Friday, February 7, 2014

Celebrating Valentine's Day for the Budget Minded


(picture source)

Valentines day is right around the corner. Do you have plans with that special someone? How much will you be spending? Do you even have a budget? Have you even thought about Valentines?

So many Americans fall into the the money trap when it comes to Valentines. It can turn into a very expensive holiday. Buying a gift is not usually good enough. There are also usually flowers involved. Don't forget the romantic card. Can you even celebrate Valentines without a box of chocolate? What about the champagne and fancy dinner? Don't forget the Valentines cards you have to buy for your kids party at school. Ugh! Whoever made this romantic holiday for kids?. . .What a headache!

My hubby is one of the luckiest men when it comes to Valentines. He is married to a frugal minimalist. I don't want him to spend a lot of money and I DON'T want a present unless it is consumable (And I'm vegan, so I don't mean chocolate). However, that does NOT mean he is off the hook for a romantic notion on this special day for couples.

I have my own way of saving money on Valentines, but it consists of giving each other a hug, making a cheap meal at home and calling it good. I know, I'm not much of a romantic. Take me on a beautiful hike and pack me some fruit and nuts and I'll be yours forever. Sooo. . .I thought it'd would be better to share someone else's brilliant ideas for this one.

EllaM from wrote the following article and then asked me if I'd be willing to share it on my blog. Of course! To visit the article and have access to her links go here

Here are 10 of the sneakiest romance rip offs out there, and how you can successfully navigate a path around them to secure yourself a budget Valentine's Day whilst still maximizing the love-factor.
10 Romance Rip Offs That Catch Us Out Every Valentine's Day & How to Beat Them
For those looking for cheap Valentine's Day ideas, the high street can feel like a rather daunting place.
There’s no doubt about it, shops and restaurants across the nation are highly skilled at captializing on the most of special occasions.
From the persuasive TV advertising that occurs predictably in the months leading up to Christmas, to the insistent supermarket displays in the weeks before Easter, it seems that businesses are hell-bent on relieving people of their hard earned cash throughout the year, whatever the occasion.
If you’re hoping to plan a reasonably priced romantic day, but are starting to feel rising panic for the safety of the contents of your wallet, don’t fear, as help is at hand.

1) Valentine's Day cards

Shops market their cards very cleverly, with phrases designed to appeal to your closet romantic. You can guarantee that the prices are raised accordingly.
So how can you avoid this particular romance rip off? Save yourself some serious cash by making your own card. You don’t have to be the world’s most talented artist; you could even make a card using a favorite photo of the two of you.

2) Say it with flowers... or perhaps not!

Retail stores have been convincing us for years that flowers are the ultimate romantic gesture. However, for many girls flowers rank fairly low on the list of gifts they’d like to receive. After all, they only last a few weeks at most.
A great romantic alternative is to get creative. Pick some wild flowers and create a beautiful, personal bouquet or buy a beautiful plant that'll last much longer and cost you less.
If you're set on buying your beloved a bouquet then deliver it in person rather than getting a courier to do it for you and avoid buying at service stations (often poor pickings for an extortionate price).
If you're looking to make the biggest savings, buy smaller bunches at supermarkets and make up a beautiful bouquet yourself, then wrap in brown paper and tie with a ribbon to make them look fancy (this last step won't cost much and is well worth it).

3) Chocolates: making it a budget Valentine's Day treat

Shops are incredibly aware that people are prepared to spend more at Valentine's Day, and as a result, prices for boxes of chocolates tend to go up accordingly.
You can easily make your own posh chocs for a lot less and they'll be much more appreciated.
Buy a cheap ice cube tray (you can even find one with heart shapes - look in pound stores), melt some good quality chocolate, pour into the tray, and leave to set in the fridge. A gorgeous, home-made cheap Valentine's Day idea!
Strawberries dipped in melted white, milk or plain chocolate are another easy affordable do it yourself treat.

4) Avoid the trap of elevated restaurant bills

Restaurants love to raise the prices of their menu on Valentine's Day, sometimes by as much as 50% on their usual price.
There are a few ways to beat this romance rip off.
For a really budget Valentine's Day evening, you could cook a romantic meal at home or get one of the many supermarket meal deals running.
If you really would like to enjoy a night out at a restaurant, it pays to do your research first to find out which establishment is offering the best dining out deals and ask whether they are able to offer anything as an added extra.
An easy way to save your hard earned cash is to not dine out on Valentine's at all, but choosing the day after, when prices are likely to be significantly less, and restaurants may be far quieter.

5) Watch out for wine!

Another common trick in restaurants on Valentine's Day is to raise the price of wine. Rather than simply accepting a recommendation, ask to see their standard wine list and consider whether you'd actually save more by ordering a bottle rather than by the glass. This will help keep your budgeting on track.

6) Decadent Champagne bubbles, or a fizzy financial fright?

Champagne, whilst being a deliciously decadent treat, can also be a horrendous romantic rip off on the big day. A great idea to combat this is to opt instead for a smaller bottle of champagne or to select a fizzy wine, such as a Prosecco or Cava, which are often equally delicious. It’s a very easy way to save money on Valentine's Day!

7) Avoid activities that cost the earth

It can be tempting to book yourself and your partner on a trip or experience for the day, in an attempt to make the day as memorable as possible. However, this can be a real romantic rip off, with some experiences costing serious money.
It is just as easy to create your own experience, which will be just as memorable, and provide you with a far more financially palatable Valentine's Day. Great ideas include fish and chips by the beach or a romantic walk through a forest.

8) Expensive gifts, or cheap Valentine's Day ideas?

A few weeks before Valentine's Day, the shop shelves are filled to bursting point with romantic gifts, many little more than gimmicks, designed to appeal to those who are unsure about what to buy.
Avoid this money pitfall and invest in something meaningful instead, or for the ultimate bargain romantic gesture, consider something home-made or commission a talented friend to make something for you.

9) Beautiful budget Valentine's Day lingerie

Valentine's lingerie is a classic, time honored romantic rip off, which hapless romantics seem to fall foul of, every year.
It’s important to remember that, in most cases, bright red bras and fluffy knickers don’t really appeal to many women anyway. Instead, look to a classic lingerie supplier, where prices are the same, all year round or check which lingerie sales are currently running.

10) Cheap Valentine's Day ideas instead of over blown gestures

You may decide that you want to propose this Valentine's Day.
There are many shops just waiting to relieve you of your hard earned cash, to supply you with all manner of accompanying gimmicks, such as balloons that you can insert the ring inside, and even cupcakes.
Rather than wasting your money, avoid this romantic rip off and focus on a meaningful gesture. Thoughtful words definitely speak louder, and it’s a great way to ensure you don't blow a hole in your Valentine's budget.
Read How to Get the Best Engagement Ring for Your Budget to find out how to get the biggest rock for the best price and make sure your home insurance or travel insurance (if you're popping the question overseas) covers the cost just in case it does get mislaid.

Romance doesn’t have a price!

This is the big secret that many shops and restaurants don’t want you to realize. To most people, it’s the small, meaningful gestures that mean so much more than the overblown, over-the-top declarations of love.
The best cheap Valentine's Day ideas tend to be those that are personalized, genuinely loving and sincere, rather than showy, over-priced and a complete romantic rip off!
Plan in advance, check out the Valentine's Day deals running and put some thought into what would mean most to your significant other so you make their day extra special while maximizing your savings.

Read more:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Raw Vegan Chocolate Mint Milkshake

This is a recipe I made up so, as always, you will have to be patient with me as I'm not perfect at exact measurements. If you want this to be raw you will have to make your own almond milk. If you only care that it is vegan but not raw, you can start with a base of store bought almond or soy milk. First, the recipe for the almond milk.

For the almond milk you will need the following

1 C. Almonds (soaked 8+ hours) throw soak water away
4 C. Water             
4-5  Dates (if you don't have a vitamix you may want to soak the dates for 10-15 minutes to soften)
1 t. Vanilla    
Cheese cloth of some kind and pitcher


Start by adding all the ingredients except 2 C of the water. Blend until WELL blended then add the remaining 2 cups water and blend again.


Pour the mixture through the cheese cloth and squeeze as much liquid out as you can.

This is what the pulp will look like. Do NOT throw this out! I put it in my raw cookie recipe or raw crackers. Also, you can dehydrate it until dry, blend it well, and use the almond flour in recipes for baking.


You can enjoy your milk plain, but to make a Chocolate Mint Milkshake you will need to pour some milk into an ice cube tray to freeze.

This is what you will need for the Chocolate Mint Milkshake:

1-2 C. Milk
1 Frozen banana
2-4 T. Raw Cacao Powder (add 2 then taste to see if you want more)
6 Cubes frozen milk cubes or more if you want it to be thicker
3-6 drops of peppermint oil (you can omit this if you just want a chocolate milkshake)
Agave to taste (I use between 2-4 T. depending on how sweet I want it)

This pic shows a double recipe or more.

You can't tell by the picture, but these milkshakes are thick and frozen like a milkshake you would get from an ice cream shop. They are sweet, creamy, and delicious! Next time, I'm going to make a strawberry milkshake! :P

Have a happy healthy DAY!!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Almost Free Way to Improve Your Health Instantly!


Picture Source

I could make an entire blog on water if I wanted to, but I'm going to make this post short, sweet, and simple. Water, believe it or not, has become a controversial topic amongst the health gurus. I'm not getting into the controversy on this post. I'll leave that up to you to research on your own.

I'll start with the benefits of drinking water. Everyone knows them right? Well, let's see if you learn anything new! We all know the obvious benefits of water, number one being to hydrate the body. However, there are some unique benefits to drinking water that are not as commonly discussed.

The Not So Commonly Known Benefits:
~Gives you energy
~Reduces risk of Cancer
~Helps to eliminate headaches
~Helps with weight loss
~Less likely for sickness
~Enhances your mood
~Helps brain to function properly
~Decreases risk of sprains
~Helps to prevent cramps
~Helps with constipation
~Healthy skin
~Helps to build muscle
~Good for the joints
~Improves workouts

Picture Source

Sometimes when you have a lot of information in your head, it is hard to keep things simple, but that's what I am going to do! My best advice: Drink, Drink, Drink!! My second best advice: Don't drink TAP water! I don't care where you live, don't drink it! Below is a pic of what we install in every house we move into. They are about $150 on average at Lowes or Mendards. It is an under the sink RO system. Money WELL spent for healthy clean water. We replace the filter every 6-12 months and that usually only costs us about $40-50.

Also, I want to stress something here you may not be aware of. Please do not drink water, or any other beverage, with your food. There is a thick digestive juice in our stomachs that aid in the digestion of our food. When we drink fluids we dilute that thick juice into an extremely thin liquid. This slows the digestion process down immensely. Proper digestion is such an important part of our health, proper bowel function, and even weight loss. Drink water at least 30 minutes before a meal and don't drink for at least 2 hours after a meal. This may be a very hard adjustment, but you will notice the benefits almost right away. 

My tips for drinking water:
Fill 2 quart size jars with water in the morning. Store them on the counter or in the fridge. That is the water you should be drinking each day. This is a great way to track how much water you are drinking and to ensure you are getting enough. Drink more if you are trying to lose weight or cleanse your body.

Fill a pint size jar with water, put a lid on it, and keep it on your nightstand or by your bed. Each morning upon waking, drink the entire jar before you even get out of bed. There are many benefits to drinking water first thing in the morning.

One more don't. Do not store water in plastic water bottles in your car if it is warm. Never drink water in plastic that has been hot at any point. Toxins from the plastic get into the water when the plastic is heated.

Have a happy, healthy, hydrated day!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Making Fire Starters

Since school was canceled today due to ICE I decided to do a post that will bring some warmth and a sweet reminder of summer! Fire starters. These are super easy, fun, and inexpensive to make, and they work GREAT!

You will need:
Candle wax (I buy cheap, broken candles at Salvation Army, garage sales, or other thrift stores)
Cardboard egg cartons (Styrofoam does NOT work)
Lint from your dryer (FREE:)

I use a size 10 can to put the wax in. When I was taught how to do this they suggested using a crock pot, but I didn't want to deal with the mess of cleaning it out or having an extra one just for this purpose as they suggested. I put the can directly on the stove to melt the wax.

Once the wax is completely melted, I spoon the wax into each individual well of the egg carton. The first few times I did this, I filled the carton with the lint first then poured the wax in (as I was taught). I found it sticks better when you put the wax in first then fill the carton with the lint. Below is a picture of both methods.

Below is a picture from the bottom on the difference between the two. Putting the wax in first definitely works better! The one on the right had the wax put in first.

The more lint you can cram in there the better. Cram, cram, cram it in there. This is the free part so don't be afraid to use it.The more you use the more affective the fire starter is and the longer it will burn. I often will pour more wax in over the top once the lint is in. There always seems to be a little more room for more lint.  I even have other people collect lint for me. However, with a family of 8 we collect lint pretty fast ourselves. :) 

Once the fire starters have cooled (putting them in the fridge or freezer is ok), you can leave them whole as they are and break them apart when you need one or you can break them apart and store them as individual starters. My kids enjoy breaking them apart so we do that before we store them.

One day when we made these, my son and I decided to turn it into a "science experiment" and time how long the a single starter would burn.

What it looks like when it is initially lit.

After 12 Minutes!!

After 18 Minutes!! It finally stopped burning at 21 minutes!

What are the results of these fire starters? Free Family Fun!!! I am SO ready for summer to come and enjoy some campfires! I think I'll go make some fire starters today to help "burn" away my winter blues. These are also great to put in your 72 hour kits!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream (Raw, Vegan Style)

This is a simple 1-2 ingredient recipe requiring only 2-3 steps! That being said, I will use very few words to explain this recipe. If you have more questions post them below and I will be happy to answer them. =) First, peel and freeze several bananas. Be sure they are very ripe, but not super brown and soft.


Second, put them through a juicer (twin gear works best) or a blender.

Watch the FuN!! 

Dish out the YuMMineSS!

 Add a few frozen strawberries if you'd like a strawberry flavor. We also make a chocolate syrup made w/raw cacao powder if we are in the mood. You can add nuts for a variety if you'd like. There is all kind of things you can do. =)

Watch the children enjoy!! Sit back and wait. . .yep, they will ask you SOON to make that again! The frozen, creamy, sweet texture is addictive, yummy, and super good for you! Oh, and did I mention, it's even cheaper then ice cream!? And this is a treat mommy can eat w/out the guilt. ;) Enjoy my friends. :)

Have some quick, easy, inexpensive, and HEALTHY snack or meal ideas? Please, share them below.

Have a HEALTHY, happy day!!  =)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Let Positive Thinking give you a Happy New Year!

I LOVE this time of year! I know people say that we shouldn't wait until a new year to set goals and evaluate our lives. I agree! However, there is just something so powerful, exciting, energizing, and magical about the beginning of a new year. It is as though the last year of mistakes are erased and good memories are recorded in our minds and sometimes our journals or facebook statuses. It's not as though we will forget our bad choices but rather learn and grow from them. A new year has the tendency to give us the sweet feeling of a clean slate, a chance to "start over". I personally love that feeling! It makes me feel like a new woman! The draw back?. . .Why does it have to be COLD outside!? The new found energy I get from the new year makes me want to go outside and run! But alas, I hate the cold. I have the tendency to hibernate in the winter causing me to eat more, sit more, watch movies more, take more long hot baths, and read more; all of which are not physical activities. Well, I found a way to combine one of these activity with a physical activity and I was able to do it for FREE! Well, except the $7.99 monthly fee for Netflix.

This post is actually more about the power of positive thinking and giving love and service. Several years ago I gave my brother and his wife my old treadmill. I bought a nicer one later only to sell it when we made our big move this last summer. Well, now that winter has hit and we are settled in a bigger home, I REALLY wish I had kept my treadmill. If you read my previous post you'd know we bought a large TV for very cheap. Well, my niece gave me her old large TV a little while later. I liked it better so I gave mine to my brother and his family. I thought nothing more of it.

As the snow began to DUMP here in the mid-west (and stick)I really began to long for a treadmill. I began to look on Craigslist, but the truth was I had already spent enough money on Christmas that I couldn't justify spending more money. We did keep Christmas simple, but even at that simple for 7 kids and 2 parents does dip into the budget. I was able to purchase all presents on eBay or Craigslist. Anyway, I decided I would stay positive and something would come my way! (just like the tv) =) My hubby came home from taking the TV to my brother's house (it wouldn't fit in their van) and told me all about the very nice treadmill my brother got for very cheap for his wife for Christmas. Light bulb!!! I immediately sent my sil a text:

I picked it up at the New Year's Eve party we went to at their house. I dragged it in the house first thing in the morning of New Year's Day. I scrubbed it up, tightened some screws, and shifted the belt a little. My iPad fit on it perfectly. I put in the headphones I got for Christmas, turned on Roswell on Netflix and started walking! Thanks to my new old treadmill I got in my 10,000 steps goal from the UP bracelet my niece and her hubby got me for Christmas.

I want to point out here that the whole reason I wanted to post this was because this happened on my first day of my 7 day mental diet challenge. I wanted to record positive things that happened to me when trying this mental diet. You can join me on the mental diet challenge by clicking here. This is my 16 yo dd's page.

I can't promise things you want will appear "magically" as it seems to have done for me. What I can promise you is that you WILL feel more energized and excited about life if you begin to focus on nothing but the positive in your life. Trust me when I say there is SOMETHING positive in your life no matter what you might feel now. Take note of changes you see in yourself and even in others as YOU begin to think positive! Positive thoughts bring positive things in your life. The harder you work at this, the more you will see the sad, negative, and hard to handle stresses in your life will either be gone or feel much more manageable to you.

What will 2013 bring you? THAT is up to you, your mind, your thoughts, your actions, and your words my friend! =)

Have a wonderful, positive, healthy new year! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Black Friday Frenzy!!. . .How to benefit w/out the craziness!

If you know me, you know I HATE shopping! I especially hate crowds. I hate grocery shopping, clothes shopping, and even "necessity" shopping (for things we need). I have endured a few Black Friday shopping days for the sake of my daughter (it falls on or near her bday), but it is only out of the love of my daughter. She is fully aware of this and expresses her gratitude.

This year she requested again to go black Friday shopping for her bday. By some miracle, we got my hubby to go this year.We live in a fairly small area so the crowd wasn't insane as I have seen in the past, but it was still a little too crazy for me (and poor hubby). However, as most people there, I had an agenda! Socks, jeans, and a movie or two. I felt justified, as these were necessities (except the movies) and super cheap. Frugal and simple! That's me!

However, as I walked (rather squeezed) through the crowd, two things came to mind.
1. I was SO glad I couldn't find a cart! There was NO way I would have gotten through the crowd with a cart!
2. The TV's tempted me! The prices were great and we were in "want" of a new TV! We are a family that enjoys movie nights (and popcorn), and the 8 of us were crowding around a 32" TV that was slowly losing the sound! The TV's were so big and pretty and cheap! No wonder people went nuts buying them.

But, I controlled myself and so did my hubby! After all, it was a "want" and not a "need". If we still wanted it later, we would find an even better deal (positive thinking)! We left the store with 8 packs of socks, 7 pairs of jeans, 5 $2 movies, and a curling iron and perfume for dd's birthday. I left feeling accomplished, free of guilt, and without unnecessary "things".

A few days later, a thought came to me! What are all those people who did buy TV's on back Friday going to do with their old TVs? Why, sell them of course! I got on Craigslist and went "shopping". I was shocked!! There were LOTS of TV's for sale. . .big, in good shape, and cheap! At least 5 of the posts that I read said that the TV's worked great, but they just bought a new one on black Friday. My assumption was confirmed! To make a long story short, we bought a 60" TV (with remote) that was only 5 years old. How much? $100! Our 32" had a built in dvd player so I talked to my daughter and she had an extra one that she gave us for FREE! So we went from this:
To this:
We fulfilled a family want with a very inexpensive budget and in a much more Earth friendly way. We were able to benefit from the sales of Black Friday without the expense to our wallet. And we did not have to contribute to this: