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Budgeting Tips for Your Entire Life!


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5 Ideas for Valentine’s Day that Still Respect Your Budget in the Morning!

I’ll pass on the pricey red roses. Please don’t spend a fortune on teddy bears, chocolate and diamonds, either. Not to say I don’t love those things or wouldn’t appreciate them, but in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day the prices on them just seems to skyrocket.

5 Ideas for Valentine’s Day that Still Respect Your Budget in the Morning!  5 Ideas for Valentine’s Day that Still Respect Your Budget in the Morning!

Need a few ideas for Valentine’s Day that still respect your budget in the morning? Some of these are family appropriate and others are just for you and your honey.


  •  Bacon for breakfast 

Just add one special treat to your day that will make everyone happy. For us, it’s adding bacon for breakfast. Just the scent of that bacon baking in the oven gets us all giddy! It’s a rare treat. What is one special thing that you don’t have very often that fills your family with joy?

  • Love Notes

We all toss around “I Love You” but how often do we write down our thoughts and feelings? Store-bought cards are so expensive! Make a simple card with scrapbook paper and write something sweet inside…it’s the sentiment that counts. I crafted some out of simple black construction paper and a white Sharpie to give it a “chalkboard” effect. I’m going to gift them to my family at dinner…along with a small box of chocolates to share for dessert.

  • Special dinner…at home

We eat dinner at home nearly every night so eating at home on Valentine’s Day certainly wouldn’t be very special. Serve something out of the ordinary as a treat. Buying steaks or seafood at the grocery and preparing them at home is going to cost at least 50% less than if you went out, especially if you want to have a glass of wine with dinner. Add a little romance with a pretty table setting and candles. Leave the dishes for tomorrow!

  • Movie night…on the sofa

Save yourself a bunch by renting a Redbox or streaming on Netflix for a fraction of the cost of watching in a theater. We buy a big bag of popcorn from Costco, bulk bin chocolates from Sprouts and have a movie marathon after the kids are in bed. Best part? We can watch in our jammies! Pick a “new-to-you” movie or a classic you’ve seen already 23 times. I’m in love with Jane Austin movies, so I could watch Pride & Prejudice with Keira Knightly over and over but I’m not sure my husband would be able to stay awake past the opening scene! Choose something you’ll both enjoy.

  • Cuddle Up

Grab a big blanket and curl up together on the sofa. Pull out a photo album or scrapbook to reminisce over. It’s one of our favorite past times. Recall your thoughts about when you first met or your wedding day. Kids love hearing those stories too. Or just sit in the dark and talk after the kids have gone to bed, while you snuggle and smooch!

5 Ideas for Valentine’s Day that Still Respect Your Budget in the Morning!  5 Ideas for Valentine’s Day that Still Respect Your Budget in the Morning!


Hope you have a wonderfully happy Valentine’s Day!

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Guest Post from An Apple Per Day – Get Your Kids in the Pool With Swim Lessons

Thank you to Kaitlin from An Apple Per Day for this guest post about teaching kids to swim. Summer will be here before you know it so if you are able to start teaching kids now (search locally for indoor pools), the kids will be ready for the resort swimming pool when summer rolls around!
My littlest just learned to swim this past summer… at only two years old! Not all children are as fearless as he is, so Kaitlin’s post is timely and helpful in gearing up for the swim months.


Get Your Kids in the Pool With Swim Lessons

Julie’s son Dillon at the Disneyland Hotel pool

There are a lot of things to take care of when you’re raising kids, but one thing that was high on my list was to make sure my kids knew how to swim. It was a skill that would ensure their safety, and allow them to enjoy the fun of being in the water.A lifetime skill. We want to take family vacations to the beach, and it is important that the kids know how to swim for those kinds of trips. But looking down the road, the kids will be around the water as they get invited to pool parties, when they want to go to the community pool with their friends, and many other occasions. After they grow up, they will go on vacations of their own where swimming will be involved. It just made good sense to get the kids involved with the water early. Here are some resources with great ideas about kids and swimming:

The safety factor. The Center For Disease Control reports that drowning is a serious issue for children, and formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent. That statistic reinforces that it is imperative for my children to know how to swim. It doesn’t take long for a child to fall in a pool and get in serious trouble, so the swimming skill could easily save their life.

The fun of the water. When I was growing up, the pool was the source of so many of my fond memories, and I want my kids to enjoy the water as much as I did, and still do. I started early with getting them accustomed to the water. I introduced them to the pool with Mommy and Me classes when they were about 6 months old, and they all quickly learned the fun of splashing. They learned basic skills like kicking, while I held them and let them float on my arms. I would show them how to dip their head under water and blow bubbles, to start on proper breathing techniques.

Formal lessons. The accepted rule is that by age 3 or 4, a child will have developed sufficiently for formal swimming lessons. By that age, they can hold their head up, and follow what they are being taught. I considered teaching them myself, but though I’m a great mom and I love to swim – I’m not a swim instructor. I felt it was very important that the kids learn swimming skills correctly. Also, the kids sometimes tune out Mommy, and I didn’t want that happening for something this important. So I signed the kids up for basic lessons as soon as they were the proper age. Their lessons were in the fall, because they were back in school mode, and they would pay more attention than in the summer, when they just want to run and play.

Watch the kids learning. It is a joy to see my children when they are learning something new. With a well trained swim instructor, they quickly progressed with their swimming skills, and their confidence grew so fast I was amazed. Before I knew it the instructor had them going up and down the pool with all the basic swim strokes. He was also excellent about reinforcing safety in the pool area – and when he said “no running,” boy, did they pay attention.

I sit by the pool and watch my kids romp and play with their friends. They are comfortable in the water, and that makes me smile, knowing I have provided them a way to safely enjoy hours of fun in the pool.

kaitlin

Kaitlin Gardner started An Apple Per Day to explore her passion for a green living lifestyle, and healthy family living. She and her husband have just moved to rural Pennsylvania, where they enjoy exploring the countryside to discover interesting and out of the way places. She is also learning how to paint watercolors.


Thanks again Kaitlin! Even though the weather may be less than ideal to swim outside, look around your area to see if any gyms or indoor pools offer swimming lessons now. That way your kids will be in good practice before summertime. And with these great tips, they’ll be splish-splashin’ in no time!

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Resolution Series – “I Want To Eat Healthier” – Making Changes in the Kitchen Towards a Healthier You!

Resolution Series - Kick Start the Year Towards a Healthier, Wealthier and More Organized You!

I am probably the last person on earth who would ever have given healthy eating advice. Several years ago, before I remarried I was a self-confessed fast food addict. There were days when I ate fast food meals three times a day. Needless to say I gained quite a bit of weight and felt sluggish. Getting off the fast food drive-thru track wasn’t easy. It was a die-hard habit and I absolutely went through withdrawals.

Do I still have pizza or burgers on occasion? Yes, but it’s the exception and not the norm. That’s one of the most important thing to remember when choosing to eat healthier. There are a few things that kept me sane and yes, it does get easier to eat healthfully!


One thing at a time

Changes like this are hard to make overnight. It’s ingrained in you that you go out for breakfast after church each Sunday. Or that you always buy cookies for the kid’s lunches, because well, you’ve always bought them. Take things one at a time. Best to make a list of changes that you’d like to make and be specific. Several years ago my list would have said, “Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, eat out less, control portions, eat a better breakfast, quit drinking Diet Coke”. I started with the portion control which is probably the best and easiest place to start. Then I moved towards eating out less simply by packing lunches each day and preparing a dinner plan so I wasn’t scrambling each night. I definitely eat more veggies and am still working on getting more fresh fruit (I do aim for an apple a day!) And I am proud to say that I am one month free of my Diet Coke addiction. Those resolutions took me several years, nothing happened overnight. Choose one thing off your list and start now. When you feel like you’ve hit your stride in that area, work on the next item!

Cast iron skillet cornbread with Walt Disney's Chili

Walt Disney’s Chili


Have someone who holds you accountable

There are times now when I’d love to pick up burgers and fries for the family instead of cooking. And I’ll admit it, sometimes we do hit the In n’ Out but those moments are few and far in between and not the norm. My husband helps to hold me accountable for what we choose to eat. Do I think he’s a meanie sometimes when I really want to order a pizza and he says he’s grilling chicken instead? Yep! But that’s okay, because he has our family’s best interest at heart. And I know if I didn’t have him holding me accountable I’d be eating all sorts of junk that I shouldn’t. Do I still go out to pizza with my girlfriends? Yes, I do but I temper the heavy-calorie days by packing my healthy lunches and eating lots of fresh greens the rest of the week. Who in your life can hold you accountable for your meal choices? Choose someone you’ll still love and respect, even after they’ve given you that look when you reach for a second helping of dessert!

Choose freshly prepared

I grew up in a household that thrived on boxed rice mixes. You know the kind with the sodium-laden seasoning packets? I used to buy them too until I got my rice maker and realized how easy and inexpensive it was to make your own rice. A huge bag of brown rice from Costco is so cheap and our $25 rice maker stops when the rice is done so it doesn’t over or under cook. We add chicken broth or our own seasonings to the water when cooking if we want additional flavor but most of the time we eat it plain. Consider all of the boxed, canned or frozen convenience foods that you could be making in bulk on your own. It’s wonderful to know exactly what ingredients we are eating too. I’ve started mixing up our own salad dressings, cooking beans from scratch and only baking treats like cookies from whole ingredients.

DIY Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing (Old Spaghetti Factory recipe) - My favorite dressing, and so easy to make at home!!

Creamy Pesto Dressing


Take it with you

I’m not a leftovers lover. I don’t really want to eat last night’s rewarmed meal but I often do. Some foods are better than others the second time around, naturally. Given a night in the fridge, meatloaf, lasagna and salad dressings have had time to let their flavors develop and meld. To avoid the temptation of hitting the fast food drive-thru or the office snack machine, make sure you are well-stocked with healthy snacks. Pack your lunch the night before so you only have to grab and go in the morning.

Every few hours snack on a little fat, some protein and a carb to keep up your metabolism (a cheese stick, a few almonds and a small piece of fruit is appropriate). Snacks should hover around 100 calories. Pack things in a cooler lunch bag if you plan on being out and about. My husband makes it a point to keep snacks with him at all times, usually a small bag or nuts to nibble when hunger strikes. It’s nice to have when we’re out running errands and we aren’t close to home. Having the snacks with us helps us resist the urge to stop at a convenience store for treats.

Take it home

I love eating out. It’s nice to get something that you don’t prepare at home and to have someone else clean the dishes. But do I really think that it’s worth the $15+ plate of food when that could easily be enough to feed my entire family several meals at home? I very rarely eat out because it’s expensive, portions are too large and it’s unnecessary when we have food to prepare at home. When you eat at home you know what you’re putting in your food, how much salt or butter has been added to the vegetables and you can control the portions.

Little swaps

Switch out things in the pantry towards healthier choices. White rice for brown. Whole wheat bread instead of white. Fresh oranges instead of processed orange juice. Vegetarian night instead of a meat dish once or twice a week. Not adding butter or salt to the steamed veggies. A dollop of Greek yogurt in your taco instead of sour cream. Fresh fish instead of steak. If your family is used to doing things a certain way, you may hear some grumblings. Believe me, I was a big time grumbler when my husband brought home a huge bag of uncooked pinto beans. I’ve never liked beans but after preparing them fresh, I actually enjoy them (don’t tell him that!) Think of little swaps that you could make in your meal planning that could remove fat/calories/cholesterol and move your dishes into a more healthy zone.

Crock Pot Pinto Beans...cheap & easy! {Saving up for Disney}

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans


Cook in bulk and your leftovers will be your own “fast food”

When making things like beans, biscuits or soups, I tend to prepare double and freeze the leftovers. On those days when your cupboards are bare or you just know that you aren’t going to have it in you to cook dinner that night, simply pull out a bag and let it defrost. Voila! You’ll just have to reheat when you get home and have a hearty meal that’s healthier, cheaper and just as fast as anything you’d find in the drive-thru.

Eat at Home & Save - Recipe for using leftovers - Turkey & Rice Soup

Use Those Leftovers! Turkey and Rice Soup

Love the slow cooker

Toss in fresh ingredients in the morning and have a healthy meal when you get home. Pair it with freshly steamed veggies and you have a balanced dinner (hopefully with leftovers to eat at lunch the next day). We never seem to have leftovers with this amazing dish by Fabio Viviani! A small amount of meat is perfect when cooked in a hearty sauce so you won’t need much to satisfy. Resist the recipes that call for a bunch of canned ingredients as this is going to increase the sodium intake and calorie count. A search for Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes on Pinterest revealed tons of fantastic looking recipes!

crockpot

Start the morning on a good note

I am a terrible breakfast eater who is trying to reform herself. In the old days a “good” breakfast was either a slice of pastry that my dad had bought at the grocery, a breakfast sandwich picked up from a drive-thru or a doughnut from the convenience store (with a Diet Coke, of course!). Talk about a major blood sugar spike that would have me crashing by 9:00 am! I have started waking up about 15 minutes earlier to cook my kids a healthy breakfast. Sometimes it’s scrambled eggs with a little cheddar cheese, toast and a half a banana. Sometimes they have oatmeal with apples and a glass of milk. I like to make myself a fresh fruit smoothie or just a single piece of wheat toast with a thin spread of peanut butter and a half a banana. I still sometimes forget to feed myself breakfast but it’s getting better!

Log each bite 

Definitely a great place to start, especially if you are a mindless in-front-of-the-computer nibbler like I am. Are you eating right now? *wink* Get a tiny note pad and log your food every day, even the small bites of your kid’s leftover mac and cheese. This is just to give you an idea what you are consuming and put your intake in perspective. At some point you’ll want to figure out the calories to see where you’ll been falling approximately each day. I’ve personally used the Lose It! app on my phone and love how I’m able to plug in my calories, scan barcodes, add in exercise and search for foods. It’s a helpful food log that you can check through the day to make sure you’re staying on track.

Portion Control

One of the “tricks” that I learned right away when I started on the healthier eating bandwagon was to drastically cut my portions. It really snapped things into perspective when I started serving myself half of my normal portions…and I was completely full and content! If you’re used to serving yourself two slices of toast with breakfast try just one. You can still have a cookie, just have two instead of four. Do you find that you’re still hungry? Double the fruits and veggies and continue to half the other portions. Serve up meal plates in the kitchen and promptly refrigerate leftovers to resist the temptation to go back for seconds.

Summer Pasta Salad recipe {www.savingupfordisney}

Summer Pasta Salad


I still struggle with certain aspects of healthy eating. But I’m human and I know that “slow and steady wins the race”. Any changes that I make have to be implemented slowly in order for them to stick! I am a work in progress and I’m happy with the changes I’ve made so far.

What are your healthy eating tips? Anything helpful that keeps you on track? Share below in the comments!


 

I am not a doctor so please consult yours before trying any of these tips.

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