5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

Okay I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but constantly budgeting my money makes me cranky! With 4 kids and a limited budget, there’s not always a lot of wiggle-room when it comes to “fun money”. Yes, I’m always putting money in the savings account for our retirement and there’s a little bit going into the Disney bank. But when it comes to right here and now, not being able to just buy whatever-I-want whenever-I-want-it makes me irritable!

So I can’t go on a spending spree and that’s okay. These are 5 things I do when I need a little escape from reality. They are just the right pick-me-up when the budget is tight.

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

1. Plan a Fake Vacation

Can’t hop a plane or jump ship? Just like reading a book transports you into another world, planning a fake vacation can transport you around the world with a click of a button. This is one of my most favorite ways to daydream. Pick a spot on the map and delve into this area as if you were really going to visit!

  • Borrow travel books from the library. Which part of the world are you most drawn to?
  • If you could only drive 500 miles or less, which direction would you go and what would you do?
  • If you had to travel in central Europe which country would you go to? (I actually made this decision when I won a travel contest!)
  • Read up on cruising. Check out the Disney cruise restaurants and menus – They’re all online!
  • Which attractions would you visit in Orlando other than Walt Disney World?
  • If money were no object (and it never is when planning a fake trip) which extravagant add-ons would you make?
  • Perhaps someday when you win the lottery (that’s totally going to happen, right?), you’ll already have your travel itinerary ready to go!

Planning a Disney trip? Pick up one of these recommended Walt Disney World or Disneyland books for everyone in your group!

2. Fill my Online Shopping Cart with Clothes I’ll Never Buy

I’m not literally going to go to Target, load up a cart and then abandon it at the door. But it’s TOTALLY okay to do that online! In an online shopping cart you can virtually mix and match, quickly move from dresses to shoes to jewelry. And when you’ve gotten the shopping bug fix, simply close the browser window and you’re wallet is still intact!

3. Get Rid of Stuff

If I’m on a budget I can’t buy more stuff but it does give me some joy to pass along some of the stuff we already have. Purging and giving makes me thankful for things I was able to purchase and reminds me that I already have enough “stuff”.

  • Weed through kid’s closets. What doesn’t fit and who can you pass the clothing down to?
  • Is there something in your closet you haven’t worn in a very long time? Request a bag from ThredUp and you may be able to resell some of your items.
  • Have a garage sale. Put the money you make towards something special.
  • Be ruthless in the kid’s toy bin. Keep only what they really play with and donate the rest.
  • Next time you pull out the holiday or seasonal bin, see how you can pare down the decorations so that you only keep your most favorite items.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

4. Buy Something Little and Fun

A cheap but meaningful splurge can really boost spirits when the wallet is tight. Obviously you can’t do this one every day (or even every week!) but once in a while buying something small is just what you need. What little thing makes you happiest? For me it’s something that pampers me, like new Jamberry nail wraps or a lipstick! For family fun, choose a new board game or get a gallon of vanilla ice cream and a few toppings for mid-week sundaes.

What are the little things you can do when budgeting makes you cranky? 5 Things I Do When Budgeting Money Makes Me Cranky

A manicure at home (on a budget) makes me feel better!

Look Ahead to Something Real

What fun thing do you have coming ahead in the calendar that you can look forward to? Whatever it is, start your planning now! I love planning and think that research is half the fun. So if you have a vacation ahead, cultivate your own official itinerary. Research restaurants, peruse online menus and decide which mouth-watering dessert you’re going to order when you get there. I find that looking ahead (and not dwelling in the I-can’t-right-now) really fills up my thankfulness cup and reminds me why I’m budgeting and saving in the first place!

What do you do when budgeting gets you down? Share in the comments!

Can’t Afford a Trip? 7 Ways to Take a Family Vacation on a Budget

Taking a Family Vacation on a Budget

For a majority of families, what stops them from the family vacation of their dreams is their wallets. They think they can’t afford a vacation.

I think they’re wrong.

Even as a family on a tight budget, we’ve found that there are many ways to make a vacation happen.

Travel brings so much joy, adventure and memories to families. I can safely say that most of our happiest family memories are from our vacations. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

So why aren’t you taking a vacation? What is truly stopping you from planning and going on that dream vacation? And if your answer is “money”, here are a few ideas to consider.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Think You Can’t Afford a Trip?

According to a recent survey on Spring Break Family Travel, conducted by Vacatia, TravelingMom and TravelingDad, agreeing on a budget and coordinating payment is a concern for 36% of respondents. If you’re on a tight budget than you might fall in that 36% range.

I’ll be frank though – My family is on a tight budget and we still find a way to take several vacations a year. I think family travel is way more important than having the newest gadgets. That little sacrifice can go a long way! Here are 7 ways we make those all-important vacations happen:

1. Day to Day Savings

Naturally your day-to-day spending can make or break whether you have extra vacation money or not (those lattes add up!) By cutting back on little things (generic instead of name brand, packing a lunch instead of purchasing), you can always seem to “find money” that can be used for your vacation.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Every dollar counts! Put saved money towards your trip & get the kids involved.

Yeah, it can be a downer to eat pb&j from home when you’d rather get a sandwich at the deli but the $5+ savings means more money for you to take that trip. But there are little ways to cut back without it feeling like a major sacrifice. Consider a month of no extra expenses. Take a hard look at all the money going out and choose a few easy ways you can save on expenses.

2. What Can You Do Without?

I’d rather plan another vacation than have cable television. That’s just me, but traveling is just more fun than watching TV. I make the choice to do without. What do you have that you could cut back, freeing up more money for a trip?

It can be hard to tell the kids “no” when it comes to spending on things. When my older kids ask why they can’t have a cell phone or my preschooler wants a toy at the store, I use a distraction technique. I remind them about an impending trip and how we’re using extra money towards our vacation. Then I’ll bring up a certain part of the trip I know they’ll want to talk about and soon enough they’re excited, talking about the vacation instead.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

3. Buy Less Stuff

A recent article suggested that parents should spend less on toys and take more vacations. I’m all for that. We save toy purchases only at Christmas and even then, we try to choose high-quality classic items that work for a wide age group.

We take this concept of limiting stuff even further by branching out into other parts of our home. All the money saved by not buying “stuff” (Dollar Spot, I’m looking at you!) goes into our vacation fund.

4. Use Points for Your Trips

I’m not a huge credit card hacker but I do have a few practical and very easy tips for earmarking points towards travel. Since we do a lot of Disney travel, I have a Disney Visa that I use to pay household bills. The Disney Dollars earned go towards our meals at each trip and we have very little out-of-pocket expenses there.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Our Costco Visa is used solely for groceries and gas and we earned about $250 in Costco cash last year. I took the check we received to Costco, they cashed it out for me and I’m using that money on our road trip. I’ve also plotted out on a map where all the Costco gas stations are on our route so we can get our gasoline at a great price! We purchased 2 new cell phones at Costco last year and received a $450 Costco gift card rebate so this is our gas money for the road trip.

I also use and love Ebates and book all my travel through the links. I get paid in a “Big Fat Check” and naturally, that’s money to go right towards the vacation.

5. Realize that Separate Vacations Are Okay

According to the responses in the survey, 38% say that coordinating everyone’s schedules is the worst part of planning a vacation. And once you do choose a date that works for everyone there’s also the challenge of making everyone happy. 32 percent say the ickiest part of planning is finding a destination that makes everyone happy and 24 percent say it’s choosing accommodations that will make everyone happy.

Here’s a solution to this issue – Plan separate vacations. Don’t wait until you can get things “just right” because that day might never come. When trying to work out a trip between my husband’s work and school schedule, the kid’s school year and allotted vacation time, finding that week when everyone is available is the equivalent to a needle in a haystack.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

We compromise with separate vacations. My husband likes going to Disneyland as a family once a year for a few days but traveling cross-country to Walt Disney World for a week is not his idea of fun. He’d rather be riding the ocean waves in his kayak, fishing for tuna (definitely not my style!) while the kids play in the sand.

Our kids get the best of both experiences and nobody is gritting their teeth through a week of something they’re not happy with. And on the budget-side of this, a vacation with fewer family members is going to cost less.

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

6. Find Ways to Budget on the Trip

Once you nail down the itinerary, decide what features of the trip are the most important to you. If spending time at a fancy hotel suite is a must-do, place the majority of your budget there. If you don’t care where you lay your head, then scrimp on the hotel costs and drop your money where it matters most, like on activities or meals. Survey respondents note that they spend about half of their travel budget on accommodations, which tells me that maybe the call of the upscale hotel pool is high!

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

7. Take the Time Off (and Save More)

If you’re white-knuckling those sick leave hours, you might need a vacation! Here’s a hint: Your coworkers can survive without you. Take the vacation time!

If you wait until summer vacation when the kids are out of school, the costs of a trip during peak travel season will be higher. Consider pulling the kids out so you can plan your vacation when the travel prices are best. I’m taking my kids out this spring for 5 days so we can take a road trip. I was able to contact their schools about independent study. The kids will be able to get their school work done on the road and not get “dinged” with unexcused absences while they’re gone.

Research tells us that family vacations have long-lasting impact on your child’s happiness. I know that seeing my children soaking in new experiences is going to have a greater impact on their lives than any gadget ever will!

Think you can't afford a trip? Here are 7 tips on how to take that family vacation on a budget, without crazy sacrifice or drastic penny-pinching!

Save money on your family vacation!

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Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount). 


10 Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy - 10 money-saving tips including recipes

Grocery shopping doesn’t have to bust your wallet. You can still eat healthy and save money on groceries. Some will tell you that you’ll need to use coupons to save cash (not true!) Or the hype that tells you organic and healthy foods are so much more expensive. That’s certainly not true either! With 6 to feed in my family and only one full-time income, these are tried and tested money-saving tips. Here are my 10 practical ways we save money on our groceries.

Save Money on Groceries (and Still Eat Healthy!)

Please note that I use affiliate links in this post. Clicking through and purchasing through the link helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Don’t Use Coupons (with One Exception)

I used to spend hours each week clipping coupons from the newspaper mailers and driving around to several different stores to redeem. So much work! Sure there were some times where I’d get a great deal (25 cent tube of toothpaste! 75 cent box of cereal!) however those really great deals weren’t the norm. Most of the time I was purchasing things I didn’t need just because I had a coupon.

I remember looking in my storage cabinet and bemoaning that I didn’t have any more space because it was already stuffed full of about 5 years worth of deodorant, mouthwash, hair conditioner and macaroni and cheese!  And my kids didn’t need to be eating all that sugary cereal, whether I got it on sale or paid full price.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Here’s my one exception to using coupons: If you flip through the mailer and see something there that you already use and plan on purchasing in the near future, then by all means clip and use the coupon.

If you can save 50 cents off your favorite brand of pasta then yes, you should definitely use the coupon. But if you find that you’re making purchasing just because you have the coupon, it’s time to step away from the mailers.

Make a Price List

It can be hard to remember which store has the best prices on the top 20 things you purchase each visit so I recommend creating a price list. Jot down the price on your list next time you’re at the store so you’ll know which store has the best price on bananas, peanut butter and milk, etc.

Our local Sprouts has the best prices on fruits, veggies and dry bulk bin items but prices for dairy and cereal are considerably higher. Keep track so you’ll know where to shop for certain items and aren’t spending more than you have to.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Recipe for Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

Don’t Shop at the Grocery Store

Grocery stores notoriously mark up the price of certain “convenience” items that you might pick up when you’re there grabbing fruit and veggies. Items in the health and beauty department are usually at a higher price than somewhere like Target or Walmart.

But I’ve found that other items can have a higher cost at the grocery as well. Things like canned tomatoes, pasta and cereal are often found cheaper at Target. You might find that your options are limited at the “big box” stores but that might not matter if you always purchase the same brand.

Shopping Apps

Certain grocery stores have special shopping apps that you can pull up on your smart phone before checkout to save you a few bucks. I personally use Cartwheel when at Target, Shopkick at many locations in my area (just open the app at the front door), and Ebates when I’m shopping online. I’ve received gift cards and cash just by using these apps and it doesn’t take me more than a minute or two.

And of course, if I’m shopping at Target I use my Target Red Card (debit) to save me 5% off my total purchases!

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Buy in Bulk

Yep, we’re Costco shoppers and buying in bulk is definitely one way we save money on groceries for our big family. But don’t load up that enormous shopping cart just yet. You’ll need to make sure you can get through that 5 lb bag of mixed greens before it goes bad! And do you really need a giant tub of coconut oil? Knowing how much your family can eat and balancing that with the product’s expiration date is a must-do before bulk buying.


Dry goods in bulk bins that you scoop and weigh yourself can give you a great deal. Just be sure to compare the weight per pound of the bulk bin versus purchasing the item prepackaged. A 1 lb bag of beans may run me about $1.25 but only 75 cents a pound if I scoop it from the dry goods bin. Consider purchasing your own oats, flour, sugars, beans, lentils and nuts from the bulk bins and storing them in your own containers at home.

Price Per Ounce

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the price per ounce listed on the shelf label and noticed that it’s actually more cost effective to buy the product in a small size. See, groceries often “trick” you into thinking the bulk size is more economical! So be sure to check out the price per ounce (or pound, or whatever) to make sure it’s really the best bargain.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Hidden Tip: Foods like pizza are cheap and easier than you think to make at home. Skip the frozen box pizza and make a quick dough, smear with pasta sauce and top with a few slices of mozzarella. For just over $1.00, I made this pizza for lunch in about 15 minutes! What other foods are you buying that you could be making yourself for pennies on the dollar?

Go Shopping More Often

What was the last item you had in the fridge that went bad before you had the chance to eat it? You might be purchasing too much upfront and then it spoils before you can cook it. Certain foods move quickly through my house, like onions, bananas, garlic and apples so I can purchase them in large quantities. But we can never seem to eat enough of the giant bag of spinach before it starts to smell funny.

Rather than bulk buying some items, we purchase smaller amounts and shop more frequently. We might spend a bit more on our greens upfront but if we aren’t tossing out half the package when they’re slimy, then we’re probably making out better on the cost in the end.

Pricing Organic VS Non-Organic

If you usually avoid organic foods as a rule because you believe they are more costly, take a look again because that’s not necessarily so. Yes, for sure there are some products that are more costly than others because they are organic but not always. At our local Sprouts, many of the organic fresh veggies are cheaper in cost than their non-organic versions! Some canned goods (like beans and tomatoes) are similarly priced organic versus non-organic.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

Isn’t that a gorgeous loaf? Bake your own artisan bread with the book, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. The beauty of making it yourself is that you know what ingredients you’re adding!

Shop the Outside Aisles

Visualize your grocery store. Generally stores are designed with produce, meats, grains and dairy on the outside aisles and canned and processed foods in the middle. Gone are the days when I purchased pre-seasoned rice and pasta mixes. Commercials will have you think that you’re saving time and money buying these types of products but it’s really not that much more time-consuming and definitely not more expensive to cook your own rice and add your own seasonings.

By avoiding processed foods, you’ll not only save yourself money but save your health from excessive preservatives, sodium and unpronounceable ingredients. Think about the foods you’ve been purchasing in the middle aisles of the grocery and how you could prepare them yourself instead.

Avoid Boxes & Bags

I’m working towards feeding my family more “real food”. By following Lisa Leakes’ book 100 Days of Real Food. I’m aiming to choose foods that have 5 or less of the “approved” ingredients. That means a lot of items that come in boxes and bags are off-limits. Avoiding foods that come packaged in boxes and bags (unless they follow the 5 approved ingredients or less) will save you money and help your health as well.

Practical Ways to Save Money on Groceries and Still Eat Healthy

What are the ways YOU save money on groceries? I’d love to hear your tips…share them in the comments!


3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SweeterTogether #CollectiveBias

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

How to Have a Budget-Friendly Summer

As the mom of four (from newborn to 12-years old) we don’t have a big budget for entertainment. Our summer days are simple, spent poolside with warm weather foods like grilled chicken, cold pasta salad and DREYER’S ice cream for dessert! Summer lazy days shouldn’t break the bank. Check out my budget-friendly summer activities everyone in the family can enjoy.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Let’s Start with Dessert!

I’d start with dessert every day if I could but it just seems right in the summertime when the weather is warm and ice cream is just such a wonderfully refreshing treat!

I picked up DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Caramel Delight Light Ice Cream and DREYER’S SLOW CHURNED® Vanilla Light Ice Cream in the freezer section at Walmart this week for our summer kick-off.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

DREYER’S Ice Cream is a staple in our freezer because they are “Simply made, simply delicious” with no GMO ingredients, no artificial colors or flavors and is proudly made with fresh milk & cream with no rBST. And it just tastes SO good! Check out your local Walmart to see if DREYER’S Ice Cream will be hosting a store demo.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Keep It Simple with These Free Summer Family Activities

Kids don’t need every summer day to be scheduled out to the minute. Allow for plenty of free time for imaginative play and activities. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t come up with a calendar of ideas when boredom strikes. Nor should kids be on their electronics from dawn to dusk. This is my first summer with my kids as a new Stay-at-Home-Mom and I’m looking forward to planning fun and togetherness into our summer days.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

These are a few of the simple fun activities I have planned:

Library – Not just books to borrow, but our local library offers age-specific gatherings from story time, crafts, music and special events

Community – Check out your community calendar online to find out about special summer events like concerts or movies playing in the park.

DIY Camp at Home – Can’t afford to send the kids to camp? Here are some ideas for making your own “camps” at home.

Parks – Expand your horizons beyond the park down the street and take a day trip to a cool new park. Some have fun splash pads so bring a suit & towel!

Pool – Find out how much your community pool rates are for visitors. Even better: Work out a plan with a friend who has a pool! You bring a few new pool toys for them and they let you go swimming.

Staycation– Check out my list of summer staycation ideas that are easy on the budget!

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Pack a Picnic

Every kid loves a picnic, whether it be poolside, at the park or even on the floor of your living room! Keep the fare light and easy, like leftover grilled chicken, pasta salad and fresh summer fruit.

Use up leftovers with my recipe for budget-friendly pasta salad. A little of this, a little of that and you can have a tasty pasta salad that’s unique every time. With a few pantry staples and some leftover veggies, you can quickly whip up this family favorite that’s perfect for hot summer days. Top it with grilled chicken (either hot or cold) and it’s a full and delicious meal.

3 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities to Bring Family Together #SweeterTogether #ad

Start with a simple base of 1/2 cup olive oil, 6 Tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese. Combine in a large bowl. Cook one box of pasta (I like bow tie) and rinse with cold water. Mix in with liquid.

Add your choices of the following ingredients:

  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Red onion, chopped
  • Grape tomatoes, quartered
  • Green onion, chopped
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Sliced olives
  • Black beans, rinsed and drained
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Doesn’t that sound delicious (and easy?!)

How will you make Summer #SweeterTogether? Share your summer fun plans in the comments!




10 Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas for Summer with Kids

10 Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas for Summer with Kids

Summer is coming and I need a bag-of-tricks ready to keep my four kids occupied all summer. I’ve come up with a few staycation ideas that I know my kids will love and remember! As much as I’d love to run away to Walt Disney World right now, sometimes it’s just not in the budget for a big family vacation. The ultimate summer-on-a-budget staycation is easy on the wallet and still full of fun! It just takes a little creativity and planning.

This is the first year that I’ll be spending at home with the kids as a SAHM. I’m equally excited about being able to relax and also worried that I’m going to have four bored kids on my hands after the first week at home! My plan is to get the kids on board and schedule special at-home events on the calendar. Some of these activities could be spread out over the course of the week, leading up to the “big day”. It really gives everyone something to look forward to and not focus on what we “can’t” do (take a vacation).

Here are my 10 budget-friendly staycation ideas!


Art & Craft Show

Kids love to get crafty and it doesn’t have to be pricey. You probably already have some craft supplies laying around that you could dig out. Set up an area outside where you can get messy and creative.

  • Local craft stores frequently mail out 50% coupons or you could search for one online or shop the dollar store for cheap crafting supplies.
  • Give everyone a sketch book and have a thirty minute session where you draw the portrait of the person next to you (this is sure to induce giggles!)
  • Save your glass jars from jelly or spaghetti sauce and use acrylic or glass paints to decorate.
  • Make pipe cleaner sculptures.
  • Use torn pieces of tissue paper and a glue stick on velum paper to make “stained glass” images.
  • Using clean paint brushes and bucket of water outside, have kids quickly “paint” a picture on the sidewalk and see if everyone else can guess what it is before it evaporates!
  • Recreate a famous painting in your own style.
  • Pull out cheap watercolor trays and paint a scene from your backyard.
  • Rainy day? Set up a still life on the table and have everyone draw the same scene then compare your pictures.
  • Cut out pictures from magazines and “mod podge” the images onto wooden frames or boxes.
  • Make paper bag puppet and have kids create a puppet show with their creations.
  • On the last day, display everyone’s artwork in the house and hang a handcrafted blue ribbon on each kid’s best work!
Art night for a staycation with the kids {Saving up for Disney}

Oh sure, honey, it looks JUST like me!

Under the Big Top

After we went to the circus (the animal-free variety) a few years ago, my kids were fascinated with the tricks and skills they saw.  Lots of great activity here to get you off the couch!

  • Dress up like a clown in old over-sized clothing and costumes.
  • A strip of blue masking tape on the patio makes an acceptable “tight rope”.
  • See who can keep multiple hula hoops going at the same time (one around your neck and one around your arm?!).
  • Practice balancing a balloon on your nose…and then walk the tight rope!
  • Create an obstacle course in the backyard.
  • Paint each child’s face like a circus animal
  • Enjoy a snack of peanuts and popcorn

Go Camping

Camping is cheap and fun {Saving up for Disney}

  • Local campsites have inexpensive overnight fees and you could try to catch your dinner in the lake!
  • Take a walk with flashlights to explore the sights and sounds after nightfall.
  • If you don’t want to stray too far from home, camp in your backyard instead. Pitch a tent, barbecue dinner over coals, roast marshmallows and fall asleep under the stars.
  • Or simply roll out the sleeping bags in the living room and “camp” in the house under the comfort of your ceiling fan!

Get wet!! Free ideas for summer fun {Saving up for Disney}

Get Wet 

  • If you don’t have your own pool, perhaps a family member or friend will let you “borrow” theirs for the day (especially if you volunteer to bring everyone dinner!)
  • Our local YMCA has a great zero-entry pool, water slide and play area for just a few dollars per person. Check at your local pools and find out when open-swim time is available.
  • High schools often open their pools in the summer for a nominal fee.
  • Wash the car, there is always an opportunity for a soapy sponge fight there.
  • Or just set the sprinklers or spray the hose and run through the water, every kid loves that!
  • I’m not crazy about water balloons because of the mess they leave behind, but sponges soaked in water are perfect for a good super-soaking!


A Night at the Movies…in Your Living Room

  • Pull out an old favorite and host a themed movie evening complete with handcrafted posters, costumes and a themed dinner around the film. (ie: Watching Mulan? Make Chinese stir fry and rice).
  • Pull out the floor pillows, pop up some kernels and settle down together after the sun has set.
  • Give the kids a task of recreating a favorite film in their own interpretation. Come up with a script and costumes and present it to parents!

Backyard carnival fun for summer {Saving up for Disney}

Backyard Carnival 

Gather up stuff from around the house for game play in the yard. Kids love to get in the silly spirit!

  • Craft blue ribbons for the winners of the contests.
  • Empty 2-liter soda bottles and a ball for a knock ’em down game. Or fill 2-liter bottles with water and use them for ring toss.
  • Toss a ball into a bowl or a coffee can.
  • Have a watermelon seed-spitting contest.
  • Pull out the face paint for added fun!
  • Have a mini-pie eating contest.
  • Serve hot dogs and potato chips outside, followed up with root beer floats.

Make sweet treats for inexpensive fun {Saving up for Disney}

Sweet Treats

If you have a budding baker on your hands (or simply kids who love sweets!), this is a fun way to get creative and maybe a little messy.

  • A bucket of vanilla ice cream, a few toppings and candy from the dollar store and you can all have amazing sundaes!
  • Or find a recipe online for making your own ice cream.
  • Find a delectable over-the-top recipe on Pinterest and make it for dessert.
  • Bake cupcakes and have fun creatively decorating them.
  • Spoon frosting into plastic baggies and snip off the corner for quick and easy pastry bags.
  • Make a summer-time themed “gingerbread house” that requires no baking with graham crackers, store bought frosting and candies.

2015-02-15 14.13.18

Fort City

When it’s too hot to play outside, take refuge in the house under a homemade fort!

  • Sofa pillows and blankets are fair game for fort making inside.
  • Pull out the dining room chairs, drape sheets and use binder clips to hold them up.
  • If you want to get fancy, a string of twinkle lights would be fabulous.
  • If you have a few cardboard boxes, take the time to paint and decorate them, cutting out windows and a door flap.
  • I think a quiet evening of reading is in order under your forts because horseplay would make your city fall down!

Family Game Night {Saving up for Disney}

Board Game Bonanza

One of our favorite family events is gathering around a few board games for a fun evening of competition and laughs.

  • Borrow some games that you don’t have from friends or family so you have a nice variety for all ages and host a game day at home.
  • Simple sandwiches make a great meal and have plenty to snack on between turns.
  • Write out your own Pictionary or Charades game ideas.
  • Find “Minute to Win It” games on Pinterest that use items from around the house.


An Elegant Evening

  • Every kid has a dress up box or can at least borrow something fun from mom and dad for the evening.
  • Time to pull out the sequins, get glamorous and have a fancy night at home.
  • Light a few candles at the table and elevate even the most boring weekday dinner.
  • Serve up a Shirley Temple in a fancy glass and the kids will feel so special!

Hope this list of ideas starts you on your way towards a memorable summer staycation! 


Organizing a Shared Bedroom-Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SnugDryUltra #CollectiveBias

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby #SnugDryUltra #ad

With six people in a 1000-square foot home, we’ve had to get very creative with our space. With four kids (a newborn, 4-yr old and two 12-yr olds), organization is key to keeping a tidy and well-run house! I’m here to share my budget-friendly nursery decorating and organization tips for combining a nursery and a big-kid’s room.

Big Kid and Nursery Shared Bedroom

I would like to share the ways that I created a nursery on a budget, including my tried-and-tested organization tips for combining a big kid and a baby in the same room. My 12-yr old son shares a bedroom with his 4-yr old brother and now my other 12-yr old is sharing her bedroom with her newborn baby sister. I’ve had to come up with some creative ways of organizing and storing clothing, diapers and other baby supplies in what is already a tight space. I also want to make sure my tween has a safe place to store her items, up and away from baby hands and mouth!

Here are my top tips:

Multiple Use Furniture

We don’t have the space in this room for a dresser so we make do with fabric boxes and bins. This compact shelving unit holds four soft-sided fabric bins with baby essentials. I have organized them with like-items.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Clothing and socks are in one bin and bedtime items like nightgowns and swaddles in another bin. Receiving blankets are stacked in the third and overstock items like extra baby wipes, lotion and shampoo are in the last bin.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

The top of the shelving unit doubles as a changing table. I simply purchased a changing table pad and my husband secured it to the back of the shelving unit so it won’t slide off. I sewed up simple fabric pad covers for a unique look.

Make Space on the Wall

A single shelf within arms reach of the changing table is a must for me. It keeps things close at hand, like diaper ointment, lotion and the thermometer. But it also keeps these things up and away from little hands. I also have a wire basket that holds toys and later when the baby is a bit older, I’ll be able to give her one to entertain herself while I change her. Baskets and bins are easy to find at the dollar store.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Hang it Up

If you can’t hide it or put it away in the closet, get it off the floor and hang it up. Rather than pile them in a box, we clip hair bows neatly onto a ribbon hanger that is hung on the wall.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Tween side of the closet

Safe Storage

Having a 12-yr old and baby share a space is not without its challenges. We need to make sure that certain items are kept away from little hands. My tween keeps electronics and cords stored in a plastic bin up in the closet. Art supplies and toys with tiny parts are also kept up high so baby can’t get to them.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Hide It

One of my favorite storage locations is under the bed. An inexpensive bed skirt can hide a multitude of things! Both of my girls were recently gifted hand-me-downs so we have the clothes folded into plastic storage bins underneath the twin bed where we can quickly access them. Diapers in a next size up are stored under the baby crib along with low baskets that hold toys and books so we can easily get to them.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Storage for Overstock

I save by stocking up when I can and storing the extras in creative ways so they aren’t taking up precious bedroom space! Extra diapers are stacked into a fabric holder that hangs from the end of the crib. We always keep a good supply of extra diapers on hand, because you definitely don’t want to be without!

A Beautiful DIY Bedroom for Baby - Nursery Decor on a Budget

We stock up on Huggies Snug & Dry Ultra. Huggies Snug and Dry Ultra is exclusive to Walmart and the low price of $7.97 makes it easy to stock up. The baby section at Walmart features quality products like Huggies Snug & Dry Ultra at a great price.

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

  • Snug & Dry Ultra has a unique quilted liner that locks away wetness from tender skin.
  • One peek at the Wetness Indicator lets you know if baby needs a change. When the indicator turns blue, you’ll know baby’s ready for a new diaper! Available in sizes 1 and 2.
  • The Leak Lock System provides up to 12 hours of protection to help prevent leaks.
  • Quality and value in one diaper: Huggies Snug & Dry Ultra

Organizing a Shared Bedroom - A Beautiful Space for a Big Girl & Baby

Check out the coupon, for $2.00 off any one pack of Huggies at Walmart…just click and print!

What are your favorite kid’s room organizing ideas? Share in the comments –


Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

When you’re organized, things just seem to run more smoothly!  Nobody needs to panic when they can’t find something because it’s been established ahead of time that every item has a place. Organizing solutions do not have to be expensive and there is no reason to hire “experts” or purchase pricey dividers or shelving units. It does take time though, arranging items to the best benefit and use of your family. But it will be all worth it when someone asks you, “Where’s my red hat with the white polka dots?” and you’ll know exactly what to tell them so they can find it!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Organizing Solutions that Work for Your Family

There are 6 of us in our 1000 square foot home. Yep, that’s a tight fit and every inch counts. Since adding our newest little one, we’ve been organizing and streamlining the house now to make room. We’ve always done pretty good with keeping stuff to a minimum but some of our stuff is necessary and it’s all about finding the most practical way to store it in a budget-friendly way!

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

These are my top 12 organizing solutions!

When we moved in four years ago I had things pretty well organized but over time our needs changed and I hadn’t rethought certain areas. I knew that we could do better and get them even more organized and streamlined. I took a good look at each space I needed to reorganize and made notes. In rethinking some of these spaces, I knew that I could move things there into other locations or even get rid of them completely.

Weed it out

Before you even start to organize, you have to decide what you’re going to keep and what needs to go.

Remove the contents of a drawer, bin or closet and go through each and every item.

Toss out, recycle, donate or place in a garage sale pile…whatever you need to do to minimize. Go through medications, lotions, nail polish, and other household items frequently to toss what is expired or give away what isn’t being used. Add this task to your calendar once each season and it won’t be such a laborious project.

I keep a small basket or fabric box (less than $5 each on Amazon) inside my kid’s closet for donation items. As they outgrow their clothes, I place the items in the basket and when the basket is full the contents are given away.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

We make use out of our closet by keeping overstock items and medical needs clearly labeled in bins and drawers.

Get Rid of the “Junk Drawer”

We don’t have one. We don’t need one because in our small home, there is no room for a “junk drawer”…everything has a place!

Dump out your junk drawer and find a home for each and every item there. Batteries? Get a bin for them and store them in a desk. Pens and pencils? Keep them in a cup within easy reach. Mail? Deal with mail as it comes in the door, recycling or filing as necessary.

A mesh desk organizer (Amazon for less than $10) is a great place to keep some of these “junk drawer” items you need close at hand.

Label It

I had a label maker for over ten years and used the heck out of it until it recently died. I just splurged and bought a new Brother P-Touch Label Maker(less than $23 on Amazon) and have been going (slightly) overboard with labeling everything in the house.

However I will note that nobody has been asking me, “Where’s the XYZ” because everything is so neatly labeled for them now! I do recommend investing in a label maker but you could also purchase stickers and label boxes with a Sharpie as well.

Organize drawer contents and sort into “like items”. Add a label on the outside to remind family to put things back where they belong!

Labels on book shelves help young readers organize their picture books, chapter book and coloring books.

Sort important paperwork into 3-Ring binders and then add a label to the side for easy access.

Get it Off the Floor

We’d all love to get those fancy professionally sized closet organizers, right? But boy, are they pricey!! We found a more reasonable solution in metal shelving units. They are intended for the garage I think, but we like to think outside of the box.

Since some of these tall Steel Wire Shelving Unit (under $40 on Amazon) can be customized for shelf height, they are perfect for placing in your closet. We simply keep the units as two shorter racks instead of assembling into one tall rack.

Things sitting on the floor can pile up and add to the clutter. Look at what you have on the floor and figure out where you can put it so it’s off the ground.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

Hang it Up

I have a hook in the hall closet with a pair of scissors so everyone knows exactly where the scissors are (instead of tossed in a random drawer). Backpacks go on hooks in the garage. Tired of seeing the bath towel laying on the floor because your little one can’t hang it properly on a towel rod? Install a hook! We were limited on wall space so my husband hung bath towel hooks for the boys on the end of the bunk bed and that works perfectly because they are completely out of the way.

An Over The Door Hook is invaluable (and under $15 on Amazon) and can make use of space, especially in a bathroom for towels.

No need to put holes in the wall. Command Wire Hooks are removable quickly but stay up well, even with heavier items. I buy the variety pack and find clever uses for them all over the house!

Beautiful Baskets

With drawer space at a minimum I keep my clean kitchen towels at the ready by folding them and keeping them within arms reach of the sink in this neat wire basket. I also have Wire Basket Organizers (less than $15 for two on Amazon) like this on the back of the toilet for hand towels.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

I don’t have room in the kitchen for my cookbooks so I keep them organized in a pretty basket under the foyer cabinet. They are still easily accessed and don’t take up precious counter or cupboard space in the kitchen.

Before you buy baskets new, check out your local thrift store. This is a fantastic place to find inexpensive baskets and you can always spray paint them for an updated look.

Shelving is King

Use all the space you can on shelves by maximizing with wire shelving units. We use these in the kitchen to make use of extra space for plates and bowls. In the pantry for canned foods and boxes this Small Kitchen Helper Shelf really helps maximize space (for about $7 on Amazon).

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

Using wire shelving to make extra space for plates and bowls.

Use individual shelving in the closet to take advantage of tall ceilings. If you can, always go UP and take advantage of the space you have. We have small closets but they have tall ceilings so I bought expandable shelving units. This allows me to safely stack items higher and use up all the space available.

Box it Up

LEGOS. Oh yes, my friend. Let’s get all those tiny bits and pieces boxed up so that you only pull them out of the box intentionally when you’re ready to play. We also have Leapster games and the Leapster unit all in one box together.

Seasonal clothes and blankets don’t need to take up space in the closet. We load up plastic bins or use Ziploc Space Saver bags to store these items in the attic or under the bed.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

With a new baby, I had been given some wonderful hand-me-downs. I wanted to keep track of what I have so I went through the clothes and placed the sizes together into Clear Storage Boxes.

A quick label on the outside of each will let me have the next size up within easy reach. Once she’s used up all the clothes in the bin, I can remove the label and re-purpose the box.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

The expandable metal shelving unit makes it easy to take out just the one thing you need. Clothing has been organized into boxes for the future.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

Like Items Together

We have a lot of books (I used to work at a bookstore!) but I hate how the small paperbacks were mingling with the tall picture books because they never sat nicely on the shelf together. I found these inexpensive plastic Book & Magazine Organizers and they are perfect for holding paperbacks. I use them on the shelf next to the taller books as a sort-of “book end”.

Consider buying bins or boxes to hold other like things, like summer items. All the bathing suits, sunglasses, and beach hats would then be in one, easy-to-find location. Here, we have one soft bin for hats, one for blocks and one for coloring books.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

Contain It

Our bathroom counters are quite small and there’s no room for clutter. We keep only the soap dispenser and toothbrush holder on the counter (which makes it easier to clean as well).

Under the sink, we have a colored container for each child that holds their personal toiletries. Each child’s toothpaste, drinking cup, deodorant, face wash, etc is in their own container. My daughter has a separate bin for her hair brush and accessories.

I have two-tiered Mesh Cabinet Baskets under my bathroom sink that holds things like lotion, make-up and razors. One basket holds hair styling products and another large bin holds tools like the blow dryer and flat iron.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

Throw it in a Bin

Target frequently has plastic bins for $3 in their Dollar Spot section. They are nice for items that can be tossed in, like winter hats or gloves, sunglasses or random toys like cars and action figures. Set them on a shelf or even inside a drawer to section off and keep small items (like socks & underwear) from getting lost.

In the kitchen, we store breads in a decorative Wooden Crate on the counter. If you don’t want to purchase bins or crates, keep your old shoe boxes and decorate them with wrapping paper for neat and tidy closet or drawer storage.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

And open bin within a box keeps things organized and contained.

BEFORE (left) – Clutter of random stuff on the top shelf.

AFTER (right) – Stackable bins hold seasonal items like sun hats and winter wear. In anticipation of sharing this room with the new baby, I had made bins for art supplies and electronic cords to get my daughter in the habit of putting these items up and out of reach.

Organizing9-before  Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

BEFORE (left) – The fabric hanging unit with daily outfits was a good start. I moved the two-drawer unit in to hold pajamas and socks but items like tights, sunglasses, hair accessories and underpants were mixed in and it was hard to find items.

AFTER (right) – Rearranged top shelf with addition of bins for seasonal items. Added a small bin to the daily outfit unit so she can choose which accessory matches without having to dig in another larger bin.

Deep drawers with pajamas now hold smaller bins for tights, sunglasses and other hair accessories so everything is separated. A separate bin on top of the drawers holds underpants.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces  Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

Bulky Items Out of the House

Whenever possible try to use a space outside of the house, like your garage, storage shed or attic. We simply don’t have the kitchen cabinet space to hold our large slow cooker or stand mixer, so we store them in a cabinet in the garage.

Yes, you could keep some items on the kitchen counter but this can create a lot of clutter and makes it harder to properly clean the counter tops. Since we also shop at Costco quite a bit we tend to have a lot of bulk items. Bring in only what you need into the house and store the bulk of it elsewhere.

What are your favorite organizing tips? Share below in the comments!


Stuck in a Marriage Dating Rut? Date Night Challenge-Things We Have Never Done



A Mother’s Random Thoughts (Patty) and Saving Up for Disney (Julie) welcome you back for round another fabulous Date Night Challenge. This Third Date Night Challenge is easy, and you can make it as simple or extravagant as time and your budget allows. Remember, it is not necessary to actually leave the house. You can stay home and “date” your spouse.

While I (Julie) enjoy trying new things, my husband prefers the “tried and true”. He’d rather do something he knows we’ve liked in the past so we’re not at risk of wasting money on something we won’t enjoy. We recently went out to a popular chain restaurant that we’d never been to before. We had a gift card but still spent about $20. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best “date night” location for us. It was loud, there were televisions everywhere you looked and we weren’t crazy about the food. It was an experience but life and learn, I guess…we won’t be doing that one again! Oh well, at least we were able to get out together.

However there are lots of different date night ideas that don’t require any costs and still allow you to stretch out and explore!

Here are the rules:

  • You need to do something you have never done before – eat at a new restaurant, eat a new cuisine, shop at a new store, go roller skating, ice skating, go dancing, take a cooking class together, etc.
  • This is designed to do things you have never done before. You know how you always say, “someday we should eat at,” or “let’s stop at that store.” This date allows you to do those things. 
  • Make sure to talk with your spouse about your plans beforehand. There is nothing worse than getting somewhere and finding out that your worst fear is now being realized. Even though my husband and I dating for 4 years, after we were married a couple years, I found out that he hated the sight of blood.

Ideas include: 

  • Shopping at a new store – maybe visit a thrift store or a high end department store
  • Dinner at a new restaurant (or an old one that you have never visited)
  • Visit an museum (art, history, science)
  • Take a painting or ceramic class
  • Visit a thrift store or visit a high end department store 
  • Re-enact a scene from your favorite movie
  • Get a pizza with toppings that you have never tried
  • If you want adventure try zip lining or rock climbing (there are indoor places popping up all over), or sky diving
  • Volunteer at a local nursing home or soup kitchen
  • Hot Air Balloon ride
  • Rent a sports car

With three kids (and another due next month) we don’t often have the opportunity to get out without the kids. I love these ideas on stay-at-home date ideas. While our kids were occupied this weekend, my husband and I took some time to bake a cake together. It went together quickly with two people prepping ingredients and cleaning up and it was great to share a treat together that night after the kids had gone to bed.

Maybe you need to stay home for your date ideas:

  • Prepare a dinner using ingredients that you have never tried or culture that you have never eaten
  • Take a DVD out of the library on how to Tango, Swing Dance, etc.
  • Using You Tube find videos on how to, and do it together. Ideas: Dance, cook, bake bread, learn a new language


Follow along with us on our social media sites to join in on the fun, and to share with us! We will be using #DateNightChallenge across our social media channels and hope you will too.

TWITTER       (Julie and Patty)

INSTAGRAM (Julie and Patty)

FACEBOOK   (Julie and Patty)

PINTEREST    (Julie and Patty)

  • You have 2 weeks to complete this Challenge. Make sure to link below by 12:05 AM EST, February 22, 2016. You can link up with a photo only posted on Facebook or Instagram!
  • By linking, you give The Date Night Challenge Hosts permission to use your name and photo, and links to your social media accounts.
  • We will pin, tweet, share, and promote our Date Night Challenge. We encourage you to visit other participants in this challenge, comment and share the love with them!


Julie & Patty

    An InLinkz Link-up



Kid’s Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They’ll Never Notice)

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CarnationSweepstakes #BetterBreakfast #CollectiveBias

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

All kids should be eating breakfast. And I’ll even amend that to say that everyone should be eating breakfast. I wasn’t always in that camp but after noticing a “before and after” of sorts, I’m a breakfast convert. I feel so much more focused in the mornings when I eat a balanced breakfast and that goes for my kids too. I’ve come up with some quick breakfasts, with added nutritious ingredients my kids don’t even know about!

It wasn’t all that long ago that my “breakfast” consisted of a package of mini doughnuts and a diet soda from the convenience store. Now, we all know that breakfast is considered the “most important meal of the day” but it’s taken a new mindset to get me motivated towards more filling and nutritious breakfast choices. Having three little ones who watch and learn from me was a catalyst for change. Can’t really push a healthier breakfast on them if I’m eating doughnuts myself, right?

Being on a budget is another game-changer. All those convenience store and fast food stops are expensive. One of my excuses was that I just didn’t have time to make a well-balanced breakfast in the morning. However it takes just as long to make breakfast at home as it does to go through the drive-thru so that excuse goes out the window! Sure, it takes a little forethought to plan breakfast meals and to make sure you have ingredients on hand but once you start, the benefits of eating a nutritious breakfast far outweigh any reasoning I used to have about stopping to get mini doughnuts! And I’m setting a good example for my little ones too.

Are you ready to challenge yourself in expanding your breakfast repertoire?

Carnation Breakfast Essentials® is encouraging everyone to take the 7 Day Breakfast Challenge. Accept the challenge and complete the daily missions to win prizes. You can start by picking up Carnation Breakfast Essentials® powder or Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Ready-to-Drink bottles in strawberry, vanilla or chocolate flavors at Walmart. Keep reading on how to participate and enter.


Carnation Breakfast Essentials® are already an important part of our healthy morning routine. My youngest doesn’t care for the taste of milk but will happily drink it down if I add Carnation Breakfast Essentials® powder. And I’ll admit that I’m the same way! One of my favorite ways to use Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Powder is in a nutritious smoothie.

Two “Sneaky” Smoothies

Here are two versions I make at home, one with Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Powder in chocolate and the other in vanilla. See at the bottom of the post for the full recipe.

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

I add milk (soy, almond or cow) and vanilla Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Powder to a blender jar. Add in half a banana, a handful of fresh spinach and kale and a half cup of either frozen berries or frozen pineapple. The frozen fruit completely masks the flavor of the veggies.Whir it up and it’s a breakfast that’s packed with flavor and healthy ingredients. In fact, I just had one this morning!

Depending upon the fruit that you use, your smoothie may vary in color from pink or purple or green. If your little one is anything like mine, they may turn up their nose at a green smoothie, no matter if it tastes like berries or not. I like to sneak my son’s smoothie into a cup with a straw or a sippy cup so he never sees the color…success!

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

I also make a smoothie with the chocolate Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Powder. I again add milk, a teaspoon of powdered peanut butter, a half of a frozen banana and a few ice cubes. My secret ingredient in this one is a teaspoon of ground flax seed. Blend it up and nobody is the wiser that they’re getting an extra boost of fiber!

What breakfast swaps can you make for a more nutritious morning?

Here are some quick and easy ideas:

Breakfast Sandwiches – Skip the drive-through and make breakfast sandwiches at home. A bagel or sourdough toast with scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese are a morning favorite. I layer a few pieces of spinach in there too, for my adventurous eaters that don’t turn up their nose at “green” food.

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

Doughnuts – Instead of stopping at the doughnut shop or grabbing those mini “donuts” from the convenience store, consider baking them up yourself at home. Not only can you avoid all the frying and grease, you can use nutritious ingredients like pumpkin into your baked doughnuts. I bake these up in bulk on the weekend and freeze them so I just have to set out a few of them the night before to have them defrosted by morning.

Cereal – Swap out sugar-laden cereal for a more nutritious option with plenty of whole grains and fiber. If the kids want something sweet, add in chopped banana or strawberries to the bowl. We breakfast on hot cereal or oatmeal several times a week with a healthy serving of chopped apples, raisins, walnuts and just a little bit of brown sugar or agave to sweeten.

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

Yogurt – A dollop of plain Greek yogurt becomes a bit like dessert with the addition of a few toppings. Chop up banana, walnuts, drizzle with agave and then, just for fun…some dark chocolate chips!

Muffins –  The muffins at the store are the size of Texas (more like a 2 or 3 serving sized and not individually portioned). Bake up a batch at home, “sneaking” in grated carrot or zucchini along with flax seed, ground oats or whole wheat flour for something that’s more filling and nutritious. I also freeze these and pull them out the night before so breakfast is ready.

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

And if you really need to have breakfast on the go, Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Ready-to-Drink bottles will fill them up fast. We found these at Walmart and my little one chose strawberry. He was tickled pink with this treat he could drink in the car while we took the big kids to school.


Are you ready to accept the challenge?

Carnation Breakfast Essentials® wants everyone to get into a #BetterBreakfast routine. Complete simple breakfast missions through the end of February for chances to win prizes in the #CarnationSweepstakes! Follow these easy steps:

1. Sign up at

2. Complete a simple yet fun breakfast mission for a chance to win. New prizes will be revealed every day!

3. Come back any day in February to complete missions and see new prizes. The prizes range from a Fitbit to a GoPro and other awesome stuff!

4. Head to your favorite store to purchase a Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Nutritional Product and upload your receipt for five extra entries per day.

And be sure to check out the Carnation Breakfast Essentials Facebook page for more nutritious breakfast ideas.

Kid's Quick Breakfasts (with Nutritious Ingredients They'll Never Notice)

"Sneaky" Berry Smoothie with Leafy Greens

"Sneaky" Berry Smoothie with Leafy Greens


  • 8 oz milk (soy, almond or cow)
  • One Packet Vanilla Carnation Breakfast Essentials
  • Half a banana
  • Handful of fresh Kale/Spinach blend
  • Half cup of frozen berries


  1. Add all to a blender cup and whir it up!
Recipe Management Powered by Zip Recipes Plugin

How will you accept the #BetterBreakfast routine? Share your ideas in the comments!

Maternity Fashion – How to Look Fabulous on a Tight Budget

Maternity Fashion - How to Look Fabulous on a Tight Budget

You have a new little bundle of joy on the way…with all of the expenses that go along with it!  No need to break the bank on maternity fashion, here’s how:

Maternity Fashion

Yes, maternity and fashion CAN go together in the same sentence! With a little finagling of your own closet, practical purchases and good use of accessories, you’ll have a pregnancy wardrobe that will get you through all nine months.

Wear What You Have

In the first few months, you may be able to wear your normal clothes without any modifications. Or you might be feeling so bloated and tight around the middle that you resort to stretchy pants. In any case, wear your own clothes as long as you comfortably can. This might mean doing the rubber band trick on your pants (fold a rubber band or hair elastic in half and insert through your button hole, then loop the ends onto your button). Cover up with a longer tee and nobody will be the wiser.

I’m currently 30 weeks pregnant and have been wearing my button-up blouses and cardigans, unbuttoned over a maternity tank or tee and a pair of leggings. Add some jewelry or a scarf from your closet and you can switch up the looks with minimal purchases. I also love to wear my stretch knit maxi dresses that are loose and flowy in the mid-section. Since it’s been chilly, I simply layer with a cardigan sweater to keep me warm.

Maternity Fashion - How to Look Fabulous on a Tight Budget

Stretchy tops with tie straps in the back can get you through several months.

Wait Until You Need It

Since every body is different, you really have no idea when you’re first pregnant how your third trimester belly will look. I recommend waiting as long as you can to purchase late pregnancy clothing so you can get an appropriate fit.

Buy Sparingly & Accessorize

Maternity clothes can be pricey and considering you’ll only wear them for a few months, try to purchase only what you’ll need and what is most versatile. Purchase a few tank tops and tees that can be layered under sweaters and unbuttoned blouses. One white, one black and a few versatile colors that coordinate with items in your closet are the best bet. Choose a few neutral-toned pairs of pants (perhaps a pair of leggings, dressy slacks and a pair of jeans) that you can wear until month 9. Non-maternity leggings are probably going to be less expensive so try these first. Your preference will be “over” or “under” belly so keep that in mind when shopping. Stretchy knit skirts are great too and can be layered over leggings in cooler months.

Maternity Fashion - How to Look Fabulous on a Tight Budget

My husband’s work party was a dress up occasion and I really didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on a fancy maternity outfit that I’d only wear once. I was able to find a pretty maternity knit top at Old Navy for about $10! It was a simple black top but had dressier lace sleeves that I layered over black leggings so it was perfect for the occasion. Fancy earrings and high heels and I looked and felt dressed up.

Beware the “Sale”

I bought a pair of cropped jeans early in this pregnancy that cost me $8. Yep, they were cheap and according to my husband, they were unflattering and he told me to “Please, never wear those pants again!” This goes with all fashion, not just maternity. Just because they are “only $8” doesn’t mean you should buy them. Avoid the lure of the “sale” and only buy what’s still appropriate for your body.

Avoid the Stretch

Keep in mind that your tummy expands pretty slowly up until the last trimester. You can probably get away with wearing most of your usual clothes until this point (bottoms being the exception). Some clothes have better stretch than others and will easily accommodate your belly into later months. However if you continue to wear some of these pieces as your tummy expands, you may stretch them too much and the fabric won’t go back into pre-pregnancy shape. I did that with a beautiful electric blue blouse during my second pregnancy. Though it fit me nicely until my 8th month, after the baby was born I realized that I’d stretched it beyond its limits and the fabric was too stretched out and loose to wear post-pregnancy.

What’s Under There?

I think I’m down to about 5 pairs of underpants that fit me at this point! They are either too tight along the thigh or are rolling off my tummy and bunching up at the bottom…so uncomfortable! And my bras? Well, let’s just say things aren’t being properly contained at this point.

No need to purchase pricey “maternity” underwear as a size or two up or a different style might do the trick at a lower cost. For bras though, if you are planning on nursing, it’s a good idea to buy a few nursing bras to accommodate your larger cup size. I’ve always preferred stretch knit for the comfort factor. And a wireless “sleep” nursing bra is a wonderful idea so you’ll have support 24/7.  You want your breasts to go back into their original position, right? Wearing a bra all the time is good way to help give them proper support and reduce stretching and discomfort.

Maternity Fashion - How to Look Fabulous on a Tight Budget

I bought this sweatshirt early in my pregnancy & wear it over a longer tank.

Buy What Can Be Worn Later

Pregnancy open cardigans?! Why would you need a flyaway cardigan to be maternity-sized? If you have to buy something to wear while pregnant, keep in mind what can be used post-pregnancy. It will take you a bit of time to get your pre-pregnancy body size back so you’ll continue to wear your maternity clothes (size 6-7 months, or so) after delivery. If you’re going to be nursing, consider purchasing shirts and blouses that make nursing easier, like button-down shirts or nursing tanks with clip straps. Some clothes can be impractical when nursing, like long tops or dresses (unless you like bunching up the fabric under your chin and exposing your bare stomach!)

Buy Resale

Local resale shops are a great place to find maternity clothing but did you know you can also find great deals online? I’m already a huge fan of threadUP for their kid’s clothing but now that I’m in my third trimester, I’m scouring the site for pieces that will see me through these last few months and beyond. You can also sell back your maternity outfits later for cash or credit. Request a “Clean Out Kit” for those outgrown baby clothes and sell them back to threadUP as well! (affiliate link)


Borrow or Rent

Put the word out via social media that you’re in need of maternity clothes to see you through your pregnancy. Your post-pregnancy friends will likely be happy to help you with donations from their maternity stash or share with you the name of a friend who may have what you need.

There are many online maternity clothing rental companies that can help you find just what you need. This is particularly handy if you work in a corporate setting and require dressier clothing on a daily basis or if you need formal attire for a specific occasion. A quick search online for “rent maternity clothes” will give you several options.

To the Tips of Your Toes

You may find that your usual shoes start to pinch a bit with swelling feet and ankles. I remember with my first pregnancy, I could only wear flip-flops for the final month! You might need to purchase an inexpensive pair in a half size up to get you through or choose shoes that are less constricting. Your feet may or may not return to their original size after baby. I actually have one foot that went up half a size and one foot that went up one full size and they have stayed that way!

 Do you have any inexpensive maternity wear tips? Please share them in the comments!