Saturday, November 14, 2015

Crafts and Creations for November and December

I have been writing a lot about saving money and how we accomplished a No Spend October.  During the month we were able to save money, AND save time we would have been getting groceries/essentials.  We used our surplus of minutes to have fun as a family, read more and to accomplish things around the house.

For the business am currently working on crafts, sweets, classes and parties for this Holiday Season.

Here are a few of things I have been doing:

1.) Baking.  I am making pies, quick sweet breads, and cake bites to sell.  I envision these treats being shared at Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, given as gifts, and saving busy folks time without sacrificing quality.   The recipes themselves are special to me.  The pie crust, pecan pie, and banana bread come from my grandma and mama.  The cake bites AKA cake balls were a treat that Ms. Lana from Camden, AR shared at Christmas with us.  The apple butter bread is my own creation from a bounty of apples shared with us from the Hamiltons here in Fulton.  I love how baking warms my home and I hope my food can bless others too.

Pumpkin and Pecan Pies

Livi and John approved of the whipped cream :)

2.) Using my Nose.  We have had such a beautiful Indian Summer and the roses are still blooming!  My kids -even Baby John - have been plucking rose petals off for me to dry to make potpourri for sachets.  They also have shared their mint plants to mix with teatree oil for a refreshing fragrance.

3.) Learning.  In October I was given a HUGE piece of brand new high quality carpet.  I attempted to make a free-hand painted doormat.  I learned some limitations that day, and decided to try using a stencil.  Not only was I able to use premade stencils but I attempted to make my own.  I love them!  The pumpkin and all three Christmas trees in these pictures are from stencil I made.

4.) Upcycling.  Besides the carpeting, I have been reusing or "up cycling" lots of materials.  Thrifted shirts, lace, vintage ornaments, and even scavenged church bulletin fronts are being used in my products.  I hate to waste anything that can be reused.  Brad would probably call me a pack rat.  At least I'm sharing it through my business instead of keeping it all!

5.) Reading.  I have taken extra time to study what is popular right now and to learn how to make new things.  I have sought articles on how to promote my business without pressuring friends and family to buy from me.   If you are reading this and have felt that way, please let me know how to work on that!
         It has also been amazing to make the time to search the Bible  more for guidance on how to balance out elements of life and to honor God through my work.  I keep coming back to Proverbs 31.  The women in the story is called blessed by her children for her efforts.  I want that to be the way my family feels about me.

What are some ways that you can think of to improve/promote Classic Creations without coming across as pushy?  Please leave me a comment below or send me a message.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

7 McDonalds Savings Tips and Menu Hacks to do Without Getting Cranky

Overall we eat pretty healthy around these parts.  Processed food is at a minimum and chemical food dyes are missing entirely.  The kids and I have hummus or hard cooked eggs with veggies several days a week for lunch.   It works well and I believe we live better for it.

But sometimes....

when everything is perfectly aligned-or rather perfectly stressful/chaotic- I need salt.  And cheese. And above all I feel the need for special sauce.

I'm talking about a BIG MAC.

Specifically one with piping hot french fries and a fountain Coca-cola.

My friends know how much I love these.  So much that they save coupons for me and alert me of sales.  I have used them in health analogies, illustrations of food combinations and even in Bible study.  There is just something about that combination that exudes comfort food to me.  I think its my settler ancestors who lived on salt pork, bread, and sugared fruits as they travelled in a covered wagon.  I'm trying to justify it.  Don't get me wrong, its not healthy food.  It's a whole day worth of calories send you into a sugar spin food.  But once in a while, once a month, it is more of a need than a want.

As you know from my previous blog post, I am constantly trying to stretch and save our just-what-we-need budget.  So I thought I would share some of my best Mickey-D's savings tips with you to help weaken the blow on your wallet and your waistline.  Hopefully you will find some of these things helpful for when you indulge in this once in a while treat.

Big Mac hamburger.jpg

Pertaining to Mr. Mac
1.)  Opt for a <secret> name change.  The price for a Big Mac sandwich has gone up to $3.99 for the sandwich alone.  I have started ordering a double cheeseburger add Big Mac Sauce, add lettuce.  The double cheeseburger costs $1.49 and the add-ons can vary at each restaurant but on average the total for the sandwich comes to around $2.  The only thing you are missing is the middle bun and the sesame seeds, and while they are an important part of the Big Mac, you won't miss then that much.  You could even do the same thing to a regular cheeseburger or quarter pounder to create a similar taste.

2.)  Have a Big Mac Buddy  McDonald's often will offer BOGO deals on their Big Macs (and quarter pounders, and egg mcmuffins).  If you go halvesies on the bill you each get a Big Mac for $2!  And who doesn't want to enjoy their favorite junk food with someone who appreciates it just as much!  Note:  Do not attempt to purchase two Big Macs and refrigerate or freeze one for later.  I learned this the hard way- Sincerely, formerly pregnant Amanda.

General Savings Ideas
3.) Share, child, share  The last time we had McDonald's, Brad ordered a grilled chicken meal, and I had a coupon for a free Big Mac.  We split his drink and fries and saved the cost of adding on the side items for me.  We also have shared nuggets and sandwiches sometimes to save cost and calories

4.) Eat like a kid  There is no shame in ordering a kids meal.  You get the junk food that you like for less  and  the calories are more in line with a real meal too.  And a toy :)

5.) BYO sides  We will sometimes bring apples and carrot sticks with us when we eat fast food.  Take out makes this option a bit less awkward for folks who feel funny about taking food in to a restaurant.

6.) Look for Sales and deals  Every couple of months McDonald's sends a coupon sheet out in a mailer.  There are deals on the back of receipts from McDonald's its self and other stores.

7.) Sign up for the app and coupons Go to or the app store on your smart phone to download the McDonald's app.  After registering, you will be eligible for a free sandwich and lots of digital coupons.  Coupons include BOGO products, money off of purchase, and punch cards for McCafe drinks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Reflection on Spending Free October

I am counting Spending Free October as a success.  We are three days into November now and I still haven't purchased any groceries with no plan to until Saturday.  Our family had a great month without really feeling deprived.  Looking at our bank accounts compared to last month, we were able to save more than $550!!!!  That may sound low to some, but its a lot to us.  And that doesn't include generous monetary gifts from our church family for pastor appreciation month.  We are beyond blessed by the Lord regardless of our bank account. He will provide no matter what.

Cutting out spending for groceries and essentials, limiting gasoline usage, and other expenditures in October will help us get one step closer to owning a new-to-us van without payments.  I encourage you that anyone on any budget can do this with planning.

Here are few things I learned during our Spending Freeze:

1.) We have great people in our life.  Our parents encouraged us, visiting through this month as well as taking us out to eat -a big treat!   I hope that we will be like you in how we love our kids in adulthood.  First Baptist Church honored the pastoral staff with a banquet, cards and gifts.  They also humbled my heart by praying for us during a Sunday service.  Thanks to the Lord for these that love our family!

2.)  I kept track of everything.  I now know how much laundry detergent, hand soap, dish soap, etc we go through in a month.  I found out with cloth diapering most of the time, we can stretch disposables a long way.  I know how much produce we go through and how much meat.  This will help in future stocking up.

3.)  We didn't lack for entertainment.  We enjoyed time with church family, our families, camping, and visiting friends without spending extra money.  We had fun Halloween costumes and did lots of fall crafts with the kids.  And lots of outside playtime.

4.)  I was surprised what I didn't think of.  I ran out of nail polish remover and had painted my nails on Oct 1st.  Being ever stubborn, I let it wear off instead of borrowing.  I also got a little nervous about our toilet tissue supply, it was close, as I forgot to get that the last part of Sept.

5.)  My kids didn't miss it.  Livi asked why we weren't going to ALDI a few times.  Overall she thought it was fun to have creative dinners and more time to play together.  John's tummy was full and his cheeks kissed so he was good too.

6.)  I got more accomplished.  I have been able to keep up my house, and work on projects for the business.  This may or may not have been connected with the Spending Freeze, or just because it was needed.

7.) I missed cheese and Coca-Cola.  My "Vices"  On Sunday nights I usually do all of the laundry for the week and a few cleaning chores while having a 50 cent can of Coke.  I missed it a bit, but not enough to go buy one.  We ran out of cheese around Oct 18th.  I made some cream sauce pasta to substitute...not as good as eating a slice of cheese.  My mom spoiled me rotten last week by bringing us several slices of 5 different kinds of cheese.  We still have some in the fridge.  -Thanks Mom!

8.)  God is in Control  I have said it before, but all that we have is because God has allowed it.  This month has taught us about His generosity.  We have learned contentment in Him and His provision.  He works in our hearts to help us learn to give and trust.  Thanks be to God in all things great and small.  We thank Him for taking care of us through this month.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

10 Ways to Save Money Without Getting Cranky: Entertainment

Still going strong on day 24!   We were able to take my mother in law out to a local Clydesdale ranch.  It was really fun, and since we bought the tickets months ago it was free :).  I can't believe this  no-spend month is almost over!

One thing I am learning through this month of no spending is that even though we really don't spend a lot on things overall we usually don't feel badly about the sacrifice.  Most of my friends call me their "thrifty friend" (I also answer to frugal and in the right context cheap).  I love brainstorming with them about ways to save money and not feel deprived.  I have decided to share a series of "top 10" lists of our frugal ways that usually don't make me cranky.
When we decided that I would work from home with our kids, we knew that one of the areas that would really be cut would be our entertainment budget.  I would sometimes get bummed out that we couldn't, or rather shouldn't, go out to eat or spend an evening shopping.   I still think those things can be viewed as a treat and done in a frugal way on occasion.  But when it isn't time for that, here are several things we really enjoy.

Entertainment in your Home/Hometown (With or Without Kids)
 Go to the Library  Check the calendar for events like concerts, classes, and crafts.  At most libraries you can go online and check the massive catalog for books, DVDs, CDs and more.

Park and Picnic  Our little town has several great parks with trails, playgrounds, disc golf, tennis, and even a splash pad.  We also like to find parks along the way when we travel to picnic and play (saves money and waistline from fast food).  We have found some excellent parks along the way.

Visit a College  Colleges and Universities constantly have things to do that are free and very low cost - especially at smaller schools.  Plays, concerts, art exhibits, sporting events, classes, and more can all be found on the school's websites.  Not near a college?  Try taking in a high school football game or choir concert with your kids.

Art Crawls  Many towns have a specific night each month dedicated to art galleries being open late.  These nights are usually family friendly, and sometimes have live music and hor d'ourves.

Date Night In  After we put the kids to bed, we like to watch a movie, play a board game or simply work on a project together.  The mundane can be magnificent with the attitude adjustment of "We are doing it together - yeah!"

Date Night Out Childcare   Hiring a sitter can be expensive.  Finding friends who would watch your kids for you  if you watch theirs is a great way to avoid that.  There are even babysitting co-ops in some areas.

Think like a College Student  Remember when you were in college and really had no money?  No real bills, or real responsibilities either in most cases.  Back then you would have fun on a "date" sitting in a stairwell playing guitar.  Build on that idea.  Go for a walk and get ice cream.  Play a game of tennis, pool, or anything that you might not be the best at.  Jump in rain puddles together.  Have each other try on outfits of the other's choice at the mall.  Simpler worked back then and it can still be fun now.

Go Online  I have been know to google "Free things to do in (insert city)"  both here and when preparing for a trip.  Festivals and fairs, Concerts, Exhibits, and more can be found by doing this.  Our chamber of commerce has a calendar on their website full of upcoming events.  There are also great websites like Macaroni Kid , HulaFrog, and Free Attractions who will do the legwork for you.

Get Cooking  Find a new recipe or one from your favorite restaurant to copy.  The cost difference will surprise you and usually it will have less fat/salt/sugar than the dining-out version.  Pick a country and choose several dishes to make from it.  Like a delicious Irish stew with soda bread and salad.  Or, see what is in your pantry and freezer with no purchased ingredients.

Think Creative  Work on a new garden bed together, do a craft, teach the kids a new game. Invite the neighbors over to roast marshmallows in the fire pit.  Have dinner by candlelight.  DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  My kid, and husband think its hilarious fun to roll two old tires down the hill and see which one gets to the bottom first.  That is definitely different and completely free.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Spending free October with one small spend

Just wanted to update on our Spending Free Month.  We are already on day 20!  Despite not spending money this month, we have stayed very busy and well entertained.  It has been a month of hayrides, playing at the park, bonfires, and s'mores.  We have been blessed to have these fellowships with good friends and church family.

The one splurge that we were unwilling to give up for our family was purchasing fall pumpkins and go to the pumpkin patch.   Livi has loved it the past two years and I wanted John to get to experience the fun. I went back and forth about whether we should do it, and I wanted to share how we were able to without spending from our normal budget.

We were blessed to receive a monetary gift of $20 from a church member.  Our family so grateful to our church for their generosity in service, time, and even tangible items.  Now $20....that may not sound like a lot but for our family it was EXACTLY what we needed.  That gift allowed us to go to the pumpkin patch, and to purchase pumpkins from ALDI -they were 1/4 of the price of the patch at $2.50 each.  The kids loved playing in the corn box, seeing animals, and walking around the pumpkin vines.  We took a lot of pictures.

While we were out, we were emailed a coupon for $5 off of $5 worth of candy at Staples.  Free Candy!  God provided a way for us to donate candy to our church fall festival without spending any extra money.   I am going to keep looking for free candy deals before the festival to get more for this great cause.

Olivia showing off one of our pumpkins and a sign we painted

I am so thankful for this month going so smoothly.  Are any of you up for a no spend challenge?  It has been incredible to see how God has supplied all of our needs AND some of our wants.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Food Glorious Food! Food This Month / Bread and Tortilla Recipes

Our family survived week one of no spending!   We purchased milk for the kids today and a replacement 9V battery for our smoke detector but nothing else.  This week will probably be the easiest for us this month as we went camping with my folks and didn't have to worry about much for a few days.  This was a huge blessing.  I have received some great encouragement from sweet friends as well as a few funny looks as to why we are doing this.  Thankful to the Lord for taking care of everything.

I want to share how I am planning meals this month.  Food is very important to me.  I want my kids to have a varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.  I try to limit our processed foods and cook almost all of our meals from scratch.  We do really enjoy cheese and I would almost say I need chocolate every day.

For October, I evaluated everything we had in the house in pantry, freezer, and fridge.  We have also been blessed with an insanely prolific tomato crop,  and a youth pastor who shares eggs once or twice a month so I factored those in too.   I listed everything in the categories of Meat, Dairy, Vegetables, Fruit, Grains, Beverages.  I evaluated what ingredients I had and what I could make with them.  Then I created a list of all of the meals we will be eating this month including treats, snacks, beverages  It took a bit of time, but I know it will be worth it to know that we have healthy food planned.   I can rotate meals if it doesn't work with how the day unfolds.   Here are a few things we will be eating:

1.) Pancakes and fruit
2.) Toad in the hole (toast with egg in the middle)
3.) Oatmeal and fruit
4.) Biscuits with ham and apple butter
5.) Peanut butter sandwiches with fruit
6.) Black bean breakfast burritos
7.) Toast with jam and fruit
8.) Yogurt Parfaits

1.) Vegetable stir fry with eggs, brown rice and sauces (we will eat this several times
2.)  A Tuna dish (tuna noodle casserole, tuna loaf, tuna salad)
3.)  Huumus with veggies, wheat crackers, and apples
4.) Chicken stew with sage, onion, carrots, and potatoes
5.)  Lentil Soup
6.) Chicken Alfredo Spinach Pizza
7.) Black bean soup
8.) Ham with potatoes, peas and carrots
9.) Ham and bean soup
10.) Chicken or Ham wraps with homemade tortillas

1.) Peanuts and Raisins
2.) Crackers with Huumus or Cheese
3.) Popcorn
4.) Applesauce
5.) Molasses Cookies
6.) Chocolate Cookies
7.) Apple Pie
8.) Blackberry Pie
9.) Hot Chocolate

Most of the dinner recipes will feed us all 2-3 complete meals which is great for when I am busy.

I am making our grain products this month.  Here are the recipes that I use for part-wheat french bread and whole wheat tortillas.  These are both great for all meal times, and hold up to sandwiches, spreads and dunking in soup.  They are easy enough that I can make them during nap time or fairly quickly after the kids have gone to bed and taste so much better than store bought.

Part-Wheat French Bread
 2 3/4 cups warm water (I nuke mine for 25 seconds on high in the microwave)
1 tablespoon yeast or two packages
5 cups all purpose flour
2 cups wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
Olive Oil

1.) Combine water and yeast and let bloom

2.) Whisk together flours and salt

3.)  Slowly add yeast mixture to the flour.  Knead dough for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Cover and let rise until it doubles in size.

4.)  Shape the dough into two long baguettes.  Start the oven preheating to 425.   Cover and let rise until the oven is preheated or until they have nearly doubled in size.

5.)  Brush loaves with olive oil.  Bake at 425 for 20 minutes

This bread freezes well and will keep in an air tight container for 3-5 days

Whole Wheat Tortillas  yields 10  Recipe can be doubled
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup warm water (more or less as needed)

Cast iron or non-stick griddle (this is really a must as the tortillas could burn and leave marks on your pan)

1.) Combine flour, baking powder, and salt

2.)  Add oil and stir until it is combined

3.)  Add in water a little at at time until the dough forms a ball

4.)  Knead the dough on a floured surface by hand for about 10 minutes.  Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

5.)  Divide dough into 10 balls

6.) Roll out each ball into a circle on your floured surface

7.)  Cook each tortilla over medium high heat for 30 seconds on each side until slightly browned a puffy.

8.) Freeze tortillas or enjoy right away.  Stores fine in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-5 days

Olivia had fun rolling out the dough

Hope that you enjoy these delicious recipes!  I would be happy to help with any questions that would make them easier for you to make.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

This is Going to Sound Crazy...

The past two years have been a big roller coaster.  In July of 2013 we purchased just over 4 acres inside city limits -my dream was the land and Brad's was good internet service.  We decided to go ahead and build our home since interest rates were so low and our builder had availability.  The next month they were pouring the foundation.  In fact we broke ground, had an acceptable offer on the home we were living in, AND found out we were pregnant with John all within a 24 hour period.  God had a plan that happened all at once in His timing!

We moved into our home here on Bartley Lane the following January.   Livi loved watching the snow falling from her own bedroom window.   It felt so good to be settling in.

Our John was born on his due date in the spring.  He is still such a relaxed but dependable little guy.  We were feeling like everything was going great.  And it really was.

We had some major financial changes that needed to take place that summer.  Things we didn't expect in the slightest.  Side swiped by things we could not have planned for.  We were thankfully prepared for some emergency, but drastic monetary changes took place.  It was a hard time for me.  My mom and lots of good friends helped me to snap out of the initial shock.  I didn't understand why this happened after we had been so careful with our funds.  It took the whole summer and most of that fall to figure out solutions, and for me to see the good in less.  I finally realized that we really weren't living as frugally as I thought and most of all to praise God through having less money.    

Flash forward to now:  We are still happily here on Bartley Lane.  The kids are growing and are beautiful. AND we have all of our needs and several wants meet.  A huge blessing with a renewed mentality on who our money belongs to, and how we should spend it.

I was looking on Facebook a few weeks ago and came across  Living Well Spending Less and the 31 day no spend challenge.  This challenge encourages folks to spend as little as possible during the month of October.  I talked to Brad and he is on board!  We will be modifying the plan a bit to fit our needs, but I am super excited to see how this month goes.

1.)Bills:  Of course we are paying our bills this month as well as tithing (before anything else), and paying for Olivia's dance lessons.  I am going to see how much less electricity/water/gas I can use.

2.)Food:  We have to buy fresh milk weekly, but overall I am going to see how long we can make it eating out of the pantry and freezer.  If the frost holds off we will have tomatoes to the moon and back as well as fresh apples and pears.  We also have a couple of gift cards to use if we really really want to eat out.

3.)Other Money:  We also agreed if there is some sort of spending that we need to do that is work or ministry related, we can figure out a barter with someone or spend the least/best amount possible.

Throughout the month of October I will be sharing ways that we generally cut costs in all areas of our life before and after our financial changes.  These little things allow me to work from home with the kids and have afforded us many other opportunities -like building a home.  I hope that you will enjoy following along in this craziness and find humor and truth in my future posts.

Happy Fall, Happy Savings!