Our Frugal Christmas 2016

In 2013 I wrote about giving the boys each four gifts for Christmas. This year we gave the boys three gifts: something they wanted, something to read, and something to wear.

It seems that the older the boys get, the more expensive the Christmas wish lists get. One way that we were able to keep Christmas within our budget this year is by buying them gifts that they could share.

For the past two years a WiiU has been at the top of their list, and while that gift isn't within our budget, we were able to buy them a trampoline during a Black Friday sale. It is something that they both love to do, and something they can do together.

Both of the boys have enjoyed reading graphic novels this year, so for something to read we gave them The Action Bible. We bought this gift on Amazon with a gift card that we were given last Christmas! Since we very rarely buy from Amazon, we saved the gift card for Christmas this year. I was also able to buy two other books with the gift card and get free shipping.

We gave both of the boys a Star Wars shirt and hat set for something to wear.

Here are two of my favorite gifts we gave this year:

We decided to give cash to a family member this year and I wanted to find a creative way to give it. I found a picture of a shirt made out of money on Pinterest and tried to copy it. This was one shirt that was very much appreciated!

The boys loved the Christmas Coupon Books that we put in their Christmas stockings. I downloaded a free .pdf from hejdoll.com and opened it into a photo editor to create the coupons. Some of the coupons I added were: extra 30 minutes before bed, 30 minutes extra screen time, dinner of your choice, choose one box of cereal, making ice cream sundaes, family game night, etc.

I love simply wrapped gifts:

This year I wrapped all the gifts that we gave in kraft wrapping paper that I bought after Christmas last year for $.30 per roll. I used free printable gift tags, yarn that I had on hand and ornaments that I made to decorate the gifts. I really enjoyed making the ornaments which I think may become a new Christmas tradition!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.

How I Saved Last Week

We picked tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and carrots from the garden. I made Roasted Tomato Sauce with some of the tomatoes that we picked.

Work and the start of soccer season kept me very busy last week. Soccer practices are during our dinner time so I'm going to try some new slow cooker recipes over the next several weeks to make meal preparation quicker and easier.  Last week we tried Crockpot Zucchini Chicken Parmesan. I used left over chicken from another meal to make chicken corn chowder and I made biscuits. Even though we were very busy week, we were able to eat dinner at home 6 nights last week.

I made Oatmeal Molasses Bread to give as a thank you gift.

Rite Aid had some great deals on cereal last week. After coupons, I paid just $1.24 and $1.49 for cereal.

I also used a coupon from the Rite Aid flyer to get a reusable shopping bag for free.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that I'm always looking for clearance items that I can add to the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. Rite Aid had school supplies on clearance right by the entrance! I found pads of paper for $.25 and pencil sharpeners for $.24. I was so excited to find the pencil sharpeners since I like to send one in every box with pencils.

At Walmart I found 12 packs of pencils and colored pencils for $.50 that I will also include in the OCC shoe boxes.

We received a reimbursement from our HRA. We put the money in our savings account to replace some of the money that we used to pay for several vehicle repairs we have had in the last month.

The Primary School that our younger son attends has a free produce distribution once a month. Our son was given a watermelon and tomatoes to bring home.

How did you save last week?

How I Saved This Week - September 10

This week was a very busy week for us and most of our savings this week were from the little everyday things that we do to save money.

I worked four days this week as a substitute teacher and was offered a long term substitute position at one of the schools in our district. I'm not sure how long I will have this job - it could be 2 weeks or 2 months - but we have a plan for the extra income so that we are "telling our money where to go" as Dave Ramsey puts it. In our experience, money seems to disappear pretty quickly if we don't have a plan ahead of time.

My husband and I brought a lunch to work everyday.

There were a lot of new coupons on coupons.com for the new month. Here are two good prices that I got at Walmart with coupons:

Kraft String Cheese 3 pack $1.00
-$1.00 off 1 any Kraft String Cheese
Final Price: FREE

Yoplait Yogurt 8 pack $3.98
-$1.00 off 1 Yoplait 8-pack
Final Price: $2.98 or $.34 each

I also found sticker packs with over 100 stickers on sale for $.20, packs of buttons on sale for $.50 each and pencil pouches for $.25 at Walmart that I will include in the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes that we are packing this year.

As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, the garden is producing less and less each week. We picked 16 tomatoes, 6 cucumbers, 3 zucchini, lots of carrots and cherry tomatoes and our first banana pepper this week. I'm disappointed that we won't have enough peppers this year to make pickled banana peppers. I'll have to try again next year!

How did you save this week?

How I Saved Last Week

The boys started 2nd and 5th grade last week! The summer has flown by and we are starting to see signs of fall.

At the end of every school year, I save all the markers that are still in very good condition. The boys didn't use them at all this summer, so instead of buying a new set of markers for our younger son this year, he took a whole set of used markers that were like new. (I also save the old crayons to make crayons for Operation Christmas Child.)

I signed up as a substitute teacher in our local school district again this year and I was surprised to get a call on the second day of school! We are very thankful for the extra income that this job provides for about 9 months of the year.

I paid just $6 for a new backpack at Rite Aid.

Dollar General had an extra 50% off sale this weekend and I found great deals for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes! Jump ropes, jewelry kits and stickers were $.30 each, baseballs were $.75, water bottles were $.37 and the paddle ball games were $.75 on clearance. I also found the BIC pens on clearance for $.50 each and I used a $1.00 off 2 BIC coupon to get them for free!

Our older son used avery.com's free Design and Print Online software to make thank you cards to send to family who sent birthday gifts in the mail.

I was so excited when my husband discovered the blackberry bushes in our backyard a few weeks ago! I picked more blackberries from the backyard this week and I'm clearing a sunny spot to transplant them to this fall. If they transplant well, we will purchase posts and wire in the spring to give the canes support and keep them off the ground. 

We picked 16 tomatoes, 11 cucumbers, 3 zucchini, beets, carrots and many cherry tomatoes. The growing season is winding down and soon it will be time to clean out the garden.

I made salsa with some of the tomatoes from our garden.

How did you save this week?

Rite Aid Deals and a $6 Backpack!

On the eve of the first day of school as I was checking to make sure backpacks were packed and ready for the big day, I realized that the small holes at the bottom of one of the backpacks meant that it was not going to last much longer.

The next day, since I was driving by Rite Aid, I stopped in to get a few deals. I went to check out the clearance section, and I found backpacks with signs for 50% off! The sale price was $9.99 and I used $4 in Plenti Points and paid just $5.99 for the backpack. The backpack seems to be well-made and I'm hoping it will last the whole year (or two!).

Here are the other deals I picked up while I was there:

Oxi Clean HD Laundry Detergent $3.99
-$3.00 off 1 coupon from the 8/28 newspaper insert
Final Price: $.99

(This is just a small bottle of laundry detergent, but it is a lot more concentrated than the brand that I usually buy. I use just a small amount and a bottle lasts several months.)

Crest Toothpaste $3.50
-$2.50 in-ad coupon
-$1.00 coupon from 8/28 newspaper insert
Final Price: Free

These sale prices are available through Saturday, September 3.

How I Saved Last Week

My husband was on vacation last week and we were able to spend the last days of school vacation at some of our favorite places. One of our favorite places is the beach - the boys love playing in the waves.

Several years ago we were given some blackberries and I threw some of the seeds in the wooded area in our backyard. It is a shady spot and I didn't really think they would grow, so I was very excited when my husband said he found blackberries in the backyard! The blackberries are very small, but I'm hoping that I can transplant them to a sunnier spot and we will eventually have lots of blackberries right in our own backyard!

We picked 28 tomatoes, 21 cucumbers, 5 zucchini, a handful of green beans and bunches of cherry tomatoes from the garden.

I froze some very ripe bananas.

Our older son wanted a chocolate and strawberry cake for his birthday, so I borrowed a checkerboard cake pan from a family member and made a chocolate and strawberry checkerboard cake. He loved it!

How did you save this week?

Meal Plan Monday - August 22

My husband is on vacation this week and we have some day trips planned, so lunches this week will be picnic-type lunches that we can take with us and dinners will be (mostly) simple.

Here's my meal plan for this week:


Bagels, Bananas
Homemade Instant Oatmeal with blueberries
Whole Wheat Blueberry Banana Pancakes


Mac & Cheese
Cucumber Greek Salad
Egg Salad Sandwiches, Fruit Bars, Carrot Sticks
Italian Sandwiches, Fruit Bars, Carrot Sticks


Hamburgers, Tuna Macaroni Salad, carrot sticks
Sweet Potato Breakfast Burritos
Three Cheese Stuffed Zucchini Lasagna Rolls, salad
One Pot Zucchini Mushroom Pasta
Oven Baked Fajitas, broccoli, rice
Chicken Quesadillas, broccoli
Leftover night

How I Saved This Week - August 20

We got a lot accomplished this week. The boys decluttered their toys and I now have a grocery bag full of toys to donate. I recycled many old magazines, that I can't remember why I was saving, and I organized the coat closet and threw away several pairs of old children's flip flops that I was saving "just in case" we needed an extra pair.

We picked 5 zucchini, 21 tomatoes, 29 cucumbers, a couple of pounds of green beans, beets and a lots of cherry tomatoes from the garden. The beets were an experiment this year and something I planted a little late in order to use up some free space in the garden. They were pretty small, but our whole family liked them and I am planning on growing more next year.

After a late start and something eating their leaves, the banana peppers finally have blossoms on them. I'm hoping that we have enough time left in the growing season for the peppers to grow to full size so that I can make pickled banana peppers. I made them for the first time last year and my husband especially liked them in sandwiches.

I made 2 batches of zucchini bread (I used 3 eggs, less sugar and 1/2 cup of applesauce to replace some of the oil and it still tasted great!), Refrigerator Pickles, and Roasted Tomato Sauce. The tomato sauce recipe is my favorite tomato recipe; it has a delicious smoky flavor and tastes great even though I don't add salt (for our heart-healthy diet).

I earned $10 this week by selling a pair of cleats on facebook.

I found a brand new backpack with the tags still on it at the second-hand store for half the original price and paid just $4.50 for it. It will be perfect for our younger son who needed a bigger backpack this year.

Our older son is turning 10 this month and he wanted to invite a few of his friends to his party. He used Avery's free Design and Print Online program and designed his own invitations. I thought that the options and images were pretty good for a free program and he really liked making his own cards.

I spent just a little over $55 for groceries this week. I bought chicken on sale for $1.69/lb. and used a coupon and paid just $.99/lb. for 3 pounds of chicken. I have used it in 3 of our meals.

I received a free magazine in the mail.

How did you save this week?

Meal Plan Monday - August 15

We really enjoyed trying new zucchini recipes last week. Three Cheese Zucchini Stuffed Lasagna Rolls was a favorite that I will definitely make again! Here's our meal plan for this week:

On sale:

Chicken $1.69/lb.
Grapes $1.99/lb.
Broccoli $.99/lb.
Green peppers $.88/lb.
Eggs $.77/doz
Cereal $1.17 - $1.50 (with coupon)

From the garden:

Cherry Tomatoes
Green beans

From the freezer:



Waffles, bananas
Scrambled eggs, toast with blueberry freezer jam
Easy Baked Oatmeal with blueberries


Chicken Caesar Wraps
Egg salad sandwiches
English Muffin Pizzas
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Hamburgers, fruit salad (leftovers from a party we went to)
Dinner Leftovers

*all meals served with carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, apple slices, yogurt and/or grapes


Skillet Cheeseburger Macaroni, green beans
Meatloaf Muffins, seasoned rice, beats, green beans
Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
Chicken Taco and Rice Skillet, broccoli
Mediterranean Pasta Caesar Toss
Garden Vegetable Spaghetti
Zucchini, Black Bean and Rice Skillet

*All meals served with Refrigerator Pickles

Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

How I Saved Last Week

We picked 3 zucchini, 5 pounds of green beans, 34 cucumbers, 9 tomatoes and several cherry tomatoes. I wasn't expecting to have dozens of cucumbers ready to be picked all at once! We ate a lot of raw cucumbers, sliced them in sandwiches, made cucumber and tomato salads and gave about half of them away.

We tried a few new zucchini recipes this week and they were all delicious. I didn't realize all the things you can make with zucchini! I made Zucchini Lasagna Rolls (so,so good!), Zucchini Blueberry Muffins and Sweet Potato Breakfast Burritos, which earned rave reviews from the boys.

Food City had some great prices in their new sales flyer. I bought eggs for $.77/doz., salad dressing for $1.00 each, green peppers for $.88/lb., boneless, skinless chicken breast for $1.69/lb and cereal for $1.17. You can find some of the best sales and coupon matchups here.

Summer toys are on clearance and I bought jump ropes at Walmart for $.50 each that I will put in Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.

It's always exciting when I'm surprised with unexpected savings. Our older son noticed a toy in the clearance aisle at Walmart that he really liked and I went back to the store to get it for him for his birthday this month. The price was marked as $9.88, but it rang up at the register as $5.00!

How did you save this week?

Food City 3-day Sale and Weekly Deals August 12 - August 18

The deals at Food City seem to be hit-or-miss, but I noticed some great deals in this week's flyer. You can view the sales flyer on the Food City website.

Here are some of the best deals I saw:

3-day sale August 12 - August 14

Best Yet Large White or Brown Eggs $.77/doz.

Whole Chicken Fryers $.88/lb.

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast $1.69/lb.

Fresh Chicken Leg Quarters 10 lb. bag $.44/lb.

Hormel Cooked Ham or Cabot Pepper Jack Cheese $2.99/lb.

Weekly Sales August 12 - August 18

Zucchini, Summer Squash, Green Peppers $.88/lb.

Tomatoes $.99/lb.

Cello Lettuce $.99 each

Eggplant or Cucumbers $.99/lb.

Chicken Thighs or Drumsticks $.88/lb.

Wishbone Salad Dressing 2 for $4.00
-$1.00 off 1 printable coupon
Final price $1.00 each

Post Honey Bunches of Oats Cereal 3 for $5.00
Buy 2
-$1.00 off 2 from 6/26 SS
Final Price: $1.17 each wyb 2

Meal Plan Monday - August 8

I didn't see a lot of great sales at the grocery store this week, but I will check a sales flyer from another store that comes out later this week. I have a lot of vegetables left over from last week and meat in the freezer that I am using to plan our meals. I will only have to buy staples (eggs, milk, bread, etc.) and just a few ingredients for our meals.

On sale:
Grapes $1.99/lb.
Cereal $2 with coupon

Vegetables from last week:
Sweet Potato

Vegetables from the garden:
Green Beans
Cherry Tomatoes

From the freezer:


Bagels, bananas
Homemade Instant Oatmeal with blueberries
Zucchini Blueberry Muffins


Mac & Cheese with corn
Egg salad sandwiches, cucumber sticks, grapes
Turkey sandwiches, carrot sticks
Yogurt, crackers, grapes
Enhanced macaroni salad, apple slices
Dinner leftovers


Chicken Stir Fry with rice
Sweet Potato Broccoli Chicken Bake, green beans
Three Cheese Zucchini Stuffed Lasagna Rolls, broccoli, cucumber and tomato salad
Zucchini, Black Bean and Rice Skillet, green beans
Pizza with whole wheat crust
One Pot Wonder Chicken Lo Mein
Breakfast for dinner: Sweet Potato Breakfast Burritos

Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

How I Saved This Week - August 6

This week I picked 4 zucchini, 10 cucumbers, 11 pounds of green beans and some cherry tomatoes from the garden. I froze some of the green beans and I used most of the cucumbers to make Refrigerator Pickles.

In order to use up some of the zucchini, I tried a new zucchini cake recipe and it turned out to be a new favorite recipe! This Blueberry Zucchini Cake is amazing. I used less sugar and less oil for the cake and used this Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting instead of the buttercream frosting. It was perfect - not too sweet and very moist.

I made blueberry freezer jam with some of the blueberries that we picked last week.

I used very ripe bananas to make Whole Wheat Blueberry pancakes. The recipe makes quite a few pancakes so I froze the leftovers. I was glad I had leftovers since the boys requested them for breakfast the next morning!

Boneless, skinless chicken was on sale for $1.55 during a one day sale. I bought about 7 pounds and put it in the freezer.

I found two more great deals for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes! Flip flops were on clearance for $.50 at Family Dollar and the mini Sparkle Girlz Dolls were on clearance at Walmart for $1.

I applied for a fitness reimbursement from our health insurance company. I found this reimbursement by accident 4 years ago while I was looking for information about our insurance coverage. My husband has a membership to a local gym, and the reimbursement covers over half the cost. Over the last 4 years, this reimbursement has saved us $600.

Both of our boys desperately needed new jeans for school this year. I checked the local thrift stores through the spring and summer and wasn't able to find anything in their sizes. I ordered a few pairs this week from crazy8.com during their back-to-school sale. The jeans were $8.88 with free shipping on any order.  I ordered from this company a few years ago when they offered the same deal and I thought the quality for the price was very good.

How did you save this week?

Meal Plan Monday - August 1

This week I made a list below of the things I bought on sale, what I am going to use from the freezer and the vegetables that we'll use from the garden to make our meals. I use this list each week to plan my meals for the week. There were also a few things that I will use that I already had on hand such as pasta, bread crumbs, caesar salad dressing, etc.

I didn't notice any really good sales for meat this week, so I am going to use meat from the freezer that I bought on sale several weeks ago.

I bought a lot of broccoli on sale for $.99 last week to use this week and I will take advantage of a sale on sweet potato this week since it is a favorite at our house.

On sale:
Broccoli $.99/lb.
Grapes $1.99/lb.
Strawberries $1.88
Kiwi 2/$1
Limes 3/$1
Sweet potatoes $.79/lb.
Cereal $2 (with coupon)

From the freezer:

From the garden:
Green beans


Oatmeal with blueberries and/or strawberries
Eggs, Bananas, Toast
Whole Wheat Blueberry Banana Pancakes


Pasta and broccoli (I'm going to use a pasta that I got on sale several weeks ago and fresh broccoli)
Zucchini Tots , yogurt, carrot sticks
Turkey sandwiches with cucumber and carrot sticks
Crackers with cottage cheese, carrot sticks, fruit salad (grapes, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi with this honey lime sauce)
Mac & Cheese
Dinner leftovers


Skinny Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo, Baked Green Bean Fries
Garden Vegetable Pasta
Shepherd's Pie with sweet potato topping, Lemon Parmesan Broccoli
Skillet Cheeseburger Macaroni, green beans, carrot and cucumber sticks
One Skillet Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls, corn
Mediterranean Pasta Caesar Toss made with fresh veggies from garden
Leftover Night

Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

How I Saved This Week - July 30

We picked tomatoes, zucchini, a cucumber and 5 pounds of green beans from the garden this week.

I made zucchini relish with some of the zucchini. I used Kosher salt that I had on hand instead of the pickling salt that the recipe calls for and it worked just fine.

Our younger son had a great time at the summer reading program at the library. This week they held the closing program and each child received a free book with a character from the book and school supplies.

I noticed the back-to-school sale at Walmart and bought boxes of crayons for $.25 each for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.

I used a $1 off BIC coupon at Walmart and paid just $.46 for a package of 12 pencils.

Thanks to the generosity of friends, we were able to rake blueberries for just $.50/lb. this week. We raked 20 pounds. Some of the blueberries will be used for pie and freezer jam and the rest will be frozen and used throughout the fall and winter.

I bought bread at the bread store for $.99 per loaf.

How did you save this week?

How I Saved This Week - July 16

The garden looks great and it looks like we'll be harvesting zucchini, green beans and cherry tomatoes next week! We finally had some rain this week and was able to use water from our rain barrel to water the garden.

I used a coupon at Rite Aid and paid $.99 for laundry detergent that was on sale. The bottles were small, but the detergent is very concentrated, so I only need to use a small amount per load. I think I will get at least double the amount of loads that is recommended on the bottle.

I hung laundry out on the clothesline to dry.

Temperatures were in the 80s and 90s this week with very high humidity. We turned the air conditioner on and set the temperature to 75 degrees. At this temperature, the air conditioner runs in the afternoons, but very little in the mornings and early afternoon.

I bought eggs for $.77 during a one day sale, and I bought bread at the bread store for just $1.03 per loaf.

There was an 11% increase in our water rates this quarter. We were very happy to see that our bill was the same as last quarter and didn't increase with the rate increase. We've been trying to be more careful about our water usage and it seems to have made a small difference!

How did you save this week?

Coupon Savings at Hannaford

There are three new Hannaford printable coupons available!

$2 off fresh meat

$2 off fresh seafood

$2 off fresh produce

A minimum grocery purchase of $15 is required.  Each coupon can be printed twice.

Meal Plan Monday - July 11

We've been trying a lot of new dishes for my new simple summer menu and we've found some new recipes that we love!  Two other recipes that have become family favorites are the Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls and Oven Baked Fajitas.

On our trip to Boston, we had the most amazing Chicken Caesar Wraps for lunch. I have made my own version, and while not nearly as good as our Boston meal, the boys ask for them every week!

Breakfast Sandwiches
Homemade Instant Oatmeal with raisins

Chicken Caesar Wraps
Crackers & Cottage Cheese, carrot sticks, apple slices
English Muffin Pizzas, green beans
Turkey Italian Sandwiches
Pasta Salad with vegetables
Dinner leftovers

Turkey Burgers, green beans
Chicken Stir Fry with noodles
One Skillet Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls, broccoli
Oven Baked Fajitas, rice, green beans
Pizza with whole wheat crust and homemade sauce
Spaghetti with zucchini meatballs
Pasta Primavera

What are some of your favorite summer meals?  Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

How I Saved This Week - July 2

It has been a busy week of gardening, organizing and more gardening. The weeds have been threatening to take over the garden and I can never seem to catch up!

I was surprised when quite a few of the cucumbers that I planted didn't come up, but I found them growing in the middle of the rows and transplanted them back into the row this week.

Peaches were on sale again for $.99/lb. last week and I was able to make 2 pints of peach freezer jam early in the week.

I made a birthday card with cardstock and punches that I had on hand.

I used a coupon code to download a crochet pattern for free.

An order I made online hadn't shipped after 4 days so I called to check on it. They apologized and refunded the shipping cost!

While I was mixing up a recipe this week, I realized that I didn't have enough eggs. I made an egg substitute with ground flax seed that I had on hand.

I paid extra on this month's mortgage payment. We're on track to pay one extra mortgage payment this year, but I'm hoping to be able to pay off more when I start substitute teaching again this fall.

How did you save this week?

Meal Plan Monday - My new KISS summer menu

Three words that describe my summer menu plan this summer are simple, simple, simple. I'm calling it my Keep It Super Simple Summer Menu which will feature lots of quick, easy and (mostly) healthy summer meals.

Here's this week's KISS menu:


Breakfast Sandwiches
Breakfast Banana Pops
Homemade Instant Oatmeal with blueberries


English Muffin Pizzas, carrot sticks, applesauce
Italian Sandwiches, grapes
Mediterranean Pasta Caesar Toss, apple slices
Mac & Cheese, peas
Mini Corn Dog Muffins, carrot sticks
Toasted Cheese Sandwiches, apple slices
Dinner Leftovers


Chicken Taco and Rice Skillet
Low Fat Mushroom Fettucine Alfredo
Creamy Rigatoni with Homemade Turkey Sausage and red peppers
Cranberry Chicken Salad Wraps, watermelon
One Skillet Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls, green beans
BBQ Chicken Foil Pack
Leftover Night

What are some of your favorite summer meals?

Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Simply Saving Saturday: A Trip To Boston

My husband has vacation this week and we took our first family trip to Boston! When my husband first mentioned the idea, my first concern was with the cost. I could think of many other practical things that we could spend that money on. As our children get older, I am realizing that our summers as a family are growing shorter and I don't want to miss out on special times with them for the sake of practicality.

On the train to Boston

On this trip we opted for convenience instead of frugality and bought a travel package from a travel agent. The package included train tickets (we took the Amtrak from Portland, ME), tickets to the places we wanted to visit, and vouchers for lunch at Quincy Market (we would have paid about $50 for lunch!). We probably could have gotten the tickets cheaper if we had bought them ourselves, but the convenience of having everything done for us and mailed to us was worth the little bit of extra money that we spent.

There were a few ways that we were able to save on our trip:

  • We paid cash for everything.

  • Our original plan was to spend the night in Boston, but after looking at hotel prices, we decided to drive to Portland the day before, spend the night, take an early train to Boston in the morning and return home that evening. It was a long day, but the hotel in Portland was half the cost of a hotel in Boston and saved us about $100.

  • We left for Portland after lunch, saving us from paying to eat that meal at a restaurant. 

  • We were told that the food on the train was very expensive, so we brought our own snacks and drinks.

at Legoland Discovery Center

  • We walked....a lot. We took the "T" to Somerville and back for our visit to Legoland, but while we were in Boston, we decided to walk. 

I actually wouldn't recommend walking around Boston if you're not familiar with the city. It was very difficult finding our way around, and we weren't able to see much of the area because we were so busy trying to find where we needed to be. At the end of a very long day, we found ourselves on the opposite side of the city from the train station where we needed to catch our train back to Portland.

One sweet lady must have seen our dazed, confused faces and tired children and took pity on us. After giving us directions back to North Station, she told us we could follow her, but she had to catch a train. We soon learned what she meant. What she meant was that she was walking very fast to catch a train and we could try to keep up with her. We did manage to keep her in sight and get to the station on time for our trip back to Portland. Bottom line - spend a little extra and ride the "T" to get around Boston.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and it is a trip we will never forget. In fact, we are hoping to go again someday!

How I Saved This Week - June 18

This week I couldn't resist buying cherries that were on sale for $1.99/lb. This was a treat for us since the regular price here is between $4 and $6 per lb and we are only able to enjoy them once or twice a year when they are on sale.

After searching at Walmart for a reasonably priced Father's Day card for my husband, I gave up and decided to make my own. I just can't bring myself to pay $5 or more for a card. To make the above Father's Day card, I downloaded a free printable, opened it in Open Office to change the size and printed it onto white cardstock that I purchased with a coupon last December. I also used a piece of white cardstock folded in half for the card and blue paper scraps that I have had for many years. The card cost less than $1 to make and I think a handmade card is also much more personal and appreciated.

I had a little extra space at the end of one of my garden rows and decided to try growing beets. I think I'm a little late getting them started since they like cool weather, but they have a short growing time so I'm anxious to find out if we'll have beets in a few months. I also planted the cantaloupe seedlings and watermelon seedlings that I started inside. We used water from our homemade rain barrel to water the garden, but it hasn't been enough to keep up with the watering so we've also had to use the hose to water the garden.

While shopping at Walmart this week, I found little sticker books with stickers on clearance for just $.50 each. They are the perfect size for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. You can see the picture I shared on the Facebook page.

This week on the blog, I shared how I save on one of my favorite products.

I reused a freezer bag and saved a jar that I will use for homemade salsa. I freeze salsa in freezer bags that I lay flat in order to save space in the freezer, but after I thaw a bag of salsa, I like to put it in these jars to keep in the refrigerator.

How did you save this week?

How I save on one of my (not-so-frugal) favorite products

I've written a lot about how I live frugally, but you might be surprised to learn that a few of my favorite products are actually not very frugal.

These Olay cleansing cloths are one of my favorite things. I discovered them about 12 years ago, before my frugal living days, and it is one of the things that I haven't been able to give up. Good 'ole soap and water would probably work just as well, but I love how clean my skin feels after using this product.

The original cost for the cloths are very pricey for my frugal lifestyle. One package contains enough for a little over 2 months and costs $11.97. That's about $71.82 per year!

Six years ago I wrote this post, and realized that with this simple savings trick I could use them much more frugally.

By cutting the cloths into fourths, I can make one package stretch for over 8 months. To make them last for up to a year, I will often skip using them for a day or more when I feel like I can get by without using them.

So what are my savings?

Original cost for one year

$11.97 x 6 = $71.82 per year

Frugal cost for one year

$11.97 x 1 = $11.97 per year

That's a savings of $59.85 per year or 83%!

How I Saved This Week - June 11

This week I made thank you cards for the boys to give with the gift I made for their teachers.

Our older son needed a jar for a school project. I took the label off an old spaghetti jar that I had saved.

Our younger son found directions for making a bouncy ball and asked to make one. I had all the ingredients except glue, which was just $.44 at Walmart. Our experiment turned out to be more like flubber than a bouncy ball, but he had a great time playing with it.

I went to a Women's Ministry event at church this week and a few ladies mentioned that they used Walmart's Savings Catcher program. When the program first came out, I didn't really think that it would save that much money, but one of the ladies said that she saved around $50 last year! I entered my first receipt today and I'm anxious to see how much money I'll save by the end of the year.

I planted another row of carrots in the garden and noticed tiny zucchini, cucumber and green bean plants. We had a very strong thunderstorm with a little bit of hail, but thankfully there wasn't any damage in the garden.

I made banana cake in order to use up some very ripe bananas and I made strawberry rhubarb pie with the rhubarb that was given to us last week. I froze the leftover rhubarb.

English muffins were on sale for $.50/pkg. at the bread store.

How was your week?

Quick & Easy DIY Magnets for Teachers

At the end of every school year I like to give a small gift to the boys' teachers to show my appreciation for all the work they've done during the school year. I like to give a homemade gift that will be useful and I think these magnets will make the perfect gift this year. These magnets are so easy to do and very budget-friendly.

There are just a few supplies that you will need for this project:

Round 1.5" Jot magnets from the Dollar Tree
Mod Podge
Paint Brush
Scrapbook Paper
Scissors (or 1.5" circle punch)

I found the school-themed paper online. Here are the links to the papers that I used:

First, turn the magnets upside-down onto scrapbook paper, trace around the top and cut it out (or use a 1.5 inch circle punch). Using a paintbrush, spread Mod Podge on the face of the magnet and put the paper circle on top of the magnet, making sure it is centered. Hold the paper in place in the center of the magnet for about 15-20 seconds or until it has adhered to the magnet and then gently smooth the paper down from the center of the magnet to the edges so that there aren't any wrinkles.

After the Mod Podge has dried, trim around the edges, if needed. Add one more layer of Mod Podge over the scrapbook layer and around the edges of the magnet.

Let the Mod Podge dry and your project is done! These magnets would make great gifts for many different occasions, or make some for yourself to enjoy!

Meal Plan Monday - June 6

Here's our menu for this week:

Taco Salad

Healthier Beef Stroganoff, Yogurt Biscuits, peas, carrot sticks

Ground Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet, leftover Yogurt Biscuits, corn

Melt in Your Mouth Chicken Thighs, seasoned rice, green beans

One Pot Wonder Chicken Lo Mein

One-Pan Chicken Burrito Bowls

English Muffin Pizzas

Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Have a wonderful week!

How I Saved This Week - June 4

This week I planted cucumbers, zucchini and green beans in the garden. I also planted lettuce in a pallet garden that I made a few weeks ago. It's a little late to plant lettuce here, but I planted romaine lettuce which grows better in warm weather than other lettuce varieties.

My husband planted the tomato seedlings that we purchased in our tomato buckets. He planted nine Early Girl, nine Celebrity and eight cherry tomato seedlings. We are hoping for a good harvest so that we will have lots of salsa and Roasted Tomato Sauce and, of course, lots of fresh tomatoes to eat!

Peaches were on sale this week for $.99/lb. I bought some extras to make peach freezer jam.

My sister-in-law gave us some rhubarb.

I sauteed some chicken that had been in the refrigerator for a few days and used it in the stir fry I made this week.

I realized a few days before a wedding that my older son needed dress shoes. My mom found a pair for just $1.50 at Goodwill. They weren't a perfect fit, but they were in excellent condition and were fine for the few hours that we were at the wedding.

A free can of Fancy Feast cat food that I signed up for about two weeks ago came in the mail this week.

I cut our younger son's hair.

How was your week?

Meal Plan Monday - May 30

Happy Memorial Day! We have a busy week ahead, so I planned simple and easy meals for this week:

Baked Ravioli

Chicken Stir Fry with Noodles, Yogurt Biscuits

Tuna Melts, carrot sticks

Skillet Chicken Lasagna, salad

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Pizza with whole wheat crust and homemade sauce

Enhanced Macaroni Salad, Leftover Yogurt Biscuits

For more meal plan ideas visit Menu Plan Monday.

Have a great week!

How I Saved This Week - May 28

This week I put away the boys' winter clothes and organized their summer clothes in their dressers. After organizing their clothing, I realized that our older son will need a few more things for summer and I have been looking in a local used clothing store for a good deal. It has been really hard to find used clothing in his size!

I was able to find a pair of dress pants at the used clothing store that our older son needed for a wedding that we will be attending next weekend. I paid just $3.99. Our younger son had dress pants, but needs a dress shirt and I am hoping to find a great deal before next Saturday!

We set up our homemade rain barrel a few weeks ago and I've been using the rain water to water the carrots that I planted last week. I didn't get a chance to plant in the garden this week like I had planned, but we are hoping to get a lot done on Monday.

A teacher that I substituted for this week told me that I could either throw away or keep the extra fresh produce snack that the students were given that day. The fresh snack that day was mango, which none of the students liked, so I brought home the sixteen small containers of mango and put them in the freezer to use in smoothies.

This week I used online bill pay to pay some of our bills and paid extra on our June mortgage bill.

How was your week?

Meal Plan Monday - May 23

Our menu for this week:

Honey Soy Chicken, Yogurt Biscuits, corn

Corn Chowder, Leftover Yogurt Biscuits

Tuna Casserole

Baked Ravioli, salad

Ground Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet

Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Wraps, carrot sticks

Pizza with whole wheat crust and homemade sauce

How I Saved This Week - May 21

I can't believe that we are nearing the end of May and June is right around the corner! Here are some of the ways I have saved in the last two weeks:

I ran out of conditioner and hairspray and instead of making an extra trip to the store, I used samples that I had gotten in the mail.

Suave Professional Gold hair care products were on rollback at Walmart this week. I used a coupon and bought conditioner for just $1 each.

Thanks to a tip from a family member, I was able to purchase boneless, skinless chicken thighs for just $.79 last week during a one day special sale.

There was a free magazine in the mail this week.

I have been able to start some gardening this week. I planted carrots in the garden and strawberries in a pallet garden. I planted rhubarb and I also have cantaloupe and banana pepper seedlings that I started inside that are doing very well. My husband bought tomato seedlings to plant in the buckets that we have been using to grow tomatoes for several years.

How did you save this week?

How I Saved This Week - May 7

The new flooring was installed this week and we love it! This is a project that I have wanted to do since we bought our home over 10 years ago, but each year other projects and needs became more of a priority. Since we are committed to staying out of debt (besides our mortgage), we waited until we were able to pay cash for this project. Even though it was a long wait, we are able to enjoy our home without any new debt and worry about how to pay for it.

I bought two pair of jeans for my older son from the local Facebook sell and swap page. I paid $5 each for jeans that look just like new. I paid for them with the money that I earned a few weeks ago by selling toys on Facebook.

One day while I was in town with my younger son, I stopped at the ice cream stand and bought him an ice cream cone. I had enough punches on my rewards card to get a free ice cream cone for myself. 

We borrowed the movie '33' from the library and my husband and I enjoyed watching it together.

I downloaded free ebooks to my free Kindle for PC app.

Cinnamon swirl bread was only $.75 each at the discount bread store. I also bought whole wheat bread for a little over $1 each.

I price matched at Walmart and was able to get a box of cereal for $.75 with a coupon. I also bought cereal at Dollar General for $1.50 each and found some bars of soap on sale with a coupon right on the package. I paid $.33 each with the sale and coupon.

I cooked the extra chicken that I purchased last month for $.88/lb. I have been using the chicken in meals and sandwiches. I also made chicken stock in the crock pot with the chicken scraps and vegetable peels that I saved in the freezer.

We paid extra towards the mortgage principle with our May payment.

I gave the boys a hair cut.

How did you save this week?

How I Saved This Week - April 23

I earned $32 this week by selling some toys that the boys were no longer interested in on Facebook.

I saved some seeds from a cantaloupe and started the seeds inside. I think I started them a little late, but it will be fun to see if we can grow our own cantaloupe. I also planted pepper and marigold seeds in the clam shell produce containers that I have been saving to use as mini greenhouses.

We had some really warm days this week and I was able to hang some laundry out on the clothesline to dry!

I signed up for 2 toothpaste samples and a Lip Smacker Lip Balm offer. The Lip Smacker offer is for 3 free lip balms when you sign up for their Smoochie Club and expires on April 30. The toothpaste samples and lip balm will be perfect to include in Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.

I also signed up for a cat food sample and a face wash sample.

Last week I mentioned that I had accumulated a lot of yarn and wanted to put it to good use. I found a free bear pattern that is quick to make and I think is just the right size for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. I finished my first bear this weekend and have plans to make many more!

I went to Hobby Lobby to buy more eyes for the bears and left the store with only the eyes and no yarn!  :)

How did you save this week?