Archive for the ‘Organizing’ Category

DIY Homework Study Station

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.

Back-to-School time is almost here for my crew and today I wanted to show you an easy DIY Homework Station you can create for a fun, focused, and quiet little spot you can create for your homework time. This Tri-Fold Homework Station idea was something that I came up with to do for the back-to-school season with Walmart. Each month they give me a fun craft challenge and I couldn’t wait to create these for my kids.

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.These homework stations are perfect for small space living. Two kids at one table, but each having a place to call their own, so they can focus on their own coursework.  The best part is that these can fold flat and be stored elsewhere when not in use! I can’t wait to show you just how easy it is to create these for your kids!

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.

Supplies List

1- tri-fold foam display board (this will make two homework stations for you)

Razor Blade

General  Purpose Spray Adhesive

Chalkboard Spray Paint (over in the paint aisle)

Rectangle Wooden Plaques (one or two depending on how many stations you are creating)

Decorative envelope(s) and stickers

Binder Clips (we did two for each one)

Scrapbook Paper in coordinating colors (8 sheets total per homework station. The type of paper we are using is their Watercolor Paper that they offer for $5 for the pack)

Hot glue & glue gun

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.Directions

1. Begin by measuring and marking the halfway point for your tri-fold display board. The display board is 48″ total, so you will want to cut it so that each side is 24″ long.

2. Cut the display board with a utility knife, making sure to cut carefully through all of the layers.

3. Spray paint your wooden plaques to create your chalkboards for your homework station.  Make sure to shake the can really well, as instructed on the back of the can. Hold your can 8 inches away from your surface and spray in a sweeping motion side to side with a slight overlap. It has always been my experience to go thin with the paint, allow it to dry, and then to add another layer for the best results and minimal drip. Allow the paint to dry for one hour.

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.

5. While the frames are drying, pick out eight sheets of scrapbook paper and set them up for where you would like to display them. Set them aside and, beginning with one side, line the bottom sheets up and, holding them in place with your hands, flip them up to add a little spray adhesive to the underside. Do this all along the bottom of your display board.

6.  Now do the same process again on the top, making sure that they line up with each other and with the top edge of the display board.

7. Once your chalkboards have dried, use your hot glue gun to mount it to your display. Attach an envelope next to it with chalk. Make sure to give your chalkboard 24 hours to cure before writing on it and prepare your chalkboards as I have show in this handy tutorial.

8. Add any stickers or decorations you might like to your homework station or let your kids decorate it themselves.

DIY_Homework_Study_Station_8 9. Clip your binder clips to the top of your display and then add any printables, thoughtful motivational quotes, calendars, etc… to the homework station.

Here are some free printables that I found that I really love:

Weekly To-Do List (A Pair of Pears)

Macaron Calendar (from Jolie Jolie Designs)

Modern Calendar (from LAUs NOTEbook)

If you are looking for more, be sure to check my Printable Goodness Pinterest Board for more ideas.

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.

DIY Homework Study Station from MomAdvice.com.

Good luck to everyone heading back to school! I hope this homework station inspires a fun new homework hangout for your kiddos!  I look forward to showcasing more fun back-to-school ideas to inspire your life this year!

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Dorm Mini-Fridge Healthy Makeover

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Dorm Mini-Fridge Healthy Makeover

When I attended college, I lived on junk & convenience food and I had the inevitable, “Freshman 15,” to prove from my bad eating habits throughout the year. I only wish I knew how great I would have felt and how much better I would have performed if I had stocked my dorm fridge with healthy options.

Today I wanted to share with you some healthy ideas for stocking your dorm mini-fridge for the school year along with an easy no-bake energy bite that you can mix up in a bowl for easy snacks on-the-go when heading to your classes.

Dorm Mini-Fridge Healthy MakeoverHead on over to the Kenmore Blog today to read my ideas for smart back-to-school snacking and grab  my easy no-bake recipe for smart snacking on-the-go!

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Easy Hostess Gift: How to Make Paint-Dipped Spoon Sets

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Neon_Paint_Dipped_Spoon_Set_4

With summer comes many summer parties and opportunities to share those warm days with friends. Today I wanted to showcase an easy hostess gift that you could create to show your appreciation for those hosting your family at their next party.

Paint-dipped anything is quite the trend this year and so are those vibrant shades of neon. It was with those color trends in mind that I created this easy paint-dipped spoon set that embraces those fun colors and I also have found a fun way to package it that any hostess would flip for.

Neon_Paint_Dipped_Spoon_Set_5

Head on over to the Kenmore blog to find out how I created this adorable hostess gift today!

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DIY Outdoor Chalkboard Door

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

DIY Outdoor Chalkboard DoorWhat could be better than a fun summertime outdoor project? Today I want to showcase an easy DIY Outdoor Chalkboard Door that I created to entertain my kids in the summer months. This DIY chalkboard project that we created is one of my new favorite things in our backyard.  This project featured is in conjunction with my job as a Walmart Mom and all of the supplies can be found at your local Walmart store.

DIY Outdoor Chalkboard Door

Here is a picture of what our tired old door looked like on our outdoor shed. The neutral paint showed all of the dirt, debris, and water drip marks all over it. It was becoming an eye sore in our backyard. Instead of painting it with regular paint, I decided to transform this spot into a new backyard activity area and give the kids a spot to do their drawing outside.

For adult entertaining, this can double as a place to jot down a menu, create a welcome sign for your guests, or keep tally of game scores in a wild game of badminton.

We are crazy like that.

DIY Outdoor Chalkboard DoorSupplies List (if you buy everything it will be less than $25 in supplies!)

1- 30 ounce container of Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Paint in Black Finish (over in the painting supplies)

Soapy Water & Rag (for wiping down your door)

Painters Tape

Paint Roller

Paint Brush

Paint Tray/Liners

Directions

1. Clean your surface and let it dry. I wiped my door down with a grout brush and a pail of sudsy water and then rinsed it with our hose.

2. Tape off around your door handle to protect it from getting paint on it.

3. Pour your paint into your paint tray and begin applying your first coat with your paint roller. The paint will be dry to the touch within thirty minutes, but give it a full four hours before applying your second coat.

4. Add a second coat of paint and repeat with the same timing above, if you desire, to add a third coat.

5. Allow the door to dry for three whole days before beginning  your conditioning or writing on it.

6. Before writing on it, after three days time, condition the surface by rubbing the side of a piece of chalk on the surface and then erase.  I like to rub my chalk in one direction and then rub it in the opposite direction for good coverage. This  will leave a coat of chalk dust that will provide erasability. Your chalkboard can be wiped clean with a damp towel, but wait seven days after painting before wiping it down. Repeat the conditioning step after cleaning.

DIY Outdoor Chalkboard Door

DIY Outdoor Chalkboard Door

Give your kids some chalk and the chance to create their own welcome sign for your guests outdoors!  I hope your family loves this project as much as we do! The best part is the hours of enjoyment they get and the lack of dirt showing on my outdoor door in the backyard.

A win-win for both kids and parents!

If you loved this project, I just know that you will love these ideas for Chalkboard Fun & Outdoor Entertaining!

S’More Toppings Bar Party

DIY Chalkboard Conversation Bubble Cookie Jars

Dollar Store DIY Chalkboard Food Label Frames

DIY Lunchbox Creation Station

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DIY Book Page Flower Tutorial (With Free Printable)

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

If there is one thing our family loves to do it is spoil our teachers. Today I am sharing how to make book page flowers out of old books to brighten a teacher’s day. I hope you will enjoy this book page flower tutorial and be able to use our free printable to create your book page flowers.

As you know, book page crafts are something that I have recently grown fond of and I wanted to create a bouquet of book page posies that you could share with a favorite teacher. A great way to build upon this thrifty gift is to pair it with a gift card to a favorite local bookstore for your teacher.

Supplies Needed:

1 old book/textbook (I picked one up at Goodwill for $.50- it was WELL loved with loads of notes, yellowed edges, and bent corners.)
Jar or Vase
Grilling skewers
Hot Glue Gun
Glue Sticks
Book Page Flowers Template

Directions:

1. Cut out your five flower petals from the provided flower petal template

2. Begin by pulling out five pages of your book and leave them stacked. Using one of your flower petal templates as a guide, cut out your first petals. Since you are cutting through the stack of papers, you should have five petals cut. Repeat this process with the other four petal templates until you have five of each kind.

3. Using your grill skewer as a paper shaper, roll each of the petals to create curving of the petals around it. I simply rolled these around the skewer, then released them.

4. Pull out another page from your book and tear a strip lengthwise from the book. Just as you would with floral tape wrap, pulling down gently, the skewer with the strip from your page. You may need two strips to cover the entire length. (pictured above).

5. Tear another strip lengthwise and roll this at the top of your skewer to create the center of your flower (just ignore that bare stem!).  I just add a bit of glue at the beginning and then a bit of glue at the end to hold it together. Now you are ready to start adding your petals.

6.  Add a drop of glue almost at the edge of the bottom of your petal and begin with the smallest layer. Add these petals all around the flower center. Repeat this process with the petals the next size up. Repeat again, again, and again until all of the petals are attached to your flower. If the base feels loose at all, add a little dab of hot glue around the bottom of the flower with your hot glue gun.

DIY Book Page Flower Tutorial
7. Finish by placing them in a thrifted jar or vase and spread and fluff the petals of your flowers. Give these to your favorite teacher with a gift card to their favorite bookstore.

Be sure to check back this week for more fun teacher gift ideas!

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DIY Fabric Softener Sheets

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

For years I have been making my own DIY fabric softener sheets and today I wanted to share an easy process for making your own homemade fabric softener sheets for your laundry. These DIY fabric softener sheets will stretch your bottle of fabric softener much further, there is nothing to throw away, and when they finally begin to lose their effectiveness,  you simply repeat the process and can continue using them again. Pairing these with a jar of my homemade laundry detergent really can keep your laundry budget down!

How Can I Make My Own Fabric Softener Sheets?

When making your own fabric softener sheets, visit the housewares aisle of your favorite store and look for the brightest colors of washcloths to use. By picking bright fabrics, it will be easier to spot the softener sheet to pull out and reuse after you are done with your load of laundry.

Choose your favorite fabric softener and pour it into a bowl. Soak your washcloth in the softener and then wring it out well. Hang the washcloth to dry overnight.

That’s it. Done.

How Many Times Can You Reuse Your DIY Fabric Softener Sheets?

You can reuse your dryer sheets on up to twenty loads of laundry before you need to repeat the process. If you make a set of these and alternate them with your loads, they should last a long time. The best part about this sheets is that they perform better than putting fabric softener in your washer compartment and you don’t have to worry about any staining on your fabrics.

Are There Any Green Alternatives to Fabric Softeners?

Seventh Generation (affiliate) offers a green alternative to fabric softeners and could be used to create your own DIY fabric softener sheets. The best part about that one is that it still offers a scent, but this version is better for the environment over the other commercial brands.

I also was sent a bottle of the Method fabric softener (affiliate) and used that with fairly good results on my loads of laundry, although I did find that my loads still had a little bit of static in them, particularly if they needed to be refreshed.  The unique thing about the Method cleaner was that you sprayed it directly onto your fabrics and the tumbling of the dryer dispersed the softener throughout the load. It never stained my fabrics and also offered a fresh scent to them.

If you are looking for a frugal and green method for fabric softener, you can use vinegar to replace your fabric softener. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar in your fabric softener compartment of your washer or during the Rinse cycle of your load.

Using vinegar will help to soften the fabric, but it doesn’t always perform effectively in reducing the static in fabrics. You can either crumple aluminum foil into a ball and use that as a dryer ball, buy a store-bought dryer ball alternative like this one (affiliate), or even make dryer balls from yarn.

What Should I Not Use Fabric Softener On?

This might come as a surprise since those fabric softener commercials always seem to be about fluffy towels, but you really shouldn’t use fabric softener on your towels. Fabric softener can reduce the absorbency of your fabrics so avoid using it on your towels.

If you are a big fan of cleaning with microfiber cloths, like I am, you should also avoid using fabric softener on those. I just wash them with my towels so I know they won’t get mixed up into my other loads.

5.0 from 2 reviews
DIY Fabric Softener Sheets
Author: 
Recipe type: Cleaning
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20
 
An easy DIY fabric softener sheet that will save you money on your laundry loads!
Ingredients
  • Brightly colored washcloths
  • Fabric Softener (your favorite variety)
Instructions
  1. Pour fabric softener into a bowl.
  2. Submerge your washcloth in the fabric softener and soak it for a few seconds.
  3. Wring the washcloth out and and hang it to dry.
  4. Allow the washcloth to dry overnight.
  5. To begin using, just throw it in your dyer with freshly washed cloths.
  6. You can reuse the same DIY fabric softener sheet on up to 20 loads before you need to repeat the process again.

 

 

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Spring Cleaning All Year Round With Windex Touch-Up Cleaner (& a Giveaway!)

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Sorry! This giveaway is now closed! We would like to congratulate entry #2 (Stephanie) and entry #10 (Heather) on winning these prize packs! 

With spring comes all of the beauty of the changing season. We finally began to see our grass; we enjoy seeing the new buds on our trees, and the sweet smell of a good April shower. What also comes  is the time for spring renewal and spring cleaning inside our homes to bring the freshness and sunshine into our space.

This year, I have vowed to “spring clean” all year long rather than trying to set aside a specific time to do this. With a very busy family schedule, it can often feel daunting to just keep up the daily maintenance of my home.  If you are anything like me, try and incorporate these tips into your daily routine so that you can relax while everyone else is tired and haggard from their day of spring cleaning. Here are a few ideas for getting these tasks done:

  • Begin by making a checklist of everything that you would normally do during your spring cleaning. Things like washing all the linens and drapes, wiping down baseboards, washing windows inside and out, cleaning out your pantry, washing your shower curtains, organizing your linen cabinets, wiping down walls, and cleaning doorknobs and light fixtures.
  • Take inventory of your cleaners and the tools that you will need in order to accomplish all of the necessary cleaning. Nothing is worse than getting ready to do it and then finding out that you are missing that one component needed to complete your task. Put the items that you will need on your shopping list and get them on the day that you perform all of your errands. Some items I like to always have on hand are microfiber cloths (for dusting and wiping down electronic surfaces), newspaper for a lint-free swipe on my mirrors, dusting spray, and a good all-purpose cleaner. I love the Windex® Touch-Up Cleaner for easily and effortlessly cleaning your home’s surfaces. Use this cleaner for wiping down sinks, counter tops, toilets, the outside of your appliances, stove tops, sealed granite, sealed marble, glass, chrome, glazed ceramic tile, finished wood and more.
  • Continue doing your normal daily routine, but add an extra hour each week towards accomplishing just one of these tasks on your list. Check off the items that you accomplish and press on to the next one. By just devoting one hour a week towards your spring cleaning goals you will have a more manageable deep cleaning routine.
  • Clear out as much clutter as you can. Make a box for trash and a box for charitable donations and fill these with all of the unnecessary clutter in your home. By donating these items to those less fortunate you will gain so much. Not only will someone who needs these items more benefit from your donation, but you can receive a tax break and reclaim space in your own home. My theory is, if you don’t like to dust it and aren’t in love with items in your home- donate it!
  • Try keeping a cleaning schedule that fits with your life and your family’s life. Some people work better during morning hours while others of us would rather be snoozing and do better in the evening. Take advantage of the times that you work best.
  • Put your spring cleaning task on your calendar each week. It sounds silly, but don’t you remember your appointments and engagements better when it is written on your calendar?

 

  • Enlist your helpers to help you on these tasks. Your children and your husband can be active participants in getting your home organized just like they help to contribute to the clutter. Schedule dad for clearing out the garage, taking inventory of the tools you will need to do your gardening, cleaning out the basement, or other tasks inside and outside of the home. Children can aid in cleaning their own rooms by helping to remove some of the clutter in the house. Involving your family can be beneficial in showing them all that you do to keep your house running smoothly.

 

If your children need an extra incentive, be sure to print out our free handy chore punch cards to motivate your kids to be involved in the cleaning process!
For product details, visit http://www.windex.com/ and check out the Windex® Facebook page at www.facebook.com/windex for information, coupons and more; additionally, don’t forget to check out the Shineboard for creative cleaning ideas!

Disclosure: I have partnered with Windex® and am being compensated for my posts. However, my opinions are my own.

 

GIVEAWAY: Two (2) lucky readers will receive tools to make spring cleaning a breeze as well as samples of Windex® Touch-Up in Multi-tasking tool-kit!

To Enter: Leave a comment below telling us how Windex® Touch-Up Cleaner will help you spring clean!

*If you are a winner, please leave a testimonial here once you’ve tried it out!*
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NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT POST OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE OR, PAYMENT WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING.
 
1. Eligibility:Mom Advice’sWindex® Touch-Up Product Giveaway (“Sweepstakes”) is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States (including the District of Columbia) who are at least eighteen (18) years of age.  Employees of Mom Advice (“Sponsor”), Daniel J. Edelman, Inc., and SC Johnson & Son, Inc. and any of their parents, subsidiaries. affiliated companies and their advertising and promotion agencies, as well as the immediate family (spouses, parents, siblings and children and their respective spouses, regardless of where they reside) and household members, whether or not related of each such employee are not eligible to enter or win. The Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations.
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DIY Peep Wreath With Rolled Ribbon Rosette

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Easter is just around the corner and today’s DIY Easter Wreath is an adorable Peep Wreath created with that infamous Easter candy and adorned with a simple rolled ribbon rosette. Peep wreaths are easy to create for the Easter season and are inexpensive Easter decoration to add to adorn a wall or interior door of your home.

Here is a picture of the supplies you will need for this craft and all of the supplies for this tutorial can be found at your local Walmart store. You will need one 14″ straw wreath (leave this covered in the plastic wrap), 12 packages of Peeps in whatever color your heart desires, 1 yard of rosette ribbon (this will need to be cut in the fabric department), 1 piece of white felt, toothpicks, hot glue gun, and glue sticks. 

As an aside, if you haven’t visited the craft section of the store in awhile, you will be amazed at the new ribbon & trim offerings they are carrying. If making a flower isn’t your thing, they also have a variety of pre-made flowers by the hair and new baby accessories line that you could use in lieu of making the flower I am going to show you today.  It had been awhile since my last visit, and I was a little overwhelmed with the new choices available!

Assembling the wreath is easy and can be done one of two ways.  Poke your toothpick through your Peep almost until the toothpick pokes out of the top and then push your toothpick through your straw wreath OR you can just poke the toothpick directly in to your wreath and then stick your Peep on top of it.

My only aside to this is that I do think that if you are planning to keep the wreath, I would add a dab of hot glue to each of the Peeps. The idea of just skewering with a toothpick just didn’t work for my wreath due to the depth of how I positioned all of these. They really needed a little extra hold especially the Peeps that were on the bottom and inverted upside down. 

Find a design that makes sense for you. I did three rows of Peeps with them all uniform and in a row.  My Type-A personality does not allow me to be whimsical with design. I want them all in a row, the right way, all in a line. If you know me, this would not surprise you at all.  To add depth, I also did a few in between rows of two Peeps (as pictured above).

Once again, I would recommend hot gluing a bit as you go to add a little extra security, otherwise, you will hear those sad little plops of Peeps committing suicide and jumping ship from the wreath. It is heartbreaking, but can you blame them?

If you do your wreath right, you will end up with six Peeps to spare and Peep dust all over your table. I can only give you an estimate on the number though (give or take a few) since I find Peeps (and Peep dust) awfully delicious!

You may remember this Rolled Rosette tutorial from this adorable Easter bow I made my daughter last year to go with her Easter outfit.

To start your rolled ribbon rosette,  you will want to start with one of the roses on the ribbon to create the center of your pretty flower. Now all you need to do is start twisting your ribbon in between each of the little roses (find those spot where there is only tulle like I have pictured above)  add a dab of hot glue, and then twist again, glue again, and repeat. If you twist the ribbon tightly, you will have a tighter and flatter flower. If you twist a little looser, you will get more of the petal effect with the frayed edges working their way out more on the ribbon. Either way, it will be beautiful. Keep twisting until you reach almost the end of the ribbon. Add a dab of glue and tuck it into the back of your bow.

Finish by cutting a circle out of felt. You can use a drinking glass to trace your circle on the felt or just freehand it. This felt circle will hold all of that ribbon secure and together underneath your Rolled Ribbon Rosette Hair Bow. Hot glue your felt circle to the back of your flower. Hold this for a couple of seconds to secure it.

Once you have secured your felt circle, add more glue and attach it wherever you want on your Peep wreath. Feel free to add other rolled rosettes like these or cute felted loopy bows or just add a fun fabric bow. As you can see, the possibilities for adorning your wreath are endless.

This wreath makes me so happy and is a fun nod to the season. The best part? It will cost you about $20 in supplies (assuming you have a glue gun, glue sticks, & some scissors in your craft supplies like me!)

Be sure to check back in the next couple of weeks for more fabulous Easter projects! In the meantime, try some Kool-Aid dyed eggs, bake a batch of Bunny Bread in your bread machine, make a cute hair accessory to go with your daughter’s Easter outfit this year, or try your hand at marbleizing some eggs. These are just a few of my favorite projects you will find for the Easter season on the blog. 

Be sure to also check out all of the fun Easter offerings this year that are offered at your local Walmart store for all of your Easter needs!

 

 

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5 Ideas for Offsetting The 2% Tax Increase

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

 

With the new year in full swing, you may be noticing that your paychecks are a little smaller than they were last year.  Social Security taxes were raised by 2% which may not sound like a lot, but this can truly impact families who are already financially strained or striving to build their savings & retirement. Today I want to share with you 5 ways to offset that 2% tax increase so that your family can prepare for this adjustment to your budget.

Let’s break down what a 2% tax increase might look like:

If you earn $30,000 per year, you will pay $50 more per month in taxes.

If you earn the national average of $41,000 per year, you will pay $64 more per month in taxes.

If you earn $50,000 per year, you will pay $83 more per month in taxes.

For the families that are already struggling, $50-64 a month is a huge chunk out of their budget that could go towards food, utilities, and housing.

Here are five easy ways to offset that 2% tax increase. These are all relatively painless, but yield an incredible amount of savings over the course of your year. 

 

Ditch Your Cable Bill

Last year our family gave up cable television and it is has truly been one of the most financially rewarding and best things I have ever done for our family. We now rely upon Hulu & Netflix for our television watching, reducing our bill from almost $100 a month to under $20 monthly. We are still able to watch all of the shows we want, but we don’t find ourselves wasting hours and hours of our day consumed with the television. The other financial bonus is that we are not exposed to endless commercials, which can send you running to the stores to pick up the latest and greatest things. To learn more about alternative options to cable, be sure to read my article on ditching your cable bill.

(Monthly Savings: $80 or more)

 

Calculate Your Personal Latte Factor

David Bach, author of Debt-Free for Life coined the term “Latte Factor,” to describe the way small indulgences and expenses add up to a lot of money down the drain. Consider the example of a three-day-a-week Starbucks habit. At $3.80 a latte you will spend $11.40 a week, $45.60 a month, $547.20 a year, and $5, 472 over a ten-year period on JUST take out coffee.

You may think, “I don’t buy takeout coffee,” BUT we all have small drains on our budget that can add up over time. That dinner that you pick up at the drive-through each week because your kids have sports activities, the trip to the store for one item that turns into a cart full of junk, even our thrifty endeavors (like thrift and garage sale shopping) can cost us $10 or more a week.

Figure out what that drain is on your budget and stop the leak. One little change like whipping up your latte at home, setting your slow cooker in the morning on busy days, or allocating time towards organizing items you already have instead of buying more can easily save you $10 or more weekly!

Be sure to visit my article on 7 apps to get your family organized to help get your finances back on track this year!

(Monthly Savings: $45 or more)

Get Savvy About Grocery Shopping

When families ask me how to save their family money, the first thing I talk to them about is rethinking their grocery shopping. We all get in habits and ruts when it comes to grocery shopping. Do you buy the same box of cornflakes you grew up on? Do you refuse to try a generic ketchup because you truly believe a certain company is the only one who can make ketchup? Do you have a habit of shopping without a list? Do you find yourself making multiple trips because you didn’t execute your menu plan well for the week?

I highly recommend downloading the free Grocery IQ app for your phone to effortlessly make a grocery list for your family. It pulls the coupon savings for you and you can use your lists from week to week instead of starting a fresh list each time.

Instead of shopping multiple stores, search fliers from all of the grocery stores and jot down the best deals of the week. Take this list with you to Walmart, for example, and have them price match the items for you. You will not only be able to cherry pick the best of the best, but you also will experience the savings of not spending on gas to shop at multiple stores.

To make effortless menu plans to go along with the savings, be sure to visit our Take Five Fridays each Friday on the Facebook group to get 5 budget-friendly meals to create in your kitchen!

(Monthly Savings: $40 or more)

Declutter Your Way to Savings

Clutter not only weighs us down physically, but clutter causes us to spend money when we don’t need to. One look at a cluttered pantry or bathroom closet and you know exactly what I am talking about. Duplicate purchases occur when we don’t have a strong grasp on our inventory in our home and clutter hides us from the real treasures that are in our lives.

Think of clutter not only as the items that fill our home, but also the items that fill our fridges. Do you constantly throw food out because you have “too much” food in your fridge or pantry? Is your freezer full, but you still run to the store because you have, “nothing to eat.” I can raise my hand to these scenarios too and there is a sickening feeling in my stomach when I know that I haven’t done a good job managing this aspect of managing the family finances.

Accountability of our items brings enormous savings and satisfaction. Being a good steward of the stuff that fills your life forces you to edit your belongings and keeps you from  buying as much. I try to live my life by the infamous quote from William Morris, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.” If it is not bringing beauty or usefulness to my space, then I can feel good about passing those items on to someone else in need.

I often hear that people think their home is “too small,” but I also often wonder if the excess from their lives was removed if that space wouldn’t feel spacious once again.  When my home is decluttered, suddenly, my kitchen counters feel spacious, the basement really does have a spot for everything in storage, and the house really does have enough space for us all.

I honestly consider cutting the clutter as, not only a way to decrease buying duplicate purchases, but as a project to devote my time to rather than spending it out in the stores spending money. When that boredom spending starts to hit me, I focus on a spot in our home that needs to be reclaimed. Even in a smaller home, there are MANY corners to devote my efforts to.

To learn more about our commitment to our smaller home, read this article on the power of living small.

(Monthly Savings: $30 or more)

Get the Good Life For Less

The entire focus of my first book, “The Good Life for Less,” is truly about achieving good times and a happy home on a budget. The book is filled with make-your-own recipes for commonly purchased items like food mixes and cleaners, as well as outlining simple ways any family can save money on their family budget each week.

In it, I outline how our family paid over $13,000 in credit card debt from unemployment and are on the road to financial freedom.  Our family is living proof that any family can pay down their debt with small switches.

The switches I outlined above, are switches that we worked towards and have freed our family of credit card usage and have allowed us to have a beautiful life that is well within our means.  You can find my book on the shelves of your local Walmart store or purchase it online!

Check out our Debt-Free party we threw for our family when we paid off our $13,000 in credit card debt and how we are living our version of the American dream.

(Monthly Savings: $50 or more)

 

What are some small switches you have made to be able to offset the 2% Social Security tax increase this year?

 

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Getting To Know Your Bread Machine (Easy Recipes & Tips for Busy Families)

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

One of the most invaluable appliances in our home is our bread machine and today I wanted to share with you why I think a bread machine is a wise kitchen investment. This tutorial will offer advice on what to look for in a bread machine, how to use your bread machine, and the best bread machine recipes that our family enjoys on a weekly basis.

Perhaps you already have a bread machine that has been gathering dust in your kitchen or basement. Many people buy these appliances and then end up donating them to their local thrift store because they never use them. I think of the bread machine as a modern day convenience, but in a culture where we want everything NOW, waiting for a loaf of bread can seem like an eternity.

Why wait for a hot loaf of fresh bread when you can grab a loaf at your supermarket?

And what exactly is the purpose of that appliance that is taking up space on your shelves? Let’s get to know our bread machines and find a new way to use them.

What is A Bread Machine or Bread Maker?

A bread making machine or bread maker is a home appliance for baking bread.The bread machine is simple in its construction and consists of a bread pan (or “tin”), at the bottom of which are one or more built-in paddles, mounted in the center of a small special-purpose oven. This little oven is  controlled by a simple built-in computer, the settings for which are inputted on the control panel. Most bread machines have different cycles for different kinds of dough—including white bread, whole grain, European-style (sometimes labeled “French”), and dough-only (for pizza dough and shaped loaves baked in a conventional oven). Many also have a timer to allow the bread machine to activate without operator attendance, and some high-end models allow the user to program a custom cycle.

Some of the older machines have just a handful of simple settings while newer machines offer more advanced cycles including a cycle to make jam or to bake cakes. To be honest, I don’t use the fancy cycles on my bread machine and rely mostly on the Basic and the Dough cycle, which can be found on every machine. The basic cycle is just the basic setting for making a loaf of bread. The Dough cycle just completes the kneading and rising of the dough. Once the dough cycle is complete, you can take the dough out and shape it into your loaf pan or do fancy braids or rolls out of the dough.

The purpose of a bread machine is simple;  you are able to make fresh bread when you want it. The reasons vary from person to person on why they choose to make their own bread. Many people have concerns about the additives and preservatives that are found in store-bought breads. Another reason that many people choose to make their own bread is because they just enjoy the taste of homemade bread. My reasoning for making our own bread is because I like to save our family money. Making your own bread costs so much less than purchasing a loaf of bread, and the rising grocery costs have only fueled my desire more to make it at home.

How Do You Add Ingredients to a Bread Machine?

Inserting your ingredients into a bread machine is also very straightforward. If you are making the loaf right away, you can insert the ingredients in any way that you want. All of these ingredients will immediately be stirred together and so it will not matter what the order is. If you use a timer delay on your bread machine, delaying the start time of making your loaf, it is imperative that you put the ingredients in the right order or your loaf will not turn out right. The order of ingredients is liquid (liquids include water, oil, milk, eggs, or honey), flour, other dry ingredients (salt, sugar, baking powder, seasonings), and ending the ingredients with your yeast. The most important part of putting the yeast in is to make sure that you make a small indentation into the center of the flour so that the yeast does not react with the other ingredients.

Upon inserting your ingredients, your bread machine will take over the process from there. The machine will knead the ingredients together, give the bread its rising time, and then it will bake the bread. The bread machine will signal when the bread is ready and you can allow the bread to cool inside of the bread bucket.

Do I Need to Buy Bread Machine Mixes For My Bread Machine?

There is no need to spend the money on convenience bread machine mixes; in fact, you can make your own convenient mixes handy for the week. I take plastic storage bags and make an assembly line of the dry ingredients and do my bags once a month. On the outside, just write what liquids you will need to add and you will only have a dirty kitchen once instead of weekly.

What is the difference between Instant Yeast, Bread Machine Yeast and RapidRise Yeast?

Just their names because these are all the same yeast. Nothing like making it EXTRA confusing for a novice bread-maker.

Is There Savings in Making Bread at Home?

A quick glance at grocery store prices and you will wonder how there could be any possible savings with making your bread at home. The key to making this the least expensive on your family is to purchase all of your ingredients at your local wholesale club. With proper storage, you can buy the ingredients in bulk and save your family loads of money.

I don’t use my wholesale club membership very often except for our family’s eye care needs and for the occasional party. I won’t ever let my membership lapse though because with one trip to buy my baking supplies, my wholesale club membership has earned its space in my wallet. I make a trip twice a year to buy all of the necessary supplies for my baking and pizza-making needs.

Don’t believe me? Here is the current prices from my local Sam’s Club:

25 Pounds Bread Flour- $6.59 (needed depending upon the recipe)

25 Pounds All-Purpose Flour- $6.68 (needed depending upon the recipe)

2 Pounds of Yeast- $4.16

Cheese (5 pounds for $10.43) , pepperoni (5 pounds for $11.88), and crushed tomatoes (102 ounces for $2.68) can also be bought at a fraction of the price, but in the past I have lacked the capacity and ambition of storage for all of the ingredients.

As a side note, if you do own a membership to Sam’s Club, they have a wonderful Click ‘N Pull service that you can utilize for your shopping day and they can pull the ingredients right to the front and email you when your order is ready to pick up. This is a fantastic free service for moms with small children or who are short on time!

How Do I Store My Bread Machine Ingredients?

For storage, flour can be stored for up to a year in an airtight container. With bulk storage, a large plastic bin that has been clearly labeled is ideal to keep your flour fresh. Yeast is the easiest ingredient to store and has a very long shelf life. I store my yeast in a mason jar in our refrigerator door. With both of these ingredients, writing an expiration date on the label will also remind you of when the item is going to expire. I have also provided a handy Yeast Freshness Test that you can use to see if your yeast is still working. This will come in handy when buying yeast in bulk.

What Kind of Bread Machine Should I Buy?

If you do not have a bread machine and are looking for one, garage sales and thrift sales are a great place to hunt. I see these machines for $10 or less, and you will definitely get your money back from the savings of making your own bread. When you find one, ask if you can plug it in and make sure it is working. Just check that it actually powers up, that there is a bread bucket inside, and that there is a paddle in the bottom of the bread machine to stir the ingredients. Having a manual with it is handy, but usually can be found by searching online.

Over the past five years, I have been using my Sunbeam Bread Machine with great success. All of my past models have been found at the thrift shops and garage sales, but when our bread machine quit on us, I ran out to our local superstore so we wouldn’t have to miss our weekly pizza night. You know an appliance has become invaluable to you if you can’t imagine a day without it. Our bread machine is that invaluable to us.

What Are Some Foolproof Bread Machine Recipes I Can Try With My Family?

On any given day in our house, you will find our bread machine happily humming along and whipping up fresh dough and bread for us. Not only that, but our bread machine has a regular performance in our house on Friday night for our infamous weekly family pizza night.

Here are a few of our family favorites, but you can learn more in my first book, “The Good Life For Less,” that is available on bookstore shelves now: 

The Perfect Pizza Dough (so easy that your kids can roll this one out on their own!)

Bread Machine Pita Pockets

Bread Machine Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns

Whole Wheat Bread Machine Hamburger Buns or Hot Dog Buns

Bread Machine Calzones

Bread Machine Portuguese White Bread

 

Bread Machine Monkey Bread/Bunny Bread

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls 

 


Yeast Freshness Test
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Not sure if your yeast is still fresh and active? This simple test will help determine if your yeast is still performing!
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup warm tap water (110°F-115°F)
  • 2¼ teaspoons dry yeast (make sure it is at room temperature)
Instructions
  1. Using a one-cup liquid measuring cup, dissolve 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar in ½ cup warm tap water at 110°F-115°F. Using a thermometer is the most accurate way to determine the correct liquid temperature. Any thermometer will work as long as it measures temperatures between 75°F and 130°F. If you don't have a thermometer, the tap water should be warm but NOT hot to the touch.
  2. Stir in one ¼ oz. packet (7g) or 2-1/4 tsp of dry yeast until there are no more dry yeast granules on top.
  3. In three to four minutes, the yeast will have absorbed enough liquid to activate and start to rise.
  4. After ten minutes, the foamy yeast mixture should have risen to the 1-cup mark and have a rounded top.
  5. If this is true, your yeast is very active and should be used in your recipe immediately.
  6. If the yeast did not rise to the 1-cup mark, your yeast has little or no activity. Discard this yeast.

Do you have a bread machine? What is your favorite thing to do with this appliance?

 

I love helping you cook in the kitchen! If you like this cooking tutorial,  be sure to visit my tutorial on How to Cook A Butternut Squash With the Skin On, How to Roast a Spaghetti Squash, and  How to Make Quinoa in the Rice Cooker.

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