No Spend Challenge Day 3: $0 Spent Today

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The weather here in Ohio was just plain old nasty out, so I’m so glad we didn’t have to head out for anything today! 


Reagan and I started out the morning making Homemade Maracroni Grill Rosemary bread,

and brining a pork roast that had been in our freezer since the fall.


While we were cooking she asked when we could fill her jar for missionaries, so we added $10 from the money we’d saved last night by drinking water (she was so excited!)

While the kids were at school our bread machine got the dough ready (see more on why I love that here), and as soon as Caroline got home she was ready to get the dough ready to bake. (I noticed this great deal on a similar bread machine to the one I’ve had for fifteen years – if you’re considering purchasing one, this is a great price!)

Of course, my sweet Caroline being oh-so-sweet-Caroline, decided that we needed to go all out and bake up some brownies for dessert too.


Since we had a bunch of cake mixes in the pantry, Caroline found this recipe and they turned out so well! So, our total spent for the day was $0.  I’m guessing our dinner tonight cost around $8 including pork roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, salads, bread, and applesauce ~ not too shabby!


Interested in joining us in our No Spend Challenge? Here’s how we’re starting . . .

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Consider Your Time Cost

I have a secret for you today. 


I don’t really like going to the grocery store. 


And a trip to Walmart? 


Um, yeah, I’d rather clean a hundred toilets than take that challenge on.


In fact, shopping is one of those things that I’ll do just about anything to get around, which really helps my budget. 


A few years ago a friend of  mine and I were talking about what was for dinner, and I mentioned that I was making some sort of meat, veggies, and had fresh bread in the oven.


She kind of looked at me like I was from another era . . . the thought of a busy mom making fresh bread in 2013 (or whatever year it was), just wasn’t normal to her. 


But here’s the thing . . . I don’t have time not to make fresh bread.


If I look through my pantry and we’re out of bread (or whatever convenience food I’m looking for), it’s waayyyyy  easier for me to dump the ingredients in my bread machine and mix up a loaf. (It really, really, really helps that I have a bread machine ~ this is similar to the one I use ~ and have had for 15 years.)

My time baking bread? Done in five minutes flat (with a cute helper alongside of me.)


Time to head to the store for a loaf? Easily twenty minutes, most likely $20, and that cute helper alongside of me quickly turns into the oh-my-goodness-I-need-it-all-right-now-please-please-please-please-momma child. ;)


The same is true with eating out.


I hear people say all the time that they don’t have time to cook a meal, but honestly, I don’t have time not to cook.


Going to a restaurant ~ even a drive thru ~ easily takes thirty minutes to an hour with my busy bunch.


Making sandwiches or spaghetti at home can literally be finished up in twenty minutes flat. And yes, it means I’ll have dirty dishes to deal with, but I have fantastic helpers who can help me along with that.



The next time you’re considering going to the store for just one convenience item or heading out to eat because you just don’t have the time to cook, really really consider the time cost involved. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but it’s worth really considering if your time saved really is time saved. 


Am I the only one who does the mental math on this stuff all the time? :) I’d love to hear your thoughts ~ leave a comment to share!



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No Spend Challenge: Get Ahead On Lunchbox Duty


This is a re-post from a few years ago, but one of my favorite tips to make lunch-box-making at home go a little more smoothly, especially while we’re working on our No Spend Grocery Challenge this month!  At this point my kids each school lunch a few days a week just to make life easier, but I feel like the meals we make at home are so much healthier and less expensive than what they get there. Take a minute to read the comments on the original post HERE if you have a minute – so many great tips!


I have a confession to make.  I have been horrible this year at keeping up with my kids lunches, and every morning live in chaos before racing my kids to the bus because I just don’t have it together!  Soooo. . .  I thought I’d remind you all (and myself!) of how to get ahead on lunchbox duty.  (I’m determined to get my fridge back in lunchbox shape over the weekend!)

Found these super cute Lunchbox kits on Amazon ~ I’m thinking they’d be perfect for our sandwiches that are pre-wrapped each day!


When I saw this post last year from Money Saving Mom, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to make at least a week’s worth of PB&J’s instead of pulling out all the lunch supplies each day.  (Duh???) You might even try making sandwiches ahead for the entire month and freezing them, but we start by preparing a week’s worth of lunches each Sunday afternoon  . . .


Note the “C” for Caroline – she likes only peanut butter, Jackson can’t survive without jelly :)

I’m not quite up for those homemade Uncrustables (thankfully my kiddos enjoy their crust . . . however I do applaud you mommas who de-crust your children’s sandwiches!)  Just taking a few minutes though to prepare our lunch supplies makes such a difference in our mornings, so I’m determined to get my act together again.  When I’m completely on top of things, here’s what our lunch stash looks like in the fridge . . .



The drawer below this one holds the fruit stash:  fresh apples and strawberries. I could definitely use some tips though on how to  pack fruit like strawberries or grapes ahead of time so that they don’t get soggy, because I have a very picky eater who keeps complaining about soggy grapes. If you have any ideas on keeping fruit fresh for lunches, I’d love to hear them!


I also try to keep items wrapped up for snacks – popped popcorn and wrapped homemade brownies make great inexpensive treats, as well as a few pre-packaged items found on sale . . .


My goal is to pack their lunches as soon as those lunch boxes are unpacked after school each day, which only takes a minutes when I have my supplies in order.  My kids can even pack their own lunches when I take the time to catch up, so this one is definitely on my to-do list for the weekend. . . I’m so ready for more peaceful mornings around here!


Do you have any great tips on handling lunch box duty (and suggestions besides PB&J for your children’s lunch box meal?)  I’d love to hear them, so take a minute and leave a comment to share!  


Looking for some super cute lunch box ideas?  Check these out . . .

These are all way fancier than I’m up for . . . we’re just sticking with the basics here.  But aren’t they so stinkin’ cute???

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Menu Plan & Printable Grocery List (+ Our No Spend Grocery Challenge For March!)



Link to this week’s free menu plan and grocery list 

Here’s this week’s menu plan and grocery shopping listMy husband and I have been discussing our family budget over the last few weeks, and are going to try to do a “No-Spend Grocery Challenge” through the month of March leading up to Spring Break. I just purchased a new kitchen table and chairs (so excited for them to get here – I scored a great deal!), and while we’re waiting for that to be delivered we thought it would be fun to see just how much we could shave off our weekly grocery expenses by eating from the pantry.


So, what does that look like for us? We’ll still have budgeted money for specific items – we’re just really trying to keep things simple by saving on groceries and eating out. Here’s what we’re planning:

  • 2 meals out per week as a family. We usually choose “high end” fast food places (i.e. Chipotle) ~ sit down meals for our family of five are just so expensive, and we rarely have time for them! I have a few restaurant gift cards because I was taking advantage of 4x fuel perks at Kroger this week, so we’ll use those first.
  • Only water while eating out. (This will be tough – we sometimes enjoy sodas at restaurants but they’re such a budget buster!)
  • Possibly one lunch date out for my husband and I on the weeks we can meet, limited to very inexpensive restaurants. We enjoy the chance to get together without kids so much when we can – but for a few weeks can survive with the dollar menu (I think!)  Getting the chance to catch up with one another is what we love about our lunch dates, and we can do that as easily over baked potatoes at Wendy’s (honestly though, this one will be tough for us!)
  • Spend $50 or less at the grocery store through March 27th. I *think* we should be able to spend much less (between $20 and $30?), but know that milk and fresh produce alone can quickly get spent, so wanted to be realistic in my goals.

(Note: the only exception may be next weekend ~ I’ll be out of town scrapbooking with friends, and since my husband’s in charge of feeding our bunch, I’m betting he’ll tweak things a bit!) :)

I’ll update you all throughout the week with how things are going – I’m hoping we’ll be able to stick to this, but we haven’t really tried this before so we’ll see! 

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Curious what that means for our menu plan? Well, our fridge and freezer are pretty well stocked, so I think we should be able to fairly easily use up what we have. I just did a quick inventory of our freezer, and here’s where things stand:

  • 10 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast (I have issues, when I see a good price on chicken I can’t stand not to stock up!)
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 4 lbs ground beef
  • 1 pork loin
  • 1 beef roast
  • 4 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs salmon (have been waiting for grilling season – but may try to bake it in the oven and see how it goes!)
  • 2 steaks
  • 4 frozen bread loaves
  • several bags frozen veggies

I don’t have much (any?) cheese in our freezer, so I’m sure some of our weekly budget will go there. So, here’s what we’re planning for our first week . . .

*Note – for easy roasted potatoes I quarter roasted potatoes and put in square pyrex, sprinkle with Lawry’s seasoning salt, and spray with a little Pam cooking spray (could substitute with olive oil easily I think), then bake at 350 for 40 minutes.


And here’s what items you’ll need to make these too if it’ll help get you started this week . . .
  • 2 1/2 pound boneless pork loin roast
  • 1 package ravioli
  • 28 oz jar spaghetti sauce
  • 8 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 16 oz can black beans
  • 16 oz can kidney beans
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 10 oz frozen corn
  • 2 14.5 oz cans rotel
  • onion
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • frozen pizza

Side Dish Extras

  • bag salad
  • red potatoes
  • cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips (for topping chili)

Pantry Staples

  • Italian seasoning
  • salt
  • pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • vegetable oil
  • dijon mustard
  • maple syrup
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • fresh ginger for pork loin (I’ll probably omit this since I don’t have any)
  • chili powder

I created this handy dandy free printable google doc for you to print if you’d like to follow our menu plan – hopefully it makes your life a little simpler this week (let me know if you like it!) If you’re new to Google Docs, here’s how to print your list:

  • Open the document HERE
  • Click “file” in the top left hand corner of the screen
  • Click “print” at the bottom of that menu and print your list
Do you have anything yummy on your menu plan this week?  I’d love to hear what you’re having, and if you have any great recipe ideas please leave a comment to share, and join my Pinterest Menu Planning Board to for more ideas!



Check out my recipes to try board on Pinterest, and see more penny-pinched recipe ideas.  This post is linked up to OrgJunkie’s Menu Plan Monday where you can find lots more menu planning ideas! 





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$35 Metal Pendant Shade Update



I’m so excited to share this little $35 update to my kitchen that I found a few weeks ago at the Ballard Designs Outlet in Cincinnati! I’d been eyeing these Metal Replacement Shades in the Ballard Designs Catalog, but at $45 a piece, there was no way I would make the change.



The original light shades in our kitchen were fine, but just kind of builder grade and I loved the idea of something a little more custom looking. There was no way I’d convince my husband to switch the light out completely, and really they were brand new lights!


So when I found these for just $17.39 each at the Ballard Outlet Store, I knew I found the perfect solution! I just did a quick search on Amazon, and even their metal shades were $35+. So for $34.78 I got a bit more custom look for a fraction of the cost. Yay!


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I just unscrewed the old light fixtures, put the new ones in place, and in about five minutes the project was done. Love that!


And, while I was there I also found this fantastic chair at the Frontgate Outlet. (Frontgate, Ballard, and Grandin Road Outlets are all their together near Ikea ~ I love that!)


This chair was originally $600, marked down to $174. While I know it’s not nearly as penny pinched as my $2.50 Goodwill chair . . . ballard1


I absolutely love it. ;)


And if you look closely at the top picture, you’ll see it also matches the barstools I found at the Frontgate Outlet here in Columbus when we first moved.

I’d actually been watching for chairs for awhile, and a few weeks ago almost gave in and picked up a $180 side chair at a local store similar to Garden Ridge. I knew the quality really wasn’t great on them though (I was just settling, again!), so I decided to try a little patience and am thrilled with the quality of this chair at the same price.


Folks, we’ve been at this penny pinching thing for years (really, almost nineteen years!), and to be able to enjoy some of the fruits of that success now on things we just love is oh-so-sweet. If you’re struggling to stick with itpromise it’s worth the wait ~ and you really never know what deal may be right around the corner.  Yay! ;)


I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)


See more previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!


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20 Meals From Costco For $150


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I think you’re going to love thisI was away at a conference this weekend way out in Utah (enjoying so much fun time with my husband who joined me too ~ we haven’t been away from our kiddos for ages so it was the nicest gift!) Because of our trip, I didn’t have time to put together this week’s menu plan. (So sorry guys ~ but go back and see a complete list of them HERE for free ~ I’ll be back at it next week . . . promise!)


But, I talked with Erin from $5 Dinners while I was at the conference, and goodness, I think you’re going to love what she has for you. She’s put together this amazing (seriously, AMAZING), printable pack that includes directions to make a whopping 20 Meals at Costco for $150.


Folks, it includes everything.


ALL you need.

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(Don’t believe me? Here’s proof):


Complete package includes: 

  • Recipe List & Grocery List
  • Printable Assembly Instructions – step by step guide to pulling all these meals together and into the freezer
  • Printable Assembly Cards – so you don’t forget any ingredients in each bag
  • Printable Labels – you can print these out onto Avery #6874 label paper and stick them to your plastic baggies or containers.
  • Exclusive Access to Instructional Assembly Videos

Recipes included in this plan are:

  • (2) Slow Cooker Chicken with Apples & Rosemary
  • (2) Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apples & Sweet Potatoes
  • (2) Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chicken Curry
  • (2) Slow Cooker Italian Chicken
  • (2) Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken & Potatoes
  • (2) Slow Cooker Sausage, Peppers, Onions
  • (2) Slow Cooker Italian Stew Roast
  • (2) Slow Cooker Beef Stew
  • (2) Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • (2) Slow Cooker Chicken & Sausage Stew

Go HERE and add to cart to get the full access to the recipes and grocery shopping list plus assembly instructions and exclusive video access. And, if that’s not enough Costco, she has five more Costco menu plans you can choose from HERE!


And, if shopping Costco isn’t your thing, she has a few more great options available! Check these out:


Have you tried any of $5 Dollar Dinner menu plans before? I’d love to hear what you think – I think this is a great way to easily tackle menu planning a month at a time, and love that the work’s all done for you! Leave a comment if you’ve tried these before and let me know your thoughts.





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How To Organize Coupons?

Easily Organize Coupons




As I’ve shared with you all before, I’ve tried every method of organizing coupons on the planet, so I thought you’d like a peek at what I’m using now! I definitely think this is the easiest way ever to keep up with coupons ~ would love to hear your thoughts.

If you can’t see the video, go HERE.

Here are a few notes from the video:



Looking for more ideas on organizing coupons? 

See how I’ve created a coupon binder (this is a lot of work but definitely works for some folks ~ I’m not using it any longer but it might work for you!)

And see how another way to (really easily) organize coupons.



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$10 Goodwill Frame Upcycle

$10 Goodwill Frame Upcycle


A few weeks ago I noticed these framed prints at Goodwill. 


For whatever reason, one of them was priced at $5 and the other one was just $3. I asked the cashier what the difference in them was (and if they’d consider taking $3 for each of them), and sure enough brought them home for just $6, total.


I’ve seen so many pretty botanical and patterned prints in the Ballard Designs Catalog (I love that store!) , but there’s no way I could justify shelling out nearly $200 for the set. (Especially just to hide in our bathroom!) The frames were in decent shape, I liked the linen matte that they already had, so all I had to do was switch out the print to make it match our home.


So, I took these two apart, purchased $8 in fabric at Joann’s (after my 30% off coupon), and came out with two prints that are perfect to add some color to our walls.




(I use my hot glue gun for everything – since I couldn’t convince my husband to hunt down his staple gun in the garage, I used hot glue to put it all back together.) ;)


$10 Goodwill Frame Upcycle Collage


Here’s what I spent: 

  • Goodwill frames – $6
  • Fabric – $4
  • Total = $10 – woohoo!



If you’re looking for inexpensive ways to fluff up your walls at home, I’m telling you what . . . a trip to your local thrift store is so worth it. If you’ve seen anything fun at your local Goodwill or thrift store recently I’d love to hear about it ~ leave a comment to share!

I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)


See previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!




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Easy Way To Clean Grout

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Have grout around your tile that needs to be cleaned up? See how Clorox Bleach Toilet Cleaner cleans this grout right up over at Holiday Sparkle.


Looking for more penny pinched cleaning ideas? Here are my favorites:



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DIY Barn Style Door Track For Under $60

Barn Style Door Track


A friend of mine has wanted to turn her laundry room door into a sliding door for a long time, so she finally got her husband on board to start the project with a little help from my husband.  This idea came from many years of frustration with a narrow laundry room and the huge presence of sliding barn doors on every DIY show out there!


The regular hinged door opened into the laundry room and took up almost 3 feet of space when opened.  She wanted to have more room to move in and out of the room without the door always being in the way.  She began by researching all the ready-made options available online but decided to try to create a less expensive design based on many DIY versions.

before door

With most DIY “Barn” style sliding door projects the DIYers build a door and a track system, but she wanted to give it a try using the regular old door.  This did add a few challenges when it came to finding hardware that word work because there was more space between the track and door, but after a couple trips to the hardware store (ok, maybe 15 trips…) she was able to come up will all the pieces needed for the track.

Here’s a list of exactly what they used:


If you are considering a project like this, here are a few links to help you get some more ideas:


I’d love for you to join me over on Pinterest (I love that place!)  If you have a blog and have done a little fluffing in your home, I’d love to see it, so leave your link in the comments section. Also, if there’s a craft you’ve seen on a website that you’re hoping to make, feel free to share that link as well (I’m always looking for new ideas!)


See previous Friday Fluff Up projects and ideas . . . and Happy Fluffing!


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