Simply Saving Saturday

It's often hard to see the tangible savings from the simple things I do every day to save money and I sometimes find myself discouraged with my efforts. Writing down all those little things I do in order to live more frugally has helped me to see that all those little things actually can make a big difference!

Here's how I was able to simply save this week:

--Saved on gas by riding to church early with my husband instead of taking a second vehicle.

--Found ground beef on sale with a store coupon on the package.  Paid $1.90/lb. - regular price $3.49/lb.

--Finished one homemade Christmas gift for my sister, started a couple of other projects.  I still have 4 more Christmas projects to finish!

--Made a yarn-wrapped pencil holder using a tin can and yarn I had on hand.  I will fill it with goodies and give it to my son's teacher for Christmas.  I really liked how this came out and am hoping to share this project next week.

--Received a toothpaste and floss sample in the mail.

--Price matched at Walmart.

--Used a coupon at Walmart to get a small can of baking powder for free.

How were you able to simply save this week?

Simply Saving Saturday

It's often hard to see the tangible savings from the simple things I do every day to save money and I sometimes find myself discouraged with my efforts.  Writing down all those little things I do in order to live more frugally has helped me to see that all those little things actually can make a big difference!

Here's how I was able to simply save this week:

--Turned off lights when we left a room.  We are trying to be more diligent in this and also trying to teach this to our children as well.

--Made my own bathroom cleaner with vinegar and the inexpensive dish soap I purchased earlier this month.  I also reused orange peels to make this orange vinegar cleaner that I also found on Pinterest.

--Saved used dryer sheets to clean blinds. (I can't remember where I found this tip, but it really works!)

--Started a scarf for my sister for Christmas using a free pattern I found (yup, you guessed it!) on Pinterest.

--Made pancakes and homemade instant oatmeal packets for breakfasts.  I just started making homemade breakfasts and I'm hoping that this will help us save on the amount of cereal we eat every week.

--Used coupons at the Dollar Tree and only paid tax for soap and sore throat drops.

--Forgot to pick up some things while I was shopping for groceries this week, but decided to save gas and not make an extra trip back to the store even though I really wanted to!

--Purchased shirts and sneakers from the thrift store for our fast-growing children.  These were in like-new condition and for just a fraction of the cost of buying brand new!

How were you able to simply save this week?

Fight Colds And Flu Naturally: Homemade Elderberry Syrup

Our son's first year of school was spent fighting off multiple colds, the flu and missing a week of school due to pneumonia.  As a mom it was such a helpless feeling to see my son constantly sick.  So despite the pediatricians advice that there was nothing to do but let the virus run its course, I decided to do a little research for ways to boost his immune system.

What I discovered is a tiny little berry, called elderberry, that is packed with vitamins to help boost the immune system and has been shown in studies to reduce cold symptoms.  They also contain flavanoids that help fight against several strains of the flu virus. 

The results:  so far my son has had only one cold and after giving him elderberry syrup instead of traditional over the counter medication that only mask symptoms, his symptoms were completely gone within a week!  I took it myself  when I had a scratchy throat (a sure sign that a cold is on its way) and to my surprise the sore throat was gone within a day or two and I had no cold symptoms at all! 

Store bought elderberry syrup is not cheap, but you can make your own much less expensively.  I used this recipe from Naturally Knocked Up:

Elderberry Syrup

Makes: approx. 16 oz.

1/2 cup dried elderberries
2 cups water
1/2 cup honey
optional ingredients: cinnamon stick, cloves, grated ginger, lemon juice

1.  Put dried elderberries, 2 cups of water and optional ingredients in a small pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by about half.

2.  Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and use the back of a spoon to gently squeeze out any liquid from the berries.  Stir in honey.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Note:  The original recipe calls for 1 cup of honey, but I found that 1/2 cup is plenty sweet enough for us.  However, the honey also acts as a preservative and if you would like it to store longer you can add more honey. 

Dosage:  Elderberry can be taken daily as a preventative against colds and flu. Elderberry syrup is also very effective at fighting colds, but may ward off a cold completely if given at the earliest sign of a cold.  I've found that there really isn't an exact dosage for elderberry syrup.  I give my children 1 tsp. three times a day if I hear any sniffling, sneezing or complaints about sore throats.  For adults the amount is about 2 tsp. every 3 or 4 hours, but may be taken as much as every couple of hours.  I've also read of adults taking up to one tablespoon at a time.  Not for children under age 1.

Disclaimer:  I am sharing this information from my own experience and not as a licensed health professional.  You should do your own research on this topic to determine if this is the correct course of action for your family.  Please be sure to contact your doctor with any health concerns that you have and follow his/her advice.

Linked to:
Domestically Divine Tuesday
Simple Lives Thursday

Frugal Living: Recognizing The Little Things

It's been several years since I started shopping with coupons, but one thing I am learning is that couponing is just one way to live frugally.

Frugal living is actually a lifestyle--it's all the little things we do every day in order to save money and live frugally. Have you ever wondered if all those little things actually make a difference?  Are you feeling discouraged about living frugally? 

I was recently inspired by The Prudent Homemaker to make a list of all the little ways that we save money during the week.  This week start looking for small ways to save money and write down all the little things that you are able to do that save you money.  You might find that all those little things add up to big savings!

Here are the simple ways that I was able to save money this week:

--Now that we have colder weather, we set the thermostat to 62 degrees at night and 66 degrees during the day. 

--I bought an extra turkey while they were on sale this week ($.49/lb.).

--I made turkey stock from our Thanksgiving turkey and plan to make several meals with the leftovers.  And thanks to those leftovers, I only spent $30 on groceries this week!

--I made homemade Elderberry Syrup.

--I made my own bread crumbs by using the bread end-slices that I keep in the freezer.

--I used the leftover canned pumpkin that I had in the fridge to make a double batch of pumpkin pancakes.  I didn't have to buy cereal this week since we ate these for breakfast for several days.

--Thanks to an online Black Friday deal, I was able to order 3 bottles of laundry detergent for free with free shipping.

--I started crocheting angry birds for Christmas gifts for my children with yarn I already had and using a free pattern that I found on the internet. (Angry birds are a big deal at our house this year!)

--I bought fabric on sale for $1.50/yd. to make super hero capes for the boys for Christmas.  I'm going to use this free tutorial.

--We made a masking tape town and a tent under the table for some free rainy day fun.

Do you think frugality is a lifestyle?  What do you do to live frugally?

Come back every Saturday for Simply Saving Saturday where I share simple ways I am able to save each week.

Linking to:
Thrifty Thursday

{photo credit}

Operation Christmas Child Update #4: Wrapped and Ready To Go

After almost a year of packing, it's hard to believe that this week is National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child!  Our shoe box gifts are wrapped and ready to go to church with us on Sunday, where they will be collected and taken to a drop-off location nearby.
Packing shoe boxes this year has been a wonderful experience for our whole family and a great way for our children to learn about giving this year. I am already thinking about next year's boxes and can't wait to shop the after Christmas sales!
If you would like to get involved with this organization, but are unable to pack a shoe box, you can donate by building a box online or by adopting a box.
For more information about Operation Christmas Child, be sure to visit their website where you will find information about how you can get involved and heartwarming stories of children around the world who have received an Operation Christmas Child shoe box.

Recipe: Healthy{er} Pumpkin Fudge

I was so fascinated by this no-cook White Chocolate Pumpkin Fudge recipe that I just had to try it myself.  It is so simple and delicious, you won't even miss all that sugar that you find in "normal" fudge!  Here's how easy it is....

Melt chocolate chips with coconut oil....
and stir in the pumpkin puree.
Add a splash of vanilla and the spices, pour into a prepared loaf pan and freeze!
After about 45 minutes, remove from the freezer and cut into squares. 
Since this fudge does soften at room temperature, it should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.  Our family prefers to store it in the freezer for a cool treat that we can enjoy anytime.  For the recipe, visit Texanerin Baking.

You might also like to try:

Friday's Fabulous Frugal Finds: Soap Deals and Jump Ropes

Even though I am almost finished packing the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes for this year, it's never too early to start shopping for next year!  I found the jump ropes on sale at Walmart for $.50 and will be perfect for a little girl's box.
I was so excited to find these soap deals this week!  Some of this soap will also go into next year's shoe boxes.
Dollar Tree:
Olay Bar Soap {single bars} Price: $1.00
  -$1.00 off 1 from 10/28 P&G
Final Price: FREE!
Family Dollar:
Ivory Soap {3 bar packs}
  -$1.00 off 2 from 9/30 P&G {expired 10/31}
Final Price: $.50 each wyb 2

Dawn 14 oz. Price: $.88 {sale ends tomorrow!}
  -$1.00 off 2 from 10/28 P&G
Final Price: $.38

Beaded Jingle Bell Necklaces

Oriental Trading is a great place to find all kinds of affordable toys and craft kits for Operation Christmas Child boxes, but it is also a great place to find inspiration!

I noticed these Jingle Bell Necklaces in their most recent catalog and since I already had all the supplies, I decided to make my own to include in the shoeboxes for little girls.  These would also make nice stocking stuffers! 

 You will need:  cord or yarn, jingle bells, pony beads, scissors, glue, tape
Cut about 2 feet of cord or yarn and tape or glue the ends (if you are using yarn, you will want to dab a bit of glue on the ends to keep them from fraying).  Then thread the beads and jingle bells onto the cord.  Remove the tape and tie the ends together.  That's it!

In fact, it's so easy that even young children can help with this project.
These Jingle Bell Bracelets are a great idea for the 2-4 year old shoeboxes.  You can find the instructions for these bracelets at Clip With Purpose

Other OCC craft ideas:

Operation Christmas Child Update #3: Ready To Wrap and Some Helpful Links

With just a few more weeks until Collection Week, I was able to complete my goal of 10 Operation Christmas Child Boxes for this year!  Some of my favorite things that went into the boxes were flip flops, school supplies, jump ropes, puzzles, fat quarter bags and the soap pouches.  Each box was also packed with toothpaste, a toothbrush, hat, candy, socks, a stuffed animal (every child needs one!) and toys.

After reading a comment on a previous post about the need for boxes for 10-14 year old boys, I decided to pack the last 5 boxes for that group of children.  Next year I'm hoping to do more boxes for them.

Since I wanted to keep this project as organized as possible {since getting organized was one of my goals for this year!}, I decided to pack each shoebox and put a sticky note with the gender/age of the child that should receive the box.  I was pretty pleased with how organized it was until I realized that I still needed to wrap the boxes and everything would have to be taken out and repacked! 

Here are some very helpful links for those who are interested in Operation Christmas Child:

Printable Labels
Printable "About Me" Page
How To Pack A Shoebox
Find A Drop-Off Location
How To Wrap A Shoebox {with video}
101 Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Ideas

My OCC Pinterest Board has links to many homemade items that can be included in OCC boxes and Clip With Purpose is also a great place to find many inexpensive, creative ideas for OCC boxes.

Earn Christmas Money With Swagbucks!

It's not too late to earn a little extra money for Christmas this year with Swagbucks!  I love earning swagbucks and using them to purchase Amazon gift cards that I use to buy Christmas gifts.

So far this month, I've earned 389 swagbucks and I think I'm on track to earn (4) $5 Amazon gift cards before Christmas.  Here are some of my favorite ways to earn swagbucks:

1.  Search.  I use the Swagbucks search engine instead of Google to search topics on the internet.  I usually win 8 - 10 swagbucks by searching and try to win at least twice a day.

2.  Download the Swagbucks toolbar.  I earn 1 easy swagbuck every day by logging in on the toolbar.  Keeping the toolbar on my browser also makes it easy to search.

3.  Daily Poll.  Earn 1 swagbuck every day by answering the daily poll.

4.  NOSO {No Obligation Special Offers} Earn 2 swagbucks every day by viewing the NOSOs.  **There are many free special offers here that will also earn additional swagbucks when they are completed.  Be sure to read all the requirements and follow the directions in order to earn the swagbucks.

5.  Special Offers.  Click on the "more" tab and click on "free" to find the offers that only require a signup or download in order to win swagbucks.

6.  Birthday Bucks.  If you have a birthday coming up, be sure to enter the date in your profile and you will be sent 50 free swagbucks on your birthday!

These are my favorite ways to earn swagbucks, but there are many other ways to earn.  To start earning sign in to your account or sign up for a new account.  When you sign up for a new account your account will automatically be credited with 30 swagbucks to get you started!

Recipe: Healthy{er} Brownies

This is the ultimate hidden ingredient recipe.

And what could possibly be hidden in these soft, fudgy brownies?

Answer: black beans!

I have no idea who first came up with the concept of putting black beans in brownies, but they have become very popular over the last year.  I was less than enthusiastic to give them a try, but when Chocolate Covered Katie shared her recipe I had a change of heart.

Our boys love these brownies.  They didn't see me add the black beans, but they did see me add chocolate chips to the batter. :) 

Healthy{er} Brownies

Makes: 9 servings

1 {15 oz.} can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup quick oats
2 tbs. cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
2 tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla 
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup chocolate chips

1.  Mix all ingredients in a food processor and blend until very smooth.

2.  Stir in the chocolate chips and pour into a greased 8x8 or 9x9 pan.  Bake for 15-18 minutes.  Let cool before cutting.

Note:  I have tried this recipe with vegetable oil and with the coconut oil and the coconut oil brownies had a much better taste.  We did not notice any coconut flavor by using the coconut oil.

Original recipe by Chocolate Covered Katie

You might also like to try:

Healthy{er} Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe: Strawberry Applesauce


Hello, Fall!

The apples are finally ripe and ready for picking.  Is there any better way to use up all those apples than with applesauce? 

How about strawberry applesauce?

Strawberry Applesauce

9 McIntosh apples peeled, cored, chopped
10 fresh or frozen strawberries
1/3 cup honey
2 1/2 tbs. lemon juice or juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Place all ingredients in saucepan and simmer on low for 30 minutes.

For chunky applesauce {pictured above}, mash with a potato masher.  For smooth applesauce, blend in blender.  If needed, add additional honey while warm.  This is delicious served warm.

Summer Favorites: Cherry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt Pops


I love cherries.  Cherry pie, cherry cheesecake and even cherries straight from the bowl.  Our boys also love all things cherry, and these yogurt pop treats are a new family favorite.

Cherry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt Pops

Makes: approx. 18 {3 oz.} cups

1 {8 oz.} pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tbs. cherry juice
3 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 cups fresh or frozen cherries, pitted

1.  Put all ingredients except cherries in a blender or food processor and mix well. 
2.  Cover and freeze for approx. 20 - 30 minutes or until very cold, but not frozen.
3.  Put cherries in blender or food processor and chop to desired size.  Add yogurt mixture
and blend well.

4.  Spoon into popsicle molds or 3 oz. disposable cups.  Some of the yogurt mixture did not make it into the cups at our house!  I caught someone helping himself to a yummy treat.

5.  If using disposable cups, freeze for approx. 45 - 60 minutes, remove from freezer and insert popsicle sticks.  Return to freezer and freeze until firm.

Source: Slightly adapted from Cherry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt from

Linking with Foodie Friends Friday

"We Heart Daddy" Shadow Picture For Father's Day

I have to admit that past Father's Day gifts have been of the last minute variety and not very creative.  My husband definitely didn't need another "World's Greatest Dad" t-shirt for Father's Day this year.

I loved this shadow picture idea that I discovered on Pinterest and thought it would make the perfect gift for my husband who likes to have pictures of the boys at work.

Here's our attempt at a shadow picture....

I think Daddy will be very pleased with his gift this year!  What are your favorite Father's Day gift ideas?

Tote Bag Gift For Teachers

Our older son had a wonderful year at school this year and we wanted to give his teacher a gift to show our appreciation for her dedication to our son and all the children in her class. 

As I was searching the internet for gift ideas, I found some adorable tote bag ideas.  I bought the canvas tote bags at Walmart and used iron-on transfer paper that I already had on hand to make a fun, practical gift that can be used all year long.

pillow case
canvas tote bag
iron-on transfer paper

1.  Find an image online, save it to your computer and insert it into a photo editor.  I used a free clipart image from and inserted it into a Word document.  Photoshop, Print Shop or any photo editing software can be used.  There are also free online photo editors available such as Pixlr.

Make any adjustments needed and then print the image on plain paper in order to be sure that it is the correct size for the tote bag.

2.  Before printing on the transfer paper, be sure that the print setting is set to the highest quality print mode and that mirror image is selected.  Cut around the image leaving about a 1/8 - 1/4" border.

3.  Cover a hard, flat surface with a pillowcase with the seam hanging over the edge.  {I used the kitchen countertop- I don't recommend using the kitchen table as the heat from the iron can ruin the finish.}  Fold the pillowcase in half as shown.  Iron the pillowcase, if needed. 

4.  Put the tote bag on top of the pillowcase and iron, if needed.  Let cool.  Position the image print side down on the tote bag and iron according to directions included with transfer paper.  Make sure the steam is turned off, that you are pressing down firmly and that the iron covers all edges of the transfer.

5.  Let cool and carefully remove the transfer paper.  If you notice that the image is not adhering to the fabric, cover with transfer paper and iron again.

Note: if using dark colored tote bags, be sure to use transfer paper for dark colors.

Make this gift extra-special by adding a few goodies--favorite candy bar, sharpies, hand sanitizer, gift card, pens, etc.--and a thank you note to show your appreciation for all their hard work!

Organize & Declutter 2012: The Toys - Part II

My husband and I got lots of helpful advice while I was pregnant with our first child, but no one warned us about all the stuff that came with welcoming a new little person into our lives.

And then we were blessed with a second child and suddenly everything doubled.  Every year there were two birthdays and twice as many gifts at Christmas.  Our home that seemed so big before we had children, was now bursting at the seams.  So I was thrilled when grandpa built a toy box and gave it to the boys.

Finally a solution to the toy problem!  I thought. 

So we filled that toy box with toys until we couldn't even close the top.  And while the boys looked for their favorite toys in the box {of course they were the ones on the bottom}, more and more toys ended up on the living room floor until we were wading ankle-deep in toys.  Every. Single. Day.  And it was making. me. crazy.  This was not the solution I was hoping for.

To get the toys organized, I started by taking all the toys out of the toy box, throwing away broken toys and organizing all the teeny, tiny toys into individual bins

To organize the larger toys in the toy box, I used fabric storage containers that I found at the dollar store.  The Easter buckets that were given to the boys to hunt for Easter eggs worked perfectly for organizing balls and all the play tools.

To be honest the toy box doesn't always look this neat.  Toys aren't always put back in the right container and occasionally I will find a favorite stuffy or other toy that doesn't belong, but it is much more manageable than it was.  And I don't stress if it gets a little messy during the day, because we are now able to close the top!

There are many great ideas on Pinterest for organizing all those stuffed animals.  Storing them in a small laundry basket and keeping them in a closet is working really well for us.  

One of the best gifts that the boys get are puzzles--I love them because most of them don't require batteries!  But, oh my goodness, all those pieces!  They were everywhere--in the bottom of the toy box, in baskets, behind furniture--I was constantly trying to keep all the pieces together.  I finally realized that they needed to have their very own storage container. 

Now when our children ask to play with the puzzles, I grab the container off the shelf and when they are done playing, everything goes back in the container and is put back on the shelf. 

What are your favorite tips for organizing toys?

{If you missed Part I, you can read it here.}