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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Frugal Fun

Over the past decade, there have been many years where I debated every penny of expense.

Our income was so tight that even "free" things were evaluated for the cost that they had. An outing to see something still cost gas money to get there, when we didn't have that money to spare, was definitely not free. The same went for a trip to the library; even though it is just a few miles away, it still cost money in gas. Every penny needed to be evaluated and every expense spared if we were going to be able to make ends meet.

Our income is again at that stage. A variable income can be up or down. It can be just enough, not enough, or more. 

You may find yourself in the same situation now or in the future. Perhaps you have major car expenses or medical bills. Perhaps you have had a decrease or loss of income. 

Perhaps you have all of these things right now.

As we have moved back into this stage of low-income this year, accompanied by a child's trip to the hospital, other medical bills, and some vehicle repairs, I have looked for no-cost ways to add joy to our life. We've been in this situation before and we know what we can do to bring joy into our lives without spending money.

 

 Gallery Wall Detail The Prudent Homemaker

 

1. Take Advantage of Free

When there isn't money for any extras, free deals offer a great pick-me-up.

Free Photo Prints

Many places offer free photo prints. Walgreen's regularly has coupon codes for a free 8 x 10 print (often right before a holiday). I've used these to hang photos in my house as well as to give as gifts. 

Many places offer 100 free prints when you start a photo account with them. These don't have to be redeemed all at once. Both Sam's Club and Walmart have this option for local pickup (so no shipping costs; online companies often offer this option to new customers, but you'll need to pay shipping).

Free Seed Exchanges

Some libraries have free seed exchanges, and there are many online sites where you can swap seeds (postage may be required unless you have a local exchange). Here's how I save seeds from my own garden.

Free Movies and Concerts at the Park

A community or city near you may offer free movies and concerts in the park. These are often held in summer, but in warmer climates, they may start in fall and include early spring as well.

Free Movies from the Library and Red Box

Looking for some fun family entertainment? Try borrowing movies from the library or using a free Redbox code. You may even want to start a tradition of a weekly family movie night. At my house, we do this each Friday night.

Free Magazines

Recyclebank regularly offers free magazine subscriptions for points redeemed after you read about recycling information on their site. 

Your local library is a great source to borrow free magazines; as long as it is a past issue within the last year of a magazine that they carry, you can check it out and enjoy it at home.

Free Gift Cards

Swagbucks is a way to earn gift cards by searching online, taking surveys, etc. I've redeemed points for Amazon gift cards, as well as a restaurant gift card and gift cards to Lowe's and Sam's Club.

$10 off $10 purchases that stores offer are a good way to find something you want/need. Use them on a clearance item to make them go further!

Friday Freebies

Kroger grocery stores and affiliates in the U.S. have a free product you can add to your card each week. You need to add the product online on Friday, and then you can pick it up anytime in the next two weeks. I like to pick up two at a time when I'm already planning on being at the store to save on gas. Around Christmastime, many of these freebies are for candy that is perfect to use as a stocking stuffer.

Enjoy the beauty around you

Watch a sunrise or a sunset; take the time to watch a bird or a bee.

 

2. Organize

Organizing your surroundings gives you a great sense of peace and calm, and it doesn't have to cost anything.

Tidy a drawer or a closet for a sense of peace. While you're at it, pull out anything you're not using and let it stop cluttering your life. 

Organize your meal plan. Plan out your meals using what you have on hand. Unable to shop? See my two weeks of pantry-only meals and two weeks of bean meals recipes.

Organize a schedule to accomplish more in your day. You can see mine here.

 

3. Sell Something

Sell something you're no longer using, such as outgrown/unwanted clothing, infrequently used kitchen supplies,  You can have a garage sale, sell on a local Facebook garage sale page, sell on Craig's List, or sell on Ebay (or whatever online sales resource you have available where you live). If it doesn't sell, or you don't want to sell things, you can donate your items to a thrift/charity shop, and quite possibly receive a receipt you can use to deduct that amount from your taxable income--which nets you more of the money you've earned come tax time. Even if it's just a little income, it's still an increase on something you weren't using anyway and the money can be used towards your needs.

 

4. Practice Gratitude

Write three things for which you are grateful in a journal each day (if you don't have a journal, search for a free journaling app or start one on your computer).

Thank people around you for the little things, even the things that they should be doing and/or do every day (such as thanking children when they do their chores).

Send an online message to a friend to thank them for their friendship.

Al Fresco in August The Prudent Homemaker

 

5. Make Every Day a Celebration

Use cloth napkins if you have them.

Set a nice table; if you have flowers or greenery in a garden, cut some to bring to your table.

Play card games or board games in the evening.

 

A Penny Saved The Prudent Homemaker

 

6.  Practice the Principle of Waste Not, Want Not

Use fewer utilities

Reduce expenses, even if you think you've already cut everything

Make soup stock with bits of leftover vegetables

Collect seeds from your garden 

Make breadcrumbs with the ends of your bread

Combine errands to save money on gas as well as give you more time

 

 

 Earrings 2 The Prudent Homemaker

 

7.  Make something over that you already own or use something in a new way

 

Turn an old pillowcase into a nightgown

Turn an old sheet into cloth napkins, a slip, handkerchiefs, etc.

Make broken jewelry into something new

"Necessity is the mother of invention."

Use a fancy cup or jar to organize something or as a planter

 

8. Serve Someone

It's easier to be happy when you're more concerned with the welfare of others than your own happiness.

Make a dessert from items you have on hand for your family--or a friend--and give it to them.

JustServe.org is a great place to find service opportunities near you. In our city, some of the service activities available include collecting clothing, school supplies, feminine hygiene supplies, and easy to eat food for homeless teenagers (there are over 2500 homeless teenagers in our school district); there are opportunities to serve refugee families by sharing household items you no longer need, tutoring refugees in English, etc.

 

9. Read

When you're focused on a story, you can enjoy a different place altogether. I find that reading fiction helps me come back to my own life with a bit more spring in my step and excitement for life.

 

Pink Rose Cupcakes The Prudent Homemaker

 

10. Learn Something New

There are so many free ways to learn something new, and learning something new can make you so excited about life, no matter what your circumstances. You can learn from library books, learn from You Tube, learn from a blogger, etc.  

Here are a few to try:

Break out your children's watercolors and try painting a portrait like this (they're super easy!) or follow some great tutorials on YouTube (I love this artist's channel)

Learn or improve a foreign language

Learn to draw or do a new art form (I have a page of simple art projects on my Pinterest board here).

Try a new recipe using ingredients you have on hand.

 

Financial trials are difficult, but they don't have to take all the joy from your life. Look for ways to have happy moments each day in spite of the trials of the day!

 

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Harry Potter Christmas Baby Shower

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Harry Potter Baby Shower 2 The Prudent Homemaker

I hosted a baby shower last week for a soon to be first-time mom who is a huge Harry Potter fan. Since I seem to have a Harry Potter birthday party for at least one of my children every year (and have for the last few years) this meant I already had several items that I could use for the party, and that some of the items I purchased could be used for future parties.

I had several people ask what they could do to help, so I assigned out paper plates, bowls, cups, napkins, soda, salad, and the Happy Christmas banner. This saved me money as well as time.

We hung the Harry Potter house banner that I had made several years ago. Underneath it we hung a Happy Christmas banner that one of the guests made (using this tutorial and glittered poster board. I didn't even know glittered poster board existed before I asked this guest if she was willing to make the banner, and she told me that she already had glittered poster board to make it!)

On the couch I put the Harry Potter pillow that I embroidered several years ago.

HP Party Flying KeysThe Prudent Homemaker

In the entry way over the table, we hung flying keys with fishing wire. I purchased the keys and we downloaded the wings, which I printed on vellum. My 11-year-old son,Ezrom, cut out the wings, taped them to the keys, and hung them.

 HP Party Flying Keys 2 The Prudent Homemaker

Harry Potter Baby Shower The Prudent Homemaker

Over the dining table, we hung snowflakes, a nod to the enchanted snowflakes that fall over the Christmas table at Hogwarts. Winter made the snowflakes and ironed them on low before hanging them with fishing wire. She also cut the curling ribbon and hung it. 

Besides decorations, a large part of a Harry Potter party is the themed food. 

Since we were having the party on a weeknight and many women would be coming from work, I served dinner. Knowing how inexpensive soup, salad, and homemade bread are to serve, I made pumpkin soup and rosemary olive oil bread. When someone asked how she could help, I assigned her to bring the salad, since I don't have much lettuce growing in the garden right now (despite planting several times). The pumpkin soup was a mixture of butternut squash from our garden, acorn squash I bought on sale (which decorated our table all fall), and mini pumpkins I had also bought as fall decorations.

HP Mini Chocolate Frogs The Prudent Homemaker

I made most all of the desserts in miniature, which made it possible for people to try several things without feeling like they had too much dessert. I used my miniature chocolate frog mold and a tiny snowflake mold to make these chocolates.

HP Chocolate Snitches The Prudent Homemaker

I used a half- sphere mold to make these snitches. My 11-year-old put them together, piped the design over them, and added the wings.

HP tarts and cookies The Prudent Homemaker

I made miniature treacle tarts (Harry's favorite), snowball cookies (about double the size of normal, which was only because I had not made them before, but in the future I will make them smaller), and chocolate wafer cookies.

Harry Potter Party Hogwarts Letter Cookie The Prudent Homemaker

I made some envelope cookies with red fondant Hogwarts seals (affixed with white chocolate). These were a bit larger and though delicious, I think they were too large for a baby shower where all the women want just a little dessert. At a children's party I think they will be eaten without a problem.

Harry Potter Mandrake Cupcake The Prudent Homemaker

The biggest hit among the Harry Potter fans in attendance were these miniature mandrake cupcakes. I made the cupcakes in miniature and bought the smallest terra cotta pots I could find. The mandrake label is a free printable (see sources below). The cupcakes were topped with melted chocolate and chocolate cookie crumbs. We then put in the baby and added a bit of melted chocolate to his head, which we used to affix oregano leaves from the garden.

The second largest hit were the cheese and pretzel broomsticks. We made them last minute so that they cheese would be fresh. I didn't get a photo of them, but I've included a link to the instructions below. I think everyone enjoyed having a savory choice in addition to the soup and salad.

All of those who had soup loved it. It was just the right thing on a winter evening.

 HP food The Prudent Homemaker

The white pumpkin is one I bought at Lowe's that has graced my table all fall since I purchased it at Lowe's in early fall. The floral arrangements were apple branches, Thai basil, dusty miller, and euonymus from the garden.

Being Christmastime, we had up our Christmas decorations as well. We set up a trunk that I had (a garage sale purchase years ago) under the tree, and the gifts went into that as well as around the tree.

For drinks, I served water with a lemon from the garden. Another guest brought butterbeer, which she made by mixing up a few different recipes that she had found on Pinterest. It was delicious!

There were about 30 people in attendance.

The best part, after everyone else had left, was when the recipient told me that it was just the kind of shower she wanted: we had food, sat and talked, and opened gifts.

 

Resources:

Mini Chocolate Frog Mold

Snowflake Mold

Sphere mold

Keys

printable wings

vellum (opaque paper for printing wings)

Hogwarts seal

Happy Christmas banner template

plastic babies: Hobby Lobby

mini cupcake wrappers: Joann's on 50% off sale

mini pots: Hobby Lobby. They come in a package of six for $1.99. I bought them on a 50% off sale.

red fondant: Hobby Lobby.  I used a 40% off coupon to buy the small package.

Free printable customizable invitation

Wilton melting chips: bought 3 for $5 on sale at Michael's

Pretzels: I bought just a small amount (enough for the party) in the bulk bins at Winco. It was much less than buying a whole bag of pretzels (as well as cheaper per pound)

String cheese: Sam's Club in bulk (around $2.56 a pound)

chives, oregano, and centerpiece greenery: From the garden

 

 

Recipes:

Pumpkin soup

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

White cookies

Chocolate cookies (also used for crumbs on top of cupcakes)

Chocolate cake

Snowball cookies

Treacle tart

Cheese and pretzel broomsticks

 

Looking for more Harry Potter party ideas? Check out my Harry Potter party board on Pinterest.

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Our Favorite Art Books and Art Supplies

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Art Books The Prudent Homemaker

I love art. 

As a child, I remember spending time outside with finger paints. I remember my fourth grade teacher teaching the class how to draw a tree without leaves by taking us outside to draw. When I was a little older, I took oil painting classes and painted waterfalls.

I took high school art classes and painted mountains and meadows. 

I took a watercolor class in college and painted the student across from me (a fun challenge, to paint someone who is also painting you at the same time!)

I think the key to successfully learning to produce art is having good instruction.

After that, of course, it is practice, practice, and more practice.

Over the years, I have been slowly adding art books and supplies to our home. I check out books at the library first whenever possible (usually I have to request them from other libraries in the district). I have purchased those that we think are the best ones (often buying a used copy of the book for pennies, plus shipping, when that is an option).

I recently purchased a new art book on sculpting faces from clay. I knew it would be challenging, but also fun for my children. I especially knew that Ezrom would be interested. 

Here is his first sculpture as he made it, following the instructions in the book:

 

Ezrom Sculpture 1 The Prudent Homemaker

 

Ezrom Sculpture 2 The Prudent Homemaker

 

Ezrom Scultpure 3 The Prudent Homemaker

 

Ezrom Sculpture 4 The Prudent Homemaker

 

Ezrom Scultpure 5 The Prudent Homemaker

Scultpure and Modeling:

Crayola Modeling Clay  

Modeling Clay Animals: Easy-to-Follow Projects in Simple Steps

Van Aaken Modeling Clay 1Lb Flesh (I purchased 4 of these so that Ezrom could start making solid heads, like the one below)

Sculpt Pro 11 Piece Pottery and Sculpting Art Tool Set

Ceramic Sculpture: Making Faces: A Guide to Modeling the Head and Face with Clay

 

Kreacher by Ezrom The Prudent Homemaker

Kreacher, by Ezrom, age 10 (his third sculpture)

 

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon by Ezrom, age 10

 

Drawing:

Good drawing books make all the difference between feeling like you can't draw and realizing that you can, indeed, draw.

 

Beginning:

 

I Can Draw Animals

I Can Draw People

Dover's How to Draw Series is fantastic. If you think you can't draw, these books will change your mind.

How to Draw People (Dover How to Draw)

How to Draw Flowers (Dover How to Draw)

You Can Draw Animals (Dover How to Draw)

How to Draw Birds (Dover How to Draw) The cardinal in the picture below is from this book.

Oodles of Doodles

 

Ezrom drawing

 

Middle:

Drawing Horses: (That Look Real!) (Quick Starts for Kids!)

Ralph Masiello's Dragon Drawing Book

Ralph Masiello's Ancient Egypt Drawing Book

 

Cyrus Artwork The Prudent Homework

Owl and cardinal by Cyrus, age 11

Advanced:

Lee Ame's Draw 50 series is fabulous. We have been able to request these from the library and we have bought a few favorites. There is a long list of titles in this series.

Draw 50 Animals: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Elephants, Tigers, Dogs, Fish, Birds, and Many More...

Draw 50 Birds: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Chickadees, Peacocks, Toucans, Mallards, and Many More of Our Feathered Friends The owl in the picture above is from this book.

Draw 50 Buildings and Other Structures: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Castles and Cathedrals, Skyscrapers and Bridges, and So Much More...

Draw 50 Flowers, Trees, and Other Plants: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Orchids, Weeping Willows, Prickly Pears, Pineapples, and Many More...

Funky Things to Draw

 

Watercolor:

Most of the time, we use Crayola washable watercolors on regular computer paper to keep costs low. As my children get older, they use watercolor paper (bought 50% off at Michael's) for special projects. As they have gotten older, we have found some individual sets for them to use at yard sales. I have also bought a decent watercolor palette and used that with tubes of watercolors for my oldest. 

For watercolor instruction for younger ages, see the books in the Mixed Media section below. 

Crayola Washable Watercolors, 24 count

Derwent Academy Watercolor Pencils

Loew-Cornell Brush Set Value Pack

US Art Supply® 12ml Watercolor Tube Artist Paint Set (24-Tubes)

Terry Harrison's Complete Guide to Watercolour Landscapes

Painting Water in Watercolour

The Watercolor Flower Painter's A to Z: An Illustrated Directory of Techniques for Painting 50 Popular Flowers

 

Watercolor Mermaid The Prudent Homemaker

 Mermaid: Drawn by Winter, age 13; crayon and watercolor by Wren, age 7

Mixed Media:

These are beginning to middle level projects. Most use drawing, crayon, and watercolor, but some use other items, including cardboard.

50 Things to Draw and Paint

Art Skills

 

Stories about artists:

The Boy Who Loved to Draw: Benjamin West

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon

Mike Venzia's entire series of Getting to Know The World's Greatest Artists is fantastic. I recommend checking these out from your library. I picked up several recently at the library and my 4 oldest (ages 13 to 8) hurried to read all of them as soon as I brought them in the door.

 

If I cannot get a book from the local library, I use the "search inside this book" feature on Amazon to preview books. I look for books that give step by step tutorials.

I also have found some great online tutorials via Pinterest. You can find my art board on Pinterest here.

 

What are your favorite art books?

 

 

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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

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Lilies in Metal Vase The Prudent Homemaker

I cut lilies and herbs from the garden for my entry table.

My husband and son cut up a mesquite tree for someone, and we got to keep the wood.

Ezrom with hummingbird The Prudent Homemaker 

Monday was cooler as a storm went by. I opened up the house during the day and turned off the air conditioner.  

A hummingbird flew into the house and tried to go through our window. Ezrom caught it and it sat and rested on his finger!

Hummingbird The Prudent Homemaker

 

The children went swimming four days in a row (all in free locations).

I watched Crimson Field and Poldark on pbs.org.

I used Duolingo again this week as part of my French study.

I picked several baskets of figs from the garden. I sliced and dried most of them in the dehydrator.

Mint The Prudent Homemaker 

I cut mint, Genovese basil, Thai basil, thyme, chives, and tarragon from the garden.

Zinnias and edibles The Prudent Homemaker 

I cut flowers and herbs from the garden for my dining table.

I canned 6 quarts of applesauce from my apples.

I cut grapes from the garden.

Pioneer Day Dunking her brother

This throw dunked her brother.

We attended a fun free Pioneer Day activity at church on Saturday evening. There was food, including pulled-pork sandwiches, corn, watermelon, nachos,  pie, cotton candy, root beet, and cupcakes. There were all sorts of activites, including  water games, a photo booth, dunk tanks, blow up slides with water, and carnival-type games.

Pioneer Day Wren

Pioneer Day Ivory slide 1

 

Pioneer Day Ivory Slide 2

What did you do to save money last week?

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Popsicle Season

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 Apricot Popsicles The Prudent Homemaker

New Recipe: Apricot Honey Popsicles

Feel free to change them out for any other fruit; I made them the last two weeks with peaches instead of apricots.

 

Afternoon snacks that are cold are well-appreciated this time of year.

My popsicle molds are starting to wear out. I've had a lot of questions before about them and they aren't making them anymore. I know many of you were concerned that a popsicle mold was out of your budget.

I walked into Walmart last month, and on an end cap near the entrance, they had these:

 Popsicle Molds The Prudent Homemaker

At $1.88 for a popsicle mold that makes 4 popsicles, hopefully these will fit in everyone's budget.

What I like about these (and my old ones) is that you don't have to buy popsicle sticks, so there's no added expense. I also like that they aren't sitting in a tray--I've had those kind before, and they tend to tip over on the trip from the counter to the freezer.

Popsicles are easy. Whole fruit popsicles are no harder than mixing some fruit in the blender and pouring them in molds. You can use a couple of tablespoons of honey to sweeten them if you like. Making them is so much less expensive than buying them.

You can also use something simple, like the leftover bits of fruit and the syrup you canned them in. You can even just blend your canned fruit together with the syrup and pour them into molds.

 

Strawberry Popsicles 2 The Prudent Homemaker

Strawberry Popsicles

Plum Popsicles The Prudent Homemaker

Plum Popsicles

peach pie popsicles in pan The Prudent Homemaker

Peach Pie Popsicles

Chocolate Pudding Popsicles

Chocolate Pudding Popsicles

Honeydew Sorbet

Honeydew Sorbet

Use the mixture to make several batches of popsicles. You can substitute cantelope, watermelon, or even Armenian cucumbers, once they've turned orange and sweet.

 

Whatever you make, let the popsicles sit in the freezer for at least 5 hours or overnight. I generally make popsicles in the morning for that afternoon, or before I make dinner for the next day's snacks. Popsicles will freeze better inside the frezer, rather than on the door.

To loosen the popsicles, run cool water over them until they slide out easily. (I keep a small ice cream bucket near the sink to catch the water to use in the garden, but a bowl would work too).

 

 

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Summertime Frugal Fun At Home

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Ivory Reading The Prudent Homemaker 

In between trips to the library and the swimming pool, and all of the other fun things you have planned for your children's summer, there is a lot of time at home. 

Whether your children have summer off school, school through the summer (like mine) and have afternoons off, or it's winter where you live right now, here are some fun things that you can do without leaving the house.

Here are some indoor ideas for when you need a change from the books, board games, Legos, blocks, cars, baby dolls, and dress up clothes:

 

Paper Fun:

1. Hidden Pictures from Highlights.  These can be done online or printed. You can choose to have word clues or picture clues when searching, and print whichever ones you prefer. A few new ones are available each month.

2. Coloring pictures from all of your children's favorite characters. I love this site, but it has too many pop-ups, so you may want to do the printing yourself from this site for your children.

3. Online drawing instructions.

Pillpat's photostream on Flicker has several books of art instruction; just click the arrows.

Drawing Lessons for The Young Artist has more complicated pictures for an older age

4. Hot Air Balloons We did these and they were a lot of fun!

5. Dot to Dot Leveled pictures up to 120 dots. 

6. My Art Project Board on Pinterest has several more ideas for drawing, origami, and painting.

 

Something to Watch:  (Note: Not all of these may be available outside North America).

1. Peep and The Big Wide World This is a science-themed cartoon.

2. Curious George on Pbskids.org. Another science-based cartoon.

3. Little Einsteins on Disney Junior. Classical music and famous artwork. There are two episodes posted each week.

4. Jas. Townsend and Son on You Tube. You'll want to watch these short videos, too! These historical videos are only a few minutes each, and they cover 18th century cooking and other time-period appropriate topics, like tomahawks, sealing wax, and making clay ovens.

5. Khan Academy. Learn something new, work on struggling skills, or prepare for tests. 

 

peach pie popsicles in pan The Prudent Homemaker

 

Cooking:

Teach your children some cooking skills this summer! Here are a few suggestions:

1. Black Bean Burgers and steak sauce to top them

2. Peach Pie Popsicles

3. Fruit Crumble

4. White Bean Dip

5. Balsamic Orange Vinaigrette  Whether you are picking lettuce from your garden, or you have cucumbers and tomatoes right now, this delicious salad dressing is simple to make and tastes amazing! 

 

What fun, frugal things do you like to do at home during the summer? Please share in the comments below. (If you have a television show to link, please note the country of origin, as not all shows work for free online in all countries). 

 

Tagged in: Frugal Fun
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