Cooking for Preschoolers

Great cooking ideas for preschoolers! These semi-independent ideas will keep your kids busy and you'll have a kid friendly dinner or treat out of it too.

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Semi-independent cooking for preschoolers is a great way them to learn new skills and it also has them doing something useful. Kids feel proud and have a sense of accomplishment when they help you.

Kids in the kitchen also serve another purpose. It’s the perfect thing to occupy and keep them busy on those days it’s way too hot (or freezing) to go outside and they’ve already gone through reading, art projects, and building. These cooking ideas/projects for preschoolers are all things that should keep them occupied for a while so don’t rush; let them take their time .

Some of the items on this list of things your preschoolers can make or prepare in the kitchen will require a little more supervision and some are more time intensive but your kids will love them all.

There’s one thing you are going to have to do to make this successful, and it’s not always easy. For whatever your child is working on – leave your expectations at the door! Their foods doesn’t have to (and most likely won’t) look perfect. If they are being safe, sanitary, and having fun – let them be! You want to them to enjoy and want to help in the kitchen. Eventually they’ll be able to cook entire meals but if you make them dread stepping into the kitchen it might not happen.

  • Bread Sticks – Garlic and Cinnamon
  • Homemade Personal Pizzas
    Make up a batch of dough and sauce and have your kids help grate the cheese, cut up vegetables, cook meat and then give them a wad of dough and have them go at creating their own pizza.
  • Homemade Pretzels (It’s okay if they don’t end up in the perfect pretzel shape)
  • Bread (or roll) Dough in Creative Shapes.
    Have the kids assist with putting the ingredients for your favorite yeast bread in the mixer and after its first raise let them have at shaping it into artistic shapes – it could be blobs, hearts, people, rabbits, turtles etc. They’ll love it plus it will take them a while. It’s almost like playdough you can eat.
  • Mini Cinnamon Rolls
    Give your kids a small sections of dough to work with at a time. They will roll out a small rectangle of dough, spread with butter and then sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. If the rectangle is small enough, they should be able to roll it up themselves. They can then use kitchen scissors or a knife to cut into rolls.
  • Roll Out Sugar Cookies
    I really don’t enjoy decorating these cookies but my 4 year old LOVES to frost and decorate for hours. The most time consuming part (especially if the kids are helping) is rolling and cutting out the dough. To make things a little simpler, you roll out and bake the cookies and then they can do the decorating. (Or just save them a small amount of dough to roll out and you do the rest) When it comes to decorating, we just set out a couple little dishes are icing and put topping options into small bowls of some sort and she has at it.
  • Fruit Salad
    Great practice for those cutting skills. If you pick soft enough fruit they might be able to manage washing and cutting everything and you’d have an easy side dish all ready for supper. (Or turn it into dessert and have your child whip some heavy cream to go on top)
  • Mini Fruit Pizzas
  • Fruit Art
    Wash grapes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, slice up some bananas and whatever else you want. Mini marshmallows would also be a fun addition. With toothpicks they could make some cool grape sculptures and maybe even they could connect them together like people or animals or give them a plate and they can arrange the fruit into fun scenes.
  • No Bake Peanut Butter Bees
    This recipe uses graham cracker crumbs or use this healthier recipe with honey, peanut butter and powdered milk.
  • Veggie Pizza
    Prebake your pizza crust and after cooled let the kids spread it with softened cream cheese and top with assorted veggies that they helped wash and chop. Season with salt, pepper, herbs etc.
  • Salad Bar
    My kids always fight over tearing, washing, and spinning the lettuce. They can also help prepare and put all the other ingredients into bowls: Veggies, seeds & nuts, cheese, beans, meat, hard boiled eggs, etc.
  • Homemade Biscuits
  • Homemade Muffins
    My daughter enjoys helping make the muffins and loves putting the batter into the muffins tins. We like to do the mini muffins. Sure, the pan needs wiped down before it goes in the oven but it’s good practice.
  • Cupcake Decorating
    Like with the cookies have dishes or frosting, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, fruit etc to use to decorate.
  • Cookie Dough Balls for the Freezer
    Make a double or triple batch of cookie dough with their help and then they can roll the dough into balls and line on a rimmed baking sheet to go into the freezer. After frozen, they can transfer to a zipped  food storage bag.
  • Angel Food Cake Trifle
    Make an angel food cake and after cool the kids can tear it into bite sized pieces, make whipped cream, slice strawberries and layer it all together in a serving bowl.
  • Parfaits
    Use yogurt, pudding, or whipped cream and layer in glasses or bowls with fruit, granola, chocolate etc.
  • Sandwiches
    Let the kids make mini sandwiches on little pieces of bread (or use cookie cutters on big pieces) and they can assemble little sandwiches for a fun picnic lunch or tea party.
  • Tacos
    Another great and easy meal with lots of prep the kids can be involved in. They can also help make homemade salsa.

Pick a couple projects a week and by the end of the summer your preschooler will be a little expert in the kitchen and you will have filled up many otherwise long, hot afternoons with fun, educational, and useful preschool kitchen projects!

Great cooking ideas for preschoolers! These semi-independent ideas will keep your kids busy and you'll have a kid friendly dinner or treat out of it too.

 

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Menu Plan

Every time I turn on the oven or stove I wonder what I’m doing, Saturday especially. By the time our company was over for butter chicken, naan, broccoli, and cookies I was ready to swearing off cooking inside until the fall. The rest of the menu isn’t too bad as long as I decide to do the pizza on the grill. (We love how it tastes, but it does add another small step.)

Our summer time menu plan for a family of 4! We do it on a budget of $150 a month!

Our taco salad from last week in a homemade shell!

Our lunch standard is salads for Shaun and myself and then plan one or two things for the kids to eat over the week days. It keeps things simple and the planning is easy.

My 4 year old is a good eater but after eating things for months, she gets a little burnt out on them. pancakes have been on her not favorite list for months now, but she’s been getting a little tired of eggs and requested pancakes again. I made a single batch up, so we’ll see if she actually eats them this week. Shaun and I will stick with eggs and smoothies and I made up a batch of yogurt we can use for breakfast or snacks.

Our summer time menu plan for a family of 4! We do it on a budget of $150 a month!

 

If you like Indian food, these are must try dishes! If you’ve never had Indian food before, these are great dishes to try. It’s one of our go to company dishes and it always loved.

Our summer time menu plan for a family of 4! We do it on a budget of $150 a month!

Suppers:

  • Homemade Pizza x 2 (maybe on the grills)
  • Ginger-Sesame Salad x 2
  • Butter Chicken and Naan
  • Grill
  • Nachos

Lunches:

  • Leftover Pizza
  • Leftover Butter Chicken
  • Homemade Mac and Cheese x 5 for the kids
  • Salads x 5 for Shaun and me

Breakfasts:

  • Eggs x 3 or 4
  • Smoothies x 2 or 3
  • Blueberry pancakes for my daughter per her request
  • Oatmeal for my 2 year old (he won’t touch eggs and wouldn’t even try the pancakes – at least his request is easy)
  • Yogurt

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Easy Menu Plan

It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these! Don’t worry, I haven’t given up on menu planning but life has been busy and we’ve been keeping things pretty simple around here. I just finished my grocery shopping and planning and decided to go ahead and share it with you guys.

Summer is here. I’m seriously thinking about doing a summer of oven free and minimal stove usage meals. Yummy salads every night and smoothies for lunches? It would work for me (and save a lot of time) but I don’t know what the family would think about that. At least this week’s menu does a pretty good job of not heating up the house.

Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash! This easy breakfast in a skillet is super flavorful and with approved chorizo is even Whole30 and Paleo approved! Need to try this right away.

Monday-Friday my husband and I have salads for lunch and the kids eat something different – we do things like sandwiches, a big pot of mac and cheese for the week, leftovers from the weekend, snacky lunch of fruits, veggies, and whatever else we come up with. Then they just have some of the salad veggies along with their lunch.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve done a “real” shopping trip. If I was thinking I would have snapped a picture of my fridge before and after. But let me tell you, when the only produce you have left is a couple handfuls of grapes and you are out of dish soap you know it’s time to get it done. It’s nice to be stocked up on produce once again!

Breakfasts:

Lunches:

  • Salads x 5
  • Leftovers, sandwiches, etc. x 5 (for the kids)
  • Taco Salad with salsa
  • Schlotzsky’s (when our Schlotzky’s opened a few months ago we were one of the first people there and got a card for a free sandwich a week for a year – so this is our lunch every other Saturday)

Suppers:

  • Nachos (load it up with veggies to increase the “health factor” but I love some easy meals on the weekends especially when there is lots going on)
  • Taco Salad (made enough for two meals)
  • Grill
  • Mexican Sausage Rice x 2 (new recipe)
  • Butter Chicken x 2

What are your favorite oven free (even stove free if you have them) recipes?

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Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash

Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash! This easy breakfast in a skillet is super flavorful and with approved chorizo is even Whole30 and Paleo approved! Need to try this right away.

I have to share with you my new breakfast obsession. If you’ve been around a while, you know that my favorite breakfast is a delicious Sweet Potato Breakfast Casserole. I love this recipe just as much.

This recipe came to be after I found some chorizo marked down at the grocery store. (I love those kinds-of trips!) Surprisingly, it was the first time I had ever purchased it. I don’t know if I had ever even tried it before.

Did you know you can even make your own chorizo? I have this recipe for chorizo saved on my Pinterest to try! Great way to enjoy it if you are on a Whole30 or eating Paleo and need to avoid some of the ingredients you normally find in it.

Back to breakfast. I know my love of sweet potatoes and we eat a lot of eggs for breakfast so I couldn’t go wrong if I put it all together with some bell peppers and onions. A perfect and flavorful dish!

I make this dish roasting a ton of cubed sweet potatoes in the oven. You could also dice the sweet potatoes and cook them in a skillet. Since I make the sweet potatoes in bulk (I fill up a jelly roll pan), the oven works best. (I’ve even done it on broil when I don’t want to heat up the house as much. I just have to watch them more closely so they don’t get scorched.)

Time Saving Tip: Roast a ton of sweet potatoes at the beginning of the week and then for the other breakfasts, just grab out and reheat in a skillet with the also already cooked bell peppers, onions, and chorizo while you are cooking the eggs and breakfast will be done in 5 minutes.

Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • ½-1 pound chorizo
  • ½ of a large onion, diced
  • 1 bell peppers, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 eggs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Olive or Coconut Oil
Instructions
  1. Peel and chop/dice your sweet potatoes into whatever size pieces you like best. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Place in an oven preheat to 450 degrees and bake for 20-45 minutes depending on the size of your pieces. Toss part way through. You want them to have golden brown parts and be tender but not mushy.
  3. Brown the chorizo in a skillet and remove to a bowl.
  4. In the same skillet saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic until tender and caramelized. Add to the chorizo.
  5. Whisk the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of milk if you desire.
  6. Scramble eggs in the skilled the chorizo was just in.
  7. Combine the sweet potatoes, chorizo, onion mixture, and eggs in the skillet and enjoy!
Notes
IF MAKING AHEAD:
Combine the roasted sweet potatoes, cooked chorizo, and cooked onion mixture. Refrigerate. In the morning reheat the amount you want in a skillet, remove to a bowl or plate, and cook your eggs in the same skillet. Just add to your already heated sweet potato mixture and your breakfast is ready!

 

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Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash! This easy breakfast in a skillet is super flavorful and with approved chorizo is even Whole30 and Paleo approved! Need to try this right away.

Be sure to check out these other posts for more breakfast ideas:

 

 

This sweet potato breakfast casserole is amazing and can even be made the night before! The leftovers taste amazing as well and it's #paleo and #whole30 approved. SO GOOD!

 

20 Whole30 breakfast ideas and recipes! Great resource for healthy breakfasts - the hardest for me to come up with recipes for. (My FAVORTIE breakfast casserole is on this list)

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How to Get Work Done when Kids are with You

I take both of my children to work with me – every day. No, there is no day care on location. Yes, some days I think I’m crazy.

Great advice for work at home or outside the home moms! | When your kids have to come to work with you, how can you get anything done? These are some of the things I've done over the last 4 years of bring my kids to work with me!

I’ve worked as the secretary at our church for over 6 years now. A few years after I started, our daughter was born. Our pastor asked if coming back to work and bring her with me was something I wanted to do, and we decided to try it. That baby is now over 4 year and a 23 month old also joins us. We work Monday through Thursday from 8-3.

Did I ever dream that I’d still be working with both kids coming along with me? Nope! I can remember thinking, “maybe I can keep working until my daughter turns one”. That age turned into two and then three and now she’s four. The extra income my job has provided has blessed us in many ways. We’ve been able to purchase vehicles, our first home, take trips, and are now using it to pay off our home early!

I’ve spent many an hour working with the kids with me. Some days go perfectly and others have a lot of not so pleasant moments in them but we’ve found some things that help our weeks go by a little more smoothly. If you work from your home, these tips will help you as well!

What are some of the suggestions? Here’s how to get work done when kids are with you:

1. Naps

When they are of napping age, plan for naps to happen while you are at work instead of at home. During the months when my children took two or more naps a day, I made it so they’d take one in the morning and one after lunch both while we were at work. When they went to one nap, it happened right after lunch at work. My oldest doesn’t take any naps, but little brother still takes an afternoon one. Those hours are blissful.

2. Spouse’s Schedule

I go to work at 8 and my husband doesn’t have to be at his job until 10. I go to work alone and he brings the two kids at 9:45 right before he heads to work. If he has to go in earlier, the kids simply come to me sooner. Even if your husband heads to work just 30 minutes or an hour later than you, take advantage of that time.

3. Desk Space is for Working

My kids are welcome to be around my desk (and are a majority of the day) but when your child is old enough to understand, make it clear that your office is for working. Rambunctious playing and loud noises have to be done elsewhere. For my daughter that is down the hallway away from the offices or in the nursery (great perk of a church job)!

4. Clear Expectations and Rules

Even though my daughter has been coming to work with me all four years of her life, I still have to communicate expectations and rules for the day.

  • This is working time
  • If you want to be loud, go across the hall or in the hallway
  • When people are trying to work, leave them alone
  • Obey the first time

5. Snacks

Utilize food to your advantage. Especially on those days where the kids are overly tired. My daughter brings a piece of fruit (and sometimes her entire breakfast) with her in the morning. Eating it will take up the first portion of time each day. After lunch we also bring a small snack. Often, she will be given it part way through the afternoon as an incentive for good behavior. (We now don’t do afternoon snack at church – it happens shortly after we get home for the afternoon and that works just as well or better.)

6. Activities

Each day let your child select one or two items to bring that they are able to do alone or with minimal supervision sitting on the floor beside your desk. (Affiliate links used) Puzzles, opposite games, activity books (my 4 year old is obsessed with workbooks of all kinds), coloring supplies, blocks (or something to build).

7. Movies

We have recently eliminated most all screen time in our home, but our daughter is allowed to pick out a movie or show to bring to work. This will occupy them for a decent amount of time, especially if you give them their snack and a blanket at the same time and they can have a little movie party.

8. Limit Battles but Don’t be a Pushover

While you are getting paid isn’t the time to have a multiple hour conflict with your child. At the same time you don’t want to allow them to get by with disobeying, not respecting boundaries, and being loud when you are on the phone. If you do, future work days will be torture. When my daughter disobeys, is loud, or is disruptive to one of the pastors, I remind her of the rules and give a consequence if it happens again. She has to leave the office and go to the room across the hall if she’s going to be rude. End of discussion. She might lose her snack or have to go to her room when we get home. All of those consequences involve minimal time from me, but she’ll remember the next day that I mean what I say.

I’ll be honest, some days go great and others not so well but it has worked surprising well over the years. Adding a second child has helped in there now being a playmate but also increased the amount of destruction and tears that can happen.

It’s good though and I’m thankful for the opportunity to earn money and have my children with me. These tips on how to get work done when kids are with you have really helped our days!

How do you get desk work done with kids around?

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Unique Mother’s Day Gifts

These are some great unique mother's day gift ideas that will also get used! I'd love every one of these. Great ideas to save for Christmas and birthdays too.

Mother’s Day. What if you don’t want to do the flowers or box of chocolate business? You want something a little more fun and thoughtful. Even if you know your mom well, it’s sometimes nice to have a little extra help brainstorming ideas.

Here’s a list of 10 unique Mother’s Day gifts to help you in your shopping. Hey, they’d be great options for Christmas or birthday too (maybe you’ll even want to add them to your own list).

Fair Trade Earrings

I’m loving these funky paper bead earrings from Mercy House. Not only can you get your mom a fun pair of earrings you are also supporting moms in Kenya.

Essential Oil Diffuser and Essential Oils

There are countless diffusers out there. Check out this post for some reviews.

I love Plant Therapy oils. They have become my go to. Great quality, great customer service, and great prices. You can order from their site or Amazon.

Himalayan Salt Lamp

This has been on my wish list for a while and we were just given one last week. We have it set up in the bedroom. The light is fairly bright, so it might be something you only want to use during the day. It releases negative ions and is supposed to purify the air. Not only that, it looks cool.

Tea

I’m not a coffee drinker, but I do enjoy a good mug of tea. Branch out and try a few new kinds. Some of the brands I always browse through are: Yogi (has my current favorite Egyptian Licorice Tea), Traditional Medicinals, Tazo, Stash, Twinings. One of them will have something that would be perfect for you mom.

Books

Splurge for a hard cover edition of the mom in your life’s favorite book. If classics are her thing, maybe Pride and Prejudice. Check out the other classics in this Clothbound Classics set. These Puffin in Bloom books of some of the childhood classics are adorable too!

Lip Balms

Lip balms are one of those things that everyone uses. Lips get dry, kids dig in purses and slobber all over your tube, and they get lost. Of course I’m partial to mine and you can even get a set of 3 for a great price. (Check out the rest of the store for more ideas.)

Herb Garden

Assuming the mom you are shopping for enjoys cooking, go to your local home and garden store and pick out some pots and plant an assortment of herbs. It would be a fun gift that keeps on giving. You can’t beat fresh herbs.

Something Fun for the Kitchen

I’m loving some of these dip bowls from Target. Aren’t the bicycle ones too cute?

Cotton towels also seem to dry dishes the best and these ones from MightyNest are adorable. Might as well make dishes a little more fun.

 Specialty Foods

Buy an assortment of those foods you know she loves but seldom splurges on. It might be something like fabulous bread and cheese, gourmet chocolate bars, an assortments of nuts or her favorite cheesecake. I think we all have these things that we feel guilty spending on.

Wall Art

Obviously you have to know the mom and their taste but there are so many creative people out there. I’m always finding things I love or know the perfect person for.

Hey Emily Thomas has some awesome prints that are affordable or you can splurge on a mixed media canvas. She does great work and I get excited when I see her share one of her new pieces.

Sariko Designs has cute signs on reclaimed wood that I love. We have one of her name signs hanging up in our living room.

One last place I always check for wall art is Dayspring. They have some neat wall art and canvases. Don’t forget to look at the clearance section – I’ve found some good stuff there before.

I love these ideas. They are fun, kind-of practical, and different than the standard flowers. Write a heartfelt card to go with your gift and you are all set.

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Earn Swagbucks on Your Phone

Super easy way to earn gift cards on your phone using Swagbucks' mobile apps. We love it and it covers our gift budget!

Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t have a smart phone. Sometimes I think about getting one, but have yet to commit to increasing our phone bill. Maybe after we hit our big financial of paying of our house I’ll reconsider.

For those of you that are higher tech than I am, I have a super easy way for you to earn gift cards on your smart phone! You might already know how much I love Swagbucks. In fact, I have a post of my favorite ways to earn Swagbucks on your computer (which earns me at least $160 a year in gift cards).

Since my husband has the smart phone, we set him up with an account and downloaded the apps. It’s SO easy to earn on the phone – in fact, I think I could pay for a smart phone using Swagbucks. It’s even easier (and less time consuming) than the computer.

There are several video apps you can download, but I recommend starting with just two. If and when you find yourself maxing out those two, then add another to your daily to-do list. If you aren’t going to earn all the points off of 5 apps, why have them downloaded?

Reminder, be sure you are streaming the videos on the apps when you can use wi-fi to ensure you don’t have data overage fees. It’s no fun to get those notifications.

(Side note, If you are a smart phone user, you’ll want to be sure to download the official Swagbucks app and search app – you’ll be able to do things like search, enter Swag Codes, and answer the daily poll directly on them. These are all ways I talk about in my post on how to earn Swagbucks on your computer for us phone-less folks as well.)

For those extra Swagbucks though, you’ll want to download a few other (free) apps!

Number 1 App to Download

This is my number 1 pick and the first video app you’ll want to get on your phone – SwagBucks TV Mobile. You can earn 36 Swagbucks EACH day on this. One of the best things about it, it will keep on going from one video to the next without you having to do anything! On occasion it might freeze up or have an ad for you to get out of, but over all it’s super easy.

Set it up to run and put your phone on your desk when you are working or on the couch while you are watching a movie. (Extra tip, you can click to the next video approximately 3-5 seconds into each video.)

This is the first app you should max out on your phone each day!

Other Apps to Download

Word of Caution: On the app above you can select categories and I feel confident I can find a family friendly channel and my daughter finds it fun to go through the videos. With the apps below, I don’t like my daughter using my husband’s phone just in case.

After you’ve gotten to the point you are maxing out SwagBucks TV each day there are a few other apps. These apps are put out by Yowgo LLC. They tend to have more glitches than the official one above. The first few days my husband used these apps they definitely glitched a lot. They’ve since gotten better. These apps allow you to earn 18 Swagbucks a day each.

Right now, we are only using the Mobile TV app and the first one below, because you do have to actually remember and take the time to stream these videos and my husband doesn’t always.

EntertaiNOW TV Mobile – this is the app we are using along with SwagBucks TV Mobile..

If you max out both of those, check out the other apps by Yowgo LLC:

  • Lifestylz.tv
  • Sportly.tv
  • MovieCli.ps
  • Indymusic.tv

Let’s just say, you max out all 6 of these apps every day for a year – you could get over $450 in gift cards. If you are anything like us, that won’t even close to happening. Maybe you just do two of them and you’d get almost $200.

Think about the difference that money could make for to your grocery budget. You might even be able to cover Christmas with that money. If you are working hard to make ends meet, these little things really can make a difference.

It’s completely free to sign up, so give Swagbucks a try and see what happens!

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Eating Healthy on a Tight Budget

Eating Healthy on a Budget - You can do it!!! These tips will allow you to buy real, whole foods without clipping coupons. My grocery budget is $150 a month!

“I wish I could buy more fruits and vegetables, but I just can’t afford it.”

“I want to eat healthier, but it costs too much.”

If you haven’t said either of of those things, I’m sure you’ve heard them! They can do it and you can as well. In fact, I think in most cases, families can spend less money and eat healthier at the same time! The majority of people I know, spend more than we do on groceries and buy less healthy foods!

So many people want to change their eating habits and start buying more nutrient dense and less processed food, maybe you do as well, but it can seem overwhelming. You might feel there are so many changes to make and wonder that since you can buy generic brand processed foods for cheap – a lot of times just a dollar of two if it’s really affordable to switch.

There are so many different definitions of what’s healthy, in this post and for our family I focus on whole ingredients, making food from scratch or buying products with minimal ingredients, fruits and vegetables, whole grains,  no artificial sweeteners etc.

You can buy healthy food on a tight budget. These tips really make a difference. For added inspirations, be sure to check out the post on reducing your grocery budget.

Eating Healthy on a Budget - You can do it!!! These tips will allow you to buy real, whole foods without clipping coupons. My grocery budget is $150 a month!

Tips for Eating Healthy on a Tight Budget:

Baby Steps!

Don’t feel like you have to go and throw out everything in your pantry and refrigerator and start over. Transition one ingredient at a time. Replace your canola oil with coconut oil, olive oil, and butter. Buy another bunch of bananas instead of the chips. When your flour runs out, try whole wheat.

Menu Plan!

This is a huge deal to me – I have an entire post on why it’s important. If you go to the store and just start putting things you think you need into the cart, you will spend a lot of money. Plan your meals and snacks so you know exactly what to purchase (but if you find an awesome sale or markdown be willing to adapt when you are at the store).

Stick to the Basics!

The basics are almost always going to be cheaper than specialty ingredients. Don’t feel like you need to buy 10 different fats just because you’ve read about them. Stick to coconut oil, olive oil, and butter.

Cook from Scratch!

Avoid the “healthy” convenience foods. Make bread, cook your own mac and cheese, mix up a marinade for the chicken, make muffins instead of buying Poptarts.

In Season Produce!

Vegetables and fruit will make up a big chunk of your meals and snacks. Buy what’s in season and on sale. Also, don’t forget about the frozen produce. Sure, I love fresh produce but fresh green beans in the winter just aren’t happening.

Don’t Feel Pressured to Buy Organic!

If you can’t buy organic, it’s okay. Produce, even conventional, is going to be better for you than a bag of chips or a candy bar. Don’t let not being able to buy what you think of as best keep you from buying what is better.

Free Range/Grass Fed/Pastured. . .!

This follows the same advice as the produce. Sure, I think grass fed beef is the best, but if I don’t have access to someone splitting a quarter of a cow with me or I don’t find it marked down in the grocery store, my budget simply doesn’t allow it. Do keep your eyes open for great deals, but in the mean time feel good about cooking up your own chicken instead of buying lunch meat or browning ground beef instead of picking up taco bell.

Beans, Lentils, and Grains!

These foods are all pretty affordable. Buy several different kinds-of beans and lentils. Try quinoa. Have oatmeal for breakfast a couple times a week. I like meat but I also like these other foods and they happen to be a little easier on the budget so you’ll see them often on our menu plan.

Don’t Waste!

Plan to use those leftovers! I often have each meal I’m cooking twice a week and then there will be another meal that’s leftovers of the leftovers. Instead of eating the same meal twice in a week you could also plan to freeze the other half and pull it out at a later date.

Not only do you not want to waste leftovers, you want to watch the dairy products, produce, potatoes, and onions and make sure you don’t let all the odds and ends go bad! Turn them into a soup or stir fry. Slice up the bell peppers and stick them in the freezer. Freeze the milk in cup portions.

Stock Bag!

This is a continuation of don’t waste! The ends of the celery, pieces of onions and carrots, parsley that’s going bad etc – throw them into a zipped bag and keep in the freezer. The next time you are making stock, add it to the pot with the bones for extra flavor.

Shop Online!

Don’t assume local stores are the cheapest! If you can’t find local honey, order raw honey online (my favorite place for honey is Vitacost – they have an amazing price. If you sign up for Vitacost with my referral link, you’ll get $10 off your first order!) I also like to check (affilate link) Amazon.

Don’t Be A Short Order Cook!

Make one meal and have everyone eat it. In our house we all eat the same thing for supper. There’s no fixing something different for a child. It’s good for the kids and it’s good for the budget! Weekday lunches the kids eat the same thing and the adults do salads. Breakfast my youngest likes oatmeal and us other 3 eat the same thing. Having to buy ingredients to fix two separate meals adds up!

Garden. . . If You Have a Green Thumb!

Herbs are an awesome thing to grow. Fresh ones from the store are expensive. I’m about the worst gardener ever, and have yet to really succeed with planting, but my sister’s herbs flourish! Try tomato plants, squash, lettuce. See what grows well in your area and try something!

Limit the Snacks!

Snacks really aren’t necessary. Even for kids. If we don’t have fruit with breakfast, my kids will have some midmorning and then around 3-4 in the afternoon they’ll have a little something. Fruit, veggies, nuts, popcorn, rice cake etc. It really varies. That’s it. There’s no snacking in the evening because they didn’t eat dinner. Snacks are easy to inhale and can be expensive. Plus, they often cause your meals to go to waste.

How do you handle eating healthy when you are on a tight budget? Any favorite tips to share?

You can do it! Just take baby steps and keep plugging away. We are all doing the best we can. Thankfully there are lots of ways to save, if gardening was the only one we be broke and starved.

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Eating Healthy on a Budget - You can do it!!! These tips will allow you to buy real, whole foods without clipping coupons. My grocery budget is $150 a month!

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Easy Ways to Save Money

These are a few of the ways we use to save money! They really make a HUGE difference as we live on a low income and work to pay our house off early!

Saving money. It’s probably something most of us want to do for one reason or another.

We are in the middle of paying off our house early. Hopefully that will happen within the next 15 months. This means we are always looking for ways to cut costs and save money. Every little thing adds up.

After the house is paid off we’ll still be trying to save money so we can put more toward retirement, take a vacation, and save some money up for kids’ college funds. Watching what we spend, budgeting, and making our money work for us is a part of life.

I have a list of 10 easy ways we save money.

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 our mortgage.

10 Easy Ways to Save Money

1. Lower Your Grocery Budget

This is one of the first things to look at when you are trying to save. 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.

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. 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!

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 cover a good chunk.

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 I’ll have another one coming on how easy it is to earn 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.

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 vacation go, it really is quite affordable but the ticket purchase and gas costs for driving there several times save us hundreds of dollars. If you take bigger vacations, this could equal thousands of dollars.

We are still looking forward to a few trips to visit family though and having fun locally and frugally!

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, when you have some money to spend on clothes again and go through  your closet you’ll know exactly what to get rid of.

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 going out. 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.

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 or Amazon Prime. 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 a couple of your favorite shows.

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.

10. DIY Lawn Care and Pest Control

Okay, so honestly weeds in the yards are something that don’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.

This is just the start of the ways we’ve found to save money 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? 

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These are a few of the ways we use to save money! They really make a HUGE difference as we live on a low income and work to pay our house off early!

Linking up to these fun parties!

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Why Menu Plan

Have you ever wondered, “Why menu plan?” Someone recently found their way to this blog searching that exact thing. Sure, people talk about it all the time but does it really matter if I do? What’s the point of it?

Menu Planning is HUGE in my house. These are the big reasons we do it and you should too! Saving time and money, umm yes, I think we all want that.

That hour I take every couple of weeks to plan the menu and shopping list are a must do in my mind for many reasons. If you are single or there’s just you and a spouse in the house, there is a possibility you might be able to pull off not planning, but throw kids into the mix and it just doesn’t work not to.

Why bother taking time out of your busy life to menu plan? Sure, there are a lot of other things that could be done in the that hour but there are 3 big reasons I take the time to make a menu.

Menu Planning Saves Money

There is no way I’d be able to keep my grocery budget so low if I didn’t plan! When I sit down to plan, I check the fridge and pantry for ingredients that are going to need to be used up so I can be sure to include them in my menu plan. I also check the grocery ads to see what’s on sale. I can plan for the ingredients I purchase to be used in a couple meals to get the most bang for my buck.

Not only do you spend less when you are at the store, but having a plan also means you avoid the 5pm “what’s for dinner” stress that causes a last minute grocery trip or running to the restaurant.

Menu Planning Saves Time (and Stress)

Ummm. When I don’t know what I’m going to feed my family, people get whiny. Hey, even I get cranky. “Mommy, I’m hungry. What’s for supper? Can I have a snack?”

Having to only think about what I’m going to feed everyone twice a month saves me so much time over having to come up with a plan every day! I have to grocery shop less and think about it less.

Menu planning also saves time (and stress) because it allows me to use the tips in this post on how to spend less time in the kitchen! I now know what prep work I can tackle on the weekend and have leftovers built into my week.

Menu Planning Saves Me From Unhealthy Choices

No menu plan means the likelihood of grabbing some pre-packaged fast meal in a bag or box at the store goes up greatly. The chances of running for pizza or fast food also go up.

Nothing against restaurants. We indulge in a quick pizza occasionally,  but it’s not in line with what I try to feed my family the majority of the time. I try to save those “cheats” for a real emergency, not a lack of planning emergency. If your family likes eating out, plan a time or two on your menu. Just make it a scheduled event.

Knowing I’ll be feeding my family more nutrient dense food, saving money, and saving time and stress are the big reasons why I menu plan. I don’t have the energy or creativity to pull off making an impromptu menu each day.

Has menu planning made a difference in your life? How do you answer the question, “why menu plan?” I highly recommend you give it a try if you don’t already.

Menu Planning is HUGE in my house. These are the big reasons we do it and you should too! Saving time and money, umm yes, I think we all want that.

Linking up to these fun parties!

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