Mom On A Budget

with Ashleigh

Hello! I'm Ashleigh! I live in Michigan with my family of 3 girls (4 year old twins and a 2 year old), husband and abnormally large lab mix. Since I was little, I have loved to save money, but my bargaining skills were kicked up a notch when we found out we were having twins. I can spot a red clearance sticker from a mile away! I write tips and recipes on my blog Being Cheap is Easy and also on Recipes4Living. I love to cook, read, listen to music and watch anything on Bravo (so addicting!). Say hello on Twitter or Instagram!

Save Money: BYO Lunch to Work!

Categories: budget friendly, budget skills, lunch

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Mornings in my house are hectic and by lunch time, I need a hearty, but healthy meal. To keep from mid-afternoon slumps, it’s best to focus on protein to keep you full. If you’re eating lunch in the office, there are many inexpensive meals you can make the night before and grab out of the fridge in the morning. If you have time during the weekend, I suggest prepping as much as you can! I make hard boiled eggs, grill some chicken on the Foreman and make a batch of quinoa or brown rice. Any veggies can be chopped and prepped for weekday meals.

1. Salad Jars. Put the dressing in the bottom of a mason jar (or any recycled jar) and pile in your favorite salad fixins. I like to keep chicken or ham on the side, as well as any croutons. Keep a nice big salad bowl at your desk to dump your jar into. If you are looking for some salad ideas, check out this post

2. Veggie Burgers. I love protein packed veggie burgers…especially the great new flavors that are out there. I buy the Boca Bruschetta variety to break up for lunch pita pizzas. The Mediterranean MorningStar burger is ah-mazing with some Oikos Dill Greek yogurt dip and cucumbers on a sandwich thin. At Costco, they sell black bean burgers that make a great quick quesadilla! Since they are veggie burgers, they are filling…but not heavy like a normal burger. You can keep some in the freezer at work and heat them up quickly in the microwave.

3. Overnight Oats. Yes, this is an amazing breakfast, but with the Greek yogurt and chia seeds, it makes a nice lunch too…especially if you’re working at your desk. I love to add peanut butter and bananas to mine.

4. Wrap it up! I love whole grain wraps stuffed with veggies and turkey. Instead of mayo, try veggie cream cheese or Greek yogurt dip to lighten up. TIP: Since wraps can easily get soggy, I like to wrap the inside ingredients of my wraps in parchment paper and keep the tortilla on the side until lunch.

5. Quinoa Bowls. Love Mexican food? Try a quinoa bowl. Add black beans, grilled chicken or steak, fajita peppers or whatever floats your boat! Top with cilantro and avocado and you have a great burrito bowl and you won’t miss the extra calories! It can be served cold or hot.

6. Homemade Soup. Even in the warmer months, I love soup for lunch. I have a whole series of simple soups on my blog that freeze well and can be made quickly. When freezing soups, put in a lunch sized portion and just take out of the freezer the night before…viola!

The main idea is to step away from frozen meals for lunch (I’m guilty of buying them!) and try to lighten up lunch. If you do a little prep, your waistline will thank you for healthy lunches…and so will your wallet!

What’s your go-to lunch?

Earth Friendly Craft: Recycled Magazine Beads

Categories: Uncategorized

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Since Earth Day was this week, I thought I would share a super easy recycling craft for your kids! I made these necklaces when I was a kid and they were the favorite craft to do when I used to Nanny. What I love is that you have all of the supplies laying around the house…no need for a trip to Michael’s. PS- Have you ever taken your kids to a craft store? OY! Total nightmare!

These beads are great for all ages! My youngest, Gabby, is 2 and she needs a little help from me—but she is getting the hang of it! I have a feeling I’ll be getting a few magazine bead necklaces for Mother’s Day (Grandmas will too!). Each bead is different since all of the magazine pages have a variety of colors and they don’t have to be perfect. Stringing the beads helps with dexterity and hand eye coordination. It’s a learning craft in disguise!

You can add other beads along with these, such as alphabet or plastic. As for string, we like hemp, yarn or plastic varieties…but whatever you have laying around the house will work! I do recommend having the adult cut out the triangles for the beads for kids under 10.

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Recycled Magazine Beads

Here’s what you will need:

· Old magazines, newspaper or Sunday ads

· Scissors

· Glue

· Wooden skewer or plastic straw

1. To start, I rip out 10-15 magazine pages and cut out triangle strips. The base should be between 1-2 inches and they don’t have to be perfect! If you want tiny beads, make them ½ inch, but they are a LOT harder for the kids to roll up.

2. Take a triangle strip and put glue on the very end. Put skewer below the glue and fold over. This is the base of the bead.

3. Roll the bead around the skewer until 1 inch is left. Dab more glue on the underside of the remaining paper and roll up. You might have to twirl the bead a bit to keep the ends down.

4. Ta-da! You’re done! Remove from skewer before the glue dries! These can be made quickly and are fun to do on a movie night!

Note: when you’re looking for pages to rip out, try a variety of colors. I even like plain print pages for cute black and white beads. I actually got a compliment on one of my magazine necklaces, someone asked me where I bought it. My twins were proud! (Note to self: future business endeavor?)

What crafts do you make from recycled goods?

Mom Beauty Must-Haves! {All Under $10!}

Categories: budget friendly, self care, shopping

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Since I’ve had kids, my beauty routine has drastically changed. Don’t you hate how that happens? I looked down yesterday and realized I was in dire need of a pedi, my eyebrows were crazy and only one of my legs was shaved last shower because chaos happened outside the shower curtain (why can’t the kids give me a 10 minute shower?! I put on Frozen!). Um, gross. Why is it so hard for us to take time for ourselves?!

I turned 30 in January and one of my goals was to get back on track by taking better care of myself. Obviously, it’s a work in progress, but I’m making huge steps! Since February, I’ve been working out 3-4 days a week, tracking all of my food using the MyFitnessPal and eating less cookie dough (I have an addiction, sir!).

Most of us are short on time, so I have some Mom beauty must-haves that are budget friendly AND easy to use! As Heather says on Real Housewives of NYC “ Hollllla!”.

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1. BB Cream. If you are short on time, BB cream is your go-to for awake looking skin. I wash my face and slather this on and I look halfway decent. I’ve tried quite a few varieties, but I have 3 favorites:

· L’Oreal Magic Skin Beautifier BB Cream. If you have combo skin, this is perfect! Some BB creams can be oily, but this is really light. It will match to your skin perfectly too! There are always coupons for this, I usually pay around $6!

· Garnier BB Cream. If you have dry skin, this is for you! I use it in the winter, but it’s a bit oily for my summer needs. Garnier has different types of BB Cream, depending on skin type but I have found all of them to be quite moisturizing. If you have super oily skin, you might want to stick with the L’Oreal version. There are always coupons for this as well, it’s usually around $8.

· Almay Smart Shade CC. Wait for a sale at Walgreens, and you can get this for under $10! I love this for a bit more coverage. It’s light and pairs well with powder. There were $4 off coupons in last Sunday’s paper!

2. Cuticle Oil. I use this before bed and put it all over my nails. Even if you don’t have time for polish, your nails and cuticles will look amazing. Just use with a q-tip and let dry for a minute or two. This also works OVER polish. I get this at Sally Beauty Supply for around $3.

3. Baby Oil Gel. Say buh-bye to dry skin by adding this to your lotion. Works best right after your shower! I usually focus on my legs and extra dry areas, like elbows. The lavender adds a slight scent. My kids use this gel too!

4. Quick exfoliating face mask. This is my go-to mask: 2 teaspoons honey, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg. So simple! It exfoliates and helps smooth out skin. Aim for at least once per week! I mix it up and put it on while I’m making dinner. Leave it on for 20 minutes and wipe off with a washcloth.

5. WATER! The best beauty tip for busy moms? DRINK THAT WATER! It will help keep your skin glowing! If you’re not a fan of plain water, make infused water with lemon, mint, strawberries, watermelon, cucumbers or whatever floats your boat! Green tea is great too! I always carry a 24 ounce water bottle with me and I make sure to drink at least 8 ounces before each meal.

What are your go-to beauty products?

Easy Easter Side Dishes {All Under $5}

Categories: budget friendly, easter, grocery shopping

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A few weeks ago, I posted about how to save money on your Easter dinner. Now it’s time to think about what sides to make! The most budget friendly sides tend to be veggie or fruit based. Since the meat is usually the show of the Easter meal, I like to keep the sides simple…and also on the healthier side.

Here are a few ideas I have, all under $5!

· Strawberries with honey

o So simple! Slice strawberries and toss with about a teaspoon of honey (per quart). Put in the fridge and it will make tasty syrup! Apples can also be added.

· Healthified Green Bean Casserole

o I came up with this last Thanksgiving and it has become a favorite side dish in our house!

· Brown Sugar Sweet Potatoes

o Slice washed sweet potatoes in 1 inch coins. In a bowl, melt butter or coconut oil. Add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of honey. Brush on sweet potatoes and bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes. For an extra oomph, top with mini marshmallows for the last 5 minutes.

· Roasted broccoli

o Toss chopped broccoli in 1 tablespoon olive oil, pepper and coarse salt. Roast at 425* for 20 minutes, or until slightly brown.

· Cinnamon Apples

o Slice apples (about ½ apple per guest) in 1/10th pieces. Toss with ¼ cup of flour, 1 tablespoon cinnamon and ½ teaspoon nutmeg. Pour into a sprayed 9×13 pan. Top with ½ cup juice (white grape or apple seem to work best). Bake at 375* for 20-30 minutes.

· Crockpot Cheesy Potatoes

o This is my go-to potato recipe for ham. Although it calls for including the ham in it while cooking, I just leave it out! It’s nice to have a side dish that you can make early and forget about!

If you head over to my blog, Being Cheap is Easy, you can enter to win a $50 gift card for HoneyBaked Ham! We loved the smoked turkey for wraps!

Side note: have you joined my new online book club yet? We’re reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed this month and we would love some more people to help us discuss!

What is your go-to simple side dish recipe?

Budget-Friendly Easter Basket Ideas

Categories: budget skills, easter

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Anyone else having a holiday burn out? I feel like every time I turn around, there is a new holiday to celebrate and the marketing makes kids expect gifts. I believe the focus on Easter should be around the meaning of the holiday and family, not all about a large bunny.

Since my kids are at prime Easter Bunny age, we will do baskets…but we are taking it down a notch. Does that make us mean parents?

Here are a few simple ideas for baskets that the kids will still love. I find that themes help make shopping easier!

1. Art Box (or basket). Fill up each basket with art supplies from the Dollar Store. Another great place to check: clearance from Michael’s! We find stickers and supplies for fewer than 50 cents! Focus on spending $5-10 for each basket and grab a big floor pad of paper. This will keep them occupied for hours! Think glitter, stamps, markers, crayons, googly eyes, beads, string…anything can be used for creativity!

2. Outside fun. Jump ropes, chalk, hula hoops, soccer balls…anything to keep them active outside! The Dollar Tree has fun cones than you can set up to run around for relays. FYI: Did you know you can order from the Dollar Tree online and pick up in store?

3. Gift Cards. I realize it’s not very exciting to open, but kids LOVE to pick things out for themselves. Get a $5 one for a book store and $5 for Target, or whatever might be exciting. Pick a day and make a special trip for the kids…even consider going out for lunch!

4. Family Memory Cards. Make cards out for special family events that the kids can “cash in”. For instance, one card can say “Trip to the Zoo” or “Library Story Hour”. Other ideas: “Trip to Famers Market + $5 to spend”, “Trip to Grandma + Grandpa’s” or “Trip for Ice Cream Cones”! Create 5-7 different cards and decorate them with glitter.

5. Movie Basket. Buy 2-3 $5 movies at Target (Heads up: they are buy 2, get 1 this week!) and fill the basket with fun movie night ingredients: box of candy, popcorn, etc. If you want to spend a bit more, throw in a new pair of pajamas. Make a card that lets them pick the pizza toppings of choice for a homemade pizza. (Want an amazing pizza crust recipe? Check this one out!)

6. Camp or Class Ticket. If your child is interested in a new ballet class or sports camp for the summer, consider creating a “ticket” for the class as an Easter gift.

Whatever you chose, keep it simple. I really love the ideas that create memories, instead of more clutter. The last thing our kids need is more toys to trip over!

What simple basket ideas do you have?

Mom on a Budget Book Club: Join in on the Fun!

Categories: book club

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For a while, I’ve been searching for a perfect book club. I wanted something that was fun and relaxed. It has been hard to find…so I decided to make my own virtual group! I would love for you to join in on the fun! My goal is to create a list of books that we would like to read and discuss, with one monthly feature. No pressure to join in every month, I understand life gets crazy sometimes!

Are you in?!

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The pick for April is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I figured this would be a great jumping off book and there is a lot of buzz about it, especially since there is the film version coming out sometime this year. The main premise (via Amazon):

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds

on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

If you’ve already read this book, feel free to join the group and discussion later this month!

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Here are some other great books I’ve read lately.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. This book follows Rachel who decides to stay with her fiancée and his family over a summer in Singapore. She doesn’t realize how wealthy they are and she enters into their crazy world. The story follows different parts of the family. Yes, it’s a little bit unrealistic, but it’s a great read!

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close. I’ve read all of her books and they’re all great! This book follows a group of twenty-something friends who realize all of their friends are getting married. Most of the girls don’t quite have their lives together, but I really loved how honestly friendships are portrayed. I was definitely laughing out loud with this book!

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. Twins Violet and Kate are very different. After an earthquake, Violet gets a vision about something horrible happening in the future and the book unfolds what happens when she goes public with her predictions. I can’t say much else about the book without giving anything good away. I’ve recommended this book for the last few months to my friends and it’s been loved by all!

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Based in Australia, this book follows 3 different women who each connect in some way. Obviously, there is a big secret…but you definitely will not guess this one! I finished this book in a day!

What books have you read lately? I’m always adding to my list! Also, don’t forget to join the club!

How to Save on: Easter Groceries

Categories: budget friendly, budget skills, easter, grocery shopping

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I know it’s not April yet, but Easter will sneak up on us very quickly! Now is the time to start thinking about your plans!

If you are hosting Easter, think about what you would like to include on your menu. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are hosting guests! Even little things like rolls or a side dish can help a TON, especially if your budget is tight.

Here are some tips to help alleviate any stress:

1. Watch sales for discounted items:

· Ham normally goes on sale a few weeks before Easter. Watch stores like Aldi for even cheaper prices. Since it freezes well, try to snag one during an early sale. They do sell out frequently!

· Potatoes and produce. Since potatoes store well in a dark, dry place, you can buy these now. I have noticed Klondike brand goes on sale a lot and they offer coupons here. Other produce to watch would be pineapples, asparagus or green beans. If you are roasting asparagus, it’s fine to freeze and cook later.
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Mom on a Budget Style: Spring Edition {Everything under $25!}

Categories: budget friendly, budget skills, shopping, style

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Ahh, Spring has sprung! Okay, not really since I’m looking out my wind

ow at snow on the ground, but there is hope…right?

After a winter of comfy sweaters and boots, Spring is a time to freshen up your wardrobe with bright colors and fresh clothes. Even on a tight budget, many stores have some fun options—all under $25. I’ve scanned a few popular websites for deals…and most of these are available in stores too! Did you know TJ Maxx has a website now?!

From the stores I browsed: American Eagle, Target, Kohls and TJ Maxx, there were some major sales going on! This week (until March 29), Target has Buy 1, Get 50% off clothes and shoes! At American Eagle, they have free shipping on all shoes. Treat yourself this week, Mama!

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Let’s start off with accessories! I love to grab bright scarves and purses to make an outfit more exciting. Plus, you can find cheap earrings or necklaces anywhere! Little touches like that make a big difference—they can take your outfit to the next level. I also love fun headbands for rushed mornings. Big purses can get in the way, try a crossbody and only carry the essentials.

Links (from top to bottom): Target Dash infinity scarf $15, TJ Maxx Buckle Crossbody $20, Target Floral Stripe infinity scarf $15, TJ Maxx Crossbody $20, and American Eagle Striped Scarf $20

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I am so excited to wear flats again after 5+ months of boots! Even if an outfit is plain, a fun flat will really add character. All of the shoes pictured are under $25! Take advantage of the Target Buy 1 Get 50% off sale this week for extra savings. As much as I love flip flops, dressier sandals will make an outfit look more put together.

Links (from top to bottom, clockwise): Target ‘Lady’ Sandals $20, Target Laksha $20, Target Esma Sandal $15 (FYI: I’ve purchased these for the last 3 years and love them!), AE Braided Sandal $25, AE Chambray Flat $25, AE Cap Toe Flat $25 (I also have 3 pairs of these!), AE Printed Espadrille $25

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I am guilty: I love yoga pants and leggings. Hello! They are super comfy! I’ve searched high and low and shockingly, I found my favorite jeans at Kohls & Target…for under $25. Go figure! I love the boyfriend style jean from Target for running errands or school drop-offs…just cuff them and pair with a cute t-shirt and scarf. The skinny jeans from Kohls are Apt 9 and come in various washes. I usually can grab these for about $15 on a 20% off day. When it gets warmer, a maxi skirt is a perfect way to stay comfy, but avoid the yoga pants. Keep your eyes peeled for on Target Cartwheel for extra savings.

Links (from top): Apt 9 Skinny Jeans $25, Target Boyfriend Crop $25 and Target Maxi skirt $18

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I find it’s easy to save on tops: simply stock up on basic colors of a v-neck or scoopneck style at Target or Old Navy! Buy a few cute tops for date nights or other events and dress up the basics with fun accessories. All of the stores I browsed had cute tops under $20! Since it is still chilly, cardigans are great to have on hand…also they can be worn on chilly summer nights. I love the colors they have available of the Target boyfriend style!

Links (counter-clockwise from top): Target v-neck $10 (watch for sales!), TJ Maxx Slub Knit Tee $17, TJ Maxx Geo Tee $20, TJ Maxx Mixed Media $17, TJ Maxx striped shawl cardigan $20 and Target Boyfriend Cardigan $20 (these go on sale for $15 quite frequently!)

Obviously, I’m not saying to go out and buy everything…but Moms need to realize it’s okay to treat yourself sometimes! Watch for sales and coupons and buy a shirt or two–you deserve it!!

What is your seasonal budget?

5 Kid-Approved Lunch Ideas

Categories: budget friendly, budget skills, lunch, recipe

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Since my twins are in preschool, I haven’t packed lunches yet.  Next year, kindergarten is full day, so I better get prepared this summer!  I do make lunch every day for my kids and it gets hard to think of new ideas.  You can only make a sandwich so many different ways!

Last fall, I got the book Weelicious Lunches by Catherine McCord and in the book there are so many tasty ideas.  If you follow her on Instagram, she posts the daily lunches she sends with her kids. They are all SO creative, even I wouldn’t mind eating them.

Here are some of our favorite lunches…all quick and easy!

Wrap It Up

(photo cred: www.winterwheat1.com )

Whenever whole wheat wraps go on sale, we make sure to stock up–they can be used for so much! (Note: they freeze well!) Favorite way: wraps!  The possibilities are endless, but these are some big hits for us:

· Hawaiian Wrap: sliced ham, diced pineapple, swiss cheese with mayo

· Club Wrap: smoked turkey, cucumbers, avocado and bacon

· Pizza: fill with all of your favorite toppings, mozzarella and sauce

· Veggie: cucumbers, red pepper, spinach and hummus

Pizzadilla

(photo cred: www.plainchicken.com)

Open up a pita and fill it with favorite pizza toppings, grill on the Foreman and you have an easy lunch!  This is great cold, so go ahead and pack it to-go, also!

Soup

(photo cred: www.food.com)

I can eat soup any season, so I like to make big batches and freeze in lunch sized portions.  I know time is limited on the week days, so I suggest making a batch or two on the weekends or a free weeknight to fill up your fridge and freezer!  Here are some basics to get you started…once you make your own, you’ll never go back to canned!  To take in lunches, just fill up a thermos.  Soup is a great opportunity to fill your kids with veggies without a big fuss.

· Broccoli Cheddar

· Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper

· Loaded Baked Potato

· Chicken & Dumpling

· Turkey Meatball Minestrone

Veggie Filled Mac n Cheese

(photo cred: margaretsdish.blogspot.com)

I won’t lie and say we never just pull a blue box out of our cabinet, but sometimes homemade mac n cheese just tastier.  I like to boil noodles with some frozen peas, carrots and broccoli.  Drain, then toss with some milk and Velveeta cheese.  So simple!

MYO Skewers

(photo cred: www.sheknows.com)

This can also be called a “fridge cleaner”.  I chop up any fruit, cheese or veggies I can find.  Also, I roll up lunch meat to be speared.  Add some dippers: yogurt for the fruit and ranch for the veggies, and you’ve got a lunch.  I like to use flat (not sharp) toothpicks to spear the items.  This can be transformed into the lunch box easily, too!

What’s your go-to lunch?

Bored With Breakfast? 5 Fun Ideas!

Categories: Breakfast, budget friendly, recipe

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We love breakfast in our house.   I actually don’t eat normal breakfast food in the morning; I usually grab a smoothie to-go.  I reserve a whole breakfast spread for dinner or weekend mornings.  The girls often request Brinner (aka-breakfast for dinner) at least once a week.  It’s an easy and cheap way to get dinner on the table quickly.  Here are some of my favorite breakfast recipes.  (Hint: Share this with your significant other for Mother’s Day ideas!)
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