Saturday, November 1, 2014

Make Simple Meals {Day 27}

This is the twenty-seventh post in my 31 Days of Living on Less Series. If you'd like to read all the posts in order, go to Day 1.

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One of the ways I've found to save money in the kitchen is to keep food simple. Rather than making elaborate dishes, I pretty much stick to the basics. I do really enjoy cooking special recipes, but often they're more expensive, so I save them for special occasions.

Here are a few simple meals we enjoy:
For side dishes, we often just have a simple salad from the garden (we're now enjoying lettuce and swiss chard from our fall garden!), fried cabbage, or something equally simple. 

What are some of your favorite simple meal ideas?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Save Your Change {Day 26}

This is the twenty-sixth post in my 31 Days of Living on Less Series. If you'd like to read all the posts in order, go to Day 1.

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One simple and painless way to save money is to save your change.  We have a jar where we keep ours. When it gets full, we empty it out and see how much there is, and then we take it to the bank. My children and I recently counted all of our change (a math lesson for the younger ones!), and it ended up being about $80! They were so surprised that there was so much. They actually all started cheering when we were done counting! We would have had even more, but we often pay our younger children out of the jar for certain extra jobs around the house (as a way to help them earn money). 

This little exercise also showed my children the value of a dime. Even small amounts saved can add up to a lot!

I'm thankful for the change jar. This may be Christmas gift money this year. :)
Do you have a change jar?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Make Memories {Day 25}

This is the twenty-fifth post in my 31 Days of Living on Less Series. If you'd like to read all the posts in order, go to Day 1.

***
Our family has never been able to afford an expensive vacation. And we may never be able to provide that sort of memory for our children. But that's okay, since I don't have memories of those kinds of vacations from my childhood, either, and it didn't hurt me any. 

What do I have memories of? Making old fashioned pulled taffy with my mom and some friends. Making homemade pizza together as a family. My parents in the kitchen making donuts. My mom's homemade noodles, rolls, special birthday cakes, and peppernuts at Christmas. My grandma's Mississippi Mud Bars. 
An "A" Apple Pie!
A lot of the special memories seem to involve food, for some reason! I guess that's because food can define a time as "special."
Apple Dumplings
In our home, we try to create these same special memories with our children. The great thing is that cooking together doesn't cost a lot (unless it's a really elaborate recipe!). We've created traditions surrounding certain food that we only make at a particular time of year. For instance, we usually make cut-out cookies at the change of each season. It's fun to vary the cookie cutters for spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Fall Sugar Cookies
In addition to cooking together, here are a few more inexpensive ideas for creating memories with your family:
  1. Have a family game night.
  2. Have a movie night. Pop popcorn!
  3. Go on a nature walk.
  4. Go for a bike ride.
  5. Have a music night. Gather around the guitar or piano or sing a capella!
  6. Camp out in the backyard.
  7. Camp in the living room!
  8. Make a fire pit in the backyard and roast marshmallows or make s'mores.
  9. On a clear night, go out and watch the stars. We like to lie on the trampoline for this.
  10. Do a puzzle together.
  11. Go to a local playground or park and play together.
  12. Have an art night. Set out watercolors, paper, pencils, or whatever you have available, and create art together.
  13. Go on a picnic. Or have one in the backyard.
  14. Make a family movie. Enjoy creating costumes and then film it. Our children do this all the time, but it would be even more fun for Mom and Dad to join in!
  15. Look at family photos together.
  16. Have a special family meal. Use your best dishes and dress up.
  17. Read aloud. Enjoy a good book together.
  18. Jump in a pile of leaves!
A favorite game for the younger crowd, Busytown Airport.
What are some of the best memories you've made that were free or inexpensive?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Give From the Heart {Day 24}

This is the twenty-fourth post in my 31 Days of Living on Less Series. If you'd like to read all the posts in order, go to Day 1.

***
I love giving handmade gifts. It just seems more special somehow. A few years ago, I began the tradition of making matching Christmas pajama pants for our children. It was fun getting a picture of them all together in their matching p.j.'s.

I usually find the flannel on sale in January, so I'm able to get it for a reasonable price. Last year, however, I just couldn't afford them. I didn't think the children would mind anyway.
Would you believe that they were actually disappointed? Including my teenagers! I was surprised, and sad that I hadn't been able to make them. I'm thankful that I already have some flannel on hand to make some this year. They won't exactly be matching, since I couldn't find Christmas flannel for a good price. I ended up getting a floral print for the girls, and a bears camping print for the boys. I think they'll still be fun anyway, and I'm looking forward to making them.
When you're on a tight budget, sometimes the best thing you can do when it comes to gift-giving is to give from the heart. It may not be fancy, and it might not be the latest trend, but hopefully it will be meaningful to the recipient. For a long time now, I've been collecting handmade gift ideas, and I've got a lot of them on this Pinterest board. If you need a simple and inexpensive gift, you might just find some inspiration there!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Make a Holiday Binder {Day 23}

This is the twenty-third post in my 31 Days of Living on Less Series. If you'd like to read all the posts in order, go to Day 1.

***
The holidays are quickly approaching, and I can't wait! It's one of my favorite times of the year. I love getting together with family, and enjoying special food and fellowship. However, if I'm disorganized about it, the days fly by with too much crammed in, and the meaningful family memories aren't made. And without planning, this time of year can also put a strain on the budget.

One way to avoid the strain is to make a holiday binder. I started mine several years ago, but I'm just now really getting it organized. I have divided sections with the following labels:
  • Calendars
  • Recipes
  • Card List
  • Gift Lists
  • Budget
  • Advent
The calendar section just helps me to plan upcoming activities. The recipes tab is to remind myself of our favorite holiday recipes and where to find them. I keep a list of who we send cards to each year. I don't think well on the spot, so I like to keep a list of gift ideas for each child and family member. The budget section is self-explanatory, and the advent section is where I file ideas and inspiration for the days leading up to Christmas.

I like to keep things simple, so my binder is pretty simple. However, they can be very detailed or elaborate if that's what speaks to you. Here are a few links to free holiday binder printables:
I think being organized for the holiday season saves money, and I love planning ahead. 

Do you have a holiday binder?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Take Your Own Family Photo {Day 22}

This is the twenty-second post in my 31 Days of Living on Less Series. If you'd like to read all the posts in order, go to Day 1.

***
When we first married, I was a big fan of studio portraits. I loved going to get our family pictures taken, and my goal was to have a portrait done every year to document our family's growth and change. I could often find a coupon for a free sitting with a certain package deal, and we were able to get portraits done for no more than about $10 or less (as long as we limited ourselves to what was included in the package deal, which was sometimes hard for me!).

All of that changed, however, as our family grew. The last family portrait we had taken in a studio was when we had three children four and under. Somehow it wasn't fun anymore! And now we no longer live in an urban area, so traveling somewhere just to have our picture taken isn't worth it (even if we could afford it). 

For the past ten years, I've been taking our annual portraits myself. I have a tripod that my dad bought me when I was in high school, and I just mount my camera on that. I pose everyone, set the timer on my camera, and then run into the picture! At least that's what I often do. A couple of years ago my husband found a remote for my camera (on ebay), which makes it a lot simpler for me. 

The above portrait was taken with my point-and-shoot camera, proving that you don't have to have an expensive camera to get a decent-quality photo (and I found the frame for a few dollars at a flea market).

Taking a family photo at least once a year is so important to me that I'm willing to go through the hassle of doing it myself. With digital photography, it's free! Almost every year I've been able to find a deal for free photo cards (last year they came from York Photo). I'm not sure if I'll be able to afford to send out cards this year, and in that case I would just get an 8x10 for us and maybe print a 4x6 for each child's scrapbook. I have a $10 credit at York Photo that I'm hoping to use for that (you can get 60 free prints when you sign up here).

We always take our photos outside since we have better lighting out there, but here's a great article on setting up a simple home studio. And I pin lots of photography tips and ideas on my photography Pinterest board.

Do you take your own portraits?

The Homemaker's 2015 Daily Planner {Giveaway}

Can you believe it's almost 2015? This year has just flown by for me. It seems like just yesterday I was filling out my 2014 Daily Planner. But now it's almost time to start thinking about organizing a new year! 

Once again, I'll be using Sue Hooley's Daily Planner that she developed with homemakers in mind. It has everything you need to organize your home and family. For more photos, see my review from last year, or you can go to the Homemaker's Friend website to see some detailed photos!
The planner includes the following features:
  • yearly calendar 
  • monthly calendar 
  • a two-page spread for weekly planning 
  • a place to list tasks you'd like to accomplish 
  • projects and events 
  • information
  • shopping lists
The tabs down the side help you find what you're looking for:

I love all of the inspirational quotes included in the planner. Sometimes they're just what I need to read:
These handy shopping lists are perforated, so you can remove the current one from the book and take it to the store with you:
There are also a couple of pockets at the back. Mine are full of notes to myself, things that I want to transfer to my calendar later, and sweet notes from my children.
The spiral binding allows it to lay flat:
Check out the Homemaker's Daily Planner website for more photos and information. You can also get free shipping if you order 3 or more planners, and you can get a discount and free shipping if you order a larger quantity (5+). Go here for ordering information.
I'm so excited to be giving away a planner to one of my readers today! If you'd like a chance to win, simply enter using the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. residents only).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Linking up with: The Modest Mom, Joy Dare