Summer Family Fun ~ Less Than $1.00

Today’s “less than $1.00″ theme includes ideas for fun you can have with your family during the summertime. I am so excited to be soaking up the sunshine (free) enjoying food off the grill (yum) and taking a break from formal school work with the kids (summer break rocks). Here are a few ideas for ya:

Free kids activity book

Many of you have this eBook already, but for those who don’t – you can get it free. It contains 101 fun pre-school project ideas – and many of them are great for summertime fun! These ideas all came from you, my readers. We put it together several years ago and it’s a fun one! Since this book is FREE, and many of the activities listed inside are inexpensive to do, this definitely qualifies for our “less than $1.00″ theme!

101 Preschool Projects Free Download

Grab this FREE 101 Pre-School Projects book when you sign up to be a part of our Heavenly Homemaker’s Learning Zone!

Homemade Bubble Bath

This Homemade Bubble Bath idea has been on my site since my 14-year old turned 6. Needless to say, this 5’11” teenager with a deep voice doesn’t take bubble baths anymore. But he sure did enjoy this when I made it for him for his birthday 9 years ago. (I wish his birthday gifts were still this inexpensive!)

Homemade Bubble Bath for Pennies

Cook with your kids

Summer can be a great time to teach your kids more cooking skills. Here are a couple of Malachi’s favorite recipes: Homemade Real Food Tootsie Rolls and Easy Crustless Pizza Pie. You can also sign up for a free video series (open through June 6 only) that teaches your kids some basic skills, including how to use knives safely.

Homemade Real Food Tootsie Roll Candy

DIY Bracelets

These Easy Fabric Bracelets are really fun to make (even I can do it!). They cost about 8¢ each. If you have girls in your life, making these bracelets might be fun to craft some hot afternoon.

Quick and Easy Fabric Bracelets

Summer Blessings Printable Cards

You can grab the download for these printable cards here, then print them off to use this summer as you need them.

Summer Blessings Printables

See our other “less than $1.00″ ideas that have been shared this week here, here, and here.

How to Make Mint Extract

Homemade Mint Extract!

Homemade Mint Extract 2

It is a fact that I went to the store last week with one purpose: To buy liquor. Not fruit, not vegetables, not butter…but rum. And also vodka.

I grabbed one bottle of each and walked to check-out. I certainly would have taken a selfie to show you all, but obviously that would have been impossible since I only have but two hands and they were both clearly full…of liquor bottles.

I should be used to this by now, but even after so many years of making Homemade Vanilla Extract, I still feel awkward about buying large quantities of liquor. Since I typically make so much extract at once, my cart full of liquor makes it look like I’m hosting a party for half the city.

Whatever. It’s just weird. But the worst (and I do mean worst) part is this:

The past three times I’ve purchased liquor for extracts – I have not even been carded. What?? Do I look like I’m over 21? Sheesh. (says the woman who has an almost 18 year-old son.)

Well, anyway. It seems that I just need to get used to it and deal. Why? Because it occurred to me as of late: Since it’s so easy and so cost effective to make Homemade Vanilla Extract – why have I not tried making other extracts?

Why indeed. Therefore, I bought rum and made Cinnamon Extract – which took a grand total of about two minutes (not counting the time it took to not get carded at the store). Last week I stole some fresh mint from a friend’s yard (and by stole, I definitely mean that she cut some for me, put it in a bag, and handed it to me with the promise that there was more where that came from and to feel free to help myself at any time) – and started a batch of Mint Extract.

This stuff is too easy. Why do we think homemade goodies are difficult? Do we know how to open a bottle of liquor and pour? Well then.

Be watching for instructions for making Orange Extract and Almond Extract. Click on the following to learn to make Vanilla Extract and Cinnamon Extract. And now…

How to Make Mint ExtractYum

1. Cut fresh mint leaves (or buy them at the grocery store), rinse, and pat dry.

2. Pull leaves off the stem.

3. Place about 1 cup worth of mint leaves into a pint-sized jar.

4. Pour in about 2 cups of vodka (the cheap kind is fine).

5. Cover and place in a dark cabinet for 1-2 months, shaking occasionally.

Homemade Mint Extract

Make enough for your family to use, and enough to offer as gifts. Wow your family and friends. They’ll be so impressed, and inside you’ll be thinking, “Well all I had to do is rip leaves and pour vodka. But yeah, I’m awesome.”

Have you tried making extracts? Which homemade extract recipes would you be interested in learning to make next?

How To Make Your Own Frozen Pizza

Remember how busy last Saturday was for me?  It was a crazy morning filled with broccoli blanching and valentine pancake making, then basketball gaming the rest of the day.  This is why cooking dinner when I got home at 6:45 didn’t sound fun.  Plus, you should (not) have seen how messy my kitchen was after the morning insanity when I was running late to serve concessions at the games, so I had to decide between washing dishes and getting dressed in actual clothes that weren’t pajama pants.  I chose the latter.  Everyone was grateful.  But this choice meant that I came home to an exploded kitchen.

If ever there was an excuse to want frozen pizza, this one was it.  We all have those times, right?  We talked about this just last week.  Some of you mentioned wishing you knew how to make your own frozen pizza, then others chimed in about how to do it, and since this has been on my list to tell you about anyway – I decided there was no better time.

So frozen pizza everyone: You can make them yourself.  With real ingredients and whole foods, keeping your very own people and their preferences in mind.  With little effort.

And all the mothers everywhere shed a tear.

How to Make Your Own Frozen PizzaYum

1.  Mix up your favorite pizza dough.  I suggest this very easy Whole Wheat Pizza Crust recipe.  I also suggest doubling or tripling or octupling (I was going for 8x there, how’d I do?) the recipe.  It just makes sense to create only one mess in order to make several meals worth of pizza for your freezer.

2.  Roll out the dough to your desired sizes, thickness, and shapes.  Make personal sized crusts, make rectangle crusts to fit your pans, make circle crusts to fit your pans.  Make whatever works best for your freezer, your oven, and your family.

frozen pizza 1

Life is too short to roll dough perfectly.

3.  Bake each crust in a 375° oven for 5 minutes (assuming you are using this crust recipe), then remove them from the oven.  They will be only lightly baked at this point – just done enough to be perfect for preparing your pizza for the freezer.

4.  Top each pizza crust with toppings of your choice – any sauce, meats, cheeses, and veggies you like.  Make a variety to suit your family’s preferences.

frozen pizza 2

I topped this one with sauce, spinach, colby jack cheese, hamburger meat, and red peppers.  
We are still loving our silicone mats from Healthy Cooking Products!

5.   Wrap each unbaked pizza well with plastic wrap.  (I like Natural Value Brand.)  If it fits, you might also consider putting your wrapped pizzas into a 2-gallon size freezer bag for additional protection.  (Be sure to reuse your freezer bags to get more bang for your buck!)

6.  When you are ready to bake your frozen pizza, thaw it if you wish.  Otherwise, just take it directly from the freezer, unwrap it, and put it on your baking pan.  Bake in a 375° oven for 10-18 minutes or until the cheese is melty and perfect.

Aren’t you excited about how easy this is, about how much time this will save you, and how fun this will be to serve to your family?!  It will be effortless to pull out some mixed greens and fruit to go with your pizza – so your meal prep on a homemade frozen pizza night will be nil!

I highly recommend making several pizzas for your freezer in one setting.  If you’re going to mix up crust and make a little mess rolling it out, if you’re going to grate cheese, if you’re going to chop veggies, if you’re going to cook meat – you really might as well just hit it hard and get several pizzas stacked up in your freezer if you have the space.

In addition, consider prepping pizza ahead of time for a busy day and just keeping it in your fridge to bake at dinner time.

Now – go pin this time saving, money saving, health saving idea so that you won’t forget about it.  :)

Make Your Own Frozen Pizza

Ever tried making homemade frozen pizza?  How excited are you to try this idea?!

Quick and Easy Fabric Bracelets ~ Homemade Gifts For Less Than $5

Homemade Gifts for Less Than $5

Don’t even want to spend $5.00 on a gift? Well then, how does 8¢ sound to you?  Yeehaw.

Remember when I asked “what do you get when you cross some scraps of fabric with shower curtain rings?”  THIS. This is what you get. (I found the idea here.)

Easy Fabric Bracelets for Less Than $1

Now I know what you’re thinking, but just settle down.  Cute as these are, you need to leave your shower curtain right where it is. Your family will not be nearly as thrilled to see your creations at the end of the day if they walk into the bathroom and see the shower curtain crumpled on the floor.

Instead, I suggest that everyone of you needs to head to the store right this minute (after you finish reading this) to pick up a package of shower curtain rings. I got a 12-pack for just 97¢.

If you have little girls in your life, you should pick up several packs because these bracelets are sooooo much fun to make! These would be perfect gifts for friends at school, cousins, nieces – and if you cut off the end of the ring, these should fit many adult ladies too.

I made 12 bracelets in less than an hour using my handy new $3 hot glue gun. If I can make these, anyone can make them – guaranteed. If you have bits of fabric lying around, this is a great way to use it up and avoid spending extra money on this gift.

Fabric Bracelet Supplies

How to Make Quick and Easy Fabric Bracelets

What You’ll Need

  • Shower Curtain Rings
  • Fabric Scraps, cut into about 1/2″ x 18″ strips
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Scissors

What To Do

  1. Begin by hot gluing one end of the fabric strip to the inside of a shower curtain ring.
  2. Tightly wrap the fabric around and around the ring, adding one or two more drops of hot glue to secure the fabric as you go.
  3. Cut any left-over fabric off at the end and glue in place.

Quick and Easy Fabric Bracelets

I plan to gift some of these to my elementary-aged prayer pal at church – a little reminder that I’m praying for her. I’ll let my nieces pick out a few. Malachi even suggested that we send some to Gladis. Won’t she have fun sharing some of these with her friends!

Hope you have as much fun with these as I am having. Thanks to everyone who has sent in Homemade Gifts for Under $5 ideas. Keep them coming! I’ll be sharing them here soon. You won’t believe how many great ideas there are for inexpensive homemade gifting!

Now, go. Go buy shower curtain rings.

Homemade Gifts for Less Than $5

What do you get when you cross a hot glue gun with a pair of socks? Some scraps of fabric with shower curtain rings? A jar with some freshly ground flour?

The sky’s the limit, right? Homemade gifts are loads of fun to make, give, and receive. I have some fun ideas I’m working on, and I’m hoping you have some even better ideas. But you know how I am with crafts, right? I beg of you – help a girl out?

Homemade Gifts for Less Than $5

During the next two weeks, I’d love to share many ideas so that we can all put together some simple and inexpensive gifts. Whatcha got for me?  I’d love to feature your ideas here!

No pressure, but if your homemade gift ideas can include words like no-sew, easy-peasy, or maybe even crafts for dummies, I for one would really appreciate it.  My clumsy thumbs shy away from difficult projects. I break out in hives when I see crafts that include more than 5 simple steps. I love making gifts, and swoon over homemade crafts, but I’m not gifted in this area and I don’t even know what “modge-podge” is. (Noun or verb? I seriously don’t know.)

So let’s review. I want homemade gift ideas. I want the ideas to be easy enough for a fifth grader (wait, let’s go with third grader, just to be safe).  And I want to be able to make the gift for $5 or less. An added bonus would be that the gift actually be useful and make the recipient joyful instead of forcing them to politely say, “Oh, this is…interesting. Isn’t that nice.”

If you have an idea, take a picture, write detailed (but simple – bless you) instructions, and email them to me. My younger boys and I have a sack full of project ideas we’ll be working on this week. If any of them actually turn out – and they totally should because I did invest $2.97 in a new glue gun today – I’ll be sharing my ideas with you soon.

Stay tuned during the next few weeks for these Homemade Gifts for Less Than $5 tutorials, plus plenty of yummy new recipes for the holiday season.

Ahhhhh, recipes. That I can do. Don’t worry. I’ll keep my new glue gun out of the kitchen….

How Do You Clean Your Home Naturally? (What Would Grandma Do?)

cleaners

I thought I was going to gag. I almost got a headache. My lungs got tight. I’m not exaggerating.  Elias (my 11 year old) was with me, and he started to feel queasy. We were there only about seven seconds.

Where had I taken my child, you ask? To aisle nine.  We were simply walking down the cleaning products aisle at the store.

I avoid that aisle at all costs. But that particular day last week, I needed one item – an ingredient to make a homemade cleaning product. Go figure, after those seven seconds of torture, I still couldn’t find what I was looking for.

Elias asked, “Mom, why is that aisle so disgusting?”  Obviously, I’ve avoided taking my kids there since my eleven year old didn’t know that it even existed. If found it hard/ironic/frustrating to explain that all of those products that seemed so nasty to him are offered for sale to help us get our house, dishes, hands, air, clothes, furniture, bathroom, floors, and windows clean.

I’m all for getting rid of the dark cloud of dirty sock scent that hovers over my boys’ room. But when did “clean” begin to smell so toxic? And why are there so many hundreds of varieties of cleaning products to choose from? Do I really need twenty-seven separate products to clean approximately five major areas of my home? Must we all keep a large cabinet full of sprays, bottles, drops, powders, and scrubby bubbles in order to be fully equipped with everything it takes to keep a house clean?

Absolutely not. Be relieved and take a deep breath (but by all means, get out of the cleaning aisle first so that you don’t pass out).

I’m inclined to ask, “What would Grandma do?”  I spent hours at my grandma’s house, helping her cook and clean. Try as I might, I can not remember where in the world her cleaning cabinet was. This leads me to believe that she didn’t have one. She wouldn’t have seen the value of spending money on a variety of different cleaning products when her home naturally had everything she needed. In fact, as long as I can remember, she made her own bars of soap. If I close my eyes, I can still smell it. Mmmm, there’s nothing toxic about it. In fact, it didn’t have much of a scent at all. It only smelled…clean.

I’ll admit – I don’t make my own soap. Instead, I have found some great online resources for a few products I trust for our skin, hair, laundry and dishes.

As for cleaning my home? Well, I don’t find that it’s very complicated really. There’s nothing like good old water. Norwex products are awesome. And the best? Baking soda and vinegar.

I found a great online resource, sharing 27 Ways to Clean with Baking Soda. Not to be outdone, here’s a post I found called 1001 Uses for Vinegar. I’m guessing Grandma knew many of these tricks, because she knew that getting her home clean didn’t require that she spend much money or use toxic chemicals. I’m guessing, actually, that she never gave thought much to toxic chemicals – she simply used what she had, and she knew how to keep her home clean.

Ahhh, fresh, clean, and chemical free. That’s what I call cleaning your home naturally.

I know many of you have knowledge on this topic! Share your tips and ideas. How do you clean your home naturally?

Valentine’s Day Craft Ideas

Need some fun Valentine’s Day ideas? Too bad I don’t have any for you. Just kidding. While I’ll never claim to be super crafty, I do have a few fun ideas that I’ve shared through the years here that I thought I’d remind you about.

First up, I’ll show you the “You’re The Bomb” Valentines we made last year. They were a hit with all of our friends, who thankfully, embrace the fact that we are a household full  of boys who like the idea of blowing things up. ;)

This year, we printed these fun, free Valentines from Diva Entertains to share with friends at our Valentine Party. Simple, inexpensive, done.

Any excuse to make Homemade Soft Pretzels works for me. No one in my family minds if we celebrate February 14 with fresh pretzels shaped like hearts.

heartpretzelssm.JPG

I’m not sure why I don’t think to make these Chocolate Caramel Truffles and Peanut Butter Truffles other times of the year beyond Valentine’s Day. Any random day should work, don’t you think? It’s always great to celebrate a regular Monday afternoon with truffles. Someone remind me of this in June.

truffles3sm

My boys obviously liked the above “bomb” valentines more than these flower valentines, but hey, I like flowers and pink hearts, and I live here too, so there. Here’s a Valentine in “Mint” Condition, which uses a York Peppermint Patty in the center.

valentinemint8sm1.jpg

And speaking of York Peppermint Patties, you might have fun making Homemade Peppermint Patties this year as a special treat. Call me if you do – I’d be happy to help you eat them.

What better way to end this post than by showing a picture of myself looking rather like a dork? These “The Better to See You With” Valentines are very easy to make and are fun for your kids to give to their friends. You’ll find the pattern here, and also see a picture of my oldest almost a foot shorter than he is now, and also with much shorter hair. Where has the time gone?

valentineglasses2sm.jpg

Are you making or doing anything fun for Valentine’s Day this year?

Is It Expensive to Eat Healthy Food? Part One

As we dive into our No More Excuses series, I decided to first tackle the excuse that it is “expensive to eat healthy food”. This one seems to be the most popular complaint among those of us who are working to eat and feed our families a healthy diet. I ended up with so much to say on this topic, I divided the material into three separate posts that I will be sharing throughout the week.

To begin part one of these posts regarding the thought that “healthy food is too expensive”, let me just start out by saying, “I hear ya!”. That was my biggest complaint too, my loudest excuse, and one of the main reasons I didn’t think eating a healthy diet was possible for our family. After all, I’m the girl who used to get everything for free or cheap with coupons. The thought of actually spending money on food was painful to me when we started our healthy eating journey. I had no idea where the extra money for healthy food would come from in our already very tight budget.

After lots and lots of research, experimentation, and tweaking of our budget, we finally figured out how to make this work for our family. Ultimately, I had to surrender and let go of the idea that spending money on food was bad, and instead embrace the truth that spending money on good, nourishing food is a wise investment for our family.

But still, it is a fact that coconut oil and olive oil cost more than canola oil and crisco. Real butter costs more than margarine. Whole wheat pasta and real cheese costs more than a box of mac and cheese.

So, does that mean that healthy eating is indeed expensive? I think it’s a matter of perspective. Our grocery budget has definitely gone up since we began our healthy eating journey. The way I cook now is completely different than the way I cooked when I bought processed and unhealthy foods with coupons, but does that mean that our healthy food should be considered expensive?

Pardon my geekiness spewing forth, but just as I did a few years ago, I did a new break down of what it costs to feed my family on an average day. I think it’s very interesting to take a nitty-gritty look at what it costs us to feed one person per day, and to analyze that number to see if in fact I could or should cut back our budget in any way.

We currently spend about $600/month on food. Because there are six in our family, this means that we spend about $100/person/month. This divides into an average of $3.33/day/person, which means that it costs about $1.11 per person per meal.

I don’t think $1.11/meal/person is very expensive, but that’s just my opinion, and as I said earlier, it is a matter of perspective.

As always, remember that there is no comparing or guilt allowed. If you spend more than $1.11 per meal per person – great! If you spend less than that – great! If you could come help me clean my house – great! Oh wait, sorry. I got carried away there for a second. ;)

Above all, we all need to remember that we are all humble people, working to do the best we can with what we have. I feel like there’s a lot left unsaid in this post regarding the expense of healthy food, so stay tuned! In part two of this mini series on Wednesday, I’ll share thoughts on the following three points:

1)Transitioning to Healthy Eating is a Process. 2) There’s Not a “One Size Fits All” Plan for Eating Healthy. 3) God is in Control and He Knows Your Heart

Then, I’ll wrap up the week by sharing some practical ways to eat a healthy, whole foods diet while keeping your costs low.

For today, I’d love to hear a little about your grocery budget break-down. Join my geekiness and do the math. If you care to share, how much do you estimate that it costs to feed one person in your household for each meal?

If you’re concerned that you may be spending too much on food,
I’d encourage you to read this post:  Do You Need to Cut the Grocery Budget?

I’d also like to encourage you to check out Once a Month Mom’s Get Real 2012!

Healthy Homemade {Pink} Applesauce

For years, I’ve used this method of making applesauce. The past couple of years, I’ve decided to try something new, in an effort to cut down on preparation time and to make the homemade applesauce a bit healthier. Still, I have to say, this process still takes quite a bit of time and effort. After spending several hours making applesauce yesterday and only yielding five quarts – I felt a little bit discouraged. Several of you have mentioned that a Victorio Food Strainer is a worthwhile investment. After looking into this, I have to say that Matt and I are talking seriously about making the purchase. Check out this pretty tool. Does that not look like a life saver when making applesauce and tomato sauce?

Here is a run-down of yesterday’s applesauce process:

We used a mixture of apples, most of which had very dark red skin (Empire, I think). Cooking the apples with skin on created a lovely pink colored applesauce. To start, we gave the apples a good washing. I looked around for the cutest assistant I could find. Since everyone else was busy with math and vocabulary lessons, Malachi got the job.

While he was washing apples (about 18 pounds), I prepped my huge stock pot. I stirred 2 heaping tablespoons of Vitamin C Powder (ascorbic acid to keep the apples from turning brown) into 5 cups of water.

Then, I began to quarter and cut out all yucky parts. These apples were mostly organic (he had sprayed a little bit early on before the fruit set on), so there were some wormy parts to cut out. As I added apples, I stirred them around so that they would be coated with the ascorbic acid/water to  keep them from browning.


I continued this process until my pot was full and until my right hand was cramped permanently into a claw-like position.

I then cooked the apples on the stove for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until they became nice and soft.

Next I blended the apples in my Blendtec, careful to dip down to the bottom of the pot to get some of the juices with each scoop. I blend until the peelings are completely pureed along with the flesh of the apples. This makes the applesauce pretty and creamy!

Applesauce Cups

I ended up with smooth, beautiful, delicious applesauce that my family had seconds and thirds of at lunch time.

I then canned four remaining quarts (using this water bath process for 20 minutes) and put them into my pantry.

What do you use to make applesauce? I highly recommend the Blendtec to make this process super easy! (I also love the Blendtec for oodles of other kitchen tasks.)

I have yet to make apple butter or any of the other tasty apple dishes I talked about earlier this week. I do believe that next I will experiment with my crock pot and apple butter. Which means that I really need to make some whole wheat biscuits. Doesn’t apple butter spread on a hot, fresh biscuit sound wonderful?