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Our Summer Plans: Keeping the kids Entertained and Mom Sane

I am so so excited for summer to start.  I honestly love having my kids home with me during summer break.  There are so many fun things to do during the warmer months and it always seems to go by way way to fast.

I have learned from past experience that if I don’t have a little bit of advanced planning and structure to Summer Vacation, we all tend to get on each others nerves.  I try not to make our days overly structured, because, it IS summer break after all…but a little bit of planning and routine seems to go a long ways with all of our sanity.

With school about to be out in a couple of weeks I have started putting together some plans and developing a routine.

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Screen Time

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I really hope my kids aren’t the only kids out there who think they need hours of screen time a day.  (and tell me your secrets if your kids don’t relate to this!)  BUT, I do not want them spending the warm beautiful months sitting in the house staring at a screen.

This year I am doing something a little bit different than I have in the past.  My kids will have to EARN their screen time by doing something educational, creative or active.  They have morning chores every day that will need to be completed, and then for every 30 minutes they spend doing one of the activities on my list, they will earn 15 minutes of screen time.

I downloaded a free reward app onto my phone to help me keep track of how many minute they have earned and used.  I have already talked to them about this extensively so their will be no surprises.

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Weekly Park Ratings

I did this a few years ago and my kids had so much fun I think I am going to try it again this year.  Every week we had a picnic at a different park.  We tried to explore all of the parks in the area.  The kids filled out a “rating” sheet with all the information about the park; how many slides, whether the park had swings or not, how fun they thought it was, etc.  At the end of the summer we had a folder full of rating sheets for about a dozen different parks.  We had a lot of fun and made a lot of memories exploring our city.

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Bucket List

The kids and I sat down the other day and created our Summer Bucket List.  We brainstormed all of the fun summer activities we wanted to be sure to do over the summer break.  I am going to hang this on our fridge where we will see it often and be reminded to keep checking items off.  This is my favorite part of summer.  I love doing all of these fun traditions with my kids.  I genuinely look forward to it all year.

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Library Summer Reading Program

Every year my kids sign up for the Summer Reading Program at our local library.  This has been such a great way to keep them reading throughout the summer.  They love going weekly and earning prizes for the books they have been reading.  Most of the prizes they earn at our library are coupons to fun places around town.  It keeps us busy fulfilling all of our coupons (and I love that the coupons keep things cheap!).

Chef of the Day

I try to use summer as my time to teach my kids some of the important skills I would like them to know.  We have sewing lessons and I also have the Chef of the Day.  Each of my kids is given one day of the week when they are the “chef.”  They get to decide what to have for dinner that day and then they help me in the kitchen preparing it.  This is honestly a lot of work on my part.  My kids do NOT like having to quit doing whatever they are doing to come cook in the kitchen.  But, I think the skills they are learning are going to be worth all of the complaining I have learned to tune out!

Popsicles

This is just a fun little tradition, but my kids LOVE it!  Starting on the last day of school I keep the freezer constantly stocked with popsicles.  I will usually buy a big box of otter pops (frugal friendly!) and they last us all summer.  But really, what’s summer without popsicles???

 

What are some of your summer traditions?  I would love to hear your ideas!  Please share in the comments!

 

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What I have learned about living a sweet and frugal life on ONE income

“How do you do it!?”  is a question I have been asked multiple times;  “How do you raise your family on only one income!?!?”

I never really know how to respond to this question.  Honestly, living on one income is all I’ve ever known.  My oldest was born one month after I graduated from college and I chose to become a stay at home mom.

My husband is a good and hard worker, but he is a blue collar worker and he does not earn a large paycheck.  We have had ups and downs and I have had to learn to change from a SPENDER to a natural SAVER.  It has not always been easy, but I have learned a few things along the way to make it more doable.

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As a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM), I do not earn a physical paycheck.  But, that does not mean that I don’t contribute to the family finances.  I consider it a large part of my job to stretch my husbands paycheck as far as I can.  A SAHMs paycheck comes in the form of saving money, budgeting smartly, spending less instead of more.  Taking this part of my job seriously has helped us to save more and live more contently.

Make a Budget and Stick to it

At the end of every month we have a “Budget Meeting” where my husband and I sit down and discuss our finances and make our budget for the next month.  It is not always easy to stick to this budget (especially not at first).  But the more we kept working on it, the easier it has become and the more freedom we have felt.  Having this budget keeps my money in check AND gives me freedom to spend without feeling guilty.  We prefer to spend most of our money using cash, you can read more about why and how we do so here:  The Envelope Money System: A Beginners Guide.

Do NOT spend a lot of Money on Kids Clothes

When you are shopping for your kids clothes, do not spend a lot of money on them!  It’s hard with all these darling cute little outfits, but I promise it is a waste of money.  Kids grow out of clothes way to quickly, they spend most of their time playing outside getting their clothes dirty, and honestly, most kids (especially younger kids) do not care how much their clothes cost or what brand they are wearing.

I’ve learned a few little tricks to save money on kids clothes:

  1.  SAVE everything.  If you are planning on having more children, then save all of your kids clothes.  That way when the next child comes you will already have plenty of clothing that you can use again.  I organized all my children’s old clothes into boxes (diaper boxes work great for this!) or Tupperware bins (I can usually find these for pretty cheap at Walmart) and then I labeled them by the age and gender of the clothing, for easy access to them later.
  2. When at all possible buy USED!  There are a lot of great options available right now for parents to be able to buy good quality used children’s clothing.  My favorite option is a local children’s consignment store.  Check to see if you have one in your area and stop in regularly.  Some days I leave without buying anything, but other days I leave buying almost new name brand items.  A few other options are thrift stores, garage sales, and ebay.  All of these are great resources, especially if you check them often.
  3. Shop off season.  Usually in the spring you can find winter clothes on a huge discount and in the fall summer clothes has a big discount.  Buy a size up from what your child is wearing currently and save it for them to wear the next year.
  4. Sell clothes you will not need anymore.  If you aren’t planning on having any other children and you have clothes that they have grown out of, SELL these items.  They can be sold on Facebook marketplace, the local consignment store or at a garage sale.  If you are going to get rid of them anyways you might as well make a few bucks right!?!
  5. Utilize discount stores such as Ross and TJ Maxx.  I have found some great deals on brand new clothes for good prices at both of these stores.

Meal Plan!

Every week on Tuesdays you will find me with my pen and paper.  This is the day I plan all our breakfasts, snacks and dinners for the week.  Lunches are more of a loose plan and I just try to have sandwich fixings on hand at all times.  Having a meal plan helps stop the temptation to buy fast food or go out to a restaurant to eat.  When making your weekly Meal Plan look through ads at your local grocery stores to see what the stores have on sale.  Try to plan your meal plan around those sales.  It takes time, but it saves a lot of money.  You know the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  Make a plan!

Cook from Scratch

Cook from scratch as often as possible.  I still throw a frozen lasagna into the oven occasionally, but I have learned that the more I cook from scratch the more money I will save.  Search Pinterest for ideas on snacks and meals to make.  A few of my recipes are posted here How I use ONE Roast for THREE MealsHomemade Graham Cracker RecipeThe absolute easiest Pasta Bake Recipe!, and My favorite easy Homemade Pizza Crust Recipe.  Cooking in the kitchen can be a fun family activity.  My kids LOVE to help me in the kitchen!  We turn on some tunes, dance and laugh together while we cook.

Travel Frugally

I do think it is important to plan family travels.  It is a great way to make memories and build friendships.  But, you do not need a fancy expensive vacation to make memories.  Explore areas nearby for your family vacation.  Become tourists in your own area. Go camping at a nearby National Park, spend a couple of nights at a hotel for a “Staycation”, or explore a few local museums.  Join Groupon and look for deals that you can use as a family.  Your town just might be more interesting than you originally thought, and your kids will appreciate the extra time spent together.

Consult Pinterest cautiously

As a mom Pinterest is my go-to resource for finding kid activities and recipes.  However, if you are trying to save money you should view Pinterest cautiously.  It is far to easy to get swept away with the fancy decor and lavish birthday parties.  These are fun, and I do not put down anyone who likes to go a little over the top for their children, but for those of us who are trying to save a few bucks it is not always the best route.  Enjoy your time browsing Pinterest, but be careful not to get swept away in the pins that will end up only costing you more money.

The best things in life are actually free

Sometimes it’s hard to see others going on exotic vacations and buying fancy new vehicles.  But, I have learned that the best things in life are actually free.  Try to find joy and contentment in the simple things in your life.  Going on a family bike ride, dancing in the kitchen, and snuggling with my kids while reading books are all moments that I will treasure forever.  No amount of money is worth more than these quiet times with my children.  When we learn to find joy in these special free moments (something I am constantly working on) those lavish vacations won’t seem near as tempting.

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Soft French Bread Recipe

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This french bread is one of my favorite things to make.  My friend gave it to me a few years ago.  I don’t have a great track record with homemade bread so I was a little apprehensive the first time I tried it.  But, it turned out so good and instantly became a family favorite!  It is soft and light and tastes perfect as a side for soup or pasta.

Soft French Bread

2 1/2 cups warm water

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 Tbsp. yeast

3 Tbsp. canola oil

1 tsp. salt

5 1/2 cups flour

Mix the water, sugar and yeast together.  Let it stand for 10 minutes until yeast is dissolved.  It will be frothy and bubbly.

Add the rest of the ingredients.  Make sure to add the flour slowly.  You might need a little less or a little more.  I add a little flour and then mix for a minute and then add a little more until the dough looks right.  You will want it to pull away from the sides of the bowl when mixing and be slightly sticky.

Place the dough in a bowl and cover.  Let it rise for ten minutes and then gently punch the dough down in bowl.  Do this for two more times for a a total of 3 punch downs and 30 minutes of rising time.

Split dough in half and shape into two loaves.  Place them on a greased baking sheet.  I will usually freeze half the dough in a freezer bag to use for another dinner.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes.  Once it’s done cooking brush with butter to make the crust soft. Slice and serve.  ENJOY!

Amazon · Fabulous DEALS Friday · Farmhouse · Uncategorized

Fabulous DEALS Friday: 10 Farmhouse Decor all under $20

“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.”

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I moved into a new home about a year ago and I have been slowly trying to incorporate some farmhouse pieces.  I’ve included a little allowance for home decor in our monthly budget and have tried to stretch it as far as I can.  I found some great items on Amazon last night. Everything is under $20!  I purchased a few things and added a few others to my cart for next month!  🙂

 

  1.  Lanterns are very trendy right now.  I love the fresh look of this Farmhouse Lantern.  It is under $5 and has a lot of great reviews.
  2. I have been needing some new pillows and loved this Compass Pillowcover.  It is under $3 and is a great way to add a farmhouse style to your home.
  3. I have a few of these potted artificial plants around my house.  They are a great way to add a little color to any room.  I usually pull mine out around spring time and keep them out until fall.  I love them so much I might even buy a couple more!
  4. Adding a few French Stripe Dishtowels to your kitchen is an easy way to add some farmhouse charm.  This pack of dishtowels comes in a set of three and have a gorgeous soft nautical blue color.
  5. Nothing says farmhouse like a comfy throw blanket over a couch.  This farmhouse throw is beautiful and would go with a lot of different colors.
  6. I love galvanized pieces around my house.  This round galvanized serving tray would look beautiful for a coffee table centerpiece.
  7. Start your farmhouse look at the front door with this beautiful wreath.  At under $15 this is a great deal!
  8. I have these darling mini glass milk bottles sitting on my front entry table and I always get a lot of compliments on them.
  9. How fun would it be to have your very own personalized vintage farmhouse sign.  To get your name and personalized year on your own sign it will only cost you $16.99.  That’s a great deal!
  10. This rusted metal egg basket is sitting in my Amazon cart right now and I can’t wait until it gets here.  I love the wire metal basket look, but this one has the rusted metal giving even more of a farmhouse look.

I hope you find something perfect!

Parenting · Uncategorized

15 FREE Things to do with your Kids over Spring Break

In a couple of weeks my kids will have their annual one week Spring Break from school.  I always look forward to this break.  It’s so fun to have a break from the school routine and spend time together, but sometimes the kids can get a little stir crazy.  Where I live winter lasts well into April so Spring Break isn’t always “springy.”  🙂  I started brainstorming some things the kids and I can do together while on Spring Break, and as usual all of them are FREE!

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  1.  Board Games:  I love to buy board games at our local thrift store for a couple of dollars a piece.  I love playing games, and it is so fun to play them with my kids.  Some of their favorites are Clue, Sequence and Apples to Apples.  I have bought each of these in perfect condition used.
  2. ABC Day:  Have an ABC Day. Every once in a while I will tell my kids to choose a letter and we try to plan the day around that letter.  For the letter R we might eat Raisins and Red apples, play Ring around the Rosies or have a Race, and we would do an art project based around the letter R.  My kids have a lot of fun trying to come up with different ideas based around the letter.
  3. Picnic:  If it’s warm enough where you live go for a picnic at a park.  If it’s not warm enough just lay a blanket down on the living room floor and picnic at home.  Your kids will love getting to eat somewhere other than the kitchen.
  4. Crafts:  There are a lot of Spring related crafts on pinterest.  Find a fun one to do with your kids.
  5. Ice Cream in a Bag:  No need to go out for ice cream, you can make it at home with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.  There are a lot of recipes on pinterest to look through.  My kids love getting to customize their own ice cream with chocolate and sprinkles.
  6. Family Movie Night:  Let your kids stay up late one night watching a movie together as a family.  Pop some popcorn and enjoy a few other treats.  Check out your local library for free movies you might not have seen yet.
  7. Library:  Whenever my kids have a day off from school we always end up at the Public Library.  They love getting to check out some books that they can’t always find at their school library.  Check out my blog post all about the great resources the library offers here:  10 Ways using the Public Library will Save you Money
  8. Bake:  My kids all love to help in the kitchen.  Find a new recipe you can all try out together.  Our favorite is ALWAYS cookies!
  9. Nature Walk:  If you are one of the lucky ones with a warm spring break go outside on a nature walk.  Bring a sack with you and collect different rocks, pine needles and pine cones.  Once you get back home admire everyone’s collections.
  10. Start your garden:  If you love to garden Spring Break is a great time to get those little seeds started indoors.  This is so fun to get the kids involved with.  Watching those little seeds sprout is so fun and exciting for the kids (and me!).
  11. Friend Day:  Plan a play date with a few of your kids friends.
  12. Spring Cleaning:  This might not be your kids most favorite activity, but we always have a few items of Spring Cleaning I try to get done during Spring Break and my kids are lucky enough to get to help me with that.  😉  😉  It is a good way to get them busy and occupied.
  13. Make Slime or Play Dough:  Slime is all the rage these days.  We tried it out for the first time a couple of weeks ago and loved how easy it was.  There are many tutorials for it on pinterest.  If your kids aren’t interested in slime, make some play dough.  You can find our favorite play dough recipe here:  Our Favorite Play dough Recipe.
  14. Paint Rocks:  Collect some rocks outside and bring them back home to paint them.  Paint a fun design on the rock, or paint an animal (we love turning ours into ladybugs).  So easy and fun!
  15. Science Experiment:  Do a fun science experiment with your kids.  Make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar or try out  our favorite Magic Toothpick Experiment.

It does not need to cost any money to make special memories with your kids.  All they want is time and love.  I hope you have a fun and frugal Spring Break!