Recipe For A Simple Life

Simplify your life, one day at a time

Granola

I absolutely love granola and I’ve learned that so does my super picky eater of a 3-year-old and so does my youngest.  So this is a great recipe for our family. 

 

5 c. old fashion oatmeal, not quick cook

1 c. wheat flour (or soy or whatever flour you want to use)

1 c. dry milk (powdered milk)

1 c. chopped nuts (I use sliced almonds)

1 c. honey

1 c. oil (I used a canola/olive oil blend, but I want to use coconut in the future)

1 t. vanilla

Optional – which is why I love this recipe – you can add whatever you want to it!

1 t. cinnamon

1 c. shredded coconut

1 c. sunflower seeds

1 c. of some other nut

Mix all together and bake at 250* for about 30 minutes. I bake it on a large cookie sheet/pan that has small sides. Stir frequently. (I usually remembered to do it about 5-6 times in 30 minutes.) Cool and store in airtight container.

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Frugal Birthday Parties

My daughter turned 6 yesterday.  The older my kids get, the more craziness they want during the day lol  But how do I keep the party under budget?  Here’s a few tips…

The Dollar Store is your friend!  I get mylar balloons for only $1 each, and yes they fill them with helium and have strings attached 😀  I got four for Eve.  Why four?  Because I have four kids, so they can each have one haha!  I didn’t take a very good pic of the balloons, but I have a solid pink heart-shaped balloon, a “Happy Birthday” with flowers around the outside balloon, a “Princess” balloon in the shape of a crown plus a Disney Princess one.  For the little boy in your life, I saw Elmo, dumptrucks and others that I can’t remember lol!  The Dollar Store also has several “Happy Birthday” banners, paper plates, napkins, party favors, etc.

After New Years you can find hats and headbands for very cheap.  This red crown with stars all over it was 14c at Walgreen’s last week.  Keep an eye out in your stores, you might still find something even if your little one’s birthday isn’t for several months.

After Christmas I snagged a bunch of red napkins that were on clearance.  I also like to grab any wrapping paper that is not red or green, which is hard to find.  Tissue paper is also on my list as I’ll explain in the next paragraph.

After Valentine’s Day – which is coming up, so keep an eye out – you can find “girly” wrapping paper and tissue paper.  For birthdays, I like to use tissue paper to wrap presents as they normally aren’t sitting under a tree for several weeks and being constantly shook to see what’s in it.  I used wrapping paper with a heart pattern on it for Eve’s present.

I am not into cake decorating.  However, I love making cupcakes and finding different ways to decorate them.  After each holiday I check out the sprinkles to see what’s on clearance.  Again, after Valentine’s Day is perfect to get cupcake sprinkles in hearts for a little girl’s birthday or grab fall colors for a boy’s birthday.  I decided to bake cupcakes into ice cream cones this time, frost them with a pudding frosting and then top with sprinkles.  It was A LOT easier than I thought, and my daughter got a HUGE kick out of it.  I’ll post the recipe for these soon 😀

Presents.  It’s hard for me to want to stock up on presents, but thankfully my kids are still young enough that toys are all they want.  Girls, especially, are easier to stock up on as you watch for sales on Barbies, My Little Ponies, and ANYTHING arts and crafts.  Boys, I’ve found that most boys love Legos and Nerf Guns, so if you ever see them go on sale, snatch them up.  Many items I can find rebates for before Christmas and thankfully three of my four kids’ birthdays are within three months after Christmas.  This year I took advantage of the Barbie and Disney Princess rebates for Eve’s birthday.  And I still have two “larger” gifts in the closet for Easter or to give away for a friend’s birthday.  I spent $25 on her birthday presents this year – 30c on a pair of slippers after Christmas, $1.75 on a package of Squinkies on clearance, $15.99 on a Tangled doll (part of the rebate, so I have the Foldup Princess Castle to give to her for next Christmas already, $20 value), Barbie poodles $5.99 (part of the Barbie rebate to get her the Barbie horse for FREE for her birthday, $20 value), a Clifford book Dirk gave her from a reading program this summer (he didn’t like any of the books, so he got her one, how sweet of a big brother to save it for her birthday!).  Another idea for gifts is that I’ll use a store that has FREE same day pickup – like Walmart and Best Buy – and check out their clearance toys.  Grandpa got Eve the Princess Squinkies normally $22 for only $10 and I picked them up at our local Walmart that day.  I also used Ebates to earn cashback on all my online purchases!

What are your tips for Frugal Birthday Parties?  Besides the presents, I believe I spent less than $10 for decorations and the cupcakes.

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Menu Plan Monday

It’s Monday!  What’s on your menu this week?  At my house we’re planning:

Hot Dogs and Fries

Spinach & Egg Quiche, Applesauce

Taco Soup, Corn Bread

French Toast, Eggs, Bananas

Fried Rice, Stir Fry Veggies

(I’m still looking for a recipe or guidance on how to make fried rice – hint, hint)

Loaded Potato Soup, Salad

Walking Tacos, Fruit

Your turn!  What’s going to be on your dinner table this week?

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Money Saving Mom's Budget

I’m reviewing Money Saving Mom’s Budget book, taking it one chapter at a time, not going onto the next chapter until I completed what she’s suggesting to do in the current chapter.  Follow along with me as I put her suggestions to use to see how my life becomes less chaotic 😀

Chapter 2 – Declutter

What?  What does getting rid of my pack rat-ness have to do with getting me a new house?  I’m honestly wanting to skip this chapter and move on to saving some moola.  But I won’t.  Crystal has what I want, so I’ll roll my eyes at her suggestion, but I’ll do it.  Did you see my To Do List and the pics of my house?  Holy Moly, Batman!  That’s A LOT of um…stuff!  So, baby steps was my thought on tackling this.  I took one room at a time, beginning with the room we enter our house in.

The Entry Way.  It was so full we couldn’t shut the closet door.  Do we really need this many coats, shoes, and boots?  No!  So, I could have taken many coats, hats, mittens, etc to Once Upon a Child or Encore to sell.  But I decided to donate them instead.  Birthright has given us things in the past, so I decided to call a friend  that works there and she came to pick up FOUR BAGS of baby items we weren’t using.  I’m not a huge fan of donating to thrift stores because a few years ago, we weren’t able to even afford to buy anything there.  I like to give our things directly to someone, and if no one is interested in them, that’s when they go to the thrift store, but that rarely happens.  We can now shut the closet door 😀

The Living Room.  My biggest challenge, besides taking down the Christmas Tree, is my desk.  So, down went the tree, and I organized the bookshelf.  Now to tackle my desk.  I cleaned off the top of my desk and can you guess what I found?  Now I get why I needed to declutter in order to save money.  I found a check I never cashed.  *Happy Dance*  I also found rebate forms I needed to fill out and send in to get more money before I forgot completely and they expire.  Oops, a few expired at the end of last year.  Fail.  Nothing like looking at FREE product rebates I could have used but can’t now because I was too lazy to organize my desk.  Ok, it’s done, nothing I can do about it now except make sure I am more organized to prevent this situation from repeating itself.  The desk took me several hours to clean out…

  • Oh, hey!  That’s where that debt statement went!  That could have had a late fee if I didn’t find this!  Thankfully we paid this loan off completely now 😀
  • Oh, I do have ink for the printer!  I almost went out and bought more.
  • Dude, how many pens do I have that DON’T WORK?!  Seriously, it’s like putting an empty milk carton back in the ‘frig.  KNOCK IT OFF!  lol
  • Why do I have Wii games in the desk?  We have a gaming drawer under the tv.  Sweet!  I now have a full empty drawer!  I put all the extra paper from my OfficeMax deal several months ago instead of having them piled on the floor.
  • Ha!  That’s where the stamps went to.  I already went to the post office to buy more.  Money spent that wasn’t necessary.  I get it.  You were right, Crystal! I need to be more organized, it will save me money!!

Crystal has a 5 question rule as she cleans, so I applied that to my cleaning and it helped me establish if an item was necessary to keep and if so, should it be in my desk or somewhere else.  Get her book to read these 5 questions 😀

Our Bedroom.  Wow, our room had become a dumping ground and storage unit.  The majority of our clutter was on top of the dresser and all those buckets of kids’ clothes they’ve outgrown.  I dove right in and it didn’t take long at all to clean this craziness up, I was surprised.  I have one bucket full of special baby girl clothes we received from my mother-in-law before she passed away that I won’t just give to anyone, so I’ll take them home to Wisconsin in February to give to my cousin who’s expecting his first 😀  I also have an entire drawer in my dresser that’s empty now!  My baby girl’s clothes take up one drawer in my dresser, but at least I weeded through them and now the drawer can close!  I also found my big stash of jewelry I used to sell.  I will now put together a new bucket of items to sell at Encore to add to our House Fund.  Ah, that feels good to go to sleep at night in a peaceful room instead of a storage unit.

The Bathroom.  In all honesty, I didn’t have much to do here.  Our bathroom is so tiny you can use the toilet, brush your teeth and wash your hair in the bathrub all at once.  Ok, not that bad, but our bathroom floor is only 3’x3′ so I can’t go overboard in there.  I just threw away items that I haven’t used in 6 months and organized our basket of toothbrushes.

The Kids’ Room.  We have all four kids in one room.  Hence the reason we need a new house lol  I just keep reminding the kids to keep their blankets on their beds and stuffed animals in the buckets.  The closet doors must be closed, so reminding them to throw their clothes down the laundry chute is essential.

The Kitchen.  Ugh.  I have no dishwasher and about  2’x5′ counterspace.  That’s it.  Our kitchen table is where everything gets dumped.  So my goal is to have the table cleaned off at least once per day, and dishes done every day.  Hard to do when I’m dog tired from closing the restaurant four nights a week, but I try my best.  I still need to clean off the top of the ‘frig, but overall, I’m happy with the progress and look forward to the day I can have a kitchen with a panty, a dishwasher, and counterspace 😀

The Basement.  Also known as “The Dungeon” to our family.  It’s one big, open basement.  It’s our family room, my husband’s fishing storage, toy room, laundry room and extra “bathroom” – I put that in quotes because it’s just two stalls that we use as storage instead of a shower and toilet lol  My first thought when I go to down to The Dungeon is DO MY KIDS REALLY NEED THAT MANY TOYS?  So, we reorganized and now we have the table, mini buckets, toy box and then each kid gets a large bucket to keep their stuff in.  MUCH better.  I gave away a lot of toys, and threw away a lot that were broken.

This chapter took me weeks to accomplish, but it’s done and I love my home now 😀  Not enough to stay forever, but I don’t dread coming home or being home now that we are more organized and have less stuff in general.

 

 

 

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CVS 1/29 – 2/4/12

cvs logo

 This week’s CVS ad Match ups come to you with a big thank you from Pocket Your Dollars.  It looks like there are a few things I’ll want to put on my list this week.  Let us know if you find any other great deals we missed or if you get a coupon machine printable worth noting.

If you are new to CVS shopping, make sure you sign up for the Extra Care Card so you can take advantage of the Extra Care Bucks offers each week. Once you get started, this is one of the  easiest ways I have found to get things for free.  Make sure you also go online and register your card so you can take advantage of the e-mail coupons they often send too.

Here are the things that look most interesting to me.  You can view the full match up HERE.

Spend $10+ on Select Unilever Products, Get $3 Extra Bucks (Limit 1) – There are a number of items included, but I am most interested in the pasta sauce:

Buy 6 Ragu Sauce for $1.67 each
Use three $1/2 from 1/29 Red Plum #2 insert
Spend $7.02, get $3 Extra Bucks back
Final price: $0.67 each after coupons and Extra Bucks

Buy 4 Pringles Potato Crisps for 4/$5.96, Get $1 Extra Buck (Limit 1)
Use $1/4 from 1/1 Procter & Gamble insert (exp 1/31) or 1/29 Red Plum insert S
Spend $4.96, get $1 Extra Buck back
Final price: $0.99 each after coupon and Extra Buck

Buy 2 Select Pfizer Products, Get $4 Extra Bucks (Limit 1) – Again, there are many choices, but this is the one I like:

Buy 2 Advil (40-50 ct.), PM (16-20 ct.), Liquid (4 oz.) or Drops (0.5 oz) for $4.49 each
Use two $1/1 from 12/11 or 1/29 Red Plum inserts, $1/1 Advil Children’s Product printable or $1/1 Advil Infants Product printable
Spend $6.98, get $4 Extra Bucks back
Final price: $1.49 each after coupons and Extra Bucks

Puff’s Tissues $0.88 (Limit 6)
Buy 3 and use $0.25/3 from 1/1 (exp 1/31) or 1/29 Procter & Gamble inserts
Final price: $0.80 each after coupon

Dawn Dish Soap $0.98 (Limit 6)
Use $0.50/1 from 1/1 Procter & Gamble insert (exp 1/31) or $0.50/1 Dawn Power Clean, Oxi or Bleach Alternative from 1/29 Procter & Gamble insert (if included in sale)
Final price: $0.48 after coupon

If you find a great deal not listed, let us know.  Also, don’t forget to use your Green Bag Tag!

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Financially Fit Friday

“When real faith grips you, you develop a mind-set that looks for the best in everything, refuses to give up, finds a way around or through every obstacle, and presses on to victory.”

– Norman Vincent Peale

Have you started a money makeover? What are you planning on paying CASH for? What bill are you paying off? Share a bit of your story! No story is too small to share! Real life stories keep Sister C motivated 😀 Catch up on Our Story to see how far we’ve come.

Emergency Fund – $1000 – STOCKED!

Fun Money – I am saving up my money to take Hubby on an Anniversary Trip this year – our first vacation together since we got married!

  • Deposited $27 in fun money
  • Current Balance $218.71
    • This account pays for my membership at Curves, for my ladies night out, and gifts for birthdays and Christmas. So I need to start saving for Christmas! Oh wait, I’m excellent at finding sales/deals, so I don’t need much lol

House Fund – Goal $15,000.00 by 5/31/2011

  • Deposited $100 in leftover income
  • Deposited $1.79 from Progresso rebate – expires at the end of January
  • Deposited $11.35 from Jury Duty pay and mileage reimbursement
  • Deposited $8.33 in spare change
  • Currently Saved $121.86

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The following are the other loans we currently have, but will put them on the back burner as we save for a house bigger than a 2-bedroom for our family of SIX 😀 We plan on keeping the duplex we currently own, and renting out the side we currently live in, thus earning more money each month that will pay these off for us 😀

Hubby’s Student Loan as of 10/01/2011 $9395

  • Outstanding Balance is $9,240.20

My Student Loan as of 10/01/2011 $6480

  • Outstanding Balance is $6,366.18

Family Loan $3000 – Will be paid back with tax return

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Ingredient for Life: Gratitude

I found this saying online the other day and it really stuck with me.  I do this.  I often get so caught up in the stress or chaos of day to day life that I forget to take time to be thankful for my blessings.  Like I explained yesterday, in 2012 I am making an effort to be more intentionally grateful and thankful.  I even started a “Gratitude Journal” that is separate from the journal where I vent, dream and think out loud.

I’ve been working on it for a week now, and I have already had a few days where I had a hard time thinking of something to write.  How pathetic!  I have an incredibly blessed life and need to focus on what makes each day a blessing.

So, in an effort to be more intentionally grateful, I am planning to post a few of the things I am thankful for each Thursday.    Here’s a peek into my journal from the past week:

This week I was thankful for…

…the bread machine my friend Emily didn’t want anymore and gifted to me – I’ve been making bread every other day and my family thinks it the best bread they have even eaten

…the opportunity that opened up at my temp job and allowed me to stay on through the beginning of March instead of the beginning of January

…warm blankets on a very cold night

…the fact that Scott shovels and blows snow so I don’t have to do it

…my parents and the fact that they are still living and healthy

Do any of you struggle with being grateful?  What are you thankful for this week?

 

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Ingredient for Life

Good Morning!

I meant to do this yesterday, but the controlled chaos I call life was a little busy and I didn’t get time to blog last night.  It’s days like those that make being grateful for all the blessings I have instead of grumpy about the little things that didn’t go as planned more difficult.  At the end of December I posted about the goals I made for 2011 and how they have impacted my life.  I also said I was going to update the list for 2012.  Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten that done yet. I’m still working on it, but one of the things I want to do is be intentionally grateful for the blessings in my life.

What I mean by that, is I would like to really think about all the things I have to be grateful for every day.  So, I am challenging myself to record, on paper, 3 things each day that I am thankful for with no repeats.  Even though I am thankful for my family every day, I will be pushing myself to be more specific.  For example, last night I didn’t make an entry into my gratitude journal.  I could have written that I was thankful for the one on one time my daughter and I spent together, talking about a problem.  I am thankful she brought her problem to me and that I was able to help her work through it.  Knowing she will bring her concerns and fears to me is significant at this stage.

Do you ever struggle with being grateful in the tide of chaos?  I’d like to extend my challenge to any of you willing to take it on.  I am planning to post each Thursday a few things I’ve recorded over the past week in my gratitude journal.  If you are willing to take the challenge, I’d like you to comment on my post with something that you are grateful for this week.  It doesn’t have to be earth moving or profound (one cold day I was thankful for warm blankets – seriously), just sincere.

So, start thinking about all the blessing you’ve experiences this week and meet me back here tomorrow.  See you then!

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Wednesday Wow – Simple Strawberry Trick

What’s your favorite fruit?  We love strawberries around here, but the kids waste half the strawberry if I don’t cut off all the stems first.  Here’s a quick trick I can teach them to reduce the waste:  Use a straw to hull the strawberry.  I think the wider straws you get at some fast food or convenience stores would work best.  I may have to grab a few extra next time we go out.

Have any of you ever tried this?

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MoneySavingMom's Budget

I was lucky enough to get a FREE copy of Money Saving Mom’s Budget a few weeks ago.  Follow along with me as I read her book and implement her suggestions into my life.  Even though we are doing well on our journey, I know there are always ways to improve and doing more than just getting rid of debt.  We need to declutter our lives, well, at least I do!

So, Chapter One – Write down my goals.  Ish.  I don’t know why, but I can write down to do lists and short term goals, but to look longter in such a specific manner is not something I’m very good at.  But, I said I would do everything Crystal suggests, even if I don’t want to.  I’ll write them down and break them down into smaller pieces so I know what our weekly goals are in order to achieve it.

Goals

#1 – New House – We currently live in a 2-bedroom, with four kids all in one bedroom.  We have no garage, and a teeny tiny yard.  Once we move, we’ll rent out our side of the duplex that we own.  We had set a goal to save $15,000 by May 31, 2012.  This was picked so that we’d have the money saved up BEFORE we want to move giving us another couple months to find renters, fix up the new home, etc.  However, this number may not be enough as Ryan and I have decided ideally, we don’t want to live in town, so why settle for in the city when we truly want to be on the outskirts of town.  Meaning – land costs more.  Plus we ended up paying off two other loans at the end of December 2012 emptying out our House Savings.  So we are starting from scratch now.  Follow along with us every Friday morning in my Financially Fit Friday post spilling our financial guts for all to see how we’re saving up for a new home.  😀  May 31st is just 18 weeks away.  With those numbers and our goal, we need to be saving $833.33 per week!  Yeah, um, not sure how that will happen, but I know God honors commitment.  Every single goal we have set for ourselves, we’ve stretched to reach them, and we’ve always made them.  So I put this goal in His hands and our work…..

#2 – Boat for Hubby – Ryan is on his journey to being a professional bass fisherman.  He’s been doing tournaments for a few years now, but needs a boat to really be able practice and attend more tournaments.  Ryan said all he’d need is a ‘practice boat’ for $2000.  I’m secretly hoping he’ll win one tournament early in the season that will give him enough winnings to buy a boat 😀  Otherwise, I think he’ll need one by the end of April.  So that’s our goal, $2000 by April 30, 2012.  It will happen, God honors commitment.

#3 – This was the hardest one.  Crystal said to pick a long-term goal that seams out of reach.  So, we came up with buying another rental property by May 31, 2013.  Wowzers.  I’m not positive how we’ll do that, but it’s written down and with a date.  From the emails I receive with rental properties that are currently for sale, I’m guessing we’ll need at least $25,000 for a down payment, AT LEAST.  So it will happen, God honors commitment.

So there you have it.  Our top three goals to achieve.  Ready…Set…Go!

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