916.jpeg

Day 2:  Peanut Butter & Honey Sandwich, Energy Bites, Orange

cbb27185-381f-4afe-b9e4-f95d4bd304b8.jpeg

Day 3:  Bagel with cream cheese, Crackers, Banana, Chocolate Dipped Valentine Cookie

6CF2E361-BD7A-43E9-B001-A3782356BE24

Day 4:  Frozen smoothie, cheerios, turkey/cheese roll

6E5C7D90-9A69-48EB-A4D5-E8BC0C6E3B14

Day 5:  Frozen Gogurt, Apple slices, Ritz Crackers, Pepperoni

ED5E973B-63B7-42A8-977D-35F36E3182EC

 

 

Advertisements
Affiliate · Amazon · Bargain Buys · Family · For the kids · Frugal Life · Good Ideas · Parenting · Valentines Day

A Frugal Family Valentines Day

“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.”

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.

0794786F-7507-47D7-82FF-ECB8026867B9

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??).

8131BA8F-0C39-470A-AA2E-7B306717A69C

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!  😉

875111FE-20D4-40BA-AC01-214333F1B3B9

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!

EBB856D9-3730-4349-A62C-2C5F94713249

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

Affiliate · Amazon · Family · Finances · Frugal Living Challenge · Good Ideas · Groceries · Grocery Haul · Walmart Grocery Pickup

How to Slowly Restock Your Pantry after Completing a Pantry Challenge

“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 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!

Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Good Ideas · Homemade · Recipes

Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe

My friend shared this whole wheat banana chocolate chip muffin recipe with me years ago and I have been hooked on them ever since!  We eat them for breakfast, for after school snacks and I add them in my kids’ school lunches.

whole wheat banana chocolate chips muffins

These muffins are quick and easy to make, fairly healthy thanks to the whole wheat.  They are also super easy to make a large batch to freeze for later….and my ENTIRE family LOVES them.  So, basically just a win all around!

I will usually double the recipe and put half of them in the freezer.  To freeze you simply place the baked muffins in a ziplock freezer bag and throw them (or I guess gently place them….either way works 😉 ) into the freezer.

When you are ready to eat the muffins, just take them out of the freezer and thaw on the counter.  You can even just pop them into the microwave for a minute if you don’t want to wait for them to thaw.  (this is my kids’ fave trick!)

whole wheat banana chocolate chips muffins (1)

Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2 eggs

1/4 cup honey

3 ripe bananas mashed

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg together until smooth.

Add the eggs, honey and mashed bananas.  Beat well.

Next, mix in the flour and chocolate chips.

Fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full.

Bake for 23-28 minutes.

This recipes yields 12 regular sized muffins.

You might be interested in a few of my other recipes:

Light and Fluffy Pancake Recipe

Homemade Graham Cracker Recipe

Quick and Easy Overnight Oatmeal
Continue reading “Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe”

Affiliate · Amazon · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Good Ideas · Parenting · Recipes

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

“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.”

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!

eb54918a-b7f3-4e59-af44-982890736515

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

1885e48a-9155-476b-94c0-9f2bacba02a1

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

4d1275d7-9625-4a4f-9e6a-8c58645f0d9a

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.

7a55fa72-bb4e-4dbc-9a84-4636ffa46c2a

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.

8a16021f-93f3-4ae7-8fa4-7a7fd728f691

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.

 

 

 

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

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.

f25ea2c8-edf3-4860-8ce1-df60866f821e

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.

92963B27-A291-47C3-86FD-02838377C28E

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!

bccada96-fbbe-46ff-9994-b6cf48620827

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!

78667B0A-C489-487D-8588-7C2571715B1A

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!

f7376ad8-2354-491a-99fe-fbc14a8cf04f

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!

9871e8f4-f745-46eb-9204-a60197ae13af

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!

 

 

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

Easy Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

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

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

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

92963B27-A291-47C3-86FD-02838377C28E

Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1/2 cup powdered creamer

1/8 tsp salt

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

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

8FB08DF5-3D0A-43D8-9042-C2A3D24EEBA6

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

 

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

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

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

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

3412B957-1ED6-40A8-874E-3514014DA1C4

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

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

Bedrooms

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

Dishes

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

Household Chore

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

Our current list of household chores are:

-Kitchen

-Bathroom

-Great Room

-Basement Family Room

-Your Choice

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

-Do the Laundry

-Wash the Walls

-Clean the Car

-Clean out the Refrigerator

-Wash the Windows

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

Paid Chore

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

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

DA222E79-3A8C-47FD-95FA-B09FB41F39A4

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

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

How to Use Chore Chart Printables

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

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

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

6815FF99-A519-4512-9351-765E09086BAB

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

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

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.

541DEC41-D161-42F3-8B03-1494E380B299

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.

56DF8AFA-F3B4-487F-9368-5E939ADAA126

 

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.

FE3ECE10-0733-4CD4-B29B-E22A453DDCAB

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

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!

2015-12-17 20.31.34

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.

IMG_4969

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.

06027C48-7E6F-403B-BC5C-70D715442519

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.

052CF5D6-E063-47C1-85ED-45C8E006D822

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.

C6E10A82-7607-445E-9B92-58F449FD7C5E

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!