Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Infinity Scarf- DIY

Sewing is not my thing.  Do I own a nice (ish) sewing machine?  Yes.  Have I been known to occasionally dust it off and give it a try?  Of course.  Will I ever remember how to thread the silly thing and not waste countless hours trying to reteach myself each time?  Unlikely. So, when I decided that I was going to MAKE matching infinity scarves for myself and my girls to wear during a fall family photo shoot eyebrows were certainly raised; mine included. 

Although I am a neat freak and like all things in almost perfect order perfectionism in it's traditional sense is not my thing.  I don't think I own a ruler, for example, nor do I have the patience to read an entire paragraph word for word once I catch the gist of it.  You can imagine my struggle with a pattern.  Needless to say after a few minutes on pinterest I decided I should just wing it.   I did roughly base my sizes on a few scarves that I already had and after a quick trip to the fabric store clearance table, (LOVE) and yet another epic battle threading my machine, I was finished and somewhat surprised with the results.  It looked like a scarf.  Win. 

I proceeded to go back to the same clearance table and picked up a bunch of extra fabric for teacher gifts this Christmas.  (At less than $2 a scarf I really couldn't go wrong.) 

What was your DIY Christmas gift giveaway this year? 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Ornaments

This will be the 9th year we will set up a tree and decorate it.  The first few years I loved my ornaments that my husband and I grabbed off a clearance rack the day after Christmas but over the years, like most things, they have lost their appeal.  In an attempt to switch things up a bit without purchasing a whole new decor for the tree I have attempted some DIY projects.  One year I made a new tree skirt, another we strung popcorn, and a few years ago when I had way more time on my hands then I do now I hot glued together hundreds of hard candy peppermints.  (Don't ask)

This year we will have a silverware tree.  Yes, you heard that correctly, silverware.  You know, forks, knives, and spoons.  My husband gave me the "you must be losing it" look when I proclaimed my plan with great excitement this year.  I think he is getting use to me. 

So off I went to the thrift store first where I scored 20 unique silverware pieces ($4) and then walmart for some wire ($5 with plenty to spare).  I happened to have a bunch of pearls laying around from our wedding decor and my trusty glue gun was also a player. About 2 hours later and a little inspiration from Rachel's Nest they were finished.  Now to get a tree and we will be good to go.....

What DIY ideas have you tried out on your tree?
Gathering my supplies

My finished project

What I hope my finished project will look like on the tree.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Grocery Store Kid's Club

The other day we finally signed our kids up for the "Kid's Club" at our local neighborhood grocery store. (Mega Foods West)  Although I only tend to shop there when I am in a pinch it seems like we are there on an almost weekly basis as it also serves as the closest post office, bank, redbox, and library drop box. 

My expectations for what this "kids club" would include was not very high but to my surprise it turned out to be a super fun (and free) afternoon activity and has continued to be on a weekly basis.  When the kids show their cards in the different store departments, they get a free item and then qualify for a significantly reduced kid's special item.

Rumor also has it that Target will hand out a free bakery cookie to your kids while you shop.  Anyone else know of any Grocery Store Freebies for kiddos? It's worth looking into.

Customer in Training carts are a good concept until the backs of your heals get run into at every stop.

Cookie from the Bakery

Fruit of the Week from Produce
Dumb Luck.  We showed up on the day Caribou had it's soft opening in Mega which meant free drinks all around! It also means our kids are now really confused why they don't get a drink every time! 

Cheese from the Deli

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fed Up

In the spirit of whole/real food eating I want to post about a documentary in which I am totally obsessed with, and knew I would be even before I saw it.  It is called Fed Up and my anticipation has been running high since catching a glimpse of the trailer this past spring.  

Last week Paul and I celebrated our 9th Wedding Anniversary and after 9 years, the guy knows me well.  He pre-ordered the DVD for me and I have not been that excited and surprised by a gift since my parents bought my brother and I a giant trampoline when I was 10.  (OK, so maybe that is stretch but you get the picture.)  

OK, so first thing is first, how is this frugal you may ask?  It turns out if you order the DVD off of Amazon right now, it is free.  (you just pay tax and shipping)  The purchase price is $10 but included in your DVD is a year long subscription to the magazine Eating Well.  If you read the fine print on the business reply to the magazine you can forgo the magazine and get your $10 back by simply writing "refund" on it and dropping it back in the mail.  You can't beat that!  ....Unless you are like me and find yourself conflicted about wanting your money back or trying a new magazine!  Order your copy HERE today!  

Fed Up is the film that the food industry does not want you to see but in my opinion, it is the film that you must see in order to make an educated decision for yourself and your family going forward.  For the past 30 years most of us have been told that the key to a healthy life and waistline is to eat less, exercise more... count calories in and calories out and you will lose that extra weight. Yet as gym memberships double and just about every food on the supermarket shelf has now been made "fat free" or "reduced fat" we keep getting bigger and sicker.  As Katie Couric says it so well "What if these solutions aren't really solutions at all and our whole approach to this epidemic has been dead wrong?"  

I was so fired up after watching this that I had a sheet full of notes I had scribbled down on the back of my kids coloring sheet and was ready to write up an extensive review.  Lucky for you, I don't know how I thought I would have time for that so you will just have to do the homework yourself and watch the documentary.  "Fed up is a wake up call for everyone who eats."- Christopher Rosen, Huffington Post.  It is time to get real about our food. 

I wasn't kidding about the note taking

* Check out the website www.fedupmovie.com to learn more.

*If you aren't going to watch the film and are more of a "give to to me straight/cut to the chase" type of person the conclusion is to EAT REAL FOOD.  Real food will make you full before it will make you fat.  (which my husband and I can TOTALLY attest to as a result of our real food journey these past few years.)  Solutions aren't going to come from government or policy- we have to take it on ourselves, one family at a time.  

*If I lost you at "real food" think of it this way:
food  [food] n 1. something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies
real [ree-uhl, reel] adj 1. true and actual; not artificial

*Have you seen the documentary yet?  What did you think?  Do you eat real food?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Black Beans- Real Food Eating

We eat real food....We MOSTLY eat real food....We TRY to eat mostly real food... there it is!  It has been well over a year since I mentioned that we had made the decision to switch to a whole/ real food lifestyle and for those of you who are wondering, yes we are still at it.  Since our decision to head in this direction we have grown from a family of 2 to a family of 5 and have continually been sifting out what fits best for us, where we bend, and how to afford it.

We have landed on a 90/10 percent lifestyle.  What we mean by that is when we are at home and have control over the food choices we make (about 90% of the time) we try to avoid processed foods and foods high in sugar and opt for fresh produce and full fat foods.  When we are not at home or just want to treat ourselves we do just that, no questions asked.  (about 10% of the time).  For us being at 100%  isn't practical although we have come to believe it to be the best choice to make from a health standpoint.   So there you have it, we TRY to eat MOSTLY real food..... and I should add; we TRY to be as FRUGAL as we can while eating these foods. 

One recent change I have made is in the bean department. We eat a lot of beans around here on any given week as they have become a replacement for meat in most of my recipes.  One week as I was filling my cart with cans of beans I noticed a bag of dry beans sitting on the shelf below.  My first thought being a child from the 90's was "bean bags"  (you know, those fabric bean bags your Mom would sew and then stuff with beans?)  I mean come on, those little dried beans aren't actually edible, right?  Turns out they are and they are delicious AND are you ready for it?......(Cha-Ching!) about 3 times cheaper than your average can of beans. 

So I bought a bag along with my cart full of canned beans that fateful day just in case and after hanging out in my pantry for a few months, I finally gave them a go.  No overnight soaking for this girl.  I went straight to my handy crock pot and 4 hours later had 6 cans worth of beans to freeze and pull out as needed.  I do not think we will ever go back.  Not only were they light years better in terms of taste, but as mentioned earlier cost a fraction of the price of a can of beans. (20 cents vs. 69 cents)

Another bonus (although the verdict is still not exactly out on this) is to avoid the aluminum can all together.  Cans are often lined with a toxic plastic (BPA). Some researchers believe that the BPA leaks into our canned foods and they claim it can be linked to reproductive abnormalities, neurological effects, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease and more. This is especially true of foods that are high in acid and break down the lining of the can. (example- tomatoes) Then again, I was out of glass containers today when I made my batch of beans so I froze them in plastic zip locks. Oops.

For those of you interested in the bean making process I would recommend clicking on over to Cafe Johnsonia where you will find the very helpful recipe I followed.  Below are a few pictures of my bean making en devour.  "Bean" appetit!

Remember to sort your beans!  Little black stones tend find their way into the bags.

I pull out any bean that looks damaged or not right along with pebbles and this bag had a few other beans hanging out in there as well. 

The recipe I followed had onions and garlic which added flavor to the beans.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Customer Freebies

I am not the only one in this house that tends to be a little on the "frugal" side.  My husband has recently taken up the hobby of following "deal" blogs and website on a daily basis.  It is not an unusual day for him to send a quick message my way to "check this or that out...."

 For example, did you know that today is Arby's Birthday and they are giving away FREE Jamocha shakes (12 oz) until they run out?  Nothing like a totally tempting treat on a hot summer day!  (Just in case you are wondering, I didn't make it over there....yet...) 

I don't usually jump on my blog and share these deals (who has time for that?) BUT, I am very, very excited to share about an awesome deal from Coastal.com that you will not want to miss.  So check this out.... supposedly, if you are a "new" customer with them you get your first pair of glasses free....no strings attached.  As always I am a little skeptical and my first thought was that it must not include the lens or something vital to make a pair of glasses a pair of glasses or something crazy like that.  I mean come on, FREE GLASSES ?....

Well my friends, it is true.  No catch.  Great selection of men, women's, and kid's glasses all for the cost of shipping and handling.  (some frames don't apply to the promo so make sure you are looking in the right spot)  My total was $16.80..... for glasses.... are you following me here?

I did have trouble when I entered the FIRSTPAIRFREE code so I had to call to place my order.  They were super nice, helpful, and even though it turned out the pair I was trying to order was not technically one of the "free pair" she was happy to apply the code for me anyway.  WIN!

So hurry up people, this deal is only good through the end of July!  

Check then out here:  http://www.coastal.com/coupon-eligible-glasses

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Garage Sale Season

Garage sale season is once again upon us and yes, I have made it out a time or two....or three...or... you get the picture.  It is a hobby that I love and now that I am on the lookout for kid's stuff, it's taken it to an entirely new level.  I still stick to a few of my basic principles for good garage sales such as.....

1.  I only stop at sales on their first day within the first hour or two that they have been open.  YES, this takes a little bit of planning and mapping out my route but I have found it to be well worth while.

2.  I am still super cheap.  A clothing item over $1 has to be awesome and in excellent condition before I will even consider it.  If I were looking for thrift store prices, I would be at a thrift store. 

3.  I remember the "good ones" and keep an eye out for them from year to year.  What I mean by that is, if I come across a really great sale...the type and sizes I am looking for at a good price, I remember where I was and circle it on my calendar so that next year, I can keep an eye on the adds to see if they have another sale. 

This last principle actually served me well last week.  There was one sale in particular last year not far from our house that had a TON and I mean a TON of nice girls clothing in the sizes just ahead of my girls and the prices rocked.  I have been on the lookout for it all month and came across the add the night before it began!!  It was a GEM.  Let's put it this way, every clothing item I bought for the kids was marked 50 cents and I ended up spending $20.  You do the math. That is a lot of clothes.  My girls will be looking pretty stylish over this next year!  Here's a sneak peak at some of my finds.  Happy Garage Sale Season everyone!  Hope yours is off to a great start as well. 

My little ladies were thrilled to model a few of these fun dresses for me...... and the socks...couldn't get the girl to take them off, what can I say?

Planning ahead for the fall and winter.

So. many. adorable. dresses.

They had this modeling thing down after a few outfits! (note the socks...still...)

Sequence Galore...
My little guy LOVED his "digger" I found in a free box.

....and he also thought the girl's new socks were pretty sweet too.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Jamberry Nails

 Yes, the rumors are true.  I have become a Independent Consultant with Jamberry Nails!  Never in a million years did I see myself "selling" anything like this.  I mean come on, all these companies that are "hot" right now all sell really great products but in terms of "the frugal lifestyle" let's just say they usually don't go hand in hand.  

Go to www.nickibehnke.jamberrynails.net to place an order anytime!

So, as many of you have asked..... "Why in the WORLD would Nicki Behnke- queen of frugal finds, thrift store racks, and Aldi grocery lover be behind this whole Jamberry Nails thing?!?!"  Well, let me explain why I not only love this product BUT turns out it's got a little "frugalness" running through it's veins as well.  

First thing is first, for those of you who are new to Jamberry's, WHAT ARE THEY?  Jamberry wraps are a strip of non-toxic vinyl that can be applied directly to your nail with heat and pressure. They have NO drying time, no yucky smell and come in over 350 different patterns and designs. Each sheet of these wraps come with two sets of nine different sizes to produce the perfect fit and each sheet can produce anywhere from 2-4 applications depending on how long your nails are. They stay on your nails for up to two weeks and your toes for around six weeks!


Did you catch that?... One order of these nails will last you 3 to 4 applications!!  On top of that, each application on your fingers will last an average of 2 weeks and if you put them on your toes they will be good to go for 6 whole weeks.... which if you live in "the North" practically feels like the whole summer season!  

Check out how far one sheet can go!!!

 OK, math time.  You place an order for 1 nail wrap.  After tax and shipping your total is about $20.00.  Divide that by 4 (since you will likely get that many applications out of them) and it brings your manicure/pedicure down to about $5 an application.  Each application will last weeks.

The Cheapest Competition around:  Walmart offers a $12 manicure.  That is ONE application on your fingers that will barely last the week before chipping if you are lucky. Over double the cost for a lot less wear and tear time.  Enough said.  Well, almost enough... check out the pictures below for a few added "bonuses" of Jamberry... 

That brings each application down to only $3.23 which INCLUDES the shipping and tax. OR get rid of shipping by placing an order of $150 or more to lower your cost even more- order with a friend!

JUNIOR JAMS give you THREE sets of FOURTEEN sizes giving you 42 strips total each of the strips will be cut in half yielding 84 fingers or toes PER WRAP. therefore you will get 8 FULL applications (and some statement nails) per wrap that cost $1.88/application.    


Host an online facebook party and end up with FREE products!!!  Super easy!!  Follow this LINK to sign up to host an online party. 

Not only will you make some extra cash (or serious cash if you have the time), but the starter kit itself has some great things included too!  Follow this LINK to join today OR ask me about my story. 


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Kitchen Table Re-do

When our family suddenly increased from 2 to 5 a lot of things no longer cut it.  Take our 2 small cars for example, try as we may there was no way we were going to be able to fit 3 car seats across either of our back seats.  Let's just say I was forced into the mini van Mom deal rather suddenly.  It also didn't take us long to realize that our kitchen table was also not suitable for a family of 5.  I loved our table so for a little over a year I dug my heals in and tried to make it work.  Two things happened:

#1.  Our children managed to leave their mark....multiple marks..all over our nice tabletop and chairs.

 #2.  The person on the end which was not at all meant for a person, couldn't fit their legs under the table.  I ate sitting sideways or with my feet bent up under me for an entire year.  It will eventually break a determined spirit. 

Much to my dismay the hunt for a new table began.  I checked out all the furniture stores in town along with a little online shopping and guess what?  New tables are expensive and I am "frugal".  Not a good mix most of the time.  I found myself on Pinterest (go figure) and was drawn over and over again to re-finished tables.  So, after a few weeks of keeping an eye on craigslist we found a table for $30.  My wonderful husband spent a good hour in the garage sanding it on a below zero WI afternoon and we filled the basement with paint fumes but the finished project was a success.   We borrowed the sander from a friend and used leftover paint to keep the cost low.  I plan to re-stain the top once our kids get a little older and hopefully stop destroying things along with the chairs (which are a separate find and story).  If we can pull this DIY project off, most people can.... and it's also a bonus to save yourself a few hundred dollars when you can.  New kitchen table that a family of 5 can comfortably sit at:  Check! Finished product pictures below..... before pictures currently lost. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Girl's Headband Organizer

Having two little girls who adore "pretty things" means we have quite the collection of headbands, hair clips, and everything in between.  Up to this point, they have been stuffed in an already overstuffed drawer in our bathroom or on the rare occasion they did find their way out, I would find hair things scattered about.  The organization freak in me was about to lose it. 

After searching around on Pinterest  I came up with a few inspirations.... add a little of this and little of that and there you have it.  Not only did I manage to come up with a great way to organize and display the girl's hair things, but it adds to the wall decor in their room.  Two for the price of one.  My grand total for this project came in at just under $10.

A few frugal tips:  I found my frame in a "free box" at a garage sale and scored a huge bag of unique buttons from Goodwill for just $2. 

Ideas adapted from the blogs: Sunny Tuesday and Firefly

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Out to Eat On a Budget

We love going out to eat.  Not only do we enjoy the food, but finding just the right restaurant for whatever the occasion or craving comes dangerously close to falling into the category of "hobby"for us. That, and let's  face it Wisconsinites.  This winter has been rough. (and that is coming from someone who claims to love the winter season) With more than 50 days below zero and counting- the options on the 'What to do for Fun List' are running a little low.  Sure, we could go see another movie or walk the mall again but hey- we could go grab a bite to eat instead.... and so it begins. 

 So how do you go out-to-eat without running out-of-money?  Restaurants are expensive.  Just two meals out to eat in a 7 day week often exceeds the amount of money we budget  to feed a family of 5 breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between for an entire week.  That doesn't sound right when you stop to think about it.  I dare you- for an entire month- to write down every single penny you spend on anything out-to-eat (that Starbucks drink included).  The number may surprise you, especially when you put a x12 behind it.

We have always been conscience of the amount of "out to eat" money we allow ourselves to spend.  At first it was out of necessity since we were young newlyweds still in college and barely making it.  Now it has just become a lifestyle for us and many of the "tricks" we have used along the way have stuck.  It is really coming in handy now that we have 5 mouths to feed when we decide to go out and honestly, makes it possible.

Here we go, in no particular order these are our general rules of thumb when it comes to eating out on a budget:

1.  Beverages-  Water only!  That $2 soda....or $5 to $10 specialty from the bar can really add up.  Every little bit counts.  For our family if we got all 3 kids soda and Paul and I enjoyed our favorite drink from the bar- we are in essence adding a $20 meal to our bill.

2.  Appetizers and Desserts- No thanks!  Again, you can end up adding the price of another meal to the bill.

3.  Entrees-  OK, this is the part you have to stick with me on.  Split it.  Yes, you hear me right, I said split it.  It took my husband years to come to terms with this one so you aren't alone if you just started freaking out a little.  First of all, in general, most places give you a portion size that is gigantic.  You either finish the entire thing and leave feeling like someone needs to roll you out or you end up taking (or in my case leaving on the table) a take-out box full of well intended leftovers.  Really, the trickiest part about splitting a meal isn't trying to find one that will be enough but it's agreeing on one to share! We usually tell the server we will be sharing when we order and ask for an extra empty plate and we divide it up when it arrives. On a side note, every once in a while you will find a restaurant who will charge you X amount of dollars to share.  They call it a "plate charge" because of course it is such a huge inconvenience for them to have to throw one more plate in the dishwasher at the end of the night.  (Don't get me started).

4.  Sides- Add them!! This is the golden ticket to sharing a meal..... side salads, an extra baked potato, order of fries, side of veggies, rice, you name it.  Most places don't necessarily list their sides on the menu but will happily throw them on for a few dollars a piece.  Think of what the price of an extra side or two costs as your second meal cost.  (Our favorite place for this one is at Red Lobster where we add a salad and baked potato for right around $5)

5.  Free-bees-  Pick restaurants where you can fill up on the free stuff! This is especially helpful if you are trying to feed more than 2 mouths... Mexican restaurant chips and salsa... Texas Roadhouse cinnamon butter rolls and peanuts.... Red Lobster's cheddar bay biscuits... Italian restaurant's bread sticks or garlic breads.... Red Robbins endless fries..... You get the picture! 

6.  Coupons-  Keep an eye out for them.  Buy one Entree Get one Free are the best!  Also, sign up for Birthday clubs.  Many places will give you a free Meal or a BOGO on or around your Birthday.  Some of the coupons are even good for the entire month.  (Some good Birthday sign ups are Red Robbin, Culvers, Picanna, Hu-Hot, Coldstone, and Dairy Queen off the top of my head)

7.  Kids Meals-   Some places have certain nights where kid's eat free.  That is obviously a great way to feed the kids if they are tagging along.  We have decided to think outside of the box on the whole kid's meal thing though.  We rarely order kid's meals for our kids.  We find that we are almost always better off portion wise to order an adult meal and split it between our 3 kids.  (I know we will only be able to get away with this for so long but I will take it for now.)  When I place the order, I let them know the kids will be sharing it and ask for 3 small extra plates.  It almost always ends up costing less than ordering the individual kid's meals. 

Example/Picture time: Last weekend we were bored, cold, and having trouble finding a last minute babysitter, so we went on a little adventure as a family to Texas Roadhouse.  To feed all 5 of us (and have I mentioned yet that the kids eat just as much as I do?).... No, let me re-phrase that.  To STUFF all 5 of us, our total bill came to $21.08 plus tip.  It was a fun night!

Paul couldn't crack the peanuts fast enough for this kid!

Boy loves peanuts! 

The ladies side of the table

"What!?  I can throw food on the floor here??"

2 Pulled pork meals.  We used the extra rolls that come in the beginning to make sandwiches for the kids and ended up having more fries than we were able to eat!

Of course I pull apart my food before I eat it. 


A little after-meal coloring for our little artist.

Yee-haw!  What a night! 

Side Note- We don't ALWAYS follow these guidelines.... Every once in a while we splurge for a drink or dessert on a special occasion. Where is your favorite place to eat or find a great deal?