Works for Me Wednesday - Homeschool Share Website

As a frugal homeschooling mom, I am always on the lookout for free materials and free idea websites. One that I have found oodles of good material on is Homeschool Share.

And that is where I found the templates for our most recent project - the lapbook that goes with The Little House in the Big Woods book by Laura Ingalls Wilder. All the templates are included, so you just print out the ones you want to use. They include "an answer key" so you know what to write on each of the mini-books. The materials are also divided up by chapter, so it's easy to coordinate with the day's reading in the book itself.

We just finished reading the book and completing the lapbook this week. My daughter and I were both pleased with the finished product.

Yes, a garden!

At our new place, we have not yet had a garden. The yard is actually quite a mess and needs a lot of clean up - including roots and stumps to be removed, as well as major weeds - not to mention the clay soil that makes it hard to dig in.

That was the garden at our previous house. Oh, how we hated leaving it (and are saddened to see that the new owners are letting the weeds take over the garden boxes). But here we are - would love a garden, but...

Last weekend we bit the bullet and made some space. Both my hubby and I worked for many hours weeding, digging up plants and small stumps, turning sod. Our city has compost free for the taking (if you load it yourself) so we now have some compost mixed in with the soil.

Next up, deciding what to plant and getting the seeds in the ground. Likely candidates: cucumbers, peppers, corn, beans

I love gardening for 2 main reasons: it can save money on fresh veggies (and I love sharing from the bounty of the garden with others) but it's also such a great educational opportunity with kids.

The law of sowing and reaping, the necessity of nutrients, the process of how food goes from the farm to the market, the requirement of work in order to get the desired food in the end, the miracle of life bursting forth from a tiny seed... all this and more coming from discussions taking place in the garden!

Got to love spring and planting time!

Menu Plan Monday

Monday again. Where did the weekend go? My husband has to work about one Saturday per month. He did this past Saturday. Whenever that is the case, the weekend flies by even faster than usual (since we have basically a one-day weekend).

Nonetheless, Monday is here and we need a plan for what we're eating for the week. So here it is:

  • homemade pizza and salad
  • creamy baked chicken over pasta
  • meatball stroganoff and potato wedges
  • tacos
  • chicken parmesan alfredo
  • tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
  • leftover buffet :-)
I pulled these ideas from my master list here and from the items I already have in my pantry, freezer and fridge. My March grocery budget is gone so I won't be shopping any more until next weekend when my new April grocery budget kicks in. I am happy to report that we have made it on less the last few months. It feels so good - still eating well but also saving money. We're saving up for something special... more on that in another post.

How about you? What's on your menu this week?

Family Photo Friday

Once again, it's Friday and I can't believe another week has come and gone. March is on its way out already! Wow!

As is my Friday custom, here are pictures from our week.

We have a sleeper sofa in our living room. My daughter calls it "The Couch Bed." As a rare treat, I pull it out and the kids enjoy playing on it. So one day this week they had fun "on the couch bed."

My son is at that age where he ADORES balloons. He just giggles while batting at it and pulling the string. Fun times with such a simple thing.

My kids love blanket houses and forts. This week my son hid out under the kid table as a little house (this picture was of the beginning stages... because once my daughter joined in it expanded to include room for her, at least a dozen toys, 2 pillows and 4 blankets!)

Yesterday I took advantage of this deal at Target to get the Battleship game for only $2! I figured this would be a great new game to teach my daughter... and I was right. She loved playing it last night for the first time!

Happy last-Friday-of-March! Make it a good one!

Freebies in the Mail

Last Saturday was a GREAT mail day! I received two high-value freebies in the mail. First, a Huggies coupon for a free package of diapers! But also a brand new Bible!

Often times I sign up online to receive a free sample or something and then promptly forget all about it. That was the case with this one. I was surprised! Enclosed in the box was a note, reminding me that I was to receive this Bible for signing up and indicating that I have a blog. They requested I review the Bible and post my review on my blog. So I will do that, once I've looked it over and used it a bit.

High fives for freebies!

Works for Me Wednesday - Free Photobooks from Hot Prints

Six weeks ago I heard about Hot Prints - a photo-sharing website that was offering free photobooks (one per month). I tried it and was very pleased with the product I received in the mail last week. They had many templates and layouts to choose from and you completely personalize the book, with your own title, captions and obviously photos!

There is an insert in the middle of the book with advertisements but it can be easily removed without damaging the photobook.

I just placed my "order" for this month's free book and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. You can't beat free!

These would make great gift ideas (think of a book of baby pictures to give to Grandmas). I created one focusing on my daughter's year of 1st Grade (homeschooled), showing all of the fun field trips, crafts and adventures we experienced this year.

Works for me!

CVS Deals and more

This was a good week for deals at CVS. Here's what I received for basically nothing out-of-pocket and earned ECBs (like a CVS gift card to use on future purchases) too:

A glucose monitor (which we'll donate to a homeless shelter), a pack of Pampers, a pack of Huggies, Crest mouthwash, Colgate toothpaste, Huggies wipes, and an Airwick motion sensor.

Beyond the CVS deals, I was able to get the following items free or for just pennies at WalMart this weekend:

Kashi cereal (had coupon for completely free), Frank's Red Hot sauce (Sunday paper insert coupons), McCormicks spices (printable coupons), Kotex pads (printable coupons), Rimmel make-up coupon (coupon from All You magazine to get the make up completely free), and Crunch bars (Buy-1-Get-1-Free Sunday paper coupon).

Menu Plan Monday

As promised last week, I have compiled a list of 30 menu ideas - meals that my family enjoys that we could rotate through on a 4-week/once-a-month basis. This really isn't hard. Just sit down with your family and think of what meals you all enjoy. Simple brainstorming produced at least 15 of these ideas. Then I thumbed through my recipe files and found the other 15 meals that we have had in the past and liked. I also came up with others that are good for occasional meals, but not ones that we want in our regular rotation.

Here is my list of main dishes only (a side of veggies is assumed with all our meals):
1. tuna cakes (made with stuffing) - serve plain or on buns
2. mac and cheese lasagna
3. creamy baked chicken over pasta
4. french onion pork chop skillet
5. wet burrito casserole
6. meatloaf
7. sloppy joes
8. crispy country chicken and potato wedges
9. zesty cheeseburger mac casserole
10. chicken cutlets and rice (my mom's recipe - and it is wonderful!)
11. angel chicken and pasta
12. tater tot casserole
13. homemade chicken and noodles
14. homemade pizza
15. tacos / burritos / enchiladas / quesadillas
16. ham and bean soup
17. diced ham with pasta alfredo
18. chicken pot pie
19. homemade spaghetti or baked spaghetti
20. crisp-n-creamy baked chicken
21. ranch chicken strips
22. tuna swiss pie
23. chicken cordon bleu
24. hot dogs, french fries
25. bowtie pasta bake with ham
26. pasta primavera pronto with chicken
27. chicken parmesan alfredo
28. meatballs or meatball stroganoff
29. ham and scalloped potatoes
30. chicken lasagna
31. cheeseburger soup / potato soup / chili / tomato soup and grilled cheese

Occasional items:

Just having this in writing is good for me. Now when I "shop the pantry" (see what I have on hand in the pantry, fridge and freezer), I can create my menu matching what I have on hand with the meals that we all enjoy.

If you still need more ideas, go here to find another family's top menu ideas or you can always visit Menu Plan Monday for hundreds of menus and recipes!

Family Photo Friday

Happy Friday, everyone! As usual, here are a few photos from our week... representing a couple of memories I don't want to forget!

My son's first big scrape (won't be his last, I suspect)... one minute chasing a ball down the driveway, next minute face in the driveway! A bloody mess to clean up, but looked a lot better the next day - when this picture was taken.

My daughter, the bug-catcher. We had such beautiful spring weather this week - we enjoyed many hours outside.

This picture is to remind me of precious moments with my son. He loves to take baths, but when he's done he wants to be wrapped up in two towels and laid on the changing table. He lays there and says he wants to "weep" (sleep). So I let him lay there to be warm, cozy and cuddly for a few minutes while I pick out clothes for him. It's just a sweet moment, all bundled up and all smiles.

My daughter grabbed a Bible from the bookshelf to look up this week's memory verse for Wednesday night's Kids Club at church. My son didn't want to be left out - so he grabbed a Bible too and plopped down next to big sister to read about "Je-tuh" in the "Bi-bo." :-)

Another beautiful picture of my daughter. 6 years has gone by fast. She is growing up. So pretty and innocent. And her character is growing more beautiful every day too. Parenting a 6-year-old is fun - she is helpful, asks very thought-provoking questions, and can do many tasks independently. She is a joy to parent!

Happy First-Weekend-of-Spring, one and all!

Wordless Wednesday

Homeschool Freebies

I had a very busy weekend, in part because I agreed to work at a local homeschool convention on Friday night and all day Saturday. Although it was very tiring, I greatly enjoyed talking with other homeschooling families. I was also compensated for my time and was able to freely take some of the books that had not sold when the convention was all over.

Here's what I received for FREE, in addition to lots of encouragement :-)

2nd-4th grade spelling books, 2nd grade handwriting book, numerous readers (grade 4-8), two 8th grade civics/American history texts plus a few other books that didn't make it into this picture.

For now, we are focusing on wrapping up 1st grade - we have less than 30 days of school left before my daughter will be an official 2nd grader!! And a few of these free books will be incorporated into our curriculum for next year. Thanks, Christian Liberty Press!

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday and around here that means getting a plan together for meals this week. Do you have a plan?

Here's mine (based entirely on items we already have in the pantry, fridge or freezer):

  • Tuna cakes (made with stuffing mix); frozen veggies
  • Mac and cheese bake; salad
  • Chicken wet burrito skillet
  • Breakfast for supper (sausage links with fresh waffles or french toast)
  • Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Crockpot chicken and dumplings
  • Cheesy tuna and rice; frozen veggie on the side
I am in the process of organizing recipes and trying to come up with 4 weekly menu plans that I can rotate through. Although it sounds daunting, it really isn't that hard to come up with 30 unique meals that my family enjoys. Just to have those meal ideas written down in one place would be handy. That's is part of this week's project!

Happy eating!

Family Photo Friday

I just can't believe it but Friday is here again. As usual, here are some snapshots of our week.

This is a typical scene around our home - my kids playing in a "blanket house" together. Here they were trying to sleep. My daughter was pretending well. My son - no way he's gonna close his eyes when it's play time!

This isn't exactly a member of our family, but it's our neighbor Sarah - our 12-year-old neighbor who spends time at our house a few times a week. We had such wonderful spring weather this week that we were outside every chance we got. When Sarah showed up, she wanted to climb one of our trees so that became the challenge for the next hour. Finally she got her up there and we took a picture!

My son loves to help Dad. Here he is helping change the oil in our van with Dad. So precious to see him loving the time with Dad but learning in the process!

Happy Friday, y'all!

Works for Me Wednesday - Bar Keepers Friend

Have you ever heard of Bar Keeper's Friend?
It's a non-chlorine bleach household cleaner, whose motto I heartily endorse: Once Tried, Always Used! This stuff is powerful when it comes to attacking dirt and grime. Want proof?

This is one of the tubs in my home. It's nasty. It came this way - I've just been putting off doing anything about it until recently. Honestly, I wasn't sure the tub even could be cleaned.

I tried Comet. It barely touched the grime and that was after major scrubbing. Then I pulled out Bar Keeper's Friend. Still took some scrubbing, but this stuff really got to the bottom of the caked-on nastiness. In the picture, the white spots are the areas I've done so far. I'm amazed and have a renewed hope that the tub just might be able to be white again!

Give Bar Keeper's Friend a try.
Here is a list of household uses.

It can be found at any grocery store, in the cleaning aisle.
Works for me!

Found anything free lately?

I did some grocery shopping last weekend. I was pleased with my purchases - staying within our food budget and finding a dozen or more free or close-to-free items. We have been experimenting a bit with our grocery budget - seeing how low we can go, basically. Finding freebies certainly helps!

In this picture are items that were free or less than $1 each at Kroger and WalMart last week. Thanks to coupons paired with good sales, the prices on these were super low. Visine for 34 cents. Oreos and Cheese Nips for FREE ($1 each paired with $1 off coupon). The small packs of q-tips were free with coupon. The Pulls Up flushable wipes were less than 25 cents. The 5 pounds bags of flour were priced at $1.50 at WalMart and I had 75-cents-off coupons, so that was a great deal on flour! I won the free jar of Planters Peanuts from Kroger by playing Kroger's March to Savings sweepstakes game here.

I took a few weeks off from CVS deals, but have now jumped back in. Above are 6 items I got for less than $2 total and I earned back $3 in Extra Care Bucks (like a CVS gift card to spend on future purchases). Love that!

Have any superstar deals in your neck of the woods? Found anything free lately? I'd love to hear about it!

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday once again. I'm behind on getting my menu plan together for this week. So I will take my own advice - get off the computer and get a plan made!

If you need some inspiration, as I do, check out for hundreds of meal ideas.

Family Photo Friday

Friday is here. The first Friday of March. Signs of spring are in the air - earlier sunrises, lots of sunshine throughout the day, eager children waiting to get their bicycles out, and melting snow! We are oh-so ready for spring around here!

The whole family enjoyed a rousing game of MONKEY AROUND one night this week.

My kids, during a moment of bliss - pretending to sleep!

I so look forward to more outside pictures as spring comes at us in full force. This week we a little warmer temps and we were able to take a few walks around the neighborhood again - oh, how we've all missed that!

Happy Friday, y'all!

Works for Me Wednesday - Pizza Hut Book-It Program

Maybe you have fond memories of earning free personal pan pizzas at Pizza Hut when you accomplished reading goals as a child. I do! And now the tradition continues with a new generation of students, including homeschool students!

If you homeschool and would like to learn more about Book-It or sign up to receive the free pizza certificates (which you award to your child) for school year 2010-2011, go here.

Free pizza - works for me!

Time management: a conversation

A week or so ago I received quite a compliment. My friend Carrie asked what my secret is to getting so much done every day! After I assured her that I am not and never will be SuperWoman... we agreed to get together at Applebee's for dessert last Thursday and talk further about time management.

This got me to thinking. How do I manage my time? What do I accomplish in a day and what have I placed into my life to help get more done? I also asked my husband and my daughter about it. Here are some things we came up with, which I shared with Carrie.

1) We don't watch TV. I firmly believe that is how we have been able to accomplish so much, especially in terms of home improvement, part-time work and pursuing further education.

2) We get 8+ hours of sleep every night. My kids sleep 10-12 hours each night and function well during the day because of it (I have often heard of both my kids - Are they always this happy? Are they ever fussy?" - and I attribute a lot of the good attitudes to getting enough sleep every night). My hubby and I aim to get plenty of sleep each night too, helping us be more productive, more focused and in a positive mood during the day.

3) Make a list and check it twice. I am a list person. I love lists and love crossing things off my lists! Having a list of what I want to accomplish each day helps me stay on track. It is a goal to shoot for. And I can feel good at the end of the day because I know what I got done. We have a daily schedule for my daughter for homeschooling. We have a weekly menu plan for meals. We have a master calendar hanging in the kitchen, which tracks all birthdays, anniversaries, appointments and any other plans we need to remember.

4) Even if you're staying home all day, get dressed in the morning. Being dressed (even dressed up, above and beyond casual clothes) helps me feel like I have a job to do. If I lounge in my PJs all day, I feel unproductive and tired all day. If I shower and get dressed up nicely by 9 am, I feel in control of my day and ready to tackle whatever the day will hold. Not to mention, then I am ready for any visitors who stop by and any unexpected trips we need to make out in public.

We also discussed ways to cut grocery costs. I shared the following basic steps.

  • Set a budget and stick to it, no matter what
  • Use cash to pay for purchases - it hurts more to lay down cash than to use a card, so you're more likely to only buy what you really need
  • Always have a list of what you will buy and allow yourself less than 5 impulse purchases
  • Always shop the sales and use the weekly ads to find the lowest possible prices
  • If possible, use coupons to make the lowest prices even lower (like FREE)
  • Keep a price comparison book, noting the lowest possible prices of items you frequently buy. For example, Kroger has boneless skinless chicken breast on sale this week for $1.87 a pound. Is this a good deal? Do you know? If it is low, then it's the time to stock up. If it's high, then wait for a better sale and then stock up.
  • Make a menu plan for the week based on what you already have in your freezer and pantry. Your grocery store trip should be the time to restock your surplus. This way, if you don't have the money for a trip this week or just don't make it to the store, you can carry on with your menu plan and you're not going to starve.
That's what I shared with Carrie. No secret, really. Some basic things that I've been able to implement to keep our family functioning well and to make life productive (and enjoyable too).

For Carrie and anyone else out there, I encourage you to consider these ideas and seek out others too that might work for you. Then add one at a time to your life and see how it fits. And don't forget to come back here and let me know how it turns out!

Menu Plan Monday

March, I am so glad you're here!

A new week and a new month means new meal plans. Here is what we will be eating this week, based almost entirely on what we already have in the freezer and pantry.

Breakfast: frozen waffles, pancakes; fresh french toast; hot cereal

Lunch: left overs; sandwiches; pickles and carrot slices; applesauce (we keep lunch very simple)


  • Homemade corn dogs and french fries
  • Tater Tot Casserole
  • Breakfast for supper (waffles/pancakes/french toast; sausage links)
  • Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Chicken fajitas
  • Ham and pasta casserole
  • Wet burrito casserole
  • Venison roast in crockpot with carrots, potatoes; homemade biscuits

To see more Menu Plan Monday ideas, go here.