Category Archives: Family

Fun and Frugal Family Night Ideas

a family of four fishing.

Fun and frugal family night ideas. My kids love having family night. I think just the name makes them excited and they don’t even care exactly what we do. 🙂 Sometimes we get stuck in the rut with doing the same things (movies, games, pizza, and parks are our go tos) but the kids love when we switch things up!

We did a 2 night backyard campout last month and the kids thought it was the best thing ever and can’t wait to do it again.

All of the kids provided input on this list to help get us thinking outside the box – there are so many fun ideas.

And as a bonus, except for a movie night, all these family night ideas are screen free!

Don’t stress about trying to do them all. Make it simple. Do your standard family night activities most weeks and then just one day a month let the kids rotate selecting an activity from the list. They will love it and you won’t have to stress about doing something different every week.

A lot of the family night ideas on this list are free! Always a win. The others are all still super frugal – you can do this on any budget!

four pictures: a family fishing, a family baking, an open book, and art supplies

Fun and Frugal Family Night Ideas

  • Game and pajamas night. Let everyone select their favorite game have a game marathon. Wearing PJs (and some sort of fun snack, of course) will make it even more fun.
  • Movie and popcorn night. I’m sure you’ve done this before but you can’t go wrong with it!
  • Puzzle night. Pull out a new puzzle and a treat to eat and see how much you can get done it one night. You could also use some fun conversation starters.
  • A long walk. Of course you need to let the kids pick which direction to go at each intersection.
  • Homemade personal pizza night. Pizza happens weekly in our house, but I don’t often do the personal sized ones. They are always a hit!
  • DIY ice cream sundae bar. Another favorite! We normally eat ice cream without toppings, so having all the extra goodies to choose from are greatly looked forward to.
  • Picnic. Pack up your dinner and find a new location to picnic.
  • Fishing. This would be by son’s favorite family night activity.
  • Living room camp out. Perfect to do in the winter! Pull out pillows and blankets and books and have a family campout inside!
  • Backyard camp out. Doing this makes my crew so excited! The perfect idea when the weather is nice.
  • Meandering car drive. Load up the car (and pack a few snacks or grab a treat at a restaurant) and just go on a long drive exploring where you haven’t been before.
  • Bowling. I feel like a bad mom. My kids have never gone bowling. We’ll have to remedy this, but I remember bowling outings when I was a kid.
  • Service project. Go out with your family and rake leaves, paint, or do another project to help someone else.
  • International Dinner. Select a country and then find recipes from there to make for supper, play music from the country, and maybe even make a little quiz.
  • Go play tennis. We’ve done this and the kids have enjoyed it even if we chase a lot of balls. As the kids get older, I think we’ll find ourselves doing this more.
  • Progressive dinner. If could even be a dinner of snacks and then dessert, but the idea is to going around to several restaurants and get something different from each.
  • Bake off challenge. My three all love spending time in the kitchen. You could try dividing into two teams and have a dessert or entree challenge of each teams choice. Or switch things up and put together a basket of random ingredients like on chopped!
  • Art. This is one that my daughter is most excited about. Gather (or buy) the supplies and do a family painting or drawing night. Try using a video on YouTube to help guide you.
  • Poetry. Spend the evening going around the room reading poems aloud. If you don’t have any poetry books, check some out of the library. Make this even better by making/buying each persons favorite snack.
  • Star gazing. This is so much fun, especially if you plan it for a meteorite shower. Gather up blankets to lay on, astronomy books (or an app on your phone), snacks (seeing a theme here – food makes anything more special for the kids), and plan for a late night.
  • Goody Baskets. Spend some time putting together baskets of homemade bread, cookies, cinnamon rolls, or treat you bought. Then go deliver them to friends’ front doors, ring the door bell, and sneak away!
  • Water balloon fight. Honestly, this isn’t something I normally participate in with the kids. Beyond filling up balloons anyway. I know they’d love to have an epic family water balloon fight.
  • Beach, pool, or park. Take an evening trip and have fun playing as a family.
  • Bike. Take the bikes out for a ride or go to a local skate park for a fun evening!
  • Twilight hike. You will hear different sounds and see different sights. Perfect ending to the day if you ask me.

a family at a kitchen table baking

There are 26 family night ideas to get you started! When you’ve gone through this list, I’m sure your kids will have even more creative ideas to keep you going!

Sometimes going through the work to do something a little different, even when it’s still inexpensive and fairly simple, can make such special memories they’ll be talked about for a long time.

Go and make a fun memory and tell me how it went!

a family outside holding a fishing pole

Must Have Kitchen Tools

Stainless steel skillet on a cutting board with a cooked egg

Don’t we all have those favorite things in our kitchen? Those must have kitchen tools that we always want to use? Sometimes, using them even makes you happy! Typically they make your life easier or work so much better than most.

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In my last post I shared my list of kitchen essentials. These are the things that are pretty much a necessity, even if you kitchen is tiny. I also tackled my favorite kitchen appliances here.

Today I’m filling you in on my favorite must have kitchen tools! Most of them are all essentials and some of them are brand dependent. I use these items week in and week out and often times day in and day out. (Be sure to check out the list of small kitchen appliances to know what else I use often!)

Good Pots and Pans

Several years ago we upgraded our pans to a stainless steel Calphalon set from Bed Bath and Beyond. I love them. They can also go in the oven (with the lids) up to 450 degrees. My set has 8 pans and pots plus lids. So much better than the really old, falling apart set we were using. 🙂

If you don’t cook a lot or are limited on space, I’d recommend an 8 and 10 inch skillet, 1.5 quart sauce pan, 3 quart sauté pan, and a 6 or 8 quart stockpot depending on your family size or if you’ll be cooking for groups. You can always add more later, but if you have limited cabinet space, these are the essentials. If you get a non stick pan, get an 8 or 10 inch skillet.

I recommend buying good quality cookware. You are going to have these things for a long time so you want to love them. Cheaper pans tend to warp and not cook evenly. When we were shopping, our top brands we considered were the higher tiered Calphalon products and All Clad. They are expensive so that did mean it took us a few years to purchase them.

Rubber Spatula

I have the classic scraper from Pampered Chef and love them. Would recommend having two. (Don’t tell anyone, but I actually have three and there are times when they are all dirty at once!) Don’t buy the cheap ones. They will fall apart way easier and not work nearly as well. I use them for cooking, baking, and scraping.

Kitchen Tongs

Buy the ones that lock (by pulling up the head not with the sliding ring)! These are great for flipping meat on the skillet, serving salad, removing corn on the cob from hot water and so much more. I have this one from OXO.

Kitchen Shears

I love using kitchen shears. They are perfect for snipping fresh herbs, green onions, or chives. They are also used weekly to cut my daughter’s pizza into bite sized pieces. You can use a pair for cutting meat into chunks and another for slicing your homemade cinnamon rolls to put in a pan.

Mini Cutting Board

This gets used all the time in our home. It’s perfect for a small job – cutting an apple or grapefruit in half, rough chopping a small amount of veggies, mincing just a clove or two of garlic. I love how little space it takes up. Great size to put in the cooler or slide under a car seat to take on a road trip.

wooden spoon and whisks on a counter

Cheese Plane

The cheese planes for hard and semi hard cheeses are awesome! You can slice cheese in a perfect thickness. No more overly thick slices of cheese for sandwiches, grilled cheese, or crackers. A block of cheese will go much further. This gadget might just save you money.

Flat Risotto Spoon/Saute Paddle

This wooden spoon is perfect for sauteing, browning meat,  and stirring anything you are cooking. The flat edge helps scrape the bottom of the pan much more effectively than a spoon.

Good Knives

You don’t need a block of knives. Instead get fewer but better quality knives. This is something I’d do over again if I could. We registered for a knife block when we got married and they are all very dull. We started replacing our knives with the Wusthof brand. Next I need to get a good sharpener. I would buy 2 Chef’s knives, a paring knife, and a bread knife to start. Do you have a favorite knife brand to share?

Mini Serving Spatula

These are the perfect size to serve any dessert made in a pan. We use it all the time for sweets and main dishes. When mine broke a few years ago it was something that I immediately replaced.

Pancake Turner Spatula

This gets used for pancakes, quesadillas, grilled cheese and other such items in our house. Whether you get stainless steel or silicone or nylon will depend on if you use non stick surfaces to cook your pancakes on.

Pizza Stone

If you make homemade pizza, this is a must have! I have two and they make the best pizza crusts. Well worth the investment. I have the large round stone from Pampered Chef but you can find them many places.

Salad Spinner

This in an item I’d say depends on your salad eating habits. If you make large quantities of salad, you are going to want this. Getting your lettuce dry is so much simpler and it lasts longer. I prepare a large quantity of lettuce for us to use for salads during the week every Sunday and this makes it a breeze. My spinner is one of the push knob kinds.

Microplane

Use this to add garlic, ginger, or nutmeg to a dish. It’s also perfect for zesting citrus fruit. If you don’t do a lot of cooking with fresh garlic or nutmeg you can skip tool and simply mince it with a knife and cutting board, but the microplane is amazing. 😉

USA Pans

I only discovered these a few years ago but I am obsessed! They use a silicone coating and are nonstick. I first made egg muffins in these and was amazed when the eggs popped right and I hadn’t treated the pan at all. They are more expensive that your basics pans, so I have been building my stash slowly. I have the mini muffin tin, regular muffin pan, mini loaf pan set, and one larger loaf pan.

What are your go to, must have kitchen tools? I have one I’m wanting to try and honestly, I hope I get to update this list with it.

Between this list, the kitchen essentials and favorite kitchen appliances, you’ll have a pretty stocked kitchen that you’ll want to spend time in!

Sharp knife on a wooden cutting board

My Favorite Kitchen Tools! You will want to make sure you have these in your kitchen: cheese plane, rubber spatula, good pots and pans and more! Great ideas for my kitchen or a wedding registry.

Originally published April 3, 2014. Updated August 29, 2019.

Easy Valentine’s Day Party Ideas for Your Kids

It’s February. In our house that means birthday season begins and Valentine’s Day! Let’s chat easy Valentine’s Day party ideas today!

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I’m not big on Hallmark holidays or gimmicky events, but I have kids and they like to enjoy life. If your kids are in school, I’m sure they have a Valentine’s party or two. We homeschool so our Valentine’s celebrations, beyond what we do as a family, consist of handing out cards in Sunday School and giving treats to some of the elderly members.

After years of talking about it, this year my daughter is going to have a simple Valentine’s party with a few of her friends!

Two things have to happen for this to come together. First, simplicity is a must. I can’t do over the top, time intensive events. It’s not my personality and I don’t have the time to pull it off. Second, an event has to be budget friendly! I’m all about living within your means and finding ways to stick with a budget – even for a party. 😉

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get into these Valentine’s Day party ideas that are both easy and budget friendly! Double win. If I can do it, you can do it – trust me!

Easy Valentine’s Day Party Ideas for Your Kids

Guests

Let’s start with the guests! Coming up with a reasonable number of kids to invite is a great way to keep things simple and frugal. If you have a lot of kids, maybe let them each invite a certain amount of people. If you have one child that’s “hosting” the party, you could just have 3 or 4 other kids over.

Decorations

Keep it simple. The kids don’t need it to be elaborate. Just decorate the table and area where they will be eating and call it good! We picked up some window clings and a banner on clearance a few years ago and the kids love putting them up each February. Pick up a white, red, or pink tablecloth and some candy hearts or confetti to sprinkle on the table and you are good to go! You could set the table with glass dishes for a “fancier” look or pick up themed plates from the dollar store.

Food

If you ask my kids, they would say this is the most important part! They get so excited thinking about what they want to eat it’s comical.

I have two simple food ideas for your Valentine’s party. Let your kids choose between them each year. Remember that less fancy appeals to more palates – especially when your kids are young. So don’t go crazy!

Option 1: Breakfast Theme

Almost every child loves pancakes. Make up a big batch of pancake batter and cook them fresh for the party. You could even get fancy and make them in heart shapes. I know my 8 and 5 year old are obsessed with shaped pancakes.

Of course have syrup set out. If you wanted to get extra fancy, put out a dish of whipped cream and some sliced strawberries.

You really don’t have to even do anything else. Sure, you could add some fruit or bacon or sausage but honestly, it’s a party for kids – so you don’t have too! You can serve juice or water for drinks.

Option 2: Make Your Own Pizza

This will be a huge success! Make pizza dough (my recipe is here) and pizza sauce and prepare all of the toppings ahead of time.  Have a pizza station set up on your table or kitchen counter and give each child a lump of dough and have them roll it out. Put it on a baking sheet and let them add toppings.  Then it’s time to bake and eat!

They will think this is so much fun. Again, this is a party for kids. Don’t worry about the sides. If you really want something, put out some carrots sticks but I think they’ll be thrilled with just the pizza.

We’ll talk about dessert coming up! It gets to play dual purpose!

Activities

Have one or two simple activities.  Maybe an easy craft and then dessert.

Painting

Pick up a pack of small canvases (5×7 or 4×6 is fine) at Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon and a bottle of red or pink paint (or even blue)! Raid your craft supplies for some heart stickers and have the kids make a canvas like this to take home.

Decorate Cookies

Combine dessert and an activity into one. Have heart shaped sugar cookies already cut out, baked, and cooled. Prepare little bowls of frosting (and sprinkles if you’d like) and let the kids all decorate cookies! They can have a few to eat and then also bring a small plate home.

That’s it! With these easy Valentine’s Day party ideas you will be mom of the year!

Simple decorations, some kid friendly food, a few friends and an activity or two and your kids will have a blast!

If your kids are a lot older or younger than mine, adapt the ideas to work! Older kids will know what they do and don’t want to do. A movie night might be more their style or simply hanging out with friends. Kids a lot younger, keep it even simpler!

I hope your party is a success and stress free! Do you have any favorite Valentine’s Day party ideas to share? Leave them in a comment!

Affordable Birthday Traditions Your Kids Will Love

Here is a great list of birthday traditions that your kids will love! Fun ideas that are also cheap and easy and don’t involve a party.

Birthday cake with colorful candles as part of birthday traditions your kids will love.

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Whether you do a big birthday party with friends or not, these suggestions will help make your child’s birthday special.

I love finding simple ways to celebrate and make memories. The easier and more affordable a  birthday celebration is, the more doable they are to keep up with year after year (and kid after kid).

Being on a tight budget and not having money to spend doesn’t mean a birthday can’t be special. You can still find ways to make your kids feel important. I think your kids (and you) will love these new birthday traditions so much they will want to continue them even year after year (if you are throwing a huge party).

We have one birthday a month for 4 months in my house and I know that’s really nothing. Growing up 3 of my sisters all had birthdays within 28 days of each other! We loved February because it meant lots of ice cream and good food. 🙂

Easy Birthday Traditions

Breakfast in Bed

This is so much fun when you are a kid! Selecting a birthday breakfast and then getting it served to you in your bed makes you feel like royalty. My mom did this for every birthday all of our growing up years. Even more fun when parents and siblings sit in the room and chat while the birthday child eats. Of course, as they get older they might enjoy eating breakfast alone better. 😉

Bedroom Door

Have streamers either hanging down from their bedroom door frame or taped across it (and they can break through) to greet them when they wake up.

Balloons

Again, while they are asleep, blow up dozens of balloons and scatter them around their bedroom floor.

Birthday Dinner

Let your birthday boy or girl pick what they want you to make for supper – main dish, sides, and dessert!

Side note, it’s perfectly fine if your child doesn’t want a traditional birthday cake. There’s a lot of kids that don’t love cake. Let them choose what they want. Growing up we had a lot of crazy chocolate cake, angel food cake, Mississippi mud pie along with other assorted desserts. Both of my older kids’ current favorite birthday dessert is a cookie cake.

Birthday Plate

Have a special “fancy” plate that you only use for a birthday child or other special occasions and let them use a fancy cup.  It’s all about making the child feel special.

For a “birthday” plate, here is one option. (Not super cheap.)

For a “special” plate, it can really be anything. Growing up we had a big blue pottery plate. What we use now is a Pioneer Woman dinner plate  (without any flower print) that we bought at Wal-Mart.

Hiding Presents

I loved this as a kid and now all three of my children have to do it this way too. Instead of simply putting the presents in a pile for the child to open, hide the presents (in age appropriate locations) and let the child go and hunt them down and open them after all the presents are found.

The nice thing about this is that it extends the present opening time that otherwise goes way too quickly.

Birthday Date

Have dad (or mom) take the birthday child out on a date around their birthday. Dress up fancy, go to the restaurant of their choosing, and again make them feel special. Keep the phone put away and really focus on them.

Birthday Banner

Have a birthday banner that you put up in the dining room for every birthday! It’s not a decoration that will be destroyed so you should be able to use it birthday after birthday.

Check out these cute ideas:

Write a Letter

Each year, on their birthday, write a letter to your child from ages 1-18. Keep the letters together and gift them to your child when they turn 18, or move out, or have their first child.

Kind Words

At the birthday dinner table have everyone take turns sharing their favorite things about the birthday child. You could also share favorite memories from the past year.

Do Their Favorite Activity

Do something that child loves. Whether it’s finishing the day with a game or movie night, going to the park, taking a walk, or heading to the tennis court do what that child enjoys!

Birthday Hat

Have a silly birthday hat that the child (or adult) has to wear at the dinner table! A goofy tradition is always a fun idea. Amazon has several options like these.

Look at Pictures

Take some time each year to pull out the photo albums (or open up Google Photos) and look back at their pictures from over the years and reminisce and laugh and share stories.

Tell Their Birth Story

You can tell the child part of the story surrounding when they were born.  Kids love re-hearing these stories over and over again.

As you make plans for the next birthday that comes along try incorporating a few of these ideas.  Your child will feel like a million bucks and will probably request you to do them every year. I know that’s how it works in my house, anyway. We do something once and the kids see to it that it becomes a tradition. 🙂

What are your favorite birthday traditions?

A fun birthday hat as part of easy and affordable birthday traditions your kids will love!

Important Tips For Teaching Kids About Money

Dare I say, you’ve been teaching kids about money since they were born.

Let that sink in.

piggy bank and teaching kids about money

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When you think about it, what we actually do has much more influence than what we teach, lecture, or discuss.

Money lessons we teach our kids are no different.

The most important way to teach your children about money is to lead by example. Everything else will fall into place.

Let your child see you budget, discuss finances, save up for a goal, work hard to pay off debt. Let them see you say no to buying something because it’s not in the budget or is not what you are choosing to spend your money on.

If you are trying to teach your child to save but they see you buying everything that you want, they will see the hypocrisy. If you buy more than you can afford and take out loans or make payments, they will grow up thinking that’s the answer.

Getting your own finances in order is the first step! Total Money MakeoverIf you don’t know where to start, is a great book to read.

As they see your healthy relationship with money, there are other things you can do to teach your children financial responsibility.

child putting money in a piggy bank and teaching kids about money

Teaching Kids About Money

It Belongs to God

If you are a believer, this step is a foundation to teaching kids about money. Everything we have comes from and belongs to God! Isn’t that a scary thought? The Bible says “the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains”. When we use our money wisely, we are using God’s money wisely. As you talk to your children, make sure they know that everything is the Lord’s.

Take them Shopping with You

Even as a preschooler, your child will start picking up on things like price comparisons, saying no to purchasing a food item because there’s not enough money in the grocery budget, and that wanting an item doesn’t mean we need to purchase it.

These little weekly, if not daily, occurrences are being observed and taken in by your children with no extra work by you. Talk to your children as you are shopping so they know what you are doing – turn it into a money lesson and interactive experience.

Giving

My parents taught us how to tithe before we could work! Growing up, when we received birthday or Christmas money we got to tithe on it. My kids now get to tithe on their money and will even give beyond the 10%.

Again, lead by example. Let your children see you tithe off of your income. Let them see you give to charities and individuals. You can even get them involved in projects beyond tithing to church. (Like we did with the Operation Christmas Child Shoe boxes.)

Saving

Saving money is a part of life. Always will be. This is a skill even a born spender needs to learn.

Teach your kids to set aside a portion of all the money they receive. Just because you received money doesn’t mean you need to spend it all! It’s good to learn patience and self-discipline even if it can be hard – especially when the cash is burning a hole in their pocket. 

For young children, consider getting a save, spend, give bank. You can simply label three clean jars (or plastic containers) or you can purchase a bank like this. There are also these cash envelope zippered pouches you could use.

Setting Goals

This is a part of saving. Teach your kids to set financial goals. Whether it’s saving money to buy that expensive toy, a laptop, camera, or even to purchase a car or go to college it’s good to set age appropriate goals. Especially for your kids that are “spenders” because having a goal and tracking their progress can help their motivation and willpower stay strong when temptations come up.

For older teens, check out this list of financial goals they can consider as they move toward adulthood.

Teach Them To Work

Money doesn’t grow on trees. Sometimes our kids think it does. Learning to work for money helps teach them the value of money and of hard work. We didn’t get an allowance growing up instead we pitched in and helped around the house (sometimes quite begrudgingly) because we were a part of the family.

We earned money doing extra jobs that weren’t a part of regular chores. Even for young kids you can come up with little tasks (that you know won’t be done perfectly) and pay for their help. This is how it works in our house now.

As your children get older, getting an outside the house job is a great way to earn extra money. Teaching them to work hard as kids and do an excellent job will be appreciated by future employers and will most likely set your kids apart from most of the other employees.

Raising them with that work ethic starts now. (Yep, I know it can be hard. My 5 1/2 year old still thinks any sort of cleaning or picking up is torture.)

Teach them the Dangers of Debt

If you are debt free, you can still talk to your kids about what debt is and why you don’t do it. Tell them how much you would have spent on interest.

If you are in debt, let your children see you working hard to pay it off.

Teach them how to avoid debt and make sure that they know it isn’t required! Culture all around them is telling them that debt is an everyday part of life.

Say No

Please, please don’t always tell your children yes. Your kids need to learn that they don’t need to have it all. It’s okay for them to walk away from something they think they want.

They need to see you sticking to your budget even when they are begging for something.

Learning to be content and to appreciate what you already have is so important. Stuff will never satisfy a person – there will always be something else. As a toddler the next flashy toy will grab their attention, Shopkins will be enough until the next fad comes out. Even as adults we are like this. Our phone is great until the newest one comes out. The same thing with cars and houses.

This is something so much easier to learn while you are young, so help your children out.

You might tell them a straight up “no, we aren’t having this in our home” or it might be a “no, we aren’t not buying this for you. If you want it, you’ll have to buy it yourself.”

Teach them to Set a Budget

Once your children are living on their own, they will have no choice but to budget (or else, most likely, get themselves into a financial mess). So do them a favor, and teach them how to budget their money now. It’s a great money lesson and life lesson.

As young kids it might be something as simple as: tithe 10%, spend 40%, save 50%.

When they get older they may want to break down their spending and saving categories further.

Once they are bringing in more money and have more expenses, teach them to write down their income and expenses and make (and stick with) a budget. Car insurance, gas money, cell phone, outings with friends, gifts, trips etc.

Let them learn while you are there to assist and help. Then, when they are off on their own they will (hopefully) simply continue what they already know.

Additional Resources:

Dave Ramsey has a set of storytime books for kids ages 3-10
Dave Ramsey also has Financial Peace Jr
Larry Burkett has a book Money Matter for Kids
Larry Burkett also has Money Matter for Teens and a workbook as well

Raising our children and teaching kids about money can be a daunting task. One that we won’t ever do perfectly and that’s okay.

Hopefully these ideas on teaching kids about money will help as you are on the parenting journey! You don’t have to make it difficult or time consuming, just start the conversation and begin taking steps to give your children the opportunity to handle money wisely.

piggy bank and teaching kids about money