Author Archives: Deanna Michaels

The Best Fall Activities for Kids

It’s my favorite time of year! I love all things autumn, including thinking about an exhaustive list of fun (and easy) fall activities for kids – AKA a fall bucket list!

picture of pumpkin patch on list of fun fall activities for kids and 3 free printables

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Fall to me means cool evenings and mornings along with the perfect daytime temperatures. It’s when I can make soups frequently and baking calls my name. The trees paint beautiful pictures. All things pumpkin are celebrated.

It just makes me excited.

Autumn is also the perfect time of year to purposefully have a little fun and make memories with your children using a fall bucket list.

road with fall leaves on list of fall activities to do with kids

Isn’t it easy to get caught up in to-do lists and the chaos of life? Having a list and plan can help me slow down and enjoy life and my kids more.

They don’t even have to be big, expensive things on your list. Take the time to appreciate and get in the moment of even the little things. Your kids will love you for it.

If you are overwhelmed at the thought of just one more thing, pick just 4 and do one a week. See if you can turn something you have to do anyway (being in the kitchen) into a fall theme.

I’m all about simple, but there is nothing wrong with being elaborate and doing it all. We each need to do what works for our families.

Pumpkin patch on list of fun fall activities for kids and 3 free printables

Fall Activities for Kids

Have a taste testing of several apple varieties

Make apple crisp, bread, muffins, pie, bars, or cobbler

Make apple cider

Make applesauce

Make dried apples

Go to an apple orchard

Make pumpkin puree from scratch

Roast the seeds from the pumpkin

Make pumpkin bread, muffins, cookies, or pie

Deliver a fall baked good to a neighbor or shut in

Carve a pumpkin

Visit a pumpkin patch

Go on a hayrack ride

Corn maze

Make chili

Have a soup potluck at your house

Take a hike in a nature park

Drive to see the colorful leaves

Make hot chocolate and star gaze

Have smores

Leaf prints. Try one  of these

Jump in a leaf pile

Rake leaves for someone who can’t

Practice drawing autumn trees and leaves

Do a fall science experiment

Stovetop popcorn

Fall movie (Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or Great Pumpkin or maybe a football movie like Rudy)

Fall themed book. Here’s a great list of picture books. For a chapter book try this one or Read Aloud Revival recommends this one.

Go on a picnic

Feed the ducks

Fly a kite

Attend a football game

Start a Thankful tree

Pumpkin Spice playdough

Camp out in the backyard

Switch over the clothes

Mail an “I’m thankful for you card”

Pumpkin on list of fun fall activities to do with kids!

Isn’t the idea of a Fall Bucket List fun?!

What have I missed? Do you have any favorite fun (maybe even easy and frugal) fall activities for kids I should add to the list? Have you done a fall bucket list before?

There’s no way we will get all of these done, but I’m confident that numerous ones will happen. 🙂

Pictures of 3 free printables on list of fun fall bucket list for kids

I’ve made a few printables for a fall bucket list in my resource library. One has every one of these ideas on it and another is blank so you can include exactly what you want – after all, you want to enjoy fall not be stressed out! You can get access to them for free when you sign up for my newsletter!

Pumpkin patch on list of fun fall activities for kids and 3 free printables

Best Simple Fried Rice Recipe

I love, love, love fried rice! When you combine it with easy and get a simple fried rice recipe, it’s a winner all around!

best simple fried rice recipe

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Secret ingredients are always a good sign! This recipe has a couple and the extra pop of flavor makes it the best fried rice.

I love using basmati rice when making this. I’ve even used brown basmati. If you don’t have that, try using a long grain white rice.

Try using cauliflower rice if you are limiting your carbs. Shredded cabbage you saute with the rest of the veggies would also likely work.

bowl of dry rice for simple fried rice recipe

If you have a super busy day, this recipe is perfect because you can prep your vegetables the day before (or even several days before). You can also use leftover rice because day old rice makes the best fried rice. See, I told you this is a simple fried rice recipe. 🙂

Did you know you can also freeze fried rice? (I wouldn’t do this with cauliflower rice.) Simply make the fried rice and let cool completely. Place in freezer storage bags or food storage containers and place in freezer. Pull out of the freezer the night before or morning of when you are going to use them and let thaw in the fridge. Saute in a skillet for 5-10 minutes until warm

simple fried rice recipe ingredients

If you don’t mind reheating in the microwave, this would also be perfect to freezer in single serving amounts to pack for work lunches.

Secret Ingredients!

There are a couple ingredients that put this simple fried rice recipe over the top.

  1. Fresh ginger. Of course fresh garlic is involved, but the ginger adds a little something special.
  2. Toasted sesame oil. If you’ve never had this, you are missing out! My picky, opinionated 5 smelled the bottle and proclaimed how good it smelled. Do yourself a favor and get some for this recipe and for making the best Asian salad dressings. (I’ve linked to it on Amazon, but I’ve found it at Aldi for a great price before.)
  3. Sambal. Okay, this is totally optional. My kids don’t use it, but I’m obsessed. It adds a kick and a little extra punch of flavor. I blame my dad for turning me onto this years ago. You could also use siracha (I’ve also found the equivalent of this at Aldi).

simple fried rice recipe square picture

Favorite tool!

I LOVE using a microplane for the ginger and garlic. It makes it fast and super easy.

P.S. I love using fried rice to sneak in lots of veggies. 🙂  In these pictures, it’s the amounts listed in the recipe, but often times I add in extra.

Simple Fried Rice Recipe

Best Simple Fried Rice Recipe
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • ½ inch ginger, peeled and minced/micro-planed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced/micro-planed
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 6 cups cooked cold rice
  • 1-2 cups cooked, diced meat (optional)
  • 3 scrambled eggs (optional)
  • oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sambal or siracha (optional)
  1. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add a little cooking oil (can use butter).
  2. After heated, add the onions and stir and cook 5 minutes. (Lower heat if needed.) When beginning to soften add garlic and ginger and continue to cook another 3-7 minutes until fragrant and tender.
  3. Add carrots and continue to saute. After a few minutes add the frozen vegetables and continue to saute until everything is hot and tender. (Add meat at the end of this time if using.)
  4. Add rice to the pan and stir over medium high heat for 3-5 minutes. Add soy sauce and and sesame oil and stir to combine.
  5. Take off heat and adjust soy sauce and salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Add scrambled eggs if using.
  7. Serve with sambal or siracha on the side.


The best simple fried rice recipebest simple fried rice recipe ingredients


Easy Ways to Save Money On A Tight Budget

I’m sure there are a lot of us wanting easy ways to save money on a tight budget. Whether we are trying to save money up for a big savings goal or because of the lack of money coming in.

picture of small plant surrounded by coins and words easy ways to save money on a tight budget

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When we were in the middle of paying off our house early we were always looking for easy ways to save money on a tight budget. Every little thing added up.

Now that our house is paid off, we are still trying to save money where we can. Retirement needs more put towards it, taking a vacation, and saving some money up for kids’ college funds are all on the list of goals. Watching what we spend, budgeting, and making our money work for us is a part of life.

Some of them we are doing for a season and others are a pretty permanent part of our lives but together they are allowing us to live on less so that we can put more toward whatever our savings goals might be.

10 Easy Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

1. Lower Your Grocery Budget

This is one of the first things to look at when you are trying to save and my personal favorite of the easy ways to save money on a tight budget. It’s easy to gradually start spending more and more on groceries over time. If you don’t want to keep it super low forever, that’s fine but do it to help out while you income is lower or your are trying to reach a savings goal.

This is a big one in our house. In fact, our most popular post is on how I keep my grocery budget at $150 a month. Over the next year, these tips are especially important  for us as our extra money that sometimes went toward grocery splurges is now all going to the house.

Some favorite ways to lower your grocery budget: cook from scratch, menu plan, and using meat as a condiment.

I have my favorite menu planning template available for all of my newsletter subscribers. A lot of money has been saved using this method.

2. Simplify Birthdays, Christmas, and Holidays

It is super easy to go overboard. How often do we keep on finding one more present for our child or want to give them the newest and best gadget. Even the Easter basket has to be piled high.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but you might want to consider scaling back. Set a smaller budget and stick to it. Spend time with your kids and make memories with them instead of spending.

You or your spouse can consider doing without gifts altogether. As an adult, it’s easy to understand why and see the big pictures. Shaun and I aren’t giving each other birthday or Christmas presents and we keep things simple with the kids.

If you minimize your gift spending try using the next tip and you might be able to cover a good portion of your gifts without spending anything out of pocket! Here I have some tips on Christmas Presents on a budget and taking the emphasis off of gifts at Christmas!

pictures of clock and stacks of coins

3. Earn Gift Cards with Swagbucks for Presents

I love Swagbucks. It’s an easy way to earn points you can redeem for gift cards. If you follow tip number two and cut your birthday and Christmas spending down, the gift cards you earn will pay for a good chunk of the presents.

If you work at using Swagbucks (and have a smart phone) you could earn over $300 in a year. This post has some of my favorite easy ways to earn Swagbucks on your computer and this one is about earning them on your smart phone!

4. Drink Water

Forget the pops, juices, coffees, and teas for a while and just stick to water! Not only is it good for you, it’s also the most affordable! The costs of all those other beverages really add up. I promise your kids won’t die without milk at every meal and juice for breakfast.

Milk for drinking and juice are super rare purchases in our house and it really helps save money. Over three years later, this is still true at my house.

5. Skip the Vacation

Our vacations consists of trips to see family and a season tickets to a theme park 5 hours away. This year, since we knew we were going to be pinching pennies, we decided to forgo the season tickets.

We aren’t saving a ton on money because as far as vacations go, it really is quite affordable but the ticket purchase and gas costs for driving there several times still will save us hundreds of dollars. If you take bigger vacations, this could equal thousands of dollars.

I know it doesn’t mean skipping out on the vacation is easy, but remember the big picture and make it a goal to save up for a fun little trip down the road.

In the meantime, find ways to have fun and memories locally.

6. Shop Your Closet

Avoid the mall and all the clothing deal sites for a while and just wear what you have. I’m already a big fan of buying used clothes and shopping clearance racks but sometimes you just need to take a break from even that.

A perk of this, is after wearing all your clothes (instead of having the stash you never touch) you’ll know what items you want to keep and which you should pass on. A more organized closet is never a bad thing. 🙂

7. Eat at Home

It’s nice to get a break from cooking, but restaurants aren’t cheap. You have the cost of a meal and then add the tip in and you could cook a lot of meals at home with what you just spent. Even at a fast food or fast casual restaurant things add up when you are buying for a family.

If eating out is something you love, put gift cards on your birthday and Christmas list (and use coupons when you go out to make them go even further). Otherwise, think about your big financial goal or view it as something you are giving up until your finances increase.

8. Cut the Cable

Get rid of your paid television service. No more cable or dish.

It’s okay. I promise you’ll survive. I know these might be ones that don’t seem like an easy ways to save money on a tight budget. 😉

When we got rid of it several years ago I think my husband was pretty skeptical. It really hasn’t been that bad. Then take it a step further and don’t replace it with Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, or Netflix. How much TV do we really need to watch anyway? Utilize your library, free Hulu, and free streaming on network sites so you can keep up with your favorite shows.

dollar bills with easy ways to save money on a tight budget on top.

9. Cheaper Cell Phone Rates

Cell phones are straight up expensive but there are a few things we’ve found to do to save money.

  • Save money by negotiating lower rates with your cell phone provider. We saved an additional $15 a month by talking to the retention department.
  • My husband has a smart phone and uses Google Voice instead of paying for a texting plan. It has its quirks, but it is fine for his needs.
  • Use a dumb phone. I’ve occasionally thought about getting a smart phone over the years but it’s something I can’t justify doing right now. An extra $15 to $30 a month might not seem like a lot, but all those things add up so I keep my basic talk only phone. (Yes, I even have texting turned off). Maybe after we get our house paid off or our income increases I’ll reconsider, but right now it works.
  • 3 years later and I now have a smart phone. It wouldn’t have happened except that I was needing a new phone and we found a great deal and a new affordable plan.

10. DIY Lawn Care and Pest Control

Okay, so honestly weeds in the yard are something that doesn’t really bother me. Let them grow. (Bonus: it would  mean no toxic chemicals I have to worry about.) My husband, on the other hand, can’t stand them. Plus it makes all your the people in your neighborhood upset if you don’t take care of your yard. Instead of paying a lawn care company to come take care of it, he went to the local lawn and garden store and got their recommendation on what to use and when. It takes a couple hours a few times a year but it saves a lot of money and we can put the money saved toward something else.

The same goes for spiders and insects. I’m not a lover of toxic chemicals being sprayed around the house, but I’m also really not a fan of venomous spiders (or actually any kind-of creepy crawly insect) in my house. You can pay someone or once again you can go to the local store and get recommendations for your area and do the spraying yourself.

11. Read Good Books!

Go to your local library and find some books with inspiration to help you come up with easy ways to save money each month. Try The Tightwad Gazette, More Than Just Making It, You Can Stay Home with Your Kids!: 100 Tips, Tricks, and Ways to Make It Work on a Budget or even Dave Ramsey. If your library doesn’t have any, don’t forget you can ask them to purchase or interlibrary loan them.

This is just the start of the easy ways to save money on a tight budget that we’ve used in our house. I think a part two might be coming.

Those little things that you don’t think make a difference really do add up. Put them together and you’ll find you are saving a decent amount!

What are some of your favorite easy ways to save money on a tight budget? 

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plant and stack of coins with words easy ways to save money on a tight budget square stack of dollar bills saying easy ways to save money on a tight budget

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Chocolate banana oatmeal muffins. Don’t those just sound yummy?! But I suppose it’s hard to go wrong with a recipe that calls for cocoa powder and chocolate chips. Even better when it’s not horrible for you. 🙂

chocolate banana oatmeal muffins in tin and on a plate.

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We don’t always eat gluten free (<—- click there for a great list of gluten free recipes) but we have needed to on a few occasions. These muffins are a yummy treat the kids and I both enjoy (whether or not we are gluten free 🙂 ).

I don’t put much sweetener in my muffins and quick breads, but if your family is used to things pretty sweet just increase the sweetener a touch.

Because these chocolate banana oatmeal muffins are made with oat flour and rolled oats, the texture isn’t quite the same as traditional muffin. It is a cross between a muffin and baked oatmeal but they are quickly gobbled up by everyone in my house. They are great for breakfast or snack. Don’t tell my kids how healthy they are because they’ve even made an appearance for dessert.

They are also perfect freezer food. Cool completely after baking and freeze in a zipped storage bag. Thaw a short time and reheat slightly before eating. Yum!

baked chocolate banana oatmeal muffins in tin and a muffin split in half

I don’t like my muffins super big, (small size is slightly more kid friendly) so I make 12 regular muffins and 12 mini muffins. Use the longer baking times if you are making larger muffins.

Speaking of muffins, I have to share with you my favorite muffin pan. I discovered these last year and have fallen in love. Get this, I don’t need to grease the pans and everything has come out easily. I have the standard size and the mini pan.

Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Muffins

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Muffins
  • ¼ C. honey (or use ¼-3/4 C. sugar)
  • 1 C. milk
  • 2 T. coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 C. old fashioned rolled oats blended to oat flour
  • 1 C. old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • ¾ t. salt
  • ½ c. cocoa powder
  • ½ c. chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 (325 if dark coated pans)
  2. Combine honey/sugar, milk, fat, eggs, vanilla, and bananas.
  3. Mix well.
  4. Mix in oats, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes for regular muffins or 10-11 minutes for mini muffins.


If you like this recipe, you might also be interested in these Gluten Free Oat Flour Banana Muffins that are also dairy free!

close up of chocolate banana oatmeal muffins in tin and on platechocolate banana oatmeal muffins stacked on napkin and in tin

Recipe adapted from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

Easy Ways to Avoid Raising Ungrateful Children

Do you ever wonder if you are raising ungrateful children? Our kids have long lists of wants. Wants that they think are needs. My kids have all their needs met and have so many extras yet they still complain about what they don’t have.

picture of boy jumping with text that says easy ways to raise grateful children

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What are some easy ways to avoid raising ungrateful children?

I’m learning as I go. My children are still young. I don’t know what I am doing. If it makes you feel better, Kristin Welch at We Are That Family says that the secret to raising grateful kids doesn’t exist. (Bummer, I know!)

Yet I do know I want to raise grateful children. I do know I get tired of hearing “I wants” and that what they have is not enough in their little minds.

Thankfully, I think as parents there are some simple things we can do to help cultivate gratitude in our children.

7 Ways to Avoid Raising Ungrateful Children:

1. Serve

Isn’t there something about serving that takes your eyes off of yourself? Be there for those around you. Serve not only financially but also with your time. Have your kids be very involved in the process.

Here are some simple ideas to get you started:

  • Making cookies for someone that recently had a loss
  • Delivering a meal for a family after a surgery
  • Doing yard work for an individual who can’t
  • Volunteering at a refugee center, homeless shelter, or crisis pregnancy center

2. Don’t Give Your Children Everything

Just because your child wants something, doesn’t mean you need to buy it for them! It might feel mean to say no when all of their friends have it but it’s okay to tell your child “no, you aren’t old enough or it’s not appropriate” or “you are right, that sounds like a lot of fun. If you want it, you will have to save up for it”.

When you work hard for something, it’s tends to be appreciated (and taken care of) a lot more. It will also help your children learn that money doesn’t magically appear – they learn and appreciate its value.

Not only will your kids be grateful for their prized item when they save up and make the purchase, they will also be more grateful in the future for things that are given them.

3. Gratitude List

Anyone else guilty of sometimes forgetting the big picture? Of sometimes only seeing the negative and stressful moments? I know it can’t just be me. Our kids are the same way! Having a gratitude list is a great way to help change their mindset and how they view life.

Buy a simple notebook for everyone in your house and challenge them to start writing down 2 or 3 things they are thankful for everyday. Even the little ones can get involved – have them dictate to you their “thankfuls”. You can also print off one of the free gratitude printables in the resource library you receive access to as a subscriber!

4. Thank You Cards

Did you grow up writing thank you cards? Keep the tradition going with your kids! After their birthdays and Christmas have them sit down and write (or draw) notes before they spend the money or use the gifts. My mom was great about doing this with us. I’ve tried to continue doing it with my children. I need to work on being a little more prompt with it. Thank you cards months late just aren’t quite the same.

5. Ditch the Media

Companies everywhere are trying to get our kids to want to have (have to have) their products! If the “gimmes” and “I wants” are a big problem in your house, consider how much screen time they have. Commercials, YouTube channels, ads on electronic devices, and kids’ shows can all contribute to the need for more. Limiting media might also just help your kids enjoy and utilize the toys they do have!

6. Read the News

Read the news with your kids or give age appropriate summaries. Learn about other countries and cultures around the world. Being aware of the world outside of their own community broadens their horizons and gives them a bigger picture. Learning about natural disasters and fighting in another country suddenly makes your want seem not quite as important.

7. Leading by Example

This is a little scary, isn’t it? Our kids are watching us and how we react. If we change our tune and start responding to circumstances differently, they probably will too.

As parents, do we have to have the latest and greatest gadgets, best vacations, nice cars or are we content with what we have now? Are we okay with taking the time to save up for a purchase?

Instead of seeing the glass half empty, purpose to look for the little glimmers of hope, the gifts in our lives, and all that we have to be grateful for even when life isn’t going the way we want. What an example we would be to our children.

We need to give thanks in everything. Not just the good, not just the exciting. Not just when life is going well. Even when it’s a struggle to find one thing to be thankful for.

When we do, and we let our children hear us give thanks, we are influencing them and how they respond. How can we do that – give thanks even in the bad? There’s only one way – looking to Jesus. Our joy has to be found in Him.

What ways have you found to avoid raising ungrateful children?

Don’t forget to check out the resource library for the free gratitude template downloads!

If you want to read an entire book on this subject, check out this one by Kristin Welch:

picture of balloon with chair and text about ways to avoid raising ungrateful children

picture of table with journal and text about ways to avoid raising ungrateful children

Easy Gluten Free Meals You Need to Try

Easy gluten free meals.

Easy gluten free meals that are tasty and healthy! These will make menu planning to much easier. Ideas for breakfasts, lunch, snacks, supper, and dessert!

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We’ve been talking wheat free the past couple of weeks. I shared about our wheat free experiment and gave 9 suggestion to make going gluten free easier for your family (and on a budget). One of the hardest things can be coming up with recipes. A comment I heard several times from friends was “I just don’t know what I would do if we had to go wheat free. I wouldn’t know what to eat”.

Today, I’ve compiled a list of easy gluten free meals to help make your menu planning a little easier.

They are recipes that use ingredients you likely already have in your house or can easily purchase at your local store. Hopefully you can find some great meal ideas whether or not you are wheat free and also see that there is an abundance of food you can still enjoy even if you are cutting out wheat.

If you are new to gluten free eating, on the recipes that use soy sauce, be sure you read the labels because many contain wheat.

Easy gluten free meals that are tasty and healthy! These will make menu planning to much easier. Ideas for breakfasts, lunch, snacks, supper, and dessert!

Easy Gluten Free Meals:






Easy gluten free meals that are tasty and healthy! These will make menu planning to much easier. Ideas for breakfasts, lunch, snacks, supper, and dessert!

What are your favorite easy gluten free meals? I’m always looking for new, tasty recipes to try!

Easy gluten free meals that are tasty and healthy! These will make menu planning to much easier. Ideas for breakfasts, lunch, snacks, supper, and dessert!

Easy Tandoori Chicken Recipe

I’m all about fast, flavorful, healthy meals using real ingredients and this Easy Tandoori Chicken recipe is exactly that.

Easy Tandoori Chicken Recipe

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I received an early copy of Lisa Leake’s newest cookbook, 100 Day of Real Food on a Budget, last week and am looking forward to trying several of the recipes. My daughter has the Costa Rica Red Beans recipe on her list to try next week.

I am super excited to have permission to share this tasty easy tandoori chicken recipe with you.

You guys, this recipe was so simple. It’s a 30 minute meal that’s full of flavor. Definitely great for a busy school night or a leisurely weekend dinner. All three of my kids cleaned their plates. Even my pickiest gave it a thumbs up. The 5 year old at first protested at the spinach, but once I tore it up and mixed it into his food he proclaimed it good.

This easy tandoori chicken recipe is also one of those meals to have in your back pocket when your other dinner plans fall through. There are few simple spices (coriander, garlic powder, ginger, cumin, ginger, salt, and cayenne), coconut milk, tomato sauce, and rice from the pantry and chicken from the freezer. If you don’t have spinach, just add another family favorite vegetable and dinner is ready.

Super easy tandoori chicken recipe. This recipe will be on the table in 30 minutes and it's kid friendly and healthy! #tandoori #indian #chicken #maindish #30minutemeal #recipes #supper #menu

In true Deanna fashion, I made a tiny change. Notice Lisa keeps the chicken in full pieces. My simple tweak is below.

Budget Friendly Tip: Cut down on the chicken (I used 2 boneless thighs and 1 small breast) and after it finishes cooking remove from the sauce, cut into pieces, and add back to pan. You can also add cooked chickpeas or cooked, diced sweet potatoes to replace some of the chicken.

Easy Tandoori Chicken

Easy Tandoori Chicken Recipe
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1½ teaspoons coriander
  • 1½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne (start with ¼ teaspoon)
  • ¾ - 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 13-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2-4 ounces fresh spinach (2-5 cups)
  • 6 servings cooked brown rice
  • Optional if using half the chicken: 1½ cups cooked chickpeas or roasted, cubed sweet potato
  • Suggested Accompaniments:
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • plain yogurt
  1. Combine the garlic powder, coriander, cumin, ginger, salt, and cayenne in a small bowl. Put on one side of the chicken.
  2. Preheat large skillet over medium heat with the oil. Place chicken seasoned side down in the pan. Sprinkle remaining spices on the other side. Sear until golden brown - about 2-3 minutes per side.
  3. Add coconut milk and tomato sauce (and chickpeas or sweet potatoes if using), bring to a boil and cover with lid. Reduce heat to low and and cook until chicken is done all the way through, 8-10 minutes.
  4. If desired, remove chicken from pan, dice and stir back in.
  5. Add more cayenne if needed.
  6. Layer in bowls with brown rice on the bottom, then spinach, chicken and sauce mixture, and any accompaniments.


  • You can see the format for the cookbook above – that is how each page is laid out. Very simple, easy to understand, and I love the pictures.
  • In the recipe cost breakdown, Lisa includes what it’s going to cost you to buy the entire product from the store, not just the portion you use.
  • The first almost 50 pages of the book is food budgeting tips and resources. If you need ideas for that, I’m sure you’ll find it helpful. If you are already a pro at your grocery budget, most of the tips will be things you already implement.
  • A lot of the recipes are ones we’ll try. Some I don’t think will fly high in my family, but over all, Lisa always has flavorful, healthy recipes.
  • My grocery budget is a lot less than Lisa’s budget plan in this book. That means my budget can’t handle us eating a weeks worth of these recipes. But we don’t have too – I can incorporate a recipe here and there as I make my plan each week.

Do you have any of Lisa’s cookbooks? What are your favorite recipes from them? I want to know which others I need to try!

100 Days of Real Food and 100 Days of Real Food Fast and Fabulous are her first books and this newest one is 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget.
  easy tandoori chicken recipe

Easy First Day of School Activities

Can it really be that time of the summer where we are thinking of first day of school activities?

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Time flies. This year I will have one in a 2nd grade and one in kindergarten and one that specializes in making messes. 🙂 Kids like routines and they like having things to look forward to, so having a few fun first day of school traditions up your sleeve will have them excited.

I’m all about keeping things easy (I need easy to make sure I can keep up with them each year) and frugal, so these first day of school activities will be both of those things.

Since we homeschool, these ideas for the first day of school will work for public, private, and homeschooler. Perfect!

First Day of School Activities

Breakfast for Dinner

The night before school starts, have a breakfast feast! You don’t want to spend your first morning of school rushed, so this is a perfect way to sit down and have time to enjoy the breakfast foods you would have made.

Some ideas:

  • A pancake bar with assorted toppings (fruits, chocolate chips, nuts etc). Pancakes could even be shaped into the number of each child’s grade.
  • Cinnamon rolls, bacon, and eggs
  • Breakfast Casserole and Fruit
  • French Toast
  • Yogurt bar

Afternoon Cookies

Make up a batch of  your favorite cookies to celebrate the completion of day 1! You really can’t get much easier than that. Making the dough a day or two before and sticking it in the fridge makes the process even simpler. If you want dairy and gluten free, try these peanut butter cookies or these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are also yummy!


You knew this was going to make the list. 🙂 Find a chalkboard, or small dry erase board, or printable and and find a place to take a picture. For printables, check out this one or this one that’s customizable.


If it’s hard for you to keep up with remembering to do these on birthdays or over the busy holidays, make them a part of your first day of school traditions! Here are a few that I found and liked – this one and this one are great all about me printables. I also really liked this interview worksheet.

Fun Breakfast

I know we already talked about doing breakfast for dinner the night before so come up with a super simple idea for the actual breakfast. Jessica Fisher does a slab apple pie for breakfast every year. If you are like our family, you don’t buy packaged foods – so a box of granola bars or cereal could be a fun treat. Or a box of donuts. Or leftovers from the night before. 😉

Measuring Chart

This is another one of those things I never seem to remember to do. Line up your children and see how much they grew in the past year. I’m loving this removable one I found on Amazon! Don’t want to leave it out all the time, no problem.

Kids Choose Dinner

Let the kids pick dinner for the night. If you think they’ll blow the budget, give them a dollar amount if they are older or help guide them if they are little.

Saturday Fun

The Saturday before school starts, pack up and have a little more summer fun. Try the beach, pool, or hiking and make an afternoon or even day out of it.

Write a Note

Write each of your kids a note for their first day and stick it in their lunch, inside a school book, or in the front of their notebook.

Homeschool Bonus First Day of School Ideas:

Two more ideas that will probably only work for the homeschoolers out there:

PJ Day

Celebrate by letting your kids do school in their PJs. My kids would think that’s the coolest! I know there’s the stereotype that homeschoolers stay in the pajamas, but that’s not how it works in my house so it would be a fun (and looked forward to) treat.

Picnic Lunch

Whether you go to the park or simply to the backyard, make lunch a little special by turning it into a picnic. If your kids already completed their work, it will be a celebration. If they are still in the thick of it, it will be a fun and needed mental break.

What are your favorite first day of school activities?

Super easy, last minute, and frugal first day of school activities you need to check out. Your kids will love doing these traditions year after year.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

3 ingredient gluten free peanut butter cookies. Yum! In full disclosure, sometimes these 3 ingredient cookies get 5 ingredients added to them. But either way, they are made from pantry staples and whip up in a flash.

gluten free peanut butter cookies sitting on a plate

Affiliate links are used in this post.

These are also a gluten free and dairy free cookie! Woohoo!!! Considering we are in the middle of 3 months without dairy or gluten for one of our children right now, this is a big deal.

Someday soon I’d love to remake these using maple syrup or honey and 100% peanuts peanut butter, but in the meantime I needed to share this simple 3 ingredient gluten free peanut butter cookie recipe with you! The kids love eating them and I love how simple they are to whip up. Win win.

Before we dive into the recipe, I want to let you know what the 2 optional ingredients are. First off, vanilla. We know that vanilla makes pretty much everything better. Second, baking soda. This changes the color and how the cookie bakes just slightly. But again, you can leave it out.

The one problem with three ingredient gluten free peanut butter cookies is that they tend to fall apart easily. I would make them on the small side to help remedy that problem (a child in tears because their cookie fell apart is never fun, right?). If you can resist diving in right away, I would let them cool all the way as well.

I like to decrease the sugar to 3/4 cup, but that also slightly increases the breakability (like my made up word 😉 ) of them.

One last thing, I love using my cookie scoop for these. I find it faster than a spoon because the dough is quite sticky.

NOW, for this incredibly easy peanut butter cookie recipe.

If you are looking for another yummy cookie recipe (that includes gluten and dairy) check out this one that came from my grandma.

gluten free peanut butter cookies stacked on a plate

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • ¾-1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla, optional
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda, optional
  • Additional sugar for rolling
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
  3. Place small scoops of dough in bowl with additional sugar and lightly coat the top.
  4. Place on cookie sheet and use a fork to gently press down in both directions to create the traditional peanut butter cookie crisscross.
  5. Bake for 6-7 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet before removing to cooling rack.



Dave Ramsey When You Don’t Have Money

Dave Ramsey when you don’t have money.

Erasing the word debt. Dave Ramsey when you don't have money.

Dave Ramsey. Paying off debt. Living on a budget. Living on a budget when you don’t have money. Financial freedom.

Have any of those phrases ever left you feeling depressed, not good enough, that accomplishing them would be reaching for the impossible?

Have you ever thought being debt free and having money in savings was something only the rich could accomplish but for the poor or lower middle class it’s just something to scoff at?

I want to encourage you. No matter what your financial status, no matter the decisions you’ve made or what life has thrown at you in the past, you can make forward progress.

No, it won’t be easy. Yes, it might be uncomfortable. Yes, you might have to make even more sacrifices. Yes, it might feel impossible.

You will most likely be living against the grain. There’s the chance your friends and family will think you are crazy. There’s also the chance some of your family and friends will be your biggest cheerleaders.

But just do it!

How to Conquer Dave Ramsey When You Don’t Have Money

Start by making a budget.

This is crucially important – and can be done no matter how much money you have. Budgeting when you don’t have money is so necessary. Tell every dollar you have exactly where to go. Yes, that means saying no to a lot of things. Find ways to lower your grocery budget (a huge passion of mine), vacations might have to take place close to home, clothes will probably be bought on clearance or at garage sales. These are all things that helped us on our debt free journey.

Build an Emergency Fund

After you have a budget, you need to have an emergency fund. This helps keep you from going backwards when life happens. And we know life happens. Save up in increments of $10, $50, $100. Every little bit will add up.

You might not have the extra money in your budget to put toward an emergency fund. Your finances might be so tight that even with budgeting and buying used clothes and not eating out, there’s not even $5 left at the end of the month.

What then? You are discouraged. Your emotions want to take over and you just want to quit.

Stick with it!

Ways to Build an Emergency Fund:


Think outside the box. See if there is anything in your house you can sell – on Craigslist, Facebook, eBay etc. You might need to sell the car you are making payments on. Look at your housing arrangements. Maybe renting a smaller place for a period of time will help you get ahead.

Bring in Extra Income

Maybe you have the bare minimum and there’s nothing to sell. Sometimes we have income problems and not a budget problem. All the corners are cut, we are telling every dollar where to go, our cars are old, homes are basic with no modern updates.

What then?

Look for ways to bring in some extra money.

That might mean getting a second job.

  • If you’ve listened to Dave Ramsey I’m sure delivering pizza has crossed your mind.
  • Or maybe you can babysit or pick up a friend’s kid from school.
  • What are you gifted at? Can you sew? Try mending clothes. If you are gifted in the kitchen, maybe you could sell  your famous cinnamon rolls.
  • Churches sometimes pay for a pianist or you could give music lessons.
  • Looking for a part time weekend or evening job is another option.

To  help with buying birthday presents or other purchases use Swagbucks.

Cut Expenses

Look hard at each of your expenses and find ways to save. Check out that post and the ones I linked to earlier for some inspiration. Put that money toward your emergency fund.

One of the easiest ways to start cutting costs is on your grocery bill! Be sure to get this free menu planning template to make your life easier and save money.

Your emergency fund is built up, now what?

Now you get to apply the money you’ve found by budgeting, cutting expenses, and increasing your income to your money into your debt snowball. Only stopping if you depleted your emergency fund and need to rebuild it.

It might take years but keep at it. Keep finding ways to save and trying different ways to increase your income and earn little bits of money each month.
holding a $1 bill. Dave Ramsey when you don't have money.

You can do this!

It probably won’t be easy, but the rewards later are worth it.

Remember, hard doesn’t mean bad. Make sacrifices and think outside the box.

Start making baby steps to financial freedom. Even when life throws a curve ball, stay in the game and stay on course. Let the challenges bring you together as a family.

Find ways to celebrate and enjoy life even while you are on a budget.

These years might be hard and long, but it will be worth it later. Trust me. I’ve been there. When we got married my husband wasn’t making much and I was finishing college and working part time waiting tables. We argued, we did lots of discussing, we worked hard, we said no, we set goals, we celebrated milestones.

You can do it – you can do Dave Ramsey when you don’t have money! If there’s no one else cheering you on, know that I’m am rooting for you!

holding a $1 bill. Dave Ramsey when you don't have money.
Working on a spreadsheet. Dave Ramsey when you don't have money