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My Favorite Frugal Fall Activities

To be honest, it’s really difficult for me to believe that the fall season is here again already. Although, it is my favorite season so I’m not really complaining. And it’s also my favorite time of the year to take advantage of as many outdoor activities as possible. Preferably for free, of course. So here are some of my all time favorite ways to ways to enjoy some frugal fall activities.

FESTIVALS

My family and I just love fall festivals! It seems as if every year there are more and more of them. Well, there were more and more of them before COVID hit. But, it looks like some of them are starting to come back. Which I’m pretty excited about. Due to that, the most difficult part is choosing which ones we want to attend.

Luckily for us, we live in an agricultural state. And this means there are lots of apple and pumpkin festivals popping up at our disposal. However, in addition to those there are also quite a few other festivals we’ve found to check out. Some of these include:

  • Arts and crafts festivals
  • Beer festivals
  • Corn festivals
  • Gluten-free festivals
  • Kids festivals
  • Oktoberfest
  • Pet festivals
  • Plant festivals
  • Renaissance-themed festivals
  • Scarecrow festivals
  • Vegetarian/Vegan festivals
  • Tree festivals
  • Wine festivals

Before COVID the list seemed endless, but since the pandemic hit, it seems that people are getting even more creative with their festivals. So, I’m interested to see what our options are this year. In most cases, the festivals we usually partake in don’t have a cost associated to get into which makes them great frugal fall activities. Although, some of them do ask for a donation, if you are feeling charitable. Others do require an entrance fee. So this is something to discern before you show up at a festival since you don’t want to blow your entire entertainment budget on just the entrance fee alone.

If you aren’t sure how to find festivals near you that fit your interests, it’s best to do a quick internet search to see if there is a master page with that information. For us here in North Carolina, I usually just check the NCFestivals.com website and it lists everything coming up, things in the past, cancelled events, etc. This tool has been extremely helpful to me in the past when it comes to planning out the festivals we really want to attend within our budget.

NATURE WALKS

Nature walks are some of my favorite things to do all year long. But during the fall they are so much better because the weather is cooler.

Even if you’re one of those people who lives in a sprawling city you can still find access to at least one nature trail. A lot of cities have recently been implementing more green spaces in their urban areas. The goal of this appears to be to get more residents outside for some fresh air and exercise, which boosts overall health. And the health of the citizens is extremely important to a city’s overall health and survival. Therefore, I always look for walking trails or greenway trails whenever I’m traveling, including around my own state.

One example of a great nature walk find we had was while we were on a family vacation in Greenville, SC. That city has done wonders with the natural river that runs through its downtown area by naturally incorporating it into their updated downtown vibe. Using the river as the focal piece, the city has created around it:

  • long greenway style walking trails
  • benches and swings for sitting and having conversations
  • native flowers and plants lining the walkways
  • awesome suspension bridges
  • an outdoor amphitheater with free productions

While this is just one of our favorite most recent finds, we have seen this sort of change in a lot of cities we have visited. Especially since COVID hit. So, even if you don’t live in an area that typically has a lot of hiking trails you can take advantage of, this may be another option to fully enjoy fall.

If you’re not sure what may be around you, Traillink is a great site to search for greenways and trails all over the country. You may just be surprised by how many walking trails and greenways have been right under your nose all of this time.

LEAF TOUR

Along the same lines as nature walks are leaf tours. These are some favorite pastimes of most people I know around here because of how many options we have nearby to appreciate the leaves changing. If you’re lucky enough, like us, to have deciduous trees near you, then this is a fantastic frugal fall activity to embark upon. Since it will only cost you the little bit of gas you may need to get there, if that.

But, if you have to drive to see the trees, you will have to pay more for gas and maybe food or lodging. However, if you choose this option, you could turn it into a frugal weekend getaway instead. And I’m all for that in the fall! Especially if there’s a way to combine every aforementioned fall activity into one weekend.

There is almost nothing else on earth as beautiful as watching the leaves change color. So take advantage of mother nature’s masterpiece if you can this fall. You won’t be disappointed.

parks and Rec

Parks and Rec has been one of my go to resources since my kids were small for free classes around me. Every state has a Parks and Recreation department where you can look up classes and events. In some cases, these can be free events, but others cost a minimal amount of money to participate in.

Just this year so far, we have engaged in the following free activities through this resource:

  • Birding classes
  • Nature hikes
  • Jewelry making classes
  • Art classes for kids
  • Dog hikes
  • Homeschool community groups

While this list may not seem long, these were all free, so I’m not complaining. There are some other classes that I’ve put my kids in since they’re homeschooled that have cost a minimal amount. These classes have certainly been worth it and I’m so grateful for this resource. So, if you aren’t sure what your state or city’s Parks and Rec department has to offer, I suggest looking it up because you may be surprised.

Frugal fall summary

Overall, there are so many great ways to take advantage of the fall season for free. It seems crazy to me that most people don’t even know about the options available to them in their area. But, with everything going on recently, I think more people have opened their eyes to the possibilities they were never aware of previously. And this can only be a boon to all cities and states across the United States.

Ultimately, get outside and check out what your city has to offer. Check out the festivals that may be going on around you, take some nature walks, go on a leaf tour or two, and check out what your Parks and Rec department has available. You won’t be disappointed in your options and you may even be pleasantly surprised.

What are some of the best ways you have been able to enjoy some frugal fall activities in your area?

How to Create a Frugal and Delicious Salad Dressing

If you’re someone, like me, who loves a good salad, then this article is for you. I detest the store bought salad dressings. Not only are they much too expensive for what you get, but I am not a fan of the ingredients. Plus, when you make your own salad dressing, you can give it any flavor you want. And for so much cheaper, and healthier, than any of the store bought stuff. So, if you want to make your own delicious salad dressing, frugally, then read on.

Olive Oil

When it comes to a good salad dressing base, olive oil is the way to go. Not only is it full of good healthy Omega 3 fats, but it’s extremely diverse. There are many different types of olive oil you can go with, so the price points will vary. I typically prefer to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Greek region when possible. Sometimes I’ll go with the Italian olive oil if I can’t find any of my usual Greek stuff.

Usually, I’m able to find a few different options at Trader Joe’s. More often than not, I will spend between $6.99 – $8.99 for a bottle. This bottle can typically last me close to a month. But, if you want to get really fancy, and your budget will allow it, you could check out one of the olive oil and vinegar stores. This option is a big splurge for us. But, every now and then we get a wild hair and decide to purchase some of the flavor infused olive oils.

Balsamic Vinegar

Once you have your olive oil sorted out, next comes the balsamic vinegar. I can tell you that I was not a fan of vinegar for the majority of my life. Until my spouse opened my eyes to the fact that not all vinegar’s are created equally. I had apparently only been exposed to more of the table vinegar, which is not nearly as flavorful as balsamic is.

Once he opened my eyes to the diverse, and robust, flavor profiles of balsamic vinegar, my world changed. Currently, we have 5 different balsamic vinegar choices to use in our salad dressings. We have:

  • Mission Fig
  • Neapolitan Herb
  • Plum
  • Oak Aged
  • Cherry Wood Aged

All of these have completely different flavors and work well with certain foods. My two favorites currently are the Mission Fig and the Cherry Wood Aged because I love the little bit of sweetness they have that the others don’t. Depending upon what I put in my salad is how I determine which option might work the best.

And just like with olive oil, balsamic vinegar prices can range widely. The 5 we have range between $4.99 – $12.99 per bottle. So, if you haven’t dipped your toe into the balsamic vinegar land yet, it might be best to start out with one of the cheaper options to see if you like it. I can tell you that the more expensive ones tend to be a bit more balanced and smooth though.

Spices

After you have the olive oil and vinegar worked out, the last thing to add are your spices. A lot of people only think about adding salt or pepper to their dressings. We don’t actually add either regularly. In fact, I never add salt of any kind to my salad dressings. Sometimes I will add some cracked black pepper. But, typically I like to add some spice blends that are already made because they change the flavor so much.

I get a lot of my spice blends from Trader Joe’s. They do a good job of creating some delicious, and interesting choices. Plus, all of their spices are pretty darn frugal. My favorites recently are:

  • 21 Salute
  • South African Smoke
  • Chili Lime Seasoning Blend
  • Cuban Style Citrusy Garlic
  • Ajika Georgian Seasoning Blend

Out of all of these, my two favorite go-to’s lately are the 21 Salute and the Ajika Georgian. The former is a bit more on the herby side, while the latter is more on the smokey side. And most of the time I can find these spices for somewhere between $2.99-$3.99.

How to put together your salad dressing

How you choose to put together your salad dressing is completely up to you. But we typically do it one of two ways. The first way we make it is our most common since it makes things easy to switch up daily.

All we do is pour some olive oil on the salad greens, followed by the balsamic vinegar of our choosing. Sprinkle the spice blend on top of that and use your hands to mix the whole thing around.

If you want to make a larger batch, then I suggest a 3:1 proportion of olive oil to balsamic. Then add your spices to taste. Put all of this in an old salad dressing container or empty bottle that will store well. Shake it up and pour over your salad. Since all of these items are shelf stable, you don’t need to refrigerate this dressing either.

Salad Dressing Summary

Overall, it’s exceptionally easy to make your own salad dressing that’s both delicious and frugal. Just mix all of your ingredients together and mix up with your salad greens. If I purchase my ingredients on the lower end of the price points, then I’m looking at somewhere around $15 for a good month of so of salad dressing. Maybe even longer if I stretch it out, since you don’t need as much of this type of dressing. A little goes a long way with the olive oil based dressings.

If you’ve tried making your own salad dressing before, what has been your favorite way to make it frugal, delicious and healthy?

How to Frugally Feed Your Dog, Yet Well

When it comes to being a pet owner, there are so many ways to feed your dog that it can make my head spin. The amount of misinformation floating around out there is mind blowing, to be honest. Plus there’s the amount of dog foods and treats that are exceptionally overpriced but really not great for your dog. It’s amazing to me how many choices there are today, and how little cohesion there is between experts as to what is actually good for your dog.

Luckily for me, I have an educational background in this specific area. So, when we got a puppy last winter, it was much easier for me to weed through the noise. And by doing so, I’ve been able to find the best options for puppy, and all other dogs and cats we help through our business. So, the following are my best tips to help you frugally feed your dog, yet well.

Dog snacks

Besides dog food, the first thing I think of when it comes to feeding dogs are snacks. Most people only think of treats. But treats should be just that; only a treat. With dog snacks, these are things I add in regularly throughout the day or week to supplement feeding time. Plus, a lot of these work really well for training dogs too.

My favorite go-to dog snacks (always organic as long as I can find them) are:

  • Baby carrots – high in Vitamin C, Antioxidants, Fiber and Potassium
  • Sugar snap peas – high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Antioxidants and Fiber
  • Green beans – high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folate, Silicone and Fiber
  • Beets (all colors) – high in Vitamin C, Vitamin B9, Iron, Fiber and Potassium
  • Salad greens – high in Magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Fiber, Folate, Calcium and Beta Carotene
  • Nuts (usually peanuts or chestnuts, but sometime also walnuts, pecans, cashews and/or pistachios) – with all nuts, they shouldn’t be given too many of them but can be an addition to other snacks. I usually only give nuts maybe once a week or so, and even then only 1 or 2. Nuts are high in protein and can have a lot of other health benefits. But they can also cause issues if there is mold cross-contamination or if your dog has any gastrointestinal issues or are prone to swallowing things whole.

food additions

When it comes to dog food, that is probably a completely different article. However, since dog food can be so expensive, I’ve found ways to stretch it further. By adding some good, healthy food additions to my dog’s food, I am able to save a lot of money. Plus, I’m able to give her some added diversity in her diet. By creating diversity in my dog’s diet, I am assisting her gut microbiome health. And this directly impacts her overall immunity and wellness.

I not only add some of these food additions to our dog’s diet, but also for some of the dogs we watch. This is especially true of the older dogs or dogs who already have some health issues.

  • Organic beef broth – fantastic for dogs with arthritis or any other joint issues
  • Brown rice – high in Fiber and Magnesium, plus it stretches the food out much further
  • Organic low-sodium vegetable broth – perfect for introducing more vegetables into your dog’s diet and stretching their food further
  • Coconut oil – great for skin, coat, eyes, teeth, digestive tract, immune system, breath, etc
  • Green sauce (we make it out of organic beef broth and parsley, but sometimes add in some rosemary also if we have any fresh growing in our garden) – this helps tremendously with dogs that have UTI’s digestive issues and/or arthritis.

Our puppy gets a tablespoon of coconut oil added to one of her meals a day. She has had this since the day we brought her home. We have also added some beef broth into her meal a few times a week for added diversity.

dog treats

Dog treats should be treated just like dessert for us humans. And most dog owner’s have a tendency to give way too many treats. When doing this, you can cause a lot of harmful side effects for your fur baby, on top of the most common, obesity. Therefore, if you want to give treats, that’s awesome, but limit them to just treats.

We only give treats very sporadically so that they aren’t an expected part of any routine. We did use them more when we were housebreaking our puppy, but that is generally to be expected. Outside of that, I only give them sparingly. And I make sure they are high quality treats and not full of junk.

That being said, I am not a huge fan of most dog treats on the market. But a few of my favorites are:

While these may seem a bit pricey online, I’ve actually been able to find them for dirt cheap at Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Homegoods. So I would suggest roaming the pet aisle there regularly to see what treats you can find to feed your dog.

frugally feed your dog summary

Ultimately, when it comes to feeding your dog, there are a lot of different ways you can save money. While we all love our dogs, we don’t have to break the bank to do it. So, just remember to add in some:

  • healthy snacks
  • good food additions to stretch your budget further
  • healthy dog treats

If you’re able to do even one of those, it should not only save you some money, but also create a happier dog. Now who doesn’t want that?

4 Ways to Frugally Travel With Your Pet

Since most of us have not gotten our travel fix in the past year or so, it’s about time to hit the road again. And we aren’t any different in that we can’t wait to explore the world again. But, now that we have our own pet, we had to look into ways to reduce the costs. Therefore, here are the 4 best ways we’ve found to frugally travel with your pet.

1. DRIVING

One of our favorite options, and usually the cheapest when traveling, is driving. Of course, isn’t always an option, depending upon where you live and where you’re going. But, if it’s a viable option, it can save you a ton of money. Plus, you get the experience of seeing things on the road that you would otherwise miss.

We’ve really enjoyed our summer road trips because we run across so many things we didn’t even know existed. And if you are traveling with a pet, like we are, this can make the whole trip easier. It gives us a chance to travel as a whole family, but doesn’t add too much more cost to our travel budget. And since we’ll probably need to stop more often for potty breaks, we’ll have more of a chance to stretch our legs and check out our surroundings.

2. TRUSTED HOUSESITTERS

As soon as I found out about Trusted Housesitters, I fell in love with the idea. Trusted Housesitters pairs people needing a pet sitter while they’re away with others who want to watch their pets, and their homes, in exchange for free lodging. Since we are huge fans of both pets and free lodging, it’s hard to go wrong here.

Not all Trusted Housesitters options will allow you to bring your own pet with you. So, you’ll need to narrow down your options within the platform to only allow those that do.

If you know the dates you want to travel, then you can search anywhere around the world for options. But, if you’re choosing to save as much as possible when you travel with your pet, you should probably only consider options that are within driving distance. Pairing the two options together can really help you save a ton of money. This is because the driving and the lodging won’t cost you anything extra at all to bring your pet with you. Huge bonus!

3. AIRBNB

Airbnb is another great option when you want to frugally travel with your pet. While it will cost money, unlike Trusted Housesitters, the fee to bring your pet can be nominal. And, since Airbnb is offered in nearly every country, the possibilities of where you can travel are fairly limitless.

With Airbnb, the host will note if pets are allowed and which type. You can even filter your possible options by going to the Airbnb Pet-Friendly link directly.

If you aren’t sure where you want to go yet, all you have to do is enter the following information to pull up a ton of choices:

  • Check-in date
  • Check-out date
  • How many adults
  • How many children
  • How many pets

Once again, though, if you want to save the most money, it’s wiser to choose options that are within driving distance. Flying with a pet can get pretty pricey, depending upon the airline and the size of your pet.

4. pet friendly NO COST HOTELS

Most hotels charge an additional pet fee to have your pet stay with you. Mostly, this is because of the extra cost of cleaning up after your pet when you leave. And if your pet destroys anything in the room (due to scratching or chewing) the fees can really add up. Hotels aren’t generally big fans of this, so their added pet fees reflect their attitude towards pet destruction.

Luckily, a few hotels have become a lot more pet friendly because they want to attract a different audience. Therefore, these 4 hotels may be the best bet for you to frugally travel with your pet at no extra cost.

ALOFT HOTELS

Aloft hotels will let any pet under 40 pounds stay for free. Plus, they also offer complimentary bowls, blankets and toys upon request. Pretty awesome, right?

KIMPTON HOTELS

The Kimpton hotel chain don’t have pet fees for just your cats and dogs, but other pets as well. This hotel chain usually offer beds, bowls, blankets and treats. But some of them are even fancier and offer more pet amenities, including pet massages! Plus, each hotel has a Director of Pet Relations and a Pet Concierge that can help pet owners find anything they might need to make their stay even better. This is really cool!

MOTEL 6

If you’re looking at more of a motel option, then you may want to check out Motel 6. will let up to two service dogs or well behave pets stay for free. They will even let your children stay for free too, as long as they are well behaved!

RED ROOF INN

Red Roof Inn is another lower cost option, like Motel 6. They will let up to one pet per guest room stay for free. The weight limit can vary between property types though. So, it can be either up to 40 pounds or up to 80 pounds, based on whether it’s a Red Collection property or any of the other Red Roof Inn property types.

TRAVEL WITH YOUR PET SUMMARY

Ultimately, there are so many awesome ways to frugally travel with your pets for low or no additional cost. Some of our favorites are:

  • Driving
  • Trusted Housesitters
  • Airbnb
  • Pet friendly no cost hotels

Overall, I always want to have the best experience with my family (pets included) for as little as I can get away with. So, combining driving with one of the other options is the best way to achieve that, in my book, at least.

What are some of the best ways you’ve found to frugally travel with your pet?

How Getting an Air Fryer Has Saved Time and Money

We’ve been holdouts on the air fryer hype. It’s not that we didn’t necessarily see the potential. It’s just that we have so many kitchen appliances and gadgets already. And we didn’t know if we really wanted to spend more money on something we might only use occasionally. But, a few friends convinced us to research them some more. We were told that getting an air fryer has saved them a ton of time and some money also. So, after some research, we decided to dive right in.

Deciding which air fryer to get

The first thing we had to decide was which air fryer would suite us best. Since we have 5 kids, we knew we would need something a bit bigger than the norm. One of our friends has a two basket air fryer. But the $400 price tag was a bit more than we planned to spend on an experiment. After all, we were hoping to use the air fryer to help incorporate even more healthy foods for the kids. But we didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg to do so.

Another friend told us about the air fryer he had. While it only had one basket, it was a larger basket than most other air fryers. Plus, it was a multi-function tool also. This particular air fryer could replace the toaster and the oven. It could bake, broil, toast and air fry. Which was pretty cool in our book!

Therefore, we ended up getting the Cuisinart TOA-60 for under $200. Which was half the cost of the other one we were recommended! We chose the black stainless steel color because all of the other appliances in our kitchen are either black or are being converted to black.

How it has saved us time

So far, this thing has saved us an amazing amount of time. This is due to the fact that it cooks so much faster than our double oven does. Plus, we don’t have to wait for it to heat up either. As soon as we put food into the air frying basket, we can pop it in. We just choose the setting we want, the amount of cook time and then turn it on.

A great example of this is sweet potato fries. Normally, it takes our oven about 10 minutes to heat up. Then, the fries have to cook for anywhere between 22 – 28 minutes. But with our new air fryer, they only take 10 minutes to cook, max. And no heating up time required!

We can also prepare meals faster with it because we are using it in addition to our oven. When we have multiple dishes that need to be cooked, we choose the longest cook time items to go in there. This way we are able to get the food out faster, so we spend more time with our family instead of in the kitchen.

And the clean up is super fast also. The fryer basket comes with a pan underneath it that we just take out and clean with warm soapy water. Or, sometimes we put foil on the pan to make clean up even faster.

How it has saved us money

Let’s face it, electricity costs money. And if we have to wait for our oven to preheat for at least 10 minutes, plus add in the cooking time, that’s a lot of electricity being used. Since we are trying to cut down on our electricity bill, it only made sense to try out the air fryer.

By cooking what we can in the new kitchen device instead of our old oven, it has saved us money right out of the gate. The air fryer cost less than a new more energy efficient oven and it has a lot of space for cooking. Plus, it cooks in anywhere from 1/4 – 1/3 the time of our oven. And it pulls less power to operate also. So, we are interested to see if our next electric bill reflects this change.

Air Fryer summary

Ultimately, we are thrilled that we finally took the leap to get one of these bad boys. If you are thinking about taking the plunge, it’s best to determine your needs first. There are so many different sizes, looks and versions on the market. Therefore, there is bound to be a good fit for you within your price range. And even though $200 was more than we originally wanted to spend on an air fryer, it has totally been worth every penny. We just can’t get enough of this thing!

Have you bought an air fryer yet? If so, how has it helped you save time and/or money?

These are Awesome Natural Mosquito Repellents!

With the spring almost here, the warmer weather is upon us. And, in a lot of areas, that means it’s also time for mosquitoes to start showing back up again. I know where we are, it’s the bane of our outdoor time. Mosquitoes are not only annoying, but can carry disease, along with some major scratching once you’ve been bitten. We aren’t fans of anything chemical to treat them with, since those things cause other side effects to the environment. Plus they can get pretty expensive to maintain also. So, we’ve found some of the best natural mosquito repellents that do the job well and don’t cost  much to implement.

Citronella

Citronella is one of my favorite go to plants for mosquito repellents. If you’ve ever had a citronella scented candle you know what it smells like. And, while it can be a pretty darn good mosquito repellent, not everyone likes the smell.

What I’ve found is that the actual citronella plant has a slightly different odor that I like much better. It’s not as artificial smelling and keeps the mosquitoes away pretty darn well. Plus, they make beautiful borders for garden beds because they can get very full and have beautiful leaves.

An even better way to keep the mosquitoes away with citronella is to crush up a couple of the leaves and rub them on your exposed skin.

Lavender

Lavender is very similar to the citronella plant at repelling mosquitoes. But, it has much more color to add to your garden or landscaping. One of my favorite places to plant the lavender plant is by the front porch. This way, guests get the lovely scent of lavender as they approach our front door. But, as a double bonus, the plants also help keep the mosquitoes at bay.

I like to crush up a stalk of lavender and rub it on my skin whenever I am getting ready to garden. But another great way to use it is to make a spray out of the lavender essential oil, since it is so easy to come by.

basil

Out of all of the mosquito repellents, basil is my absolute favorite option. A big part of this is that we use a lot of basil in our cooking already. So the basil plant has a double function in our house right out of the gate.

I like to plant this one in the corners of our herb garden to help mosquito prevention while I’m working in the garden. Take one or two leaves and crush them up in your hands and then rub on the exposed skin. It makes you smell like a delicious salad, which I love!

rosemary

Rosemary serves the same function as basil does. So, the rosemary plant is a good option to add into your border rotation in the garden along with the basil. And, if you like to add rosemary to your culinary dishes, then this plant serves two purposes for you immediately also. Plus, rosemary is pretty darn easy to grow.

But, you should be careful with rosemary because it doesn’t take much for it to take over your garden. It’s a vigorous grower. So, I’ve found the best way to incorporate it into our garden is by putting it in big pots. This way I can also move them around, if need be, but they also won’t take over any of my other crops.

marigolds

Marigolds are very popular in most areas of the United States. These plants are brightly colored and make great borders for landscaping beds and/or around mailboxes. I’ve used them quite a few times for both their color and their mosquito repellent properties.

Usually, the marigold plant can be found in shades of yellow, gold, orange and tinges of red. So they make great additions to most landscapes. They are extremely easy to plant and care for, and are fantastic insect repellents. I like to plant these around the edges of where my kids play and in some of the corners of landscaping beds. But, since they are annuals, they will have to be replanted each year. Which I am not a huge fan of. But since they are pretty darn cost effective, it can be worth it to purchase a few plants each year.

geraniums

Geraniums are very similar to marigolds in that they come in some beautiful coloring options. More often than not, I put these in a pot on the front and back porches. And that is usually where I find other people tend to put them also. They are easy to grow and care for, and in a lot of cases can bloom all year long.

They don’t do well in the cold though. So if you choose to add the geranium plant into your rotation, it’s best to pot it. This way you can bring it in when it gets cold and enjoy the beautiful colors and aroma inside during the winter.

best natural mosquito repellents summary

Ultimately, there are quite a few natural ways to repel mosquitoes. But, my favorite ways all include plants. Luckily, none of these plant options are very expensive. And most of them are perennials, so you won’t necessarily have to repurchase them every year, if conditions are right. If you plan it out right, you can get some lovely smelling and looking additions to your landscape and repel mosquitoes at the same time. This is what I call multitasking!

How We Plan to Celebrate Super Bowl During COVID

Let’s face it, COVID has changed how all of us live our lives. And this includes how we get together and celebrate even the little things in life. Since the Super Bowl is almost upon us, this is something we have certainly been thinking about recently. We usually go to a big Super Bowl party every year with friends and family. But this year it seems that may not be the best way to celebrate and still stay safe. So, here are the ways we are contemplating celebrating Super Bowl during COVID this year.

how can we Celebrate Super Bowl During covid?

The first thing we have to decide with regard to a Super Bowl party is whether or not to have a socially distanced party or celebrate it virtually. The decision will not be the same for all of us, but ultimately you need to decide which of these options makes the most sense for you and your family.

If the socially distanced Super Bowl party makes the most sense for you, then there are some great ways you can make this work effectively and economically. These include:

  • Provide football themed masks available for your guests or ask that all guests wear a football themed mask upon arrival
  • Masks should be worn whenever guest are not eating or drinking
  • Space seating areas 6’ apart for different groups (so that families can still sit together but still socially distance)
  • Set up smaller food stations in multiple areas of the house
  • Have a separate beverage station that only one person will be managing to minimize contact
  • Have different viewing screens in different areas inside and outside, when possible

However, if having a virtual Super Bowl party feels more comfortable for you instead, then that can be fairly easily achieved also. Some good ways to pull this off are:

  • Pick a designated time to begin your virtual streaming call with friends and family
  • Set up your food and beverage table within sight of your streaming device so all your friends and family can see how cool your football themed table is
  • Share food and beverage recipes ahead of time
  • Spitball games to play during commercials and/or half time
  • Participants in the virtual games can put money into the pot via a money payment app to avoid contact
  • Create some fun contests for everyone to participate in

super bowl party must haves

Once you’ve narrowed down which kind of Super Bowl party you’re having, then it’s time to dig into the must haves for a great party. All of these party items should be multifunctional so that you can use them for other things throughout the year. This way, you can help minimize the overall cost since you will be using them for more than just one party.

No matter what, there are a few must haves that can really make your Super Bowl party shine. These items should include:

  • Larger TV or projector for viewing the game
  • Super Bowl themed games
  • One or two good grills
  • Diverse grilling tool set
  • Party food & beverages
  • Serving dishes

TV or Projector Options

The TV will be the most expensive thing on the list, but there are ways to make this work. If you already have a great TV that will do the job well, then adding a projector might just be a great way to go. These have become much more economical in the past few years and can be moved around to so many different places. I found a great projector that comes with a screen for under $100, which I think is awesome. This way we can move it to a completely different room, or possibly even outside to show the game on the side of the house. And, this is something we could use all year long, which helps offset the initial cost.

But, if you don’t have a great TV, now is a really good time to buy one. The end of January through Super Bowl weekend is usually when a lot of companies have the deepest discounts on TV’s. So, keep an eye out for great deals on 65″ – 75″ TV’s during this time. They will definitely cost you more money than the projector, but this is another item you can easily use all year long.

Super Bowl Themed Games

There are plenty of games to choose from when it’s party time. So, if you already have some favorites, then start with those. For us, personally, there are two games we really like to play during the Super Bowl especially.

The football squares game is a huge Super Bowl party past time for us. This game can be played during Super Bowl, but also with all other sports games throughout the year. Each player chooses squares on the board they think will be winners and if they are correct they win the pot at the end of each quarter. Each column and row have on number on them and will denote the last number in the score for each team at the end of the quarter. This game can be a lot of fun, but get super competitive, so watch out! And this is a really good game to celebrate Super Bowl during COVID since you don’t need to have physical contact with one another.

Another favorite party game we like to play is cornhole. This game can be seen at parties and bars all over the US recently, so it is much easier to find now. If you aren’t sure which team you want to root for, then you can choose a cornhole set that is just sports themed so you can play it all year long for any football games. Overall, though, this is a fun backyard game just to have on hand for every day fun, Super Bowl party or not.

Grills

Having the right grill, or grills, is an essential part of any party, Super Bowl or otherwise. We actually like to have two grills on hand to begin with. One is a larger grill for feeding our whole family or party purposes. While the second grill is a smaller tabletop grill to bring out at parties or for traveling. If you don’t plan to do a lot of grilling throughout the year, then the smaller tabletop version may just be a perfect fit for you.

Either way, you can pick up a grill for fairly cheap in most cases. And since we prefer to cook with charcoal, these grills are usually a lot cheaper than the gas versions. Of course, there are also some hybrid grill options out there now that are charcoal but have a gas igniter, which are pretty cool. No matter which version, or versions, of the grill you go with, make sure it be used throughout the year to help offset the costs of the purchase.

Grilling Tool Sets

Once the grill has been sorted out, grilling tools are the next natural step. We prefer to keep two sets of diverse grilling tool sets on hand. A big part of this isn’t necessarily for parties, but they come in handy then too. But we use one set for indoor cooking/grilling and another specifically for outdoor grilling/cooking. Either way, these sets can be pretty easy to find and very cost effective. So, if you plan to have a Super Bowl party, this is when having more than one set can really help.

Getting a smaller set for more everyday use that has 2-4 pieces is a great way to start. But, if you want to get really fancy, you can upgrade to a huge multipiece grilling set with all the bells and whistles. In most cases, you can pick a pretty decent grilling tool set up easily for under $20, and sometimes even under $10. So this is one thing that certainly won’t break the bank.

Party Food & Beverages

No Super Bowl party is complete without a great selection of food and beverages. Of course, everyone is going to have a different idea of which types of food and beverages they want to have. But, here is a list of some of our favorite options:

  • Chicken wings
  • Chips
  • Cocktail wieners
  • Dips
  • Football cookies
  • Hamburgers
  • Hot dogs
  • Meatballs
  • Potato skins
  • Sliders
  • Beer (bottles, cans or a keg)
  • Football themed mixed drinks (Tequila Touchdown)
  • Wine

Ultimately, it’s great to have others brings some of their favorite football party food also. Since providing all of the food for a party can really do some damage to your budget, having a pot luck can really help offset the costs.

Serving Dishes

Once you have decided what food and beverages you will be having at your party, then it’s time to figure out what you will be serving them in. Some of my favorite options are:

  • Football themed party set (usually has plates, napkins, silverware, cups)
  • Large party napkins
  • Paper or plastic plates (different sizes usually come in handy)
  • Disposable silverware
  • Disposable Cups (with a marker to write guests names on the cups)
  • Tongs (disposable plastic kind or the metal heavier kind)
  • Football shaped chip and dip platter
  • Larger round serving platter or two
  • Tiered serving stands
  • Chafers and sternos for keeping food warm
  • Large cooler for beers and cold food

How to Celebrate Super Bowl During COVID Summary

Overall, there are quite a few different ways we can choose to celebrate Super Bowl during COVID. And each way will be totally up to you and your individual situation. But ultimately, the Super Bowl is a great time of year where a lot of us can get together to socialize and cheer on our favorite team. Along with laugh at some of the crazy half time commercials! But, because of COVID, we have to be a lot more careful how we celebrate with each other. Whether we celebrate by social distancing or virtually, there is still a lot of the same party items and food involved. We can stay safe but still have a great time. And here’s hoping the Super Bowl next year will be back to normal!

How do you plan to celebrate Super Bowl during COVID this year?

Some of My Favorite Shopping Apps This Holiday Season

The holidays are upon us once again. And with only a few shopping days left, we have to make the most of it. But, with holiday shopping can sometimes come holiday debt. That is the last thing any of us want. Therefore, I have found some great shopping apps that can help you save more money. Plus, they can be used all year long for any shopping possible to save even more. This is what I call a shopping win!

 IBOTTA

Ibotta has been one of my favorite shopping apps for quite awhile now. With Ibotta, you can either shop in person or online. If you choose to shop online, you have to shop directly within the Ibotta app in order to get the rebate. If you shop in person, you have to upload an image of your receipt in the app to get the rebate.

A lot of the rebates go across multiple stores, which makes shopping even easier. However, I usually look up the store I am planning to shop at first to see what Ibotta rebates are being currently offered first. Then, if I find items that I am thinking about buying, I will see which other stores they might be offered at within Ibotta. Once you find items you plan to purchase, then click the plus sign to add them to your list before you can earn the rebate.

Once you go through all of the steps, your rebate will show up in your Ibotta account fairly quickly. Sometimes I have seen mine as quickly as 5 minutes later. But more often than not, I see the rebate the next day. Some stores are now automatically connected to your shopping rewards number with that store. And in those cases, the rebates will be automatically added to your account within 24 hours. I like this even more because I don’t have to scan anything. Just remember to use your store shopping rewards information when you check out in store so that you can get the Ibotta rewards.

Cash Out Ibotta Rewards

But that’s not the only way to earn money with Ibotta. They have regular rewards categories and group participation bonuses to help you earn more faster. Click under the “Earn More” tab to find other ways to add more money to your account. Some of the ways to earn more include:

  • refer a friend
  • working with your team to hit the monthly bonus amount
  • purchasing a specific featured product
  • purchasing a specific group of products

Once your Ibotta account reaches $20, you can cash it out. PayPal is the primary way to redeem your Ibotta rewards, but they also offer some gift card options too. In fact, I just recently cashed out my Ibotta rewards balance for an Amazon gift card. And then I used that gift card to buy Christmas presents for the family. Now that’s a win!

RAKUTEN EBATES

Another one of my favorite apps/extensions is Rakuten. I have this on both my computer as an extension and on my phone as an app. If you put it on your computer, then it runs in the background anytime you are shopping on a website. It will pop up and tell you if there are any current rebate offers for that seller. Which, during the holiday season, are much higher than normal, so take advantage!

If there is a current rebate with Rakuten, then just click on the “Activate % Cash Back” button at the top right-hand side of your screen. Once you’ve completed that, you are on your way to getting cash back rebates.

If you choose to use the app on your phone, you have to launch your shopping trip directly from the app, just like Ibotta. Once you purchase something that qualifies for a rebate, you’ll get an email with the store and the amount you will receive. That amount will be deposited into your Rakuten account within a couple of days, usually.

Their cash out method is slightly different than Ibotta, though. They send a “Big Fat Check” every quarter for whatever you happen to have in your account. It can be sent as a physical check or you can connect your bank account for them to direct deposit it to. I prefer the latter method, personally.

Honey

Honey is another app/extension that I have been using for years now. This one is very similar to both Ibotta and Rakuten. Except that it helps to find coupon codes online and then apply them to your checkout order to save you money.

Any time you shop online, Honey will pop up on merchant pages that they work with to tell you how many coupon codes they have. When you are ready to check out, just click on the pop up and it will run through all of the coupon codes to see which one gets you the biggest discount, if any. Then it will automatically apply it. This can potentially save a lot of time scouring the internet for coupon codes. And I know it has helped me save a lot of money that I otherwise might not have.

On top of saving you money on your purchases, you could also qualify to earn Honey Gold. The gold points accumulate in your account until you reach a minimum of 1,000 coins and then you can cash them out for gift card rewards. It just doesn’t get any sweeter!

COUPONCABIN

CouponCabin is another hybrid app, like Honey. They not only have coupons for thousands of different websites, but they also offer rebates up to 10% off on some sites. Take, for example, right now they have a $100 bonus on any order over $100 purchased from Kohl’s. That can really help you ring in the savings this holiday season!

Plus, you get a $2 bonus cash back reward just for signing up. And if you add the app to your phone and shop within a certain amount of time, you get another $5 bonus. The payout methods are a little more diverse than some of the other options. With CouponCabin, you can cash out your balance to:

  • Amazon gift card (they give you an extra 10% back for using this method)
  • Check
  • Chase payments
  • Charitable donation
  • Direct deposit
  • PayPal

This gives you a lot more leeway with what you can do with your rewards.

BEST Holiday Shopping APPS SUMMARY

Ultimately, there isn’t much time left to get your holiday shopping done. But, by adding some, or all of these shopping apps to your arsenal, you are bound to save more money. Plus, you can even earn money for future purchases. Which is what I call a huge holiday win-win!

What are some of your favorite shopping apps?

How We Are Planning to Safely Spend Thanksgiving During COVID-19

The holidays this year are going to look a bit different. Of course we all hope we will come out of this sooner rather than later, but COVID-19 has definitely affected every aspect of our lives. And a big part of that has to do with how we celebrate. Usually we celebrate the holidays in a larger group since we have a pretty big family. But since we are all still supposed to be socially distancing, that isn’t going to happen this year. So here is how we are planning to safely spend Thanksgiving with our family during COVID-19.

safely spend Thanksgiving

Some of our immediate family is within the same city and have been socially distancing. So, we are considering getting together with that part of the family for Thanksgiving. However, if we do, then we will still be changing up our configuration a bit in the name of safety.

Just because we aren’t supposed to be gathering in large groups in indoor, confined spaces doesn’t mean we can’t get together. It just means that we have to make our group smaller and get together in outdoor spaces instead. This actually works great for us because we have a large two story deck and one of my siblings has a deck and a screened in porch. So we have two options where we can seat family members and serve food safely.

Thanksgiving Food Stations

One of the ways we are planning to optimize either option is by setting up different food stations. This way we can control the flow of traffic into different areas to keep with social distancing practices.

One of the possible layouts for our different stations include:

  • Beverages section
  • Bread/rolls section
  • Cranberry/fruit section
  • Dessert section
  • Meat station (turkey and ham)
  • Potato station
  • Vegetable station

With this many different sections we are helping our family to safely spend Thanksgiving together. But, if we want to go one step further, we could also release one table at a time to get their food and drinks. This is how it is typically done in the catering world. And since I worked in that world for many years, I am very familiar with the tactics and smooth implementation.

Plus, if we all bring a few different dishes, that can help make Thanksgiving more budget friendly for all of us. We we could all definitely use!

Virtual Thanksgiving

Since not all of our family will be able to join in the celebration this year, we have to get creative. And since all of our birthday parties this year have been virtual already, we are getting pretty good at this. The important part is that we have still been able to see each other and celebrate, and it looks like Thanksgiving will be no different.

For the family members that aren’t going to be able to join us in person, we are considering having a joint Thanksgiving. Meaning that we plan to talk with them ahead of time about a menu. The goal is to try and have all of the same foods that we normally would so that we can experience them together still. But what that means is that we will have to learn how to make some recipes that may be a little out of our wheelhouse. Which sounds like a really fun idea to me!.

And on top of that, we are thinking about trying to decorate each table similarly. The hope is that this will make us all feel like we are in the same place celebrating.

Safely Spend Thanksgiving Together Summary

No matter what, this Thanksgiving will be different. But, this gives us a chance to think outside the box and come up with some new creative ways to be together. We will still get to enjoy the food, family and laughter just like every other year. But, we may not all be together in the exact same spot doing it. And that is okay. As long as we are able to find ways to safely spend Thanksgiving together, I am still excited by the holiday. And the joy it brings to all of us, especially in this very trying year.

How have you and your family decided to safely spend Thanksgiving together during COVID-19?

Frugal Fall Treats to Make with the Whole Family

With the lovely fall season comes a whole lot of delicious flavor profiles. While not everyone is a huge fan of the pumpkin overload, I happen to love the fall flavors. And so do the rest of our family. So it is a season that we look forward to all year long. But, some of these treats can get pretty expensive sometimes. This is especially true because all of our recipes are gluten free. So we have found a few of our favorite frugal fall treats to pass along to you so you can enjoy this season on a budget also.

Mini cheesecakes

I have been making these mini cheesecakes for years now. Everyone loves them and they are so simple to make. You can add in any surprise you want to the bottom also, to create more diversity. We like to use Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter cups.

  • 2 packages Cream Cheese (8 oz each) – $2.68 per package x 2 = $5.36
  • 2 Eggs – $2.46 per dozen/6 = $.41
  • ½ Cup Sugar – 32 oz bag = $3.75/4 = $.94
  • ½ tsp Vanilla – 2 oz bottle = $2.14/24 = $.09
  • 6 Gluten Free Graham Crackers – $5.36 per box (14 crackers per box)/14 = $.38 per cracker x 6 = $2.28
  • 4 Tbsp Butter (1/2 stick) – 1 lb = $4.29/8 = $.54
  • 12 Mini Reese’s (or regular) size Peanut Butter Cups – $3.20 per bag/40 pieces per bag = $.08 x 12 pieces = $.96

Total per batch = $10.58 or $.88 per cheesecake

Recipe

This recipe is pretty simple, which makes it easy to include your kids. I can tell you that my kids favorite part is opening all of the Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter cups and putting them in the top of each crust.

Recipe:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Open cream cheese and place in a large mixing bowl to come to room temperature. You may want to do this an hour or so before you plan to begin, just so that it is softened enough to work with.
  • Grind GF Graham Crackers in a Bullet, Vitamix, or good old fashioned blender.
  • Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl.
  • Add GF Graham Crackers to melted butter and stir until crackers are thoroughly soaked
  • Line muffin pan with muffin tins/liners.
  • Using your hands, press each muffin tin with the graham cracker/butter crust.
  • Open all Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and place one on top of the crust in each muffin tin.
  • Add eggs, sugar, and vanilla into the large mixing bowl with cream cheese.
  • Mix on medium speed until smooth, approximately 4 – 10 minutes.
  • Spoon cream cheese mixture to each lined muffin tin until approximately 3/4 full
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, depending on oven.
  • Check with a toothpick to make sure they are done and then let cool at room temperature.
  • Remove them from the muffin tin once they are cooled.
  • ENJOY!

One of the biggest perks to these is that you can put different surprises inside each one, if you want to get really creative. And each one is just enough for a good serving, so you don’t have to worry about eating too much or making a huge mess.

Butternut Squash soup

Butternut squash soup is a newer addition to our favorite frugal fall treats. But, it is not only delicious but really nutritious also. Bonus!

The ingredients, and costs, are as follows:

  • 1 Whole Butternut Squash – $1.99 per squash
  • 4 Shallots – $1.99 (per bag of 9)/9 = $.22 each x 4 = $.88
  • 4 Cloves of Garlic – $.99 (3 bulbs per package)/3 = $.33 each/12 (cloves per bulb) = $.028 x 4 = $.11
  • 4 cups Low Sodium Vegetable Broth – $1.99 per 4 cup container
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil – $6.99 (per 1 L bottle = 66 Tbsp)/66 = $.11 x 2 = $.22
  • 3 Sprigs of Fresh Thyme – $1.69 (20 sprigs per package)/20 = $.085 each x 3 = $.25
  • ½ tsp Salt – $1.49 (per 4.5 oz jar w/grinder)/ 135 (servings per jar, 1/8 tsp each) = $.01 x 4 = $.04
  • ¼ tsp Smoked Paprika – $5.49 (per 1 oz jar)/40 (servings per jar, ¼ tsp each) = $.14
  • ¼ tsp Cinnamon – 5.49 (per .8 oz jar)/36 (servings per jar, ¼ tsp each) = $.15
  • 1/8 tsp Nutmeg – $4.29 (per 1 oz jar)/36 (servings per jar, ¼ tsp each) = $.12/2 = $.06
  • 2 Bay Leaves – $2.95 (per ½ oz bag)/30 (per bag, approximately) = $.098 x 2 = $.20
  • 2 Tbsp Pomegranate Seeds – $1.59 per whole pomegranate/16 = $.10 each x 2 = $.20
  • ½ oz Arugula – $2.49 (7 oz package)/7 per oz = $.36/2 = $.18

Total Price: $6.41 or $1.60 per bowl

I can tell you that this is a heck of a lot cheaper than any butternut squash soup I have gotten out at a restaurant. And the flavor profile and nutrients are so much better also.

Recipe

In order to make this recipe, you need to:

  • Peel the butternut squash.
  • Fully de-seed the squash. (Kids can definitely help with this step!)
  • Chop into larger chunks.
  • Dice the shallots.
  • Mince the garlic.
  • Heat pan to Medium heat and grease with olive oil.
  • Add shallots, garlic and half of the salt to pan.
  • Sweat down for approximately 3 minutes.
  • Add butternut squash to pan.
  • Cook for approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Add all spices and remaining salt and stir in thoroughly.
  • Add vegetable broth and bay leaves.
  • Turn heat up to High and reach a boil.
  • Once boiling, reduce to Low heat and simmer for approximately 25 minutes, until squash is tender.
  • Remove thyme stems and bay leaves.
  • Pour soup into a blender or food processor.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • Add extra salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
  • Pour into bowls and garnish with arugula and pomegranate seeds.
  • Enjoy!

Our kids like to help with the blending part of this recipe, so that is a great area for little helpers. They also like to garnish the top of the soup with the arugula and pomegranate. A few of them like to add pumpkin seeds also, for extra crunch.

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies are something I have been making for as long as I can remember. Not only are they delicious and easier to make than any other cookies, but they are also super budget-friendly. Plus the kids can help with every step of this recipe.

Here are the ingredients and costs for this recipe:

  • 16 oz Organic Peanut Butter – $2.12
  • 1 C Cane Sugar – $.96
  • 2 Egg Whites – $.40
  • 2 oz Dark Chocolate Chips – $.26

TOTAL = $3.74 (24 cookies) or $.16 per cookie

Recipe

And if you thought the ingredient list was short, you should see the actual recipe! The only steps required are:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Throw peanut butter, sugar and eggs into a bowl.
  • Mix on medium until batter is consistent.
  • Hand roll each cookie ball and drop it onto a cookie sheet.
  • Create a cross fork pattern on top of each cookie to smash them down.
  • Decorate the top of each cookie in whatever design you want with the chocolate chips.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes.

This whole process can be a really fun family event. Especially if you all take turns decorating the cookies, since everyone likes different designs.

Pumpkin Avocado Chocolate Pudding

Pumpkin Avocado Chocolate Pudding is very new to our frugal fall treats recipe list. But, so far, it’s been a big hit! Of all the recipes, this one has the most nutrient denseness and overall flavor. So, if you  haven’t ever tried this, now is as good a time as any.

The ingredients and cost breakdown for this recipe are:

  • 2 Ripe Avocados – $2.68
  • 1/2 C Pumpkin Puree – $.59
  • 1/2 C Cocoa Powder – $1.77
  • 1/2 C Coconut Milk – $.70
  • 8 Dates (softened) – $1.83
  • 2 t Pumpkin Pie Spice (or any other spices you prefer) – $1.03

TOTAL = $8.60 (4 servings) or $2.15 per serving

Recipe

You can always add some natural sweetener if you don’t feel the recipe is sweet enough for you. But I would suggest trying it this way first. In order to make this recipe, all you have to do is

  • Put all ingredients into a Vitamix or blender.
  • Blend until the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour into individual containers.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour to set.

Out of all of the recipes, this one is also the simplest to make. Therefore, you kids can help with every step of the process. Including washing dishes!

Frugal fall treats summary

Overall, there are so many great frugal fall treats to enjoy this season. But our favorites are all budget-friendly, delicious, gluten free and nutritious. Well, the peanut butter cookies may be a stretch on the last one. But these cookies are much better options than any other peanut butter recipe I have found out there yet.

So, if you are looking for some delicious fall treats to make with your family, check these out. We would love to hear what you think of them!

What are some of your favorite frugal fall treats to make with the whole family?