Author Archives: Deanna Michaels

Cheap Gift Ideas for Men

Is it just me or are men super difficult to buy for?! And then when you come up with the perfect idea it’s crazy expensive. What are some budget friendly, frugal, cheap gift ideas for men?

package wrapped up with gold ribbon. This list of cheap gift ideas for men will make shopping for the guys on your list a breeze!

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Gift guides can be hard.

We know that not every person, not every man, is alike. They have different interests and personalities. The best purpose of gift lists is to get you thinking of ideas you wouldn’t have on your own. Ideas that even though you might not want to buy the exact item on the guide trigger the idea of a perfect item.

Bonus if several of the ideas on the gift guide actually work for your shopping recipient as is.

Cheap Gift Ideas for Men


This might mean a digital album, record, or CD.

Or you could go the more sentimental route and put together a CD of downloads of songs that make you think of your husband/boyfriend/dad. Along with the CD provide an insert you made listing each of the songs and its significance in your relationship.


Movie lover? Purchase the Blu-ray of a favorite old movie. Find a pair of socks that are themed with their all time favorite movie or show.


Digital, physical, and audio books all work great. As long as you select something that’s super in tune with an interest of theirs, they will be excited about the purchase. My husband’s not a huge reader but books about Disney, Chick Fil A, a favorite TV show, or the Dodger’s still get him excited.


It might be a stereotype, but most guys love food. Giving them a stash of their favorite snacks and splurge items will be appreciated. Plus, this is disposable so you don’t have to worry about if they already have it or if there is space.

Electronic Gadget

Maybe something like a phone camera lens, flash light, a coffee mug warmer.

If the man you are buying for travels (or if outlets are a hot commodity in your house) this power strip tower with 8 outlets and 4 USB ports looks like it would be super helpful.

This charging station would help with desk and electronic clutter.

The idea of a small metal detector intrigues me. It could be helpful for finding all of those rogue screws and nails.


Whether your guy does woodworking and major projects or just minor house repairs, get a new tool to make the work easier and a little more fun.

Something like a magnetic wrist band , this universal socket, or an outlet and voltage tester would be a great place to start. Of course if he doesn’t already have a stud finder, that’s super helpful.


A pair of fun socks (my husband received a pair of Back to the Future themed ones for his birthday and loved them), sunglasses, winter gloves, wallet, ball cap for their favorite sports team, or a pop culture t-shirt.


Put together a mini photobook or scrap book of the highlights of your years together.

You could make a basket with the things to go on an adventure: a hike, trip to the ballpark, fishing, movie night etc.

Buy a new game and plan a family game night with all his favorite snacks.

Be creative!

There are over 25 cheap gift ideas for men. I hope that you’ve come up with some fun ideas through this guide. Hopefully shopping for your husband, dad, brother, or friend won’t be quite as difficult this year.

If you have any other ideas, be sure to comment!

paper package wrapped up with red twine. This list of cheap gift ideas for men will make shopping for the guys on your list a breeze!

Visiting the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum

This summer we took our family on a road trip! It was our first big vacation. We started off visiting a friend in West Virginia (so fun) and finished with visiting the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum.

Tips for visiting the ark encounter and creation museum with your kids! These ideas will make your trip the best!

Our kids loved it! It was a great experience and I wanted to share a little about our trip, some tips, and what I think the ideal age(s) are to visit the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.

On this trip our kids were: 7 1/2, 5 and 4 months, and 2 1/2.

Homeschooling perk – we planned our visiting for weekdays after the school year started. I highly recommend doing this if possible.

You won’t avoid crowds entirely (you’ll quickly discover both places bring in many, many tour buses) but they weren’t bad at all.

Tickets, Parking, Planetarium Shows, Schedule

Tickets aren’t exactly cheap – especially to the Ark. There aren’t any ways to get stellar deals. Just buy the combo ticket and enjoy your trip.

(Kids that are 4 and under are free!)

At the Creation Museum you have the opportunity to buy tickets to two different Planetarium shows (first costs $9 and the second will cost $5). We talked to the gentleman at the ticket counter and he recommended that we not buy tickets this trip. The material would be way over the kids’ heads. We decided to listen to his advice and it worked out well. On a trip when the kids are older we’d maybe get them.

When you purchase a ticket for The Creation Museum (individually or as a combo with the Ark Encounter) it is a two day ticket.

This is how we planned our visits:

  • Day 1: Creation Museum (open to close)
  • Day 2: Ark Encounter (open to close)
  • Day 3: Creation Museum at opening for a few hours

We were very happy with that decision and would do it again that way. I also heard from other people that planned their visit in that order and liked it as well.

Both places were less busy after lunch. The majority of the tour buses seemed to arrive at opening and left early afternoon.

You will have to pay for parking at both parks.

$5 parking at the Creation Museum
$10 parking at the Ark Encounter


Both places have restaurants, cafes, food stands etc. The Ark Encounter has many more options. We heard the buffet at the Ark Encounter raved about by so many people. When you are feeding 5 people, costs of eating out quickly add up. So we chose to not purchase food on location.

We packed a cooler with our lunch and left it in the car. Around 12 -1 on both full days we took the bus or tram back to the car and ate a picnic lunch in the car before returning back inside.

I would recommend also packing some snack items and throwing them in your purse or diaper bag. The kids were thankful for them in the afternoons. They are also light enough that they aren’t bad to lug around all day.

There are drinking fountains near most of the bathrooms, but a water bottle is also nice to have.

Ideal Kids’ Ages

In case you were wondering when to take your kids to the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, especially for someone like us who doesn’t live near Cincinnati, I recommend the following.

First Visit: I’d recommend your first visit to be when your oldest is at least 7 – probably in the 7-9 range. This trip worked out when our kids’ ages was perfect. When your oldest is old enough to read, understand, and discuss with. They are starting to think analytically. They are still young enough to be amazed and this will make a huge impression. The younger kids are still learning and in awe and you can feed them facts in bite sized chunks.

Second Visit: I’d plan a second visit when your oldest is in high school. At this age it will be a completely different experience for them than it was 10 years ago. They will understand the information on an entirely different level and will be going through the exhibits with a different perspective. If they are questioning or doubting, this would be a great way for them to grasp Creation.

I think this is a great place to take your kids to twice. Now, for the disclaimer. There is nothing wrong with going when your kids are 4, 2, and 1 (or whatever). Especially if you are doing it for your sake – because you want to learn and experience it. I just think if this is a big trip you will likely only do once (or twice) it is better to wait until your kids are slightly older. 🙂


We did lots of hunting. Both hotels and rentals. If your family needed two hotel rooms, renting a small house might be the more economical way to go. For us, a hotel room was all we needed.

Florence is a nice city in between Petersburg (Creation Museum) and Williamstown (Ark Encounter). Lots of hotels, restaurants, stores etc.

We ended up finding a hotel on Hotwire in Erlanger, KY near the Cincinnati airport: a Holiday Inn with an indoor pool. No pool and no microwave (did have the mini fridge) but we were happy with it.

Florence was where we went to the grocery store to get stuff for breakfasts, packed lunches,and suppers.

Visiting the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum:

Creation Museum

At the entrance to the Creation Museum

Let’s dive into the creation museum. You will purchase your tickets and receive your wristbands in the parking lot. Even your free kids 4 and under will need a wristband and ticket.

Put on your wristbands and after taking the tram or bus to the museum (so be sure you are ready to fold your stroller) you can enter without needing to do anything.

There is a nice lobby area with displays on dragons. The Planetarium is also near the entrance and a restaurant.

Inside the Creation Museum. This is where the Planetarium and 4D theater are. There is also food options.

A new 4D Theater showing the film In Six Days opened up not long before we visited. It is free and very well done. The kids loved it. You use high tech 3D glasses and the story of Creation is captivating. My older two kids loved it. They saw it both days we went to the museum. You will need to do this first thing or after you’ve gone through the museum since once you enter the exhibit area, the museum is one way. We did it right after we arrived both times.

In the new 4D theater

(If you do the shows in the Planetarium you’ll will probably want to schedule them for right after you arrive or for several hours later.)

Once you are done with the 4D show keep going down the path and you’ll enter the exhibits and traffic flow becomes one way.

Through the Garden of Eden in the Creation Museum

We went through the exhibits reading (and/or paraphrasing) the information cards to our kids. Our 7 year old read a lot of them herself. We tried to go slowly and have the kids enjoy, learn, and observe things.

Lower Level of the Creation Museum

As you go through the museum the floor actually slopes down to a lower level.

By the time we were at the lower level and the main exhibits were finished, the kids were hungry and it was time for a lunch break. (There are also food items to purchase right there.) We headed to the car for lunch.

After lunch we went to the outside petting zoo first. They were doing construction in the garden area but the zoo was still open.

We then went and started the museum exhibits at the beginning and just went through it more quickly. The kids enjoyed checking out their favorite things again.

Back at the lower level there is an Insectorium, Dino Den, and Bible Museum Exhibit. (I don’t know if the Bible Museum exhibit is permanent or temporary but it was interesting for adults to go through. The kids didn’t spend much time in there.)

In the afternoons there is a story time and Animal Encounter. Perfect for younger kids.

Check the schedule of events each day because there are also presentations and movies shown in the lecture hall throughout the day.

The Creation Museum has two book stores.  One on the lower level (where the lecture hall entrance is) with not as many things but it much more spacious and then the main, extensive book store on the upper level that you will pass through as you leave the museum. There are so many resources that it can be overwhelming. The book store manager was super helpful, though. Be sure to ask with any questions.

The museum was open from 9am-6pm. We arrived in the parking lot shortly after 9 and were there until shortly after 5.

Second Day at the Museum

The day after we did the Ark Encounter we went back to the museum for a few hours. The kids wanted to watch In Six Days again, so we did that and then they were able to go through the exhibits again and revisit all their favorites.

Ark Encounter

Our Ark Encounter day was a blast. You will most likely have to drive a ways from your lodging to get there (our trip was a little over 40 minutes). The museum opens at 9, so be sure to get up and going.

The Ark is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Driving up to it was exciting.

The parking lot is quite a ways from the actual Ark. Once again, you will buy tickets, or use the tickets you already bought at the creation museum, to get your wristbands. Then you will wait in line for a big bus.

Ark Encounter Parking lot

You are dropped off closer to the Ark and go by bird cages, great places for photos where you can get the entire Ark in the shot, and numerous food options.

This place is built for crowds in peak months. The queue line is such that it can wind back and forth when it’s busy. We didn’t have to wait in any lines and simply walked up the ramp to the bottom floor of the Ark.

There are bathrooms and drinking fountains on each of the three floors.

On the all the floors you make your way around the ark. Some exhibits are on the inside and some near the exterior walls.

The second and third floors both have their own 25 minute movie looping. They are open theaters with bench seats and no enclosure on one end of the ark. My 2 1/2 year sat through them, but they were over her head. The other two enjoyed them.

You see so many animals in their cages and learn about how Noah and his family would have lived on the ark and how the whole ark thing could have worked – how it was a feasible possibility! The ark could have actually housed and taken care of all the animals.

You walk past many cages like this with animals that might have been on the Ark.

It was after 1:00 by the time we made it through just the first two levels.

We took a lunch break in the car and then came back and did the petting zoo before heading back inside the Ark.

We did a faster re-walk through of the first two floors and then did a thorough visit of the third level (be sure you don’t miss the live animals that are at the back end of this level – llama and porcupine were out when we were there).

We finished off in the gift store. There are books but not near as many as the Creation Museum. The Ark Encounter shop is more of a gift shop and the Creation Museum more of a book store. (Though of course they both have some overlap.)

The Ark Encounter also has a huge fair trade section in their gift store.

By the time we left the gift store, it was minutes from the 6pm closing. Another full day.

This really was a fabulous trip! Shaun and I enjoyed it and the kids all loved it. If you are a Christian, or even just interested in learning about young earth Creation, how Noah built an ark and how caring for all of the animals might have worked, I highly recommend you put it on your travel list!

If you have any questions as you are planning your trip, be sure to ask and I can let you know what we did or thought. 🙂

Dinosaur at the Creation Museum. Everything you need to know to make your trip to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum the best trip yet!

Noah's Ark at the Ark Encounter and everything you need to know to make your trip a success!

$170 Grocery Budget

We are back again with another meal plan that uses the produce and meat sales in this week’s Aldi ad. I love shopping at Aldi – the bulk of my purchases come from there and then a will pick up a few items that are on sale at other stores. So an Aldi meal plan is the best!

Meal plan chalkboard for a budget friendly Aldi meal plan!

If you struggle with coming up with ideas for what to eat this week, I hope this post gives you some inspiration.

I’m a huge fan of using menu planning as a way to keep grocery costs down (my first point in this post on drastically reducing your grocery budget). No matter how many of these recipes you use, I highly recommend you get your downloadable menu plan template and put it to use. It has saved me so much money over the years:

This week, I’m not only going to include the sample Aldi menu, but I will also share what I’m feeding my family for the next week on my $170 a month grocery budget. This means twice as many ideas.

Aldi Produce and Meat Sales to Check Out (10/24-10/30):

These prices are in my local ad – your prices might vary.

  • Pomegranates $.69 each
  • Red grapes $.79 a pound
  • 3 pack multicolored bell peppers $1.99
  • Gala apples 3 pounds for $1.49
  • Asparagus $1.79
  • Avocado $.49
  • Chicken Tenders $1.99 a pound
  • Tortillas – $.79

Honestly, there aren’t many spectacular deals. Especially in the meat department. That’s why you try and buy extra for the freezer when you come across a great deal. The produce sales aren’t too plentiful this week either. Thankfully, in season produce you’ll still be able to get for a good price.

Aldi Meal Plan


Fajitas: use the chicken, tortillas (or make your own), and avocados that are on sale
Chicken Noodle Soup: use the chicken that’s on sale and affordable produce
Kielbasa and Cabbage Skillet: cabbage is very affordable this time of year
Veggie Fried Rice: use the carrots you bought for the soup
Stromboli: use ricotta left from last week and make your sauce
Brinner: Homemade Egg McMuffins using meat of choice and fruit (and potatoes if needed)
Fend for yourself/leftovers/freezer meal

Snack and Side Ideas:

Apples and grapes
Carrot and celery sticks
Bell Peppers not needed in fajitas
Bread for the soup

Frugal Lunch Ideas:

Rice Cakes (with peanut butter or meat)
Beans and Rice

Frugal Breakfast Ideas:

Breakfast Apple Crisp (I’d cut the butter back to 1/2 cup to save money)

$170 per month Menu Plan for this Week:

Okay, and now for my family’s menu for the week. I plan using the method I outline in my menu planning template:

Workday – lunch provided
Pancakes for supper

Eggs and hashbrowns for lunch
Fall Festival for Supper

Weeknight Suppers:
Homemade Pizza
Wedding rehearsal/friends & family dinner
Snack Supper (helping with our church’s Trunk or Treat so something fast and easy)
Soup x 2 (maybe potato sausage)

Breakfasts: Oatmeal, leftover pancakes, eggs, maybe oat flour muffins

Weekday Lunches: Soups from the freezer for Shaun, PB sandwiches on homemade sourdough with veggies and fruit for the kids, salad for me

Snack Options: Cuties, pretzels, crackers, carrots, celery

What’s on your menu this week?

Meal plan chalkboard for a budget friendly Aldi meal plan plus my menu for my $170 per month family of 5 budget!

Kid Service Projects

Once there are kids in the picture, simple things can become a little more complicated. Anyone else agree? Where once you could commit to serving once a week or could drop everything and give up a Saturday it is much more difficult. It’s simpler to say no and not find kid service projects.

raking a pile of leaves. This is a great list of kid service project ideas!

Sure, we might not be able to serve in the same manner we were before, but don’t quit all together! Brainstorm some kid service projects that would work with your family.

Coming up with family service projects is also a great way to raise more grateful children.

Throughout the year, I challenge each of us to purposely add a few hours of serving to our calendars. We can do this!

7 Kid Service Projects

1. Operation Christmas Child Shoe boxes

We’ve been doing this since our oldest was a baby. Each of our kids makes a shoe box for the age group and gender associated with them.

Once they reach an appropriate age, we don’t just hand them the money to shop and fill these boxes. Instead, they work and do extra jobs around the house to earn money. One year they did a bake sale at a garage sale for this project. Our 6 year old really got into doing extra jobs this year and worked hard earning money. The 4 1/2 year old also did little jobs but wasn’t quiet as enthused as big sister. 😉

Why do we make them work? So that they are invested in the project and can take ownership. They can can feel good about what they actually worked to achieve instead of just having fun doing it with mom and dad’s money. After they work and earn money, they go shopping, select the items (with guidance if necessary), pack their box, and go deliver them to the drop off point.

They love doing this every year – and I love seeing them work to be able to buy items with their own money and do so excitedly! And as they are shopping for kids that have so little, I can see their minds processing just how much they do have.

2. Sponsor a Child

With your child, find a child to sponsor. Look at Gospel for Asia, Compassion, and World Vision. If sponsoring a child monthly isn’t in your budget, many of those same organizations have “gift” catalogs where you can make a one time purchase of something like ducks, mosquito nets, school supplies etc.

Like number one, let your child earn money to give toward this project. It likely won’t be enough to cover the entire child sponsorship, but even them doing extra jobs each month to have even some money to apply toward the sponsorship will make a difference.

3. Volunteering

Doing things for others really can help broaden perspective and make you appreciate what you have. Many non profit organizations have plenty of jobs that can be done – even things like laundry or organizing. It may take some calling around to find a place that fits with what the ages and abilities of your children are, but there is something.

My mom had us volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center as kids. We were able to do things like cleaning the bathroom and waiting room, putting together newborn bags, organizing the clothing room.

During the Christmas season there will most likely be even more opportunities. Look for places serving meals, that need presents wrapped, cards mailed etc.

Don’t forget about your local church either! Often times there are ample opportunities to step up and volunteer. Even simple things like setting up before a potluck, staying for kitchen duty, showing up to a clean up day are great kid service projects.

4. Delivering Baked Goods

The next time you are making bread, cookies, or cinnamon rolls why don’t you make up some extra and deliver them to your neighbors, widows you know, someone who is going through a hard time, emergency responders etc. Doing little things for others really can make us more grateful for what we have. You could also have your kids draw or write cards to go with the goodies.

raking a pile of leaves. These are great ideas for kid service projects!

5. Needs Around You

Be aware. This requires slowing down. And it’s hard. Train yourself to notice needs and people around you, let your kids see you listen and act.

I have a friend who is so good at this it always amazes me. Bringing meals, visiting the sick and lonely, cleaning out gutters, running to the store, stocking a refrigerator, being a listening ear – this person has served so many people just by taking the time to listen, ask, and act.

6. Make a meal

Again, this is a simple thing to do with your kids! They can help you cook, bake, and deliver! It can be easy to dismiss doing things because they aren’t big or important, but the little things can be just as appreciated. Many a new mom (raises my hand) and under the weather individual has been blessed by supper being dropped off.

We are cooking anyway so we can make extra and be a blessing without a large time or financial commitment.

7. Presents

During the holidays, look for an organization that is providing presents for kids that wouldn’t otherwise get anything. Our church even does a gift tree some years. Find an item that’s in your budget and have your kids go shopping. You could even have your kids earn money to purchase items like we do for the shoe boxes!

During the rest of the year, ask a children’s home, foster family, shelter if there are any birthdays you can help with. A lot of kids have basic needs met by these presents.

8. Outdoor Work

Go to the neighborhood park with trash sacks and gloves to pick up litter. Rake the home bound person’s yard. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway after doing yours. All simple things that cost you nothing and your kids could work alongside you.

Do you struggle to find time to come up with kid service projects or family service projects? Have you found any ways to serve with kids that have worked well? Share in the comments, I’d love to hear!

a rake and a pile of leaves. This post has great ideas for kid service projects!

Fresh Apple Cake with Crumb Topping

Fresh apple cake. Sounds like the perfect fall dessert. Or maybe year round dessert.

Yummy picture of this fresh apple cake is amazing - loaded with apples and a delicious crumb topping. This recipe will have you dreaming of Fall. Family favorite!

Let’s talk apples for a minute. There are fresh apples and then there are apples fresh off of the tree.

Oh my goodness, aren’t they amazing?

A friends brought me two plastic sacks full of of apples from their trees last week. That meant a few things needed to happen. Making homemade applesauce, baking a fresh apple cake, and lots of eating them raw. My kids ate these up. They tasted so good.

This fresh apple cake with crumb topping was incredible but I think it’s safe to say it would be just as good with store bought apples. Give me this cake over an apple pie any day. (I actually prefer a good apple crisp over the pie too. That probably makes me crazy!)

The apple to flour ratio in this cake is so good you almost think you are eating health food. 🙂

Then there is the crumble topping that puts this cake over the top.

I also love that the recipe uses all basic ingredients that anyone typically has on hand. Then there are even easy swaps you can make within these basic ingredients.

Substitute Options:

Fat: the recipe calls for butter but feel free to replace it with coconut oil (or other oil of your choice) in the cake and the crumb topping.

Flour: this recipe calls for white flour, but whole wheat flour would make the perfect substitute. Soft white wheat is my favorite for non yeast breads.

Sugar: the original recipe called for 1 1/3 cups. I have it cut down to 1 cup here and it is still plenty sweet. If your family isn’t used to super sweet desserts, you could cut it down even further. Try 3/4 cup and go from there. I would say, probably don’t use a granny smith apple if you are reducing the sugar. (You can also skimp a little on the sugar in the topping. I’d start with trying 3/4 cup once again.)

Nuts: nuts are one of those personal preference things. Do what works best for your family. My crew prefers without.

Half a recipe: this recipe is one where you can easily cut it in half. Bake in a square baking dish and decrease the baking time.

Fresh Apple Cake 

Fresh Apple Cake
  • ½ cup butter, softened (oil will work as well)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups raw apples, chopped finely
  • ½ cups chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  1. Combine butter and sugar for the cake; add beaten eggs. Sift dry ingredients together and add alternately with the chopped apples and nuts to the butter mixture.
  2. Put into a greased 9x13 inch pan.
  3. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over the cake batter.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.


What’s your favorite apple recipe? Are you eh about apple pie like me or a raving fan like my husband? (But he does love this cake and apple crisp too.)

Yummy picture of fresh apple cake is amazing - loaded with apples and a delicious crumb topping. This recipe will have you dreaming of Fall. Family favorite!

The Best Gluten Free Snacks for Kids

We have spent periods of time eating gluten and/or dairy free trying to resolve some minor health issues. One of the food challenges is coming up with gluten free snacks for kids!

pictures of gluten free snacks. This is a great list of gluten free snack ideas kids will love

This post uses affiliate posts. See the disclosure page for more details.

Although we don’t do a lot of snacks, the kids do have one every afternoon. Those kiddos always get hungry on the long gap between lunch and supper.

Gluten free snacks also come in handy for long drives and trips.

Brainstorming several options, both homemade and packaged made life a little simpler.

Our daily snacks are always frugal ones and I prefer healthy. Of course there are always gluten free snacks for kids that are more of a once in a while treat. Surely we aren’t the only ones that has some of those normally no foods on vacation? 😉

One of the tricks to having your kids eat healthy gluten free snacks is to have them readily available! That and give them 2 or 3 options and have them all be healthy options. The first few times they may tell you they want the cookies or potato chips, but when they figure out the healthy options you said are the only options, my kids have always selected one of them.

popcorn, almonds, and yogurt! This is a great list of 40 gluten free snack ideas for kids.

Gluten Free Snacks for Kids:

  • Vegetables
    Have washed and cut veggies available in the fridge. My kids love carrots, celery, and cucumbers the most. Having them prepped makes them super easy for the kids to grab and eat.
  • Fruit
    Another obvious one. A bag of mandarin oranges, apples, berries, grapes, bananas etc. Buy what is on sale and have 2-3 options available each week.
  • Peanuts
  • Nuts
    Almonds, walnuts, pecans – any of their favorites.
  • Rice Cakes
    They can eat them plain or topped with something like peanut butter or meat.
  • Peanut Butter
    Use for rice cakes, apples, celery, etc.
  • Tortilla Chips with Salsa or Guacamole
  • Plain Potato Chips
  • Popcorn
    Regular or kettle corn for a special treat. 🙂
  • Energy Balls
  • Muffins
    You can buy a mix or make one of our favorites: Chocolate banana muffins, oat flour banana muffins, and pumpkin oat flour muffins.
  • Popsicles
  • Gluten Free Pretzels
    Try the ones from Aldi – they are really good!
  • Gluten Free Crackers
    My kids aren’t fans of the ones made from all rice flour. Look for ones that use a few types of gluten free flours.
  • Meat
    Deli type meat or cooked chicken breasts cut in strips.
  • Beef Jerky
    Read the labels – some brands can have gluten in them.
  • Cheese
  • Raisins
  • Other Dried Fruit (Dates, apricots, prunes, apples etc)
  • Trail Mix (Make your own!)
  • Dry Cereal
    You can find gluten free cereals and have them as a snack. Something like Chex or Cheerios (or their healthier brand alternatives – just always be sure to read labels. Sometimes one won’t have gluten but the other will).
  • Larabars (You can make these yourself too!)
  • Hummus
    Let your kids dip veggies, pretzels, or crackers in this.
  • Gluten Free Joes-Joes
    These are Trader Joe’s version of Oreos. My kids loved them.
  • Other Trader Joes Finds
    If you live near a Trader Joes, be sure to browse through their store for other fun gluten free finds. You can often get seasonal gluten free items as well.
  • Roasted Chickpeas
  • Plain Yogurt
    Plain yogurt topped with fruit or granola and drizzle of honey or maple syrup if additional sweetness is needed.
  • Granola (Or make your own)
  • Frozen Grapes
  • Pickles
  • Olives
  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Applesauce
  • Homemade Granola Bars
  • Smoothies
  • Banana Chips
  • Homemade Pudding

What am I missing? I’d love to keep adding to this list of gluten free snacks for kids to make it a super helpful resource for moms struggling with snack inspiration for their gluten free kiddos.

You can even turn these ideas into a snack supper – that’s one of my children’s absolute favorites.

Popcorn, yogurt, and almonds. These are just a few of the 40 gluten free snack ideas for kids!

Art Gifts for Kids That They Will Love

There is something about kids and craft projects! They love the hands on, and sometimes messy, aspect of them. So what better present is there than art gifts for kids?!

paint set for art gifts for kids. Great ideas for the creative kids in your life.My posts use affiliate links. See the disclosure page for more information.

For all the creative kid art lovers in your life, I’ve rounded up an excellent list of present ideas for you.

In our house, most birthdays and Christmases involve getting at least one art and craft gift.

The Best Art Gifts for Kids:

How to Draw Books

There is a general how to draw guide like this:

Or pick something based on your child’s interest, like these:

(There are books for every subject, animal, style that you can imagine. We currently have dinosaurs, princesses, and pets.)


For the responsible child, get them a set of these colored pencils. They are the best!

If your child is younger, a set of Crayola pencils will work just fine. (This is what my kids still get. When they start being more careful with their materials, I’ll upgrade them!)

Pastels and Charcoals

Kids always have access to crayons and markers and sometimes colored pencils. Expand their collection this year by getting them something new. Pastels or charcoals would be a fun thing to experiment with.

Paints and Accessories

Painting is always exciting. From toddlers to teens – there is something for everything:

Finger Paints for the littles

Set of 18 washable paints or this set of 6 is super cheap as an add on.


Here’s a set of 25 brushes for kids.

Here’s a set of brushes for watercolor and acrylic paints.

Paint tray. This gets used every time the bottles of paint get pulled out.

Modeling Clay

Another fun item to have in your craft closet! Whether to build and reuse like play-dough or build and bake to keep, this will be a project they beg you to do.

Modeling Clay:

White clay that doesn’t dry out

Oven Dry Clay


Yes, your artist needs more than computer copy paper. 😉

Sketch Book

Watercolor paper for paint, pencil, ink, charcoal, pastel, and acrylic

Craft paper on a roll. My kids love having this.

Construction Paper 

Craft Kits

There is a myriad of options. Search according to what the child’s interest are, but here are a few ideas:


Of course you need something to stick things together when you build and create. Most people already have glue sticks and basic Elmer’s glue in their house, so try these:

Glue dots

Hot glue gun

Tacky glue

Art and Craft Essentials

Don’t forget all the childhood essentials. These are the items that most of us probably grew up using:

You can also find a variety pack like this with pipe cleaners, pom pom balls, and googly eyes:

What are the essentials in your kids’ craft closets? What are your favorite art gifts for kids?

Be sure to check out these other gift guides for more ideas:

Best Experience Gifts for Kids
Educational Gifts Kids Will be Excited About
The Best Craft and Art Gifts for Kids
Gifts for Kids Who Have Everything
Gifts for Teen Girls
Gifts for Teen Boys
Gifts for Preschool Boy
Gifts for a 2 Year Old
Gifts for Preschoolers
Gifts for a Home Cook
Gifts for a Fitness Lover

sketch book, paint and brushes for art gifts for kids. Great ideas for the creative kids in your life.

paint set for art gifts for kids. Great ideas for the creative kids in your life.

Chicken Veggie Noodle Soup

This chicken veggie noodle soup is a family favorite. Perfect for a fall or winter day. Actually, we’ve on occasion even made it in the summer.

bowl of delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. This chicken veggie noodle soup is healthy, easy, and so good.

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This soup is full of vegetables: carrots, onion, garlic, potatoes, celery, and green beans! This is also the perfect soup to make substitutes on. Don’t like green beans, simply leave them out or replace with corn or any other vegetable.

Chicken veggie noodle soup is the perfect recipe to serve with homemade bread. It has made an appearance at our table several times for company as well.

Even if we don’t have company, I make this recipe in mass. I love having the leftovers to feed my family for a second meal. (Leftovers are one of my favorites ways to spend less time in the kitchen.)

Bring out your stock pot and put chicken veggie noodle soup on the menu this week!


Chicken broth
Chicken (You can use boneless chicken breasts or bone in – personal preference. Of course
you could also use already cooked chicken, or leftover turkey)
Egg noodles
Green beans
Salt, pepper, parsley


Stock Pot (this recipe maxes out my 12 quart one)
Microplane (completely optional but it makes mincing garlic soooo easy)

Chicken Veggie Noodle Soup

Chicken Veggie Noodle Soup
  • 16 cups chicken broth
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 3 cups of sliced carrots
  • 2 cups green beans (frozen is fine)
  • 3 cups cubed potatoes
  • 2 cups sliced celery
  • 1½ pounds boneless chicken breasts (can use bone in too)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked pepper to taste
  • 3 cups of egg noodles
  • Dried parsley, optional
  1. In a large stockpot put stock, onions, garlic, and chicken. When chicken is cooked remove from pot and add remaining ingredients except for the noodles.
  2. Simmer until veggies are tender.
  3. Dice the cooked chicken (or pull meat from bones if using bone in chicken).
  4. When vegetables are tender add noodles and cooked chicken to the pot. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Cook around another 10 minutes or until noodles are done.
  5. Enjoy!


What are your favorite soup recipes? I have a few more I want to post for the winter  months. 🙂 Soups are the best!

bowl of delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. Healthy, easy, and so good.

Aldi Finds

We are back again with another meal plan that uses the produce and meat sales in this week’s Aldi ad. I love shopping at Aldi – the bulk of my purchases come from there and then a will pick up a few items that are on sale at other stores. So an Aldi meal plan is the best!

aldi meal plan

If you struggle with coming up with ideas for what to eat this week, I hope this post gives you some inspiration.

I’m a huge fan of using menu planning as a way to keep grocery costs down (my first point in this post on drastically reducing your grocery budget). No matter how many of these recipes you use, I highly recommend you get your downloadable menu plan template and put it to use. It has saved me so much money over the years:

This week, I’m not only going to include the sample Aldi menu, but I will also share what I’m feeding my family for the next week on my $170 a month grocery budget. This means twice as many ideas.

Aldi Produce and Meat Sales to Check Out (10/17-10/23):

These prices are in my local ad – your prices might vary.

  • Bartlett Pears – 1.79 for 3 pounds
  • Grape tomatoes – .99 per pint
  • Raspberries – 1.49 for 6 ounces
  • 12 ounces chopped organic kale – 2.19
  • Honeycrisp apples – 2.19 for 2 pounds
  • Ground beef – 9.95 for 5 pounds
  • Pork chops – 2.19 a pound
  • Ricotta cheese – 1.49
  • Tortillas – .99

Aldi Meal Plan


Taco Tuesday (using the ground beef and tortillas that are on sale – or make your own)
Skillet Lasagna
Baked Garlic Pork Chops (I’ve never made pork chops, these sound like an amazing first try)
Cheese Pizza (these are the dough and sauce recipes I use)
Pancakes and scrambled eggs (add some bacon or sausage if your budget allows)
Protuguese Chourico and Kale Soup 
Fend for yourself/leftovers/freezer meal

Snack and Side Ideas:

Apples and pears
Carrot and celery sticks
Roasted Kale
Kale Salad

Frugal Lunch Ideas:

Kale Salad (same recipe as above – also uses the grape tomatoes that are on sale)
Rice Cakes (with peanut butter or meat)
Beans and Rice
Roasted Vegetables

Frugal Breakfast Ideas:

Cinnamon apple toast
Southwestern Oven Omelet

$170 per month Menu Plan for this Week:

Okay, and now for my family’s menu for the week. I plan using the method I outline in my menu planning template:

Pancakes for lunch
Steak Salad

Eggs and hashbrowns for lunch
Small groups for supper (bring sides and desserts)

Monday: Chili

Tuesday: Leftover Chili

Wednesday: Kids eat at church

Thursday: Chili Baked Potatoes

Friday: Pizza night

Breakfasts: Oatmeal, leftover pancakes, eggs

Lunches: Soups from the freezer, PB sandwiches on homemade sourdough, veggies, fruit, salad, deli meat

Snacks: Cuties, pretzels, homemade orange juice Popsicles (my oldest’s request)

What’s on your menu this week?

Moist Pumpkin Bread Recipes You Have to Try

moist pumpkin bread recipes collage. These are the best.

It’s no secret: I love fall. I also love pumpkin. There something fun about pumpkin recipes (especially moist pumpkin bread recipes) and the super flavorful spices that come along with it: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg. Aren’t those the perfect smells of autumn?

Homemade pumpkin breads are amazing. I like recipes that are moist and flavorful. A dry pumpkin bread is no good. Moist pumpkin bread recipes are the way to go.

Side note, why is moist such a controversial word? If so, my question is what word do you use instead? Damp pumpkin bread recipe just doesn’t sound quite right. 😉 Thankfully, I’m one of those not bothered by the word.

Today, I want to share 10 delectable looking moist pumpkin bread recipes that you have to try! There’s no shame with baking your way through the list to find your new favorite.  In fact, your family might even love you for it.

Moist Pumpkin Bread Recipes You Have to Try

Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Bread – Averie Cooks

Photo from Averie Cooks

This recipe from Averie Cooks is amazing. I’m not exaggerating when I say my kids inhaled this. Something that I love about this recipe is that it doesn’t use any eggs! Perfect if you are vegan or just are out of eggs and don’t want to run to the store. I’d recommend using the mild molasses or cutting back on it slightly.

The Best Pumpkin Bread – The Domestic Rebel

This recipe promises to be moist and fluffy! It also uses dark brown sugar. Yum!

Pumpkin Bread – Bake By An Introvert

Photo from Baked By An Introvert

I love that this recipe uses buttermilk. I’m a huge fan of buttermilk (it makes the best pancakes) so I’m sure this is amazing. This recipes also uses an oil and butter combo.

Moist Pumpkin Bread – Genius Kitchen

A pecan topping? Genius! Sounds like the perfect compliment to a moist pumpkin bread. I can attest that this recipe is also tasty without the topping.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread – Sally’s Baking Addiction

Photo by Sally’s Baking Addiction

Doesn’t the use of orange for the liquid sound perfect?! I can’t wait to give this a try. Plus, how can you go wrong with chocolate?

Delectable Pumpkin Pie Bread Recipe – DIY Candy

Photo by DIY Candy

This recipes uses pumpkin pie spice instead of individual spices. Saves you opening about 4 containers right there. Don’t forget you can make your own pumpkin pie spice.

Favorite Fall Pumpkin Bread – Delightful E Made

Photo from Delightful E Made

Erin says that this recipe holds true to the Starbucks’ pumpkin loaf. She also added a tasty looking crumb topping.

Easy Pumpkin Bread – Tastes of Lizzy T

Photo from Tastes of Lizzy T

This recipe uses coconut oil, so of course I am a fan. The recipe also makes two loaves. Perfect to have one for the freezer or to gift one.

Homemade Pumpkin Bread – Six Figures Under

Photo from Six Figures Under

This recipe uses no oil (or applesauce)! I can’t wait to give it a try. I’m a fan of healthy fats, but it’s nice to have a recipe that you don’t have to use expensive coconut oil or butter on.

Moist Pumpkin Bread Recipe Mom Life Busy Wife

Photo from Mom Wife Busy Life

An entire can of pumpkin to 1 1/2 cups of flour. Brittany claims that this is a very moist recipe.

Pumpkin Bread – Simply Recipes

Photo from Simply Recipes

With melted butter and orange zest this sounds amazing and looks delicious. Perfect moist pumpkin bread recipe to make this fall.

Moist Pumpkin Bread – Kitchen Nostalgia

Photo from Kitchen Nostalgia

Be sure to read the tips in the introduction to this recipe. She shares how to be sure your pumpkin bread is moist and whether dark or light brown sugar is preferred.

Easy Pumpkin Bread Recipe Little House Living

moist pumpkin bread recipes

Photo from Little House Living

This recipe has a secret ingredient! Instead of using oil or butter, Melissa uses sour cream. That means it’s another one that needs to be tried.

There are the 13 moist pumpkin bread recipes you need to try! Which are you going to start with? If you already have a favorite (moist) pumpkin bread recipe, please share it with me. I’ll add it to my “to make” list.

P.S. If you are a pumpkin hater, I’m so sorry! Just pin this post to help someone else out. 🙂 Pumpkin season will be over soon enough. 😉

P.P.S. If you are looking for a healthy oat flour (gluten free) pumpkin muffin with chocolate chips and cranberries, be sure to check out this one of mine!

picture of 4 moist pumpkin bread recipes. Have to try these! Collage of moist pumpkin bread recipes. These you have to try!