Sunday, November 9, 2008

Recycle your Crayons

I apologize for the lack of pictures on this post. I'm in the middle of moving, and I can't find the cord to my camera.

With kids, broken crayons are inevitable. Instead of throwing out the odds and ends you collect, melt them down for shaped crayons for your kids.

You can use candy molds, ice cube trays, or mini muffin pans. I find the mini muffin pans to be easiest. Simply fill each mini muffin spot with the crayon pieces for each color. Put it in the oven until they melt, remove and allow to cool. You can also melt colors individually on the stove or microwave and pour into candy molds or ice cube trays.

Cheap, easy, and recycling otherwise useless crayon pieces.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Home Canning and Preserving

My house smells like fall, more specifically, it smells like apples! We have a friend with several apple trees. I have been canning apple butter, apple pie filling, and homemade applesauce. On top of that I am dehydrating apples for a quick easy snack for my kids (minus preservatives)!

Here's a picture of my homemade apple butter cooking in my crock pot:

Garage sales and Craigslist are great resources for finding canning supplies and cheap dehydrators in your area. I recommend finding a dehydrator that has heat AND a fan. Food dehydrators are not only handy with fruit-- it can also help preserve vegetables to be used later on.

Garden vegetables can be dehydrated and then later added to homemade soups! If you find celery on sale or dig up homegrown carrots, remember they can be dehydrated to use later in the year. A friend of mine even slices up and dehydrates potatoes. You can used dehydrated potato flakes to thicken up a gravy, or make mashed potatoes!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Felt Play Food

Giving our kids gifts that are top quality for a low price can be hard to do. Making gifts for your kids is a great way to provide more high quality gifts, than if you were to buy them in the store.

Felt play food is something that's new to me. However, I plan on buying a few patterns to make this for my daughters. It looks great, it's soft, and it's easily made at home.

Here's a picture of some of the many creations from Bugga Bugs:

For more information check out

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Craving Chocolate-Quick Tip

I found this recipe courtesy of the Bargain Hunters Board on

Coffee Mug Cake
Mix all the ingredients up in a coffee mug for a quick chocolate treat!

5 tbs all-purpose flour
2 slightly rounded tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
2 slightly rounded tbs sugar
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

Mix these ingredients together and add:

3 tbs milk
2 tbs oil
1/4 tsp vanilla

Mix it all up! Add chocolate chips or nuts if you like.

Put it in the microwave and watch it closely, it does not take long(about 1 minute or 2).There are not any eggs in this recipe, so it cooks fast. To see if the cake is done, poke with a fork. If the fork comes out clean and the cake feels springy, it's done! Add a scoop of ice cream to the top and enjoy!

I'll try posting pics of this tonight after the kids go to bed!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Save Money with Cloth Diapers

I discovered cloth diapering when my oldest was a baby. She had very sensitive skin, and every disposable diaper we tried caused horrible blisters on her bottom. I don't want to shell out $30-$40 a diaper because I had 2 in diapers until very recently. I used and still use regular prefold diapers on my girls. A few months ago, I received a sewing machine as a gift. I have managed to draft my own pattern for one-size diapers for my youngest and a newborn pattern as well.

I have 3 relatives that are currently pregnant, with one being due any day now. Instead of trying to buy 3 different shower gifts, I'm sewing newborn cloth diapers. You can find great deals on flannel prints in the fabric clearance sections at Wal-Mart and Joann Fabrics.

Here's a newborn fitted cloth diaper I made for my nephew:

I can make several of these gifts for a fraction of the cost of a decent shower gift. Not only that, but it's something I made, which I always think adds a little extra value!

This site is very helpful is showing how to draft your very own cloth diaper pattern.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fall, Football, and Chili!

It's football season combine that with cool, crisp Fall weather and it's a perfect time for chili. We love homemade chili, but it's never a meal with out cornbread. Sure, you could buy the boxed mix, but there's a way to make your own and save money. I love having this in bulk because in the winter, we make cornbread all the time. This is a great side dish with the homemade jambalaya!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup baking powder
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 4 cups cornmeal

Combine the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. With a pastry blender or two knives cut in shortening until particles are fine. Add the cornmeal and mix well. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container for 3-4 months. Makes about 10 cups of dry mix

Combine 2 1/2 cups of the homemade cornbread mix with 1 beaten egg and 1-1/4 cups milk. Mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour into a greased 8" square pan or greased muffin tins and bake at 425 degrees for 15-25 minutes until light golden brown and bread springs back when lightly touched with finger. Muffins will bake for the shorter time period.

This Recipe is by Linda Larsen,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pizza Night!

Pizza Crust Recipe

Using the Hot Roll Mix recipe I previously posted, you can make a great homemade pizza crust. My family loves pizza, but even using coupons it's still pricey.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using 3 heaping cups of the hot roll mix, add yeast (one envelope of the active dry), 1 1/4 Cup of hot water and 2 Tablespoons of oil. Mix together well. Knead dough for 5 minutes, add small amounts of hot roll mix until dough is not sticky. Allow dough to rest for 5 minutes, then spread out into a 14" pizza on a pizza pan. Poke with a fork all over the crust. Cover dough and let rise for 15 minutes.

Note: you can split dough in half for two, thinner crust pizzas.

Instead of marinara sauce, I mix up a Italian seasonings, olive oil, and a small amount of garlic salt. After dough has risen, spread olive oil mix over dough. Cover with toppings of your choice. Bake for 15-25 minutes until crust is a deep golden brown.

Recommended toppings: Garden fresh tomato slices, dollops of ricotta cheese, covered lightly by mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. I would post pictures of this delicious pizza, but my family devoured it in record time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Homemade Cleaners!

With two small children and two dogs, using harsh chemicals to clean always worried me. Now I save myself the worry (and money) by mixing up my own homemade cleaners!

For and all-purpose cleaner:
1 part Vinegar
2 parts water
A few drops of Citra-Solv (optional)

Mix into a spray bottle and enjoy. I use this to clean my counter tops, tables, bathroom sinks etc.

Carpet Deodorizer:
Mix Baking soda and a few drops of essential oils (I like the scent of tea tree) and put into a mason jar. You can make a great shaker by poking holes in the jar lid. Shake on your carpet and then vacuum up!

Window cleaner:
Mix equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and water. Mix in a spray bottle and clean your windows!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Homemade Jambalaya Mix!

I found this recipe on!

My husband loves Jambalaya. The mixes that come in a box can be a bit pricey, so why not make your own at a fraction of the cost. These would be great in a jar as a Christmas gift as well.


1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 tablespoon instant minced onion
1 tablespoon green pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Mix all of these ingredients and store in an airtight container!

Recipe (put on a nice card and attach to mix for a homemade gift): Bring Jambalaya Mix, 3 cups water, and 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce to a boil in a Dutch oven. Stir in 1 cup chopped cooked chicken and 1 cup chopped cooked ham or smoked sausage. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until rice is tender. Remove and discard bay leaf. Yield: about 8 cups.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Homemade Laundry Detergent

This recipe was shared with me by my sister. It can be used to make powered detergent or liquid detergent. I use the powder if I need it fast. Otherwise, with the liquid, you stretch your dollar even further!

1/3 of a bar of Fels Naptha or Ivory Soap grated
1/2 cup of borax
1/2 washing soda (not baking soda)

Directions for Powdered Laundry Soap
Chop up 1/3 bar of your soap. Using the mason jar- blender method, grate it finely. Combine finely grated soap with 1/2 cup of borax and 1/2 cup of washing soda. Mix well. Use 1 Tablespoon per load of laundry!

Recipe for Liquid Laundry Soap
Chop 1/3 bar of your soap. Grate well and combine with 6 Cups of water in a non-reactive pot.

Boil until grated soap is dissolved. Once soap is completely dissolved add 1/2 cup borax and 1/2 cup of washing soda.

Mix well. Allow to gently boil for approximately 15 minutes (it will have a slightly thicker consistency--like honey). In a separate bucket or larger lidded container, add 4 cups of hot water. Pour your boiled soap mixture in with the hot water. Add 5.5 Quarts (22 Cups) of cold water to the container, mixing it together well.

Put the lid on the container and allow to sit for 24 hours. The mix will get to a clumpy, gel-like consistency. This is normal.

I pour my homemade liquid laundry soap into the containers I had from store-bought liquid laundry soap. Give the bottle a shake and use 1/4 cup of your liquid soap per load of laundry. Enjoy fresh clean clothes at a penny or two per load!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Homemade Hot Roll Mix & Gift Idea!

Hot Roll mix costs about $1.50 per box. My husband LOVES homemade cinnamon rolls, so we can go through a couple boxes of this mix a week. To save money, mix up your very own hot roll mix at home!

I use a lidded stock pot to mix up all of the ingredients. The lid helps because I like to give the mix an extra shake.

Hot Roll Mix Recipe
  • 5 lbs.flour
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
Mix up all of the ingredients and store in an airtight container. This mix can be kept for up to 6 months!

I use about 3.5 cups of mix for every batch of homemade dinner rolls or cinnamon rolls. A great gift to put with your homemade vanilla (see earlier post), is a jar of cinnamon roll mix. Take about 3.5 cups of your homemade hot roll mix, add 2-3 TBSPs of sugar and mix it up! Attach the following recipe on a card.

Cinnamon Rolls
Combine Jar mix with 3 teaspoons of active dry yeast. Mix dry ingredients well. 2 Tablespoons of softened butter, 1 egg, and 1 cup of hot water. Add hot water slowly, sometimes less water is needed. Mix well. Knead dough for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour to keep dough from being sticky. Form dough into a soft ball and let sit for 5 minutes to rest.

Roll dough out onto a floured surface. Roll dough into a rectangular shape about 1/4"-1/2" thick. Spread 1/4 cup softened butter onto the surface of the dough. In a separate bowl, mix up 1/3 cup of sugar with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Sprinkle mix over dough surface. Roll dough and cut into 9-12 slices. Place in a greased pan and allow to sit in a warm place for 30 minutes. (I keep my cinnamon rolls covered on my stove top. While the oven preheats it keeps the pan warmer, allowing the rolls to rise). Bake in preheated over at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Icing Recipe
Soften an 8 oz package of cream cheese. Add 2 teaspoons of homemade vanilla, mix together well. Add powdered sugar until desired thickness is achieved. Pour homemade icing over hot cinnamon rolls. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Imitation vanilla extract maybe much cheaper than the real thing in the store, but it's chocked full of artificial colors and chemicals to achieve that vanilla flavor. Now, you can be frugal and enjoy the richness of real vanilla extract!

Using vanilla beans, cheap vodka, and father time, you can have your own fantastic vanilla extract. Start by purchasing good vanilla beans. I purchased a sampler pack from The Organic Vanilla Bean Company! The sampler pack I purchased actually contained 22 beans which gave me a small bonus bottle of my homemade extract.

Take the beans and slice them down the middle to expose the soft insides of the beans. This will help the beans infuse the vodka with their wonderful flavor!

I bought two- one liter bottles of the cheapest vodka I could find. Fortunately, DH and I had a small 375 mL bottle of the pricier stuff that was given to us, but it remained unopened! I put 9 beans in the one liter bottles, the remaining 4 beans I placed in the 375 mL bottle.

Put the lids back on the bottles and store them in a cool, dry place. Give them a shake every so often. In about 3 months you should have fantastically flavorful vanilla extract.

Extra Tip: Put this in small bottles and hand them out for holiday gifts!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tips From My Readers

I want to start by saying, if you're looking for great ways to help foster learning in your kids visit THIS BLOG.

Two tips were given to me to help clean around the house.

Tip #1= If you have hard to remove stains from your toilet, use a squirt of toothpaste and scrub. I know that this tip is extremely useful to those of us with hard water stains.

Tip #2= My kids love foaming hand soap. Unfortunately, it's not the cheapest hand soap at the store. If you have a foaming hand soap pump, use 1 Tablespoon of liquid hand soap and then add water to the fill line. Now your kids can continue enjoying foaming hand soap at a fraction of the cost!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cheap and Easy Fruit and Veggie Wash

I love organic produce, but it's not the most affordable option at the grocery store. For all of my produce (including the organic produce from my own garden), I use a homemade fruit and vegetable wash. Bottles of fruit and veggie wash can cost a pretty penny, but this wash is simple, cheap, and easy!

Fill your sink with cold water. Add 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 Tablespoons of salt. Allow your fruits and veggies to soak for 15 minutes then rinse!

It does not change the flavor and draws out the nasty stuff you don't want to eat.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Say No to Expensive Blenders/Choppers

I want to say thanks to the ladies at Trading Mamas for passing this great tip along to me.

If you need to finely chop something, don't pay $70-$100 for one of the newer expensive hand choppers. Chances are, you already have what you need to get the job done! All you'll need is a blender and a mason jar (I use the pint jars for most items). This is a great tool to use for chopping nuts, finely chopping veggies, and even making your own homemade laundry detergent!

Remove the lid from the jar and the blade base from the blender. Attach the jar to the blade base.

Attach jar to blender base and chop away!
Note: in the photos I have use a 1/2 pint jar. These can be used to chop dry herbs, but I recommend a pint or quart jar for most chopping needs.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stretching Dishwasher Detergent

Here's a great idea that was shared with me recently. Get more for your money with your dishwasher detergent. Combine equal parts baking soda, your favorite powder detergent, and washing soda. Here, I used Seventh Generation Free and Clear Detergent, but I find other detergents work much better. To really stretch your dollar, try using $ store variety!
Find a container (preferably with a lid), and combine ingredients. Shake/mix well.

For a full load of dishes I use 1.5-2 Tablespoons of my mixture. Instead of paying for a small bottle of liquid rinse aid, put vinegar in the designated rinse aid compartment. It will help you dishes sparkle!

*Note: If you have liquid detergent on hand, you can combine the washing soda and baking powder and mix it with detergent in the dishwasher. Just use 1 Tablespoon of the washing soda and baking soda mix with 1 Tablespoon of liquid detergent.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Save money on movie night!

I was at the grocery store today, and I had put popcorn on my list. I wanted to have a great snack for our Friday night family movie (Borrow a movie from your local library for even more savings). The cheapest popcorn I could find was $1.09 for 3 small bags of popcorn. Luckily, I noticed bags of popcorn kernels on the bottom shelf. One bag of popcorn kernels was the same price as the box of three separate microwaveable bags!

With a lidded stockpot, 3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil, and only 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels I was able to pop a large bowl of popcorn. Not only is this a great way to save money, but you're cutting down on the amount of trash by cutting out the paper bags in microwaveable popcorn. Don't forget, your kids will have a blast watching the small, yellow kernels pop all over the place!

Another Family Tip: If you have family members with different tastes, you can give them options of different toppings for their individual bowls of popcorn. My husband loves butter, but I prefer sea salt and black pepper!