Frugal Winter Bucket List for Families

Winter can be long and depressing. After the first round of cold and snow, it’s easy to find ourselves longing for warmth. Instead, here is a frugal winter bucket list for kids that your family can use this year to create special memories during those frigid months.

Playing in the snow! These frugal and fun winter bucket list ideas will take your family from winter blues to creating memories your kids will cherish.

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I’m one of those people who is completely satisfied staying inside curled up on the couch with a good book. Often times I need a little extra motivation to face the cold and have fun with the kids.

Moms of littles, I think winter is harder for us. We have kids with a lot of energy cooped up in a house. Bundling up to head outside is a chore and often little kids don’t last long before cold fingers bother them (or they have to use the bathroom and you have to completely unbundle them and then redo it)!

Hopefully using this winter bucket list for families will encourage us to embrace cold weather activities as well as the warm and cozy indoor ones.

Let your kids pick an activity each week (or let each child select an activity each week) – give them something to look forward to!

Disclaimer about the word frugal. Some of these items are only going to be frugal depending on where you live! Skiing in Oklahoma is in no way going to be cheap. But where I grew up skiing and ice skating where super accessible.  Just select the ones that work for you.

Frugal Winter Bucket List Ideas

  1. Ice Skating
  2. Skiing
  3. Snowboarding
  4. Sledding
  5. Ice Fishing
  6. Build a Snow Man
  7. Make Snow Angels
  8. Snowball Fight
  9. Build a Snow Fort
  10. Go to a Hockey Game
  11. Go Caroling
  12. Looking at Christmas Lights
  13. Truth in the Tinsel
  14. Peppermint Playdough
  15. Bubble Bath
  16. Make Snow Ice Cream
  17. Decorate Sugar Cookies
  18. Deliver Sugar Cookies to friends and neighbors
  19. Make a fire
  20. Family Game Night
  21. Indoor Camp Out
  22. Read Winter Themed Books
    The Snowy Day
    The Mitten
    Katy and the Big Snow
    Chapter Books:
    Miracles on Maple Hill
    The Long Winter
    Snow Treasure
    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  23. Make A Scarf
  24. Winter Crafts for Kids or adults
  25. Frozen Bubbles
  26. Advent Calendar
  27. Bake Something with Peppermint
  28. Bake something with cranberries
  29. Hot Chocolate Bar
  30. Watch a Christmas Movie:
    Elf
    The Santa Clause
    Nativity Story
    Star
  31. Nutcracker Ballet
  32. Family Christmas Card
  33. Volunteer at the food pantry
  34. Winter Science Experiments

What are your favorite winter traditions for your family? What do your kids look forward to each year?

Hopefully, taking the time to plan some special moments will keep the cold, dreary gloom from taking over your family.

Even a few minutes of purposeful fun each day can go a long way in bettering attitudes, beating the winter blues, and creating memories your kids will remember!

Hot cocoa in the snow! These frugal and fun winter bucket list ideas will take your family from winter blues to creating memories your kids will cherish.

Tips to Enjoy the Holidays and Reduce Stress

Do you want to actually enjoy the holidays this year and ditch the stereotypical Christmas stress and chaos?

Christmas tree with ornaments. This year reduce the Christmas stress and actually ENJOY the holidays! These simple tips will transform your Christmas season.

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Does a relaxing Christmas season and spending time making memories (fun ones, not those where the kids remember how mom went crazy) sound like a dream?

This year, you can take some simple steps to reclaim the season and make it something you actually look forward to! Yes, you might have to make some changes and even sit down and have a family meeting but you won’t regret the stress free (or lower stress) days!

Tips to Enjoy the Holidays and Reduce Christmas Stress

Watch Your Spending

For many families, finances can be one of the biggest causes of Christmas stress. It doesn’t have to be that way. Dare I say, it shouldn’t be that way!

Don’t overextend yourself. It’s not worth it – come January you will be regretting your choices.

If you need some more cash to get through the season, consider finding a few ways to earn some extra money. This post has ideas to get your started.

Even more than earning money, find ways to save money and spend less! There is no rule that  you have to go crazy buying presents for your kids. Here are some great ideas for spending less on presents. You can also spend less on your Christmas and Thanksgiving feast. Find small ways to save throughout the season.

Say No

You don’t have to do everything! You don’t have to participate in every event. We know there are a lot of them between friends, family, work, church, and even volunteer work. Only commit to the few you have to do. You can always add more parties in later if you feel up to it.

Keep it Simple

Going all out with decorating, baking, parties, clothes, presents, while it might seem like a good idea, doesn’t have to be done! Think simple instead of elaborate and find a middle ground that helps you actually enjoy the holidays and have less Christmas stress.

Choose a Few Things

As we talk about keeping things simpler and spending less, it’s important to find out what your kids’ and spouse’s favorite activities are. Let each member of your family say their single most important thing and try include those in your holiday plans and say no to the not so important.

Keep Visits Short

Another huge cause of holiday stress can be being around people. Maybe people you don’t always get along with so well. Whether you have a hard time with certain co-workers or even your extended family, a simple tip is to keep the visits shorts.

Don’t stay until the end of the party. Plan for a day trip to visit family or just one night instead of a lengthy visit. For those out of town trips, maybe even consider a hotel for a night or two if needed.

Eat Well

Christmas season almost always means lots and lots of sugar! Limit the sweets. Feed your body good, nourishing foods when you are home and make the best choices you can when  you are at parties. Giving your body the vitamins and minerals it needs, especially in the form of lots of fresh vegetables,  can definite influence how we feel physically and mentally.

Exercise

Don’t neglect physical activity when things get busy and the weather is cold. Even if it’s something as simple as pushing your kids in the stroller – go do it! Squeeze in a 20 minute run first thing in the morning or do a 15 minute workout in the living room. Find ways to exercise several times each week. Again, this helps your body physically and mentally!

Play Music

Play music you love, or a favorite podcast, to lift your mood and take your mind off of your stressors. Sometimes a little distraction like this can help immensely.

Diffuse Oils

This uses another one of your senses. Seasonal and stress relieving aromas can change the atmosphere in your home and mind as well. This is one of my favorite places to purchases oils from. High quality and affordable. If you don’t want to do oils, try making a potpourri on your stove.

Remember the Reason for the Season

Through all the craziness of the holidays, take time to remember the reason for the season and to look beyond yourself and your family.

Find somewhere to volunteer, include attending church in your plans, or even just take a few minutes to read the Christmas story with your kids. All are things that can help change your perspective.

There are 10 things you can do as you learn to actually enjoy the holidays and reduce the typical Christmas stress. Let this be the year that you learn to make intentional choices for you and your family so you can have memories you want to remember.

What are your other favorite ways to combat holiday stress and chaos?

Pretty snowflake on a pile of snow. This year reduce the Christmas stress and actually ENJOY the holidays! These simple tips will transform your Christmas season.

Family Experience Gifts that Don’t Break the Bank

Family experience gifts that don’t break the bank are such a great idea!

Wrapped presents on wood floor. Your family will love these family experience gifts and you don't have to spend a fortune either! You can create memories, not clutter this year.

My posts contain affiliate links. For more info, read the disclosure page!

It’s present season. So many gifts. Not only are your kids receiving gifts from you but most likely there will also be gifts from friends, grandparents, and other relatives.

Our kids only need so much stuff.

Our houses can only hold so much stuff.

Often times we find ourselves buying things because we have to get our kids something or because we find a good deal.

All the gifts, even if we are trying to find good deals, can eat away at the budget.

What if, instead of buying all these little un-needed gifts, we pooled the money and gave family experience gifts instead? Things that we otherwise wouldn’t splurge on but we know that our kids would love.

For the first time we are doing a family experience gift this year and the kids are so excited. We were gifted a week stay at a timeshare and are purchasing the attraction tickets to use on our trip.

Family Experience Gifts

Day Trip

Take a day trip to a near by city. Spend money going to museums, amusement parks, state parks or whatever the local attractions are. If your family is like ours and eating out is not something you normally do, splurge on a fun restaurant experience to finish off your day.

Museum Membership

Museum memberships are typically well worth the cost if you just go 2 or 3 times and are perfect for a family experience gift. All three of my kids absolutely love the science museum an hour and half from our house.

Zoo Membership

If your kids are not yet teens, the zoo is another great place to get a membership for a family gift. Maybe throw in some gift certificates to get ice cream or a special treat after a few of your visits.

Sporting Event

Choose your family’s favorite sport (or team) and purchase tickets, or season tickets if you can afford it. Baseball, football, basketball, soccer, or hockey are all fun ideas! Hockey games are a fun memory from my childhood.

Game Basket

Put together a basket of age appropriate board games for your kids. Include snacks, drinks, and everything you need to throw a super fun game night. Throw an all day game tournament over Christmas break and then the gift continues giving over the next months.

Hotel with Waterpark

Watch Groupon for deals at Great Wolf Lodge or other such hotels. When you find a great deal, book a few days at the lodge and wrap some beach towels or other small water themed items up for Christmas morning.

Camping

Plan a camping trip for when the weather is nice. It could either be to your favorite location or try some place new. Does your crew need any new camping gear? Wrap that up along with a brochure about your camping destination.

Mini Vacation

Don’t have the budget to plan a week long trip? That’s okay. Put together a mini vacation. Whether it’s one, two, or three nights, plan a trip that your kids will think is awesome and they won’t question the length! My kids would love a long weekend in Branson, MO and going to Silver Dollar City or going just an hour away and spending a few nights in a hotel, swimming, and hitting up the local sights.

Trip to the Beach

Most kids love the beach. I mean what’s not to love about sand and water?! Can you swing a day trip to the closest beach? Or maybe you can even spend a few days there. Considering my son has called the dirt around a pond a beach, I think he needs this present. 😉

Jump Gym/Bowling/Movie

Living on a tight budget can mean saying no to a lot of these types of things. Use Christmas as an opportunity to purchase gift certificates to any place like a jump gym, bowling alley, or movie theater and go have fun as a family.

Are presents for your kids a struggle year after year? Try something different this year and wrap up family experience gifts! Not only will you prevent new clutter in your house, you will get to create memories with your kids.

You can find a family experience gift that will work on your budget!

Family on a road trip! Your family will love these family experience gifts and you don't have to spend a fortune either! You can create memories, not clutter this year. Wrapped presents on wood floor. Your family will love these family experience gifts and you don't have to spend a fortune either! You can create memories, not clutter this year.

Earn Money For Christmas Now

Santa bag full of gold coins! If you could use some extra cash for presents and parties this Christmas, check out these easy ways to earn extra money for Christmas! Enjoy not stressing about where the money is going to come from.

My posts contain affiliate links. For more info, read the disclosure page!

Do any of these these things leave you wanting to earn money for Christmas:

Does the thought of having to buy Christmas presents leave you stressed? Maybe the budget is tight and you really don’t have much wiggle room but you want to have a special holiday season with your kids, family, and friends?  Do you find yourself wondering where the money for Christmas is going to come from?

What should be a fun time of year often times isn’t because of the financial burdens and other obligations. We’ve talked before about taking the emphasis off of gifts at Christmas (something I’m all about) but having no money for Christmas is a whole different matter.  To help you out I have 10 ways you can come up with some cash for Christmas.

Start these things today to help with this season but then continue doing them in January and through the rest of the year and set aside the money you earn into a “money for Christmas and birthdays” fund.

This list mostly consists of money making ideas to help you earn extra money for Christmas, but I’ve thrown in a couple bonus ideas on saving money and stretching your dollar too.

Ways to Earn Money for Christmas

Swagbucks

There are several ways to earn with Swagbucks – everything from surveys, games, watching videos, and searching on the internet. You can see some of the details on earning Swagbucks here and here. Sign up using my link and you can get 300 Swagbucks!

Seasonal Job

I know this one is hard, especially for us moms with little kids.

But it is worth looking for a seasonal job you can work around your husband’s hours. Find a weekend or evening job at a retailer hiring extra help the next few months.

Watch the classifieds, ask around, and also pay attention in Facebook groups for tips on these seasonal jobs.

Babysit

Have date night babysitting you offer monthly. Plan a babysitting night so parents can go out and buy presents and shop for holiday events without having to take the kids along. Adult only Christmas parties mean still another need for babysitters.

Present Wrapping Service

I can’t be the only one that is horrible at wrapping presents and gets absolutely no enjoyment out of it. But I know that some of you love it. Sell your gift wrapping skills – there will be people out there excited to pay someone (you) to do it for them!

Sell Baked Goods

I enjoy baking and cooking. Some people don’t. If you are skilled at baking bread, Christmas cookies, dinner rolls or fudge, considering selling your goodies.

Many busy families and people that really don’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen would prefer to buy homemade treats instead of purchasing grocery store items.

Please research Cottage Food Laws for your state before you get started. Rules and regulations greatly vary. You will also need to register with your state to file sales tax.

Rake Leaves/Shovel Snow

Get your kids involved and, depending on how early in the season it is,  rake leaves or shovel snow.

Print up flyers and hand them out around your neighborhood and town. Post on Facebook groups. Even if you do this for just one snow storm you can earn a chunk towards your Christmas expenses.

Help with Holiday Parties

November and December are busy months. Individuals and businesses are both hosting parties. If you are a skilled organizer and hard worker, market your services as either an event planner, event host, or an event assistant.

Sell Stuff

I dare say the majority of us have too many things. What do you have that’s quality and something that others will want? Considering selling on Ebay, Facebook groups, decluttr.com, or even having a garage sale. This is a quick way to earn money for Christmas. You will also be organizing and decluttering items you don’t use before more stuff arrives from the holidays.

Donate Plasma

I’ve never done this but I have a sister that has sold plasma to save money for presents and other splurge items she wanted. You can donate twice a week.

Find Ways to Save Money

One of the best ways to “earn” money is to find ways to spend less and rework your budget! I’d say it’s one of the easiest ways as well – because it doesn’t involve finding extra hours each week to work. Make a menu plan and spend less on groceries, say no to coffee, drink water, have a no spend challenge. Here are some ideas on ways to save even on a tight budget!

I don’t want you to stress about finances this Christmas. Instead, sit down and plan on spending less on presents this year. Maybe have a simpler meal, and participate on fewer costly holiday events.

Then, use a few of these ways to earn money for Christmas and earn some extra cash to use to purchase the presents and attend the events that you decide to do!

Enjoy a debt free Christmas this year!

A pile of cash. If you could use some extra cash for presents and parties this Christmas, check out these easy ways to earn extra money for Christmas! Enjoy not stressing about where the money is going to come from. Santa bag filled with cold coins. If you could use some extra cash for presents and parties this Christmas, check out these easy ways to earn extra money for Christmas! Enjoy not stressing about where the money is going to come from.

The Best Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowl Recipe

love spaghetti squash. Several years ago I posted this recipe for Tex Mex Spaghetti Squash, a few weeks ago Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein, and today I have Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowl recipe for you!

Spaghetti squash burrito bowls are the best! Full of Tex Mex flavors and so healthy. The entire family loves this recipe!

Each year when fall comes around I get excited because it means it’s time for squash to go on sale so I can make all the spaghetti squash recipes. Eating your vegetables never tasted so good! 😉

Mexican food (or technically Tex Mex) is a staple in our house, so I knew I had to do a twist on a burrito bowl with some of the squash I bought.

This recipe was a winner!

The 2 1/2 year old had thirds. Thirds! “More spaghetti squash” she kept saying. As with the Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein recipe, the  flavors are such that even my (non squash loving) husband actually liked this recipe.

As with most dinner recipes, this is so easy to tweak and adjust to your family’s preferences.

Can’t stand bell peppers? Simply leave them out.

mixture for the spaghetti squash burrito bowls

Ingredients:

  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Ground Beef
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Bell Pepper
  • Jalapeno
  • Black Beans
  • Corn
  • Rotel
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, salsa, sour cream (optional toppings)

No fancy ingredients. If you don’t have access to Rotel, substitute fire roasted tomatoes or even just diced tomatoes and add an extra jalapeno. Leave the cheese off if you are dairy free.

Spaghetti squash and meat mixture combined for spaghetti squash burrito bowls

This recipe is easily cut in half. The 8 pounds of spaghetti squash serves 8 (or my family of 5 two meals). Cut back to 4 pounds if you are only serving a couple of people.

The meat amount is up to you and your taste preference as is the final spice amounts. My kids are fairly wimpy, so I have to watch the chili powder amounts.

Be sure to read the recipe notes for an additional baking method.

Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowl

Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowl
Serves: 8 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 3 Spaghetti Squash (mine totaled 8.5 pounds)
  • 1-2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 2-3 cups cooked black beans
  • 1½ cups corn (frozen is fine)
  • 1 can mild Rotel tomatoes
  • 1-2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 - 1½ tablespoon cumin
  • 1-3 teaspoon chili powder
  • 6 ounces cheddar cheese
To Serve:
  • Cilantro, avocado, salsa, sour cream - all optional
Instructions
  1. Cut spaghetti squash in half and scrape out the seeds and stringy insides. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little cumin and chili powder. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool until you can handle them. Use a fork to scrape across the squash short ways to make "noodles".
  2. In a large skillet, brown the beef. Add onion and jalapeno and saute a few minutes. Add garlic and saute a few more minutes.
  3. Add bell peppers, black beans, corn, tomatoes, 1 t. salt, 1 T. cumin, and 1 t. chili powder. Cook until everything is heated through and tender.
  4. Add spaghetti squash to skillet and toss everything together. (See notes for second option) Adjust seasonings if needed.
  5. Return the spaghetti squash mixture to the shells or a 9x13 baking pan and top with cheese.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
  7. Serve with any of the optional toppings.
Notes
When you have the beef mixture finished and the spaghetti squash in noodles instead of combining it all together you can layer the spaghetti squash in the bottom of the shell (or pan) and spread the beef and veggie mixture on top of that and then top with the cheese.

 

Spaghetti squash burrito bowls baked in a pan are the best! Full of Tex Mex flavors and so healthy. The entire family loves this recipe!

Cheap Healthy Grocery List

A cheap healthy grocery list. I know we’ve talked lots about ways to save money on groceries! If you’ve been around before, you know my number one tip is to have a meal plan!!!

picture of bananas and a great cheap healthy grocery list that will help you feed your family on a budget.

Today we are going to get a little more specific with this cheap healthy grocery list.

Maybe it’s the end of the month, maybe money is especially tight right now.

Whatever it is, you are wondering what to put on a cheap healthy grocery list.

Not only what frugal/cheap foods to buy, but what are the healthiest cheap foods you can buy. What are your options.

First, I want to tell you don’t worry and stress. Just do the best you can. Hang in there. Being anxious, as easy as it is to do, (talking to myself here too) does no good.

picture of beans and other foods and a great cheap healthy grocery list that will help you feed your family on a budget.

Cheap Healthy Grocery List

The first two that come to mind are the stereotypical budget foods – but don’t let them scare you off.

Beans. Specifically dry beans. They are super easy to cook and you can season them in a variety of ways and use them to stretch meat or replace it all together. Buying them dry will cost you at least a third of buying a can.

Rice. You can buy a pound of brown rice at Dollar Tree for $1. One of our local grocery stores sells a pound bag for $.50! If you don’t like brown rice, you can find white rice even cheaper.

Lentils. Another affordable legume right here. People use these for all kinds of things. A lentil and rice casserole. Meat replacement in things like sloppy joes. Or one of our go tos is a quick lentil soup.

Rolled Oats. Buy the big container, none of the instant oatmeal packets. You can always make your own oatmeal packets. Breakfast really can’t get much cheaper than this. A jar of cinnamon is only $1 and will season a lot of bowls of oatmeal.

Eggs. This is really an inexpensive source of protein. Have them hard boiled for a snack, as part of a meal, or in a salad. Scrambled eggs make a great brinner. Can also use to make cheap things such as pancakes or french toast.

Bag of flour. Grab a bag of whole wheat (or unbleached white) flour. Use it to make a loaf of bread or a batch of pancakes (for dinner or breakfast).

Pasta. Cheap and easy. Make a batch of meatless spaghetti sauce (or replace the meat with some lentils) and supper will cost next to nothing. I always make a big batch so we can have leftovers another meal or two. (<– Another money saving tip right there!)

Milk. Not to drink. I’m a huge proponent of water. Instead use it to make the pancakes, baked oatmeal etc. Dairy free, sub almond milk.

Potatoes. Especially in the fall and winter months when they will often go on sale for $2-$3 for a 10 pound bag. I prefer sweet potatoes and you can also find them cheaper in the fall and winter months. There’s nothing wrong with a baked potato supper. Plan on leftovers and have fried potatoes with the eggs for supper the next night. Make a potato soup with some of the milk.

Carrots. Not the baby ones when you are pinching pennies. Whole carrots are typically super inexpensive. I get them for $1 for a 2 pound bag. Serve them raw as a side for lunch or supper (or try roasting). Add them to soups or a stir fry.

Celery. In my part of the country a bunch of celery is $1. Use in the same way you would the carrots. Carrots and celery also make great snacks.

Frozen Veggies. Frozen green beans and corn are both $1 at Aldi. Use in soup, fried rice or as a side dish.

Apples. In the fall and winter months these are often times under $.70 a pound. Add to oatmeal or slice and serve with lunch or for a snack. Of course apple cake is a fun splurge too. 🙂

Peanut Butter. Takes you back to your childhood, I know, but it’s really hard to get cheaper than peanut butter sandwiches. My kids dislike jelly, but of course you can add some fruit to your peanut butter sandwich. Kroger brand peanut butter has the best price on peanut and salt peanut butter – especially if you get it on sale.

Bread. Make bread using flour for pennies a loaf. Also, watch for your local dollar store to get in a shipment of Nature’s Way bread. You can also find bread marked down at Aldi and other grocery stores.

Cabbage. Right now a head of cabbage is just over a dollar and it will be cheaper in fall and winter months. Shave it for a salad or add to soups and stir fries. I also love sauteing it and having with eggs.

Chicken. If you are going to buy meat, chicken will likely be your cheapest bet. Use it as an ingredient – not the star of the meal. Be sure to ration it out and stretch it with beans, lentils, or veggies when you can. If you buy bone in chicken, use the bones to make stock and stretch your dollar even further.

In Season Produce. This is key to getting fresh produce in on the cheap foods to buy when you are broke list. Only buy what is on sale for a great price.

Popcorn kernels. Buy the kernels and pop it yourself for a healthy and frugal snack or even turn it into a snack supper.

Bananas. Bananas are pretty much always under $.50 a pound and will frequently go on sale cheaper than that.

Canned Tomato Products. Canned tomatoes are cheap. Make your own pizza sauce, salsa, spaghetti sauce, and tomato soup for a fraction of what it would cost to buy them already made. I know canned tomatoes are controversial in the “healthy foods” world. But you do what you have to do. Another option would be to stock up on tomatoes when you can get them dirt cheap and can or freeze them to avoid the cans.

Lettuce. I can get a head of romaine or leaf lettuce for between $1 and $1.30 at my grocery stores. A bean based taco salad would make a great meal or simply have salad for your lunch or a side dish.

I hope this gives you a starting point next time you are trying to make a cheap healthy grocery list.

What other healthy(ish) cheap foods am I missing from the list? What’s the cheapest, healthy meal that you make?

picture of beans and a great cheap healthy grocery list that will help you feed your family on a budget. picture of beans and other food and a great cheap healthy grocery list that will help you feed your family on a budget.

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!

This post uses affiliate links. See our disclosure page for details.

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

Music

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.

Movies

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.

Reading

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.

Food

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.

Tools

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.

Accessories

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.

Memory

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

Food

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. 🙂

Lodging

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

Suppers:

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:

Sandwiches
Rice Cakes (with peanut butter or meat)
Leftovers
Beans and Rice
Salad
Pancakes

Frugal Breakfast Ideas:

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

$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:

Saturday
Workday – lunch provided
Pancakes for supper

Sunday
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!