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!

Winter Clearance Shopping: Why to Stock Up NOW!

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This is one of my favorite times of year for bargain shopping.  Everywhere you look there are deals to be found!  Lately I’ve been going to Target at least twice a week.  Everyone always makes fun of me when they look in my linen closet or pantry: almost every item has a red clearance sticker on it.  I’m not ashamed! That means I’m good at bargain shopping!

Here’s what you should keep your eyes peeled for:

1. Clothing for next Fall/Winter

This is the prime time to stock up on leggings, pants, long sleeved shirts, sweaters, coats…anything for the next cold season.  I also like to buy boots and hats once they hit 70% off or more.  If they don’t fit next season, you can easily sell them on Craigslist or to a friend!  Since I have twins, I like to stock up on cheap basics so back-to-school shopping is a breeze later in the year-I only have to get a few new, trendier items.
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Coupons 101: Your Budget’s BFF!

Categories: budget skills, coupons, shopping

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A huge part of being on a budget is coupons.  They save you TONS of money!  Not just in the grocery store, either…home and department stores too.

Since I’ve been clipping coupons for decades now (I started at 8…nerd alert!), I have quite a few tricks up my sleeve.

Top 3 sources for coupons:

1. Sunday Newspaper. I always suggest buying one paper per household member, unless there aren’t super great coupons in the paper.  How do you know what’s going to be in the paper each week? Check Sunday Coupon Preview each weekend. For us, that $10 each week equals $100s in coupons.
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How to Rock a Birthday Party {On a Budget!}

Categories: birthday parties, budget skills

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Whew! We finally made it through our birthday season!  Between my birthday on January 16th and my husband’s birthday, February 5th, is my twins birthday!  That means 4/5 of our household has their birthday within that 3 week span.  By the time Valentine’s Day hits, we don’t even want chocolate!

I know some people go CRAZY for birthday parties, spending $100s on a party.  My philosophy is to step back and remember what your kids will actually remember or appreciate in the long run.  Since my twins have a winter birthday, there really aren’t too many fun activity options.  This year we went bumper bowling and had a little fiesta with cake and tacos after.  It wasn’t anything over the top, but they have been talking about it for weeks now!

Convinced a birthday party on a budget is impossible? Think again, my friend!

1. Pick a theme first. It doesn’t have to be a specific character theme; it can be simply pirate or princess, a color combo or Hawaiian Luau.  From that point, you can get plates and decorations according to theme.  Keep it simple!

2. Hit up Target + Dollar Tree for decorations. I did a lot of shopping around this year and found that those two stores have the best prices.  Stray away from the party specific areas and you’ll probably find better prices.  When looking at plates, check out the paper section first!  For streamers and signs, Dollar Tree has quite a variety.

3. Pinterest! You can find SO many ideas on Pinterest.  Another great site is Spoonful…I made this guitar cake 2 years ago. I always check out the comments to make sure things are actually as easy to make as it seems.  Also remember the price of materials vs buying the items already made.

4. Make your own food. I am NOT much of a baker, but I can follow simple directions.  My cakes aren’t always perfect, but they are tasty!  This year Maddie wanted a rainbow cake and I made one using store bought mix and frosting, combined with some gel food coloring.  It looked great and it was under $5!  As for snacks

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5. Consider useful party favors. Instead of cheap, plastic party favors that don’t last, consider something more useful…or forgetting favors at all!  Maybe guests could do a craft they can take home or decorate a cookie.  Or a simple at-home photo booth with pictures you can print and take home are always fun!  The dollar section at Target always has fun props you can use for a photo booth!

6. Not much room at home? Don’t think Chuck E Cheese is your only option (YUCKY!). There are many local places that rent out rooms that won’t break your budget.  Check out places like your library or YMCA!  Just make sure you check their policies on bringing food!  Another great place to check is Sky Zone or a bowling alley!

How do you pull off a party on a budget?

Valentine’s Day at Home: Date Night Ideas!

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Let’s face it: once you have kids, Valentine’s Day isn’t as romantic anymore. It’s hard to find a babysitter and most of the time, money is tight.  My husband and I like to have date nights at home. We rent a new movie from the library and pop open some wine after having a tasty meal at home with the girls. It saves SO much money. We like to include the kids in on some of the fun…Valentine’s Day is about love, after all!

This year I’m planning on having some fun crafts to do with the girls during the day. Also, we have to make some sort of tasty chocolate treat. For dinner, we are planning on a “fancy” meal with the family. Note: anything is fancy to the girls when you put out placemats and napkins.
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Save Money: Make Your Own Baby Food!

Categories: grocery shopping, parenting

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Before the twins started eating solid foods, I never even thought much about making my own food.  For some reason I thought it was super complicated.  When they were around 6 months old, we bought a few jars of organic baby food (at about $1 a pop!) and started our journey with solid foods.  I tasted a drop of apples and realized it had NO flavor at all.  After that, I started looking into different ways to make baby food!

Even after buying a few supplies, making your own baby food saves money!  If you don’t have a blender, I found a food processor to be great as well.  Once you get the hang of steaming and pureeing, it becomes second nature. Plus, you know what you’re feeding your baby.  As with any other produce, I make what’s in season to save money and supplement with some frozen.
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16 Awesome Apps For Moms and Kids

Categories: apps, budget friendly, shopping

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I never wanted my kids to be dependent on technology, but last Christmas I reluctantly bought an iPad for the twins to share. Then I got a Kindle as a gift myself. From that point on, we have been obsessed with our devices. I love to use my Kindle and iPad for reading, shopping, looking up recipes and for playing Candy Crush (I’ve been stuck on a level for 3 weeks now!). My girls like to watch movies on Netflix, listen to stories and play games.
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Beat Winter Boredom: 5 Cheap Ideas!

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Where I live, it is COLD.  I love snow and winter, but these negative temperatures make anyone go a bit crazy!  My kids are feeling cooped up!

I always try to find some fun activities on Pinterest to keep my kids occupied.  When my kids are bored, I turn to my old Pins.  I have even started an activity jar, which has been very helpful.  Just simply write something fun to do on a Popsicle stick and keep it in a jar.  It’s fun for the kids to have something new to do.

Here are a few new ideas that you might not have thought of!

1. Play Restaurant

Get some old cereal boxes (or any cardboard) to create menus.  We like to use old grocery store ads and magazines to cut out pictures of food.  Paste onto cardboard to make a menu for your restaurant. This activity takes up at least 30 minutes right here!  After making the menus, have your kids set a table with plates and silverware (great teaching moment!).  Each child can take turns being the server and making the food.  This is a great way to teach restaurant manners, such as how to speak to a server and how to act while going out to eat!

2.       Bake some goodies for the freezer!

Having your kids help you in the kitchen can be fun, especially when you’re making something simple.  We love to have our freezer stocked up with banana bread, granola bars, waffles or cookie dough.  Let them help you bake up a few batches of your favorite treats!  Even consider something like spaghetti sauce or lasagna. We like to put on some Pandora and dance in the kitchen (the Frozen soundtrack is on constant play around here, too!).

3. Get Crafty!

I like to hit up the dollar store and Michaels clearance for crafty supplies.  Keep them in a drawer bin for a great boredom buster.

  • You can stick with simple pasta necklaces, or take it up a notch to magazine beads! Have you made these before? Super simple and they look so cool! You can spend an hour just making up a batch of the beads!
  • Go old school and make robots with grocery paper bags.
  • Make shopping clipboards to take to the grocery store. These keep my kids (somewhat) entertained if I need to take all of them shopping with me.
  • This aquarium is too cute!

4. Movie or Book Themed Activities

Hit up Netflix or your bookshelf and find a theme of the day.

  • If it’s Dr. Seuss, make some green eggs and ham for breakfast and try to make up rhymes all day long.
  • We like the book On Top of Spaghetti for a meatball night.
  • The Hungry Caterpillar, you can make fruit skewers to look like a caterpillar, or eat some of the foods he eats.
  • Our big obsession right now is the Ivy & Bean series, so a day of being detectives would be right up our alley. You could make binoculars from toilet paper tubes and forts to spy.

5. Make it a movie day!

Sometimes you just need to be lazy, let’s be honest.  Pick out 2-3 movies that you can watch as a family and pile up with blankets and pillows.  Make buttery popcorn (put it in a paper bag for a movie theater effect), drink lemonade and enjoy a cozy day together.  For lunch or dinner, you can have a picnic inside!

Where You Can Score Free Treats On Your Birthday

Categories: budget skills, self care, shopping

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Today is my 30th birthday!  Woohoo and oh-no all at once!  I know that people keep saying my 30’s will be much better than my 20’s, but it’s just strange!

When I was younger, I was such a birthday diva.  I had weekends of partying to planned, all while wearing a crown.  Now, I just like to get all of the birthday freebies from local stores and restaurants.  Family time is much more fun!  I cannot wait to dig into some confetti cake tonight!

Here’s a list of my favorite birthday freebies:
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No More Boring Salads: 5 New Ideas!

Categories: budget friendly, budget skills, healthy, recipe

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If something isn’t convenient for me, I tend to avoid it.  Lunch, for instance.  I know I should eat a nice, hearty lunch every day…but if I open up the fridge and nothing jumps out at me, I just make myself a cup of coffee.  SO not healthy!  By the time dinner rolls around, I’m famished and grouchy.

I have a collection of salads that are easy and all stem from the same base chopped salad!  One night, you can spend less than 30 minutes in the kitchen chopping up your salads for the week.  Using a few different marinades and toppings, the salads will never be boring again!!

Base Salad (of course add or subtract to taste)

  • 5 cups of chopped greens- mixture of romaine, spinach, kale or iceburg
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped green or red peppers (about ½ a pepper)
  • ½ cup chopped radishes
  • 1 cup chopped cucumbers (English are best to prevent soggy salads)

Chop everything in a uniform size and place in a large bowl to toss. I aim for about 2 cups of chopped salad per lunch (before toppers), so you might want to double this for 5 days of salads.  Do what you want, though!  The recipe above is what I use for two dinner salads.

Once you chop the salad, store in Ziploc bags with a dry paper towel on each side.  Make sure you get as much air out of the bag as possible.  This will help keep it fresh in the fridge for up to 5 days!

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Now here comes the fun part!  I love to experiment with different spices and marinades. See photo for my favorites.  You really can’t go wrong with any of the McCormick Perfect Pinch or Mrs. Dash spices…they all add a burst of flavor for any grilled chicken or meat.  You can also marinade chicken in dressings for great flavor.  I like to put chicken breasts in individual bags with the marinades in the freezer.  Just take one out the night before and grill it on your Foreman/stovetop.  You can also grill a bunch of chicken or steak and have it ready for the week!

1.       Asian Chopped Salad.  This is sort of like the one from Applebees, but MUCH healthier.  You don’t even want to know how bad that dressing is for you!  This one I use an Asian Sesame dressing (I like Kraft or Newman’s Own), the chopped salad, green onions, cilantro and chopped pea pods.  Add mandarin oranges or sliced mango for a touch of sweetness.

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2.       Greek Salad. Marinade some chicken in the Kraft Greek vinaigrette for at least 2 hours. In addition to the chopped salad, add ¼ cup feta cheese, ¼ cup chopped red onion, handful of grape tomatoes, ¼ cup Kalamata olives and extra cucumbers.  This is great with a side of my Naan bread.

3.       Mexican Salad. Grill chicken with the Fiesta Citrus seasoning.  To the chopped salad, add ¼ rinsed canned black beans, ¼ cup corn, ¼ cup salsa, ½ chopped avocado, ¼ cup shredded Colby jack cheese, handful of chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of crushed tortilla chips.  This is great with leftover taco meat too!  I like to mix ranch and salsa for dressing, or just mash up the avocado more.

4.       Buffalo Chicken Salad. You can marinade the chicken in Sweet Baby Ray’s Buffalo Chicken marinade OR you can bread it with buffalo pretzel thins (see my recipe here).  Use Bolthouse yogurt Blue Cheese dressing and add chopped celery to your salad.

5.       Chef Salad. For protein in this salad, I either marinade chicken in balsamic dressing, or I simply cut up whatever lunchmeat we have on hand. Amazing tip for hard boiled eggs: bake them in the oven at 300 for 30 minutes! They turn out perfect every time (unless you forget about them….long story!).  To the chopped salad, I add tomatoes, red onion, 1 hardboiled egg, ½ chopped avocado, ¼ cup of shredded cheese and croutons.  For dressing, I like Bolthouse yogurt ranch.

I hope I’ve given you some fresh ideas!  Play around with different dressings and spices and you’ll be amazed at what you can come up with!  I like to wait until there is a sale on McCormick spices or Kraft dressings to stock up.  Usually they can be found for under $1 during a sale!

Fitness on a Budget {5 Tips To Get Motivated!}

Categories: budget friendly, budget skills, family activities, self care

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So I’m going to be honest: I’m not the most athletic person (I run like Phoebe from Friends).  I will find any excuse to not workout.  But in the past year I’ve learned to loathe it a bit less.  Baby steps!

Here are a few tips to save on your fitness.

1. Get a pedometer and set a goal!

I got a Fitbit for Mother’s Day last year and I love it.  Yes, it was around $50, but I now know how active I am and I’ve set goals.  A simple pedometer can be found anywhere and it can cost as little as $5.  I try to get 10,000 steps a day.

2. Checkout Fitness DVDs from your library

I love the library, that’s no secret.  I started checking out fitness DVDs a few years ago and it’s such a great way to keep at-home workouts fun.  Plus, you don’t have to invest a lot of money in a DVD you might not like.  I have ended up buying a few of my favorites.  Also check out Netflix and Amazon Instant has a ton! Here’s a few I love:
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