Entertaining at home

Fun Games to Play

As a mother of 3 teens I have played a lot of games over the years. When my kids were young it was difficult to find fun games to play together as a family. My goal was to find games that were fun for both kids and adults. The main goal for family games is to keep play simple to learn, but complex enough to entertain all ages. There are many fun games to play with all age groups. Here are some of my favorites.

Best family games for preschool aged kids-Ages 3-5 years

This is a difficult age group to find fun games to play with. Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, or Hi Ho Cheery O are mind numbingly boring. I also can’t tolerate the simple card game war. After much research, I did end up finding a few fun games to play with preschool aged kids. My babysitters also gave some good suggestions.


Hullabaloo is actually a fun game to play with kids aged 3 and up. It was honestly my favorite for this age group. Families can hop, skip, crawl, jump and dance! The game comes with a bunch of different shaped pads with pictures on them, to place on the floor. The “announcer” will tell the players to “hop like a frog to a triangle”. Eventually the “announcer” will declare a winning pad, if anyone is on that pad they win and get to do a dance. It’s really fun!

Spot It Jr.

Spot it Jr is a fast paced card game with simple rules for kids 4 and up. It’s quick for their short attention spans. All you have to do is spot the picture that is the same on two cards. This is a great game for babysitters. Our best babysitter had it in her bag of fun that she always brought over.


Memory This game is pretty simple. You just place all of the cards face down. Then you take turns flipping 2 cards at a time, if they match you keep the match. If they don’t match, you flip them back over and try to remember what they were so you can make a match on your next turn. Kids are surprisingly good at this game.

Go Fish

Go Fish This is a very simple card game that can be played with a regular deck of cards, but it also comes in many different themes, sure to delight any preschooler.

The rules are simple: deal out 7 cards per player, then spread out the rest of the cards in the middle to make the fishing pond. The player to the left of the dealer starts by asking another player for all of their “kings” if the player succeeds in obtaining kings, they keep going until they ask for something another player can’t give them. That player will say “go fish” and the player draws a card from the “pond”. The object is to get 4 of a kind. Once a player has 4 of a kind they lay those cards face up in front of them. Once all of the cards have been laid down the winner is the player with the most cards in front of them.

Old Maid

Old Maid This game can be played with a regular deck of cards, but also comes in old maid decks with fun themes. If using a regular deck you just deal out all of the cards except one (usually a queen). Each player removes all of the pairs from their hand and places them down in front of them. Then the dealer offers their hand face down for the player to their left to choose from. If that player makes a match, they lay it down in front of them, then they offer their hand to the next player. The next player draws a card and play continues until all cards are matched except the old maid. The player left with that card is the old maid.

Best Family games for early elementary aged kids – Ages 6-8

There are a lot more really fun games to play as a family once your children are all over 6. Mostly because many fun games require reading to some extent. A few games from the preschool age are still appropriate for this age group.

Uno Roboto

Uno Roboto is a really fun spin on regular Uno. It comes with a robot that helps with game play. Each player records their name into the robot. Throughout play the robot calls players by name asking them to do things like discard 2 cards, or give all their yellow cards to another player. Sometimes the robot even instructs players to give each other different names.

SkipBo or Uno

Skip Bo or Uno These classic games have simple rules and are still fun even for adults. They are small and inexpensive. Easy to take on trips. Always a good time.

Throw Throw Burrito

Throw Throw Burrito is a crazy family card/dodgeball game. It is very competitive and fast paced. Play is similar to spoons because the cards are passed from one player to the next with each player attempting to make a matched set of 3 cards. Some of the sets cause players to grab the soft burritos and attempt to hit one another with them. It is a very active game, great for kids with lots of energy!

Best Family Games for late elementary aged kids-Ages 8-10

Finally your children are ready for fun games to play with a little more complexity. A little more math and reading will be required. More complex games can also be much more fun! Here are some of my family go to favorites.


Squirrels is a card game that is simple to learn and very fun to play. We stumbled upon this game because my daughter likes squirrels. It was a small and inexpensive game that made a cute stocking stuffer. It ended up being a family favorite. The object of the game is to collect nuts of the same color. There are also wild cards and attack cards that make play fun! You may end up stealing, hoarding, or dumpster diving during your quest to collect your nuts.


Slapzi is a fast paced game. There are several ways to play. Basically you are delt cards with pictures on them. When a clue card is flipped you have to be the first player to match one of your picture cards to the clue card. The faster and more creative you are the more likely you will match all of your cards first. Just be ready to defend some of your creative matches.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is a great family board game of strategy. There are several versions of the game including maps from all over the world. Each board includes a map with train routes. Players are delt routes that they have to complete by obtaining the correct amount of train cards to complete each section of the route. Points are earned for each section and for each completed route. Watch out for your opponents stealing the route you need.


Rummikub is a classic game of strategy. It is similar to the card game Rummy but played with tiles instead of cards. Deal out 14 tiles to each player, then you have to match 3 different colored numbers or 3 same colored numbers in order before you can lay them down in the center. Each player can play on other sets of three or use numbers from other sets to make new sets. The object is to get rid of all of your tiles first. Simple but classic family fun.

Poetry for Neanderthals

Poetry for Neanderthals is a fun game where you have to give clues in only single syllable words to get your team to guess the word. If you say a word with more than one syllable someone from the other team can hit you with an inflatable caveman club and you have to choose a new word.

Butts in Space

Butts in Space is a slightly inappropriate butt totally fitting game for this age group. You get to play as a Classy, Hairy, Bow or Butt Butt. You try to collect the most toilet paper before the spaceship is repaired.

Mexican Train

Mexican Train is a classic game played with dominos. It gets it’s name from the name of the train that all players can play on. Each player tries to get rid of their dominos first by placing them on their own train or the Mexican train by matching up the numbers. It’s easy to learn and fun to play. For full rules check out this site.

Best Family Games for Middle School Kids-Ages 10-13

Now for the real fun. Once you have middle school aged kids you can add more strategy and a little more offence. More fun games to play indeed.


Telestrations is a very fun spin on the classic telephone game. Instead of whispering something into the ear of the next player, you start by drawing a picture. The next player flips the page and writes down what they think the drawing is, the next player draws a picture and so on. The result is often something that is not at all what the original clue was, and lots of laughs!


Catan is an intense strategy game. The object is to gain the most points by building roads, settlements and cities. It’s best suited for people who love strategy games.


Codenames is a game of clues, quiet and calculating. 25 cards with single words are laid out on the table. Players take turns giving single word clues to try to get their teammates to guess the correct words. Be careful not to guess the wrong word, it could mean points for the other team or an instant loss.

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples is a crazy game of comparisons. Each player is delt cards with words on them. A main category card is flipped over. All players except the judge chooses a card from their hand that relates to the main category card. The judge chooses which card they think best relates to the main card. The round winner keeps the card. The judge changes each round. It’s fun to see the crazy comparisons other people choose.

Exploding Kittens

Exploding Kittens is a cut throat card game. It’s fun to play, but you do have to be a little bit mean to other players. In order to win all of the other players must draw an exploding kitten card with no way to prevent the explosion from happening. Once a player draws an exploding kitten they are out. Last player wins!

Dutch Blitz

Dutch Blitz is a fast paced card game. the rules are simple, but in order to win you have to be fast. Or at least faster than everyone else. The object is to be the first player to get rid of all of the cards in your blitz pile.


Scattergories is a category game. There are several lists that come with the game. You choose a list, them roll for a letter. Start the timer and everyone must come up with a word starting with the selected letter for each item on the list. Double words like “Peter Pan” are worth extra points. Be careful not to choose the same word as another player, or there will be no points for either of you.

Happy Little Dinosaurs

Happy Little Dinosaurs is a disaster avoiding game. You try to avoid disasters by getting other players to take the hit. You can also gain points for being the best disaster avoider. The cards are really cute, each one with adorable descriptions, yes even the disasters are creative and humorous. A really fun game to play with family or friends.

Best Family Games for High School aged Kids-Ages 14-18

Beyond Balderdash

Beyond Balderdash is is a game of fibbing. What can be more fun than making up definitions, weird laws, Acronyms, movie plots or reasons for fame? Give it a try and you will not be disappointed. You will probably get a few laughs too.


Coup is a game of strategy, lies and influence. The object is to be the last player with a character card, your influence. In order to win you may have to use another character’s influence, which is perfectly legal if you get away with it. Who is the best liar in the family? Find out by playing Coup.

Here to Slay

Here to Slay is a competitive strategy game that involves slaying monsters and collecting heroes. There are two ways to win, slaying 3 monsters or collecting all 6 types of heroes. Watch out for your opponents who are all out to stop you!

The Resistance

The Resistance is a game of deception. Sometimes you have to lie to get others to trust you. Each player is secretly assigned a role, either an operative or a spy. Good guy or bad guy. Either way you try to convince the group that you are indeed good and trustworthy. Lots of accusations and pleas for trust ensue each round as players attempt to work together or secretly against each other to win!


Taboo is a word guessing game with certain words that are taboo and cannot be used to describe the word you want your team to guess. If a player uses a taboo word an player from the other team will buzz them and they must move on to the next word. The team with the most guess words wins.


Dominion is a deck building game with plenty of expansions to keep the game interesting. What I love about this game is the endless changes that keep the strategy changing every time you play. The base game set comes with 25 different cards that can be swapped in and out for each game. Each game will use only 10 of the base cards. There are 3 different victory card types and 3 types of treasure, that are used in all games. Additional base cards, victory cards and treasures are available in expansion packs. The fun never ends.

Fun games to play with a standard deck of cards


Spoons is a easy card game to play with young kids. The rules are simple, it’s fast paced and lots of fun! All you need is a regular deck of cards, at least 3 people, and one less spoon than the number of players you have. For example: if you have 5 people, you will need 4 spoons.

How to play spoons

Deal out 4 cards to each player. The object of the game is to get 4 of a kind. The dealer starts by drawing a card, they can choose to keep it or discard it or another card to the person to their left. The next person picks up the card and discards to their left. The cards continue to round the circle until someone gets 4 of a kind. When they do, they grab a spoon. Once a player takes a spoon, all of the other players can grab a spoon. The player who does not get a spoon, gets an S. Each time a player does not get a spoon they get another letter until they have spelled SPOON. Once they spell SPOON, they are out.


Trash is a game that can be played with a regular deck of cards. If you have more than 2 players use 1 deck for every 2 players.

How to play Trash

Each player is delt 10 cards (2 rows of 5) face down cards in front of them. The remaining cards are placed in a draw pile in the middle.

The object of the game is to get all 10 cards in front of you flipped over in order Ace-10. Jacks are wild. Kings and Queens end your turn. The dealer starts by drawing a card from the top of the deck. If it is an Ace or 2-10, they replace the corresponding card in front of them, with the correct number face up. If the card they replaced can be used for another card in front of them, they can continue to use them until they end up with a King, Queen, or a number they don’t need. They then discard face up. The next player can draw from the discard pile or the draw pile. Continue until one player has A-10 face up in from of them.

Collect all of the cards and re-deal. The player who won the previous round gets 1 less card. Each time a player wins a round they get 1 less card until one player only has 1 card and replaces it with an Ace or Jack.


Euchre is my favorite card game. I do understand that it is a midwestern game, but I think anyone could enjoy it if you try. In Michigan learning to play Euchre is a rite of passage.

How to set up for Euchre

Start by removing all cards less than 9 from the deck, leave the aces. The object of the game is to be the first team to gain 10 points. Euchre is played with only 4 players, 2 teams. Your partner sits across from you. It is a trick taking game.

How to deal in Euchre

The dealer deals 5 cards to each player going around only twice: dealing 1-4 cards at a time to each player each round. For example deal 2-3-2-3 then 3-2-3-2. Then the dealer sets down the remaining cards and turns over the top card.

How to play Euchre

After the deal, the player to the left is the first to choose weather or not he/she wants the suit of the flipped up card to be trump. If he/she wants it to be trump, they tell the dealer to pick it up. If they do not want that suit they say pass. All player in turn choose this way. If the dealer is told to pick it up, or chooses to pick it up, they must discard a card so they only have 5 cards. If nobody wants that suit to be trump the dealer passes by turning over that card. Now the person to the left is the first to choose any other suit to be trump, or pass. Each player is given this option until trump is selected. If nobody chooses the dealer must choose trump.

During the trump selection phase any player can choose trump and choose to go alone. In this case their partner does not play and they must win at least 3 tricks to score a point, but if they win all 5 they can score 4 points.

The player to the left of the dealer leads a card. All other players must follow suit, unless they do not have that suit, then they can play any card including trump. The trick is won by the highest card played

Rank of cards in Euchre

The highest card is the Jack of trump also called the right bower. The second highest card is the jack of the same color as trump also called the left bower. For example if spades is trump the jack of spades is the highest card followed by the jack of clubs, then the Ace, king, queen, 10 and 9 of spades. For non-trump suits Ace is the highest followed by King, Queen, Jack, 10 and 9. But Trump always beats non-trump.

How to score in Euchre

  • Team get 3-4 tricks = 1 point
  • Team gets 5 tricks = 2 points
  • Team gets 3 or more tricks when the other team called trump (a Euchre) = 2 points
  • Lone hand wins 3-4 tricks = 1 point
  • Lone hand wins 5 tricks = 5 points


Spades is another trick taking card game. There are 4 players (2 teams) partners sit across from each other. Use a full deck with or without the jokers. If you choose to use the jokers remove the two red 2’s. The jokers are high, make sure you determine which joker is the highest before you start (usually the colored one).

How to play Spades

The object of the game is to be the first team to score 300 points.

Start by dealing out all of the cards equally to all 4 players. Spades are always trump, jokers highest (if used) then Ace, king, queen, jack and all the numbers in descending order. The player to the left of the dealer leads and all others must follow suit unless they don’t have that suit. Highest card wins the trick. Play until all cards are used. During the first round each trick won is worth 10 points.

After the first round the deal moves to the left and after the cards a delt the team that did not deal has to bid how many tricks they think they can win. The minimum bid is 4. Then the other team bids. Once all bids are in play starts. At the end of each round the count up the tricks and score.

How to score in Spades

  • If you did not get at least as many tricks as you bid: loose 10X the number bid. For example bid 4 win 3 -loose 40 points
  • Score 10 points for every trick you bid and won and 1 point for every trick you win but did not bid. For example bid 5 win 6 – score 51 points

Up and Down the River (aka: Oh Hell)

Up and Down the River is another trick taking game. You need between 3 and 7 people.

How to play Up and Down the River

The dealer deals 1 card to each player in round one then places the next card face up, the suit of the turned u card is trump. For each subsequent round deal moves to the left and 1 additional card is delt up to 7 cards then back down to 1 card.

Each round players must bid how many tricks they think they will win from zero to the number of cards delt, starting with the player to the left of the dealer. The dealer bids last and his/her bid cannot make the number of tricks bid = the number of cards delt. For example if 1 card is delt to 3 people and the first two players both bid zero, the dealer cannot bid 1, because only one card was delt. In this case the dealer must bid zero.

The player to the left of the dealer leads, other players must follow suit if they have that suit, otherwise they can play any card. Highest card wins. Trump beats other suits, aces are high.

How to Score Up and Down the River

1 point for each trick taken + 10 extra points if you bid correctly. Highest score wins

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Easy Leftover Turkey Enchilada Soup

If you are searching for a great way to use up your leftover turkey, search no more. This quick and easy leftover turkey enchilada soup is sure to please. It’s simply a twist on the more traditional chicken enchilada soup. Certainly better than Campbells or chili’s chicken enchilada soup. As long as you have the stock prepared, you could be enjoying this soup in about 20 minutes.

How do you prepare turkey stock?

Start by boiling the leftover turkey carcass in a pot of water for 4-5 hours. You can add a few cilantro stems to the pot to enhance the flavor. Strain the stock while it is still warm. Then allow the meat to cool a bit before stripping the remaining meat from the bones.

What is the secret to the best enchilada soup?

The first secret ingredient that makes the best enchilada soup is masa harina. It is the flour used for making corn tortillas. Turns out it is also the best flour to use when thickening your enchilada soup.

The second secret ingredient is Monterey Jack cheese shredded from the block. If you by the block of cheese and shred it yourself it will melt into the soup creating a creamy broth. Do not try to melt pre-shredded cheese into your soup. It does not melt well and will always have little strings of not quite melted cheese in the broth.

Leftover turkey enchilada soup ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2/3 cup masa harina
  • 5 cups turkey stock
  • 3 cups leftover turkey, cubed or shredded
  • 3 (10-ounce) cans red enchilada sauce (mild, medium or hot)
  • 1 (7-ounce) can of green chilis or hatch chilis
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can corn
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • tortilla strips
  • 3 avocados, diced
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

How to make leftover turkey enchilada soup

  • In a large pot, heat up the avocado oil, add the onion and sauté until starting to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to sauté for another minute.
  • Then make a roux by adding the masa harina until the onions are garlic are evenly coated.
  • Add the stock 1 cup at a time while stirring.
  • Once the stock is warm and slightly thickened, add the enchilada sauce, cumin, turkey, chilis, tomatoes, beans, and corn.
  • Optional: Stir in the shredded Monterey Jack cheese. If you choose to do this, I would recommend using cheese shredded from a block rather than pre-shredded cheese.
  • Top with Shredded Monterey Jack cheese, tortilla strips, chopped cilantro and cubed avocado.

If you like this soup, try my better than olive garden Zuppa Toscana recipe.


Easy Apple Pie Recipe

I have been scrambling to use up the abundant supply of apples from my 2 apple trees. Good things do come to those who wait. The first few years didn’t provide many, but now it’s almost a chore to use up all the apples 2 trees provide. So, it seems like a great time to share my easy apple pie recipe. Sure to please! Especially if made with my best pie crust recipe, which also happens to be very easy!

Which apple variety is best for apple pie?

Honestly any variety of apple will make a delicious apple pie, except maybe red delicious which I personally think tastes like Styrofoam. My mom always likes to use McIntosh for pies because they are softer and quite tart. I actually prefer the apples stay a little more firm in my pie, so I prefer to use Gala, Honeycrisp, or Fuji.

Easy Apple Pie Filling:

  • 6 cups of peeled and sliced apples
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of butter

Best Pie Crust Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • pinch or salt

Easy Apple Pie assembly:

Mix all of the ingredients in the apple pie filling above, except the butter. I’ll admit that I often use more than 6 cups of apples.

Prepare the bottom crust and place it in your Pyrex pie dish. Add the filling mixture. Top with the butter.

Top with the crust, add some slits, and crimp the edges as desired. See my best pie crust recipe for more instructions. Cover the edges with foil. Bake at 425 degrees F for 30 min, then remove the foil and bake for another 10 min. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool before serving.

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Save Money

Saving Money on Clothing is Surprisingly Green

There are many ways to save money on clothing, and some of them are surprisingly green. I always try to be a good steward of our earth especially when it saves money too. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American household spends nearly $2000/year on clothing. The cost of clothing increased 22.3% in 2021 and then another 10.9% in 2022. Saving money on clothing is defiantly worthwhile.

Your total clothing cost includes the initial purchase price, but also care and maintenance of the clothing.

Here are some ways to save money on clothing and help the environment:

Buy used clothing

Buying used clothing is good for the Earth and your clothing budget. According to the EPA Americans generate over 17 million tons of clothing waste per year, of that a staggering 11 million tons ends up in landfills. Used clothing is an excellent choice for saving money and giving used clothing a new use will help keep it out of a landfill. There are plenty of places to shop for bargain used clothing. There are thrift shops, consignment shops, garage sales and online marketplaces where many perfectly good clothes are sold. Most of my personal wardrobe was purchased from thrift shops and garage sales.

Sell your old clothing

If you are able to sell your old clothing you can use the profit to pay for new clothing. This works best for kids outgrown clothes but is also quite profitable for adult clothing. You can attempt to sell your old clothes on your own by having a garage sale or online using eBay, Poshmark, or Facebook marketplace. Consignment is another great option. Search google for consignment shops near you or use a nationwide option like: Once Upon a Child, Plato’s Closet or Style Encore.

If you are not able to sell or consign you could also try to swap your used clothing with someone else. You could host a clothing swap party if you happen to have a bunch of friends nearly the same size, or you can even find large clothing swaps already planned by others.

The final option to make money on your used clothing is to bring it to H&M. They will give you a coupon to use on your next clothing purchase. They will take used clothing in any condition. If they can’t sell it they will recycle it if possible. Better than a landfill, and a coupon is better than nothing It’s a win win!!

Buy Quality Clothing

I know it seems counterintuitive to spend more money on clothing in order to save money, but in the long run you will save money when you buy quality items. Obviously this strategy works best for items purchased for full grown teens and adults. Quality clothing will last longer and need fewer repairs. I especially prefer quality footwear. Wool socks last a lot longer than socks made of other materials. My daughter ran nearly 3 miles in a sock from this quality Brand, when she lost a shoe at the beginning of a race. The sock was still in good condition after the race.

Smartwool sock held up during a 3 mile race

Repair your clothing

Many clothing repairs are simple enough that anyone could watch a quick you tube video and learn to fix. I’m fortunate that I was able to take take sewing in high school. It has been a very handy skill to have. Even if you have no sewing skills or experience you can still perform basic repairs.

What are some simple clothing repairs that can be done by hand?

What are some clothing repairs that may be worth the cost of fixing?

Some clothing and shoe repairs are too difficult for a novice or may require the use of a sewing machine or other tools. There are many alteration and clothing/shoe repair shops near just about every home. Some repairs may be less costly than replacing the clothing.

  • zipper replacement
  • altering a clothing size
  • fixing a large hole in a seam
  • a broken shoe heel
  • leather repair

Save money on clothing care

  • Whenever possible choose hand or machine washable clothing over dry clean only.
  • Wash with cold water to save energy heating the water.
  • Change out of your good clothes when you get home to prevent stains and possibly get another wear before washing. Washing causes excessive wear on clothing.
  • Line dry your clothing if possible. It doesn’t matter if you line dry outside or use a drying rack inside. Dryers will wear out clothing faster and the energy to run the dryers is also expensive.

Check out my other money saving tips:

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Entertaining at home Save Money

Frugal Family Fun Ideas at Home

The definition of Frugal is: sparing or economical with regard to money or food. Is it possible to have fun without spending a bundle? If you are on social networks, I’m sure you have seen your share of fancy trips, elegant dinners out, and expensive events your “friends” have shared. When I was a kid there was no such thing as social networking. It was, in my opinion a better life. My parents were full of frugal family fun ides. We used to go to a roadside park with a picnic lunch, where the big draw was climbing up and down a big sand hill. My siblings and I were so excited about the outing we could hardly sleep the night before. As an adult, I asked my dad “how did you make that outing sound so fun?”

His response “It’s all in the hype! You just have to make it sound super great and kids will believe you.” The truth is it was actually really fun and we always looked forward to it. Kids don’t need expensive vacations, fancy meals, and extravagant events. They just want to play and enjoy time with their families. It’s adults who need to spend a bundle to impress their social network “friends”.

International Frugal Fun Day is the first Saturday in October. The idea is to do something fun that costs less than five dollars. I’m assuming this is five dollars per person. It is a great day to get started with a frugal fun home life.

Frugal Fun Ideas at home:

Dinner and a movie

At my house we usually eat dinner at the table, but as a special event we allow the kids to eat in front of the TV. For little ones we set up a table, but older kids can manage with a tray. We make a big deal about how much fun it will be to enjoy dinner and a movie. We ask the kids for movie suggestions, dinner suggestions, and dessert suggestions. Our kids always get so excited, even help set up for the big event!

Make your own pizza night

This is a family favorite at my house. In the summer we grill the pizza, in cooler seasons we just bake them either way it is fun. We make our own pizza crust and prepare a bunch of topping options. Everyone makes their own creation. We bake or grill them in shifts and eat on the deck in good weather or at the dining room table in cooler weather. The kids love it!

Family game night-best games by age

Family game night is a frugal family fun idea. In my opinion the fun increases for the parents as the kids get older. I can’t stand playing mind numbing games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. What are the best family games for each age?

For more family game ideas check out my post on fun games to play.

Do a Family Craft

A Family craft can be excellent frugal fun. It can be a simple as making slime or playdoh or as complicated as building a birdhouse. Or anything in between. Make candles, soap, birdfeeders, decorations, jewelry, or anything fun!

Bake Something as a Family

Nothing could be more frugal fun than baking together as a Family. Pick out a seasonal favorite and get to work. Maybe a pie would be a nice choice. Try my best pie crust with your favorite filling. Or choose something that will be fun to decorate like cookies or cupcakes.

Enjoy the great outdoors as a family

Playing outside is usually free of charge. There are plenty of ways to have fun in your backyard or neighborhood.

  • Go for a walk, with or without a scavenger hunt
  • Play catch or frisbee
  • Go for a bike ride
  • Do something seasonally appropriate: run through a sprinkler, jump in the leaves, build a snowman
  • Draw with chalk, play hopscotch
  • Build a fort
  • Climb a tree
Climb a tree
Climb a tree

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Entertaining at home

How to use a Traeger Silverton 620: Grill, Smoke, Bake/Roast

Are you the proud owner of a Traeger Silverton 620 because of all of the features? Do you want to be able to Grill, Smoke, Braise, Bake and Roast live a pro? I have used all of the features, and would like to share them with you.

How to Smoke on a Pellet Grill

My experience is with the Traeger Silverton 620, but any pellet grill should be able to use the smoke feature. Smoking is a way of slow cooking with smoke. It’s best for meats, it will give your meat a delicious smoked flavor. The Traeger Silverton 620 does not have a smoke setting, but you can smoke using low heat 180-225 degrees F. I’ve used it for brisket, pork butt, ribs, and I even use it for starting out steaks and burgers. Here is my fabulous fall off the bone ribs recipe.

Baby back ribs smoked
Baby back ribs smoked

How to Braise on a Pellet Grill

Any pellet grill should be able to braise. By definition braising is slow cooking with liquid. Often, after smoking a meat on the pellet grill, the meat can be wrapped with foil or butcher paper along with a liquid. The liquid used will vary depending on the recipe. For pork I usually use apple juice because pork works well with sweet ingredients, for beef I usually choose beef broth. Braising on the pellet grill is done at 225-275 degrees F.

Baby back ribs wrapped with foil
Baby back ribs wrapped with foil

How to Grill on a Traeger

Some pellet grill models may not be able to get a high enough temperatures to Grill. This is not a problem for the Traeger Silverton 620. You can use it just like any other normal gas powered or charcoal grill and just heat it up to the high temperature required for grilling by definition 450-500 degrees F. Then add your burgers or steaks, flip at desired interval and grill the other side to desired doneness. But what is the fun in that? You have a multitasker pellet grill. Use the features!

How to grill burgers on a Traeger

I love to grill burgers on my pellet grill. I usually start by smoking the patties at 180 degrees F for 30-60 min. This is wonderful because it gives me time to enjoy spending time with my guests or family. When my guests or family start to get hungry, I simply turn up the heat to 350 degrees F. I know I said grilling needs a higher temperature, but during the heating process the burgers will become overdone. Check on the burgers during the heating process, flip them and periodically check the temp of the meat. You will still get the desired grill lines, and you will end up will delicious smoked flavor!

Burgers grilling on a pellet Grill

How to grill steak on a Traeger

For grilling steak I start with the same process I did with the burgers. Obviously you will want to add some smoky flavor, so start by smoking the steaks at 180 degrees F for 30-60 min. Remove the steaks, and turn the temperature up to 450 degrees F. Return the steaks to the grill and flip after the desire time depending on how done you want your steaks. Check the meat temperature and grill the other side to desired doneness.

How to Bake/Roast on a Traeger

I will discuss baking and roasting together because by definition they are very similar and seem to have a lot of exceptions. This feature should only be used if your pellet grill has a bake/roast feature.

What is the difference between baking and roasting?

Baking and roasting differ in two ways: by the dry heat temperature or by what is being baked/roasted. Baking requires the grill to be able to self maintain a desired temperature in the range of 325-375 degrees F depending on the recipe. Whereas roasting requires a grill temperature >400 degrees. Baking generally refers to dry heat cooking something that will change and become more firm during the cooking process, for example: cakes, pies and casseroles. Roasting is generally the term used for foods that have a firm texture prior to cooking, such as large cuts of meat or vegetables. Cakes, pies and casseroles are baked. Turkeys, and vegetables are roasted. Pizza seems to be an exception, since it is baked at 425-450 degrees F.

What can you bake on a Trager Silverton 620?

The options are endless! I pretty much bake anything on my Traeger Silverton 620 that I bake in my oven. I use a Pyrex baking dish or a foil pan. I have shared a couple of my favorite recipes on my blog. Try my peach blueberry pie or shepherd’s pie!

Peach Blueberry Pie on the Traeger
Peach Blueberry Pie on the Traeger

You can also bake pizzas on the Traeger. For pizza I preheat my Traeger Silverton 620 with pizza stones to 425 degrees F. A pizza chef once told me that the best pizza dough recipe is from King Arthur Flour. So that’s the recipe I always use. If we make pizza on the Traeger it is an event. We load the table up with pizza toppings and each person creates their own pizza on a piece of parchment paper. Before placing the pizza on the stone, I trim the parchment paper and slide it onto the warm stone on the grill. Check the crust after 6 min, and continue checking every 2-3 min until desired crispiness. Usually small personal pizzas bake for 6-10 min.

Pizza on the Traeger

What can you roast on a Traeger Silverton 620?

Once again the options are endless. I usually roast vegetables. It’s easy to roast broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and more. Roast veggies at 400 degrees F. Whole potatoes and sweet potatoes for about 60 min. Other veggies or cubed potatoes I roast on a metal tray or pan with oil and seasonings for 35 min, periodically mixing or flipping.

I also attempted roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving. I say attempted, because although I was able to start the cooking process by smoking my turkey, I ended up having to finish in the oven, just as this author described, due to the cold Michigan temperatures in November. This is the only drawback to the Traeger Silverton 620. Due to it’s rear venting system the company has not made a heat blanket for use in cold temperatures. I really don’t mind because the main reason I like to bake/roast on my grill is because I don’t like to heat up the kitchen in the Summer. I don’t mind using my oven in the cold winter months and my grill is still useful for smoking in the winter, even if I have to finish in the oven, it still adds the smoky flavor.

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Healthy Home

Bento Box Packed Lunch Ideas for Kids and Adults

It’s easy to make healthy packed lunches for kids and adults using a bento box. Use the healthy bento box packed lunch ideas for kids and adults above to make a balanced meal. School lunches sometimes get a little boring and repetitive, but these bento box packed lunch ideas will help you spice it up a bit. The free school lunches are mostly made up of processed food that lack fiber and fresh fruits and veggies. These bento box lunches are easy to prepare ahead and a much healthier option to the school lunches. They will also help your child learn to pack and eat healthy options for life. Bento Box packed lunches are great for adults too. Make a quick and easy well balanced packed lunch for work. Packing a lunch saves time and money. No more waiting in line for food on your lunch break. Just sit down and enjoy your packed bento box, then use the extra time for a relaxing walk instead of waiting in line.

What are Bento Boxes?

Bento Boxes are lunch boxes with sections that separate the different food options. They originated in Japan and initially contained common foods from that region. Mostly rice, fish, pickled vegetables and some fruit, to make a balanced meal. Bento is a Chinese slang term for convenient, which is fitting since they are very convenient for packed lunches.

Why Choose a Bento Lunch Box?

The Bento box makes a very convenient lunch box. It is so simple to choose items to fill the sections. The sections encourage small servings of a variety of foods to help include more food groups to make a more balanced lunch. The convenient sections also reduce waste from packaging. If your box doesn’t have enough sections you can purchase extra dividers. You don’t have to wrap sandwiches in paper or plastic. Many items like yogurt and apple sauce can be purchased in bulk instead of individual servings which not only reduces waste but also saves money. Check out my other post for more ideas on how to save money on groceries.

What are some Healthy Bento Box Packed Lunch Ideas for kids and Adults?

The Asian Bento box

This traditional bento box includes: sushi, snow peas, pickled ginger, and kiwi.

Asian Bento Box

The Superfood Bento box

This bento box includes: Broccoli salad, blueberries, almonds, and Greek yogurt.

Superfood Bento Box

The Berry Nutty Bento Box

This bento box includes: Almond Butter and Jam sandwich triangles on Whole Wheat bread, blueberries, Greek yogurt, and granola. For a very healthy granola recipe check out my other post. This Bento box could also be a breakfast bento.

Berry Nutty Bento Box

The Quick and Easy Box

For this Bento Box I just used whatever I had in the fridge. This Bento Box includes: Pasta salad, Raspberries, Oranges, and a hard boiled egg. Use the chart above to make any box you would like using the current contents of your fridge.

Quick and easy Bento Box

Greek Bento Box

This Greek bento box includes a Greek salad, grapes, Hummus, and whole wheat Pita bread.

Greek Bento Box

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Healthy Home

College Dorm Medications – Pharmacist Recommended

Pharmacist recommended College Dorm Medications

If you are getting ready to send your teen off to their college dorm? Look no further for some practical pharmacist recommended college dorm medications. These items will make a very helpful medicine and first aid kit. I am a pediatric pharmacist with over 2 decades of experience and I am also a mother of three teens. Obviously I need to caution that I cannot just give blanket recommendations because all medications have some contraindications and potential drug interactions. Always read the product safety information and/or speak directly with your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking other medications or have any health conditions or medication allergies.

Make sure your teen is up to date on immunizations and has a copy of their immunization record and health insurance card. Here is a link to the vaccine recommendations for 19-26 year-olds.

Always send all college dorm medications prescription and non-prescription in the original containers so your teen can read the instructions.

As a pharmacist I usually recommend single ingredient medications. It might save space to include multi-symptom cough and cold medications, but it is not worth the saved space to have you teen taking medications that are not needed. It is also easier to overdose on acetaminophen or ibuprofen with multi-symptom medications. Which is why my pharmacist recommended college dorm medications are nearly all single ingredient medications. I usually buy generic medications because they work just as well as brand name medications. Sometimes I prefer brand name medications due to better flavor.

Which medications should you bring to your college dorm?

Prescribed Medications

Please make sure your teen has all of their prescribed medications and knows how and where to obtain refills. If your teen is going out of state make sure they are still able to obtain refills in that state. All state laws are different, so make sure you have a plan in place ahead of time. Please also make sure your teen is aware of their medication allergies and what their reaction was to the medication. If your teen is taking any prescribed medications or has any medication allergies or health conditions, check with their doctor or pharmacist if any of the other medication listed are still safe to include in their kit.

Pain/Fever medication

Include a small bottle of Ibuprofen (MOTRIN, ADVIL) and/or acetaminophen (TYLENOL). The bottle size depends on how much how much you expect your teen will need. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen are both good choices for pain or fever. They can both provide relief from a sore throat or headache. Ibuprofen is better for menstural cramps, tooth or bone pain, and is also an anti-inflammatory. It would also be a good idea to include a digital thermometer.

Gastrointestinal medications

Heartburn medication. A small bottle of Tums. Even if your teen does not have trouble with heartburn now, they may start to have problems when they get to choose all of their own food for the first time. College meal plans are sometimes all you can eat, including many dessert options. If they use up their supply and request more, that would be a good time to discuss better food choices and smaller meal sizes.

Diarrhea/Constipation medicine. Travel size Imodium. If they make poor food choices or get sick from close living quarters they will love you forever for including medication for diarrhea. This would not be the medication they will want to walk to the nearest pharmacy to obtain. For constipation I recommend better food choices and exercise as first line treatment for occasional constipation. Fruits, veggies, All-bran, prunes, prune juice, more water, and nice walk. If that doesn’t work, and it’s a new problem, it’s probably due to lack of fiber in their diet. Most college students to do not eat enough fiber in their diet. It would not hurt to include a fiber supplement in the medication kit. If they take the fiber supplement, make sure they are staying hydrated.

Hydration. Diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration. Including a few packs of Pedialyte or Liquid IV will help if your teen is dehydrated. Staying hydrated can also reduce the risk of constipation. Check out my other post on how to increase your fluid intake.

Cold and flu medications

Nasal Congestion medicine. I recommend including something for allergies and at least one decongestant. Maybe your teen does not suffer from allergies, but could if they move to a new area. I prefer Zyrtec for allergy symptoms, but Claritin and Allegra are also good choices for a non-sedating antihistamine. I would also include a decongestant incase the congestion is from a cold or flu. In this case pseudoephedrine is my first choice. In some states it can only be purchased from a pharmacist. I would also include a bottle of Afrin nasal spray. This can only be used for three days, six doses. It is dosed 1-2 sprays each nostril every 12 hours. It cannot be used for more than 3 days, but it will be three glorious days of breathing through your nose during the worst of any cold or flu.

Cough medicine. For cough in teens and adults it is okay to use Delsym. There are age restrictions on the purchase of Delsym in some states due to abuse potential. This should not be a problem for most college students because the age to purchase is 18. I still think it is the best over the counter option for cough for teens and adults and I am sending a bottle to college with my teen. I would also include cough drops that have menthol as the main ingredient and some that are just soothing throat drops with pectin as the main ingredient. The menthol drops are best for cough suppression. The pectin drops are better for sore or irritated throat, but can also help a bit with cough.

Topical medications

For cuts and scrapes I recommend triple antibiotic ointment and a package of a variety of sizes of Band-Aids.

For itchy rashes a tube of 1% hydrocortisone cream will be a helpful medication to bring to your dorm room.

Canker sores can be brought on by stress, which is why I recommend including Kanka, a topical anesthetic for mouth sores.

Sleep Aids

I prefer non pharmacological treatment as first line for insomnia. I can understand how sleeping in a new place might be a problem due to noise, stress, or just a new environment. Honestly, I used a box fan to block out the noise when I stayed in a dorm. Earplugs are an inexpensive option that might be helpful. A sleep mask might help if your teen is sensitive to light. Good sleep hygiene would be ideal, but if all else fails it wouldn’t hurt to have a small supply of melatonin. I’d recommend 2.5mg or less as a starting dose.

College dorm medication checklist

Disclaimer: Always check with your teen’s doctor or pharmacist if they have any allergies, medical conditions, or are taking any prescribed medications before including these medications in your college dorm medication kit.

  1. Prescribed medications
  2. Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  3. Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  4. Cough drops (menthol)
  5. Throat Drops (pectin)
  6. Tums
  7. Imodium (loperamide)
  8. Fiber
  9. Pedialyte packets
  10. Non sedating antihistamine (Zyrtec, Claritin or Allegra)
  11. pseudoephedrine
  12. Brand name Afrin nasal spray (oxymetazoline)
  13. Delsym (grape flavor)
  14. Triple antibiotic ointment
  15. 1% hydrocortisone cream
  16. Kanka
  17. Lubricating eye drops (Artificial Tearsnot Visine)
  18. Melatonin 2mg tabs
  19. Multiple vitamin
  20. ChapStick
  21. Sunscreen
  22. Insect repellant

Basic First Aid Supplies for College Dorm Checklist

  1. digital thermometer
  2. Variety of Band-Aids
  3. Ice Pack
  4. Scissors
  5. Tweezers
  6. Cotton balls/swabs
  7. Gauze pads
  8. Medical tape
  9. Ace bandage
  10. Tick Key
  11. Alcohol swabs
  12. Gloves
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Best Leftover Pulled Pork Street Tacos, better than Hello Fresh

Leftover Pulled Pork street tacos
Leftover pulled pork street tacos.

A pulled pork leftover street taco recipe so good it must be shared. I’m a big fan of using my leftovers. It is a great way to save money on groceries. For more info on how to save money on groceries check out my other post.

I made my pulled pork on my Traeger Silverton 620. This is the recipe I used to smoke the pulled pork on my Traeger, with the following changes: instead of apple cider, I added 1 cup of apple juice, 1/4 cup honey, and 1/4 cup dark brown sugar. I did not add anything to the pulled pork after shredding it. I prefer to allow each person to choose their own BBQ sauce.

What is the best way to use leftover pulled pork?

My favorite way to use my left over pulled pork is by making pulled pork street tacos. I got the idea for this recipe from a Hello Fresh recipe. I gave Hello Fresh a try and really enjoyed it. My family ended up with a couple of new favorite recipes from our trial subscription. This recipe is a creative spin on one of our favorites. It will not work if you have already added BBQ sauce to your pulled pork.

How to prepare leftover pulled pork for pulled pork street tacos.

Put your leftover pulled pork in a frying pan. Toss it around in the pan until warmed evenly. Add sweet soy sauce to coat. I used ABC Sweet Soy Sauce. Add about 1 tablespoon of sweet soy sauce per 1 cup of leftover pulled pork, and mix. If not fully coated add 1 tablespoon of sweet soy sauce and mix, continue adding 1 tablespoon at a time until fully coated but not soupy.

Leftover pulled pork for street tacos
Pulled pork for street tacos.

How to prepare coleslaw for your leftover pulled pork tacos.

I always make coleslaw as a side dish with my pulled pork. personally, I do not like soggy leftover coleslaw so I only dress (add dressing to) what I think my guests will eat. This way any leftover coleslaw mix will last weeks in the refrigerator and I can dress more whenever I feel like eating some. Also, I’m able to switch up the dressing for different recipes such as leftover pulled pork tacos.

Here is my basic coleslaw mix: 1 head of cabbage chopped (I like to use half red and half green), 3-4 carrots peeled and shredded, 1 sweet onion chopped. This mixture will last for 2-3 weeks in your refrigerator. For this leftover pulled pork street taco recipe I use 2-3 cups of my coleslaw mix, 3-4 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro, and 3-4 tablespoons of Seasoned rice vinegar. Mix right before serving. If you prefer less crunch, mix 20-30 min before serving and add a little salt.

coleslaw with cilantro for leftover pulled pork street tacos
Coleslaw for pulled pork street tacos.

What other toppings are needed?

For my leftover pulled pork street tacos I also make a quick crema. Just add a tablespoon or two of Sriracha hot sauce to 3 tablespoons of sour cream and mix!

crema for leftover pulled pork street tacos
Crema for pulled pork street tacos.

You can also add some shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Recipe By Kristin
Course: Dinner Cusine:Aisian Mexican Difficulty:easy


16 minutes

Preparing Time

20 minutes

Cooking Time

10 minutes




  1. 1 head of cabbage chopped (or ½ a head of each green and red cabbage)

  2. 3-4 Carrots peeled and shredded

  3. 1 onion chopped

  4. ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  5. Pinch of salt (optional)

  6. ¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar

  7. 4 cups leftover pulled pork

  8. ½ cup sweet soy sauce (more if needed)

  9. ½ cup sour cream

  10. 1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce ( more if desired)

  11. 4 ounces grated Monterey jack cheese (optional)

  12. 16 4-inch street taco shells


  1. Prepare the crema: 

    Mix the sour cream and sriracha.  Add more sriracha if desired. 

  2. Prepare the coleslaw mix. 

    Mix the chopped cabbage, shredded carrots, and onion.  Measure out 4 cups of the mix.  Save the remainder for another use.  Add the cilantro and vinegar.  Mix to coat.  Add salt if you prefer a softer coleslaw, and mix.

  3. Prepare the pulled pork.

    Put the pulled pork in a frying pan and warm it while mixing.  Add the sweet soy sauce.  Mix until coated but not soupy, add extra sauce if needed to coat the pork.  Remove from heat.

  4. Assemble the Tacos.

    Warm the taco shells if desired.  Top with pork, slaw, crema and cheese.


    You can store the extra coleslaw mix in your refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

Save Money

Beyond Beans and Rice, How to Save Money on Groceries

Many of us focus on budgeting and paying off debt at the beginning of the year. I am a Dave Ramsey fan and have worked his plan for many years. It is a very good plan , and although I did not follow every step exactly as he presents them in his book The Total Money Makeover, I have successfully become debt free. This article is not intended to help you become debt free, just to help you save money on one of your biggest expenses, groceries. Dave pushes for a diet of beans and rice while working his plan. I’m pretty sure he does not mean that you literally have to live on beans and rice alone. Beans and rice are both inexpensive foods that can really stretch a meal. In other words, fill you up for less money. There are plenty of other inexpensive foods that can stretch a meal and other ways to save money on groceries.

Save money by wasting less

Food waste can be a huge drain on your grocery budget. A study published by the American Journal of Agricultural Economics found that the average American household wastes 31.9% of the food it buys. This works out to be over $150 of wasted food per month per household on average. If you feel you may be wasting too much food it’s definitely worth taking a look at some strategies to help you stop the waste.

How can you reduce household food waste?

Put a list of leftovers on your refrigerator
  1. Use your leftovers! Here is how to save money on groceries. We recently started a list of leftover food on the refrigerator door. We told the kids if we end up throwing away any leftovers we will not be able to get take out for 2 weeks. Using this system we have not thrown away any leftovers in 4 weeks! Download my leftover list below.
  2. Use up your produce. Unfortunately those produce drawers have a way of hiding your fruits and veggies. Out of sight out of mind. I like to keep a few fruits on the counter in a fruit bowl. Most fruits can be kept at room temperature for a few days. If they are in the bowl, they are more likely to be eaten. I also cut up a tray of fruit and leave it on the counter each weekend. It really disappears fast this way. Smoothies are another great way to use up produce quickly. Make sure you have a plan for the produce you buy. Dig through those produce drawers often and make sure you rotate stock.
  3. Use your freezer. Use this chart from for guidelines on how long your food will be safe to eat. Note that the freezer recommendations are for quality only, the site explains that food can be store indefinitely at 0 degrees F or less. So don’t start throwing out food in your freezer based on that chart. If you do not think you will be able to finish a food fast enough, then freeze it if possible.

Save money by packing your Lunch.

How much can you save by packing your own lunch?

Packing your lunch can be a huge cost savings over buying lunch every day. Only you can determine your actual savings. There are savings estimates out there, but it really depends on what you personally have been spending. You should be able to prepare a meal at home for less than half of the cost of the same meal as take out. For example if you buy a taco salad at a restaurant for $10.00, you could make that same salad at home for less than $5.00. Even if you could manage to save just $5.00 per day, that would be a savings of $25.00 per work week or $1300.00 per year.

Don’t just take your lunch for a ride either. You have to eat what you packed, resist the temptation to order out with your co-workers or choose that favorite dish at the cafeteria. If you end up ordering out and taking your lunch home, you may end up having to waste what you packed. Then you will have paid for 2 lunches!

How do you find the time to pack your lunch?

Make sure you pack your lunch the night before. If you save this task for the morning you will inevitably be running late. If you have children any number of things could distract you from your lunch making task, a forgotten homework assignment, a spill you have to help clean up, a lost shoe, or you name it. Trust me, if you want to save money you need to make your lunch the night before. Teach your kids to do the same.

Why should you pack your kids lunch?

I know what you are thinking. Why would I pack my kids lunch? The school lunch is only $3.00/day. Sure it would be difficult but not impossible to pack a lunch or less that $3.00/day, so why do it?

  1. It teaches responsibility. Kids can learn valuable skills by packing their own lunch. How to make a sandwich or salad. Knife skills for chopping fruit. Even how to add items to a grocery list when they are getting low.
  2. It’s healthier. I know Michelle Obama tried really hard to make school lunches healthier, but they could still use some work. Currently these lunches are free for all and my kids are still packing their lunches at home. My son tolerated the low quality tasteless food the longest. He finally gave up and started packing his own lunch after reading the ingredients on the Uncrustable in his school lunch. He said “It had too much added sugar and 50% of my daily fat. I just can’t continue to eat that food.”
  3. You will waste less food. Leftover dinners make great lunches. We try to use up our leftovers within 4 days. It really helps if every family member helps. If you end up throwing out leftovers because you bought that bargain $3 lunch, you have not saved anything.
  4. You can save money by buying in bulk. It’s easier to buy in bulk if your whole family is packing lunches. Once you open a bulk package of lunchmeat, you should use it up in 3-5 days. If only 1 or 2 people are packing sandwiches, you may end up throwing some of it out.
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What should you pack for lunch?

  1. Soup or chili. I like to make a big pot of homemade soup or chili every week. Find my favorite soup recipe here. I use a Corningware meal mug for packing soups. When my kids were younger I always packed their soups in a Thermos Funtainer. We would heat them up in the morning and the soup was still warm at lunch time. This way they could skip the microwave line and had more time to eat.
  2. Leftover Dinner. You have to pack up your leftovers anyway, why not just pack them for lunch. Casseroles and pasta make great leftovers for lunches.
  3. Salads. You can really get creative with salads. Try pasta salad, coleslaw, bean salad, Waldorf salad, or just a traditional lettuce salad. Check out my article about quick and easy packable salads.
  4. Sandwiches. Meat and cheese, PB &J, leftover pulled pork, leftover meatloaf. Have some fun! Get creative.
  5. Try Bento Box lunches. These containers are an excellent alternative to packing everything in Ziplock bags. You will save on plastic bags and benefit the environment while saving money on your food budget. Check out my bento boxed lunch post for some great ideas for kids and adults.

Save money by shopping sales

How do I find time to save?

I know you are probably thinking you don’t have time to shop several stores to get the best prices. I’d like to say that you probably do. Sales are a great way to save money on groceries. There have to be some high use non perishable items in your home. Maybe a particular sauce, or salad dressing. These are the items you want to find the best prices on. For example, I always buy Smuckers natural peanut butter at Walmart. It’s cheaper there than sale prices anywhere else. I don’t stop there every week, I just stop in and buy 3-4 jars when we are getting low. Just a few trips a year. Take the time to find the best deals on you highest use items, this will be worth your time.

Never pay full price.

I never pay full price for pasta, canned soup, BBQ sauce, mayo or any food with a long shelf life. When I grocery shop weekly, I’m mostly there to pick up fresh produce, eggs, and dairy items like milk and yogurt. I only buy meat if it is a really good sale, otherwise I defrost some meat I bought on sale earlier. Lastly, I always pick up a few nonperishable sale items for later use.

Save on Chicken breast during Super Bowl week.

By the way, the week of the Super Bowl is a great time to stock up on chicken breast. Chicken wings are so popular for the game that the rest of the chicken parts are usually marked down for quick sale.

Why coupons are not so great

You were probably expecting an article on saving money on your grocery budget to include a bunch of ways to save with coupons. I’m not saying that I never use coupons or that they will never save you money. I’m just saying that in my experience they have not really been worth the time. It takes a lot of time to search for, clip and sort coupons. Then to keep track of expiration dates. I believe that time could be better spent saving money in other ways like meal prep or managing leftovers.

Most of the time when searching for grocery coupons they tend to be for name brand products I don’t buy. There are usually coupons for laundry detergent, but I make my own. Toothpaste, which I buy in Canada because for some reason it is way cheaper there. Brand name non-prescription medications which I always buy generic. Pet food for the pet I do not have.

There is nothing worse than spending your time clipping a coupon, finding the product in the store, only to find that the store brand equivalent is less expensive than the brand name product even with the coupon. Overall I don’t believe clipping coupons is the best way to save money on groceries.

Save money by planning your meals

Meal planning seems like a daunting task, but it’s not. Start by checking the grocery store ad for produce sales. Sales are a great way to save money on groceries. I always start my plans with what ever produce is on sale. If there is a big sale on mushrooms, I’ll plan to make my favorite recipe with mushrooms. Big sale on broccoli and cauliflower, then stir fry will be a great choice. A sale on bell peppers would be a great time for stuffed peppers.

Meal planning is not just about shopping the sales it’s about finding the time to prepare the food. If you know you will be too busy to make dinner on Wednesday night due to soccer practice, then plan that to be a leftover night. There is nothing worse than having a house full of hungry family members and no plan for dinner. These are the nights that will cost you a lot because you will cave under the pressure and order take out. There goes your food budget! Save money on groceries by making the meals on your less busy days. Make sure you defrost your meat, you might even be able to trim the meat ahead of time. Chop a few onions on the weekend, you can use them in recipes and on sandwiches and salads throughout the week.

How to stretch your grocery budget with low cost foods

There are some foods that are budget friendly and can be used to feed your family for less. Here are some examples of low cost foods that can help you save money on groceries:

Low cost food #1, Potatoes

There are plenty of recipes that include potatoes. Soups and casseroles like Shepherd’s Pie. If you are trying to save on your grocery budget you can add a couple extra potatoes to these recipes to expand the number of portions. A baked potato can also be a very easy and inexpensive side to any meal.

Shepherd's pie on the smoker
Shepherd’s Pie on the smoker

Find my Shepherd’s pie recipe here.

Low cost food #2, Pasta

Pasta. It is not difficult to find a sale on pasta. This ingredient can easily be added in excess to most recipes to expand your number of portions. It also makes an inexpensive side dish or salad.

better than rachel ray's Italian mac n cheese

Click here, for my favorite pasta recipe.

Low cost food # 3, Zucchini

I stopped growing my own zucchini a few years ago because I noticed that I was having to turn down so much free zucchini from friends, family, and neighbors. I’m sure you have seen a pile of free zucchini on your breakroom table each summer. Just one plant provides more zucchini than most families can consume. Take the free zucchini, make bread or add it to your stir fry or just grill it up next time you make burgers. My favorite zucchini dish is zoodles! You will need to invest in a zoodle maker, but it is worth it to make a delicious pasta dishes with zucchini as noodles. We sauté onions and garlic in olive oil then add the zoodles to the pan. Sauté until warm then add capers and olives. Top with some shredded parmesan and you have a tasty meal or side dish, the bulk of which was free!

Low cost food #4, Eggs

Want to add some inexpensive protein to your meal? Consider adding eggs. I like to keep some hard boiled eggs in my fridge. They make a quick and easy inexpensive breakfast. They are also a great addition to fresh salads. You can also use them in fried rice.

Low cost food #5, Cabbage

This is a very inexpensive vegetable and it is so versatile. You can make coleslaw as an inexpensive side dish. Add it to salads, soups, or sandwiches. It can also be a meal itself. It has a very long shelf life, longer than lettuce so it can also help reduce food waste.

Low cost food #6, Beans

Add some beans to your meat. I used to add one can of beans to every one pound of ground beef when I made chili. I have found that I can add an extra can of bean per pound of beef and the chili is still delicious, and I get an extra serving.

Low cost food #7, Rice

This is a very inexpensive ingredient that can be prepared as a meal or side dish. There is seemingly no end to the varieties of ways you can prepare rice. I love fried rice, Spanish rice, and Caribbean rice. You can add it to pretty much any soup and many casseroles.

Low cost food #8, Onions

I’m not suggesting you eat a plain onion as a side dish, well maybe I am. It’s just that onions are very cheap and they are included in many recipes. If you double the onion you could add an extra serving to many dishes, plus make them healthier and more flavorful. If you are grilling, wrap and onion in some foil and throw it on the grill. Grilled onion is a delicious addition to pretty much any grilled meal.

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