Archive for February, 2013

Weeknight Chicken Noodle Soup

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than a bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup on a cold day. My homemade chicken noodle soup recipe is the chicken soup recipe to rival all chicken soup recipes. It is the chicken soup recipe my kids beg for when they are sick and it rivals any bowl of soup you could buy anywhere. Keep on reading to find my secret ingredient that will save you time in the kitchen and help you make this batch of soup even on the busies of weeknights.

If you are looking for a soup with that tastes deliciously homemade, but can be prepared in about 30 minutes and happily feed your family for a week, then this is the soup for you. The trick with this soup is starting with a good well-seasoned base and then working from there with quicker cooking techniques and ingredients.

My secret ingredient is a rotisserie chicken, which rivals the price of a fresh chicken with a fraction of the work, and to give the stock that I-cooked-all-day flavor, I sweat the veggies out in olive oil and seasoning before incorporating my chicken broth, and pour the broth directly over that rotisserie chicken to incorporate all of the seasonings from the chicken right into my soup base.

While you can make your own bread utilizing that handy bread machine in your kitchen, when we are under the weather or looking for a quick dinner fix, I love to visit the day old bakery cart at my local grocery to snag deeply discounted bread for our evening meals. This soup begs for a good baguette or french loaf to dip in it to soak up the flavorful broth.

What does the soup taste like? Soulful, satisfying, rich, delicious, comforting, and restaurant-worthy! This is definitely a lot cheaper than going out for soup and you can enjoy these leftovers all week long!

While I can’t guarantee that this soup heals all, it heals an awful lot in our house- sore throats are soothed, bellies are warmed, and whatever ails us in our life deserves a bowl of this chicken noodle soup for a little homemade comfort on a chilly night.

Weeknight Chicken Noodle Soup
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Amy Allen Clark
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 35 mins
Serves: 8
The world’s best chicken noodle soup. We call this soup, “Better than Panera,” soup. I have a feeling after you try it, you will agree!
  • 2-3 cups egg noodles (I like the Ream’s brand in the frozen foods section)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • fresh parsley
  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
  2. Add egg noodles and cook until tender.
  3. Drain, and rinse under cool running water.
  4. 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. Add garlic at the end (to prevent burning)
  5. Add your rotisserie chicken and any drippings form the chicken to the pot, directly on top of your vegetables. Pour your chicken broth directly over the chicken to incorporate all of the good flavors.
  6. Heat up broth and bring it to a simmer.
  7. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.
  8. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water together until cornstarch is completely dissolved.
  9. Pull out your chicken and set aside to dice.
  10. Gradually add the cornstarch to soup, stirring constantly.
  11. Stir in noodles and diced rotisserie chicken, and heat through.
  12. Toss in a handful of fresh chopped parsley and ladle into bowls.

Looking for more great soups to try? We’ve got the soup pot on with Black Bean & Roasted Red Pepper SoupPesto Chicken Tortellini SoupLentil SoupItalian Veggie Soup, California Italian Wedding Soup, Greek Lemon Chicken Soup with Homemade Pitas, & Tomato Soup with Homemade Croutons to fill your soups bowl frugally and deliciously!

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Cleaning Up the Toothpaste Mess: Windex Touch-Up Cleaner (Prize Pack Giveaway Worth $100)

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Sorry this giveaway is now closed! We would like to congratulate RACHEL & BRANDY (Comment #7 and #11) on winning these prize packs! Congratulations, ladies! 

I recently announced that I am partnering up with Windex to share (and giveaway) a fun new product that they just launched called the Windex® Touch-Up Cleaner.

In our house, there are a lot of messes that happen daily and one of those messes is the toothpaste mess that seems to cover every surface in our little bathroom. Tell me that I am not the only parent who struggles with the stuck on toothpaste mess please? I am often astounded at how my children manage to get one tube of toothpaste on every conceivable surface, fixture, and walls. If you are struggling with this mess in your bathrooms too, here are a few ideas to help you get your bathroom back to clean again.

If you find toothpaste stuck on your walls or surfaces, simply spritz some of the Windex® Touch-Up cleaner onto a tissue or paper towel and gently rub away until toothpaste is entirely removed.

Once you have removed all of the stuck on toothpaste from your surfaces and fixtures, finish off any additional small messes such as make-up or soap residue with another dab of the new Windex® Touch-Up Bathroom Cleaner. Get your sinks, toilets, sealed marble, glass, glazed porcelain, chrome, glazed ceramic tile, and finished wood gleaming again with just a little of this solution. Not only will your bathroom be gleaming (and toothpaste free), you will also be killing 99.9% of common household germs.

Be sure to look for Windex® Touch-Up Cleaner on your store shelves as well as check out the Windex® Shineboard on Facebook for more tips to help simplify your cleaning experience!. Be sure to share your favorite tips and images from Shineboard on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

You can check out my video sharing a few ways that I deal with the messes from the night before with my kids so that we can have a good and organized morning together as a family.

Best of all, to kick things off I am giving two lucky readers a sample of both varieties!

Please leave a comment below by March 16, 2013, answering the question, “”Who is the mess maker in your house?”

Two winners will receive a prize package including a flip camera, one bathroom Windex Touch-Up Cleaner and one kitchen Windex® Touch-Up Cleaner. Approximate Retail Value of prize is $100.00 USD and will be given to two (2) selected winners.

*If you are a winner, please leave a testimonial here once you’ve tried it out!*

Visit the official Windex® Facebook Page at or visit to learn more about the Windex® Touch-Up Cleaner.

You can also save 75 cents on the new Windex Touch-Up Cleaner or, share with 3 friends for $1.50 off with this handy coupon!

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


 1. Eligibility: Mom Advice’s Windex® Touch-Up Product Giveaway (“Sweepstakes”) is open only to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States (including the District of Columbia) who are at least eighteen (18) years of age.  Employees of Mom Advice (“Sponsor”), Daniel J. Edelman, Inc., and SC Johnson & Son, Inc. and any of their parents, subsidiaries. affiliated companies and their advertising and promotion agencies, as well as the immediate family (spouses, parents, siblings and children and their respective spouses, regardless of where they reside) and household members, whether or not related of each such employee are not eligible to enter or win. The Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations
2. Agreement to Official Rules: By participating in the Sweepstakes, entrant fully and unconditionally agrees to and accepts these Official Rules and the decisions of the Sponsor which are final and binding in all matters related to the Sweepstakes. Whether an entrant receives a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.
3. Timing: The Sweepstakes begins on February 27, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. Pacific Time (“PT”) and ends on March 16 2013 at 5:00 p.m. PT (“Promotion Period”).
 4. How to Enter: During the Promotion Period, there is one way to earn an entry: 1. Leave a comment on this blog post answering the question, “Who is the mess maker in your house?”
 All online entries must be received (comments posted) by 5:00 p.m. PT on March 16, 2013 to be eligible.  Limit one (1) entry per person, per email address and per household, regardless of method of entry. Entries received from any person, email address or household in excess of the stated limitation will be void. Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means and entries by any means which subvert the entry process are void. All entries become the property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned. In the event of a dispute over the identity of an online entrant, entry will be deemed submitted by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address associated with the blog post and he/she must comply with these Official Rules. Authorized account subscriber is the natural person who is assigned the e-mail address by the Internet Service Provider (ISP), on-line service provider, or other organization responsible for assigning e-mail addresses.
 Entrants must comply with guidelines provided by Sponsor. An entrant’s failure to comply with the terms and conditions and/or guidelines, as determined by Sponsor, may result in disqualification and all associated entries will be void. By submitting your name and email address, you agree to receive relevant promotional emails and contest follow up communications from Sponsor.
Blog posting must (i) be entrant’s own original work and reflect the true opinions and experiences of the applicable entrant,  (ii) be in English, (iii) cannot be previously published or submitted in connection with any other promotion, (iv) be in keeping with the Sponsor’s image and (v) not be offensive or inappropriate, as determined by the Sponsor in its sole discretion, nor can it defame or invade publicity rights or privacy of any person, living or deceased, or otherwise infringe upon any person’s personal or property rights or any other  third party rights. Sponsor reserves the right to remove any blog post and void the associated entry that it determines, in its sole discretion, is offensive or inappropriate, not in keeping with Sponsor’s image or that is otherwise not in compliance with these Official Rules.
 By posting a blog post, each entrant acknowledges and agrees that Sponsor may obtain blog posts under this Sweepstakes or have developed on its own or through other third parties’ ideas and material and blog posts that may be similar or identical in theme, idea, format or other respects to others submitted under this Sweepstakes and/or other promotions sponsored by the Sponsor or submitted for other reasons on the website, and entrant waives any and all claims he/she may have had, may have, and/or may have in the future, that any other blog post accepted, reviewed and/or used by Sponsor may be similar to his/her blog post.
5. Winner Determination: Potential winners of prizes will be chosen from all eligible entries received in a random drawing to be held within five (5) business days after the close of entries by Sponsor whose decision is final and binding in all matters. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received.
6. Winner Requirements: Potential winners will be notified by email on or about twelve (12) days from March 16, 2013. The inability to contact the potential winner within a reasonable time period, the return of the prize or prize notification as undeliverable or non-compliance with these Official Rules will result in forfeiture of prize.
Winner, by acceptance of prize, except where legally prohibited, grants permission for Sponsor and its designees to use his/her name, address (city and state), photograph, voice and/or other likeness and prize information for promotional purposes without further compensation, in all media now known or hereafter discovered, worldwide in perpetuity, without notice or review or approval.
Winner, by acceptance of prize, agrees to review the product received in the prize package and post a product testimonial on (click on the link to be directed to the review webpage).
7. Prizes: A prize package including a flip camera, one bathroom Windex Touch-Up Cleaner and one kitchen Windex® Touch-Up Cleaner. Approximate Retail Value of prize is $100.00 USD and will be given to two (2) selected winners. Prize is non-transferable and no substitution or cash-redemption is permitted except by Sponsor, in its sole discretion, which reserves the right to substitute the prize (or portion thereof) with one of comparable or greater value. Winner is responsible for all federal, state and local taxes (including income and withholding taxes) and any other costs and expenses associated with prize receipt and/or use not specified herein as being provided.  Prize is awarded “as is” with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied by Sponsor. All prize details are at Sponsor’s sole discretion.
8. Release: Entrants agree to release and hold harmless Sponsor,  Daniel J. Edelman, Inc., S.C. Johnson & Son  and their respective subsidiaries, affiliates, suppliers, distributors, advertising/promotion agencies, and prize suppliers, and each of their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliate companies and advertising and promotion agencies and their respective officers, directors, employees and agents (collectively, the “Released Parties”) from and against any claim or cause of action, including, but not limited to, personal injury, death, or damage to or loss of property, arising directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, out of participation in the Sweepstakes or receipt or use or misuse of the prize.
9. Ownership/Use of Blog Posts: By submitting a blog post, each entrant agrees Sponsor shall own the blog post submitted (including all rights embodied therein) and that it and its designees (including S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.) may exploit, edit, modify, and distribute the blog post and all elements of such blog post, including, without limitation, the names and likenesses of any persons or locations mentioned therein (including the use of the blog post for promotional purposes in connection with this Sweepstakes and for the promotion of Windex® products, except where prohibited by law), in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity without compensation, permission or notification to entrant or any third party.
10. General Conditions: Sponsor reserves the right to cancel, suspend and/or modify the Sweepstakes, or any part of it for any reason, including if virus, bugs, worms, unauthorized intervention, or any fraud, technical failures or any other factor impairs the integrity or proper functioning of the Sweepstakes, as determined by Sponsor in its sole discretion.  In the event of cancellation, Sponsor reserves the right to select the winner from among all remaining non-suspect entries received as of time as such cancellation. Sponsor, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to disqualify any individual it finds to be tampering with the entry process or the operation of the Sweepstakes or to be acting in violation of these Official Rules or those of any other promotion or in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner and all associated entries will be void.  Any attempt by any person to deliberately undermine the legitimate operation of the Sweepstakes may be a violation of criminal and civil law, and, should such an attempt be made, Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages and other remedies (including attorneys’ fees) from any such person to the fullest extent permitted by law.  Sponsor’s failure to enforce any term of these Official Rules shall not constitute a waiver of that provision.  Twitter and Facebook are not affiliated in any way with the Sweepstakes.
11. Limitations of Liability: The Released Parties are not responsible for: (1) any incorrect or inaccurate information in any Sweepstakes-related materials, whether caused by entrant, printing or typographical errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes; (2) lost, interrupted or unavailable network, server, Internet Service Provider (ISP), website, or other connections, technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines, or failed computer, satellite, telephone, cable, or network/computer hardware or software, or jumbled, scrambled, delayed, or misdirected transmissions; (3) unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the Sweepstakes; (4) technical, mechanical, network , electronic, computer, human or other errors which may occur, including any errors that may occur in connection with the administration of the Sweepstakes, the processing of entries or blog posts, the announcement of the winner or in any other Sweepstakes-related materials; or (5) late, lost, incomplete, misdirected, delayed, garbled, illegible, postage-due, undeliverable, damaged or stolen entries or blog posts or mail.  Released Parties are not responsible for damage to any computer system resulting from participation in, accessing or downloading information in connection with this Sweepstakes. Released Parties are also not responsible for any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by site users, tampering, hacking, or by any equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the Sweepstakes.
12. Winner’s Name: Winner will be available after twelve (12) days from February 8, 2013 at The winner’s name will be available until on or about March 21, 2013.
13. Sponsor: Amy Clark
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Amy’s Notebook 02.27.13

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013


Source: At Home on the Bay

These adorable vintage-style pillowcases would be easy to make with this great tutorial. (@ At Home on the Bay)

It would be fun to give (or receive!) one of these stress relief kits. (@ U Create)

Spring may be around the corner, but it’s not here yet, which makes these diy treasure chests perfect for indoor scavenger hunts. (@ A Cowboy’s Wife)

This amazing girls bedroom uses pops of color against a neutral background and really fun, huge pom poms overhead. (@ Daffodil Design)

office in a box

Source: I Heart Organizing

Here’s a great way to easily access and hide papers and office supplies using this office in a box. (@I Heart Organizing)

Creative ways to maximize storage using hooks. (@ a thousand ways)

Are you thinking about getting a family dog? Here are 12 reasons your family should get a dog. (@ alphamom)

Terrariums are a great way to bring a little green inside while we wait for spring. (@Centsational Girl)


Source: Two Peas and their Pod

Does the coconut and semi-sweet chocolate make this yummy-looking Chex mix good for you? (@ Two Peas and their Pod)

Is it okay to eat pumpkin in the spring if it’s in an ooey-gooey French toast bake? (@ whatever)

Aren’t recipes for fridge-clearing pasta bakes a perfect idea for using up odds and ends? (@ Apartment Therapy)

Tilapia with roasted tomatoes and pesto would make a quick and flavorful dinner. (@ $5 Dinners)


I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!


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30 Fish & Meat-Free Meal Ideas

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Being creative with meat-free meals does not need to be a challenge because today I want to share with you 30 meat-free meal ideas to get you inspired. These 30 meat-free meal ideas that are easy, delicious, and budget-friendly. Our family tries to eat one or two meals a week that are meat-free and these are 30 of our favorite meat-free meals.

Meat-free doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing every week, in fact, I find that the more creative I am with our meat-free meals, the more we don’t miss the meat in our dishes. Our meat-free choices originally were for economical reasons. Eating meat-free once or twice a week helped to keep our grocery budget down. As I have become more committed to eating healthy, our meat-free choices have become healthier rather than carb-laden.

The carbs are good though, in moderation, so I am sharing a few of our favorites over the years of meat-free eating. I hope it inspires you to get creative with your own meat-free choices for dinner!

30 Meat-Free Meal Ideas

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

Easy Tilapia Pitas

Baklava Salmon

Veggie Topped Quinoa

Panko Crusted Tilapia Nuggets with Dipping Sauce

Applebee’s Honey Grilled Salmon

Herb Baked Tilapia

Salmon Patties & Perfectly  Baked Potatoes

Slammin Salmon Marinade

Balsamic & Rosemary Grilled Salmon

Spaghetti Squash With Your Favorite Meat-Free Topping

Sauteed Shrimp with Spinach and Tomatoes

Baked Salmon with Lemony Rice Pilaf

Shrimp Pasta with Oven Dried Tomatoes

Grilled Shrimp with Garlic & Herbs

Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo

DIY Salad Bar Night

Spinach & Tomato Orzo Pasta Salad

Lentil Soup with Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

Marinated Grilled Shrimp with Perfect Margaritas

Butternut Squash Soup With Toasted Pecans

Basic Pizza Dough for Beginners

Baked Shrimp Scampi

Portobello Mushroom Burgers 

Black Bean & Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins 

Spinach Tomato Mushroom Flatbread Pizza

Roasted Shrimp with Rosemary & Thyme

Homemade Tomato Soup with Crouton Toppers

Dairy-Free Crustless Quiche Grain & Nut Whole Wheat Pancakes

Brown Butter Waffles With Cherries

6 Amazing Waffle Recipes

What are your favorite meat-free meal dinners for your family? Feel free to share your favorite recipes!

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Apron Full of Giveaways 02.26.13

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013


Source: larsoncollection,  $18

Welcome to our Apron Full of Giveaways! I hope everyone is having a great week this week! As we do each week, here is our round-up of giveaways for our readers. We hope that this is beneficial to you and your family! Please let us know if you guys win anything- I love to hear the success stories!

Below are the contest links-if you are hosting a contest please link it up below. Sorry, we are not giving away the aprons just showcasing them! Please put your site name and then what type of contest you are hosting. For example, “MomAdvice (Kid’s Movies).”

Good luck to each of you!

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Baklava Salmon

Monday, February 25th, 2013

I am always looking for new ways for my family to eat fish. Salmon recipes are one of my favorite things to experiment with because our family loves it so much. I couldn’t wait to try this Baklava Salmon recipe on my family thanks to the unique combination of honey, mustard, and nuts that add a sweet & crunchy topping to this mild fish.

If you have not sampled baklava before, it is definitely a treat to look for when eating at a Mediterranean restaurant. Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. It is sticky, rich, and light all at the same time.  The mixture of this salmon coating mimics those flavors with the chopped nuts and breadcrumbs mixed together with fresh parsley and then beneath is the rich honey layer mixed with a little Dijon mustard.

I love that all of these items are already in my pantry, making it a great dish to create from found items that you likely already have in your cupboards.

Our entire family loved this new spin on salmon and the unexpectedly sweet topping on this fish. We served it with my favorite Roasted Brussels Sprouts to add another bite of crunch to our dinner.

Baklava Salmon
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Slightly adapted from
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 12 mins
Total time: 17 mins
Serves: 4
A fun new way to dress up salmon with a topping reminiscent of a great slice of baklava. The nutty & sweet coating adds a fun new twist on salmon.
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup walnuts or 1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4 (4 ounce) salmon fillets
  • fresh ground pepper
  • kosher salt
  • Lemon slices
  1. Preheat oven to 400°; Line shallow roasting pan with non-stick aluminum foil, or spray with non-stick pan spray.
  2. In small bowl, blend butter, mustard, and honey, set aside; in another bowl, mix together bread crumbs, nuts, and parsley.
  3. Place salmon fillets on prepared pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and brush with honey-mustard mixture; sprinkle tops with crumb/nut mixture; if any remains, press into sides of salmon.
  4. Bake salmon 10-12 minutes in preheated oven, or until it flakes easily with a fork, serve with a lemon wedge.


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5 Ideas for Offsetting The 2% Tax Increase

Thursday, February 21st, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ditch Your Cable Bill

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

(Monthly Savings: $80 or more)


Calculate Your Personal Latte Factor

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

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

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

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

(Monthly Savings: $45 or more)

Get Savvy About Grocery Shopping

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

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

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

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

(Monthly Savings: $40 or more)

Declutter Your Way to Savings

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Monthly Savings: $30 or more)

Get the Good Life For Less

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

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

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

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

(Monthly Savings: $50 or more)


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


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New Ways to Save in the New Year

Thursday, February 21st, 2013


Are you looking for new ways to save in the new year? I have you covered!

There is something so renewing to know that a new year is beginning and that you have a whole new year ahead of you to start fresh.

In February, our New Year’s goals may have already been forgotten, but today I want to encourage you to dust those goals back off and start anew again with a goal that is very dear to my heart… being wise with our funds.

The goal that I have each year is to continue to reduce our spending and find creative ways to live our beautiful life on a small budget.

Perhaps it is a goal of yours too? Let’s explore some new ways to save in this new year!
Get Your Finances Back on Track
Isn’t it funny that we have more ways than ever to be in touch with our money, yet many of us couldn’t be further from it?
Consider investing in some financial planning software this year or utilizing a free financial planning service like for tracking your spending.
Start this year out right and begin analyzing where your money is going and find new ways that you can reduce your spending categories.

Viewing your spending history is an eye-opening way to see simple switches you could make to begin saving and planning for your future.


Switch to a Cash System

In some regards, using an envelope system is an old-school method, but it has been the one method that has worked the very best for our family through the years.
At the beginning of the week, withdraw the money that you need for your groceries and give an allowance to yourself, your spouse, and a family allowance for dining out/entertainment.

This will not only keep you within your grocery budget, but it will also keep those incidental expenses for each family member within a budget too.

No one can shame you for buying a weekly latte and no one can be upset that a family member went out to dinner, provided that it is within your weekly allowance!

A family allowance will also allow you to do something fun each week together and give you that much needed family time you deserve.
Ditch the Membership Fees
Are you paying for a membership that you aren’t using anymore?
Many times when I talk to people about memberships they have, they are usually not using them.
Do you have a gym membership, but don’t ever go to the gym?
Do you subscribe to a magazine that you don’t have time to read or is no longer applicable to that stage in your life?

Do you have a movie club, but no one ever has time to watch the movies?

Ditching those memberships doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in those activities; it just means you can be smarter about how you are doing them.

A gym that offers a punch card where you only have to pay per class might be a better option if you can’t ever make it to the gym.
Checking out those movies and magazines from the library might be a better way to indulge in those entertainment expenses without paying yearly on them.
Rethink how you can approach those spending categories and you could easily save $30 or more off of your monthly expenses.
Embrace a DIY Lifestyle
The best thing you can do for your finances this year is to invest in learning new skills that you will save you money.
Take a class to learn how to make your own birthday cakes, learn a new craft that could save on gift expenses, visit a Saturday workshop at your local hardware store to complete a home improvement project, research on You Tube or check out books from the library on how to tackle projects that you normally have to outsource.

Embracing a DIY lifestyle is what frugality, to me, is all about. Go out and learn a new skill today and see what it can do to improve those family finances. It just might surprise you!

When looking for materials for these DIY projects, be sure to stop at your local thrift store to see what treasures you can use to tackle those home improvement projects.

My favorite resale shop is always my first stop when looking for materials for my favorite DIY projects.
Get Rid of That Clutter
Clutter not only weighs us down physically, but clutter causes us to spend money when we don’t need to.
One look at a cluttered pantry or bathroom closet and you know exactly what I am talking about.
Duplicate purchases occur when we don’t have a strong grasp on our inventory in our home and clutter hides us from the real treasures that are in our lives.

Stop allowing clutter to put a drain on your budget and your life.

The best part about our Goodwill stores is that not only can you get rid of clutter, but you can score savings at the store by stopping by and making that donation.

An employee will happily hand you a tax receipt when you drop your items off at the Goodwill Drive-Thru Donation Center.

The bonus, that makes the trip and decluttering your life entirely worth it, is that our Michiana Goodwill Stores attach a coupon to your tax deduction form that will save you a percentage on your next shopping trip.

I call that a win-win situation when it comes to ways to save money and reward yourself in the new year!



New Ways to Save in the New Year


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Amy’s Notebook 02.20.13

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

5 Days Nursery

Source: five days…5 ways


I adore this turquoise, blue and yellow nursery with Amy Butler wallpaper and fun butterfly wall art.  (@ Five Days…5 Ways)

These sweet little garlands made with paper and a simple straight stitch look like a fun & easy craft to tackle. (@ Design Mom)

Friendship Necklace Kits would be a fun diy gift for children to make and give to their friends. (@ Inner Child Fun)

Awesome, easy to see and complete kids chore chart tutorial (@ My Name is Snickerdoodle)


Source: baking bites


Chia Seeds are so good for you, wouldn’t it be great to get some into your diet in a Lemon-Chia Seed Cake? (@ Baking Bites)

Banana Bars with Browned Butter Icing  instead of normal banana bread look like a fun twist on this banana bread classic.  (@ Bake or Break)

I love this different take on Taco Soup with orzo instead of tortillas (@ Dine & Dish)

This 30 Minute Skillet Kale, White Bean & Sausage Soup looks like a winner for an easy and comforting dinner (@ serious eats)


Source: apartment therapy


These five different ideas for diy  bird-seed feeders to make would be a great winter boredom buster (@ apartment therapy)

Make a retro potluck dish cozy from an old sweater (@

I love this idea for upcycling a maxi dress into an Easy Peasy Tot Teepee (@ awesome sauce & asshattery )

This  little Indoor Fairy Garden would be a fun craft to do with the kids (@ Craft Jr.)


I hope you enjoyed this collection of gathered links to DIY crafts, food projects, and thrifty ways to spruce up your home. Nothing brings me more joy then to highlight other fabulous bloggers. Follow me on Pinterest for daily inspiration!

The Best Resources For Frugal Readers (And How to Make Reading a Priority Again)

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

One of the things that I get asked the most is how I am able to read so many books each month and still manage everything else in my life. If one of your goals this year is to read more, I want to share with you how reading has transformed my life and how it can transform your life too!

The truth is, we all have the same hours in the day and we all choose what we want to fill them with.  Some days I fill it with managing the house and doing everything that needs to be done for my family, but there are days that I let it all go and sit in my favorite chair with my favorite book for an hour instead.

Here are some simple strategies I have used to carve in more time for my fictional reading life:

I Stopped Watching Television- When we dropped our television package, it was the greatest gift in time management I have ever given myself. Our television watching has now whittled down to about four shows a week that we really care about and the rest of the time our television is turned off. It has been so freeing to not feel like I have to dedicate time to the television to justify the bills that we were receiving.

Although watching news has never really been a priority to me, to not be detached completely from the world, I listen to NPR on the way into the gym each morning or while I am tidying up from breakfast. I know what I need to know about world news and local news and then I turn it off and focus on the books I am reading.

I Always Have a Book In My Hand- You will very rarely see me without a book in my hand and I find ways to make the most of every single little pocket of time I have to read my books. Whether I am coloring my hair, cooking, waiting for the kids to get off the bus, waiting at the doctor’s office, or standing in line at the grocery store, you will find me trying to devour a page or two of a book. With devices like the Kindle for your smart phones and tablets, electronic readers, audio books, and the endless supply of great free reading material  from the library, I am constantly trying to find a new way to sneak more pages in my day.

I Make a Goal For Myself– Every year I use GoodReads to create a reading challenge for myself. For me, vague goals of, “I’d like to read more,” usually yield mediocre results. With a number in mind, I know that I have something to work towards and to accomplish. Sometimes I reach my goals, this year, I did not. It doesn’t bother me if I don’t reach my lofty goals because the true point of the goal for me is just to read, read, and read some more.

You can connect with me on GoodReads and see what I am working on right now!

I Want to Be a Role Model For My Kids- I want my kids to model the good things that I do in my life and being a reader is one thing that I am proud of and that I want for them. I don’t want my kids remembering that I sat in front of the television and watched Toddlers & Tiaras every night or that their mom was never without her celebrity gossip magazines. I want them to remember that their mom was always reading, always learning, and also that she wasn’t afraid to tackle hard books and hard topics.

The results for me have been having two kids that are ferocious readers themselves. They beg to go to the library and they are just like me,  often walking into walls and doors because they have their nose in books. If we are going somewhere, they grab their books to take with them when we run errands and one of our biggest struggles is when we have to shut off the lights and our books at night. I love seeing them model me in this way.

I Read What I Want To Read- We have enough pressures on us as mothers, but to be pressured to always be reading award-winning books doesn’t have to be one of them. If your life is full of stress and chaos, a good chick lit book might be just what the doctor ordered. I like to read one heavy book and one light book and alternate them. When my children were smaller all I wanted to read was something that would make me laugh. No matter what you read… just keep reading!

I Want to Be a Well-Rounded Person- I didn’t take a lot of advanced classes in high school like my husband so I was only exposed to excerpts of classic books, rather than reading them. As a woman in her thirties, I am reading these books for the first time in my adult life and I am proud that I am no longer intimidated by classical literature. I won’t let the hurdles of my youth stop me from being a well-rounded person and that is why you will often find me making a goal to read the classics.

I Want to Be a Great Writer- Great writers are great readers. Other writers constantly inspire me to be better at what I am writing. I found it a hard juggle to work on my own book and still squeeze in time to read. My pockets of time had dwindled, but I still tried to make it a priority because reading is that important to me.

Reading has changed my life and has shaped me into a better person than I could have been without the words of great writers. Books provide an escape, they challenge how I view the rights and wrongs in life, they take me to countries I may never visit, they make me weep, they make me laugh, and they made me dream that I could transform someone else with my own words. 

Great Reading Resources To Get You Started:


GoodReads or Shelfari– Goodreads is my ultimate resource for keeping me motivated to read daily. I use it for my yearly reading goals, to keep track of books that I want to read in the future, and to rate and review books that I have finished reading. The best feature is the barcode scanner that you an use to scan books to quickly pull them into your to-be-read or reading virtual piles.

BookCrossing– This site offers a fun way for you to clear out your bookshelves. The idea is simple, but so fun. Just put a tag within your book to track it and release your book into the wild, which just means leave it somewhere where someone else can find it (coffee shops, doctor’s offices, schools, etc.). When someone finds a book with a BookCrossing ID number in it, they can enter that code into the site and report where the book has moved to. It is a fun way to track where your books have traveled and see how far they can go.

Library Elf– This program helps you keep track of your library materials so you won’t get socked with late fees. Elf is an Internet-based tool for keeping track of what’s due, overdue and ready for pickup. Reminders are sent when the user wants it — before items are due (up to seven days advance notice, weekly notice or everyday reminders). For my local friends, South Bend is not currently participating, but the Elkhart Library is. The basic membership to Library Elf is free.

What Should I Read Next?– One of the big hurdles with reading is finding the perfect reading material. What Should I Read Next? allows you to put in the name of your favorite author or favorite book and then gives you a reading list of similar reading material that it thinks you would like based on your preference.

Paperback Swap or Bookmooch– Just two of many sites where you can exchange books for free. You simply sign up for a membership and list the books on your bookshelf. You can then browse the books from other members and make a request to receive a book. When you are done with the book, you can list it back on the site or keep the book. New members start out usually with credits to get started on exchanging books. The more you ship and share, the more credits you recive to get more books.

Amazon’s Free Kindle Downloads– Amazon offers oodles of books for free for your Kindle or you can download the free Kindle app for your phone or tablet to read your books on. Explore this free list when you are in need of a new book to read!


Be sure to visit our Great Reads section to get you started on selecting great books to tackle!

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