17 New York City Insider Travel Tips

new york city insider travel tips

My 10-year-old has wanted to go to New York for a couple of years now — something she picked up in school or books I guess. ūüôā¬†

But it’s BIG and a little intimidating to navigate –¬†and can be very expensive!

As we were thinking about a summer vacation, we looked at the possibility and found several ways to save money and make it worth it for us.  Conveniently one of our 3 available weeks was during her 10th birthday so we chose it.

We surprised her with the trip and only told her a couple of hours before leaving for the airport. ¬†At first she didn’t believe us, but then we told her she had to make sure I packed well enough for her. ¬†She was in shock, which was so¬†awesome!!¬† My husband spent many hours researching and planning based on our interests.¬† Here are a few things we think will be helpful for your own trip planning to the Big Apple…

17 New York City Insider Travel Tips

1. Set a budget.

Because we really are passionate penny pinchers we do not go into debt for any of our trips. ¬†We save by couponing (my strength) and living¬†“thrifty” (my husband’s strength) so we can travel (my weakness and the bane of my husband’s existence).¬† ūüėȬ† I love to travel, but paying cash is a must!



2. Save on airfare.

If you don’t have a frequent flyer miles account with your favorite airline, get one!

We had Delta Sky Miles from going on a few mission trips and an anniversary trip to Hawaii, and it really paid off on this trip. ¬†We used our Sky Miles to get all 4 tickets, 2 on my account and 2 on my husband’s, for a grand total of only $44 + checked baggage fees!

I suggest flying into LaGuardia to save money and time. ¬†If you’re going near Manhattan like most tourists, JFK is farther away. ¬†It’s also more expensive. ¬†We wouldn’t have been able to get Sky Miles tickets to JFK because of the higher cost.


3. Save on your hotel.

Staying out of Manhattan (or at least away from Times Square) can save you hundreds of dollars.

We stayed in Long Island City¬†at a Fairfield Inn by Marriott. ¬†It was just off of Manhattan and wasn’t inconvenient at all.¬† It took only 4-7 minute to walk to 3 different subway stations that covered 6 different lines, so we could get to anywhere in Manhattan easily! ¬†It wasn’t too noisy either, which is a big complaint near Times Square.

Staying in a hotel with breakfast included can save money for a daily meal.¬† Hotel sites like Expedia and its subsidiaries, Priceline, etc. may get you a bargain, and if you’re bold enough to stay in someone’s private property, Airbnb is also something to consider.


4. Decide between Taxi, Subway or Uber?

We decided to use the subway most of the time we were in New York.¬† It’s definitely the cheapest option and often comparable in time for short distance trips.

We paid $33 per person for a 7-day unlimited Metro Card that allows you to get on/off as many times as needed for the one price.  Considering a single ride is usually $2.50, but we rode several times a day for 5 days, this was soooo worth it!

Learning where to enter and exit the subway was tricky.¬† When entering, make sure you read the signs before you swipe your Metro Card since some stations didn’t have a way to cross to the other track if you were accidentally on the wrong side, and once you swipe your card, you have to wait 18 minutes to use it again.


My husband’s advice for exiting is to look at the subway map, know which way the train enters the station, know which way you want to walk when you hit the street, and walk towards an exit in that direction.¬† The only time we took a taxi was to and from the airport since subways don’t go directly to them, and the distance between our hotel and the airport was longer.¬† It’s typical to tip your taxi driver 15% on top of the fare as long as they did a good job.¬† You can use Google Maps to get you everywhere, and there are other good transit apps too.¬† I don’t know how anyone can get around these days without GPS, but you can always ask a local for help with directions.



5. Make sure you have good walking shoes.

Take some good walking shoes (my favorite are Saucony Guide).¬† If you don’t exercise much, I’d suggest walking as much as you can before leaving, because you will do it a lot there!

I’m a runner and run about 4-5 miles a day, but my husband doesn’t exercise much. ¬†(He complained when I wrote he “doesn’t exercise at all”, so I erased it to protect his reputation.) ¬†ūüėȬ† So we walked as many nights as we could with our youngest daughter before leaving in order to prepare. ¬†She still had no idea we were going so I just told her daddy needed to start exercising more to relieve stress from¬†work. ¬†ūüėČ



6. Check out Entertainment Passes

My husband found 3 entertainment passes for NYC:

  • CityPASS¬†gives you a set price for 6 places–3 fixed and 3 others where you can pick from 2 choices.¬† That didn’t include things we wanted to do and did include others that we didn’t want, so we ruled it out quickly.
  • The New York Pass is for a certain number of days and lets you go to however many places within those days that you can fit in.¬† But reviews were bad since you have to fit in about 3 places a day to get your money’s worth, and sometimes lines are so long that the high cost is unlikely to be worth it.
  • Smart Destinations has 3 different flavors of passes, and we really liked their “Explorer” Pass. ¬†That one was based on a number of choices rather than days.¬† It allows you to be flexible with what you use it on so that we could base it on weather, change in mood, etc. when we were there.¬† We used the 5-choice across 3 days.¬† My husband’s company participates in TicketsatWork which offered discounted prices, so we added savings on top of savings for almost 40% cheaper attraction prices!



7. Get Statue of Liberty Tickets Early

If you’d like to go to the crown or pedestal, make sure to buy tickets for the Statue of Liberty the minute you buy your plane tickets.

We weren’t able to get crown tickets because they were booked about 4 months out, and when we arrived there, an employee said they were now booked until next year!¬† The pedestal was easier to get tickets for, but there are still a limited number.

I would also recommend getting early time slots.¬† We had an 11:00 and still waited in line for a long time because of schools doing field trips.¬† We packed a lunch with sandwich items we brought from home which saved us money and time.¬† Although we didn’t ride the Staten Island Ferry, it is a free option.



8. Don’t Miss The Empire State Building

If you plan to go to the Empire State building, go as early as possible in the day or late at night.¬† (Seeing a pattern?)¬† ūüėȬ† We saw a recommendation to go before 11.¬† We went around 9:30, and as we were leaving the lines were getting extremely long. Definitely worth going early to make sure to skip the lines!



9.  Be sure to visit the 9/11 Museum.

I think everyone remembers where they were when you heard about the twin towers getting hit.¬† It was such an impactful moment in our history.¬† Older kids and teens would be ok in the “historical exhibition”, but there are parts of it (pictures, audio clips, etc.) that will probably be difficult for younger kids.

If you go on Tuesdays at 4:00, they issue free first-come, first-served tickets.  We got there at 3:30, were near the front of the line, sat for a half hour til the line started moving, and ended up with 5:00 tickets (the earliest possible).  That gave us time to look at the memorial and shop in the mall next door.  You can make a donation as well.



10. A few more museums worth seeing:

Besides the 9/11 Museum, we would recommend the following:

  • Statue of Liberty Museum – Included with pedestal or crown tickets
  • Ellis Island Immigration Museum ¬†– FREE
  • American Museum of Natural History (aka AMNH) – ¬†Suggested price but pay what you want
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka the Met) – Suggested price but pay what you want

It took a few hours inside the AMNH (enter at the 81st entrance to save a lot of time from standing in line), and we didn’t see everything.¬† Plan on 3-4 hours if you like that kind of stuff.¬† I heard that for the Met as well although we never made it there.¬† I think our girls were museum’ed out (and maybe their mom a little too).¬† ūüėČ



11. Visit Central Park

This is a great place to go, and it’s free!¬† There are playgrounds for little ones to play on, winding walking paths, beautiful flora, and lots of history.

The Central Park Sightseeing bike tour was our favorite thing all week!  Our tour guide, Damien, was very informative.  The tour was a 7-mile bike ride through lots of historic places in Central Park with plenty of celebrity gossip and movie info.  So worth it!



12. See something on Broadway

I’m not a musical person, but we were told we needed to take the girls to see Lion King…until we saw the price.¬† WOW! ¬† More expensive for Broadway tickets than all the other entertainment combined!

My husband learned about the TKTS booths that sell same-day or next-day discounted (maybe half price) tickets, but Lion King wasn’t included.¬† You can also walk up to the ticket office at the theater for a show you’re interested in the day of and ask for similarly discounted tickets to see if they’ll sell them.¬† Finally, you can sign up for a lottery the day before for some shows for the lowest price.¬† Unfortunately, we never got selected for the lottery so we never made it to a show, which honestly I’m okay with.¬† I am too much of a penny pincher to pay full price for tickets.



13. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge and the High Line.

The first is another freebie activity that is a must!¬† Great views of Manhattan.¬† Just stay out of the bike lanes!¬† ūüôā¬† We also went on a small piece of the High Line, an abandoned above ground train track that they spruced up with a walking path, lots of scenery, and occasional fun things like a place to take off your shoes and stand in cool water.




14. Food is Expensive

Almost every restaurant we went to did not have a kids menu so plan to either split your meal with the kiddos or buy them an adult meal.

We ate at 3 different pizza places (you have to, right?).¬† The pizza was pretty good, but we noticed that at every place the employees were just not friendly.¬† Welcome to New York! ūüôā

Because we walked all day we stopped a few times for sweets.¬† (Ok, as payback for the exercise comment earlier, my hubby says that I have to admit that I would have stopped at all the sweet shops even if we hadn’t walked all day.¬† Guilty pleasure!)¬† ūüėȬ† All the employees at the bakery places were awesome!!¬† I would recommend using Zomato (formerly Urban Spoon) for restaurant reviews, menus, and price ranges, and then working a few interesting restaurants into your budget.¬† Eating earlier dinners will help you wait less time for a table.


15. Be smart when buying souvenirs.

We went to Chinatown and Little Italy on a whim, and the souvenir shopping was so awesome that we decided to return later in the week!  We were able to save money buying souvenirs here rather than the actual tourist attractions.  Authentic meals here too . . . but more expensive.


16. Pack Water Bottles… & Backpacks to Carry Them

We each had our own water bottle and filled them up every day before leaving the hotel.¬† When we went to any tourist attraction that had water fountains, we would fill up again.¬† This saved us a ton of money, and during the hot summer it was a must.¬† There are vendors at every corner selling bottled water for $1-2.¬† So glad we didn’t have to buy water!


17. Character Costumes

Try to stay away from the people dressed up in character costumes.  A friend warned us about this and we were so glad she did!  When you get you or your kiddos picture taken with them, they expect you to tip them and will hound you until you do.  This is their job.


I hope these New York City Insider Travel tips were helpful in planning your next trip – and I’d love to hear any additional tips you might have for saving money or seeing the best sites!

What other tips do you have for New York City or other vacations?  We’d love to hear your thoughts ~ please leave a comment!




Looking for more travel tips?


Looking for more travel tips? Check out these 7 things you need to know before bidding at Priceline and Hotwire. 

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The Ultimate Room Makeover?


Last week all 3 of our kids were gone for a whopping four days.






Ninety-six bless-ed hours to be exact.


(Don’t get me wrong ~ I adore my kids but in the summertime ninety-six hours of quiet are pure unmediated bliss.)¬†


Before they left Sunday though, I started worrying over what I would do all by my lonesome self without a soul in sight. 


I contemplated shopping, then quickly decided it was clearly the perfect time to re-decorate our dining room. (Which, for the life of me I cannot seem to get right since moving to Ohio), so I devised a plan before they even left.


I headed to Home Goods (two kids in tow), found 6 matching dining room chairs (it was like the Home Goods gods were shining down on me . . . ), brought them home, plopped them down in their new space and started picking out colors on my Pinterest board.


(Remember our dining room furniture has been handed down, so we’ve never spent any money in the space and I proclaimed few days with no kids the perfect excuse to remedy that.)


And then?


I stopped.

I took those chairs back to Home Goods (here’s the dining room right where we started. I know it’s bad. I know the rug’s too small. I know the light fixture isn’t awesome. I know the grey’s kind of pitiful. Yup, I get it.¬†Bleck.)


But my brain finally began. 


I began thinking about what a new room overhaul would mean for those glorious ninety six hours.


That my husband would likely have to change that light fixture.


(Bless. him.) 


That I would have a lot of added shopping on my to-do list.


And that for the good part of the very few days my kids were gone, I’d be drowning in paint, stressed over getting it done, and anxious about one more pretty unnecessary mess.¬†


While not soaking up summer even a bit. 



So I made a decided mental shift.


My husband and I have just gone through a pretty chaotic 18 months to say the least. (Read more HERE and HERE.)

We’re just 3 weeks out from his dad passing away.


And in the midst of that eighteen months, we’ve continued to raise 3 kids (might I mention again, including¬†two teenagers), held down two fairly massively busy jobs, and really truly, still feel even after almost twenty-one years of marriage still feel like we’re just figuring this mess out. ūüėČ

Do you know what I realized?


That right now today I don’t need a Pinterested dining room.


With matching chairs, the *right* chandelier, and perfect pale-grey-navy-ish walls (if that is even a thing?)


That right now today our hodge-podge mess of a dining room really didn’t matter, but¬†savoring those ninety six hours (even with oodles of work in between) was worth it today.¬†


I determined that right now today¬†I didn’t need to make 38 decisions on fabrics, table decor and buffet lamps, but instead could frugally enjoy some fun just hours together,¬†and good gravy, we sure did.

So instead?


We went out to dinner.


And walked to the grocery store.


(For the record – our Kroger is¬†a mere three miles from our house,¬†but since I’ve so missed walking to the grocery store James promised we could try. We survived and realized¬†it really IS walkable, just a bit of a jaunt and probably too far to bring home milk ~ eek!) ūüėČ


And we met up after work to hike in a part of Ohio we’d never seen before.


As we were walking¬†Thursday night, James and I both agreed that we enjoyed our little “stay-cation” more than we’d ever imagined, and other than one “nicer” meal out, we barely spent a penny.


I love that.


So today.


If you feel like you need to be all Pin-ter-est-ey-fied.


And you’ve spent hours poring over your Instagram feed¬†feeling clearly you’re the only girl in town with a little mis-matched stuff,

maybe just decide to clean up your space and enjoy what you have right where you have it right now today. 


We really don’t need to have it all . . . and we definitely don’t need it all right now today.


Note: Our family is taking the next few weeks mostly off for some much needed summer rest, but my AMAZING PPP team will be here sharing posts, trying out their hand at Facebook Live (I love that!), and answering all of your questions while we’re gone. I’ll be in and out to check in on things, just a note to let you know what to expect throughout the rest of June!
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10 (Practical) Ways To Help A Friend in Grief

If you’re here only for the penny pinched deals, bear with me through this one ~ this is a LONG post, but was on my heart today!¬†


As I shared earlier this week, my husband lost his dad a week ago today, and we’ve all lost truly one of the best men I’ve ever known.



While it’s still fresh in my memory, I wanted to share a few (amazing!) things friends did for us that made the grief a wee bit more bearable this week. More than anything, I want to remember how to bless someone in these same ways when they go through a difficult time too.


So often, I don’t know¬†what¬†to do when someone is suffering, but these simple (practical!) acts of kindness have tendered our hearts and¬†meant more than we ever could have imagined right now.¬†


Here we go. 

1. Help with their kids.

When we got the phone call last Thursday night that James’s dad was struggling and we needed to get there, several neighbors offered to help with our kids. (We weren’t quite sure that we all needed to¬†make the seven hour drive as this last year has been a whirlwind of physical struggles for Don, so two of our three had stayed home to finish up finals and end of year activities.)


Immediately one neighbor let our youngest spend the night, a group from my son’s Young Life program came over and just hung out with him, and another dear friend (who doesn’t even know our family all that well!) offered to drive my kids¬†to the airport once we¬†found out while driving to Kentucky that he’d passed away.


Beyond that, this sweet friend brought my kids goody bags to have for the plane flight, prayed with them before they flew out, and promised to stay close to the airport until she knew they were safely in the air.


Taking care of someone’s kiddos during a time like this was¬†an AMAZING gift ~¬†I can never express what it meant for this momma to know her children were taken care of!¬†

2. Bring a meal.

As soon as friends and church members found out that Don had passed away, the food started coming in (it was amazing!) As we had 30+ close family members there over the weekend for the services, it was a huge blessing not to have to figure out what to feed our bunch (especially in a small town without tons of restaurant options.)

Here were a few specific items that were special blessings to us over the weekend:

  • Paper plates, cups, napkins,¬†plasticware, paper towels
  • Water bottles and soda
  • Breakfast foods – homemade is great, but swinging by Sam’s or Costco works perfectly too
  • Fresh bread (because our friend Mrs. Deaton’s bread is well known in all of Marshall County as the absolute¬†best sourdough bread on the planet,¬†I had to share a shout out for that one. Bring. the. bread.) ūüôā
  • Turkey/ham sandwich “fixins”
  • Fresh fruit
  • Ham sandwiches (someone made simple sandwiches with Sister Schubert’s rolls ~ they were perfect)
  • Italian beef (another church member brought this by and it worked perfectly because it feeds a ton and everyone loves it)
  • Barbecue
  • Pie ūüôā our friend Mrs. Colburn brought by what had to be the very best lemon meringue pie I’ve ever eaten. When I told her how perfect it was, she credited Mrs. Edwards’s for that lemon meringue pie. (Y’all. You do not have to make¬†the pie. Let Mrs. Edwards make it for you.) ūüôā¬†
  • Toilet paper (I know that’s silly, but you do NOT want to run out of TP when there are 20 people mulling around a 1 and 1/2 bathroom house. Ummmmm…. yikes.)

3. Offer your home or guest house to extended family members.

If by any chance you have a spare room in your home (or a guest house?) offer it for extended family members to stay. It was a huge gift to our family to know that everyone had a bed, and we were so thankful for the lake house that a sweet friend of my sister-in-law offered us!


4. Take care of their pets.

Our neighbors offered to care for our dog which helped so much ~ we ended up boarding him at our local boarding facility, but my neighbor took him there so we didn’t have to make an extra trip.


5. Help during the funeral & visitation.

James’s dad’s visitation was Saturday night (the funeral was Sunday), and some of our sweetest friends from Alabama drove four hours to be there¬†during some very difficult hours for us. Because they knew Don was pretty loved by everyone in the community, they came in¬†completely knowing that they would be there for HOURS, but our friends Stephen and Sandra stayed for the long haul just to be there for James.


Whenever he could without stopping James from a conversation, Stephen ran over and asked James what he could get him ~ soda, water, gum ~ whatever. I think just knowing a friend was there comforted James as he literally stood between his mom and dad during the viewing, and meant more than they will ever know to James. (And I was blessed to get to spend extra time talking to my friend Sandra too!)


There were also several families from the church who checked in on us to see what we needed during the services. One dad with a daughter Reagan’s age offered to take she and their daughter to Hardee’s during the visitation, my dad and mom took my girls to Dairy Queen after they paid their respect (they ate a¬†lot¬†during those 4 hours ~ eek!), and people picked up purses, brought extra Kleenex, and carried plants when we needed them to.


Members of the church also helped with funeral arrangements, contacting ministers to conduct the service. One sweet man even stopped by to take all the trash to the dumpster, because he knew it would be more than could wait until the next trash day. (I would never have thought of that, but it helped us so much not to have to worry over the trash. Such a small act of kindness but an incredible gift!)

6. Show up. 

Like I said, a few of our friends families from Alabama drove four hours to be with us during both the funeral and visitation (even though they’d never met James’s dad!), in addition to the hundreds of local people that came to honor Don. Our friends Tim and Misty came and stayed with us through the funeral and graveside service, and just having them there meant more than they could have ever known. They helped us get a meal ready quickly before the funeral, chatted with James’s mom for a bit to make her feel more at ease, and took a tour of James’s childhood home. It meant so very much to our family to have them there!

My parents also drove four hours to the service¬†without any expectation from us at all, and it was such a gift to know so many people loved this man (and us too!) One of the men in James’s church who’d known James since he was a toddler just¬†took the time to talk with James and let him know how special he and his dad were to him ~ such a small act of kindness, but one that will never be forgotten.

7. Send flowers (or plants.)

As someone who normally doesn’t like spending money on extra “stuff”, I have to say, the beautiful plants and flowers that people sent to our family meant so very much to us (I was so surprised by how much we appreciated them!)


There were several gorgeous flower arrangements (the PPP team even sent the most gorgeous hydrangea bush!) and I loved that people were so thoughtful to think so much of us during this difficult time.

If you’re like me and not so sure about sending flowers, here are a few¬†things that were extra special to us:

  • Send houseplants ~ when I was talking to my sister-in-law she mentioned that she’d gotten houseplants when¬†her grandfather passed away, and twenty years later still has those plants and remembers her grandpa each day when she sees them. Such a wonderful way to remember someone
  • Send windchimes ~ Don¬†loved windchimes, so those meant so very much to us
  • Send a bush that can be planted outside ~ we loved the hydrangea bush from the PPP team, and have seen families give roses, gardenia plants or small trees to honor their loved one
  • Send the flowers ~ I had¬†no idea how much just seeing beautiful flowers near Don’s graveside would mean to us, but they totally were a gift. If you’re like me (and a true penny pincher at heart!) you may not see the gift in this unless you’re in that situation, but they really do mean so much.
  • Send an edible arrangement after the funeral. We received one today from our sweet neighbors back at home and it completely brightened our day (thank you Sarah & Ryan!)
  • And of course, if they ask for an “in lieu of . . . ” gift, that’s an incredible way to honor a family member too


8. Mow the lawn.

One of my husband’s co-workers offered to come to our home and mow the lawn (during Spring in Ohio we have to mow at least twice a week!) While we made it home in time to take care of it ourselves, it was an incredible thing to think of that I normally would have forgotten.


9. Water the plants. 

10. Make the phone call. (Or send a card, an email, or even a text.)

We feel¬†sooooo¬†incredibly blessed by so very many this week, but our friend Stephen (who’d already driven forever over the weekend!)¬†went above and beyond and texted me to find out when James was on his way home from work this week, so he’d be able to call and just talk to him on the way home during his hour long drive (every day during the drive James called to talk to his dad, so I knew this time was going to be hard for him.)


Just doing¬†something to let people know you care is such an incredible blessing, and it can even be just a text or email checking in to make sure you’re doing okay. I’ve received texts from some of my dearest friends who just want me to know they’re thinking of our family (along with a note that I don’t have to even respond!), as well as dozens of emails, Facebook messages, and comments from PPP readers, which has been an incredibly gracious gift to me!


Whatever you do, if you know someone who’s struggling today, think of a practical way that you can lighten their load as they struggle through a difficult time.¬†Even if they don’t have the energy to say it today, I promise you’ve gifted them more than you know, and your small act of kindness¬†will be as much a blessing to you as it is to them.



I’d love to hear your suggestions on what to do when going through a difficult season ~ what other ideas do you have? Leave a comment to share ~¬†I love hearing from you!¬†


On a side note, the PPP team TOTALLY hopped on board and took care of EVERYthing for me here ~ emails, messages, my scheduled posts, SO MUCH stuff. I can never repay them for what a gift they gave me to completely take the weekend off for my family ~ I’m so blessed each day by these sweet ladies! ¬†And, I know there have been SO many people and gifts that we’ve gotten and I forgot to mention, so for whatever you’ve done for us, we are so blessed by you (just tired and forgetful after a busy-sad-hard-but-blessed-and-thankful week!)¬†

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That Time My Husband Had a Heart Attack (The Addendum.)

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I don’t take time as often as I’d like to share random ramblings like this one like I once did here on PPP, but felt that someone today might just need to hear this.


Maybe that someone is you? ūüôā¬†


And, just in case you’re¬†here for the deals (I totally understand!), scoot on past to the next penny pinched post ~ I’m so very thankful for you!


One year ago today, my husband had a heart attack.


My 45-year-old-mostly-healthy husband had a heart attack. (For the record I was 40 ~ no reason for you to think I’m quite 45 yet, right?)


It’s been a¬†heck of a year.

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You can read all the ~ ahem ~ gory? details over HERE.


But for right now, I thought I’d share the aftermath.


This year hasn’t been easy.¬†


Besides his heart attack (which in itself caused lots of anxiety for both of us and a little depression on his end ~ from what I’ve been told that’s pretty normal when people go through something so hard . . . ), we’ve also had some way-too-hard-to-deal-with-days with struggling family members who we just love too much, two crazy jobs that keep us racing around all day long . . .


and then we have 3 kids. ūüėČ


Two of them are teenagers.




Needless to say, we’ve had more than a few tough days.


But I have to share with you¬†what I’ve learned along the way.


I’ve learned that you really¬†can survive some of the hard stuff.


I’ve learned that my husband is a way tougher man¬†than I ever knew.


And I’ve learned that the hard stuff sometimes lets¬†you live a little richer than you ever lived¬†before.¬†

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This was us the week after his heart attack “playing hooky” ūüėȬ†

James is doing great. (He’s not always so sure of that, but I promise he is ~ I can tell.)¬†


He’s lost a bunch of weight and maintained it for a year.


(Probably because he knows I’ll likely kill him if he doesn’t stay on track. Just teasing, honey? ¬†Um, not really.)¬†


But¬†as we’ve walked along this road . . .




I’m not so sure I’d return to the pre-heart-attack-life¬†we once had.


Here’s the thing.


We snuggle in a little more closely at night, because we know every day just how lucky we are.


We have a little more patience and are just a wee bit gentler with one another (most days?) because we totally get that it really is important not to sweat the small stuff.


And we know all too well now that almost all the stuff is small stuff.




So here’s my little hint if you’re going through something so painful today that you feel like you can’t breathe.


I’ve been there.






A lot.


And you probably just want to cry.


And completely just give up. 


And you wonder what on earth God was thinking when He threw you over this curve ball.


But I promise.




I really do know.


There is some amazing little gift you’re going to find¬†smack dab in the middle of the mess that¬†you’re struggling through right now.


And maybe.


Just maybe.


You’ll look back and see that¬†this awful-terrible-thing-that-is-sucking-out-all-of-your-breath today.


That it’s¬†simply an amazing opportunity for God’s grace to shine through.


Blessings to you today.


Right now,


wherever you’re at.


God’s peace be with you as I promise we’ve seen it in our own family this year.¬†


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30



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Marshmallow Flower Cupcake

Looking for more penny pinched recipes? Here you go!

I’m soooooo excited about this little project I made today!¬†


Over in our Dinner’s Done Facebook group, one of the members shared her pictures of these simple Marshmallow Flower Cupcakes and I was soooo impressed.


(I’d sure love for you to join the free group if you haven’t already!)¬†


I wasn’t quite sure how big a job¬†they would be, but it turns out they were super simple, and such a great project to make with my kids.


While they are a little more time consuming than the video shows (ahem), they really are pretty simple and require hardly any fancy skills.


I love that.¬†ūüôā

On a side note, I’m working on my videography skills (who on earth knew I’d ever need videography skills???) and have had fun trying out making videos mostly to share on Facebook.


(You can see a few of my favorites HERE, HERE and HERE.)


While they’re¬†wayyyy more time consuming than I realized they would be (isn’t everything?), it’s always fun to learn a new skill, so I’m having fun along the way! If you have a fantastic Spring craft or treat you’d like me to try out, leave me a comment and I just might make it too. ūüėČ


And, if you’d like to see me make these cupcakes live on Facebook, head on over HERE (and also take a peek at what I dumped in Mrs. Potts this morning ~ my kitchen smells amazing right now!) My goal is to be on Facebook Live this week at 9AM Eastern Time Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I’d sure love for you to join me there. (I so enjoy chatting with you!)


Looking for penny pinched Spring ideas? Head on over HERE for more. Goodness, I just love this time of year!



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When Christmas doesn’t look quite like the Christmas card


Sit back, grab a cup of hot chocolate, and get ready for a little random rambling (it’s been awhile!) If you’re here just for the deals (I TOTALLY get that), scoot right on past to the next penny pinched post. (This has been heavy on my heart this week . . . so here we go.)


Last night I saw one of my dearest friend’s precious (and pretty perfect looking) family pics on my Facebook feed, and my heart for the teensy-eensiest second felt a twinge of jealousy.


Now this is a friend I know¬†well, whom I completely adore, and I quickly remembered there’s more on her heart than that perfect¬†pic could tell.


It was a huge wake up call for me, and  I was reminded that as I scroll through Facebook seeing gorgeous families and wonder why their lives look so perfect . . .


when mine just¬†doesn’t . . .¬†


that sometimes those perfect¬†pictures¬†don’t tell the whole truth.


And that when we open¬†gorgeous Christmas cards where children smile radiantly¬†in clothes so perfectly coordinated ~ well,¬†that doesn’t always tell the full story either.



2016 has been quite a year in our home, but it hasn’t felt anywhere near as perfect as our Christmas card¬†might just portray.


PPP has grown more than I could have ever imagined.


(That is completely because of YOU. You have no idea how much that means to me!)


We’ve doubled our email subscribers.


Grown a few hundred thousand folks on Facebook.


Earned a few new Instagram and Pinterest followers too.


And I feel like I’ve¬†hung out with a bundle of you a little more in “real life” by cooking, baking, and DIY’ing¬†over on Facebook live.


(For any of you who don’t know me well, Facebook live is VERY uncomfortable for me, and I have to completely gear myself up for it every single day. I have notes reminding me to smile, stand up straight, and talk a little slower. Yikes.)¬†


In fact, if you’re looking from the outside-in, you might just for a second think this girl has got her act together.¬†




In real life though, my heart’s been heavy.

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My husband had a heart attack back in April. (Yes, that cute one right there ~ that was him a few months before his heart attack. He’s¬†only 45. Read more HERE¬†~ if you’ve been through this my heart goes out to you because I had¬†no idea what an emotional roller coaster this would be.)


We’ve had a few other not so easy things¬†creep up¬†throughout the year too.


We’ve had some extended family worries¬†that just make life a little more difficult some days.


We’re still adjusting to life in Ohio.


(Y’all, I wish I could just¬†get. over. that. ugh.¬†If the sweet folks down in Alabama hadn’t been just so sweet it might have made this move¬†a wee bit¬†easier! It is getting MUCH better just still hard some days ~ I’ve heard 3 years is the magic mark, so crossing my fingers on that.) ūüôā¬†








We’re raising two teenagers at the same time. (Clearly that makes us superheroes, right?)


To top it all off¬†we’ve got one way-too-confident-God-bless-this-kid-we’re-going-to-have-to-hold-on-tight-for-the-next-ten-years-nine-year-old.


Double eek. 


But looking from the outside-in, it would be easy for someone to look at our Christmas card (in black and white to hide the wrinkles, mind you), and think our mess of our family has our act together too.



But here’s the truth.


We’re a mess.


We have bad days. We get tired. We holler sometimes. We get plain old g.r.o.u.c.h.y.  


but from our pretty Christmas card pic and what you see online, you might just think our life looks okay.


And honestly?


While we have some really hard things surrounding us right now, we are crazily blessed with an abundant life I never even imagined I’d see.¬†


But some days life is just hard.


And oh so messy.


And not as perfect as we (ummm, I) might like to portray.


Here’s what we so easily forget . . .¬†


No matter how cute someone looks on Facebook . . .


No matter how incredibly their Christmas card arrives at your door . . .


No matter how darling that friend’s home is over on Instagram . . .


They likely have struggles too you’ll never know from this side of the screen.



Remember this today.


Right this very minute.


Your life.


The one you’re living right now today.


It’s¬†the most perfect¬†gift you’ve ever been given.¬†


Take today.


Take this Christmas.


Choose to make it beautiful and memorable and perfect ~ with whatever cards you’ve been dealt, and exactly¬†the people you’re with,


and don’t compare yourself to anyone else even one last¬†time. ¬†




And whatever mess you’re in.¬†


Whatever struggle that’s covering you up and maybe just clouding your vision from how wondrous this Christmas season is,


know that it¬†it’s in His hands (thank.¬†heavens.) today.


Praying God’s peace, rest, and¬†hope for you this Christmas day.



“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6





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Find Rest Today.




If you’re here just for the penny pinched posts I completely understand ~ ¬†scoot right on past¬†this one.


As someone who blogs for a living, I remind myself frequently to write for my reader, not for myself. 


So I share deals and recipes and tips and ideas that hopefully help you out.


and I love that. 


But today I’m writing for me, not for you.




Here goes.


Every so often, God hands me a picture of Him that I can’t even stand not to share, so today you’re in for it. ūüôā¬†Not even sure I can express what’s inside my head, but maybe you’ll catch the gist of it.



This Sunday in church this song was played¬†(go listen to it HERE.)¬†I believe it was written by local folks in our church, and goodness,¬†every time I hear it¬†I’m brought to one mess of a mascara-laden momma.


(I don’t cry easily, so that’s saying something.) ūüôā¬†


If you listen long enough (be patient through 8:18), you’ll hear the promise¬†“well done my child, find rest today.”


And most of the time as I hear those words, I imagine a precious God-fearing-loved one who’s struggled physically for quite some time walking through heaven’s gates as Christ welcomes them¬†in.


Or I envision someone who volunteers 82 hours a week, who takes meals to the homeless, who serves with an abundant heart and has it all together all the time.


And of course, He welcomes them in too. 


But for whatever reason, this Sunday my picture changed.


What if it wasn’t that person who lives¬†a pillar example of a Christ-led life walking through those gates?


What if it was someone a little more ordinary?


Someone a tiny bit more flawed? 


Someone¬†who even though a believer doesn’t quite exemplify that perfect Christian life¬†that I tend to think Christ¬†would welcome in so graciously?


In my mind’s eye, I watch¬†a woman burdened, hardened by way too many difficulties in life who from the outside may not look like a replica¬†of His heart.


But¬†as she walks in, I don’t see Him waving her off.


I don’t see Him turning her away.


Instead, I know He welcomes her too. 


My thoughts grew broader.


What if that one is me?


The me who focuses on myself way too much.



The one who worries over my clothes and my house and my husband and my kids and all the petty things every day that have absolutely no eternal value?


What if it’s just plain me, walking through heavens gates just the hot mess of a momma that I am?


What if it’s me . . . burdened, tired, discouraged, envious, imperfect, slightly chubby, and¬†not a single¬†ounce put¬†together?


But then it occurred to me (like a two-by-four probably more strongly than ever . . .)


that it’s not about me.


I can’t be good enough.


I can’t be cute enough.


I can’t be skinny enough, pulled together enough, or even nice enough.


It’s about Him.


It’s Him who makes me enough. Who fills in the gap. Who covers up my mess.


So as long as I go in humbly ~


as long as we go in humbly,


seeking, trusting, and believing


His promise holds true.


And He will give us rest.


If you’ve struggled finding rest,


if you today feel burdened, lost, hopeless, or just not enough.


You are not alone.


But His arms hold¬†open wide for the both of us, don’t they?¬†¬†


So my hope for you today is that you find rest. And peace. And that you will know the truth that you are enough today. 


I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.¬†For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 4:20-21


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*HOT* Sale On Blue Host Ends TODAY: Start Your Blog Today!


If you’ve ever considered starting a blog (or website for your business),¬†don’t miss this.


Right now, Blue Host is offering their web hosting for just $2.95 per month (which is an incredible deal.) 


This is oh-so-worth it if you think blogging may be for you! I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am for blogging (it’s how I make a full time income as a stay at home mom), and I highly recommend it not only as a source of income, but even just as a place to keep an online journal of your every day life. Honestly, I never dreamed I would love blogging the way that I do but I’m completely hooked!

how I make afull time income

Curious why I think blogging is worth it? Here are my top 5 reasons to blog:

  1. To earn an income from home. (Honest. I make a full time income here on PPP which is beyond crazy to me. Learn more HERE.)
  2. It allow you to¬†interact with other folks across the internet, and create a little “home base” online for family photos, stories and more.
  3. It¬†helps¬†you become a better writer.¬†I am¬†so not someone who would consider themselves a writer, but blogging each day makes me re-think the way I use words. While writing still isn’t my strongest gift, working at it each day stretches my mind creatively.
  4. It creates a place for you to think of others.¬†I love that blogging (especially for a profit), forces me to think of ways every day to help¬†other people outside of my home. I know that PPP is a better blog to follow when I write posts that really do benefit my readers, so I’m more creative in coming up with helpful content each day. (I love that!)
  5. It builds your confidence.¬†I struggle so much with having self-confidence, but blogging has helped me realize I’m really good at things that I never even knew existed. It’s taught me business strategies, internet savviness, social media awareness, and so much more. I love the marketable skills blogging has given me, and would never in a bajillion years thought I would love it the way that I do!


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Once you’ve signed up with Blue Host, check these posts out:

Let me know if you have any questions ~ so excited to for you to get started!

This post contains affiliate links.  See my disclosure policy to learn more.

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Our Bedroom Makeover: And Why Our House May Always Be a Little Hodge-Podgey.


Note РI just finished reading the book Hope Heals and HIGHLY recommend it if you need some encouragement to soak up life, no matter where you are. Go HERE to grab yours. 

I’m just going to be really, really,¬†really honest with you all right now.


I’m not gonna win the best penny pincher ever this week. ¬†


Not even close.


Five years ago (fifteen years in. . . ) we splurged on bedroom furniture which I loved. We saved to pay cash for it, got a good deal, and after purchasing bedding I walked away and called the room done.




It never looked just right, you know?


So last weekend after touring a few model homes I came back to our beautiful-but-quite-hod-podged home and just started dreaming. 


We’ve spent¬†years working on upgrading the brick and mortar parts of our homes as we’ve moved over the last twenty years, but have never spent much¬†on our¬†decor because we really wouldn’t gain financial value from that. (Adding trim work to a home makes¬†for a better sale, a cute dresser just doesn’t!) So, every room in our home carries a few¬†Goodwill, thrift stores, and hand me down treasures.


Which is perfect. And I’m so so thankful for them.

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I kinda wanted a “right” room, you know?


You see, my struggle with penny pinching is this:


I love beautiful things. But. (sigh.)  I hate what they cost.


Like, HATE what they cost.


But I decided to head to Home Goods, noticed¬†a few lamps, and thought about how much I’d love to replace my Goodwill/garage store mix and match lamps (see the before HERE) with two coordinating lamps.


Just $59 each. Gulp.


Then I started looking at a few bedroom pictures on Instagram, and realized mirrors above nightstands were all the rage (I had no idea?)


So I grabbed two (very small ones ~ at $20 a piece I figured they were perfect!) to match the lamps and headed home.


The initial mirrors were way too small, so I¬†checked out¬†Hobby Lobby and found two for $100 each¬†(eek), and asked my hubby what he thought. He didn’t say he hated the idea, so I decided that was a win. ūüôā


Guys, I feel guilty, but I love it.


Total cost to “finish” the room? ¬†(Well, except curtains . . . keep reading . . . )¬†


Updated alcove project outside our door ~ James also added all the trim work along the hallway upstairs like he’d done on the first floor





It wasn’t necessary. We can live without it. We absolutely don’t need it.






It makes me ridiculously happy. We had money in savings for it. And I absolutely love it.


And, I’m planning to love it for a long long time, because by waiting this long to finish it I’ve figured out what I really do love, and everything I picked I (think?) is pretty timeless.


Our make-shift free window shades which we got when we ordered shutters in other rooms of our home. We so need to replace them but I love looking out each day at our view ~ and I know new curtains will cost a bundle ~ eek!

So, there you have it.


If you’re new to penny pinching and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, let me promise you¬†it’s there.



By waiting for what we¬†really wanted (instead of what we wanted right now), we can totally see the abundance of having plenty which we didn’t have in those early years.


You’ll get there too.¬†


Be patient. Stick with the Goodwill stuff. Check out your local garage sales, thrift stores, and online yard sales.


And then.


When you’ve penny pinched for just a few years and the money really is finally really in the¬†budget, you can have that room you’ve always dreamed of too.


And it’ll be oh-so-worth¬†the wait. ūüėȬ†


And in the meantime? 


Whatever space you have.


Whatever you’ve got.


Clean it up. De-clutter. De-gunk. De-mess.


Because even when you don’t have just the perfect space, the space you have really can be just perfect.¬†


Or at least better.




Take a few minutes this weekend to fluff up a space in your home ~ and make today a beautiful day. 


Here’s the only “decoration” we had in our first apartment ~ a Mary Engelbreit card that I put in a $1 Dollar Tree frame. I still love it enough to keep it (hidden a bit!) on our night stand. ūüôā¬†


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Our 20 Year Anniversary Trip (And What We’ve Learned Along The Way)


We’ve just been to the most amazing place.¬†



Last Tuesday night my husband and I flew to Calgary, Canada and then drove over to Banff to stay at the Fairmont Banff Resort.


It was incredible.


I turned 40 back in November and our 20th Anniversary is tomorrow, so for Christmas James surprised me with a “we-really-have-survived-this-long-so-we-need-to-go-somewhere-amazing” trip. ¬†


No kids.


Lake Louise

No internet. (Well, very little internet.)


No plans.


Lake Agnes Tea Room



(Y’all, I like my kids and would miss them if we’d been gone much longer, but 4 days without hearing Mommmmmm was just a nice little reprieve during summer break!)


We hiked.


And hiked.




a lot.


canada3Johnston Canyon Trail

On one trail we literally climbed straight up for 2.5 hours, but when we reached the top, the views were worth every step.




As we were climbing for what seemed like an eternity, I couldn’t help but think of how many ways determining to keep hiking was so similar¬†to¬†sticking to a budget.


There were several moments when I just wanted to quit, turn around, and head back down the mountain.¬†But a few things kept me going, and they might just help you if you’re trying to stick towards budgeting too.


1) Don’t go alone.

Having James¬†determined to reach the top just a few steps ahead of me was such motivation.¬†If I’d been on my own I undoubtedly would have given up way before the top of the mountain, and never have seen the views that you can only see¬†when you reach the top.



If you’re struggling to stick to your budget, have your spouse or a friend join you as you go. Decide concrete goals and share them with one another, set your plan in advance, and encourage one another so you don’t turn around before you reach the finish line.



Fresh snow as we hiked up ~ in June?

2) Sometimes you’ll need to slow down.

As we were climbing, there were times when we just had to slow down a bit.¬†It wasn’t that we were going to completely quit, but we couldn’t race ahead at the same speed we’d been going and just needed a few minutes to slow down.


There are times in your finances where emergencies arise, life changes, and you can’t fight as hard at whittling down your debt as you normally would.¬†


But that doesn’t mean you give up.¬†


Instead, keep going even as you slow down a bit, and don’t lose sight of your long term goal.



3) You will want to quit.


did you hear me?




(Folks, I wouldn’t say it out loud to my sweet hubby who’d just had a heart attack 5 weeks prior to this trip and was still hiking like a pro, but there were plenty of moments when we were climbing¬†that I WANTED TO QUIT.)¬†


But don’t quit.¬†


Remember your goal. Remember changing your finances is¬†worth. it. And know that you’re definitely¬†not the only one who would like to turn around.


But you’ll never see the top of the mountain if you turn around, so pull up those big girl panties and just keep moving.


The view of Lake Louise from the top of one of the trails Рat the top of the lake on the right if you look closely you can see the Fairmont Inn Lake Louise where the trail started from ~ it took us about 2 hours to get to the top!

4) Once you reach the peak you’ll barely remember the struggle.

As we climbed and climbed and¬†climbed straight up for what seemed like forever¬†I thought I would¬†never forget quite how miserable some of those steps were. (Y’all, we were huffing and puffing along the way ~ 200 flights up is no easy feat!)


Foyer of the Fairmont Banff Resort

But the minute we reached the top I totally forgot just how long the hike was, and was ready to find another mountain to hike the next day.


Once your finances are in order,¬†you will remember the sacrifice, but the victory is so sweet that you won’t regret the steps one bit.¬†



5) The view from the top is amazing.


Twenty¬†years ago when James and I got married I would¬†never-ever-never¬†have anticipated where we would be at financially today. For years we’ve¬†worked to whittle down student loans, paid off car payments, and chosen to live on a budget to reach our long term goals.


Even on days when we¬†didn’t really want to we skipped dinners out, chose second hand clothes, and clipped coupons to eek out every last penny we could.


Twenty years later, good gravy, the view is amazing and worth every step.


Having the financial resources that allow us to enjoy crazy amazing trips, take care of our family, and give abundantly is so much more than I ever dreamed.


Decide that this is worth it.¬†Know that the sweetness you’ll find on top will be worth the temporary sacrifice you’re making today.


It’s worth it. I promise.


I just can’t imagine a better view.


Have you been able to tackle your family’s finances and seen success? I’d love to hear what’s made reaching your goals more manageable ~ leave a comment to share!¬†Here are a few more posts you may be interested in:

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25 Things You Need To Know Before Going On A Mission Trip

mission trip

Note from Laurie ~ Shannon wrote this great post about heading out on a mission trip, and I loved her suggestions! If you’re heading out to serve overseas or even at home, these tips should make your trip go so much smoother.¬†


I know of a lot of folks are headed out on mission trips this summer, and thought it would come in handy to have a few tips for you all rounded up in one place! Between my husband and I, we’ve been on eleven mission trips to eight different countries. We’re planning to take our entire famiy on one this year to a ninth country now that our ¬†youngest child is older.
We have felt so called to go, and know that some people feel called to serve on mission trips, while others are also¬†called to help financially, pray, volunteer time to help prepare, watch kids for those who serve on mission trips, or contribute via other means. ¬†No matter how you’re called to serve, being obedient to your call is so important.


(Me and my funny husband in Japan)

For those that plan to go on a trip, here are some things we came up with that might be helpful:

1. Pray.

Pray to see if you feel God calling you to go, then pray before you go, while you’re there, and even when you’re back home. (Check out¬†1 Thessalonians 5:16 ~ such a wonderful reminder!)

2. Pack snacks.

I’m a super picky eater, so packing snacks is huge when preparing for a trip. I pack Flatout bread and peanut butter because it’s easy to travel with. One country I traveled to served fish where the eyes were still in it (yikes!) I ate just rice that night, and was thankful to have peanut butter packed so I wasn’t hungry.

3. Pack insect repellent and sunblock.

Be sure to know if you need insect repellent that has DEET or not ~ and pack these in a Ziploc bag to make sure they don’t leak onto other things. In some countries you may even want to spray your bed down prior to sleeping ~ just not your pillow.

4. Roll your clothes.

Pack by rolling each outfit together (shirts, skirt, underwear, and socks), so you know how many outfits you have, have each outfit laid out together, use less space, and prevent wrinkling.



5. Pack outfits in Ziploc bags if you’re traveling to a country where it¬†rains a lot.

When I went to Honduras our bags got soaking wet because it rained on the way to the place¬†where we were staying, and our luggage was in the back of a pickup truck. ¬†We had to hang dry them all out ~¬†if they’d been in Ziploc bags they would have stayed dry and would have been one less thing we had to work on while we were there.

6. Let social media go.

Make sure it’s okay to post on social media at all while traveling to a foreign country ~ many countries don’t allow it, and it could potentially even get you kicked out of a country.

7. Be respectful.

Before traveling go online and learn about the culture of the area you’re visiting. ¬†When we went to Japan I was so thankful our team talked a lot about¬†the culture of Japan so we knew how to act appropriately (even though we sometimes failed at it.) ¬†You don’t want to offend anyone, and many times you may without even knowing it, so¬†doing research ahead of time can help.

8. You may want to pack a small fan.

On one of my first mission trips someone packed a fan and it was a lifesaver!

9. Pack probiotics and Immodium AD (just in case the probiotics do not work)!

There are some issues that may happen with your stomach and this will help avoid them. ¬†‘Nuf said.

10. Ladies, pack Preparation H wipes to help prevent yeast infections.

11. Pack Airborne (if you think it works) or any immune defense meds.

This helps if you start feeling bad.  I actually gave our missionary partner this while I was in Asia.  He was feeling really sick, but with just one packet, he felt so much better!

12. Pack drink packets like Gatorade or Propel that you can add to your water bottles.

Make sure they have electrolytes.

13.¬†Don’t drink the local water in any form or fashion, including ice. ¬†Instead, drink bottle or bagged water, depending on the country.

Even¬†when brushing your teeth, it’s safest to rinse your toothbrush with bottled water.

14. Pack a flashlight.  

The power may be out more than you’re used to.

15. Along with your Bible pack a good book.

You will need a way to escape at times or have something to read if you get bored.

16. Pack a poncho.

17. Pack a pair of shoes you can throw or give away.

If you’re going to a poor country it’s nice to have a pair of shoes you can give to someone. ¬†Or if you’re doing any walking in muddy areas, you may prefer just to chunk them instead of packing them in your bag. ¬†Packing a spare grocery bag or trash bag for dirty clothes/shoes can be helpful too.

18. Pack antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer.

In one country I went to, the people did not wash their hands after going to the bathroom, so it was nice to have Wet Ones on hand to disinfect my hands after shaking their hands. In some countries it’s very impolite not to shake hands (and back to the culture tip, there are different ways to greet people appropriately that¬†are important to know before going.)

19. Pack protein bars.

They’re quick, and you might¬†need protein if meat is rare in the diet there.

20. Ask the missionaries you are going with if they want you to bring them something from the states.

One missionary family asked if we could bring Oreos for their teenage daughter. ¬†She guarded them with her life, and I don’t remember her sharing either! ¬†ūüôā

21. Pick up inexpensive souvenirs.

This is especially nice for people who have helped support you financially. ¬†Many countries have marketplaces where haggling is appropriate, not rude. ¬†Try to negotiate the price down to something you’re comfortable with.

22.¬†Get immunizations that are recommended for traveling to the country you’re going to.

23. Learn a few common phrases in their language and find a good app like Google Translate.

This can be useful if you don’t have a translator around, but it’s also a fun way to interact with the locals. ¬†They will smile and laugh at your attempts to talk to them (which makes for great pictures!)

24. Take pictures.

It’s often worth making sure you can take pictures of the people in case they feel uncomfortable.

25. Apply for a passport a few months in advance.

If your passport will expire six months after your trip, go ahead and renew it now.  Some countries will not accept it otherwise.

26. Pack Baby Wipes

You may go to places that water may get shut off or no opportunity to shower.  Thanks Dorothy!

For you veteran mission trippers, what other tips do you have?  Leave a comment to let us know.

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Mudroom Makeover (More Than A Makeover)



If you’re here just for the deals scoot on to the next penny-post ~ this one’s a doozie! And, know that I know SO MANY OF YOU have hardships so much¬†greater than mine, I feel almost silly even sharing this here. But maybe you’re in a funk too ~ and maybe this one’s just for you.¬†


Good gravy.


This week as I was debating what home project to tackle as our regular Friday Fluff Up, I started dreaming up ideas for our mudroom.


I really wanted this, or this, or even this, but the truth is the space isn’t huge and I don’t have any business right now spending lots of money on it, so it¬†just needed some TLC.


Since my husband’s heart attack just over a month ago, I’ve allowed clutter and gunk and schoolwork and coats and hats and heart attack¬†papers and all of it to just take over that space.


(If you know me well you know that’s just not the norm for me ~ but goodness it’s turned into a disaster!)


I just¬†didn’t want to deal with the mess, so I rounded up my youngest and spent a few hours shopping, dreaming up ways to make that space just a wee bit more¬†Pinterested before coming home and setting to work.


As I started muddling through, I realized that it wasn’t any new fancy stuff that tiny space needed.


It was a much needed attitude shift.


You see, since his heart attack I’ve (we’ve all?) been in this sort of funk.


I didn’t want to deal with the paperwork.


I didn’t want to look at insurance claims.


I didn’t want to read through mounds of heart attack literature.


I didn’t want to learn a million-bazillion ways to control¬†his cholesterol.


(For the record, he’s¬†really changed his diet on his own and we’re all working even harder to eat the right foods ~¬†I just didn’t want to read any¬†more about it!)


I didn’t want to be the 40-year-old wife of a 45-year-old husband who’d had a heart attack.


There. I said it.


I wanted to stay a regular mom with a regular life and regular kids and a regular-not-so-much-struggling life.


I’m betting you get that.


And honestly? (if I’m being real-real-deeply honest here?)


Ever since moving two years ago I’ve just kind of been in a funk. (Y’all who know me best know that’s the case ~ I can hide it on the outside but here in my heart it’s tough to hide.)


So I just let the piles keep climbing.


I let the shoes take over the floor.


I shoved the paperwork on top of the cabinets. And hid some inside the closet. (eek.) And just decided if it was all stuffed somewhere I didn’t really have to deal with any of it.


I just didn’t want any of this turn of events.¬†


I didn’t want my life to look different.


I just didn’t want to deal with the mess of it.


In my heart or on my countertops. 




So when I came home with all my cute stuff from Home Goods and Michael’s Wednesday night and realized it wasn’t any “fluffing” that needed to happen, but rather just a good case of me being real about life, I determined to get it together.


I de-gunked.


I sorted through the paper work.


I made files named “James’s heart stuff.”


I saved files about medications I really care nothing to know about.


I pulled up my big-girl-panties and decided to deal with what the last six weeks have doled out.




Do you know what?


It feels better.


The space is cleaned out. I’m still the same regular mom that I was a month ago. We still have the regular life that we had months ago. My husband didn’t really age¬†a million years like I feel he has.


We’re just us.

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And¬†we’re going to be okay.


You may have so. many. struggles. so so much bigger than mine.


You may be dealing with a debilitating illnesses, the long-term sicknesses of a child, or the loss of something or even someone so very precious and dear to you.


And like me, you may think that if you just shove the clutter all away none of this stuff will really be real.


But,¬†precious¬†one, you and I know¬†it doesn’t work that way.


If you’re drowning in stuff because you don’t want to deal with the real issues, I encourage you to pull up those big girl panties with me and ¬†just¬†de. mess.






De. funk.


You will feel better.


You will find order.


You will be no less precious than you were before the mess.


Because¬†even when¬†life doesn’t hand us what we choose,¬†we¬†still get to choose¬†what we make of it.


Make your life beautiful today.


If that means you need a de-cluttering and a de-gunking and a de-funking, come along with me and find beauty right where you’re at.


If you’re in a hospital room holding the hand of a loved one, tidy things up a bit and make that that space for them just¬†feel beautiful.¬†But most importantly¬†hold on tightly and let them know they’re loved.


If you’re home in the summertime and your kids have taken over your home (ahem), take a break from the crazy and head outside to pick some fresh greenery, then come on in and¬†sweep up the floor.


If you’re at work and the clutter on your desk is overwhelming you, clean off that space, put up a favorite quote and stay¬†motivated in your work today.


And if you’re the sweet momma of a tiny one who hasn’t allowed you to have¬†a shower in too many days to count, find a safe spot for that baby for twenty minutes, hop in the shower and make yourself feel beautiful today.


You can find beauty wherever you are. I just know you can. 


I’m thinking of you folks right now who walk beside me or even through something so much harder, and am praying a beautiful day for you no matter what life hands you today.


Make today a beautiful day. 





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Clever Idea For Saving On Hanging Baskets


I’m so excited about this smart idea to share with you! A PPP reader shared that they had read you could use burlap to replace coconut liners¬†in hanging baskets,¬†which seems to me like it would¬†totally work. If you’ve tried it, let me know, and check out this post to see what it looks like.¬†Love it!

Amazon actually carries Gardener Natural Burlap that might be worth checking out.  You can also see how we created beautiful hanging baskets for a fraction of their regular cost last Spring by creating them ourselves. Happy Planting!

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That Time My Husband Had A Heart Attack.

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Get ready for a long post. If you’re here just for the deals (I TOTALLY, really do get that), scroll waaayyyyy on down. ¬†UPDATE ~ I tried responding to all your sweet comments tonight and realized I was just exhausted and you all would understand. THANK YOU MORE THAN YOU’LL KNOW for taking the time to be such blessings to me – I am so so thankful for you!


13 days ago my husband had a heart attack. 


My 45-year-old-mostly-healthy husband had a heart attack. (For the record I’m 40 ~ no reason for you to think I’m quite 45 yet, right?) ūüôā


My heart still hurts.


He’d had some chest pain about six months ago and had done a stress test to make sure everything was okay.¬†The stress test came back negative, and we assumed everything was fine and went on about our lives.

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Our bunch just 4 weeks ago, on our way to ski for a week in Canada.¬†While he’s always been a little overweight, James has¬†stayed¬†the same weight since we were¬†married twenty years ago, and is as strong as an ox. He plays sports¬†hard with our kids, and is in general a pretty healthy guy.¬†He doesn’t smoke or drink, but did have¬†slightly elevated cholesterol and¬†some family history of heart issues at an early age.

On Wednesday almost two weeks ago, he started having pain in his arm while driving all over Ohio for work. He called home around 3 and said he really wasn’t feeling well, then finally made it in at 5 that night.


Because I’m a horrible (read – awful, terrible, pitiful) not-ever-meant-to-be-a-nurse-wife, I told him I didn’t know what he should do, but if his chest hurt he should go to the ER.¬†(Honestly, I wasn’t all that compassionate about it ~ we had 3 kids going 3 directions and I had no time for this craziness. Like I said, I’m an awful, terrible, pitiful wife!)


A few minutes later though I looked at him the way I should have looked at him the minute he came home, and realized he looked awful. He headed to the ER, and I headed out for evening carpool duty.


An hour later he called and told me that while his EKG was fine, his blood work came back with some issues and they were transporting him to a nearby hospital for testing the next morning.¬†Remember we’d just moved here two years ago, so while we definitely have a few people we could call on in a pinch, our kids weren’t all that comfortable with folks they didn’t know so well (my oldest is 16). ¬†I left the kids at home around 7:30 PM and headed to the ER to see what was next.


I don’t know¬†anything medically, but by the time I got there the second EKG had changed, and the ER doctor seemed pretty concerned.¬†He let us know that a cardiologist would meet¬†us immediately¬†at the hospital, and when the ambulance came to transport James (they said¬†he wasn’t stable enough for me to drive him even though he looked pretty good), I ran home to get a few things and then planned to meet him in the hospital.


It didn’t happen like that.¬†


I arrived at the larger hospital’s Emergency Room¬†and was immediately taken past dozens of people in the waiting room to a small waiting room with a night chaplain.¬†She wasn’t allowed to tell me anything, just sat with me as I¬†waited. (I couldn’t figure what on earth had happened ~ just a few minutes ago we’d been laughing together in the original ER?)


About 20 minutes went by, and the cardiologist came out to tell me that my husband (yes, the 45 year old seemingly healthy one), had a mild heart attack.¬†He had 100% blockage in one artery (thankfully only 20-30% blockage in other arteries), and they’d put in a stent to fix the blockage. He was doing well, but his life would change.


He wasn’t kidding.


Thankfully, because he was basically healthy his heart had used “collateral arteries” to¬†repair¬†the problem as much as they could on their own (which masked the heart issues in his initial stress test.) We found out a few days later that despite everything he had absolutely no heart muscle damage, and I’m guessing it’s partly due to those collateral arteries taking on the extra load.


(Isn’t it crazy that God makes your body to DO things like that?)¬†


I was allowed to see James who honestly looked great considering everything he’d gone through.¬†I think we were both just in shock ~ and totally unaware of what this meant for our life. (Two weeks later, we’re still pretty unaware.)


Around 1:30 in the morning I left him in the ICU to come be with our kids and try to sleep, and his sister (she’s a doctor and was completely a lifesaver through this!) headed up to be with us just to get us through the first through days. (His other sister also came up for the weekend ~ I can’t even begin to tell you what a gift they were to me those first few days!)

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Us out on¬†a short hike last week while playing hooky ūüôā¬†

So here I sit, almost two weeks later, still just in a small state of shock over all this.¬†James wasn’t allowed to work last week, so we kind of played hooky all week. We visited every plant nursery in a 30 mile radius, ate meals at fancy restaurants (he’s supposed to eat salmon and I haven’t yet learned to cook it), and even went to see a movie at 10 o-clock in the morning just because we could. (We were the only people there besides an older couple in their 70’s. I’ve never¬†ever seen a movie at 10 o’clock in the morning!)


You know what though?¬†I’m still kind of terrified.


I’m afraid of how I’d do life without him.


I’m afraid of what we would do if our finances really changed because of an illness. (We are¬†so so¬†blessed financially thanks to years of penny pinching, but fear of the unknown still scares the crud of me.)


I’m afraid of my kids not having grandparents for *their* kids. (Y’all, I am seriously jumping the gun on this worry thing. I know. I’m nuts.)¬†


I’m afraid of what my life would look like if he wasn’t right here next to me.


He’s always been my one.¬†


I don’t know that I believe¬†that people have just one person out there made just for them, but, for me, he’s been my one.


He’s the one I just feel safe and cozy with. The one who likes me even though I’m a mess. And more than anything he’s the one who completely cheers me on each and every day.¬†


The thought of something happening to him terrifies me beyond what I can even express. 


And honestly, the thought that’s filling my head right now is¬†that something could happen to him, and in just a few short years my cute kids will be gone. And this awful crushing fear of just being without them¬†kind of terrifies me.


But as I was muddling through all that in my head today, I remembered that long¬†before I was James’s wife,¬†I was chosen by Him.


And way before I ever dreamed of being Jackson & Caroline & Reagan’s momma . . .¬†I was His child.


And I was reminded that the same God who has held me through so many difficult things along the way, loves me enough to hold me through this not-so-easy time too. 


Whatever may come.


Whatever it takes.


Now, don’t get me wrong, right now things look¬†good for my sweet husband. (Thank. heavens.)¬†He’s doing an amazing job working to change¬†his diet, is on a mountain of medication to keep this from happening again, and is already heading¬†to physical therapy. His prognosis really is¬†good¬†(in fact, his heart is working¬†perfectly), but my fear still is there.


But just this experience has rocked my not-as-firm-as-I-want-it-to-be foundation, so I needed to be reminded that ultimately the One who loved me first holds me no matter what comes my way.



I have no idea what mountain is in your world right now.¬†I don’t know if your world has maybe been shattered by something so crazy-ridiculous-you-feel-like-you-can’t-even-breathe¬†too.


But I do know that the same God who’s holding me? He’s holding you right next to me too.


He loves each of us, and desires peace for us, no matter what comes our way.


Know that I’m praying for you today. And I’d so love your prayers too as our hearts adjust to this new season too.¬†God’s plan is bigger and better than ours ever is, and I’m so crazy-ridiculously-overwhelmingly thankful for peace that comes¬†when we choose to¬†find rest in Him today.


But he said to me, ‚ÄúMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‚ÄĚ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ‚Äôs power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9



(On a quick side note ~ thank goodness I have some amazing workers here on PPP who totally have kept things up and running while I’ve been way more frazzled than normal. I don’t *think* any of this should have any long term impact on PPP except that I need to spend a little more time preparing meals and a little more focused on my family (I so appreciate you ¬†understanding!) Right now¬†we’re trying out the Mediterranean diet, so those are the recipes I imagine you’ll see here for a bit while we figure¬†things out.¬†Thanks so much for your kindness and support ~ so so thankful for you.)

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When You Need Rest.

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(our bunch just a few weeks ago on vacation ~ crazy to think we’re here when we were just there. ugh)!

folks, we have had just a so unexpected hard most unbelievable two days.


I’m not going to share all the nitty gritty details (don’t worry, at least for now everything really is okay, just blindsided by a crazy health scare), but . . .


my heart hurts. 



Thankfully I have some¬†incredible girls who do so much here on PPP so that I can work on bigger projects, the site is totally up and running. (Thank you Shannon, Cheryl, Nicole & Misty ~ you guys are the best and a crazy blessing to me!)¬†¬†I’ve been able to just take care of my bunch, manage a few emails and Facebook, and plan for my baby girl’s 9th birthday in the midst of this craziness.


{Because I am absolutely nuts. And we are determined to give this girl a party after postponing it several weeks. A momma’s got to do what a momma’s got to do. crazy.}


But last night, after the second night of being up all night just consumed with worry, I finally remembered Whose I am. 


Whose this life of mine is.


Whose my husband’s life is. Whose my kids lives are.


That we are all His.


And for about an hour from 5-6AM today, I finally fell asleep in His rest. 


I don’t know what crumminess may be going on in your life today.


I have no idea if you’re having an amazingly grace-filled happy day or a few days like mine where you feel like you’ve been hit¬†by a bus.


But I know Whose you are. 


If you need some rest today.


If you need some peace like I do.


Rest in His arms with me, okay? 


Prayers sure appreciated as we scoot through this next few weeks ~ and if you have something I can pray for even unspoken leave a comment in the comment section and I’d love to cover you in some prayers too.

‚ÄúCome to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ¬†Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”¬†Matthew 11:28-29


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The Greatest Coupon

This is a guest post that I’ve shared before from a friend of mine (who knows the value of a coupon!) ¬†May you know the love and peace of Our Manufacturer all year long.¬†ūüôā


No deal is perfect. Everything has a cost. Many things come at a high price, yet thankfully most can be discounted. Some things can even be free with a great coupon!


The greatest coupons still have problems.¬†Most will eventually expire. They are ‚Äúvoid where prohibited.‚ÄĚ There is a limit on how many people can use.


Some people don’t take advantage of great coupons though. Why? Maybe some don’t even know about them. Even if they do, they might defiantly refuse to use them. Some people don’t believe they are really worth anything. But every coupon has worth in our eyes, right? Maybe non-couponers would cash in on the offers if they were just taught how. We couponers should share the good news!


So here’s the gist of how to reap the benefits: 1) Seek out something you love. 2) Find a coupon, maybe from the manufacturer. 3) Pay the price for the item. 4) Once the coupon has been redeemed, celebrate how much you saved! 5) Tell everyone you know about your great deal. Happy shopping!




No one is perfect.¬†Our sins have a cost. Many sins come at a high price, yet thankfully they can be discounted. We can even be free with the ‚ÄúGreatest Coupon.”


The Greatest Coupon has no problems. It will never expire. It is never void or prohibited. There is no limit on how many people can use it.


Some people don’t take advantage of the Greatest Coupon though. Why? Maybe some don’t even know about it. Even if they do, they might defiantly refuse to use it. Some people don’t believe they are really worth anything, but every person has worth in God’s eyes. Maybe non-Christians would cash in on the offer if they were just taught how. We have the opportunity to share the Good News!


So here‚Äôs the gist of how to reap the benefits:¬†1) God sought out someone he loves‚ÄĒyou. 2) We have a coupon from our Manufacturer. 3) Jesus paid the price for our sins. 4) Since our sins have been redeemed, we can celebrate as we have new life. 5) Tell everyone you know about the Greatest Coupon. Happy Easter!



My prayer for you this Easter is that you mayt know salvation from the One who values you so greatly that He willingly gave His life for you. It truly is the greatest gift we’ll each receive, and allows us freedom that comes only from Him. As my son reminds me each Easter morning, “Christ is risen!”¬†He is risen indeed.


Photo courtesy of billaday on Flickr.

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How Do You Stock Up On Meat?


Note from Laurie ~ we’ve never been able to purchase meat in bulk because of limited freezer space, but I love Shannon’s tips and am hoping we can find someone here in Ohio who sells meat this way! Would love to hear what you think too . . .¬†


Okie dokie folks, I’m going to share something about me that not many people know. ūüėČ ¬†I think I’m a closet-wannabe-vegetarian!¬† I really don’t love meat (other than steak.) ¬†But my family loves (*loves*)¬†meat!¬† They think bacon is the best thing (yikes! can you see the heart blockage now?), and they love steak too.¬† But finding deals on meat is hard, so here’s what we do.

Grilled Ribeye Steaks & Onions

About 3 years ago while having a budget discussion with the husband I realized that I couldn’t keep my grocery budget at its current amount and buy very much meat. ¬†So, I asked around about buying meat from someone and found a couple from our church sells grass-fed beef.¬†Since then we’ve bought 1/6 of a cow, which lasts us about 9 months. ¬†It comes out to about $4.99-$5.49 per lb, which usually includes enough for:
  • 2-3 roasts
  • 15 lbs. of assorted steaks
  • 30-35 lbs. of ground beef
  • a couple other cuts of meat¬†


When we eat the steaks I always tell my kids to feel really blessed because it is a luxury that we enjoy eating like that. ūüėČ If you’re planning to buy a part of a cow it definitely helps to have an extra freezer because it definitely takes up some extra space ~ we have an extra fridge and my mother-in-law is sweet enough to store some of our extra meat in her deep freezer.¬† (She’s pretty awesome.) ūüėČ


For us, we’ve found that grass-fed meat is a wonderful option ~ it tastes better and smells better when making it, and is much less greasy. I still do occasionally buy meat from the store though, and we pick up chicken at Target on clearance or when Kroger has their BOGO boneless skinless chicken breast sale.


I know that paying a few hundred dollars up front to stock up on meat may not work for everyone ~ but you can still save on meat at your local grocery store! Visit Target and see when most of the “sell-buy” dates end. ¬†Then make another a trip a day or two ahead of that, and most likely you’ll find peelies for that meat (which you can take home and freeze.)
Have you purchased a portion of a cow before, or come up with other ways to save on meat?¬†Leave any tips you have in the comments section ~ we’d love to hear them!


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Target Clearance Bins: Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Fun Finds



I ran to Target yesterday with my girls, and we were so excited with what we found in the clearance bins!


Target has their Valentine’s candy marked 30% off still, but a¬†lot of their Dollar Bin items were marked down to 50% off, as well as Valentine trimmings and decor. So, we did our first Operation Christmas Child Shoebox shop! Here’s what we bought . . .


2 cute kids girls coloring sets 50¬Ę each


4 pairs of kids socks 50¬Ę each



1 truck board book and 4 packs of Play Doh just 50¬Ę each


Total spent = $5.50 for 11 items to add to Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes next Christmas. Love that!



Have you started to watch for deals on next year’s items to pack?¬†As you’re looking, check out this list of 50 Best Items to Pack in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox. We love this ministry, and by looking for deals throughout the year we can stock up on a budget.


I’d love to hear if you’ve found any bargains this year ~ leave a comment to share!




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The Ultimate Guide To A Better Grocery Budget Part 3: Don’t Turn a Mega Sale Into A Mega Mess.


New to this series? See Part 1 & Part 2. 

It’s week three of our four weeks to a better grocery budget series, and¬†we’re focusing this week on how to not allow a “Mega Sale” to¬†turn into¬†a “Mega Mess”.


What on earth? A Mega Sale can turn into a Mega Mess?


Oh yes, my friends. Indeed it can.


Kroger started their Mega Sale yesterday and it was my only option to shop this week due to the weather (watch the video to hear more.) 


My normal temptation is to get it all. 


To grab all the deals.


To not pass by a single thing that has the lovely blue tag screaming “I’m-a-mega-sale-price-so-you-really-need-me.”¬†


Because if the store tells me it’s a deal, it’s deal, right?¬†


However, while I still went over budget (a tiny bit), I did much better than I normally do because I was determined to stick at least a little closer to my budget. 


So what do you do when you’ve spent too much?

1. Give yourself grace.

If you’ve overspent already, there’s nothing you can do to change it. Give yourself grace, determine to focus more on your total budget the next time you shop, and be thankful you have a nicely stocked pantry.

2. Determine to use what you’ve bought.

Once you’ve overspent, there’s no going back, but you can¬†make a plan to use what you’ve bought (saving money in the long run!)


Come up with a menu plan based on what’s in your fridge and freezer, skip eating out because you probably have plenty already at home, and determine to strategically shop the next time you head into a Mega Sale.

3. The next time you shop, be mindful of what the “deals” really are.

An easy example of this was on the Quaker Oatmeal. The Quaker was priced at $1.89 after the Mega Sale. However the store brand was $1.50,¬†and there was a $1/2 Kroger ecoupon on Kroger Oatmeal. Definitely the best price! Next time you shop, be really cautious of the “Mega Sale” deals to make sure they really¬†are your best prices. If they’re not, pass those by (and remember stores like Aldi may offer a better deal every day!)


Guys, I’ve said it a jillion times here, but there is¬†no other area in your family’s finances¬†that you have complete control over.¬†You can’t lower your car payment or mortgage or¬†electricity¬†bill today, but you can choose how much you want to spend at the grocery store.¬†


Determine to make 2016 the year that you transform your family’s grocery budget ~ you can do this!¬†


Whew. Hopping off my soap box now. ūüôā¬†


Okay, ready to see what I bought? (It took two pictures!) Here we go . . .




2 Honey Nut Cheerios Mega Sale $1.49, used $1/2 Kroger ecoupon

2 Kroger Oatmeals 2/$3, used $1/2 Kroger ecoupon

3 gallons milk $2.19

2 bags Chex Mix Mega Sale $.99

5 cans Pringles Mega Sale $.99

Turkey Hill Ice Cream $2.50

Ghirardelli Brownie Mega Sale $2

2 3 pound bags Kroger Chicken Tenders $13.29, on sale Buy One Get One Free

2 Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Mega Sale $.99

1 box Lucky Charms Mega Sale $1.49, used $.50/1 Kroger ecoupon

Kroger Marshmallows $.99

Krusteaz Pancake Mix Mega Sale $1.99

Tostito Scoops Mega Sale $2.49

Krusteax Muffin Mix Mega Sale $1.69

Digiorno Pizza Mega Sale $4.49

4 Kroger Peanut Butters $1.50

2 Yoplait Gogurts $1.99, used $.75/2 Kroger ecoupon

Kroger Bread $.88

Kellogg’s Rice Krispy Treats Mega Sale $2

Sunny D Mega Sale $.99

1 1/2 dozen eggs $3.49

2 cans Kroger Green Beans $.69

Bananas $2.60

Kroger Dinner Rolls clearanced $.99

Kraft Dressing Mega Sale $1.49

Steak $5.99

Land O Lake Margarine $1.99

Kroger Shredded Cheese $1.77

Kroger Diced Tomatoes $.73

3 Velveeta Shells & Cheese Cups Mega Sale $.49

Broccoli Slaw $2.99

Organic Salad Blend $4.99

Degree Deodorant Mega Sale price $1.99, use $1.50/1 Kroger ecoupon

Axe Deodorant Mega Sale price $2.99, use $2/1 Kroger ecoupon

Dove Deodorant Mega Sale price $2.49, use $1.50/1 Kroger ecoupon

Sunny D $.99 Mega Sale price, can use $1/1 Sunny D coupon, use $1/1 Sunny D coupon (try zip 03102, if still available)

Buy 1 Colgate Sparkling White $1.89

Buy 1 Colgate Optic White $3.89, use $2/1 Kroger ecoupon




TOTAL GROCERY SPENDING IN JANUARY, INCLUDING WEEK 1  & WEEK 2 = $285.56 (and our cupboards are full.)




Are you joining me in trimming your grocery budget this month?¬†I’d love to hear how you’re doing¬†~¬†it’s not too late to start! Leave a comment to share any tips or suggestions.





Before you shop, be sure to see how to get 20 items for 22¬Ę each this week ~ it really is a great week to save as long as you stick to your budget this week!¬†


Looking for more ways to save on your grocery budget in 2016? Here you go:

Would you like FREE daily email updates of saving and an email sent out to you with more tips each week during this series? Go HERE to subscribe, and I’d love for you to leave a comment to share your thoughts on grocery shopping on a budget¬†– I love hearing from you!¬†



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The Ultimate Guide To A Better Grocery Budget: 7 (MORE!) Strategies to Save (4 Week Series – Week 2)


Update Рsee our menu plan this week using the groceries below over HERE. 

It’s week two of our 4 weeks to a better grocery budget series, and I’m so excited to share how we’ve saved this week!¬†


Since starting the 21 Day Fix on Monday (so far it’s been pretty manageable and it feels so good to be eating more fresh foods ~ yay!), I realized we were going to need to stock up on more fruits and veggies each week. So I headed out to Aldi & Fresh Thyme yesterday (I had an appointment and both stores were on my way home), and stocked up.


This week I’ll be sharing 7¬†more¬†strategies to save when you shop, and¬†promise you can do this if work at it this month!¬†Here are the 7 things I want you to work on this week.

1.¬†Don’t buy what you don’t need.

Okay, this isn’t always true, but if it’s not on sale and you don’t¬†need it, wait for a better deal.¬†I was hoping to score a little more chicken breast this week, but it was $2.49 at Fresh Thyme (remember I paid just $1.49 last week), so I decided to wait and hope for a better price.

2. Skip the pre-packaged stuff.

I absolutely love pre-packaged salad and do usually splurge on it if I can find a decent deal at all. (I know that’s terribly lazy, but it’s one of my few guilty pleasures in life – ahem!) ūüôā However¬†when the cost was $3.99 this week at Fresh Thyme (and Aldi didn’t carry a similar brand), I chose to purchase¬†basic leaf lettuce and spinach that I can cut up myself.

The same is true with pre-packed chips, snack packs, and cereal (although this single serving cereal deal is pretty tempting!) But for the most part, skip the pre-packed stuff when you can.

But,¬†sometimes it’s worth paying for convenience. (I know, I totally just flipped my position on that one, huh?)

There are a few things I do buy simply out of convenience. If buying a $4.99 Aldi pizza means we won’t eat out on Friday night (and they’re¬†huge), I just saved myself $20 in pizza delivery. And buying minced garlic pre-minced for me is one of those things that’s just worth my time to make life a wee bit simpler¬†at our house.

3. Shop Aldi.

I cannot say this enough, but shopping Aldi alone can save you a bundle. If you’re willing to make a quick trip there to stock up on basic pantry staples, you’ll slash your budget by quite a bit, every single week!

4. Shop no more than once a week.

Y’all, this is¬†so important.¬†Before you shop, make a very clear list of¬†everything¬†you’re going to need for the following week, so you aren’t tempted to buy extra stuff on a second trip. Before shopping I used my Eat At ¬†Home Whole Foods shopping list, and I love knowing that I’ve got everything I need in my kitchen to make an entire week’s worth of meals!

5. Know your prices.

Go HERE for more info on how to find your stock up price.

6. Shop loss leaders.

Really stock up on those items that are there to get in the door. At Fresh Thyme that was the pineapples, strawberries, pork chops, and carrots, so I stuck to fresh items and skipped the rest of the store.


At Aldi the price on bananas this week was fantastic, so a great time to stock up on those as well!

7. Sometimes it’s worth paying more if it helps you not to make an extra trip.

I’m betting I could get a better deal on dish soap and even pasta at Kroger or another grocer if I had a few coupons, but to save myself an extra trip to the store I grabbed everything I needed at Aldi and Fresh Thyme. To make an extra trip to a store to literally just save pennies isn’t worth it each week!



Ready to see what we bought? Here we go . . .


Fresh Thyme (have I mentioned lately I love that store? If you have a Sprouts in your area it’s very similar.)

  • 3.56 lbs Boneless Pork Chops $2.99lb. = $10.86
  • 4 packages strawberries $6
  • 4 lb. navel apples $1.99
  • 5 lbs potatoes $1.50
  • 1.49 lb tomatoes $1.03
  • bundle green leaf lettuce $.88
  • green onions $.49
  • 4 1 lb bags organic baby carrots $.99 each = $3.96
  • 3 pineapples $.99 each = $2.97
  • spinach¬†$.1.49
  • Total = $30.97, saved $28.65



  • 4 4 packs Fruit Bowls $1.69 each
  • 3 dozen eggs $1.39 each (that is a¬†great price – I haven’t seen them that low in ages at Kroger!)
  • 2¬†carton reduced sodium broth $1.39
  • 1 package Mac & Cheese $.39 (for my 15 year old as a quick dinner when heading out the door)
  • 3 gallons skim milk $1.89
  • White bread $.85, submitted for $.50 Mobisave rebate
  • mini marshmallows $.79
  • 2 bags powdered sugar $1.29 each
  • 2.45 pounds bananas $.29/lb = $.71 (GREAT price – I haven’t seen that in ages!)
  • Instant brown rice $1.49
  • Aldi take & bake pizza $4.99
  • 2 applesauce cups $1.49
  • 2 flour tortillas $1.19
  • big bag lemons $.99 (I didn’t really need these but couldn’t pass them up – I love having them on hand to freshen my sink disposal!)
  • 2 cans black beans $.59
  • Canola cooking spray $1.49
  • Penne Pasta $.99
  • Minced garlic $1.99
  • Fit & Active Light Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing $1.29
  • Dish Soap $189
  • Honey mustard $.99
  • Cheese ravioli $3.99
  • Cinnamon $.99
  • Total = $54.69








Are you joining me in trimming your grocery budget this month?¬†I’d love to hear how you’re doing¬†~¬†it’s not too late to start! Leave a comment to share any tips or suggestions.


Looking for more ways to save on your grocery budget in 2016? Here you go:

Would you like FREE daily email updates of saving and an email sent out to you with more tips each week during this series? Go HERE to subscribe, and I’d love for you to leave a comment to share your thoughts on grocery shopping on a budget¬†– I love hearing from you!¬†


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The Ultimate Guide To A Better Grocery Budget: 7 Strategies to Save (4 Week Series)



So often people ask me how I really spend $100 a week or less on groceries for our family of 5, and goodness, I have to tell you it really (really) can be done. 


So, I decided this month to show you exactly what our family really buys (the good, the bad, and the ugly), so that you can see how we really make it work. Honestly, I don’t have tons of time to clip coupons (and I have seen more and more processed food coupons pop up, which don’t always work for our family), so this series will share how we do it without too much time clipping coupons.


I’m telling you what, the secret really is in the sale.¬†


Now, my friend Shannon¬†rocks her coupon trips each week, so if you’re looking for crazy savings they definitely can happen. But, if you’re pressed for time and realistically that’s not going to happen in your home, you can¬†still¬†(easily!) save big for your family.


I promise. 


Don’t believe me?¬†


Here’s my¬†my exact process, step-by-step this week so that you can join along too! I know it may seem overwhelming at first, but I promise,¬†you can do this.¬†




Let’s get started.¬†

Before Shopping . . .

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#1. Make a menu plan and grocery list. (I used Eat at Home Cooks Menu Plan and grocery list this week and *LOVED* it. 

While I’ve always made a menu plan and grocery list, using Eat at Home Cooks Menu Plan was new to me.¬†But after one week I’m hooked and¬†highly encourage you to try it out. (Her special sale ends tonight and is $10.50 for a 3 month subscription – hurry before it’s gone if you think it will help!)


Normally I make my own menu plan which takes a solid 30-45 minutes, and I love that she did all the work for me.¬†(Especially for $3.50¬†per month or $.87 per week –¬†well worth $.87 to save myself 45 minutes of time!)

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 6.04.51 PM

I chose the Whole Foods Menu Plan¬†because we’re working on a healthier 2016, and the list was pretty simple to follow. (I loved that you got all three menu plan options though for one price!)


I did skip a meal that¬†I knew our family¬†wouldn’t eat, but we have enough in the kitchen already to make up a meal or two (and my family could eat breakfast for dinner every single night,¬†so I can always whip up something¬†when I need to.)


Even if we really don’t like the menus, I¬†love¬†that just by buying what’s on her list I have a stocked pantry¬†for 6 meals this week.¬†The menu and recipes looked great, but if I choose to make something else I can easily search All Recipes Ingredient Search and find something else in a pinch.


If you aren’t using All Recipes Ingredient Search when you need dinner done you have GOT to try it out. It saves dinner for our family at least once a week!¬†

#2. Shop your pantry.

Before heading to the store, I look over my menu plan & grocery list¬†and determine¬†what I already have in my fridge, freezer and pantry.¬†I also take stock of what we’re low on for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and household items for the week.


Since we were almost out of laundry detergent and conditioner I added those to my list this week, as well as milk, salad mix, fresh fruit, and chips for my husband to take to lunch.¬†(Y’all, he loves his potato chips and absolutely will not pack a lunch if potato chips aren’t there. ‘Nuf said.)

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 1.43.05 PM

At the Store

3. Shop two stores.

Folks, this is huge and I know may not work for everyone, but is well worth it for our family. I typically shop Kroger each week for major sales and loss leaders, but also make a trip to Fresh Thyme (or a similar store) for meat and produce at least every other week, saving our family a bundle.


If you have an Aldi, Fresh Thyme, Sprouts, or even possibly Trader Joe’s in your area, I¬†highly¬†recommend a trip once a week (or at least every two weeks), to stock up on meat and produce.¬†


Their sale prices are significantly lower than anything I’ve seen at local grocery stores (unless your grocery store has a rockstar sale), and it’s pretty easy to get in and out in a few minutes. I don’t shop anything else at those stores at all (really,¬†only produce and meat), but it saves a bundle and is well worth the extra trip at least every other week for our family!


(FYI – I don’t typically buy meat at Aldi, because I have the option of Fresh Thyme. I’ve heard people say they’ve been very pleased with it, but I love my Fresh Thyme meat and poultry and you just can’t beat the prices!)


4. Shop loss leaders.

I’ll detail this week’s store trips below, but this week when I shopped Fresh Thyme and Kroger I really watched for “loss leaders” – items that the stores put at such a good price¬†you’ll take the time to go to their store.¬†



5.¬†Don’t be¬†brand specific.

If you need¬†a certain item¬†for a meal this week, buy¬†whichever brand¬†is on sale at the best price per ounce. For example, Del Monte¬†tomatoes were¬†“on sale” for $1.25 this week, but the Kroger brand was just $.73. ¬†From what I can tell, tomatoes are tomatoes (at least when you‚Äôre choosing between Kroger and Del Monte), and there‚Äôs no way my family will have any idea whether I use the Del Monte or Kroger brand in our recipes this week.


Now, there are some items which a certain brand really does seem better, but if you can give yourself a little freedom to try out the less expensive item, you might save quite a few pennies each week just for going with the sale item! And, if you really do love your Charmin or Quilted Northern (toilet paper seems to be one of those areas where people love their brands?)  watch Amazon or the drug stores for a really good deal.


Here’s one other example ~ in this trip I needed laundry detergent. Tide was on sale for $4.99 for a small bottle, or the HUGE bottle of Purex with Oxi was $5.99. I’ve been pleased with Purex in the past and it was a MUCH better price per ounce, so well worth it to stock up while it’s on sale!¬†


6. Don’t trust the grocery store to tell you the best deals.

The grocery stores (and any retailer, really), are notorious for posting signs screaming *SALE* out loud at you just about every look, however often times those sales aren’t really a fantastic price. If you know that boneless, skinless chicken breast priced at $1.99/lb. is a stock up price and that $3.49/lb. isn’t, you’ll be able to skip a not-so-good deal for a stock-up-price deal simply by waiting for a better sale. (And I promise good sales do come around, so when you can, wait for the best price!)



Fresh Thyme had boneless, skinless chicken breast this week for $1.49 per pound. Clearly it was time for me to stock up! Unfortunately, I¬†thought I was also getting a great stock up price on Organic salad mix, but Kroger actually had it for $.75 less per package.¬†I’ll be watching¬†that a wee bit more closely in the future.


7. Watch for easy coupon & savings deals at your regular grocery store (in my case, Kroger.)

Even though¬†we’ve got plenty of¬†toothpaste, I knew Colgate was on sale and there was a $.50 off Kroger ecoupon.¬†That coupon ended up making it $.50 per tube, which is my stock up price so I grabbed a tube while I was there.

I also picked up orange juice even though we have a bottle in the fridge, because it was $1.49 after the Kroger Mega Sale which is a great price. And I was thrilled to score 2 bottles of Herbal Essences for $.50 each after the Kroger $3/2 Kroger ecoupon – all I had to do was load it to my phone while I shopped.


Just taking a few extra minutes to quickly watch for easy deals helped me stock up on things we’ll need all month long.


***BONUS TIP.***

Each week there are basic groceries that we need, but we don’t have to buy everything in the store.¬†This week I picked¬†up laundry detergent, conditioner, chicken and toothpaste because they were well within my stock up price.


Last month¬†I stocked up on string cheese, peanut butter, cereal, oatmeal, bread and beef when they were on sale, so I won’t likely need those this month. (Except bread ~ we have enough for this week but not tons, thankfully there¬†are some rebates¬†though for free bread right now!) ūüôā


So each week I don’t have to buy everything because I know my stock up prices well enough that I can stock up when I can easily get a deal ~ and it makes shopping so much easier!¬†If you’re completely new to menu planning and shopping based on the sales this may take a few weeks to get the hang of, but I promise it’s so worth it.




(Are you overwhelmed yet?) ūüôā


Okay, so here’s the low-down-nitty-gritty of how much I really spent at Fresh Thyme and Kroger . . .¬†


Fresh Thyme

  • Bought 2.67¬†pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast at $1.49/lb = $3.92
  • Bought 2.13 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast at $1.49/lb = $3.13
  • Bought 5 pounds red potatoes $1.99
  • Bought green onions $.49
  • Bought 3 pound bag green apples $3.99
  • Bought 3 yellow and orange bell peppers $.88 each = $2.64
  • Bought 4 containers strawberries 2/$3 = $6
  • Bought 2 containers organic salad blend 2/$5 (price was $1.88 at Kroger – I hate that!) ūüôā
  • Bought 4.86 pounds bananas $.55/lb. = $2.67
  • TOTAL = $30.71, saved $23. 25



  • Bought 1 organic whole chicken $8.71 (this was $1.59/lb and a little more than I like to spend, but the best price I could find this week)
  • Kroger Tomatoes $.73
  • 1 1/2 dozen eggs $3.19
  • Kroger Cornmeal $1.97
  • Kroger Sausage $2.50
  • Kroger Pizza Sauce $1.39
  • Kroger Shredded Cheese $2.69
  • Celery $1.99
  • Tropicana $1.49¬†after Mega Sale
  • Fresh Broccoli $1.41
  • Colgate Toothpaste $1, used $.50/1 Kroger e coupon = $.50
  • Kroger Honey Mustard $1.29
  • 2 Herbal Essences Conditioner $1.49¬†after Mega Sale, used $3/2 Kroger e coupon = $.50
  • 1 Purex Laundry Detergent $4.99 after Mega Sale
  • 3 gallons Kroger milk $2.19
  • Kroger Half & Half $1.29
  • Mission Tortillas $1.79 (could have used $.50/1 Mission Tortilla coupon if I’d had it!)
  • Bought Lay’s Chips (for my husband – sorry guys) $2.99 after Mega Sale
  • Bought 4 Armour Lunchables $1 each (keeping it real guys – my kids do some days take lunchables when we’re in a hurry!)
  • TOTAL = $55.03 + $.70 in tax = $55.73, saved $19.84




After getting home I realized I *may* need to run back to the store for extra fruit cups for lunches and eggs ~ I should have checked on those before I left.¬†I’ll probably swing by Aldi for those if I happen to be driving by, and should be able to stock up¬†for less than $10, staying well under my $100 budget.


SUCCESS! ūüôā¬†


It’s been awhile since I’ve really tracked my grocery spending, so I was curious if I really still had $100 or less still in me. I am¬†thrilled to see we can still easily stick to this budget (and could save even more if I took more time to coupon.)¬†I’ll be sharing our weekly trips this month so you can seehow it really works, and would love for you to join in!


If you have questions about how to really change your grocery budget, I would love for you to share those ~ honestly, I love sharing all kinds of deals here on Passionate Penny Pincher, but my number one place that I love teaching folks ways to save is on their grocery budgets. 


As I’ve said (a jillion?) times before, there is¬†no other area in your family’s finances that you can so easily control, so choosing to really change your grocery budget in 2016 really can transform your family’s financial future.¬†


Are you ready to join me?¬†Let’s get started! ūüôā


Looking for more ways to save on your grocery budget in 2016? Here you go:

Would you like FREE daily email updates of saving and an email sent out to you with more tips each week during this series? Go HERE to subscribe, and I’d love for you to leave a comment to share your thoughts on grocery shopping on a budget¬†– I love hearing from you!¬†


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2 Ways We Battle Technology at Our House (& Why Our Kids Keep Their Phone Chargers In The Kitchen)

why our kids (1)


I have struggled to share much about what we do to combat the technology wars (because I know all parents have different views on this one!), but several years ago a friend of mine gave me the. best. advice for managing technology for our kids at home and I am so thankful.


So I decided it was time to share. ūüôā¬†


Our kids are 15, 12, and 8, and for Christmas my middle one got her first iPhone. (We so scored a decent deal ~ she got a refurbished iPhone 4 on Amazon for $59, which so far has been the perfect choice.)


The problem is, our 15 year old son has gotten my phone used iPhones when I¬†was ready for a¬†upgrade, so there was no way we could purchase a brand new spankin’ phone for her (nor did we want to pay full price!) However, since we don’t have a home phone she really did need a way to get in touch with us some times, and sticking to iPhones is just easier for our family.




With those iPhones come a¬†lot of things we don’t love.¬†


I don’t love that they have full access to everything. (We’ve set up monitors for that, but they’re smarter than me so I’m pretty sure they can see whatever they want if they really¬†try.)


I don’t love that it makes it so much easier to access social media, and feel “less than” someone else at times. (This one just is so hard ~ while there are so many things¬†that I really do like about social media, this one hurts!)


And I don’t love that so often they become more interested in their phone than our family.


Ahem. Often times I don’t like that I become more interested in my phone than our family. yikes.¬†


But there are two simple things we’ve done that have at least limited some of the battles, and I’m so glad we started out this way. Ready?¬†


Here we go.



Our kids don’t have televisions in their rooms.¬†


They¬†just don’t.


In fact,¬†for 18 years we only had one television for our family of 5, which (for the most part) was just fine. Since moving and having¬†a basement in our new home we did add one TV¬†there, but it doesn’t get used all that often (and my kids choose to hang out in our main living area if they can.) By limiting the television sets in our home, our kids just naturally kind of hang out in our main living area.


As they’re getting older and have friends over, I do¬†love that we at least have the option of having the basement for them to hang out where we can still keep an eye on things but they are little more separate from the rest of the family. And for the record, I grew up with cable TV in my room way back in the 90’s, and I watched WAY TOO MUCH TV (all day and night long), and hid out in my room away from our family pretty much as often as I could. Because of that I’m glad we made this choice¬†from day 1 ~ it’s just been a better choice for our family (although I know all families are different!)

why our kids




Seriously, HUGE. 






Which¬†works¬†perfectly¬†because since their phones are slightly used, their battery life doesn’t last all that long.


Secretly? I love that. ūüôā


So, why does that even matter you may be asking? 

  • Their phones have to be in the kitchen when they go to bed, or they won’t be charged¬†the next day.¬†This means the temptation to stay up all night texting friends or searching the internet is just gone.¬†Done.
  • They don’t spend hours in their rooms unsupervised with their phones.¬†Now, I’m not gonna lie, my kids are on their phones more than I want them to be¬†(mostly playing games), but I’m usually within 10 feet of them while they play. This means they aren’t watching videos that I don’t know about, and if they’re scrolling through Instagram I can usually check what they’re looking at over their shoulder.


Now, I know better than to think that they don’t have plenty of time to look up whatever when I’m not watching, but at least when they’re in our home I have a good idea of what’s going on.


And, after spending the last 6 years in the world of social media I warn my kids a lot about the dangers of the internet.


Before blogging, I had no idea that every single thing you do on the internet is being monitored in some form or fashion. 


I tell my kids ALL. THE. TIME. that Google knows exactly what they’re doing, and there’s no way to hide if they’ve been doing something they’re not supposed to do.


If all else fails, my kids have a healthy fear of the internet (and people watching them) which really does help at least for now.


The truth is, I know there are still tons of opportunities for them to mess up, but these are a few things that at least help limit what they look at online a bit. 


It is hard raising kids in a culture when there is just so much out there. But I have a 15 year old who will be off in college way too soon and we’re working so hard to teach him some boundaries here before he’s out on his own.¬†


There is SO MUCH OUT THERE and it is so hard when they feel like “everyone else in the world” has full access to everything.¬†


I can’t fix that at all, but these few things at least help a little.


If you have other suggestions on things that have helped limit technology in your home I’d love to hear them ~ and goodness, surely we’ll all survive raising kids in such a different world than we grew up in!¬†


Thank you Lana for the advice way back when to have kids keep chargers in the kitchen – I’m so glad we started out that way ~ it really does help!

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50 Best Items to Pack in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox


UPDATE: my friend Cydil is a missionary in Albania and delivered boxes there last year. Take a minute to see pictures of kids in her community opening boxes last year (I love this!) Also, I spoke with my contact at Operation Christmas Child and they said candy IS allowed in American boxes, however Canadian boxes are now allowing candy this year (they ship to different countries and some of the countries who receive Canadian boxes will not accept candy.) Hope that helps!



I’m so excited because we just filled our Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes!¬†This is one of those ministries that’s just near and dear to our hearts, and I love that it allows my kids to help learn about ways to bless kids in other parts of the world.

Like I shared in the video, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch some of the Operation Christmas Child videos both on your own and with your kids.¬†It will give you an idea of who you’re serving, and get you a wee bit more excited¬†for¬†the children who receive your boxes this Christmas.

A huge (huge, HUGE!) thanks to Hobby Lobby for sending us a $100 Hobby Lobby Gift card to fill our boxes with. We were able to fill 8 boxes with t-shirts, flip flops, bandanas, craft kits, yarn and so much more thanks to their generosity.


Curious what to pack in an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox for  younger kids? Here you go . . .

  1. crayons
  2. coloring books
  3. flip flops
  4. t-shirts
  5. ball
  6. bar soap
  7. bracelet
  8. bandana
  9. pencils & pens
  10. pencil sharpener
  11. duct tape
  12. travel size games – checkers
  13. deck of cards
  14. hacky sack
  15. harmonica
  16. yo yo
  17. hat
  18. glue sticks
  19. scissors
  20. small stuffed animal
  21. pom poms
  22. glitter
  23. small crafting kit
  24. post it notes
  25. highlighters
  26. small notebook
  27. chalk
  28. watercolor paint sets
  29. play doh
  30. small etch a sketch
  31. socks
  32. back pack
  33. plastic cup
  34. straws
  35. scarf
  36. jump rope
  37. glowsticks
  38. leftover halloween candy that’s not chocolate (be sure to place in plastic bags)¬†no longer allowed in 2017 boxes, thanks Rhonda!
  39. matchbox cars
  40. finger puppets
  41. silly putty
  42. toothbrush
  43. toothpaste (no longer allowed in 2017 boxes, thanks Rhonda!
  44. washcloth
  45. wet wipe
  46. travel pack of tissues
  47. lip gloss
  48. hair ties
  49. band aids
  50. hair brush


For Older Boys:

  • Tools ‚Ästhammer, screwdriver, wrench or pliers, duct tape, measuring tape
  • Fishing supplies ‚Ästadd in a small fishing kit, fishing line, hooks
  • Binoculars
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Plastic Magnifying Glass
  • Watch
  • Handkerchief
  • Collapsible water bottle
  • Harmonica


For Older Girls:

  • Small sewing kit
  • Clip on earrings
  • Bracelets
  • Barettes
  • Coin purse
  • Sticky notes
  • Watercolor paint set
  • Yarn
  • Colored Sharpies, highlighters or markers
  • A friendship bracelet with extra string so they can make more
  • Ink pad and stamp set

Also, here are a few ideas that Operation Christmas Child shared on their site as far as suggestions for all ages (as well as some items not to include):

  • TOYS: Include items that children will immediately embrace such as dolls, toy cars, stuffed animals, kazoos, harmonicas, yo-yos, jump ropes, balls, toys that light up and make noise (with extra batteries), etc.
  • SCHOOL SUPPLIES: pens, pencils and sharpeners, crayons, markers, notebooks, paper, solar calculators, coloring and picture books, etc.
  • NON-LIQUID HYGIENE ITEMS: toothbrushes, bar soap, combs, washcloths, etc.
  • ACCESSORIES: t-shirts, socks, hats, sunglasses, hair clips, jewelry, watches, flashlights (with extra batteries), etc.
  • A PERSONAL NOTE: You may enclose a note to the child and a photo of yourself or your family. If you include your name and address, the child may be able to write back.
  • DO NOT INCLUDE: Used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives or military figures; chocolate or food; out-of-date candy; liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.


National Collection Week for Shoeboxes this year is November 16-23, and if you‚Äôre not sure where to drop off a box in your area you can go HERE to find a local collection site.¬†They do ask that you also give a donation of $7 per box to cover the cost of shipping ‚Äď learn more about that over HERE and donate online as well.


Additional tips that may help:

  • Pack toothpaste and soap in a plastic bag to keep the scent from taking over the whole box and so that nothing leaks.
  • Remove packaging from your items so that you allow for more room in your box and so that they don’t have much trash to throw away.
  • Don’t send anything that has directions/writing in English (i.e. toys with instructions, games that require kids to read English.)¬†Since these boxes go to non-English speaking country it’s worth only including things that are understood internationally.
  • Read more great tips and suggestions from a missionary in the field over HERE.
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Thank You.

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I’m sharing this over on the PPP Facebook page later tonight, but wanted to share it here too. I have to say, YOU – the ones who read PPP directly and don’t only hop over from Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest – the ones who take the time to read PPP¬†directly are oh-so-special to me because I know you come just to check in, and that means just the world to me. Thanks so much for reading PPP!¬†


Y’all, can I just say THANK YOU???? ūüôā
Yesterday I was looking around the PPP main site. It looked okay, and I felt like the deals were great deals, but I was afraid that maybe I just wasn’t doing it well enough. I worried that I really just wasn’t doing an awesome job of this crazy blogging business.


Again when I sat down to work this afternoon (after a busy morning at Bible Study and lunch out thanks to some wonderful help to keep things running here!) I just thought to myself there was no way people would keep on reading this stuff.


But out of the blue two sweet readers took time to say they liked PPP within 20 minutes of each other. And it just kind of gave me the courage to feel like maybe what we do here helps somebody out. (I know, I know, with a few hundred thousand folks hanging out you’d think I’d figure a few people would stick around, but I’m the kind of girl who’s shocked every single day that y’all hang out here ever at all!)


Anyways, in a world where all too often I see mean comments, snarky reactions, and just plain ole’ hateful attitudes some days, those sweet comments meant the world to me.


I’m so thankful for you. (Yes, YOU.) YOU¬†make my job SO. MUCH. FUN. and I wouldn’t be here typing each day if you didn’t take the time to swing by.


Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing your kind words. And thanks for giving value to a kinda crazy passionately penny pinching girl who loves to save a buck. You guys mean oodles to me! ūüôā


{WHEW! Sure didn’t expect that sermon tonight – but there you have it. Thanks for listening to a little random rambling today!} ūüôā


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See What $395 of Donated Groceries Looks Like!


Note from Laurie: I love (LOVE!!!) all that Shannon was able to do to bless the people at 305 8th Street Group Home in Hunstville, Alabama! If you’re able, consider finding a group home, homeless shelter, or food bank in your area where you can donate an item or two this week. With over 1 million people visiting PPP each month, we really can make such an incredible difference! This really is the heart behind why PPP was started almost 6 years ago, and I love to think of the power we as couponers have to impact our community. Crazy blessed!

I am so excited to share this with you all!  Back in April I went to 305 8th Street Group Home to drop off some donations.  They handed me a Publix gift card for $188 that Publix donated to them, and asked if I could stretch it for items they were in need of.  What an awesome company to help the people in their community!

They knew that I‚Äôm totally a let‚Äôs-see-how-much-I-can-stretch-the-$188-gift-card-for kinda gal, but the items that 305 needed aren’t items that typically¬†have coupons. ¬†They¬†do go on sale Buy One Get One free frequently at Publix,¬†so throughout the past 5 months I’ve been buying items when they were on sale. ¬†I ended up getting $395 worth of groceries for the $188 gift card!

This will help 305 8th Street¬†so much.¬† So many group homes nationwide run on a shoestring budget. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but imagine if your family took a night off of eating out, ate sandwiches instead, and went shopping to grab a ton of items for those who are in need. ¬†Isn‚Äôt it amazing to think what just one meal out could do?!


After shopping, your whole family (kids included!) could swing by to drop the donations off.  It really could be life changing not only for you but also for your children as they see how they’re able to give.


Whenever we teach coupon classes, Laurie and I always share that donating is the real reason we drive ourselves a wee bit nuts to share deals with you each day and get a few deals ourselves.  It would be so much easier just to swing by the store, get what we need and pay full price, but because we pinch a few pennies each week we’re able to give to those in need.

If you live in North Alabama area,¬†like¬†the¬†305 8th Street Facebook page to see their needs each week. ¬†And if you have time to swing by, you can’t help but to fall in love with the residents. ¬†They’re always willing to help bring in the grocery items out of your car, and¬†love talking college football. Such a wonderful ministry and a wonderful way to bless those nearby!

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How To Really Change Your Grocery Budget

how to really change (1)


I posted this several¬†years ago, but¬†goodness they’re such good reminders and still work for us!¬†¬†I have to confess that as I‚Äôve gotten busier I have occasionally purchased (*gasp*) pre-packaged snacks, but this morning I was in the kitchen filling up my Dollar Tree containers for the kids. (And our grocery budget¬†has gone up to $80-$90¬†per week as our kids have gotten older and I don’t have quite as much time to coupon.) I’d love to hear what other tips you all have for living frugally, beyond just clipping those coupons.


I‚Äôve had friends ask me how I keep our grocery budget between $40 and $50 weekly (we have a family of 5, and this includes all toiletries, diapers, paper products, etc.) First, I think I‚Äôm a little genetically predisposed to living frugally. If you visit my Dad‚Äôs house he‚Äôll probably tell you to use only half of the 2-ply toiletpaper ‚Äď I think he‚Äôs kidding but I‚Äôm not completely sure!


Also, my husband provides very well for our family so that I can stay home with our kids, and I hate to see his hard earned money wasted on consumable groceries that don‚Äôt last.¬† So I work really hard to spend as little as I can on groceries, because I‚Äôd rather have money to do the things we really enjoy, like giving, fun things¬†for our home, and vacationing (we love that one!)¬† Here are a few things that I’ve found work to pinch a few extra pennies in our home.


1. Constantly try to think of ways to use less.

We rarely use paper napkins (I have a huge stash of cloth ones) and we use rags instead of paper towels as often as we can (my hubby used to hate this one, but he’s finally come to a place where he sees the value in saving on these!)


The dishwasher doesn’t run until it’s completely stuffed (saving on dishwasher detergent, water and energy), and I use half a dryer sheet instead of a full one or a very small amount liquid softener (even that‚Äôs a luxury, when I‚Äôm being really cheap I just¬†use vinegar!)¬† It’s rare that I¬†even¬†use disinfectant wipes to clean because they‚Äôre just too expensive, instead I buy cleaners at a really good price (less than $.50-$1 per bottle) along with good ole‚Äô fashioned rags.¬† I also try to use grocery sacks (the plastic ones) as often as I can for trash bags so that I use fewer garbage bags (I can never seem to find a good garbage bag deal!)

2. When it comes to snack foods, skip the snack-sized bags.


My kids have to take a snack to school each day, so I usually stock up on the very cheapest snacks I can find (they’re getting a little tired of Chex Mix, but it’s just so stinkin’ cheap!) and pack it in small plastic containers that I found at the Dollar Tree so I don’t waste Ziploc bags. I also sometimes bake homemade muffins or snack mixes and they have those for snacks.


My kids don’t get often get juice boxes or water bottles, instead they get plain old tap water in re-usable plastic bottles. (I did pick up some of the BPA free ones in the fall, so I feel a little less anxious about that whole plastic thing!) We really do stick to milk and water in our house and very occasionally orange juice when I find a great deal on it.


3. Stock up on meat when you see a good price on it.

When I find chicken breast or ground beef for less than $1.99/lb., I buy as much of it as my grocery budget can afford.  I also stock up on any basic pantry items when they’re really cheap, such as pasta, canned goods, frozen veggies, and frozen bread.


If I have leftovers of meat that won’t get eaten, it gets frozen to re-use in another meal. It really does hurt me to see food wasted, so I constantly think of ways to eat up everything we cook (another one that my hubby doesn’t always enjoy, but he’s willing to sacrifice to reach our long term savings goals!)


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Make a menu plan and grocery list. (I use Eat at Home Cooks Menu Plan and grocery list this week and *LOVED* it. 

While I’ve always made a menu plan and grocery list, using Eat at Home Cooks Menu Plan is new to me but I love it.¬†After one week I’m hooked and¬†highly encourage you to try it out. (Her special sale ends tonight and is $10.50 for a 3 month subscription – hurry before it’s gone if you think it will help!)

Normally I make my own menu plan which takes a solid 30-45 minutes, so I love that she does all the work for us. (Especially for $3.50¬†per month or $.87 per week –¬†well worth $.87 to save myself 45 minutes of time!)

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I chose the Whole Foods Menu Plan¬†because we’re working on a healthier 2016, and the list was pretty simple to follow. (I loved that you got all three menu plan options though for one price!)


I sometimes worry that my kids will have way too much to talk to their therapist about after growing up with this penny pinchin’ mama, but every once in a while I see glimpses of penny pinchin’ even in them. They love it when I come home with a new fun freebie (the free Nesquik was a big hit last week!), and they’re always excited to sample something new when I find a coupon on an item we haven’t tried yet.


I really hope to teach them that we don’t always need everything all the other kids have, even when we sometimes could afford it if we chose to. And along the way maybe they’ll learn that we’re called to use wisely what God gives us, and to share with others, hopefully creating lasting, meaningful joy (you can’t get that in a juice box, even though my 2 year old would disagree!)

¬†aldisamscostcoDownload the Ultimate Aldi, Costco & Sam’s Club Price Comparison Sheet to easily compare prices before heading out to the store.¬†



Looking for more ways to save on your grocery budget in 2016? Here you go:

These are a few things that work for our family, but I know they won‚Äôt¬†work for everyone.¬† I also know that a lot of you do way more than this to save money ‚Äď do you have other penny pinching tips that help your family?¬† I‚Äôd love to hear them ~ leave a comment to share!¬†



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12 {Easy} Ways To Volunteer With Your Kids

12 EASY ways to VOLUNTEER with your kids


Last Friday night on the spur of the moment I decided to sign up to¬†help¬†at a local Free Store that serves a hot meal and gives free clothing to local folks in need.¬†I’d heard from several people that it was a great place to volunteer with children, and goodness, I’m so glad we decided to do it.


When I realized we had a free Saturday morning, I¬†went online to the Free Store Ministries website and noticed they had a few openings to¬†help that day.¬†I asked my girls if they’d be interested (and was thrilled that they both were!), and we headed out Saturday morning.


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We¬†spent the morning helping serve food, and the girls helped clean up the children’s toy area as well as work on a few odd jobs around the store.¬†They both said they’d love to go back again, and it’s brought up so many valuable discussions this week. While my kids learned quite a few things on the trip, I think it may have been even more valuable for¬†me.¬†Just getting out and doing something for someone besides my own little family was such a blessing!


The reason I’m sharing¬†this is not because I did¬†anything right – in fact,¬†as a busy mom with three kids, I really haven’t done all that much in the way of volunteering.¬†While I’ve helped out at church a bit and we donate to food pantries regularly, we don’t often go¬†far outside our¬†comfort zone, because honestly¬†I’m not always sure where to start.


But after helping out for just a few hours this weekend I realized it’s so simple to do, and¬†volunteers are needed everywhere.¬†I simply¬†didn’t know how to easily connect with a place to serve (especially with young kids), so I’ve¬†hunted down a few easy ways to volunteer with your kids. If you’ve come up with other ideas, I’d love to hear them!

For younger children (7 and under)

1. Donate to a local food pantry.

This is one we’ve done since my kids were babies, and it’s been a great way to easily help someone when my kids were too young to really volunteer. For us, it’s just a super easy way we can make all that coupon clipping worth it, and it’s so easy to do. I keep a bag in my pantry for items to donate, and drop them off every few weeks at our local food pantry. If you’re not sure where to find a food pantry in your area, start¬†HERE.

2. Help serve in your local Meals on Wheels program.

Meals on Wheels has several different areas you can help with, and if your children are young consider delivering meals in your community. They also need servers to help serve in community centers in some areas, so if your children are a little older that may be a great way to help those in need.

3. Donate food to a local adult group home.

When we lived in Huntsville, there was a small adult group home that was always in need of food pantry staples. I took my kids to drop off food a few times, and it was great for them to see the residents and tour the building, and I know my friend Shannon donates there all the time. It’s just an easy way for our children to see a glimpse of those in need, and the people love seeing the kids when we¬†stop by!

If you’re not sure where to start, contact a local church who may be able to point you in the right direction of places like this to give, or call a few group homes in your area. These aren’t as easy to find but they¬†are out there, and can use your donations so much!


4. Pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.

This is such a wonderful way for small children to get involved in giving, no matter how young they are. Take a few minutes to watch some of the videos sharing the stories behind Operation Christmas Child with your kids ~ those helped our own understand so much better why we give through that ministry! 


5. Have your kids color pictures and deliver them to a local nursing home.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

6. Bake cookies or brownies and share them with your local fire department or police station.


7. Help kids make fleece blankets to donate to homeless shelters in the winter time. 

8. Donate school supplies to your local school or to a homeless shelter.

When those back to school sales start, take advantage of the great deals and grab a few supplies to share with those in need.¬†We’ve donated those before at a local homeless shelter that houses children, but they’re also great to donate to your local school or even an inner city school that could use those extra supplies.

For older kids (ages 8 and up)

All of the ones above and . . . 

9. Volunteer to serve food at a local homeless shelter.

Go HERE to find a local homeless shelter in your community Рmany homeless shelters have website where you can sign up directly to volunteer, or call one in your area to see if how to get involved.

10. Help out at a Ronald McDonald House or help work on a Habitat for Humanity home.
11. Host a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to a local charity.
12. Donate rice (for free) through the Free Rice program.

I came across this one and couldn’t believe it was true (so I did some searching), but your older child can actually work on their vocabulary¬†and send rice to those in need all at the same time. Go HERE to try it out (I was pretty impressed, and am going to have my kids start working on that one today!)


I know there are dozens of others way out there to volunteer with kids, but hopefully this gives you a good starting point!¬†If you’ve had great experiences volunteering with your kids I’d love to hear about it ~ leave a comment to share. (I love hearing from you!) ūüėČ


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Soaking Up Summer

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Here’s what I found lurking in my dryer last night.¬†


Dirty, stinky, nasty, creek-water-ladened-15-year-old-size-12 tennis shoes that had been dried (B-L-E-C-K) in my nice new dryer.


Needless to say, I wasn’t happy.


I mentioned it over on my personal Facebook¬†page and the PPP¬†page, and good gracious, folks had more than a few thoughts on that one. ūüėČ


I talked to him about it, and the kid was simply clueless and thought rinsing them out for a few seconds before popping them in the drier would work just fine.


Then, a sweet wise mom commented on my own Facebook page (I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing it!)

“Vacuum out the dry dirt clumps and run some wet towels through it. It will be fine. I promise you in a few short years you will open an empty clean dryer and long for the day a boy tossed some muddy shoes in there. Promise.”




He vacuumed out the dried up clumps without complaint when I asked him to after reading everyone’s advice. ¬†(And wiped it down with soapy water too.)


He mumbled “love you momma” when I tried baking cookies last night.


And he says “I love you mom” every single time he goes out the door.


No matter¬†how long he’s leaving for.


No matter if we’ve been grouchy towards one another.


Just because he must know somewhere deep down his momma needs to hear it.


Folks, this kid has my heart. 


Since he hit high school, I feel like there’s this ticking time bomb and we’re just a few short years away from him going out to take on the world. Last summer honestly was just a mixture of tears and craziness as we moved into a brand new home in a brand new town. Honestly,¬†summer passed¬†by¬†in the blink of an eye, and I didn’t stop to enjoy enough of it.


This summer we’re slowing down, savoring some¬†quiet evenings, and just enjoying every¬†minute of every day.


Even the dirty shoes.


And the mounds of laundry.


And the dirty dishes in my sink because three kids have been home munching all day.


Mommas, if you have little ones at home,¬†be encouraged that those hard days – the ones that are just so long you’re dreaming of¬†just five minutes to talk with another adult¬†–¬†those days will slow down.


The¬†day will come when they can pick up their rooms all by themselves because you’ve spent years training them.

The day will come when they can make waffles for the entire family because you spent hours mixing up waffles every Saturday morning.¬†(That job’s completely taken over by my sweet Caroline these days –¬†success!)


And the day will come when you’ll tell them to pack their own suitcase without any help, and they won’t even forget their toothbrush.


It happens. I promise.


Today’s the day that mess of a boy of mine learned to clean out a dirty dryer.¬†One more life skill he probably needs, right?


So when the mess happens, when it feels like too much, and when you just don’t want to keep at this mommy-ing-business a¬†single minute¬†longer, know that the amazing training you’re teaching today will eventually work yourself out of a job. ūüėČ


And savor. every. bit. of. it. 


I promise, life changes. Soak it up, and just enjoy.


even the dirty-crusty-muddy-shoes.


ahem. still. bleck. ¬†but thankful too. ūüôā¬†


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The Best Mother’s Day Gift (That Didn’t Cost a Penny)


good. gravy.


¬†I am a lucky girl. ūüôā


Remember last week when I rambled (probably a little too long . . . ), about struggling with measuring up?


Well, my husband took the time to read that mess (he doesn’t read everything here on PPP, but scans some of¬†it¬†every once in awhile), and on a blank piece of copy paper gave me just the best Mother’s Day¬†card and gift I’ve ever received.¬†


I’d told him not to spend money (we’ve been working quite a bit on fluffing up our home, so I was perfectly content with that), but this little note was more than I ever could have wished for.

To spare you the gorey¬†ahem,¬†goofy details, I won’t share it all, but hope he’ll forgive me for sharing a few of my favorite parts.¬†

“Our marriage has not been perfect, but you have given me the perfect marriage. . . ¬†. you are what I always wanted, not “Barbie.” ūüôā¬†


Folks, this guy looks at this absolute mess of a mom with pudgy hips, saggy soft spots, and one crazy unorganized life, and loves (and cheers!) for me every single day. Back when I first starting working on PPP, when I was literally putting in 40 hours a week and not making a single penny, he stood by as my cheerleader, confidently encouraging me to keep at it, never once questioning my work here despite the extra load it often put on him.


The last year has not been our easiest.¬†In fact, probably since our marriage I’ve cried more tears than I can remember. (And I’m not one to shed tears much ~ hardly ever!) Moving 8 hours from what had become our home has been a major adjustment, and we’ve had some other struggles that have popped onto our plate along the way.


(Add in parenting both a teenager and tweenager in the midst of that along with one crazy busy 8 year old? Yikes.) 


James is oh-so-different from me. He hates social media, rarely watches a movie, and in many ways is an old-fashioned-fuddy-duddy-born-100-years-too late.


Bless him. ūüėČ


But he loves and encourages me¬†as if I’m amazing (despite the fact that I’m¬†so far from it!), and continues to be this person who just thinks I’m a rockstar even when he¬†sees the truth every day.


(Isn’t it a blessing when those who know you best love you most? wow.)


Honestly? I’m not great at doing the same thing for him.¬†I get frustrated that the dishes aren’t done, or if¬†the laundry’s piling up, or if I just feel like I’m incapable of keeping up. I have¬†got to work better at being his cheerleader too, but for whatever reason it’s not always natural to me.



If you’re lucky enough to have a cheerleader in your life too, whether it be your spouse, parents, or a wonderful friend,¬†thank them because they will help you go so much further than you ever can go on your own.


And, if you’re like me and struggle to cheer someone else on, goodness gracious, join me and let’s start doing just that!


Sometimes just being cheered for is all we need to turn into our very best self ~ and I’m so incredibly thankful to have someone cheering for me. (Especially on those days I’m not so sure of myself.)


Anyone else get ¬†just the most wonderful gift for Mother’s Day that wasn’t even all that much? Sometimes those gifts are just the sweetest, and I’m oh-so-thankful for that one today.¬†




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The ugly green eyed monster – and why I’ll never measure up.

Update: Read my sweet husband’s response to this post over HERE. I AM SO BLESSED.

Just last week I was thumbing through Facebook and felt a wee bit more than a twinge of the green-eyed-monster of jealousy rising up inside of me.


Okay, okay, I wasn’t¬†thumbing through Facebook really, but it sounds¬†a little more glamorous than scrolling down Facebook like I do every single day ~ don’t ya’ think?¬†


I was jealous of another blogger’s downright gorgeous home.¬†


It was perfect.


Amazingly decorated.


Seriously, folks, it could have been in a magazine. 


I scrolled on down a little further and saw an acquaintance I hardly know, skinny-as-a-rail and just jaw-droppingly beautiful with her oh-so-cute and just about perfect husband sharing their anniversary.


They looked so happy.


Obviously they had it all together.


And I’m betting she hasn’t counted a calorie in her¬†entire. life.¬†


Yup. I hate her.


truth. sorry. ahem.


Ridiculously, I kept on scrolling.


Why look at that. There’s another¬†friend sharing¬†their child’s most amazing accomplishment.


And oodles of other mommas cheering them on, because really, their child is phenomenal. clearly.


All while my little family just kind of sits around looking plain and ordinary.


Then I bounced off Facebook to really get to work and started looking at a few other blogs. 


You know, the ones who are all doing it right.


The ones who have perfect web sites, perfect content, perfect pictures  . . . and a jillion comments on every. single. post.


they really are oh so put together. I’m so not cut out for this.



Oh-so-often I feel like I just never measure up.


I allow myself to be jealous of another blogger’s home.


I let myself get jealous of a skinny perfect person that I hardly even know.

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I¬†compare my kids to other people’s kids. (For the record, I have some pretty cute kids even if they are just ordinary.¬†Jeesh.)¬†


And when it comes to blogging? Well, it’s just a stroke of luck that this little website stays on every day.¬†Seriously.


So I started really thinking about it. Who really looks like the person I want to be?



Initially, I thought if I could just be more like her, I would totally be there.


But then I realized, while she has a beautiful family,¬†amazing¬†business, and, well, keeping it real here folks, she’s skinny, ūüôā she’s not all that in to fluffing her home. (Which is totally fine, but I kinda like a fluffed up home.)


So I moved on.


Then¬†I thought well maybe if I could just be like this.¬†Amazing home, perfectly-yet-kind-of-quirkily decorated, and of course skinny – but, well, I’m betting she doesn’t really enjoy¬†clipping coupons.¬†(I could be wrong – that’s just a hunch?)


Then I thought of another friend who I adore who runs an amazing business, has a beautiful home, and a precious family . . . but struggles some with other issues too.


I moved on. This one.  This is it. Perfect home, crazy huge business, gajillion followers on Facebook, Instagram, well, everywhere. Even a perfect husband.


and she can cook.


But really? As I thought it through, she’s not quite¬†my “measure-up-to goal”¬†either.




I want the body of Barbie (a little less curvy though, please), the business of Martha Stewart, the mommy-amazing-sweetness of June Clever, and a home smack on the cover of Southern Living.


Oh, and can I cook like Paula Deen? (right, but with Barbie’s figure, got that? hmph.)




The truth? My twisted standard of measurement is some kind of not-really-perfect-at-all-but-I-think-it-might-be-perfect.


And I’m just me.


Way down here.


I’ll never measure up.


Years ago, I read an illustration in Max Lucado’s book In The Grip of Grace¬†(such a wonderful book, by the way . . .) describing what my heart struggles in a way with each day . . .



“Suppose God reduced the Bible to one command: ‚ÄúThou must jump so high in the air that you touch the moon.‚ÄĚ No need to love your neighbor or pray or follow Jesus; just touch the moon by virtue of a jump, and you‚Äôll be saved.

We‚Äôd never make it. There may be a few who jump three or four feet, even fewer who jump five or six; but compared to the distance we have to go, no one gets very far. Though you may jump six inches higher than I do, it‚Äôs scarcely reason to boast.”



My goal is set too high.


The standard I’ve set for myself is perfection.


Only grace can fill in.


God’s grace is okay with me the way I am.


It’s okay with a slightly pudgy-hippy girl.


It’s okay with my Facebook reach.


It’s okay with my kids.


It’s okay with the number of people who visit PPP daily.


It’s okay with the way I handle being a Godly wife to my poor husband.




him. ūüôā¬†


His grace is sufficient for me. 


Just as I am.


Ladies (sorry gents, I know y’all hopped off eons ago . . . ), you too are good enough.¬†


You are beautiful enough.


You are wise enough.


You are capable enough.








You are enough.


Don’t let your picture of perfection be anything other¬†than the one God created you to be.


I promise. I’ll stop too.


And you’re so not¬†the only one who feels this way.


But his grace (thank. heavens.) covers us today.




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But he said to me, ‚ÄúMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‚ÄĚ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ‚Äôs power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9




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Bag Lady

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I am a bag lady. 


I have a bag for my coupons, my Bible Study bag, a laptop bag, a gym bag, a donation bag, a we’re-going-to-watch-a-ball-game-and-I-need-entertainment-for-my-kids bag, a library bag, an emergency-snack bag . . .


and, then of course there’s my purse. ūüôā

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My kids also have their bags. They have bookbags and soccer bags, gymnastics bags, a gym clothes bag, their lunch bags, and even a special bag for drumsticks.


Our loads of bags sometimes seem to take over every nook and cranny in our home.¬†(However, as I’m thinking about it, it seems my husband has no bags . . .¬†hmph.)


Some days those bags get too heavy to carry, for both myself and my family.¬†There’s not always enough time to clip coupons from the¬†coupon bag, dig¬†through the Bible Study bag, pick up extra donations for the donation bag, and haul eighteen bags around with my kids to each event.


As we race between soccer and gymnastics and band practice¬†I sometimes wonder¬†“Why are we doing this?” ¬†And yet, we¬†wake up again the next day and we all pick up our bags again.

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Jackson, now 15, way back in 2011 taking our donation bag to church. I thought he was so big then!

But most of these bags are here for such a short season. 


In just a few years the drumstick bag will be off at college.


The gymnastics bag may be stuffed under the bed.


And those soccer bags might just end up at our local Goodwill.

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For everything there is a season.


(This hurts more than a wee bit to even type.)




If you’re feeling overwhelmed today by the bags that you carry, know that it’s okay to leave a bag by the wayside for a small portion of your life.¬†If you can’t clip every coupon, donate to every charity, and read every library book it’s really okay. (I promise!)


Sweet mommas, most of these bags just aren’t gonna last.¬†


Embrace what you have, with who you have it, right here, right now, today. 


Take a deep breath, gather up those¬†bags, and¬†focus on¬†your favorites as you¬†race them¬†around town¬†today. ¬†These bags won’t last, but who knows what new (cute?) bags we might pick up along the way.


(When these¬†bags all head out the door, I’m thinking I’ll pick up¬†a Kate Spade suitcase bag alongside a passport to just about wherever.¬†¬†Anyone with me?) ūüôā¬†



 Leave a comment to share your thoughts if you feel life fleeting way too fast too . . . I love hearing from you!


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Have You Checked Unclaimed Property For Cash?


I’ve had several friends¬†who were¬†able to find Unclaimed Property! It never hurts to try – let me know if you’re able to find anything!

A friend of mine sent me an email about finding a little cash through searching for unclaimed property, and I’ve got to tell you, I was pretty skeptical about the whole thing.  But, I figured it didn’t hurt to see what the sites she recommended had to say, so I checked them out.


Well, I didn’t find any money for our own family, but I did find some for a friend of mine’s family (I was shocked!)  It’s pretty simple to see if there are any claims available for you, however I’m not sure how easy it is to actually file get that money back.  If you’re interested in checking out whether or not there is unclaimed property under your name, check out the national site listings over HERE, or HERE.


Have you had any experience filing to receive unclaimed property? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 
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What Really Impresses Me

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Me with one of my favorites Рteaching me more about value than anything else!


I read a fantastic article this morning, and goodness, it so hit home for me today.¬†As a busy mom who simply doesn’t have time to keep up with the newest trends, who couldn’t care less that her minivan has 160,000 miles on it (it runs great ~ at 185,000 miles now!), and who’s never owned expensive jewelry¬†other than my wedding ring, it just felt good to have those words written out for me.


Here was my favorite quote from the article . . . 


“Too often, people pay a premium just for the privilege of become a walking billboard. I am no longer impressed by the logo on your shirt, your purse, or the face of your watch. Instead, I admire those who are confident in timeless fashion and seek to make an impression by their character and their countenance.”


I’ve struggled my whole life with feelings of inadequacy (and am betting I’m not alone.) I’ve looked¬†at skinnier girls, dressier-upped girls, oh-so-put-together girls and from my very earliest memories have never felt I’ve even come close to measuring¬†up.


And as I’ve gotten¬†older, it’s gone¬†beyond how I¬†look some days to what I have.¬†Folks, we live in an absolutely perfect¬†home.¬†Ridiculously nice, really.¬†But a few weeks ago when visiting a new house in our neighborhood I noticed the home’s perfect¬†mudroom and excessively large pantry.


It was beautiful.


I came home, and all of a sudden the my own mudroom and pantry just felt a little puny. 






Wherever you are in your finances, wherever you are in your life, don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of believing more stuff equals more value.¬†


It doesn’t.¬†


And honestly? No matter what you have, someone will always have more, so you’ll never win the if only war.

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Instead, exemplify by your character and countenance your true value, whether you’re checking out at the grocery store or playing with your babies at home.¬†Your value has absolutely nothing to do with¬†your stuff ~ don’t allow this world to trick you into believing anything else.


Take a minute to read this post today. 


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Facebook Fans: Please Read



If you follow Passionate Penny Pincher primarily via Facebook, don’t miss this!¬†While Facebook is an awesome place to share deals, Facebook doesn’t always allow everything we post here on PPP to be seen by everyone. ¬†(In fact, less than 5-10% of the PPP fans on Facebook see most of the things I post.)


Here are a few tips to make sure you keep up with everything:


  1. Go to the ‚ÄúLIKED‚ÄĚ tab¬†at the top right of the PPP Facebook page and click on ‚ÄúGet Notifications‚ÄĚ. This will mean you get updated on everything here on PPP (I think!), but I will warn you that I post 12-18 times per day (just want you to know that upfront so you’re not completely overwhelmed¬†by updates!) ūüėČ
  2. OR, go to the ‚ÄúLIKED‚ÄĚ tab¬†at the top right of the PPP Facebook page and click on ‚ÄúAdd to Interest Lists‚ÄĚ. Create a list (sometime like ‚Äúcoupons‚ÄĚ), and then the list will appear on your Facebook home screen. ¬†When you click on the that list, any Facebook page that you‚Äôve included will appear along with your full feed.
  3. Leave a comment or ‚Äúlike‚ÄĚ a Facebook post every once in awhile frequently.¬†¬†The more you interact on a FB page, the more often those sites will show up in your feed!
  4. Visit PPP directly HERE¬†and be sure to sign up for the daily PPP email newsletter.¬†I love our Facebook community so much, but there’s no guarantee that all of the content¬†here on PPP will be seen by many folks on Facebook, and often¬†by the time it shows up in your feed a deal may have expired. So, stop here when you have a second and¬†never miss a deal!


If you have any tips or suggestions, please let me know! We are closing in on TWO HUNDRED & TEN THOUSAND FACEBOOK FANS (*C*R*A*Z*I*N*S*S*!*), and I love connecting with you all over there.
And by the way, if you’re not on Facebook join in over HERE – you can also check out PPP on Instagram as well!
Thanks for making my job so fun each day!
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What To Buy At Costco: Top 15 Items To Help You Save Big

What to Buy at Costco

Curious what¬†to buy¬†at Costco?¬†While I think some (many?) items can be¬†overpriced at Costco compared to grocery store sale¬†savings (especially after using coupons), there are some prices¬†at Costco that you just can’t beat.


My rule of thumb is to stick to whole foods while shopping Sam’s and Costco¬†– they’re pre-packaged convenience foods tend to¬†be very over-priced from as I’ve compared them to other stores. But, their regular prices on produce, meat, and dairy products are pretty reasonable, so if you can skip them temptation to buy too much while you’re there the membership cost may be worth it.¬†You’ll likely find lower prices on even whole foods¬†during a good sale ad at your local grocery store, but¬†Costco’s prices on these items are usually fairly competitive. ¬†(And, they consistently offer good quality at those prices!)


Here are my top 15 deals  . . . 


1. Milk.¬†At $2.45 a gallon, I haven’t found another store that regularly carries milk anywhere near this price. Occasionally I’ve seen¬†milk around that price at Aldi, but recently even Aldi’s price has been closer to $3.¬†¬†If your family drinks a lot of milk each week, a trip once every two weeks might be worth the Costco membership.


2. Bananas.¬†At $1.39 for 3 pounds of bananas, your price comes out to 46¬Ę per pound. While I’ve seen prices a little lower than these at the grocery store, this is a pretty great price, and are always fresh enough to last quite awhile.


3. Water bottles.¬†If you absolutely have to buy water bottles (we choose to use¬†re-useable bottles¬†when we can!), Sam’s Club has a great price on these. These come out to 8¬Ę per bottle, which is so much less than you’d ever pay while you’re out!


4. Gift cards.¬†If you’re planning to eat out anyways, you might as well enjoy some savings, right? Both Costco and Sam’s Club offer gift card savings of up to 20% when you purchase gift cards in store. They include several great restaurants ~ PF Chang’s, Smashburger, Texas Roadhouse and more, and some stores carry entertainment gift cards like Cinemark as well! The best part is you can combine these gift cards with restaurant coupons, which¬†can save you a bundle while eating out.

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5. Salad Mix. 
Costco’s big three pound bag of salad is just $2.79, which is a fantastic price. You can also get their Organic Spring Mix for $4.49, which beats the price that you’ll regularly find at the grocery store, and is so nice to have on hand if you have a large family who eats¬†a lot of salad.

6. Kirkland Brand Fabric Softener Sheets.¬†These cost $.018 per sheet, and is the lowest price I’ve seen on fabric softener sheets without combining coupons and a sale. If you just need to stock up, this is a great price!


7. Kirkland Frozen Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast.¬†Kirkland’s Frozen Chicken comes out to $1.96 per pound, and while this isn’t the best price I’ve ever seen, it is a really good basic every day price. Worth stocking up while you’re there to make your life easier!


UPDATE: the Kirkland brand chicken is now up to $2.74 per pound, so I don’t think it’s a good buy any longer. However, the Perdue brand is priced at $2.24/lb and a decent price if you need to stock up!


8. BACON!¬†This one kind of surprised me, but is so worth grabbing when you’re there. Get 4 pounds of bacon for $10.99 or $2.74 per pound ~ we bought this recently and the quality was great (not fatty), so I would definitely recommend this one. (Don’t forget you can freeze it too.)


9. Honey.¬†Honey at Costco comes out to 17¬Ę per ounce, which is a great every day low price. If your family uses a lot of honey for baking or as a natural sweetener, this one’s worth picking up.



10. Canned veggies.¬†Canned veggies at Costco are priced between 43¬Ę and 46¬Ę per can, which is almost my stock up price even with coupons! You’ll have a¬†lot of veggies on hand, but you won’t need more canned vegetables for quite awhile.


11. Sugar. Sugar is $4.39 for a 10 pound bag at Costco, which is a good price for sugar unless you watch for a great sale around the Holidays.


12. Butter.¬†Butter at Costco comes out to $1.99 per pound, which you may be able to find during a good sale at the grocery store, but since it’s their price every day it’s worth¬†stocking up on while you’re there.


13.¬†Eggs.¬†Eggs are priced at $1.39/lb at Costco, however they’re sold in as 7.5 dozen eggs, which is a¬†lot of eggs! I haven’t seen those prices on eggs here in the Columbus area in quite awhile, so why I normally think it’s a little high egg prices have definitely gone up over the last few years.


14. Rotisserie Chicken.¬†For $4.99 you can get one of Costco’s huge Rotisserie Chickens, which is a fantastic¬†price if you’re in a hurry but need an easy meal. You’ll skip paying too much for dinner out, and their rotisserie chickens are delicious. It won’t be quite as penny pinched as cooking a whole chicken yourself, but on a busy night that convenience is sometimes worth it.


15.¬†The Costco restaurant. ūüėȬ†Okie dokie, if you just want a chance to skip cooking, you can’t beat Costco’s $1.50 hot dog and drink. They also have pizza slices for $1.99 ~ my favorite way to easily feed my kids when we’re running errands out and about!


So there’s my top fifteen!¬†What would you add to the list? I’d love to hear your thoughts ~ leave a comment to share!


close up of a white container on white background


Looking for more? See what to buy at Sam’s Club¬†and what to buy at the Dollar Tree too!



And be sure to print your free Aldi, Costco and Sam’s Club price comparison chart before you shop!

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Crazy Morning . . . But at least dinner’s done!

slow cooked italian beef - PINTEREST

Have you ever had one of “those” mornings?¬†Today was that day at our house I think! Woke up to no internet, found out kids were on a two-hour delay (didn’t know until¬†after¬†they were up ~ grrrr), and PPP’s site on the backend went down a few times this morning. (Whew!)


I did manage to pop dinner in the slow cooker (folks, this is the best. recipe.) and am heading out to Costco for some price checking. Hoping for smooth sailing the rest of the day ~ and lots more deals up shortly!

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My Favorite Gift (Well, One of them . . .)

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My sweet Caroline turns 12 tomorrow.




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Isn’t she just perfect???? ūüėČ (yes, I’m biased.)


According to the oh-so-smart-blogging-experts, I should only blog about penny pinching. Every single thing that I share here on PPP should directly reflect something about saving money, penny pinching, or using a coupon.


But, I figure since I own the site, I can do what I want.¬†ūüėČ

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This. girl.


She’s my gift.¬†


My perfect-even-when-not-so-perfect-and-driving-me-absolutely-crazy gift. 




The day she was born, I remember looking at this little fuzzy-brown-haired baby and knowing right there and then that she was my gift.


In fact, I remember whispering¬†to her from deep down . . . “baby, you are my gift.”¬†


And then . . . um . . . life got a little hairy.


She was busy.


She climbed on every. thing.


She spent hours (seriously folks, HOURS, quite possibly days, I think), in time out.


We fought over learning to say “yes ma’am”. ¬†We fought over spelling words. We fought over which outfit to wear.

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(We still fight over which outfit to wear.) 


But somewhere along the way, this girl of mine turned into this perfect girl of mine.


Here’s the secret the internet doesn’t tell you when your toddler is screaming.


(Ready for this?) 


That child of yours. Yes, that one. The one that’s making you crazy. The one that makes you want to pull your hair out. The one that you discipline until you feel like you’ve got no disciplining left in you.

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That one is your gift. 


One day they might just surprise you. One day they might be the one calling you up to their room for some unexpected quiet and time to say prayers. One day they might turn into this beautiful precious gift that you absolutely never expected.


Life’s crazy that way.


And here’s the other thing.


The internet tells you that watching your babies grow up is a wee bit depressing. Something that you need to fight with everything in you.


But I’m here to tell you that watching that gift of yours grow up is this oh-so-fun present¬†as you see that gift unfold. ¬†That sweet child of yours all of a sudden turns into someone who has their own thoughts, their own opinions, and if you’re willing to put in the effort in those early years, they might just become one of your favorites¬†ever to hang out with. ¬†And it’s¬†exciting¬†to look forward to who they’re turning into each day.



This gift of mine . . . she’s oh-so-different from me. She hates writing. Hates spelling. Doesn’t really love reading.¬†¬†(Spending hours poring over oodles of words¬†just isn’t her thing.)



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She loves working. Loves organizing. Loves exercising. Likes math. Can pump out a whopping 15 pull ups without flinching. (All while I watch from the corner of my eye I wonder how on earth she’s mine ~ I mean really ~ how could I possibly have this cute thing so very different from me?)


And she could single-handedly run our home way better most days than I ever could. (Thankfully, some days she just takes charge and does!)


She’s perfect.

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Absolutely the best gift right alongside her brother and sister that I ever dreamed of.


So, happy birthday sweet Caroline ~ thank you for giving me one of my very best gifts twelve years ago today.


And mommas who are about to lose it because that child is pushing you right on over the edge today?


It’s worth it.


I promise.

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Hang in there ~ keep at it ~ don’t give up.


Your gift’s waiting right around the corner ~ just stick with it and enjoy every precious second because it’s the most fun gift you’ll ever get to watch unfold. ūüėČ


And just to be clear, I know that 13 . . . and 14 . . . and 15 (yikes!) are just around the corner and this girl and I may feel waaayyy differently a time or two over the next few years. Um, we’ll deal with those when we get there. (Yikes!)







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Money doesn’t really buy happiness . . .


It’s time to chat budgeting . . .¬†anyone else with me?¬†


I had a huge revelation over Christmas that I kind of knew before, but this time it hit me like a ton of bricks.


Money can’t buy happiness.


(You knew that though, didn’t you?)


Over the last year,¬†we’ve shelled out some serious cash in hopes of making our kids happy here after¬†moving last Spring.¬†And while I’m not going to lie and tell you it hasn’t softened the blow a bit, doling out cash¬†hasn’t just magically made life easier like I’d hoped.


We bought a trampoline. It blew away in the first windstorm. (Totally our fault for not planning ahead of time ~ grrrrr.)


We bought a kayak for my son.¬†We were able to use it¬†a time or two, but he of course wanted a friend out there with him. You can’t buy friends, you know, but he’s working on that! ūüėČ


We added extra gym classes for my daughter in hopes of helping her enjoy her new gym more.¬†So far, she’s surviving, but it’s just not the same as home.¬†


WE BOUGHT A PUPPY. ūüôā¬†Okay, the verdict’s still out on this one because he is just a puppy, but the kids who’ve begged for a dog for the last five years have been a little unimpressed with how much work this little guy is to manage. They’re starting to enjoy him some, but they had no idea what they were getting us into!


See how we’ve kind of failed at the whole penny pinching thing?¬†


Thankfully prior to moving our finances were¬†in decent shape so¬†we haven’t¬†blown our budget, but it’s become the principle of the¬†matter.


Ultimately? Contentment comes from the inside. 


No matter how much money you have, it won’t fix all your problems.


Money can’t take away sadness. It can’t automatically make you fit in. It doesn’t fill in the areas of your heart where friendships should be. It won’t magically make life better.


However, choosing contentment no matter where life takes you can be learned.¬†I’m working on teaching it to my children, and more importantly hoping to model it¬†myself. Hopefully they’ll see it at work in this heart of mine one day? (Folks, I am¬†so bad at showing contentment with the ones closest to me. And everyone. Just really bad at it.)


A very fun-sweet-friend of mine and I were chatting yesterday (ummm, actually I was whining, and since she recently moved to another area in Ohio she’s been a great sounding board.) She offered me sage advice . . . “Sometimes you just have to fake it ’til you make it.”

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Things aren’t always easy.¬†Financial burdens are HARD. (So. hard.)¬†But I’ve seen first hand that while money undoubtedly makes life a little less painful, it simply won’t fix all your problems¬†the way¬†you think it might.


Be encouraged this very minute today though. Wherever you are ~ financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually, contentment can be found way deep down somewhere. 


If your home is making you nuts because you just want some more space, take a few minutes, grab a grocery sack, and fill it up with as many things as you can so that less clutter gives you a little more freedom. 


If you’re dreaming of a new car but that’s not realistic right now, give the car you have a really good washing, scrub right down to the nooks and crannies, and clean that car til it shines.


And if you know the situation you’re in is just so much more than you can handle,¬†take a deep breath, lavish yourself with grace, and say a quick prayer for peace to come in the midst of your day today.


If financial issues are causing your family tremendous strain right now, I so encourage you to really really really really (did you get that? REALLY) determine to make wise financial choices today, clip coupons, skip dinner out, and don’t go to Starbucks.¬†(Really.) After years of penny pinching it is oh-so-worth it to have financial freedom, and while it won’t make life¬†better,¬† it has undoubtedly made¬†life¬†easier.¬†


But don’t fool yourself into thinking a lottery windfall will fix all your problems today. Instead make the absolute-very-best-oh-so-amazing-life-right-here-today where you’re at. Okay?


I’ll be working on it¬†on this side of the screen¬†too. ūüėČ




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Laurie’s Kroger Trip (And How My Hourly Rate Just Went Up To $180/Hour)



Goodness, Kroger’s Mega Sale is hopping with deals this week!¬†Yesterday my sweet husband was nice enough to drive me to Kroger as the snow started to fall (it wasn’t that bad out, but apparently he was afraid of me driving in the snow?) Anyways, it took us a solid hour to get through the store (and he was¬†not¬†enjoying¬†it), but we scored some really fun deals.


On the way home I was looking over my receipts and realized 70% of my savings came from store sales ads, while just 30% of the discounts were because of coupons. I kind of questioned whether or not the coupons savings was worth my time.


Then I did the math.



In 10 minutes of clipping coupons (I used the 10 minute or less list + just a few more coupons that I quickly found HERE), I saved THIRTY DOLLARS.


$30 to spend on dinner out in a pinch.


$30 to buy my kids a cute outfit.


$30 to spend on absolutely anything I want to besides groceries.


For me that’s worth it?


(It actually adds up to an hourly salary of $180. Not too shabby for a stay at home momma!)


And did I mention I saved another $70 just by shopping the sales ads?


Yup, worth a few minutes to scan through the deals before heading out for sure. ūüėČ Here’s what I bought:


Transaction #1 (priced based on Mega Sale Savings, purchasing in groups of 6)

2 Hormel Pepperoni $2.49

6 Kraft Easy Mac $.49

2 Hormel Pizza Wraps $1.49

2 Lender Bagels $1.29

2 Perdue Chicken $3

2 Digiorno Pizzas $3.99

2 Goldfish $.99

1 Hormel Turkey Lunch Meat $2.99

1 Thomas Bagels $2.49

2 Pringles Chips $.99

2 Oreos $2.49

1 Smart Balance Butter $1.99

1 Aunt Jemima Syrup $2.99

2 Planters Peanuts $.99

4 2 Liters Sunkist & A&W $.75

2 Quaker Rice Cakes $.79

3 Barilla Pastas $.89

2 Pace Salsa $1.49

1 Old El Paso Tortilla $.99

1 bag Granny Smith Apples $3.99

1 Philadelphia Cream Cheese $1.49

1 Baby Spring Mix Salad $4.99

2 Planters Nuts 2.79



Transaction #2 (priced based on Mega Sale Savings, purchasing in groups of 6)

Bought 2 Goldfish $.99

Bought 2 Carefree Pads $1 (not part of Mega Sale)

Bought 3 Kleenex $.99

Bought 2 Speedstick $2.99

Bought 2 Tide Pods $4.49

Bought 1 Listerine Floss $1.49

Bought 1 Reynolds Foil $2.99

Bought 1 Viva Paper Towels $.99

  • Used $1/3 Kleenex¬†or $1/3 coupon from the 1/11 Smart Source insert
  • Used $1/1 Listerine Floss
  • Used (2) $2/1 Tide Pods
  • Used (2) $2/1 Speedstick (I think Lady Speedstick was on sale as well, so print those while you’re at it!)
  • Used (2) $.50/1 Carefree pads
  • Used $.50/1 Viva coupon from the 1/11 Smart Source insert
  • Used $1/1 Reynold’s Foil from 1/4 Red Plum insert
  • Used $1/1 catalina from Easy Mac purchase in first transaction
  • Paid $13.88

Now, I did buy a few things I wouldn’t normally purchase without coupons (the Hormel Rev Wraps but will be an easy meal for my son, the 2 liters of soda but I’ll either save them for a day when a bunch of kids are over or to donate to a local youth ¬†ministry, and the Quaker chips but at 29¬Ę I couldn’t pass them up!)¬†All in all I was pretty pleased with my savings, and decided it was well worth a few minutes of my time.




Here were just a few of my favorite deals (although you need to see everything over HERE) . . . 



Planters Peanuts $.99




Viva Paper Towels $.99

  • Use $.50/1 Viva Paper Towels coupon from the 1/11 Smart Source insert
  • $.49 after coupon



Quaker Pop Chips $.79

  • Used $.50/1 coupon from the ¬†1/4 Smart Source insert
  • $.29 after coupon




Speedstick Gear Deodorant $2.99




Listerine Floss $1.49



Carefree Liners $1


PineSol $1.49

  • Use $.50/1 Pine Sol or $.75/1 coupon from the 11/7 Smart Source insert
  • As low as $.75




Lady Speed Stick or Mens Speed Stick $1.49 (Mega Sale Price)





Yoplait Yogurt $1.50 (Mega Sale Price)

  • Use $0.35/1, $.75/2, $1/2 Yoplait Go-Gurt, Kids Cup, or Trix Yogurt – 1-4-15 SS
  • $1 after coupon
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Where Do You Find Your Value?


(My daughter who hasn’t yet figured out social media and learned recently what real value was. Goodness how lucky for her!)¬†


Ready for some random ramblings? Sorry, you’re in for it again this week. ūüėČ


I’m working on putting a post together sharing all the things I learned this past week about how¬†not¬†to let Facebook take over your page (whether you’re a blogger or just a user), but am waiting to hear back from Facebook to make sure that all the images I’ve documented are correct.¬†


In the meantime, I wanted to share something that I learned ridiculously through this experience, because maybe you’ve been there too. ¬†Even though you may not be a blogger fighting to get back your Facebook following of over 200,000 folks,¬†I’m betting you (or your teen/tween-age children) have been here.


Saturday night, when the PPP page was completely totally gone, I literally stayed up all night just sick. 


I was sick because I didn’t know if all the¬†readers were just gone. I was sick because as far as I could tell the page was completely lost. And I was just sick because I’d known for a long time that way too much of my traffic comes from Facebook, so it could literally ruin the business that I’ve worked five years to create.


(Y’all, if you could please sign up for emails I would really appreciate that so that I¬†have a way to keep you up to date with the deals in case something crazy like this ever happens again, 0kay? Or, better yet, come visit PPP every day – I post deals¬†every. single. day.¬†ten to twenty times per day except Sundays. I’d love for you to come check them¬†out because I promise they’ll be here. really. every. day.) ūüėČ


But do you know what really sickened me? As stupid and prideful and obnoxious and ridiculous as this sounds, I literally felt a loss of my identity.


When people ask me what I¬†“do” each day, I usually respond that I’m a stay at home mom. And then let them know that I run a frugal living blog. More often than not¬†they kind of laugh it off, but then when I mention I have 190,000 Facebook fans (ahem,¬†200,000 275,000¬†Facebook fans . . . CRAZY!),¬†all of a sudden I feel like I’m a little more valuable.


A little more worthy.


A little more important. (Don’t you think?)




So when all 200,000 of you were just gone, I kind of questioned my identity. All of a sudden I turned into just me. Plain old Laurie, not all that special, just a silly mom who likes to clip coupons and figure out how cheaply she can make dinner each night.


I realized then and there that I’ve put my value into something that’s so stinkin’ temporal.¬†Something that can (and did) go away at any moment. And something that doesn’t show my¬†real value at all.




At that point I really didn’t know if all those Facebook fans even existed. ¬†It wasn’t until Monday that the hacker chose to put the page back up and start posting his or her own images that I saw the page was still there. At first,¬†I honestly felt there was no hope to get everyone back here.


Do you know what I’ve so easily done? I’ve put my value into a silly online place that doesn’t have show my¬†value at all.


I’ve allowed who I am to be defined by this silly computer world rather than who I am in real life.


It’s kind of scary how quickly your identity can be pulled away.


Wanna know what’s scarier? ¬†Our children are doing the same thing every single day.


I’ve watched my son post a picture in his Instagram feed and three hours later feel a little bit hurt because his Instagram friends didn’t notice him as much as they noticed¬†¬†another kid.


I’ve watched a good friend’s daughter¬†who’s off in college think they’re awesome because 1,000 people liked their super cute picture and all of a sudden they have value for the day.


And I’ve watched an even-older-super-smart-crazy-talented-23-year-old question why they don’t have as many followers on as some 11-year olds.




But what are my kids seeing in me?


I’m not awesome enough to ever have real value because of who I am.¬†The only value I’ve ever had for even a moment comes from Whose I am. And¬†allowing¬†my children fall for the lie that the internet determines their value is a mistake.


And guess what?


Letting myself fall for that same lie is a mistake too.


For me, the business side of this mess was real Рit could have impacted how PPP was run, whether or not I continued, and how we were able to give to others. So I am beyond thankful that it was fixed. (And honestly, so thankful for this crazy-internet-thing of ours even when it does make me nuts.)


But the identity crisis thing really scares me. Deep down all I am is just a mom who loves to penny pinch, pray with her favorites, and come up with fun ways to craft and decorate things. If everything else was gone, that just-a-mom is probably the favorite mom my kids have.


I encourage you . . . if you find your value online sometimes as well to really consider where your value comes from¬†too.¬†And just as importantly to consider where your children find their value. (Gosh, that’s so hard to do!)


Our value is so much more than what this ole’ world tells¬†us right now, and I’m telling you right now in case no one else does today that you are so precious and oh-so-valuable just the way you are.


Be encouraged that if this mom can find her value in the wrong place and you’ve felt the same way, you’re not alone. And¬†thank heavens God’s infinite value rests in us (’cause really, most of us are just a mess, aren’t we?) ūüėČ


Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life.¬†And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.¬†Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. ¬†If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you.” Matthew 6:25-30

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Sometimes You Have No Control




UPDATE: I’m afraid to say this but I think I’ve got control of the FB page back! THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your kind words and support – I’m so thankful for each one of you!!!!!


Guys, it’s been a long yucky last few days.

This Facebook mess has not gotten a single bit better, and we didn’t get home this morning until¬†1AM from Alabama after having our car repaired (no charge, thank heavens!), then¬†woke up at 5:40 to get everyone moving for school.


(Despite the craziness we absolutely loved seeing so many sweet friends in Madison while visiting ~ they’ve been our family in many ways the last ten years and we’re so thankful for them!)


Once the kids were off to school, I decided to spend 30 minutes handling the things I can control, because clearly some things are out of my reach.



I tackled our disastrous bedroom after getting home so late last night.







Then I cleared off the mess on our kitchen counters that from the middle-of-the-night-craziness,






And tidied up the kitchen sink, put away the suitcases, and started a load of laundry. (Sorry, pics of the laundry not included.) ūüėČ





I¬†even dumped my family’s favorite dinner in Mrs. Potts, and felt like I at least had a good handle on the things I¬†could handle in the midst of this mess.¬†


Then, this ridiculous puppy came in from outside (it started snowing while he was out), and was covered in mud  from head to toe.


Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 12.44.06 PM

(Seriously, what are you going to do with that face?)


So after a quick bath he sat down for a nap while I determined to tackle this Facebook mess on PPP.


I handled re-submitting emails to dozens of Facebook pages again this morning, and then sure enough¬†the hacker who has control of the PPP Facebook page started sharing just awful links on PPP. (awful. really really awful. just make-me-want-to-vomit-can’t-believe-my-image-is-right-up-there-next-to-that-awful.)¬†I’ve sent screenshots, emails, and timelines to every person I can find at Facebook, and so far have heard nothing back.



Do you know what occurred to me?


I have no control.


I can’t control Facebook. I can’t control my kids. I can’t control my dog, my husband, or anyone else at all.


I can only control me (and I’m feeling a wee bit out of control right now!)


Y’all, I’ve been typing at this computer for over five years now, and it’s only been in the last 1-2 years that my work here has been worth the hours I put into it.¬†I’ve sacrificed time with my family, time with my friends, time to exercise, time to read and so much more because I felt like there was a purpose here.


And it has been blessed in ways I never imagined.


But right now it’s hard. And I don’t know if it’s worth it. And I’m¬†tired.


My sweet friend Staci called me right as I was completely losing it and suggested I put away my computer and just walk away for an hour. I think I’m going to take her up on it, so if anything smutty comes up on the PPP Facebook page please know that it’s not from me. And I really am doing the best I can to get it fixed (a few folks mentioned that they were afraid I wasn’t doing anything on the PPP Facebook page,¬†but I promise I’ve done all I know to do.) I can’t begin to tell you the hours of work that have gone in to growing a page to that size, and I was so excited about celebrating with lots of fun giveaways this week on hitting 200,000 fans finally, so this just sickens me.



But really, there are just seasons when things are out of our own control, and I know this is one of many for me. I cannot begin to tell you how much your support as well of those of several wonderful bloggers has meant to me. I am so humbled by the sympathy and generosity of complete strangers, and am just amazed that people would shower kindness on this mess of a momma.


Now I’m off to take a nap before my kids get home from school. ūüėȬ†If you’re going through an uncontrollable season too, I’m thinking you should find a way to take a nap too sometime today. I’m so reminded that His grace is sufficient for me, so I’m handing over some control ¬†right now and hoping you’re able to do find a way to do that too.



¬†But he said to me, ‚ÄúMy grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.‚ÄĚ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ‚Äôs power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

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My Wingback Chair Story + Why Patience & Budgeting Is Worth It


My $2 chair


It’s time to chat budgeting . . .¬†anyone else with me?¬†


When my husband and I were first married, we bought the cutest little ranch fixer upper. It had a pretty basic floor plan – tiny living and dining room right off the tiny foyer as you walked through the front door.


It was a solid three years before we could afford to do anything with those little rooms (the owners before us chose a lovely neon turquoise carpet ~ seriously ~ who puts in neon turquoise carpet?) When we finally were ready to fluff up those rooms I had big dreams in my head.


My mom gave¬†us our¬†piano, and I just knew¬†that little living room would be¬†perfect if I could just afford two wing back chairs to sit opposite the piano (flanking either side of a tall window ~ I wish I had pictures to show you!) I would move kitchen chairs into the living room to see how they would look. I’d sit in each corner waiting for a chair and just imagine they were already there. And I stayed up at night dreaming of the perfect wingback chairs.


I really wanted those chairs. ūüėČ


It went so far that I actually believed that if I¬†just had those chairs, my daily prayer time would become consistent. Because clearly with those chairs I’d have just the perfect spot to sit down with my Bible and Bible Study book in, so all my excuses would just fly right out the window.


It finally occurred to me¬†that Jesus didn’t exactly need wingback chairs to make way for His own quiet time.¬†




(Y’all, I kid you not, these thoughts really did go through this 23 year old’s head . . . gracious I’ve always been a mess!) ūüėČ


Sure enough, one day while walking through JCPenney I saw a Buy One Get One Free LaZBoy Wingback chair sale. 


I needed them. 


I convinced my husband they were perfect (what man doesn’t get excited when you say the word LaZBoy?), and was so stinkin’ excited to finish up the room I could hardly stand it. (These were them¬†exactly¬†~ bleck!)


Because we couldn’t afford what I really wanted (I was dreaming of something more like these back then?), I settled for those chairs, and honestly¬†hated them in every single room¬†we moved them to. I finally sold those suckers on Craigslist two years ago for¬†less than $100, and was so ready to see them go.


And guess what?


They didn’t magically make me spend more time in Bible Study.


They didn’t automatically fix all the other flaws in our home.


And they didn’t just up and make me perfectly happy.


Buying stuff never does.


Fast forward fifteen years.


I’ve learned a¬†lot about stuff. I’ve learned that waiting for what I¬†really want instead of settling for second best is oh-so-worth it.


I’ve learned that Goodwill and thrift stores have awesome bargains,¬†and if I decide eventually to throw away that $2 chair it won’t break my heart the way never being satisfied with those $399 chairs did. (They were $399 for both after the BOGO sale – just to clarify.) ūüėČ


I’ve learned that contentment doesn’t come from stuff to begin with, and you can make just about anything beautiful with a little work and determination.


The moral of the story? 


Don’t fool yourself into believing that if you have just that one thing your life will all of a sudden find peace. Because while you may fill that one spot, another ten spots will pop up just waiting for some attention. (Promise. I’ve been there.)


Instead, determine¬†your budget, if you can afford to frugally fix things up have at it, but¬†don’t stress over buying something right this second that you have no business buying.¬†Choose to make whatever space you’re in beautiful by simply tidying it up, clearing off the counters, and slapping some fresh paint on a room¬†if you need to. (Need inexpensive paint? Try the home improvement store clearance bins!)


If you’re just starting out, know that one day your budget really will change, and those things you’ve dreamed of forever might just come into reach.¬†And, odds are your taste will really change along the way, so be patient and do things for as little money as you can while you have time¬†to figure out what you really love.

Determine today to stick to a budget in 2015, and wait patiently for the things you really want until you can afford them.¬†It may take some time to get there, but I promise it’s¬†so¬†worth the wait!



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