Archive for the ‘Frugal’ Category

Revealed: 30 Day Cut the Clutter Challenge Results

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Last month I decided to challenge myself to cut the clutter in our home over the course of thirty days. My house and my life has been feeling chaotic these days and I knew that a thirty day challenge is just what I needed to get back to the roots of the organization in my home. If you have been a long time reader, you may remember the results from my clutter challenge last year. I am finding by making this clutter challenge a yearly one that it helps bring me back to center again in my home.

The closet, pictured above, is representative of what my home has been looking like. The bones of organization are there, but they are hiding amidst the overflowing drawers, shelves, and cupboards of endless amounts of unnecessary items. I planned to get rid of four car loads of items from my home and challenged myself to a weekly stop at Goodwill.

Pictured here are my first three drops to Goodwill. I have another round of items leftover from our home renovation to take over to the ReStore that are currently sitting in my garage. Once our weather finally warms up, my husband & I have a Saturday date planned with our cluttered garage.  All in all, I removed FIFTEEN garbage bags and three totes of random uselessness from our home. In these bags you would find books that we will never read, toys that the children have outgrown, clothing that is too small, a bazillion plastic containers that I do not need, bedding & blankets that are never used, shoes, & items from household projects that have been abandoned.

Can I say,  I was not sad to see any of these items leave our home?

Maybe when you see some of the corners of my home now, you will know why!

There is still much more clutter to be conquered in our home, but these corners that I have worked on really have me reassured that having our home organized is an attainable goal. If I was going to offer any advice on tackling the clutter in  your home, I would say this:

Start Small…Really Small- When I would survey my house as a whole, I could immediately become defeated. There is so much to do and my to-do list on any given day is enormous. Adding on trying to organize my house to the list and it just did not even seem like a feasible goal. Instead, start with one small spot in your home that has been bothering you. It could be as small as the kid’s bath toys, a junk drawer that could give under its weight of uselessness, or simply a single shelf in your home office.  I found that once I began a junk drawer, for example, I would then start moving into the drawer below it, and then I would move to the next drawer. Most of the time it is just getting the momentum to climb that cluttered hill that holds us back from achieving a little organization that is the hardest part.

You Don’t Need Another Basket, But You Might Need Another Donation Bag- I remember when I first began organizing my home, I considered home organization to be about buying organizers, storage containers, and pretty baskets to house everything. All of a sudden my home was filled with a dozen baskets of items I didn’t need or never used. Instead of thinking of how to make the items you have more attractive, consider if you really need the items themselves. If you don’t really and truly love or use them, get rid of them!

Sentimentality & “This Was So Expensive” Has To Be Set Aside- Two things get in the way of me letting the items go in my home. The first is the sentimental feelings that I have about things in our house. Usually it is a gift, an item that was special to my children when they were small, or something that was special to me that I would like to push my children into also loving. The other thing that gets in the way is my, “This Was So Expensive,” feeling about items that we spent too much money on, but no longer have love for.  If I could get rid of these two feelings about things, I could almost gather another car load of items. Instead, I have dedicated one tote in our basement that is specifically for sentimental mementos and we are working on passing on the gadgets in our life that we don’t use on to others that can use them.

Your feelings about items might be different than mine and it may take some time to figure out what holds you back from letting things go in your life. When you feel an attachment to an item, try to address where that attachment is coming from and if there is a way that you can manage those attachments to achieve the space you desire.

Embrace Your Power to Live Small- The more I cut the clutter in my home, the more I find that I have just the amount of space that I need in my home. When my closets began to feel too small, when the cupboards are bursting at the seams, when the basement is overflowing…those are the times when I think how nice it would be to move to a bigger home. Each time I cut the clutter in those spaces, I rediscover how perfect our home is for us. Basically, I save myself from a heftier mortgage payment AND I find a renewed sense of commitment to stay right where we are.

Our story of giving things away didn’t end there though, in fact, this is a story about the coolest thing that I have ever gotten to give away.  My husband had his ’99 Ford Focus for almost eight years and it was very good to us over the years. For the last five years though, he had been price researching his dream car and dreaming of the day that he could own a Lexus.  At the end of this month, his dream car dropped below the price of my Subaru wagon and with some serious negotiating and a couple of hours in the hot seat at the dealership, he drove that car home.

We talked a lot about what we wanted to do with our Ford Focus. While we could have gotten a little money to trade it in, we knew we could make my brother’s whole year if we gave him our old car. That very day we bought our new car, his car began to leak gas and he had no idea how he was going to get around. Later that afternoon I called to tell him that we had a birthday present for him.

I felt a little like Oprah handing over those keys.

He told me he felt like he won the lottery.

We both couldn’t stop grinning.

I don’t say this to brag, but to showcase how wonderful it can be to pass on the things we have in our lives to others. No matter how much or how little you have, you can always give with your whole heart. Look for creative ways to give back to your community, pass the items on that you no longer use to someone in need, use your talents to bless someone else in your life, and live a life of great thankfulness for all that you have.

If you have taken the clutter challenge, feel free to link up below and share some of the spots in your home that have been transformed or what you plan to work on this month. I can’t wait to see your projects and hear what you have learned from this experience!

Poor Man’s Date Night: Linguine With White Clam Sauce

Monday, February 21st, 2011

There was a time in our married life when even an inexpensive steak dinner was far from something we could afford. When the grandparents would offer to take the kids for us for a date night, we would run to the supermarket and buy ingredients for a date night at home. At the time, it wasn’t because I was such a great cook and because we loved to be home so much, but it was because we had no money to spend on a night on the town.

I really did try to do what I could to make our life feel special, no matter how much or how little money we had. Through that effort, we began a tradition of making Linguine With White Clam Sauce for our fancy dinner  together, and it became a tradition to make that every time we wanted a date night at home. We would indulge in a loaf of artisan bread and bakery cupcakes for dessert and then indulge all week long in the leftovers.

To be honest, I had never thought to serve it to the kids, but one night the pantry was bare except for a few ingredients for that dish. I decided to go ahead and make it for the kids and had a back-up plan of eggs and toast if it didn’t work out. To my amazement, my kids went nuts for mommy’s linguine and have been begging for it every day since.

It seems those kids are always teaching me a lesson about my own inhibitions towards foods when I was young, and this linguine is now not only a date night treat, but a fabulous treat for them too. Your kids might be different than mine, but it is always worth a shot!

Gather all of the ingredients you will need to make your Linguine with Clam Sauce for your fun weeknight dinner (or poor man’s date night). You will need butter, olive oil, garlic (fresh or bottled minced), one or two lemons, white wine (I love boxed wine for this dish), two or three cans of whole baby clams, linguine noodles, and fresh parsley.

Now you can certainly subsitute with real baby clams, but I live in Indiana where it is harder to get the real deal anymore and they add a lot of expense to the dish here. They have a couple of varieties of clams on the shelf and you definitely want to go with the fancy whole baby clams over the minced clams that come in the smaller cans. Trust me, your dish will taste much better with the whole clams then those smaller clam pieces.

Heat a large pot of boiling water for your linguine noodles. Meanwhile, chop, chop, chop up a generous amount of fresh parsley to be mixed into the linguine and for garnish on top of your dish.

In the bottom of your pot, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. You like how well-seasoned my dutch oven is? Yeah, should probably pay more attention to it, but I think it showcases how loved it is in our house.

Add the olive oil and quickly saute your garlic. You want to make sure your pot isn’t too hot or your garlic will burn.  Next add your white wine, the juice from the canned clams, and the zest of one or two lemons. Allow this to cook for a few minutes to cook off the alcohol and season generously with a little salt and pepper.

Once your noodles are about done, you will want to add the baby clams to your sauce.

Squeeze in the juice of one or two lemons, depending on how much you love lemon flavor.

Finish with your generous handfuls of fresh parsley. Don’t skimp on the parsley since it adds so much fresh flavor to those canned ingredients.

Add your drained linguine noodles and toss everything together, incorporating all of those delicious flavors. Add a little bit more salt and pepper, seasoning the dish to your own personal taste.

The final touch to bring everything together is a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese. Don’t skimp on this, it really is what brings the sauce together and makes the sauce hug the noodles.

Finally, revel in being the cheapest date in town as you bask in the glory of the compliments from your significant other.

Sweet.


Linguine with White Clam Sauce

1 pound linguine
Salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped,
1/2 cup wine
Juice and zest from one or two lemons
2-3  (15-ounce) can whole baby clams, with their juice
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the linguine and cook as directed or until al dente. The linguine will continue to cook in sauce, later. To a large skillet heated over medium heat, add oil, butter, garlic. Cook together. Add wine, the juice from the clams to the pan, and the zest of one or two lemons. Finally, add the clams and the juice from one or two lemons. Drain pasta and add it to the clam sauce. Toss and coat the pasta in sauce with clams until the pasta absorbs the flavor and juices, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt, add parsley and serve with a loaf of crusty bread.

Do you attempt fancy date night dinners at home? What is your favorite frugal date with your significant other?

Taking a Little Store-Bought Help in the Kitchen for the Holidays

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

If you have been reading the site long enough, I am sure you know that I am one of those people that prefers to make everything from scratch to cut down on our grocery budget. We have big eaters in our family though and often convenience foods leaving us feeling unsatisfied and ready for snacking within an hour. Since those foods don’t seem to fill us up, the nights that I don’t feel like cooking we usually end up opting for dining out which costs a lot, even for our little family of four!

I doubt I am alone in saying that my calendar is overflowing with an unbelievable amount of obligations right now. We have holiday concerts, appointments, work commitments, volunteer opportunities…  and it is only going to get worse as the holiday season gets closer.

See that little “No,” sign in the corner of my calendar?

This is supposed to be offering a memory trigger to myself that there is no need to say yes to everything.

Now view my calendar.

I think I must be having a disconnect these days.

Fortunately, Walmart reached out to me to see if we would like to sample some of their Marketside brand items that are sold over by their deli area in the store. These items are of gourmet quality, but offered at a lower price.  The line includes bagged salads, gourmet soups, fun dips for entertaining, take-and-bake pizzas, veggie steamers, artisan breads, and fresh gourmet pastas.

After sampling all of the items, you can be assured that they are delicious and every bit as fancy as dining out.  The soups and bread rivaled our Panera Bread and the veggies were crisp and delicious.  The fresh dips (which included vanilla bean fruit dips, fresh guacamole, and a variety of ranch dressings) would be perfect to keep on hand for all of those holiday potlucks and gatherings!

Of course, adding my own homemade spin to these great convenience items allowed us to pull together a delicious dinner every night last week on a week where our calendar was jam-packed with activities (see the calendar above). With the busy holiday season upon us, I wanted to share a few ways to take those store-bought ingredients to a new level as the calendar fills up.

Veggie steamers are an easy way to incorporate great veggies into your diet in a quick way.  Look for these stir fry medleys over in your local Walmart’s cooler and take these home for a quick & healthy dinner. I love dressing up veggie steamers with a little of my favorite sauce from our favorite Chicken Lo Mein recipe.

Quick Weeknight Stir Fry

1 bag of stir fry medley veggies
1 chicken breast diced (Optional. I use this roasting method once a week to keep chicken on hand)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup

Cook veggies as directed. In a separate mixing bow, add soy sauce, vinegar, and ketchup. Stir to combine. Add cooked veggies and serve immediately over baked brown rice.

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Fresh pasta is one of life’s little luxuries that I love to keep on hand for a quick weeknight dinner. Marketside offers so many fun varieties for the meat-eaters in the family as well as the vegetarians. These delicious pastas can transform your usual spaghetti night into a dinner that rivals your favorite Italian bistro. They also offer fresh pesto and sauces to decorate your pasta without any effort.  Here are a few ways to use their pasta on a busy weeknight!

Pesto Tortellini Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans petite diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
8 cups chicken broth
1 pound  tortellini of your choice (I love a chicken or sausage stuffed, but cheese is always a crowd pleaser!)
9 ounces spinach, chopped roughly
1/4 cup basil pesto

In a large pot, saute the garlic in the olive oil. After a minute or so, add the diced tomatoes and chicken broth to the pot. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and then add in your tortellini. Cook tortellini as directed on package. In the last minute of cooking time, mix in your roughly chopped spinach and stir in the 1/4 cup of basil pesto. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top. Side Note: When reheating, feel free to add some additional chicken broth to thin the soup, as the tortellini will absorb the liquid!

Serve with a bag of salad and a loaf of crusty bread for an easy weeknight meal!

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Ravioli With Pesto Cream Sauce

1 pound ravioli or tortellini (I love a mushroom-stuffed variety)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (we used skim milk)
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Romano cheese
1 cup prepared pesto

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed and drain. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and butter, and saute until garlic is soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Dissolve flour in milk, then stir in. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cheese, and stir until melted. Stir in pesto. Dish ravioli on plates and then drizzle the pesto cream sauce over it. Garnish with a little fresh basil or chopped parsley.

Serve with a bag of salad and a loaf of crusty bread for an easy weeknight meal!

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Ravioli With Homemade Red Sauce

1# package of ravioli
3/4 cup chopped onion (we omitted because we don’t like onions)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes (do not drain)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed and drain. Saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until onion is translucent in another pot. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer one hour and thirty minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and meatballs and simmer thirty more minutes. Gently break apart the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon.  Serve over a big plate of your favorite ravioli.

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Although this wasn’t included in my Marketside feast, I recently discovered the beauty and flavors of their rotisserie chickens for my weeknight chicken noodle soup. This soup is being made again this week for a fast & delicious soup that will leave people wondering how the heck you could pull it off on a busy school night.

Quick Weeknight Chicken Noodle Soup

2-3 cups egg noodles (I like the Ream’s brand in the frozen foods section)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste
2 stalks chopped celery
3 chopped carrots
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 rotisserie chicken

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook until tender. Drain, and rinse under cool running water. Meanwhile, in  a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the carrots and celery in two tablespoons of olive oil for five minutes to start your soup base or you can skip this step and proceed as directed, if you desire a crunchier vegetable.  Heat up broth and bring it to a simmer. Stir in celery and carrot. Gently add your rotisserie chicken and all of the drippings from the pan and put a lid on your pot.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water together until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pull out your chicken and set aside to dice.  Gradually add the cornstarch to soup, stirring constantly. Stir in noodles and diced rotisserie  chicken, and heat through. Toss in a handful of fresh chopped parsley and ladle into bowls.
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Of course when all else fails, there ain’t no shame in taking home a take-and-bake pizza and calling it a night! My favorite variety is the Primo Pizza with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, & black olives. Every mom deserves a night off from the kitchen once in awhile!
I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program.  Marketside provided me with meals last week in exchange for my honest feedback.  Participation in this program is voluntary. All opinions are my own. check out the other Walmart Moms had to say about Marketside. (prices may vary from store to store)
What store-bought items do you like to keep on hand for quick weeknight meals or for a night off in the kitchen? Please share!

A Real Mom’s Review of Alice.com: Drugstore Shopping Simplified

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Since becoming a mother, I have become much more strategic with my shopping time. Ideally, it is time spent after my husband gets home and I can shop by myself without two wildly crazy children distracting me from my list of tasks. Let’s face it though, the idea of spending all of my evenings in a store sounds mind-numbingly boring and I would much rather spend my time with a good book or with my family.

In past articles I have shared ideas for fantastic places to online shop including those dreaded trips to the grocery store and wholesale club. Today I want to share with you my new favorite place to shop for my drugstore deals. It is a little website called Alice.com that has simplified my shopping time and has still allowed me to get great deals.

You see, there was a time when I coupon clipped, organized rebate forms, saved those drugstore receipts with money back, and horded a large wall full of toothpaste for our family of four. You could say that I have gotten lazier in my old age or that I realized that I was spending too much money and time in our local drugstores, but I knew that something in my life had to change. I realized that I was buying items just because they were “free,” but the items really weren’t free when I thought of all of the impulse splurges and the space that they took up in my home.

Alice.com has provided me with online access to managing my household items and supplies online. You basically tell Alice what you typically buy and Alice (yes, your very own Alice just like the Brady Bunch) goes to work for you. The site organize all of your products, finds coupons and deals for you, reminds you when you might be running low, and helps you order just the items you need so you can avoid that trip to the corner drugstore or the big-box store.

Here are some ideas for how to shop on a budget with Alice.com:

  • Say goodbye to those paper inserts, scissors, and wasted time clipping coupons. One of the best things about Alice is that there is no coupon clipping involved. If there is a coupon available on the product, it will automatically be applied to your order… no clipping necessary. Alice also has relationships with the manufacturer’s and many times offers coupons that aren’t available in your newspaper’s coupon insert. It is important to note though, that they offer a specific amount of coupons on each product. For example, your favorite shampoo may have only fifteen coupons available. You will need to snag that coupon before the coupons are no longer offered to get the savings.
  • Shipping is free on your first order, regardless of the number of items that you buy. After that first order, there is no minimum amount of spending that you need to do to qualify for the free shipping,but you do have to have six items in your cart for the free shipping. This can easily be met with smaller items like toothbrushes, dental floss, or other “filler” items if you are unable to meet the six item requirement.
  • You always know if you are getting the best deal. Comparison shopping in fliers can be time-consuming, but Alice will actually tell you who has the best deal on the product you are looking at with comparisons between  drugstore.com, cvs.com, Peapod, Safeway, Walgreens, Amazon Fresh, and diapers.com. This can be found by scrolling below the item you are looking at and clicking on the, “Price Comparison,” link. You could also use this price comparison when doing your local shopping without ever leaving the comfort of your home.
  • Shopping for the best deals is easy to do if you familiarize yourself with the website. Under the, “Other Ways to Shop,” category, you will find a, “Shop the Best Deals,” link. That link will direct you to the top fifty deals that the site is currently running with the coupon prices included. Sticking to the top fifty deals will insure that you get the very best deal for your money. These deals also will be great to add as filler items or for donation items for the local homeless shelter and charitable giving.
  • Orders are fulfilled very quickly. The official amount of time that Alice will give you is between one to six business days. I have placed three orders with the company and they have all arrived the next day (if I placed the order before noon eastern time) or two days later if I happen to order in the afternoon. Lucky for me, I live in the Midwest and Alice is Midwest-based so orders are shipped very quickly here.
  • You will no longer have to worry about embarrassing drugstore shopping. I thought when I became a grown-up I would no longer care about what was in my drugstore cart. Thanks to living in a small town, there are few moments of privacy shopping anywhere. To top it off, I now have two inquisitive children asking loudly at the checkout counter what I am buying. I love that I can now buy those items with confidence, in the privacy of my own home, and not face the embarrassment about those unmentionable items.  The items all arrive in a beautifully packed blue Alice box with minimal packaging that reminds me a lot of the great packing strategies that Amazon.com uses.
  • The site offers great reminder features. Just like any smart business, the company wants to insure that you will be a repeat customer for them and they do it through a targeted email that reminds you when you are getting low on an item. When you order an item, you can tell Alice how often you buy that item and an automatic reminder will be sent out when you are getting low. That doesn’t mean that it will be automatically ordered for you, it just means that a reminder will be sent to have you come back and reorder. Thanks to this feature, there are no more late night runs to the drugstore for forgotten items… At least, they are fewer and farther between!

I am now a super fan of Alice and love having the time to spend with family and not having another item on my list of errands to do. I hope you can check it out and consider giving online drugstore shopping a try!

If you would like to give Alice a try, feel free to visit through our link.  In full discretion, this is an affiliate link, but we rarely ever refer you to anything ever unless we truly and actually embrace or use a product or service! We love our readers and aim to only offer the best information on saving money that we possibly can!

Have you ever tried Alice.com or any other online shopping service? We want to hear what your thoughts are and how you choose to shop to save your family time or money! Please share here!

A Week of Summer Fun On $20 or Less

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010


I have to admit that our family doesn’t go on a lot of vacations, but we do love to make a wise investment into a great summer staycation each year that the kids will remember (hopefully) for years to come. A summer staycation does not have to cost a lot of money.  In fact, it is fun to see how far we can make our money stretch and still provide beautiful summer memories for our children.

Really, the possibilities for free and cheap summer fun are endless. There are free story hours at libraries and bookstores, crafts and activity days at local parks, church programs and sport camps, VBS, inexpensive movie programs at the theaters, reading programs, ice cream treats, and so much more. Each year it seems we are trying to top the summer bucket list from last year.

Today I wanted to showcase some of our favorite things to do and share with you ideas for making those summer memories fit snugly in your family budget.

Happy Hour Out (Cost $.50-$2 per child)- Our favorite thing to do this year has been taking advantage of those Happy Hour drink specials that so many restaurants are now offering. Sonic, for example, offers a Happy Hour between 2-5 PM where your family can enjoy half price drinks. Steak & Shake is another restaurant in our town that offers a deliciously cool and refreshing milkshake for half price between 2-4 PM.  Don’t be ashamed to inquire at your local restaurants if they offer any type of summer drink special that your family can take advantage of and allow your kids to enjoy a fun summer treat that your budget can live with. At Sonic, two small slushes for my children and one large Diet Cherry Limeade for me is a total mere cost of $2.18. Fabulous!

Happy Hour Time At Home (Cost $1  in supplies or less)- If you don’t feel like venturing out and want to enjoy a little slushie fun or milkshake fun at home, it is easy to do with your blender and a few items that might be lurking in your pantry already! My kids love to indulge in our homemade slushies and homemade frosty shakes that your whole family will flip for!  The cost for creating these is minimal, but make sure you make enough for everyone in the family. This is a happy hour that you definitely do not want to miss!

Have a Park Day (Cost- FREE) - Going to the local park to spend the afternoon is nothing new, but it could be something new if you decide to explore another local park. Pack a picnic lunch, snacks, drinks, and your sunblock and enjoy a day of completely free fun. Go on a park adventure and visit a park that you have never visited before or venture outside of your own town into a neighboring town to explore a new-to-you town treasure. We love to load up the scooters, a ball, and a Frisbee to create even more opportunities for fun in the sun. This year we have made it a family priority to explore new parks that we haven’t tried before.

Have a Roast-Your-Own Dinner Night (Cost $5-7 in Food Supplies)-  One thing that we look forward to all summer long is the opportunity to roast some foods on our little campfire. Stock up on hot dogs and supplies to make s’mores and you can have a fun little night together that doesn’t cost a lot. I also love to keep the fire going after the kids hit the sack and make it into a fun little date night for me and my hubby.

Visit a Museum (Cost- FREE)- Free days abound at the local museums although I will admit that you do sometimes have to brave those crowds to take advantage of them. We always try to check the websites for local museums and find out when their free days are offered. If free days are not offered, call your local library and see if they offer museum passes that you can check out. Many local libraries offer passes that can get you and your family in for free!  Make it a family trip and take vacation days on those days so you can take advantage of those free admissions. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch that you can enjoy on the museum grounds or in transit to your destination.

If there is a special museum you have always wanted to visit, but they do not offer a free day, be sure to take part in the National Free Museum Day sponsored by the Smithsonian. Tickets can be printed starting July 1st!  This just might be the perfect time to take a road trip to experience a free museum that will cost only the cost in gas.

Take a Visit to a Local Farm (Cost $0-$5 per child)- This year we got the opportunity to visit an alpaca farm that was just thirty minutes from our home. The kids had the best time learning about the animals and getting the opportunity to feed, touch, and even take a few of them for a walk. If you want to  find an alpaca farm near you, visit I Love Alpacas to find a new place to visit in your town!

For other farm animals, see if there are any local farms in your area that you could visit and give your children the chance to have an experience like this. It is one that will long remember and gives them an opportunity to learn about where their food comes from!

Go Berry Picking (Cost $5 or more, depending on amount purchased)- One of our favorite things to do in the summer is to go berry picking. We usually buy around $5 in berries and then come home and create something in our kitchen together. With a variety of fruits for picking, the possibilities are endless for places and things to pick during the summer. Visit Pick Your Own to find places to visit and to take advantage of the foods that are in season.

Last year we went blueberry picking and then came home and created new things in the kitchen that the kids had never tried before. We dined on homemade waffles with blueberry syrup and even created a fancy blueberry syrup for our iced tea for a fun summer drink. We paid $5 in berries and we were able to make a whole day and evening of fun from just that $5 spent.

Sprinkler Fun (Cost- FREE)- Running through the sprinklers is a fun and free relief from the brutal summer heat. A good old-fashioned sprinkler or inexpensive sprinkler toy can keep kids entertained for days on end. More recently we have discovered that our town offers a lot of fun at the parks with the addition of splash pads and fun new sprinkler parks. The cost to visit these is free and can be a great way to keep cool in the summer. If your backyard sprinkler is starting to lose its luster, Google your town and the keywords “splash pad” or “sprinkler park” to see if you can find a fun new place to keep cool!

What are your favorite budget-friendly summer activities in your town? I would love to hear your ideas for inexpensive summer fun!

Eating Healthy at Aldi Supermarket? Yes, You Can!

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Eating healthy is a hot topic in America right now and of great concern for so many parents. With the growing epidemic of diabetes and obesity that our children now are facing, what is a parent to do?

The common thread that I see  with families is that they want to eat healthy, but they just don’t feel like they can afford to. It often feels like the fast food choices and convenience foods are a better deal than the fresh produce and good-for-us foods that are available in the supermarket.

There is also a common misconception that shopping at lower priced grocery stores means that you eat food that is bad for you. In fact, I refused to shop at Aldi because of what I remembered about the store from when I was a child. All I remembered was a sea of junk food and soda.  What a surprise to later discover in my life that healthy foods abound at the store and that I am still able to maintain a healthy diet on a budget. In reality, I just needed to maintain an open mind and learn to navigate the store better!

The truth is, you can eat unhealthy in any supermarket in the nation. All stores contain processed convenience foods that don’t do your body justice and that can be potential spending traps in your grocery budget.  Navigating the outskirts of the store and venturing into fresh produce, low-fat dairy, and the frozen sections for out-of-season veggies, fruits, & fish, and delicious whole grains are what will keep your grocery budget and diet on track.

Here is my deep and dark secret as a frugal gal. I love to stay under budget on my grocery shopping, but I am a horrible coupon cutter. For me, coupon cutting equals spending more money  and I usually end up buying things I don’t really need or eat. Call it lack of discipline or call it pure laziness, but I will take bagging my own groceries over coupon cutting any day of the week.  I am still frugal and thoughtful with planning, list-making, and making affordable meals, but I am just not a fan of coupon cutting for groceries. Between the store being much smaller than the superstore (which equals less opportunity to stray away from my list) and the fact that I don’t have a to clip a single coupon, I remain loyal to Aldi!

I hit Aldi last week and thought I would share with you the prices on some of those foods that I buy and the prices here. Dairy, sales, produce, and prices can vary between stores, but it showcases how well you can eat while keeping your budget low.

1 Gallon Skim Milk- $2.19
Low-Fat Vanilla Yogurt (32 ounces)- $1.59
Celery- $1.39
Carrots (32 oz)- $.99
Lemons (4 ct)- $1.49
Navel Oranges (large bag)- $1.39
Russet Potatoes (10 pounds)- $1.99
Bananas (per pound)- $.37
Bagged Flat Leaf Spinach (9 ounces)- $1.69
Mushrooms- $.99
Broccoli- $1.49
Grape Tomatoes- $1.89
Brown Rice (2 pounds)- $1.29
12 Whole Grain Bread Loaves- $1.69
Wild Caught Salmon (Frozen- 1 pound)- $3.99
Tilapia (Frozen- 1.5 pounds)- $3.99
Boneless Chicken Breasts (Frozen- 3 pounds)- $6.29
E-Z Peel Shrimp (Frozen/Medium 300 Count)- $3.99
Hand Selected Jarred Fruit- $1.99
Frozen Green Beans- $1.49
Frozen Blueberries- $2.69

This is just a handful of the items that I purchased, but showcases the healthy options that are available and the affordable prices that can be found.

Whatever store you choose, here are some important tips for staying under on your grocery budget!

Good Research Goes Far

Keeping track of prices is the best way to insure that you get the best deals on the items you buy regularly. I know that this seems like a time consuming process, but it is definitely worth your time if you are trying to stay on budget. Start tracking the prices on the items that you buy regularly and keep this information in a little price book that you can take with you to the supermarket.

Don’t forget to include prices from your wholesale club. For Sam’s Club, for example, you can look online and check the pricing on the items that you buy regularly on their site as well. Armed with this information, you will be able to see if those bigger boxes really pack a better punch or if they actually are costing your family more money and more space.

When you see the prices dip, stock up and up and up on the items you use regularly. If you are a coupon cutter, couple this with your coupons and you will have some killer deals to help to keep your pantry stocked when the deals are leaner. As a side note though, Aldi does not accept coupons so their current prices are their “bottom line” pricing.

Crush the Condiments

Condiments can be a huge drain to the grocery budget and don’t add any real benefits to your diet. Skip the condiment aisle altogether and learn how to make some simple dressings, homemade meat marinades, barbeque sauce, croutons, and even your own special ice cream sauce for a fraction of the cost. A quick search on the internet should yield some great results for making all of these yummy additions for pennies versus dollars. Not only will you be helping your grocery budget, but you will also have control over the quality of the ingredients and the amount of sugar and salt you put in them. It is a win-win situation!

Hold the Meat

Plan one or two days each week to skip the meat or at least focus a little less on meat in your entrees. We try to plan one night where we do breakfast for dinner and have waffles or pancakes instead of our usual meat and potatoes type of meal. If your family is not open to going meatless one night, try finding dishes that take the focus off of the meat. Pasta dishes or casseroles might have meat in them, but one pound of meat will stretch a lot further than one pound would as a main dish. Stretching or eliminating meat can have a truly positive effect on your grocery budget and you might be surprised that with a little creativity, you won’t miss it at all!

Grow Your Veggies

Gardening season is just around the corner and in some parts of the country, it has begun! I am a novice gardener and began gardening last summer. I had low expectations for what I would be able to grow, but my garden did surprisingly well for a black thumb like myself.

Growing your own herbs and vegetables will save you a ton of money at the supermarket. If you are just beginning gardening, like me, start with a small garden or even just a container garden before making a large investment. Check out books from the library and spend your winter researching ways that you can improve your garden each year. Involve your children in the whole process, as it can be an invaluable teaching tool for them, and make your gardening a family event. It is amazing how much you can the save and learn from just a few plants.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Research proves that we lean towards buying the brands and products that we have grown up with. It is also known that we tend to gravitate towards stores that are the easiest or most familiar for us because we think it saves us time. Are we really saving any money though when we just pick the most convenient or buy the brand that we have always bought? Probably not! With the grocery prices going up, now is a great time to begin exploring other stores in your neighborhood and trying generic or cheaper brands on the products that you buy. You just might find a new favorite store or brand- you only need to be open to trying it.

***************

Don’t forget that if you need a little Aldi inspiration you can get inspired through our site. Here are a few of my favorite spots on the site to help with your planning and shopping at the store:

Aldi Supermarket 101

The Aldi Queen Blog

Aldi Menu Planner

35 Ways to Reduce That Grocery Budget

How do you eat healthy and stay under budget on your groceries? Please share your tips, techniques, and strategies for eating the best you can on your budget!

9 Simple Ideas for Frugal Date Nights

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Just in time for planning your romantic Valentine’s Day night is a list of 9 simple and frugal ideas for creating a wonderful night with your spouse. If my recipes for a fantastic steakhouse dinner don’t win your husband over, maybe one of these inexpensive ideas will!

I don’t know about you, but I never knew how creative I would have to be in order to squeeze in a little alone time with my spouse. We don’t get to escape as often as I would like and it is hard to find people you really love and trust enough to watch those that are most precious to you. Not only that, but teenagers sure seem to be a lot busier than they used to be! I am so thankful for the grandparents who offer to take our kiddos time and time again so we can get that time away.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some creative ideas for dating that will cost you little/no money and won’t even require paying a babysitter. These are the ideas that have worked for us through these years and I hope you can share some ways that you have found to creatively date your spouse when you are low on cash and sitters.


Book Club Night- My husband and I have started, what I jokingly refer to as, our “magical book club” together. I have been dying for him to read the Twilight series and he has been dying for me to read the Harry Potter series. We made a deal to exchange books and talk about them each night. Obviously, this is not intellectual material we are talking about, but I have to say that I am so enjoying every moment of this exchange.

You could also read the same series together or tackle a literary classic together. Better yet, reread those amazing books from your childhood. Have a book club night together instead of a night parked in front of the television.

Once we have finished the books though, we plan to have a screening night of the movies together too. I am wondering if I am pushing the envelope too much if I make my Edward cupcakes?

Engage in Conversation Starters- I think I know just about everything there is to know about my husband, especially since we have been together since we were teenagers. Conversation starter questions though can sometimes lead to some beautiful surprises of happy memories that we had never heard before. Look at these unique conversation starters, these sweet conversation starters, or this list of fun questions to get the ball rolling. My husband & I sometimes just ask each other questions in Facebook quizzes. Anything that gets you talking together is a great investment of your time!

Late Night Dinners- When our kids were really little, our time alone really felt few and far between. We would sometimes shift our dinner hour until after the kids went to bed to enjoy a romantic and quiet dinner together. I would put table linens on the table, break out the beautiful dishes and stemware, and make a fancy dinner that the grocery budget would not be able to normally accommodate. After all, you are still staying in so there is still a great savings in that!

Don’t be afraid to move your dinner somewhere else in the house. Sometimes I would set up a folding table and chairs and dress it up in a different area of the home or put a fancy spread out on the coffee table with a fun movie. In those long days of newborn feedings and diaper changes, this little change in location was really something to look forward to.


Game Time- My husband & I are both very competitive so we love to play games together after the kids head to bed. For outdoor games, we love a good badminton match and for indoor games we love a good board game challenge or a fun game of Wii bowling. Challenge each other to a match and feel free to indulge in childish behavior to escape the reality of adulthood.

Dollar Store Extravaganza- This is something that I have planned for the two of us as a fun date night idea. Just make a small budget of $10 or less and challenge each other to a contest to see who you can come up with the most creative gift from the dollar store for each other. You can really put a lot of creativity into this and it will be a fun exchange to do after the kids go to bed. See if your husband really knows what your favorite candy in the world is and he can see if you know how to pick a great book for him or what type of puzzle book would be a fun one.


Enjoy Some Time By the Fire- After the kids go to bed, we love to start a little fire in our fire pit and sit by it together. We are finding it is a great way to unwind and have some time to discuss the day together. Make some s’mores and snuggle up under a blanket together. If you have a fireplace, you can do the same thing with some cocoa in your warm house on a wintry night.

Plan an Anniversary Getaway- I decided awhile ago to begin putting money into a separate savings account for our ten year anniversary. At the time, we were really penny-pinching, but $25 a month didn’t seem like a ton of money so it has been automatically transferred every month for our anniversary getaway.

I swear that we talk about this (at least) once a month. Even though there is just $1,000 saved, we have come up with a zillion places we could go to and have been number-crunching to see how much we will have from making this tiny investment each month.

Sitting around and just planning a vacation can be so much fun together. It is such a fun way to spend your time, imagining the places you will go and talking about how quickly we are approaching our big anniversary.

Make it more fun by challenging each other to plan the best anniversary getaway package. You could each research and put together your own vacations and then sit down together and see who came up with the best ideas for the least amount of money. File it away for future reference when you actually do to get to go on that getaway.

Exchange Babysitting With a Friend- I am really lucky because if I really want to go out with my spouse, I can call up my sister and ask if we can do a babysitting exchange. If you have a good friend that you can exchange babysitting with and trade nights out, then you get great care for your kids without having to shell out any money.

While you are enjoying some time alone, you can still enjoy the frugal things in life. Some of my favorite date nights are hitting a movie at the second-run theater, packing up a picnic dinner and taking it somewhere with a view, lounging around Barnes & Noble looking for home improvement inspiration, or even enjoying an evening at home without the kids.

If your spouse can take off work, use a vacation day and try and plan your date during the day. You can take advantage of cheaper matinee rates and even affordable meals out at restaurants because of the earlier hour.

Start a New TV Series- Now that I have given you lots of ideas that don’t involve the television, I think I can bring up an idea that does. I love to pick up a new television series together, particularly in the summer months when nothing good is really on television. You can rent these using a movie membership or check on Hulu or the network websites to watch a series. Try looking for an older series that you have never seen before and watching it for the first time. On our list of never seen television- Lost, 24, and House. We also love to watch rerun sitcoms and relive all those funny moments all over again and watch Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, & That 70’s Show just for laughs.

I don’t mean to brag, but this man of mine is awesome! He works a full-time job AND manages to run all of the programming on this website too. I am willing to set aside as many fun & free nights as I can to hang out with him. Even when times were very lean, we have found creative ways to spend time together. I know we both benefit from it and so do our children!

What is your favorite budget-friendly date night activity? Please share your creative and unique ideas for keeping the romance alive!

Guest Post: Cutting Back in the Kitchen

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Today’s fabulous guest post comes from Katie at goodLife {eats} who offered to share her thrifty cooking knowledge with my readers today! Thank you, Katie!

Like most families, our family has finally decided that the time has come for us to start cutting back. That mean fewer unnecessary purchases, buying more of just what we need and not everything we want. I was so inspired when I read about Amy’s No Spend Challenge at MomAdvice.com. Something like that would take some serious working up to for me, but I think I’d like to take on the challenge at some point. Maybe for a week or two at a time before I work up to a full month.

For me, the hardest aspect of cutting back has been cutting back in the kitchen. Part of what I enjoy so much about cooking and eating is the process of making and trying a new recipe, a new ingredient, or a new flavor combination. Nobody wants to eat boring food, but trying new recipes costs money. It can mean buying new ingredients, not just using the inexpensive basics or what I have on hand. Once in a while I spend money on a new recipe and we decide it didn’t turn out to be something we cared for.

I’m not telling myself that I’m not allowed to try new recipes or buy new ingredients. But cutting back on just one meal a week would be a step in the right direction and can save a few dollars. Cooking at home is also less expensive. We don’t eat out a lot, but we eat out enough that we have decided that we are going to eat out less often to cut back. Just a few dollars saved from cutting back once a week and eating out less can really add up.

Once a week I have been trying to come up with a meal based on ingredients that I’ve already got on hand – that can mean leftover ingredients from other recipes I’ve made that week or simply items that I already have in my pantry and freezer. It also means learning even more about how to use spices and flavor accents to their highest potential. It means learning even more how to create interesting flavor combinations with what I’ve got. It means figuring out ways to adapt a recipe with the ingredients I have – figuring out acceptable substitutions instead of going to the grocery store to buy a missing ingredient.

What it doesn’t mean is eating old standbys over and over. It doesn’t mean eating boring food. It means being inventive – one night a week – with the ingredients I already have. Turning something basic into something more. And in the end, that is one of the things I love most about cooking. The being inventive and trying something new is what excites me. I’ve learned that the process doesn’t always have to cost money. I can learn to be inventive in a frugal way. I’ve learned that cutting back can be a challenge creatively, and the creative challenge is what interests me.

This week asparagus was super on sale. I had a few leftover spears from a large bunch I’d purchased for another meal. I also had a couple of carrots leftover from the Chicken Pot Pie I made the previous weekend. Stir fry is a great way to stretch out smaller amounts of protein and vegetables. After I had the main ingredients picked out I started to think about what sort of flavor combination I wanted for the sauce – the thing that would tie it all together. This meal turned out really simple, fast, and yummy. This week I learned to appreciate that cutting back can still be fun.


Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry in a Honey Ginger Sauce
a goodLife {eats} creation

* 1 large chicken breast
* 8-10 spears asparagus
* 5 green onions
* 4 carrots
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 4 Tbs soy sauce
* 1/3 cooking sherry or chicken broth (or combination)
* 1/4 c honey
* 1 1/8 tsp dried ginger
* 1 Tbs cornstarch
* 1 Tbs sesame oil
* sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
* 2 c uncooked jasmine rice

Prepare the rice according to package instructions. Combine the soy sauce through the sesame oil in a medium sized container, mixing well. If the chicken is bone in and/or skin on, separate the chicken from the bone and/or skin. Cut chicken into small pieces, slicing it thin and against the grain. Having the chicken slightly frozen helps with cutting thin pieces. Stir the chicken into the sauce, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate it while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Wash and peel the carrots. Slice diagonally into bite sized rounds, about a 1/4 inch thick, set aside. Snap the ends off the asparagus. Cut each piece into quarters. Steam the carrots and asparagus together for 4 minutes. Remove immediately and dunk into ice water to stop the cooking process.

Heat a stir fry pan or other skillet over medium-high heat with a small amount of oil. Saute the garlic for 1 minute; remove and set aside. Turn the heat up to high. Add the chicken and sauce, stirring constantly until the chicken is cooked through. Add the steamed vegetables and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the green onion and cook 1 minute more. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

How do you cut back in the kitchen?

Fall ’09 Fashion: Pretty & Penny-Wise Must Haves

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
photo credit: texantiff23

Guest Post by Ina S., Co-Founder of M641

With temps dropping fast and possibly budgets, given the recent round of back-to-school shopping, what’s a frugal fashion-forward mom to do? We picked some key trends straight from the runway that will actually work in your closet and your budget. Here are a few of our fave trends for Fall!

  • Faux – You’ll see faux leather, fur and reptile this season. Pick up a military inspired faux leather jacket or faux fur vest to pair with your favorite fitting jeans or a great pair of faux suede boots.
  • Draped Fabrics – Flowing draped fabrics are a must. And with cardigans everywhere this season, try yours oversized, and wear it belted or unbelted
  • Studs and/or Sequins – You are not going for the blingy look though! Try to think chic rocker-esqe.
  • Surrealism – Bring interest into your outfit by adding texture and intrigue. Find dreamy, earthy, artistic jewelry or accessories. Think of these pieces as conversation pieces!
  • Carry All Purses – Larger purses are in, but not those enormous ones. Conversely, clutches are also very on trend this season.
  • Graphic Tees – Use these pieces as a fun element to your wardrobe for layering. Look for screen print graphics that you connect with personally.
  • Color With Color – Mix purples, reds & gray for Fall 09. Shift your thinking about gray. It’s not drab…it’s classic. This Fall use it as your main backdrop then sprinkle in color by wearing a purple scarf and red nail polish.

Harness your inner rocker-chick while staying realistic in the overall outcome of your outfit. We love high-waisted (very slimming) leggings paired with a cool graphic tee or tank top and layered up with a swingy cardigan. Change up the look by belting the cardigan with a studded belt. The addition of cool sunglasses and a favorite “it” bag will help you achieve a trendy but functional Fall ensemble.

When seeking out your new Fall closet additions, a big consideration of course is cost. Another is making your dollar count for something. We put this inspiration board together for you featuring emerging and indie brands. Many of the brands featured here stand for more than just the latest trends. This Fall and Winter you may enjoy investigating lesser-known labels, and along the way find gems that are an extension of your own personality.

Whether you believe in going green, giving to a greater good or are most interested in looking good, remember to have fun and spend wisely!


1. Classic Fleur Tee $32.00 by Brooklyn Royalty on Smashing Darling 2. Colorful Leather studded bangles, set of 5 (could break up the set to give as gifts!) $46.00 by Michelle V’s jewelry on Smashing Darling 3. Beyond Basic Black Cardigan $42.99 by on ModCloth 4. Ceramic geode pod pendant $9.00 by Tabmade (Lori Phillips) on Etsy 5. Organic Cowl Neck Dress $70.00 on SPUN 6. Juliette Tassled Tote Bag $94 by Deux Lux on Moxsie 7. Faux Fur Elise Vest $47.99 on ModCloth 8. Vegan Bourbon Street Ankle Boots $49.99 on ModCloth 9. Freedom Waist Jacket by M641

9 Unique Ideas for Frugal Date Nights

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I never knew how creative I would have to be in order to squeeze in a little alone time with my spouse. We don’t get to escape as often as I would like and it is hard to find people you really love and trust enough to watch those that are most precious to you. Not only that, but teenagers sure seem to be a lot busier than they used to be! I am so thankful for the grandparents who offer to take our kiddos time and time again so we can get that time away.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you some creative ideas for dating that will cost you little/no money and won’t even require paying a babysitter. These are the ideas that have worked for us through these years and I hope you can share some ways that you have found to creatively date your spouse when you are low on cash and sitters.


Book Club Night- My husband and I have started, what I jokingly refer to as, our “magical book club” together. I have been dying for him to read the Twilight series and he has been dying for me to read the Harry Potter series. We made a deal to exchange books and talk about them each night. Obviously, this is not intellectual material we are talking about, but I have to say that I am so enjoying every moment of this exchange.

You could also read the same series together or tackle a literary classic together. Better yet, reread those amazing books from your childhood. Have a book club night together instead of a night parked in front of the television.

Once we have finished the books though, we plan to have a screening night of the movies together too. I am wondering if I am pushing the envelope too much if I make my Edward cupcakes?

Engage in Conversation Starters- I think I know just about everything there is to know about my husband, especially since we have been together since we were teenagers. Conversation starter questions though can sometimes lead to some beautiful surprises of happy memories that we had never heard before. Look at these unique conversation starters, these sweet conversation starters, or this list of fun questions to get the ball rolling. My husband & I sometimes just ask each other questions in Facebook quizzes. Anything that gets you talking together is a great investment of your time!

Late Night Dinners- When our kids were really little, our time alone really felt few and far between. We would sometimes shift our dinner hour until after the kids went to bed to enjoy a romantic and quiet dinner together. I would put table linens on the table, break out the beautiful dishes and stemware, and make a fancy dinner that the grocery budget would not be able to normally accommodate. After all, you are still staying in so there is still a great savings in that!

Don’t be afraid to move your dinner somewhere else in the house. Sometimes I would set up a folding table and chairs and dress it up in a different area of the home or put a fancy spread out on the coffee table with a fun movie. In those long days of newborn feedings and diaper changes, this little change in location was really something to look forward to.


Game Time- My husband & I are both very competitive so we love to play games together after the kids head to bed. For outdoor games, we love a good badminton match and for indoor games we love a good board game challenge or a fun game of Wii bowling. Challenge each other to a match and feel free to indulge in childish behavior to escape the reality of adulthood.

Dollar Store Extravaganza- This is something that I have planned for the two of us as a fun date night idea. Just make a small budget of $10 or less and challenge each other to a contest to see who you can come up with the most creative gift from the dollar store for each other. You can really put a lot of creativity into this and it will be a fun exchange to do after the kids go to bed. See if your husband really knows what your favorite candy in the world is and he can see if you know how to pick a great book for him or what type of puzzle book would be a fun one.


Enjoy Some Time By the Fire- After the kids go to bed, we love to start a little fire in our fire pit and sit by it together. We are finding it is a great way to unwind and have some time to discuss the day together. Make some s’mores and snuggle up under a blanket together. If you have a fireplace, you can do the same thing with some cocoa in your warm house on a wintry night.

Plan an Anniversary Getaway- I decided awhile ago to begin putting money into a separate savings account for our ten year anniversary. At the time, we were really penny-pinching, but $25 a month didn’t seem like a ton of money so it has been automatically transferred every month for our anniversary getaway.

I swear that we talk about this (at least) once a month. Even though there is just $1,000 saved, we have come up with a zillion places we could go to and have been number-crunching to see how much we will have from making this tiny investment each month.

Sitting around and just planning a vacation can be so much fun together. It is such a fun way to spend your time, imagining the places you will go and talking about how quickly we are approaching our big anniversary.

Make it more fun by challenging each other to plan the best anniversary getaway package. You could each research and put together your own vacations and then sit down together and see who came up with the best ideas for the least amount of money. File it away for future reference when you actually do to get to go on that getaway.

Exchange Babysitting With a Friend- I am really lucky because if I really want to go out with my spouse, I can call up my sister and ask if we can do a babysitting exc
hange. If you have a good friend that you can exchange babysitting with and trade nights out, then you get great care for your kids without having to shell out any money.

While you are enjoying some time alone, you can still enjoy the frugal things in life. Some of my favorite date nights are hitting a movie at the second-run theater, packing up a picnic dinner and taking it somewhere with a view, lounging around Barnes & Noble looking for home improvement inspiration, or even enjoying an evening at home without the kids.

If your spouse can take off work, use a vacation day and try and plan your date during the day. You can take advantage of cheaper matinee rates and even affordable meals out at restaurants because of the earlier hour.

Start a New TV Series- Now that I have given you lots of ideas that don’t involve the television, I think I can bring up an idea that does. I love to pick up a new television series together, particularly in the summer months when nothing good is really on television. You can rent these using a movie membership or check on Hulu or the network websites to watch a series. Try looking for an older series that you have never seen before and watching it for the first time. On our list of never seen television- Lost, 24, and House. We also love to watch rerun sitcoms and relive all those funny moments all over again and watch Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, & That 70′s Show just for laughs.

I don’t mean to brag, but this man of mine is awesome! He works a full-time job AND manages to run all of the programming on this website too. I am willing to set aside as many fun & free nights as I can to hang out with him. Even when times were very lean, we have found creative ways to spend time together. I know we both benefit from it and so do our children!

What is your favorite budget-friendly date night activity? Please share your creative and unique ideas for keeping the romance alive!