Frugal Basics – Frugal Novice
Browsing Category

Frugal Basics

Gift Idea: World Travel

This is a sponsored post with Luxury Retreat. All opinions are honest and are my own.

It’s that time of year again – everyone is out shopping for gifts for their loved ones. We’ve tried to get started shopping earlier this year, but there are still quite a few gifts left on our list.

Sometimes shopping for your spouse or significant other can be the hardest hurdle to get over for the holidays. If you’re scratching your head at what to get for your spouse, why not consider travel? 

Here are some locations to consider for great destinations that would make a special gift for someone special in your life:

Saadian pavilion, Menara gardens and Atlas in Marrakech, Morocco at sunset. 
  • Morocco: Find Marrakech rentals online and you’ll be all set for your visit. When people think of world travel, their minds often jump straight to Europe. Morocco is a place filled with beautiful sights and loads of cultural opportunities. Jardin Majorelle and Menara gardens are both beautiful gardens that are perfect for strolling and relaxing – what a perfect way to start (or end) your day of sightseeing? Jemaa el-Fnaa is another must-do. There are tons of shops, you can take a private food tour, and you can even have a cooking lesson while you’re there. Food is such a great window into another culture, and learning to cook a culture’s food would be a really fun activity. There are also Hammams & Turkish baths that would provide a really unique experience.
Old town square in Prague, Czech Republic
  • Czech Republic: Prague is another beautiful city filled with Renaissance architecture, world-class museums, and more. The Prague Castle is a must-see. The old town square is another place to add to your list. It has remained relatively untouched since the 10th century, letting you feel almost like you’ve stepped back in time. There are many charming restaurants providing alfresco dining opportunities. You’ll also see lots of street performers, musicians and merchants along the streets. And if you’re a Beatles fan, you’ve got to stop and see the Lennon wall. It is covered in John Lennon and The Beatles graffiti, lyrics and quotations since the (dating back to the 1980s) and is a very popular tourist site.
Aerial view of Mt. Fuji, Tokyo Tower and modern skyscrapers in Tokyo.
  • Japan: Tokyo was named by Time Magazine as one of the 20 best places to visit this year. This city is a great mix of sci-fi looking architecture and traditional experiences. Did you know that Tokyo has more Michelin stars than any other city? You can also find amazing sushi for less than $8 – and you won’t want to miss Robot Restaurant, so be sure and book tickets in advance. You can watch sumo wrestlers practice, and if you want something truly out of this world you can try out one of many virtual reality venues. If you like to shop, be sure and visit Don Quijote (also called Donki). You’ll find a little bit of everything: snacks & sweets, clothes, electronic products, household goods, souvenirs, and more. Don Quijote stores can be found at many locations but the biggest branch is located in Shibuya, which has 7 stories and is open 24 hours a day. This would be a great place to shop for souvenirs.
Tbilisi – the capital of Georgia
  • Georgia: The country, not the state! This is one location that wouldn’t typically be on my radar, but just look at the photo of Tbilisi above – isn’t that a gorgeous vista? Tbilisi is the largest city in Georgia (with roughly 1.5 million citizens) and is the capital. There are many things worth seeing and doing in this city, like visiting the famous sulphur baths in the middle of the old town. The sulphur baths are unique and are an amazing spot to relax for an hour or even for a whole afternoon. Mtatsminda Park is another must-do location. It’s not only the highest point surrounding Tbilisi; it also has a small amusement park, a ferris wheel, restaurants and bars. 
Santorini sunset at dawn village of Oia Greece
  • Greece: Even if you don’t read the rest of this text, the photo alone would be enough to convince most people they need to visit. Santorini’s volcanic history has led to the formation of some unique and beautiful beaches like Kamari. Go and soak up some sun and enjoy the beautiful views! When you think of wine, you probably think of France or Italy, but Santorini has a lot to offer when it comes to wine, too. The soil in Santorini, which is partially composed of volcanic sediment, creates a unique flavor in the wine from grapes grown there that is difficult to find anywhere else. So go visit a winery and grab a bottle to enjoy on your trip to the beach!
Alice Springs, Australia
  • Australia: Alice Springs isn’t a city most people think of initially when they’re planning a trip to Australia, but it has a lot to offer. For one thing – you can visit a kangaroo sanctuary! The Alice Springs sanctuary is the location of the famous Kangaroo Dundee documentary series (BBC UK / National Geographic USA) When visiting the sanctuary, you can interact with kangaroos in their natural habitat on a guided sunset tour. Another location that’s worth a visit is Desert Park. This location has a wide variety of plants, birds, animals and people of our arid regions within one location. There are also opportunities to take hot air balloon rides. The Araluen Arts Centre on the edge of town is another spot worth visiting. It has several galleries of Central Australian Aboriginal art and much more. 

No matter where you end up traveling, the gift of the experience is something your loved one will adore, and you’ll make memories you can cherish together for a lifetime. 

Tex-Mex Pico De Gallo Featuring NatureSweet Eclipses Tomatoes

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of NatureSweet for IZEA Worldwide. All opinions are 100% mine.

We’re in Texas, and we eat a TON of Tex-Mex food here. Quesadillas, fajitas, nachos, enchiladas – these are all staple meals in our household. And y’all, you know queso is a part of that, too, right? I think I might pick queso over chocolate.

With our love of Tex-Mex, we consistently have certain ingredients on hand. Cilantro, limes, jalapeños, and tomatoes are all items that come into play in many recipes we make. 

As you may know, a classic side in Tex-Mex cuisine is pico de gallo. We’ve eaten it often, but had never made it from scratch. I decided we should give it a try, so I gathered the ingredients. Tomatoes are the cornerstone of the recipe, and I knew I wanted really flavorful tomatoes to make the pico de gallo really great. NatureSweet Eclipses were perfect – they’re deeper-colored tomatoes, and the deeper color means a richer flavor. 

NatureSweet Tomatoes in Packaging

NatureSweet Tomatoes

I do want to add this – as you can see in my photos, the Eclipses tomatoes are a darker color and aren’t the typical red tomato. This is a classic, oh-so-accurate case of not judging a book by its cover, friends. Think outside the box and go for these amazingly flavorful tomatoes – you’ll be so glad you did.

NatureSweet Tomatoes Sliced

Pico de gallo is a great, easy dish you’ll love. It’s perfect to add to fajitas or to mix in to guacamole or black beans. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 NatureSweet Eclipses tomatoes
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • Juice of 1/2 lime 
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Dice up the tomatoes. You can adjust how finely you dice based on your personal preference, which is one reason we love making our own pico de gallo versus buying store-bought concoctions.
  2. Chop onions (side note: did you know you can wear goggles while you do this to prevent tearing up? My husband makes fun of me but my eyes are dry when I’m done, thank you very much!). 
  3. Chop cilantro. Here’s a tip: if you have trouble cutting herbs with a knife, using kitchen shears can be an easy workaround.
  4. Combine tomatoes, onion, and cilantro in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of at least half a lime into the mix, and stir. You can add more lime juice if you prefer a more citrus-y taste to your pico de gallo.
  5. Stir in garlic powder and salt. 
  6. Enjoy! 

(Side note: I’m working with my daughter, who loves to cook,  on knife safety skills and she loved getting to help cut the tomato!)

PicoDeGallo

NatureSweet Eclipses tomatoes would also be awesome in a marinara, salsa, or any other tomato-based recipe you love. I just keep thinking of all the recipes I could really punch up with richer flavor! Find NatureSweet Eclipses near you so you can try out my pico de gallo recipe for yourself – and here are a few other recipes you’ll want to add to your repertoire:

Visit Sponsors Site

Take the brightpeak $500 Savings Challenge (& Get a Head Start With This $25 Giveaway!)

This is a compensated, partnered post with brightpeak and The Motherhood. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Did you know that about 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings account, and 21% don’t have a savings account at all? Especially if you’re a young couple just starting out, or if you’re a young family with lots of expenses, it’s easy to see how having a savings account can seem out of reach.

love the idea of finding ways to save more money, but I’ll fully admit it’s easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life and lose track of savings goals. That’s why I was pretty excited to learn about brightpeak’s free $500 Savings Challenge – it makes it pretty foolproof to set aside $500 in savings… in just one week.

I signed up to give the challenge a try – I was curious what kind of steps one has to take to achieve the goal of saving $500 in seven days. Were they going to suggest ideas that were really difficult to accomplish?

When you sign up for the challenge, you get one email each day with an action you can take to save money. And guys? Each suggestion was really reasonable. My favorite suggestion is selling something worth $100. It’s my favorite because it accomplishes two things – decluttering the house and earning money! If you take a look around your house with open eyes, I’m sure you can find an item worth $100 to sell on Craigslist or a local Facebook garage sale group. And if you can’t find one item, surely you can find several items to list that total up to $100 (For example, I have a big stack of E’s 3T clothes she’s outgrown – it’s so easy to sell them if I just put my mind to it!). You’ll be one step closer to your savings goal, and you’ll have purged items you didn’t really need anyway.

There are, of course, 6 other days worth of challenges, and I’ll keep the rest of the actions a surprise so you can learn them for yourself. I’ll say this, though – it’s totally achievable and realistic to save the $500 in 7 days and get the boost to your savings account you need!

Continue Reading…

Rice Krispie Treat Presents: Mini Chef Monday

Hi all! Christmas will be here in just four days and I’ve got a fun and easy food project you can do with your little one for the holidays.

Make Rice Krispie Treats, following the recipe on the cereal box. Instead of pouring the treats into a 9×13 pan, pour them into a sheet pan.

Cut six squares of the treats all the same size and form them into a box, pressing the corners to adhere them together.

RiceKrispieTreatBox

Fill the box with your recipients’ favorite treat – we went with red & green M&M’s.

CandiesInBox

The best part of this is letting kids have fun with it. Mine loved tearing it apart and eating pieces with M&M’s!

Continue Reading…

Creamy & Crunchy Chicken Crescents: Mini Chef Mondays

Oh my word, guys – it’s December. We’re even getting a few cold days here in Texas, and there’s nothing better on a cold day than a nice, warm, comfort food meal – and these creamy & crunchy chicken crescents are just that. We’ve made these for years, but this was the first time E helped me make them – and she loved it! There are lots of opportunities for getting your hands dirty, which kids love.

Here’s the recipe – and don’t forget, as always I’m sharing step-by-step photo instructions so you can make this with your mini chef!

Continue Reading…

Data Done Right for Our Family With Virgin Mobile

 I participated in an Ambassador Program on behalf of Influence Central for Virgin Mobile USA which is one of Sprint’s prepaid brands. I received two Virgin Mobile smartphones to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Our boys love screen time. If they had their way, they’d probably play video games every waking hour. We limit the amount of time they’re allowed to play, and it can be hard for them to share or take turns. If you have more than one child, you’ve probably experienced this very same issue.

VirginMobile

Virgin Mobile is a parent’s dream – they have Data Done Right Single Line and Multi-line Data Sharing plans, which are available exclusively at Walmart. It’s incredibly easy for family to share data, and we can split up the time between the boys with minimal bickering.

DataSharing_Screen

And since these phones aren’t contract plans, but are pre-paid cards, we know we don’t have to worry about them going oveboard and costing us an arm and a leg. These plans make us really aware of how much time each person is spending on the phone, and we can make sure we don’t have a data hog in the family!

Continue Reading…

Be Ready for Summer Backyard Bashes with Charmin

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Charmin. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation. All content and thoughts are my own.

The Fourth of July is coming up next week and we’re planning to have a cookout! We’ll grill burgers and hot dogs, slice up a watermelon, and have some friends and family over for a classic summer celebration.

We love entertaining, and summer get-togethers are just the best. We can hang out in the back yard, let the kids run around and play, and enjoy cool treats to beat the heat. Fourth of July parties are always fun  to decorate for, because you can go all out with the red, white, and blue!

Continue Reading…

Moms, You Don’t Have to Drive a Minivan!

Confession: we’re that family. The ones who said we’d never drive a minivan. And the ones who now do drive a minivan to car around our three kids. It works well for us, and truthfully I like it more than I ever thought I would. That being said, I really wasn’t aware of all my options when we made the leap to minivan-ownership, so I’d like to provide a public service now and make you aware of some options beyond the minivan. These are cars we’re considering for our next trade-in, starting with:

1. Chevrolet Traverse.
 This is a mid-sized SUV that seats up to 8 and has a ton of cargo space (116.3 cubic feet). It has six airbags, including an industry-first front-center air bag, and available Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning. Both of those features are perfect for driving with kids (aka distractions) in the back of your car. The safety features abound, and it gets decent gas mileage, too: 17 mpg/city and 24 mpg/hwy.

For other great alternatives to a minivan (including one that gets 34 mpg on the freeway!) visit my guest post over at the Bob Pulte Chevrolet dealership blog!

A Mom’s View: Favorite Features of the Dodge Grand Caravan

My parents started driving a Dodge Grand Caravan when I was in middle school, probably anticipating the vast number of times they’d have to cart me and my friends around. I’m pretty sentimental about the Caravan because of many great memories made over the years, but now as a mom of three kids I can appreciate the new Grand Caravans and all they have to offer. I never thought I’d be a “minivan mom” but I’ve definitely come to appreciate how great they are for families. Here are my favorite features of the Dodge Grand Caravan, starting with:

1. Seating for Seven. There’s plenty of room in the caravan for my family of five, with three rows that allow for some separation among siblings when needed. And when it’s parked, the 60/40 split folding third-row bench seats can flip completely rearward – perfect for tailgating or hitting up the local drive-in theater.

The rest of my favorites can be found in my guest post over at the Marty Cancila Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram dealership blog. Go check it out, and see why you’ll love the Dodge Grand Caravan, too.

Tips for DIY Detailing

I love having my car detailed; I’ve only done it twice, but both times I left the car wash feeling like I was in a brand-new vehicle. I also detailed my car before I traded it in; I felt like I wanted to put my best foot forward before going to the dealership. No matter what your circumstance, detailing your vehicle is a way to pamper yourself – and your car. If you’re not willing, or able, to shell out the money for someone else to detail your car, don’t worry! Did you know you can easily do it yourself and save money? Here’s a great tip to get you started:

1. Use an air compressor. Borrow one, rent one, or invest in one – regardless of how you acquire one, you’ll be glad you did. An air compressor lets you get rid of all the dirt in all the tiny nooks and crevices of your car, and loosens dirt from the carpet and seats.

Find out what else you should do to end up with a well-detailed car by visiting my post at the Lebanon Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership blog!

New Year’s Resolution Success with Kohl’s

Note: I received gift cards from Kohl’s to facilitate my post. All opinions are honest and my own.

I have a confession to make.

I’m pretty unoriginal with my New Year’s resolutions.

But, so far, I’m also pretty successful at keeping my resolution this year – so I guess in that way I’m fairly unique!

My resolution this year is to be healthier, which includes eating better and exercising more. I’ve tried this in the past and didn’t last long, but this time around I’m taking added steps to make sure I’m successful. I’ve found an app to help me track both calories consumed and burned; I’ve got an accountability partner (my husband – so convenient! And so amazingly awesome of him to agree to work out with me each night); and I’ve got the gear I need, thanks to Kohl’s.

I shop at Kohl’s pretty frequently for clothes, shoes, accessories, toys, and kitchen items. You probably do, too. But did you know Kohl’s has a pretty impressive line-up of items to help you live a healthier life?

Kohls_HealthStatement

There are a ton of options for workout gear – I personally think it’s a morale-builder to work out in something you feel attractive in; and if you feel attractive, you’re more likely to want to wear those clothes and work out in them.  Whether you’re a gym rat or you like to walk around your neighborhood, there’s attire for you.

Kohls_Womens-Workout-Clothes

Kohls-Tracksuits

Good shoes are crucial, and Kohl’s has plenty of those to pick from, too.

Kohls-NikeShoes

Don’t forget some headphones to listen to music while you work out!

Kohls_Headphones

They even have socks that wick away sweat, and I think we can all agree that’s a very good thing.

Kohls_Socks

Beyond clothing, though, there’s all sorts of exercise equipment, from weights to kettlebells to yoga blocks and more.

Kohls-Kettlebell

Kohls-Yoga-Kit

Kohls-Yoga-Block

And since you’ll be working up a sweat, you’ll want to make sure and stay hydrated. Kohl’s has got you covered there, too:

Kohls-WaterBottles

Of course, exercising is just part of living a healthier life. It’s important to make good choices with what you eat, too. There are a ton of kitchen gadgets on the market that make it fun and easy to eat healthy, and Kohl’s offers a wide variety to choose from. There were two items in particular I looked at – the Nutribullet Pro (how easy would it be to make smoothies with this?):

Kohls-MagigBullet

and this:

Kohls-Veggetti

You can make your own “noodles” out of veggies – too  cool! This would be a really fun way to give kids veggies, by the way. Or to lower your carb intake when it’s Italian night!

I decided to get something to help keep me accountable – a Fitbit Flex.

FitBit_Kohls

It’s been really great at motivating me to want to fit in as many steps as possible – and we got one for Brian, too, so we can challenge and encourage each other to stay active! Our Kohl’s had a kiosk right by the jewelry counter with the Fitbit Flex, Charge, Charge HR and Aria scale.

If you were thinking about making a resolution to live healthier, it’s not too late to start! It’s better to start a little later than not at all. Stop by Kohl’s and have a little healthy-living shopping spree. Get yourself shoes and workout clothes; find a DVD you can do right in your living room and grab a blender for smoothies in the morning. And if you get a Fitbit let me know so we can be friends and encourage each other!

Favorite Car Features for Parents

Happy family in car

We all have “extras” we want in a vehicle, but parents come to the table with a specific needs and challenges. Vehicle manufacturers have taken note, and there are several features parents especially love to have included in their car – here’s the first:

1. Built in sunshades. No one likes using those suction-cup screens that barely cover a portion of the window. Many cars now come with shades that slide up from the base of the window and can retract when not in use. These are perfect for shielding little eyes from the bright sun.

For four other features you’ll want to keep an eye out for in your next vehicle, check out my guest post at the Kayser Chrysler Center of Watertown dealership blog.