The Frugal Way to Eat Out: Weekend Links

Frugal way to eat out

When we were getting out of debt our kids were 4,2,and 1 and couldn’t remember ever being in a restaurant.  One day my parents called up and offered to take us out.  I told the children, “We’re going out to eat!”  They started jumping up and down and clapping, chanting, “A picnic, a picnic. We’re going on a picnic.”  And that my friends is the frugal way to go “out” to eat, lol. They were pretty disappointed to end up inside a restaurant.

Here are some fun links for you for weekend reading, inspired by a family bonding picnic. Click the photos to go to the source and read more.









windproof_picnic_blanket_thumbalissasaylorphotography_job4-21-of-24Memory Recording Picnic Blanket

Have a great weekend!


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Summer’s not over…but my vacation is

My Summer Vacation

What!?  It’s August? School is just around the corner….

It’s been a few years since I wrote a “What I did On My Summer Vacation” paper.  If you hate watching someone’s vacation slides, you might want to skip this and come back tomorrow.


In late May, we took a road trip to Florida.  We loaded up our circa. 1996 (oxidized hunter green) 15 passenger van and drove 22 hours straight to my sister-in-law’s parents’ house, who invited us to come stay with them and enjoy the beach.


They are super generous people, because if you remember, I have 6 kids, AND my sister-in-law’s parents aren’t technically related to us.   To make it even more crazy fun my sister-in-law, my brother and their two kids came along, bringing her best friend and their family.


If you’ve been counting, we brought 10 kids and 6 adults to invade their quiet house. Our hosts took it very well.  I never saw them loose their cool, and we had a BLAST. Their generosity allowed us to take a family vacation for the price of the gas to get there…..#grateful #iwanttobeagivertoo


I had a good laugh when our host Dad was relaxing on the lanai in a lounge chair and my 3 year old son, came up to him with 2 fingers waving like a gangster gun and said, “I paid 3 dollars for you to go to bed.  Now GO TO BED!” to which the host replied, “What if I don’t want to go to bed?”  and Grant said, “You’re fired.”  Good thing everyone there had a good sense of humor….#funny #orjustrude  #whotaughthimthat? There was also a period of time there where any question you asked Grant he would answer “green.” For example:  Q. “What would you like to eat?” A. “Green” #toddlerhumor


After Florida, we had one day to drive home (including a stop at the St. Louis Arch) and repack to take the kids to Lamoni, Iowa (Graceland University) for Reunion.  (Other denominations call it “family camp” or “camp meeting.”)  I was in charge of the children’s choir that week and DH had to stay home to work. It was a good week for my kids, though I missed most of it.  Exhaustion sent me to my bed for the hours that I wasn’t already scheduled to teach music or walk my kids to their classes.  (I’m not pregnant, and yes I’m seeing a Doc.) By Wednesday I was contemplating packing up and going home, but after talking it over with the kids (who were almost in tears at the thought) I stuck it out for the rest of the week.  I’m so glad I did, because the last morning of camp, God sent a prophetic message through our pastor for my son Caleb that will change his life forever.  I’m still learning that life is not about me….


After reunion my middle two kiddoes had 3 days at home to regroup and head off with my parents for a two week tour of the West.  They saw the Grand Canyon, Casa Bonita (Denver), the Cliff Dwellers, Zion National Park, and some other stuff.  Just before they left I whisked them off for a day at Legoland Kansas City–in case they weren’t already exhausted.

Two days after that my hubby took the oldest boy with him on a high adventure, where they went rock wall climbing (like for real, outdoors and everything) horse back riding, cave exploring, and on a three day canoe trip where they took all their gear and slept beside the river.

Darren selfie canoeing

Meanwhile, I bought a family pool pass for the nearest outdoor pool.  I had calculated that if we swam more than 5 times the pass would pay for itself, so we swam once a week.  Then I realized they were giving free lunches to all kids 18 and under (some kind of government grant for nutrition.) Once I started dreaming about not cooking the noon meal or having to clean it up, we found ourselves at the pool every day. #stillnotforgovernmentprogramsthough

When all the kids got home, the oldest two repacked to go to the farm and spend a week with Grandma and Grandpa Coffman while the rest of us went to Vacation Church School.  I got to teach the music that week, which was a blast. I spent most of the afternoons in bed from exhaustion, but was able to function for the important stuff.

Clearing brush

The next week, I started to feel pretty good–like the best I’ve felt in a year. DH showed me how to use the chain saw and I cleared the forest out of the last 20 feet of our yard with plans for a swing set to fill that space….one day.

Camp Friends Heather

Then on Saturday I headed off to summer camp for my youngest daughter.  I was a cabin counselor and my oldest daughter was my CIT (counselor in training.)  The first night we arrived was for staff only and my weird symptoms starting coming with a vengence (exhaustion, trembling, light headedness, chills….)  My friend took one look at me and said, “My husband is an elder and will be here for another hour.  You might consider asking for administration.”  I did at the first opportunity.  They annointed my head with consecrated olive oil and asked God for a blessing.  I was instantly relieved of the symptoms and they did not return for a week. #Godisgood

I taught a class on babysitting where we made cloud dough, played some games from pinterest and created a babysitting kit for the girls to take home.  Heidi helped me with my class some since she is working as a full time nanny this summer and has first hand experience.  I loved working with her. Definitely want to do that again. She also helped teach the praise and worship dance class under the guidance of her dance coaches.  I had never seen her as a dance teacher before, but had seen her for years as a student.  She did awesome.  #growingupsofast #notatypicalteenager

We were home 3 days and then drove my oldest two back to the campgrounds for their week of summer camp.  I kept my daughter’s nanny charges this week while she was away and they blended right in as play buddies for our kiddoes.

Also tomorrow our house guest is moving back to Hawaii.  I will drive her to the airport about 3am.  It’s a bittersweet feeling.  I know she is ready to start her new life and has a great job (and beautiful home) to go back to, but I’m going to miss her  When she came in March she thought it would only be for 5 days, and now 5 months later she feels more like a sister than a house guest.

We have plans to turn the attic into a bedroom for our middle son.  (Details in another post.) There is plenty of room for the 3 boys in their bedroom, but they are really messy…..REALLY messy.  I’m hoping removing one of them will either help them stay clean or at least reveal who the problem is.  #ithinkiknow

To prepare for the bedroom remodel, I made an upholstered headboard sized for the tiny space and am selling all our baby gear on Craigslist to raise the money for the little things we’ll need to make it comfy. (Since we’re selling our baby stuff—that might make you curious, but afraid to ask personal questions.  So I’ll just say it. Darren and I are both happy with the size of our family,and my health issues make pregnancy scary for me.  But we are trusting God and have not taken any steps to make sure it stays this size.  I’ve been storing some of this stuff for 3 years and it’s time to let someone else use it.  If I end up needing it again, craigslist should still be around.)

I’m all done with my summer obligations now except for a keynote speaking engagement in North Missouri next week.  I was really honored to be asked AND they are giving us a free BBQ dinner plus they helped us with gas money for the three hour drive. It’s going to feel amazing when that is behind me. #igetsonervous #ilovelongdriveswithhubby.

So that was my summer. Did you stay busy too?  Tell me about it in the comments.




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Summer Vacation

Dear Readers, my blog is officially on summer break. If you miss me, The menus will still be going strong with new recipes all summer! My family will be home this summer and I don’t want to miss a minute of them.  See you in August :)


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Ham and Cheese Pockets

Ham and Cheese Pockets

There’s something wonderful about having a basic recipe memorized.  It gives freedom in cooking and opens up creativity.  It allows a woman to go into another home, discover a need, and whip up a delicious supper without running to the internet or a cook book.



My Basic pizza dough is a recipe like that. It makes fabulous pizza, but can also be loaf bread, bread sticks, cinnamon rolls, bagels, English muffins, Stromboli.  Anything really.DSC_2993

And like I tell my daughters, Men like food.  Want to find a good man?  Learn to make good food.


I remember the first time Darren took me to visit his grandfather in the rest home.  His grandma introduced me.  She said, your grandson J.D. found him a Jewell (his wife’s name) and Darren found an Angel.

I was stunned.  I’d been admiring Darren from afar for awhile, but he had never been very clear with me about his feelings.  Was I claimed?  Was he really serious about our future or was Grandma dreaming? I was thinking such deep thoughts and floating on her words, when Grandpa spoke up.  “Can she cook?”

Um, what?


On the resume I was building to be a good wife….cooking wasn’t the top thing in my mind.  I loved the Lord, could sing, play piano, clarinet and guitar.  Teach children, sew, garden, and had the stamina of a workhorse. Surely those things are more important than cooking…but, NO. Grandpa only wanted to know if I could cook, lol.


If he were still with us, I’d bring him one of these yummy ham pockets. :) He’d want gravy too.


Ham and Cheese Pockets

Ham and Cheese Pockets


  • 1 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbs yeast
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups fresh ground Hard White Wheat Flour
  • 5 cups, diced ham (sliced ham works too)
  • 10 slices of cheese (or shredded...whatever.)


  1. In a stand mixer, combine the first 5 ingredients and mix up into a firm dough.
  2. Oil dough and cover with a cloth while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. After about 30 minutes, divide the dough into 10 balls.
  4. Roll each ball into a circle then top with ham and cheese.
  5. Wrap dough around the filling and place on a cookie sheet.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  7. Brush with melted butter while they are still warm. (Sprinkle with garlic salt too if you want to.)
  8. They are delicious warm or cold and pack well for lunches.
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What Are all Those People in Line for?

Have you ever walked or driven by a huge line…and been all insecure? Like they know something awesome is going to happen and you don’t have a clue?

That almost happened to me.  Ok, it happened this week but the good news is there are still 5 days for us to join in and we don’t have to leave our house or stand in line.



This is a huge set of resources on how to be a better everything.  Purchased separately they’d cost $698 which doesn’t include $200 in additional bonuses.


It’s available as a ($29.97) pdf set or a ($39.97) Kindle set, but I couldn’t help to notice that the pdfs were $10 less.

If you buy through the links here, some of the proceeds goes to support the blog and helps my family, but it doesn’t cost you a dime more.

I’m off to grab my set.  If you are thinking about getting it too, you should know the sale ends Monday night.

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Chocolate Eclair Cake

chocolate eclair cake

It’s time for a little recipe around here.  And this one is totally inappropriate, since simultaneously I am waking up my CentsablyFit blog.  After 3 months of illness and getting totally out of shape, I’m super excited for Holly’s new challenge that starts on Monday. This recipe doesn’t fit in that plan (unless it’s one of the Planned Indulgences.)  But it can be lighter by using skim milk and sugar free pudding mix.


If you want to use almond milk with instant pudding mix, you’ll be disappointed; it just doesn’t get thick.  Unless you add a tsp of glucomannan powder with it.  Have you ever heard of glucomannan?  It’s the dried ground up root of the konjac plant.  It’s pure fiber (so calorie free)  and is a great instant thickener for cold or hot foods.  It adds a bit of slick texture of it’s own that is something to get used to.  But I’ve used it to make broth gravy, pudding, jam, and thicker smoothies. When I make fitness food with it, it makes me feel fuller faster and longer.  I buy mine in bulk from  It also comes in capsules, but why swallow a pill when you can eat food?!

DSC_2837 DSC_2836It’s make a weird face….DSC_2835

Lick your spoon, good.

And easy.  Embarrassingly easy.  If someone asks you for the recipe, change the subject, if you have any pride at all.

I have no shame…so I’m sharing.

This recipe makes a 10×15 pan.  You could make a smaller batch, but why?

Chocolate Eclair Cake

Chocolate Eclair Cake


  • 1 box honey graham crackers (ooh, or chocolate graham crackers--that would be yummy.)
  • 2 packages chocolate pudding (any flavor is yummy)
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 2-8 oz tubs of whipped topping, thawed


  1. Line the bottom of your pan with a single layer of graham crackers. Break the crackers as needed to fit.
  2. Combine milk with pudding mixes in a blender or with a whisk and blend just until it starts to thicken. Fold in one tub of whipped topping.
  3. Pour 1/3 of the pudding mixture over the graham cracker layer and spread it around until it is even.
  4. Repeat the graham cracker/pudding layers 2 more times.
  5. Top the whole thing with the second tub of whipped topping.
  6. Then chill for awhile, like overnight.
  7. You can eat this right away, but the longer it chills, the more the crackers soak up the pudding and taste more like an eclair.
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An important fact about Playdough

I was shopping for birthday gifts this week for a little boy that’s about to turn 3.  Is that even possible? This boy is particularly fond of playdough.  Sometimes I like to make my own, but this time I wanted him to have some with vivid bright colors and decided to splurge for the real thing.


There was a 4 pack at the store for $2.96.  I know I can get a 4 pack at Dollar Tree for, well, $1.  It’s off-brand.  The dough is fine, but the packaging is poor.  The lids don’t fit well and the dough drys out pretty quickly once the seal is broken. It’s his birthday and all–I wanted to get the good stuff.  But then I said that already.  Now don’t laugh, but the $3 price for something I could get for $1 was bothering me.  I stood there for awhile checking out all the options.  Then on the end cap I spotted this:


Individual cans of Playdough in 11 color choices for $.50 each.  I needed a snack or something, could this be right?  I could buy 4 cans in any colors I wanted for $2.  Or I could pick a 4 pack of colors they selected for $3?  Another mother walked by like it was no big deal and filled her cart full of the individual cans.  She said, “Easter Baskets.”  As if that would explain her sudden interest in so much Playdough. (Which is a genius idea, BTW.)

“Excuse me,” I said.  “But is it right that I can get these for $.50 each or buy a 4 pack for $3?  Are the cans the same size? ”

“Crazy, Isn’t it?”  She said as she confidentially pushed her cart away.

I bought one of each color, and used them for Easter Baskets too.  I think I should note that these individual cans won’t scan at checkout and every one must be typed in individually, because each color has a unique number.  If you go through the self checkout, start typing the number with a 6 then leave off the final 8.

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How to Properly Use a Red Card

How to Properly Use a Red Card

Ah Target. For all your personal flaws, I like your aisle style.

I love that your red card includes a debit card option, gives me a 5% discount, donates a percentage of my purchases to my school, and gives me free shipping online.

You have an ulterior motive though.  I can see through your niceness.  You know that if I swipe a card, be it credit or debit I will spend 50% more.  Give me a card; you make more….smooth.

I thought money fights in my marriage were a thing of the past, but you temped me to misbehave and I took the bait. I swipe my card knowing I have the cash in my purse to cover it, in all the proper budgets.  No stress, no fear, easy swipe. I intend to put the cash in the “return to the bank” envelope so we know it is spent. Still, sometime in the ride from the store to home, someone has to unload the car, potty, break up a fight, and get a snack, make dinner…and I forget all about the cash.

I forget, until it is time for my husband, (who is a CPA and VERY detailed) starts asking me about all the Target draws on our bank account and what they are for.  And why the “back to the bank” envelope doesn’t have the same amount of cash in it. And where that cash is now.  My chest feels tight, and my head hurts, because I know the money is gone.  I spent it twice. Since all of our money has a name, I spent the money we set aside for other things on something I don’t care about as much, and now I’m mad.

back to the bank

I’ll keep the card and I’ll come back, but we won’t fight anymore.  I have a secret plan.  It’s a little envelope in my purse called, “back to the bank.” So now, while I’m standing in line, I will swipe my card and put in my pin and save my 5% and send some love to my school….and I’ll put the cash into the “back to the bank” envelope right then. No delay between swiping the card and driving home to give me time to forget about moving the cash.

Yep, we’re both clever. See you in the dollar aisle. ;)


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What you need to know about your threshold

When I was 12 years old, I was 30 lbs overweight and miserable.


That’s 12 year old me all the way over on the right. My dad’s entire family was obese and even though my dad was normal and my mom was tiny, I was convinced that I looked the way I did because of genetics. Then one day, someone introduced the concept to me that I could be anything I wanted to be.  God put the potential inside of me and my hopes and dreams came from Him.  Genetics didn’t matter as much as my behavior did.

I started to study nutrition, calories, exercise, weight and height charts–anything I could find in the area of weight loss.  Then I attacked the problem with the knowledge I found.  The weight “fell off” over the summer (because of my serious hard work), and I went to 8th grade looking like a different person.

My struggle with weight didn’t end there.  I still loved food, and my body was pre-set to hold onto more fat than most of my peers.  I didn’t gain weight though, because I had developed a personal threshold.  I didn’t count calories, but I weighed every day.  I never punished myself with the scale, I used it simply to get information.  If the scale was up I ate a little less that day.  If it was down I ate a little more.  Day by day I monitored things always watching for that number on the scale that was completely intolerable for me.  If I hit that number, I got serious again until I was under my threshold.   I was determined to never feel the way I did in that picture again.

When I got pregnant with my first baby, it was all of a sudden OK to gain weight.  My threshold didn’t apply anymore and I packed on 60 lbs before Heidi was born!

My threshold, or lack thereof, also determined my success with savings, income, and spending. When I was in college, my checking account charged a fee if I allowed the balance to go below a certain amount.  If I got close to that amount, I stopped all spending until I had a cushion built back up.  If I had a cushion in there I spent it. Even now, I have an income threshold with my business.  If my income drops below my acceptable amount, I kick it into gear and get the numbers up again.

Here’s the downside of Thresholds.  They can keep us from reaching our real potential. If my bank account threshold is $100, then I’ll always have about that much in there.  I’ll spend and save in routine to keep me there.  If my weight threshold is 140, that’s where I’ll stay even though my ideal weight is 125.  It’s hard to set a new threshold that is far away from where you are sitting now.  With my personality, I have to put in a big push, all or nothing to reach the new goal and then set my emotions to the new ideal.

What about you?  Do you have thresholds?  How do you use them to reach your goals?

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The Best *Free* Baby Gift Tutorials from Around the Web

Best Baby Tutorials

To make the list, the tutorials needed to be useful, adorable, free, super easy, use small amounts of materials, and be fast to make. Like I woke up late Saturday morning, and the shower’s at 2pm and I don’t have a gift yet, fast to make.

Click photos to go to the source and get the info:


You’ll need a bib to use as a pattern for this one, but it’s a great concept for using up scraps.

Mrs Biddle Bibs

 I didn’t use drool bibs until I found these.  They didn’t cover up a cute outfit, they MADE a cute outfit.


Drool bibs for the little ladies :).00

This scrappy bib tutorial comes with a printable pattern.


When Grant was born I made 2 of these out of Minky.  Oh man, everyone was jealous.  He still loves them 3 years later.  We moved him to a toddler bed instead of a twin bed, so he could still have his sheets.

Baby TomsBoth free and paid options at this site.  Such cuties!


Baby leg warmers from sweater arms

Baby legs from socks

Baby leg warmers from socks


Baby tights from recycled t-shirts.

Baby tie onesies

Tie onesies! These are fast and easy to make and so cute!  Now little man can get all dressed up for church.


Crocheted baby turban.  So cute! So fast!  And just takes a bit of yarn.

liberty-bonnet-600-3Sherpa lined winter bonnet

soft block tutorial

felt lion taggy 3Felt and Ribbon Lion Tag Toy

Quilt as you goThis is a doll quilt, but the same principle works for a baby quilt, start with a 45 inch square backing and batting.  You can also, just do strips across instead of a log cabin look. I made one of these for a shower in 2 hours one Saturday morning.  It’s an impressive gift that uses scraps and a short amount of time.

One yard baby gift

Use 1 yard to make a receiving blanket and 2 burp cloths.


Gown made from a t-shirt, printable pattern.


Knotted Baby Hat printable pattern

ezragraysCrocheted slippers

david_peacoatCrocheted Peacoat (I made one like this and it turned out darling!)

Crocheted Baby Hoodie

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