Archive for the ‘Frugal’ Category

Tips for Successful Menu Planning

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Tips for Successful Menu Planning from

One of the most stressful parts about my job as a mom is creating menu plans to feed my family and accomplishing the weekly grocery shopping. Today I want to share with you some of my own tips for successful menu planning, but first I want to work on some honesty with you about my attitude towards food preparation in my house.

Is it okay to say that I have a terrible attitude about this?

I hope it is because something happened this summer that has helped transform my mindset a bit.

Tips for Successful Menu Planning from

This summer I wanted to create some great learning experiences for my kids and to teach them how lucky we are for all that we have. One of those experiences has been volunteering at our church’s food pantry where over 400 local families are served each month. I had not expected the enthusiasm that these two brought to the job, but these kids were so happy to do this that they begged to return the next week to help again.

I am not sure what it is like for you and your children, but I feel like we live in this protected bubble that I am constantly trying to push them out of… but not TOO far.  I’m pushing on those walls because there is such a big world out there full of people who need us and it’s important to see and address those needs when we can.  I thought it would be great for them to serve others and to understand how lucky we are.

As we pulled in the first day to volunteer there was a gathering of people waiting for the doors to open. At the time we had pulled in, there was TWO MORE HOURS until the food pantry doors were open to the public. When I asked about this, I was told that they arrive that early to be able to be the first to select the food. The food given would last a family of 4 a few days, an incredible offering when one needs  it, but it made me very ashamed about my attitudes towards feeding my family.

I can plan meals for my family and buy whatever we need for the week in one trip without any worries.

I complain when the grocery line is too long, but others wait for hours just in the hopes that they will have fresh produce.

I whine about how annoying it is to have to haul so many bags from my car and put them away.

Guess who had the transformation?

I know we can’t always go into that zen place of happiness when planning our meals, but I’m working on my attitude and I want to do what I can to simplify this process for our family. It’s a bit of a privilege to go into the store with a plan and come out with what we need, isn’t it?

Meal planning is necessary to stay on budget. In fact, as I have said in my book, I feel that this is one of the biggest places I feel families should analyze when living on a budget. This is a flexible area in our spending, but it takes a good plan to stay on budget.

Here are a few of my tips for successful menu plans:

Gluten-Free Orange Chicken

gluten-free orange chicken

Be Realistic About Your Meal Plans

The overachiever in me really believes that I will cook a great meal for my family every night. The reality is that many nights I am running kids to activities and I am not home (or too tired) to execute all those good intentions. What happens when you have a lot of intentions and not a lot of time?

Spoiled food and wasted money.

I shop for 5 meals for the week, giving us two nights for leftovers and reality.

Kind of the same thing- ha!

Take a serious look at your calendar and analyze what will be happening for the week so that you can create a menu plan that will serve your family well. Slow cooker dishes are arranged on busy days where I don’t have time for food preparation, Sunday suppers are leisurely meals with all the fixings doubled so we can enjoy the dish another night, and grocery days are often prep days for chopping and dicing for quick wraps & salads for nights I don’t have the time to cook.

Slow Cooker Carnitas

slow cooker carnitas

Try a Rotation Schedule

I am a lover of routines and that also comes to the food that we share around the table. In our house, we usually have one slow cooker dish, one pot of soup or a large salad (depending on the season), some type of taco night, one “fancy” dish for Sundays, a brunch dish (that later acts as breakfast on busy school mornings), and I try to implement one new recipe a week to keep things fresh. A rotation schedule creates a clear routine for a busy week and makes grocery shopping easier since you know what you typically need each week. 

Routines are my jam!

I try to make one dish that can easily be doubled or tripled since we have been working on weekly entertaining or to share with someone who might be having a hard week. This can also be a great time to feed the freezer for another week.

Gather Inspiration for Your Meals

It would be hard not to be inspired now that we have tools like Pinterest at our disposal. I think more than anything it is not to feel OVERWHELMED with all of the meal choices or choosing dishes that are far too ambitious for your time constraints. My best bet for busy weeknights are 30-minute recipes or 5-ingredient or less ideas and that is typically what I search for when hunting down new dishes to add to my menu. 

I subscribe to my favorite food blogs through Feedly and utilize their bookmarking tool to save the recipes I want to come back to. I also utilize a private Pinterest board just for my family to test out different recipes in our kitchen. Cookbooks are like old reliable friends that I know I can always count on for a recipe or two. Foodgawker is where I also favorite dishes that I want to try in our menus (you can see our own dishes that made the cut over here!)



Tips for Successful Menu Planning from

Use Your Smartphone to Make Smart Lists

What did I ever do without my smartphone? This little device has made creating and maintaining my grocery lists each week so much easier. I am a BIG fan of the Grocery iQ app (FREE!)  for creating my grocery list because you can reuse the same master list that you use over and over again (especially if you have a routine rotation of meals) and this app automatically organizes and finds any coupons that you might want to use for your purchases. 

With Grocery iQ you can type, speak, or scan grocery list items into your list. The list automatically adds your items into categories and then alerts you if coupons are available for any items you might be adding to your list. Coupons can then be sent to your email when your list has been made or (if you have a wireless enabled printer) can be sent to your printer for printing. As you gather your items from your list, simply check it off and the item moves to the bottom of the list. Once your whole list is complete, everything is shifted towards the bottom and then can simply be clicked to add those repeat items back on the list for your next visit.

Switching to an electronic list was much easier than I expected. It also keeps me off my phone while shopping so I can really concentrate which is half of the battle for me when it comes to menu planning.

Tips for Successful Menu Planning from

Journal the Family Favorites & Put Them In Your Plans

In our family, every person has a favorite dish or a favorite memory of a meal we have shared together. To make your week easier, creating a family journal or scrapbook where you have all your family favorites for weekly inspiration and rotate a family member’s favorite each week.

Tips for Successful Menu Planning from

We made a food journal and printed out our favorite recipes and why the kids loved these dishes. This can be a fun craft project to do together AND it is something you can pass on to them when they leave the nest (but that won’t be for a LONG time so I’m not worried). If you want to try making your own cookbook, you can see this tutorial we created for it!

One thing I don’t think very often about is that many of our favorite recipes are online. If the sites ever go down (which has been known to happen), we may no longer have access to our favorite dishes. I want a place where we can keep all these food memories so a family journal is a fun activity that you can enjoy for years to come.

Pick What’s Important & Make it Happen

I have many friends that deal chase for their menu plans, but I have never been much of a deal chaser.  As the extracurricular schedule grows and my work becomes more demanding, I have to make choices about what I realistically can and cannot do. It’s okay to not chase deals.

I do my menu planning first thing in the morning (eat the frog!!) and I go to grocery stores where deal chasing doesn’t need to happen. ALDI has (and always will be) my first destination for our family groceries and thanks to the Savings Catcher app, a scan of my receipt at the end of my shopping at Walmart means I can look forward to pocketing any savings if any store goes lower in prices without chasing deals anymore.

You may find shopping at night is better for you or you may get a thrill from a deal well chased. Pick what’s important to you and make it happen for your family, but do what fits best with your own lifestyle for menu planning success.

Do you have any strategies you can share for menu planning? Let us know in the comments below!






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How to Make a DIY Salad Bar for Your Fridge

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Originally published in 2012 as a summer salad option, we’ve found having DIY salad bar ingredients in our fridge is great for quick, healthy dinners and lunches all year long, making it a perfect addition to our August M Challenge Focus on Meal Planning. I hope you are inspired by this idea to eat healthy any time of the year!

DIY Salad Bar- a healthy dinner ready to go in the fridge

Healthy eating should always be a priority, but making it a priority has gotten to be more challenging because we seem to always be eating on the go, no matter what the season. Enter an easy DIY salad bar that you can quickly prepare on your grocery day to enjoy all week long! This DIY salad bar can be kept on hand in your fridge so that it’s always easy to put together healthy salads for lunches, picnics, and quick dinners.

All of the supplies can be found at basic stores- you will need a fridge/freezer storage basket, three plastic 5 cup lidded containers, and 1 larger 12.5 cups container. Chop up your favorite salad ingredients and organize them in your containers like shown. The largest container does not sit firmly flat, but it still wedges in there nicely so that you can place all of these neatly in this wire organizer.

I love having such fresh ingredients on hand to choose form and creating a salad bar couldn’t be easier with the fantastic selection we have of fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m showcasing just a few of the basics we love in our salads. You could definitely fill your produce drawer up with a few other great salad add-ins!

Ingredient Ideas for a Great Salad Bar

Bell pepper
Sunflower Seeds
Corn Kernels
Onions (none for me please!)
Artichoke Hearts
Homemade Dressings

One ingredient I always have on hand in the summer for quick summer salads and wraps is roasted chicken. I don’t keep a lot of fresh chicken around and prefer to buy the frozen chicken breasts instead. There is money to be saved in buying and preparing whole chickens, but my family only likes white meat  so for convenience sake (and to get them to eat it), we stick to the chicken breasts.

I buy the 3 pound bag of chicken  cook and slice all of the chicken for the week. The chicken is then ready to go to be made into wrap sandwiches, fast paninis, a protein addition to my salads for lunch, and it helps me save a step for our dinners for the week. Here is how I batch-cook our chicken:

Roasted Chicken Breasts for Bulk Cooking

Preheat the oven for 375 degrees. Spread the frozen chicken breasts out over one or two cookie sheets. Drizzle a little olive oil over the chicken breasts and then sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Allow the chicken to rest ten to fifteen minutes (to allow the juices to redistribute within the meat). Dice, slice, or shred for your recipes for the week.

Here is my beautiful salad bar on full display! Isn’t she pretty? It makes me really happy to have all of our fruit and vegetables chopped and ready to go for our week, making it easier to eat healthy.

Since we are a family on the go, I wanted to show you a fun way to enjoy your salads while you are out and about:

I picked up a collapsible basket and packed it with our outdoor blanket, salads (and fun bowls with forks included), fresh cut fruit, and homemade iced tea for an afternoon picnic to encourage healthy eating wherever we might be!


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How to Make a Closet Office For Under $200

Monday, July 6th, 2015

How to Make a Closet Office For Under $200 from

This post is sponsored on behalf of BHG at Walmart.

If you have learned anything from my past posts, you know that my desire is to make the most of every corner in our little home. Small space living requires works especially when want you make each room as functional as possible. I love how much it challenges me and today I wanted to show how we made over a neglected closet into a closet office as a birthday gift for our soon-to-be teen son. As part of the BHG Live Better Network, I am partnering with them to show how to help someone create a new space so today we are showing off our ideas for small space office that we think would work beautifully in a closet in your home. The best part is that this makeover cost us under $200 to pull off!

How to Make a Closet Office For Under $200 from

My son’s room is small and his closet is pint size like our’s (thus why I embraced the fashion capsule project so much).  Over time though, we have learned that these closets are just right for us and this closet wasn’t getting a lot of use now in his room. We had pulled his dresser in there to save space, but you can see how beautifully that all worked out (ahem!). Too small clothing and the piles of clothes given to this kid to put away in his drawers on laundry day had created a mountain of a mess. The first step was to weed through the pile and, with our recent growth spurt, we were able to whittle this pile down to nothing and give our great stuff to someone in need. The dresser was relocated to the end of our bed which freed the space up entirely for a new purpose.

How to Make a Closet Office For Under $200 from

How to Make a Closet Office For Under $200 from

The hard part with this makeover was just getting this space prepped and ready for its new purpose. We removed all the old closet hardware and trim, painted the walls in our favorite shade of Benjamin Moore Gray Owl (leftover paint from our shed makeover last summer) and sanded down the old eighties paint job on the high shelf to create a more distressed wood look to the shelf.

Here’s a fun fact! We found a little boy’s name scrawled on the side of the wood when we took it off the shelf. That is one of the best parts about having an older house…the sweet discoveries of little things like that add to its charm. We, of course, left it there for someone else to discover one day.

How to Make a Closet Office For Under $200 from

Pictured Above: Better Homes & Gardens Traditional Task Lamp ($22.56)/ Mainstays Parsons Desk With Drawer ($53.53)/ Mainstays Contemporary Office Chair  ($45.00) /Mainstays Canvas Ironwork Curtain Panel ($11.18)/ Better Homes & Gardens Boule Bronze Curtain Rod ($25.38)

How to Make a Closet Office For Under $200 from

How to Make a Closet Office For Under $200 from

We hung a single curtain panel that helped frame the space and also could be a way to hide the inevitable chaos that will happen on this desk. As you can see, we hung the bar high to help prevent our chair from rolling into our curtains and also to make this tiny space feel bigger.

How to Make a Closet Office For Under $200 from

On the side, we moved our hamper so it is tucked away for tossing our clothes into. A giant pegboard was added to the wall for odds & ends and any art we want to display.  I hung his favorite hat on top of a thumbtack that I had pushed in. This sign made him laugh so we thought it would be a cute touch (found at Hobby Lobby). A task lamp with extension cord creates a well-lit space for doing our homework in this space.

Happy 13th birthday, Ethan! We hope you create your next artistic masterpiece in this new space we have created for you! Thank you BHG at Walmart for the fun challenge this month! We couldn’t be more thrilled with our space and to create a new purpose to a once cluttered closet!

How to Make a Closet Office For Under $200 from


In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, I am disclosing that I received compensation from BHG at Walmart for my time and participation in the BHG Live Better Network. Although we have material connection to BHG, any publicly stated opinions of BHG and their products remain my own.

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Beautiful Ideas for Outdoor Entertaining With Goodwill

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Beautiful Ideas for Outdoor Entertaining With Goodwill from
I love entertaining outdoors in the summertime and today I wanted to share with you some fun and frugal ways you can entertain utilizing items found at your local Goodwill store. Outdoor entertaining does not need to be expensive and many of the items found at Goodwill can be repurposed into great items to have on hand for outdoor meals and entertainment for your guests.

Join me over on the Goodwill Tips blog for a few beautiful summertime ideas I have gathered to help you  make the most of your outdoor space! I just know you will feel inspired after you see these fun ideas! 

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Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

My husband and I went for our first time out of the country this past month and it was the experience of a lifetime. In the upcoming weeks, I wanted to share with you a little bit about our experience with traveling internationally from how we saved the money to do it to packing for your vacation.  Since this is our first time out of the country, we lack the seasoned advice of travelers like Tsh from The Art of Simple (I have been just dying over their family’s incredible adventure, haven’t you?), but I hope we can bring a new voice to it about first-time international travel.

One of the keys to our success was utilizing a travel agent and going the group tour route for our first time traveling internationally. This surprised us so we wanted to share that experience with you especially if you are trying to travel internationally on a budget.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

The savings plan (I will go over that next week) had been in place for many years so that our family would not feel the pinch when we decided to take our 15th anniversary trip. Since it was our first time out of the country we had to get our passports. We headed to the post office to get the paperwork filled out which I was pretty nervous about.  I have so many issues because I dropped my middle name when I got married and this has been the biggest headache of paperwork ever since because my license and Social Security card do not match (thank you, Indiana).

My husband’s passport showed up in our mailbox quickly and I, of course, got a letter that my name was not correct on my license. After it being put before a board to determine if I am who I say I am (Sam I AM), they sent the passport with my correct name and that is when we started moving on the booking of grandma (bless her Jesus-sized heart!) and the booking of our travel.

I asked my friend Erika Brown from Chic Shopper Chick to help us because she and her husband had taken an excursion to Italy and she is my go-to gal when it comes to travel.

Armed with her amazing advice, we reached out to Cheryl Oddo from Carefree Vacations (telephone number 800.683.4074 and her email is coddo(at)carefreevacations(dot)com) to assist us with booking our travel.

PS- She said you can reach out to her if you are interested in pricing for yourself and she is awesome. Please tell her you are my friend! 

This was our first time working with a travel agent and it definitely will not be the last. Cheryl asked what we were most interested in seeing and looking for in a trip to Italy. She then sent to us several ideas for group travel packages that we could do and the pricing for each option. The pricing was carefully spelled out and told us what would be included (transportation, breakfast at our hotel, walking tours) and what wasn’t covered (airfare, additional excursions, tipping). We noticed the rates increased during the height of tourist season and selected one right before the rate hike for Italy to make the most of our money and the timing of our incredible grandma.

Here is where I keep things real….

I did not want to do group travel for my 15th wedding anniversary.

I did not want to be social.

Mostly, I just didn’t want to share my husband with anyone and I wanted to have a really romantic vacation with just him.

We weren’t thrilled.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

At the same time, we had NEVER been anywhere out of the states and the idea of navigating Italy was, indeed, far too daunting for the two of us. My husband didn’t feel comfortable driving and I didn’t feel comfortable planning an itinerary and finding public transportation to everything. This did seem like the best option and what unfolded was quite glorious.

Here are 7 reasons why I think group tours are a great travel option (if you are a seasoned traveler or not):

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

You Can Avoid the Lines for Important Monuments

The lines at some of the important monuments and museums had minimum wait times of an hour or more. Since we were on a group tour, our guide knew what time to take us to avoid the crowds to get the best experience, and they had a VIP line for tours where you could bypass all the people who were not on a tour and just go right in to see everything.  For us, we were only able to spend seven days in Italy and we wanted to experience as much as we could in this short amount of time. Doing the tour allowed us to see multiple attractions in a single day and beat the crowd doing it.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

You Have a Great Ride to See Everything Up Close

Our tour offered a motorcoach that even included WiFi so that we could share our photos and update email on the trip. Not only did we have an incredible guide, but our driver got us as close to our destinations as possible which helped us waste less time walking and more on the attractions themselves. The first night, for example, we got to see the lights of Rome and the bus pulled right up so we could take a photo. A nice touch of Andrea Bocelli singing Time to Say Goodbye certainly completed the mood while gazing upon the beautiful city.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

You Learn SO Much Through Guided Tours

Here’s a little secret, I was a terrible student and listener.


It’s hard to hold my attention so I was on the fence if a guided tour was going to be my cup of espresso, so to speak.

Here’s another shocker.

It was.

The reason?

The tour guides were phenomenal. One of our guides majored in art history the other was doing archeology in Rome. These guides just didn’t know a little about these attractions, they knew everything. Standing at the feet of David would have still been a moving experience, tour or not, but when the guide told the story of Michelangelo and his passion for art as well as helping us discover details that we would have never noticed before, it made it an entirely different experience.


Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

You Still Have Time To Shop & Explore On Your Own

Our big worry was that we would just be on a neverending tour everywhere, but that wasn’t the case. On some of the excursions, we were given a quick walking tour and then we were told where to come back for meeting and for other tours and you always had the option to opt out of any experience and do your own thing. For us, the travel into destinations would be more to cab it and try to navigate on your own then it would have been taking the motorcoach in and having the free time.

One day we skipped a tour to visit the Uffizi. We let our travel director know where we were headed and he not only checked to see if he could get us tickets (impossibly awesome to do this), but he walked us to the cab, told us how long we might expect to wait, and where could pick a cab back up. After three hours trying to get in, we walked in the museum to see my husband’s favorite work of art and had a glass of wine on the rooftop with an incredible view. When we got back, my husband hugged our tour guide with tears in his eyes because it helped make the impossible possible.

It was the sweetest thing ever.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

You Will Know the Lay of the Land

No matter where you go there are good parts of town, bad parts of town, appropriate etiquette and tipping guidelines, and protocols  that you will need to know when navigating somewhere new. A guide can tell you where to find a bathroom (invaluable, if you ask me!), if you should tip someone, where to watch for pickpockets (and how they operate), as well as assist you if you have special dietary needs.

I thought being gluten-free would be an issue, but it NEVER was. I let our tour director know that I couldn’t have gluten and he let every single chef know wherever we ate. When on our own, he supplied incredible recommendations for where to get a bite to eat.

Safety would have been a big concern if we would have been on our own. We were advised how to hold our purses and where we shouldn’t be going to avoid having our money stolen.

Part of me disbelieved the hype until we stood in line at a museum and a girl told us how kids were distracting her and being cute in a seat next to her while they stole all the money in her purse on the subway.

Maybe this wasn’t just hype. Maybe we were really lucky to know this after all.

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

You Will Save A LOT

Not only did the travel agent provide good advice for making the most of our money, but the group tour option saved us thousands thanks to the affordability of group travel.  Factoring in the better budget accommodations, the transportation (by boat and by car), the included meals, and the walking tours, we really saved a bundle by going through a group tour.

Were all the meals spectacular? No. Were all the hotels fantastic? No.

We shrugged it off and worked around it. Most places we were there only a night or two so it was easy to laugh off. If we wanted better food, we could cab it somewhere better than the hotel offerings.

Group travel does require flexibility and it isn’t always perfect. For the most part, it was about the destination and the people…not necessarily the accommodations!

Group Travel Tours: Are They REALLY a Good Deal?  from

You Will Make Incredible Friends

You know those two people who just wanted to be ALONE and not be social?


We met people from ALL OVER THE WORLD.

I even met two bloggers/photographers (check out Better Family Photos & Kellie Carter Photography)- what are the odds?

It never felt lonely or isolating when you had people to talk with.  Everyone has a story and I tried to put my listening ears on (see above why this is hard) and really listen and learn from these incredible people. My heart was so full and we had so much fun together that I was teary-eyed when it was time to go. Not to just leave this incredible country, but to leave these incredible friends. How lucky we are to have a place like Facebook where we can continue to follow one another.

There you have it.

Group tours are not only far more affordable, but they are officially the Clark jam.

We can’t wait to do another one!

Have questions? Ask me! Have a personal experience doing a group tour? Share it here! See more photos of our trip on Instagram (I’d be honored!) xo

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DIY Reusable Floor Pads

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

DIY Reusable Floor Pads from

DIY Reusable Floor Pads from

DIY Reusable Floor Pads from

Are you as in love with your quickie mop as I am? I have been feeling guilty about the amount of disposable pads we were going through to tidy our hardwood floors and I was super unhappy with the streaky finish we were getting on our flooring. In an effort to have streak-free floors AND be a little more loving towards our environment, I have the quickest and easiest tutorial to DIY both the wet and the dry pads for your floors!

Head on over to the Kenmore Blog today to get this quick recipe and tutorial for all of your cleaning needs. As a bonus, these also work brilliantly for wiping up messes on your countertops or bathrooms!

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How to Shop Secondhand for Your Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

Monday, March 23rd, 2015


Last week I was so excited to show off my Spring capsule wardrobe with you all. I got some questions and emails regarding the capsule wardrobe and one thing people wanted to know the most is how I was able to pull of my wardrobe secondhand. Today I wanted to share how I did manage to keep my capsule wardrobe 90% secondhand and how you can do the same with your wardrobe.

I have always loved to shop secondhand for clothing and the fun of that just has never ended for me. There is such a thrill in the hunt for the perfect item. When I was a girl we would visit a store in my great-grandma’s town that had barrels of clothing to dig through. I remember my mom shuddering and me clapping my hands with glee. I loved to hunt and who knew what treasure you could find at the bottom of a barrel? It could be something really exquisite and rare like J. CREW or BANANA REPUBLIC or ESPRIT or UNITED COLORS OF BENETTON. RARE, RARE, RARE. For a girl who couldn’t afford to upgrade her wardrobe, this possibility thrilled me.

When I was young though I was simply attracted to brand names that I could not afford and deals…oh, THE DEALS. What I ended up with were loads of items that didn’t look good, that didn’t work together, and things I didn’t REALLY love. If only you could have seen the label on the inside though…you might have been impressed.  As an adult, I have learned to be patient, to choose wisely, and to try to be flexible when piecing together a secondhand wardrobe.

The capsule wardrobe requires a well-edited closet, selecting pieces that work together and that can be worn many different ways to maximize your choices. You might think secondhand couldn’t work, but I will share my secret with you…consignment shopping online has transformed the impossible and multiple trips to shops into the possible.

Spring Wardrobe Classics

(source Kendi Everyday)

Start With a Really Good List

The capsule wardrobe relies a lot on wardrobe staples and I had none of these when I started.  Even though secondhand shopping is more affordable than purchasing the items retail, you still must keep your budget in mind. Make a list of items that are important to you to own this year and consider dividing your list into the different capsules. For me, items like a good pair of jeans, a crisp white collared shirt, a black skirt, a black pair of jeans, a jean shirt, and a good blazer were all wardrobe essentials. Consider this list and this list (pictured above) as a good starting point for building your wardrobe.

Build In a Few Trendy Pieces

Once you have covered the basics, you can start jotting down a few of your favorite trends this season that you would like to incorporate. I love this list of Spring trends that include adding a bit of floral, the mixing and matching of bright & bold, a nod to denim, a fresh summer scarf, and the addition of a good clutch.  Obviously, only embrace the trends that really work for you and for your lifestyle, otherwise, it ends up being a pointless task in incorporating these items if you will never wear them.

Always consider the trendy colors of the year to as a way to add a little bit of color to your capsule, while keeping it timeless with still embracing the basics.

Shop Around

There are lots of great online consignment shops out there, you just have to find the right one for you. I have had the best luck on Twice and on thredUP (both of those are affiliate links and will give you $10 towards your first purchase). Here is a list of all of the shops that I have found to do some online consignment shopping.  I have found that a lot of my happiness with a site and what they offer really relies upon their search tool since I like to shop with my list and not blindly hunt for items.

I would say after trying several different companies out for online consignment, my happiness has really been with Twice the most. I like that I have 30 days to try things on and make sure I really love it. I appreciate the convenience of being able to ship my returns without getting charged for shipping or restocking fees.  I feel like I have been able to make smarter decisions and am not keeping items just because I don’t want the expense or hassle of returning them.

Of course, consignment shopping can happen locally too and many consignment shops are on Facebook, sharing and posting some of the best offerings they have in their store. Consider following the shops you love and keeping your eyes peeled for smart purchases for your capsule.

How to Shop Secondhand for Your Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

(source Twice)

Start Shopping With Your List

Once you have a list of items that you really want, shopping for consignment online is a breeze. I begin typing in descriptions of the items I am after and let the hunting for them begin.

Start with your basics and type in the key phrases of what you are looking for.

“Black Skirt”

“Black Pants”

“Shirt Dress”


Type in the patterns of fabric you are looking for- stripes, gingham, checks, herringbone, floral, chambray…. the possibilities are endless.

How to Shop Secondhand for Your Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

Be a Brand Snob- You Can Afford To

I have become quite the brand snob with my clothing and the reason is simply because I am buying my clothes at a fraction of the cost that I used to. I don’t want to spend the money on a pair of socks from some of the brands that I have been shopping at in their stores, but I can have a whole outfit when I purchase it on consignment…and not feel one bit guilty.

I try not to be too trendy in my capsule wardrobe and so I look to brands that I know will wash well, will have longevity, and  won’t fall apart on me.

Sell It Back

Since you are keeping a well-edited closet with your fashion capsule, you will know right away what hasn’t gotten worn and won’t carry over to the next wardrobe. Consider making some money or credit for the clothes and sell them back to the retailers you purchased them from.  I have this handy resource list on how to make money organizing that closet.

How to Shop Secondhand for Your Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

(source thredUP)

Add In Your Accessories & Shoes Secondhand Too

Not only is buying secondhand great for your wardrobe, but it can be great for shoes, purses, scarves, and belts to compliment your items.  If there is a trend like, “emerald green,” or “floral print,” consider adding these into your wardrobe with accessories instead of with your wardrobe basics. A quick browse on thredUP yields a million floral scarves and at a much better price than the retail stores. These smaller items are a great way to add something trendy without deciding which trends you think will actually stick in your capsule wardrobe.

How to Shop Secondhand for Your Fashion Capsule Wardrobe

Last spring’s buttery Italian suede smoking slippers from J. Crew were available on Twice when I was putting together my capsule. Would I have spent $200 on these for myself? No way!  I can afford a little luxury when they are priced at $60, use my referral credit, and pay a mere $5. YES! This is a luxury that this cheap lady can indulge in. They are beautiful and worth all five dollars and MORE!

The same principle can be applied to that beautiful handbag you have been dreaming of.

This has always been my secret to good shopping…

You can have the beautiful things you always wanted with a little patience- someone is always editing their items and the chances are good that ONE THING you have been dreaming of will be yours one day.   

I waited a whole year for these shoes and it was worth the wait.

What are your tricks for shopping secondhand for your clothing? Feel free to leave them below!


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Saving Money & Sanity with Kids’ Clothes

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Right now my daughter’s bedroom floor is covered in clothes. Some clean, some dirty, none folded. Supposedly the piles are organized by type (pants, shirts, etc.), but it’s hard to know for sure. Probably because, at this point, I’m averting my eyes rather than staring directly at the chaos.

Sometimes, the combination of kids and clothes drives me crazy!

When it comes to laundry, we’re still figuring it out at my house. Overflowing hampers, piles of clean-but-wrinkled shirts, dozens of sad unmatched socks – we’ve got it all. So I’m all out of advice for dealing with the care and cleaning of your clothes. But more than seven years into this business of clothing kids, I have learned a few things that just might help you save money and possibly your sanity.

Saving Money & Sanity with Kids' Clothes

1. Learn to love hand-me-downs. Or garage sales or thrift stores or consignment shops. Whatever it takes to get your hands on a large amount of clothes for a little amount of money – DO IT. I’ve been incredibly blessed with a cousin whose daughter is a few years older than Annalyn. They’ve generously shared clothes since my kiddo was born, saving me so much money and time and shopping sanity. When we’re finished with the clothes, we turn around and hand down the good ones to another cousin whose daughter is just a year younger than mine.

Those clothes didn’t quite make it back for a fourth round, so my youngest daughter hasn’t received as many hand-me-downs. Still, we try to pay it forward by boxing up her too-small clothes for a friend whose daughter is a few months younger than Adrienne.

2. Find a quality brand you love. I happen to love Carter’s. I have friends who swear by other brands, but Carter’s is my favorite. The clothes are always super cute, fairly priced (especially at the outlet store!) and well-made. They hold up to the abuse of a little person (and my belief that everything should be wash and go). And I can find them in several different stores. Whether I’m shopping at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target or JCPenney, I can find cute Carter’s clothes for my kiddos.

3. Buy in season. I know. The frugal folks will tell you to buy clothes on sale at the end of each season. But I’m telling you: your kids will grow in weird, unexpected ways. And storing all those clothes is a pain. (And if you forget you have them until that next season is two-thirds the way through? Well, you’ll wish you’d walked right on by that clearance rack!)

4. Give your kiddo choices. As they get older, your independent and creative kids will develop opinions about their attire. Oh yes, they will. And that brown floral peasant blouse that you just love (and may have bought a version of every single fall since she was born)? Yeah, your darling daughter’s not gonna go for it. So, my advice is to give her choices. “Would you like to wear this outfit today or tomorrow?” “Would you like to wear the pink dress or the pink shirt and gray pants?”

I imagine this is an issue for boys, too, but as a Girl Mom, I don’t know. Boy Moms – what say you?

5. Let them dress themselves. If you dare. And possibly retaining veto power. I definitely have veto power at our house, but some of the other moms at our preschool let their kids wear whatever they pick out. I suppose this one depends on your tolerance level. Big surprise – mine is pretty low.

6. Extend the use of your favorite items. Sundresses are my favorite piece of clothing ever. Obviously they’re perfect for summer, but stick a t-shirt and tights under a dress – and voila! You’ve got a spring/fall outfit. You can also add leggings under dresses that are too short. As a matter of fact, I just bought an adorable toddler dress today for Annalyn to wear over her denim shorts this summer!

Boys aren’t left in the cold with this tip, although capris and peasant blouses don’t really translate here. But layering t-shirts over or under long-sleeved shirts can stretch out their wardrobe a bit, too.

7. Embrace the pink. Or the green. Or the polka dots. Or the Mickey shirt or the Dora socks or the monkey hat. Our kids are showing us their unique personalities and passions when they beg to wear the same outfit or color or headband  or ball cap every day. It won’t last forever. And all those people at the grocery store or gas station, staring at your pretty little princess or camouflaged superhero? They know your child picked it out. And they think it’s cute, too.

How do you save money (and sanity!) with your kids’ wardrobes?

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Reader Transformation: Shanna’s No Spend Challenge

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Note from Amy- I am SO thrilled to be featuring one of my amazing friends today as we continue our m challenge towards saving money. Our family tries to take on a yearly challenge to dedicate one month towards not spending any money.  No spend challenges are something that I find help me to regain focus and discipline towards saving. They also highlight some of my terrible habits that I have towards spending money unnecessarily. I had the incredible honor of following Shanna through social media as she challenged herself to not spend money for one month. I asked if she would let me share her journey because I found her story so incredibly inspiring. Are you giving up anything for Lent? Perhaps this story of transformation will help inspire you and consider the savings a gift to those in need or to help your family save more this year. I hope you enjoy Shanna’s transformation as much as I have! 


It’s always been important to me to do what I love. The problem is that goods and services cannot be bought with emotional contentment – you have to use money.

I’ve never been good with money, but I’m not irresponsible either. In fact, I’m quite frugal by most standards, but I don’t earn much money. With my master’s degree in contemporary dance, I’ve danced and taught classes for a small company and taught dance at a community college. I’ve held many other jobs as well; all low paying. For years I’ve pieced together a living by holding more than one job at a time. I currently work full-time for a non-profit, teach yoga twice a week and I have several regular massage clients.

But life is expensive, especially if you don’t live near your loved ones. Clothing and food also cost money. Despite being generally frugal, my deficits accumulated. After ten years of working hard and not earning much, I had gotten into some bad habits and some bad debt. My journey to dig myself out was an eye-opening experience.

In January 2014, I made some pretty lofty personal finance goals for the New Year. First, I wanted a new job that paid at least $10,000 more per year. Second, I wanted pay off my $10,000 in credit card debt (although at the time I didn’t know how I would do it). Third, I would sign up for a fitness challenge at my gym, take first place, and win the fancy $75-a-month executive membership I could not afford.

I would win 2014! I would be confident, fit, and debt free by 2015!

So it began. My husband Matt got me a new interview suit at an after Christmas sale, and then I signed up for the two-month fitness challenge at my gym, planned a strict diet, and revised my resume. I had a determined mind and a hopeful heart.

By mid-February, that vigor and determination became… well… less vigorous. I was becoming increasingly frustrated because I wasn’t finding anything but parallel moves in my job search. The lack of job prospects was crushing my spirit as well as my motivation. I felt like I wasn’t making any progress towards my prosperous new year.

I began looking for some positive reinforcement, so I decided to commit to a 30-day meditation program being offered by my friend and fellow yoga teacher Erin Menut. Every day during those 30 days I would receive an email and an audio recording from Erin. I would read along and listen to the affirmations and reflections.

On day six the affirmation was: “I am here. I have arrived.” Erin talked about being present by acknowledging the present situation rather than ignoring how things are and looking toward brighter times. She told a story about her friend with credit card debt and called it “an extreme example of this.” Her friend was struggling with credit card debt and when Erin asked if she had a good repayment plan in place, she said “I don’t even know how much I owe. I don’t like to look at all of that stuff because I am afraid to find out how bad it is.”

Yikes! Erin and I never talked about my financial issues, but she might as well have been quoting ME! I too had never sat down with all my credit card bills to really look at the interest rates and fees and come up with a consistent plan to pay them down. I had been simply ignoring all that stuff and hoping for a brighter future. Not only did her friend say exactly what I would have, Erin also called her friend, and by proxy called me, an extreme example! In her reflections on her indebted friend, Erin went on to talk about what it means to be brave—the ability to face and conquer our fears so that they no longer control us. I needed to be brave – I had to figure out how I would tackle my financial mess.

On one of the days that followed day six, I was standing in Mountain pose repeating the affirmation “I am here. I have arrived.”, when I suddenly realized that part of the reason I was feeling so helpless was because I never actually asked for help. After that realization, it didn’t take me long to contact a credit counselor. I made an appointment and, to my absolute terror, would face my fears by sitting down and looking at my financial mess. I would go over a budget with my counselor. I would put a repayment plan in place. I would force myself to take control.

The appointment came, and my terror was realized. I remember the gulp of emotion that swelled up in my throat when we added everything up. My credit card debt wasn’t $10,000, it was $13,860.84! Through heaving sobs, I asked the counselor if I could call her back, and hung up with her. How could I let this happen? How did I continue to allow myself to spend? After I wiped the hot angry tears from my face, I felt my mind beginning to clear. Sure, I was angry and embarrassed, but knowing the number actually relieved my fears. It wasn’t a million dollars. It certainly wasn’t zero dollars, but it wasn’t insurmountable. In being known, the number lost its terror.

$13,860.84 was surmountable, if I could only figure out a way to surmount it.

Then I remembered Amy Clark. I read Amy Clark’s blog post about her no-spend challenge a few years prior. I decided to go back and read her post again. She and her husband and two children (one in diapers) budgeted $250 for groceries (including diapers), and declared that there would be no other spending outside of gas and utility bills for an entire month. I did a quick calculation of my prior month of spending. HOLY CRAP! I spent $300 alone at the grocery store! Yep, alone… that doesn’t include what my husband spent—AND we don’t have little mouths to feed or butts to diaper! It took me until April to get my mind set, but on May 1, inspired by Amy, I committed to a no-spend challenge of my own. I would pay my bills as usual and give myself $150.00 to spend on gas and groceries through May 31.


Coincidentally, I actually got to see Amy in April when she was in Salt Lake City attending a crafting conference. We were able to steal a little time together. I told her that I was planning on doing the challenge and she was more than encouraging.

On May 1, the no-spend challenge began. I found myself posting on social media about my progress and experience, which forced me to be accountable.


This photo is from day one. I’m very happy that I live only two miles from work. During my no-spend challenge, I rode my bike to work every day. I spent no money on parking and no money on gas.


Day two, and the no-spend challenge was already inspiring me to learn new skills! Before the challenge, I would have just walked my bike two blocks over to the bike shop and had someone else change my tire for $10. There was no way I was going to cheat on day two! So, with a little help from Matt over the phone, I was able to change my own tire. He was beaming with pride.


During the no-spend challenge I was constantly reminded that there were plenty of ways to entertain myself for free. On day eight, I remembered how to use the public library.


The challenge also inspired me to get creative with spend-free gifting. This is Anna. I like to call her my gluten-free girlfriend. Day sixteen of no spending was also her last day as my co-worker. Just because I couldn’t spend, didn’t mean I couldn’t give her a great parting gift. I made her Super Power flaxseed bread entirely out of ingredients I already had in my pantry. A plain lunch sack and reused ribbon made for quite a lovely gift wrap. (If I do say so myself.)




In case anyone was wondering, I didn’t win first place in that fitness challenge… I came in second, and won a six-month executive membership! I had FREE access to this gym including laundry service during the entire no-spend challenge. What a luxury!


Committing to the no-spend challenge not only opened my eyes to all free resources I had access to, now my perspective was beginning to change. I noticed my thoughts moving away from scarcity towards gratitude.

This photo was taken in City Creek Canyon on day twenty during a seven-mile run. I remember feeling overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for all this beauty and fresh mountain air that I get to enjoy near my own back yard.


“Cleanliness is next to godliness.” My thoughts were also moving away from I can’t afford…, to I can afford…

I can always afford a clean home. This photo was taken on day 21. I spent hours cleaning the apartment and I was pretty proud of the results. Just look at those shiny wood floors!


Remember all that money I was spending at the grocery store before? During the no-spend challenge that wasn’t much of an issue. I stuck to the budget of $37.50 a week on groceries (including wine). I rationed. I clipped coupons. I dug deep in to the pantry to use what I already had. Instead of spending so much money at the grocery store, I was spending quality time with good friends. This photo was taken on day 23 when my sweet friend Amelia made me this beautiful and delicious vegetarian dinner. We ate it on her porch where we spent the rest of the evening sipping wine and dreaming out loud.


Throughout the month, in addition to dinner invites, I was also receiving gifts from many of my friends who found out I was doing the no-spend challenge. Chocolate bars, flowers, garden veggies, and more! Jenita, my best lady from Cleveland wanted to send me a bottle of wine. She knows me well and probably figured that I would run out of that first. However, she found out that sending alcohol to Utah is a felony. (Ridiculous) So instead of wine, she paid for a Gallup strengths finder test and emailed a link. The test was intended to help me understand how to use my strengths at work and find out what kind of environment and team I need to succeed. Jenita is a good listener.


I had a special moment on day 28. Here the photo caption reads “Studio time! In the home stretch and finding more and more gratitude for what I already have. I get to spend time alone in this beautiful space before class on Mondays & Wednesdays. This morning at Avenues Yoga was particularly uplifting – doors open, birds singing, clear mind, not a want in the world.”

This was day 28 and I wasn’t even thinking about what I would be spending my money on after the next three days. On that morning, in that solitude, I was complete. I felt like I could go on forever without a spending fix.


Here it is, the moment of truth. On June 1, I sat down and added it all up. I saved $702.90 during the 31 day no-spend challenge! My husband and I used $400 of that to buy plane tickets to Chicago for our one-year anniversary trip, and I threw the remaining $302.00 at my credit card debt. In September, we stayed on the lake where we got married a year prior and spent quality time with my side of the family. While $400 only covered the cost of one ticket, we didn’t have to use a credit card to cover the rest.

I haven’t used a credit card since before the challenge. I believe the no-spend challenge actually cured me of my debting and credit card use. Now, if I have a big expense coming up, I save my money and plan for the expense instead of automatically pulling out my credit card. That’s huge for me, because I feel more in control of my own finances. In October, I took another 31-day no-spend challenge and used the money I saved to buy plane tickets back to Indiana for Christmas.

It’s been a year now and I only used that interview suit twice. I didn’t get a new job, and I’m certainly not debt-free. I didn’t succeed in meeting those lofty goals, but I think I still won in 2014. Some financial success did come my way. I received a nice bonus a work back in July, and got some new Thai Yoga Massage clients and gigs throughout the year. Most importantly, I learned a few things. I learned that I can’t run from my fears and expect anything to change. I learned that in order to be able to take control, I have to be brave enough to bring my full attention to the present situation. Presently, I am healthy and I am loved. I know that I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m here in the present, and I’m resolving my financial problems.


Goodbye, Old Friend: Asking Jealousy to Leave

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Asking Jealousy to Leave

Editor’s Note- I wanted to bring this article back for our money management focus in our m challenge. This article truly illustrates my own struggle with jealousy and wanting to keep up with others. Yup, I’m human. I struggle too and I really struggled a lot after my husband lost his job in those lean and difficult years.  What I am learning though is that there is so much peace in knowing that we are finally going to be closing in on some major financial goals and that all of these sacrifices that we make and the planning we are doing is going to be oh-so-worth it.  Wherever you are right now, don’t give up. xo 

I pull into the parking lot and park my beat-up car between a Hummer & a Mercedes. I let out a sigh and turn behind me to find him sitting in the backseat between my two children. “You can leave now. You aren’t wanted here,” I say. He looks back at me, absently, dismissing my request with a blank smile.

We all head into the store and I push my cart through the aisles, walking by other people who have filled their carts to the brim. They are buying all the things that I want to put in my cart, but I stick to the basics and whisper, “Please leave!” as we head to the checkout aisle.

As we load up the car and pull into our house I think of all the unfinished projects, the longing for more space, the dreams for something newer and better…and he sits down to join me for my afternoon coffee.

“Don’t you have somewhere better to go? Why don’t you go to someone else’s house?”

He just offers me a green-eyed smile and hangs out in my kitchen for the rest of the day.

I hate him and I hate myself for having him over. He is the guest that will not leave and I am ashamed that we have this kind of relationship.

Yes, I am referring to jealousy and how it can take up occupancy in my heart. To say that these moments of discontent have not graced my life would be a lie. I feel the same urges to shop and the same urges to keep up just like everyone else. I can honestly say that the green-eyed monster has enjoyed more than one afternoon sitting at my kitchen table.

The question is how do you overcome your jealousy issues and lead a simple life? It is easy to tell people to not be jealous, but we live in a culture where bigger is better and there is a constant need to compete with our neighbors. While I am as guilty as the next person of feeling like this, I want to share some of the ways that I have found to ask the green-eyed monster to go and to help me work on finding that inner peace with what I have.


Caring for the Things in Your Life

When I think about adding possessions to my life, I have started thinking about what is going to be required of me to care for and maintain them. In the example of buying a bigger home, for example, I think of how much more space I would have to clean. Seeing as I have difficulty maintaining and keeping up with the things that we already have, I realize that adding a new house to our life would actually make things much more difficult for me financially and the added space would not be as rewarding as what I already possess.

When I feel the urge to shop, out of boredom or out of competition with others, I try to think of things that I already have and how I can take care of them. My house is an endless supply of odd jobs and cleaning or organizing projects. Making a list of these things, I can try to focus my energy towards these things instead of the negative energy that I am feeling when I am focusing on what I don’t have.

Likewise, organizing what you already have can shed light on your shopping habits and how much you have already bought. So many times our homes are brimming over with duplicate items simply from lack of organization.

I also find that when my house is tidy and organized, that I feel more satisfaction in what I have. The sense of order, in a house that is usually chaotic, can be a much more satisfying feeling then buying and trying to find a place for another bag of stuff.

Creating Traditions

Our children may also have trouble with jealousy and that is why we have tried to take the focus off of buying things for our kids and instead focus on the traditions that we can create for them as a family. Instead of loading them up with toys and the latest gadgets, we come up with ideas that we can do with our kids to show them how important family is.

We create traditions that do not cost a lot of money like having a pizza night, making crafts together, having a special date night with one parent, reading stories together, making special holiday traditions, and just being together as a family. The things I remember from my own childhood include the special traditions from my family and I have few memories about what they bought me. These are the kinds of things that I want my children to be focused upon and less on all of the toys that could fill their room.

choose- gratitude

Remember How Much You DO Have

Gratitude goes a long way in helping bring perspective to all you do have.  I have found the quickest way to gain perspective on all that I do have is to give my time and talent to others. There is nothing more gratifying than knowing that you have enough and you even have enough to share with others. Consider investing in a gratitude journal (I love this one from Money Saving Mom)  to begin documenting all that you already have in your life.  Beginning your morning with a new ritual of devotion and thankfulness is a great way to kick jealousy to the curb and start your day out on the right foot.

I also have many goals for myself and for what I am doing with my life, which take up a lot of my time. Instead of looking at what everyone else is buying, I am trying really hard to focus on building my business and creating goals for what I can be doing in the future. I find the work that I do to be rewarding and it helps me to stop thinking about possessions and to think more about being a success in what I do.

However you cope with jealousy, do not be afraid to ask him to leave. It is your home and your heart- not his. You are the only one who has the power to ask him to go and to fill that empty space with positive substitutes. Do your best to refocus your energy towards caring for what you own, creating traditions for your family, and learning to live a life full of gratitude and positive goals. Before you know it, you are going to be the envy of others around you!

Do you struggle with jealousy? How do you ask jealousy to leave your heart?