March – 2011 – Frugal Novice
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March 2011

Menu Plan Monday: March 28 – April 2

Menu Plan Monday

We had a busy weekend yet again! Friday night we got to go to some friends’ house – their son is in J’s class at school, so he & C had a blast playing. Saturday was filled with errands and LAUNDRY. I think we did 8 loads throughout the weekend because we had gotten SO far behind. Brian did the grocery shopping while the boys napped and I worked on the aforementioned laundry, and we’ve decided we’re fans of this setup. It’s really nice not to get it over with earlier.

Sunday I primed our master bathroom, which we’re in the middle of remodeling. I have never been so thankful that we have a tiny master bathroom – painting the ceiling was new for me and is a pain in the neck (ha. ha. ha.) plus I had to do several coats and still will probably go back to do another. Previous owners through the years put wallpaper over wallpaper, and after many attempts at removing it we discovered that the bottom layer will not come off the drywall completely. Brian sanded it and we’re going to use textured paint to camouflage what’s left. I’ll let you know how it goes!

On to meals for the week… we didn’t end up using all of our meals from last week so some of the ones for this week are carried over.

Monday: Baked potato pizza – you can view the recipe here in my guest post at Saving Dollars & Sense!

Tuesday: Chick Fil A – last week we actually ended up going to Chili’s because they were doing free kids’ meals! The boys were really excited. (Don’t forget, by the way – I’m doing a giveaway for a $20 Chili’s gift card right now! Check over in the sidebar for the link to go enter)

Wednesday: BBQ chicken sandwiches, french fries, & corn. This is a slow cooker meal and it tastes a lot like chopped brisket sandwiches but is a healthier option.

Thursday: Beef stew. I know this is more of a fall/winter dish but it sounded good, is a slow cooker meal, and makes great leftovers.

Friday: J & I are doing a mother/son night out through our church, so Brian & C will be on their own for dinner. Somehow I’m guessing chicken nuggets will come into play.

Saturday: Beef stew leftovers; we’ll probably make some rice to go with it because Brian just got a new rice cooker that he’s using at any opportunity he has. It makes great rice – I’m so glad we got it! He’s been working really hard doing a lot of freelance projects lately so I surprised him with it. We try to be good and use extra money toward debt, but this splurge was something we’ll use all the time, and I know he’s been wanting it for a long time. Side note: we tried jasmine rice for the first time this past week and it is so good! If you haven’t tried it before I’d highly recommend it.

Have a wonderful week, everyone! Are you going to prank anyone for April Fool’s Day? ;)

Tips for Starting a Blog

When I first started my blog, I spent a lot of time planning and doing target marketing research to decide where my blog would fit into the blogosphere. While I mainly wanted to write for fun, I also wanted to, you know, have an audience! I had no clue how many different types of blogs existed; I found everything from fan sites for TV shows to web analytics blogs, and a lot of “mommy blogs” which is where my blog would probably fall.

I thought I’d share a few tips that I learned along the way and that might help you if you’re thinking about starting your own blog:

  • Pick a name that can grow with you. I’ve made my name work as I’ve grown, but I might have picked something broader had I thought it through a little more!
  • Write about what you know, and about what you enjoy. At first I was very narrow in my focus, but then I realized I was missing out on writing about things I really love talking about – cooking, party planning, and crafts have since made their way into my posts.
  • Be clear in what your goals are. Are you solely writing just to write, or do you hope to monetize your blog? Is audience size important to you? How many posts do you hope to publish each week? One year from now, what would you like your blog to be?
  • Pay attention to your stats, but don’t let them consume you. Watch what your busiest days are; some tools will even report back with hour-by-hour traffic, letting you know the best time for posting. There are a lot of marketing analytics products to choose from; play around with them and find the one that works best for your needs.
  • Make friends. Networking is crucial. I’ve learned so much from other bloggers, and have gotten great opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
  • Be social. For a long time I underestimated the importance of presence on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a vital way to connect with readers and let them know about updates – and it’s an easy way for your readers to share things with their friends, vastly expanding your reach.
  • Have fun! It’s not worth spending all your time working on something if you don’t enjoy it – and your attitude shines through your posts, so your readers will benefit if you have fun with what you do.

I Disclose:

Yoplait Kids Yogurt Giveaway – 20 Winners!

Y’all probably remember that I’ve got a Yoplait Prize Pack giveaway going on right now (you should enter that one too, by the way) – well, here’s a chance for you to win some FREE yogurt! The first twenty people to click the link below will receive a coupon for free Yoplait Kids yogurt! You can also get some great ideas for snacks, get tips from other moms, or get involved in the conversation yourself. And if you’d like your friends to get some free yogurt, you can share this with them so they can be one of the twenty to get a coupon.

Note: Yoplait provided me with this opportunity, information and product samples/coupons through MyBlogSpark.

Photo & Prompt Challenge: Day 19

Today’s Challenge: A Skill (or two) You’d Like to Learn

• Knit: My friend Alexis knits GORGEOUS pieces (see these two? yup, they’re hers).  One day I’d love to be able to knit even half this well. I’d make the boys & Brian matching hats and cozy sweaters, and lots and lots of scarves. (Note: Want to see more of Alexis’ work? Check out her Flickr account – these are just a few of her pieces.)

• Build Furniture: Another friend introduced me to the site and I was instantly enamored. Ana makes beautiful furniture from scratch, replicating expensive pieces for a fraction of the cost – and she provides the plans for her pieces, so readers can build them too. I have several projects on my wish list (this headboard is one of them), and hopefully once we get our bathroom remodel finished we can give one a try.

Friendly Friday March 25

Welcome to Friendly Friday! (What do you think of the new button option?)

Remember, YOU can host the link list on your blog, too! Just get the InLinkz code and copy it directly into your post. The code is different every week, so be sure to get the new code when hosting Friendly Friday on your blog. Hosting the list is a great way to get even more traffic to your blog and make Friendly Friday more beneficial for everyone.

Thanks for joining the Friendly Friday celebration hosted by Christi at Frugal Novice, Xenia at Thanks, Mail Carrier and Charla at Healthy Home Blog! We invite you to join us every Friday to make more friends in blogville, get more blog followers and follow other great blogs out there.

To join in the Friendly Friday celebration, include your family-friendly link in our list, follow the hostesses in the first 3 spots and then start blog hopping! Visit other blogs on the list and comment to give them some blog love. Then take a minute to follow them through Google Friend Connect – this is a good way to keep up with other blogs, but also lets us show support to each other! Please DO NOT list your giveaways here, links must be to either your homepage or your Friday posting with your blog title. All others will be deleted.

When people comment on your blog and let you know they’re a part of Friendly Friday, return the favor and follow them back. This way everyone gets traffic and followers out of participating, and it’s a win-win situation. We would love for you to also grab our Friendly Friday button and post it on your blog and/or in a post – the more bloggers that find out about Friendly Friday and participate, the better!

Spotlight on Friendly Friday Followers! We love your participation and want to show it! In addition to gaining followers, each week we’ll select three blogs at random and will feature links and a write-up for those blogs in the content of next week’s Friendly Friday post. There are so many seriously wonderful blogs out there, and this will be a great way to highlight some of those each week. Say hello to the lucky chosen 3 for this week (and feel free to stop by and give them a little extra love):

Maureen, a stay-at-home-mom to her young son named Collin, named her blog Are You a Mom? from a question often asked of her by a boy who would come in every week to the pet store where she used to work.  When she was trying to think of a name for her mommy blog, his question seemed like the perfect name.  Maureen loves her baby, enjoys sharing coupons, and offers giveaways on her blog.

Many people know Glenda as “Tootsie,” and so Tootsie Time is where she shares her love of gardening in Canada as well as her decorating ideas.  She is a single mother of three, loves to fix up old pieces of furniture, does interior decorating, and grows things in her greenhouse.  Glenda really enjoys her greenhouse and dreams of having one large enough to make a living from it one day.

Sheena at Sophistishe is one of the 19 Walmart Moms across the country who “represent the voice of moms,” so if you have any suggestions for Walmart then you can contact her.  On Sophistishe, Sheena tells about her new hobby which is painting, their toddler son named Jayden, her reviews and giveaways, and about starting up a new blog with a friend called “She {Hearts} It!”

Now that you know about these 3 wonderful blogs, it’s time for you to join in! Add your family-friendly link below and we’ll see you back here every Friday! And don’t forget, you can get the InLinkz code to share the link list on your blog, too.

All three hostesses appreciate followers through GFC and Twitter, and we’ll follow you back – be sure to leave a comment with your URL and/or Twitter username.  Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Propel Zero Giveaway – TEN Winners!

Propel Zero is currently in the process of giving out 3 million samples of the new Propel Zero at WalMart stores across the country now through April 24. You can find a WalMart near you that is taking part by going here and entering in your zip code, and find out when you should head to your local store to get your free sample!

I’m hosting a giveaway here (I’ll talk about that in a minute), but Propel is also hosting a sweepstakes you should check out – the winner will receive a year’s supply of Propel Zero! Here’s more about how to enter:

  • Find Walmart sampling locations and dates here
  • Snap a photo of yourself with your favorite Propel Zero flavor at a sampling event (or wherever you happen to be)
  • “Like” Propel Zero on Facebook
  • Upload your photo to the Propel Zero Facebook wall and answer the question: “I stay active by… ” (running, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking my dog for a walk, etc.)
  • Tell us the name of the blogger (that’d be moi!) you heard about the sampling from
  • Check back – one lucky winner will be announced on April 29!

Now let’s talk about my giveaway with TEN WINNERS! Each of the winners will receive a Propel Zero Gift Pack, which includes:

  • Two 20oz bottles of Propel Zero
  • Propel Zero t-shirt
  • Three coupons for a free single-serve Propel Zero
  • Drawstring backpack

This contest is open to all US residents. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight CST) April 7.

Mandatory Entry: Visit the Propel Zero site and then comment here letting me know which flavor you are most excited to try.

(Only valid after the required entry has been completed)

Please leave a comment for each extra entry – if you blog about this giveaway and get 3 entries, for example, comment 3 times.

  • “Like” Propel on Facebook {1 extra entry}
  • Click the Facebook “Share” button below this post to share it on your FB wall {1 extra entry}
  • Click the “Tweet” button below this post to share it on your Twitter feed –  can do up to two times per day {1 extra entry per tweet}
  • Blog about this giveaway and link it back here {3 extra entries}
  • Sign up to get my updates in your e-mail {2 extra entries}
  • Subscribe to my RSS feed {2 extra entries}
  • Follow me on Twitter {1 extra entry}
  • “Like” Frugal Novice on Facebook {1 extra entry}
  • Unlimited Extra Entry Option: Leave a NEW comment on as many other posts as you like and get one entry for each comment (entering another giveaway counts too). Be sure to let me know which posts you commented on below.

Note: Propel Zero is providing me with a Gift Pack, and is providing the ten Gift Packs for the giveaway.

Photo & Prompt Challenge: Day 18

Today’s Challenge: Something you’re afraid of

• Flying. I’ve flown many times in the past, and plan to again in the future (I’ve written about that in my “10 Things About Me” post – it’s #6 on my list). Brian has tried to take the intellectual route and explain how aerodynamics work, but it’s the irrational side of me that’s worried so that didn’t help. I know we’ll plan trips in the future that require flying – I want the boys to have the experience of traveling to interesting places, plus I know I need to just get over it!

• Elevators. More specifically, getting stuck in an elevator. I’ve never even had it happen, but I still get nervous every time I ride in one, even just between two floors. I used to avoid them at all costs; now I’ll ride in them but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Oddly enough, I’m not scared of glass elevators at all. I guess I worry about getting stuck in a regular elevator and no one knowing I’m there.

• Spiders. I feel like that’s such a stereotypical fear! I never can tell which spiders are harmless and which are poisonous, so I just avoid them all. Once (this was years ago, mind you) I saw something black and fuzzy on our desk. I reached over to pick it up, and it MOVED – it was a spider, of course. I trapped it under a glass for Brian to deal with when he got home, and to this day I’m a little over-cautious when it comes to fuzz. :)

What are your fears?

Photo & Prompt Challenge: Day 17

Today’s Challenge: Were you named after anyone?

Eh, not really a fan of today’s challenge. For one thing, it’s a closed-ended question. If I were feeling a little more sarcastic today I might just write “Nope” and call the post finished.

So, yeah. Nope, not named after anyone. My name is Christi, of course, and my parents chose the name because it means “Follower of Christ.” My faith is central in my life, so I do love the meaning behind my name. I have to say, though, Christi is just one of those names that has a million spelling options and no one ever guesses right.

Cristy Cristi Christy Kristy Kristi Kristie

Since we live in Texas I usually just tell people it’s spelled like Corpus Christi. Which works, unless people don’t know how to spell that either. By that point, I just decide it’s pointless and that being Kristy on my Starbucks hot chocolate order won’t hurt a bit. Review & $50 Giveaway

There’s a little over a month until Easter is here, and all of the stores are filled with Easter goodies. I have a lot of fond memories of Easter from growing up, and always loved getting my basket of treats. Now that we have kids, it’s a lot of fun to try to make holidays special for them, too.

Brian had a personalized Easter basket growing up, and I thought this would be a fun tradition to carry on for the kids. However, in looking around I realized pretty quickly that personalized baskets can get expensive.  Then I got the opportunity to review and I was impressed at the variety of low-cost, customizable options they had available.

I chose to review personalized baskets for the boys, and get this – they sell for only $19.99, and come with everything you need to fill the basket! You can see in the picture below, but the baskets each included a small stuffed rabbit, Peeps, a chocolate bunny, malt balls, jelly beans, pastel candy corn, chocolate eggs, and grass.

I priced out what it would cost to recreate the basket on my own, just to see what the value truly was:

  • Personalized basket with liner: $30
  • Candy: $7.00
  • Grass: $1.00
  • Stuffed rabbit: $3.00
  • Total: $41.00

At $19.99, I feel like these baskets are a great value. I love the vibrant colors of the liners against the white and know these will be baskets we’ll use for the boys year after year. So, if you’re looking for Easter gift baskets you should definitely visit – there are a lot of options for personalized items that will be something special for your children. You can also find Easter gifts at Red Envelope – check out these adorable eggs, among the other items available.

One lucky reader will be able to choose a product of their choice (valued up to $50) from! This contest is open to US residents. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight CST) Monday, April 11.

Mandatory Entry: “Like” Personal Creations and Red Envelope on Facebook, then comment here telling me what product you would like to win!

(Only valid after the required entry has been completed)

Please leave a comment for each extra entry – if you blog about this giveaway and get 3 entries, for example, comment 3 times.

  • Click the Facebook “Share” button below this post to share it on your FB wall {2 extra entries}
  • Click the “Tweet” button below this post to share it on your Twitter feed –  can do up to two times per day {1 extra entry per tweet}
  • Blog about this giveaway and link it back here; comment with the URL to your post {3 extra entries}
  • Sign up to receive my newsletter {3 extra entries}
  • Sign up to get my updates in your e-mail {2 extra entries}
  • Subscribe to my RSS feed {2 extra entries}
  • Follow me on Twitter {1 extra entry}
  • “Like” Frugal Novice on Facebook {1 extra entry}
  • Unlimited Extra Entry Option: Leave a NEW comment on as many other posts as you like and get one entry for each comment (entering another giveaway counts too). Be sure to let me know which posts you commented on below.

Note: provided me with the Easter baskets to review, and is providing the $50 giveaway. Any opinions provided in this post are honest and are my own. Review

Whenever we make a purchase online, Brian knows that we always have to search for a promo code first. It’s saved us quite a bit of money over the years, and it’s such a simple thing to do – even easier than clipping out a coupon. is a site that makes hunting for promo codes easy, because it compiles them all in one place. At first glance I noticed there were 60 codes for Apple, 40 for WalMart and 39 for Home Depot. Having so many options for each store increases the likelihood that I’ll find a code that works for my needs, which of course is always a good thing.

I did a search for Target coupon codes and was provided with a list of 26 options. Not too shabby! I really like the way the promo codes are laid out:

At the top of each box it tells you the success rate percentage; some say “Staff Pick” which indicates these are solid codes to use. The comment section in the bottom left was really beneficial – some people shared that it didn’t work on diapers, while others shared exactly where you needed to enter the promotion code for it to work. The other two boxes across the bottom allow users to vote on whether a code worked or failed for them. With just a click of the button you’re able to provide feedback that helps the whole community – brilliant.

The staff at is very diligent about keeping the list free of unusable codes. If a code doesn’t work for three days and its percentage of success hits a certain point, the code is removed from the site, saving users from wasting their time.

Another feature I love about the site is the ability to sign up to receive promo codes for stores you frequently shop at. It’s the digital equivalent of having coupons in a newspaper delivered to your doorstep, only it’s free and tailored to your specific needs.

I’ve bookmarked and it’ll be a staple for all my online shopping from now on.

Disclosure: All opinions are honest and my own.

Photo & Prompt Challenge: Day 16

Today’s Challenge: Your Least Favorite Chore

Is it bad that I can’t narrow it down to one? I have several I hate to do. I love organizing and straightening up, but I HATE cleaning. I hear some friends talk about having someone to clean and that sounds absolutely heavenly. That doesn’t fit into our budget, so we just have to roll up our sleeves and deal with it. There are some tasks I’d rather leave to Brian, though:

• Taking out the trash: At our old place, we had a big can that we’d roll out to the curb on trash days. The can was accessible and I didn’t mind doing it at all. At our current house, we have to go out into the alley to take our trash to the dumpster. I don’t know why I dislike doing it so much, but I do know I’m very thankful to have a husband who volunteers to take on that task!

• Mopping the floors: I used to hate vacuuming, but now we have a Dyson that I love, so it doesn’t bother me. I do hate mopping, though! We even have a Shark steam mop that makes it less of a hassle to mop the floors, but it’ll never be something I enjoy doing.

• Cleaning the bathroom: I’m betting this would be on most people’s list! It just seems like there’s so much to clean in the bathroom – counter, sink, toilet, tub, floors. I get tired just thinking about it!

Your turn to sound off – what chore(s) would you prefer to avoid?