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Category: Earning & Managing Money

15 Dinners to Make When Your Cupboards Are Bare

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Looking for dinners to make when your cupboards are bare and money is tight? Here are some of our family’s favorite ideas. Best of all, most of these are super quick and easy ideas, too:

Meals to Make When Your Cupboards Are Bare

1. Grilled Cheese

You can use any kind of cheese and any kind of bread!

2. Eggs and Toast

This is an easy meal that even younger kids can make!

3. Loaded Baked Potatoes

Get creative with whatever you might have on hand that would work as a topping: taco meat, chili, beans, ham, bacon, cheese, broccoli, sour cream, cottage cheese, etc. You could even do chopped chicken, salsa, and cheese.

4. Any Pasta With Pasta Sauce

If you have any canned tomatoes or ground beef or onions, you can add it to the sauce. Then, serve it sprinkled with any kind of cheese you might have on hand.

5. Sandwiches

The options are pretty ended here: Peanut Butter/Jelly (or PB & honey — we love to toast the bread for a little extra something!) Egg Salad, Meat/Cheese, etc.

Tip: Did you know you can freeze PB&J sandwiches?

6. Build Your Own Taco Salad

Use whatever taco-like ingredients you have on hand: Ground beef or turkey with homemade taco seasoning, beans, lettuce, chips, tomatoes, cheese, etc.

7. Crockpot Sausage and Peppers

This is a staple at our house. If I have kielbasa in the freezer and I’ve gotten peppers on markdowns, I’ll chop up both and add some onions or potatoes or sweet potatoes (if I have them) and cook this with a little water and seasonings in the crockpot for 4-6 hours on low. You can you serve over rice or pasta (if you didn’t include potatoes).

8. Meat/Potatoes/Frozen Veggies Hash

This was a standby recipe at our family’s house growing up. If we needed a quick dinner, we’d brown some ground beef with onions, and then add some chopped potatoes and fry those until tender. Then we’d add corn or peas. I think this recipe originally came from the More With Less Cookbook.

9. Refried Beans and Cheese

We like to spoon refried beans into a baking dish and top with cheese and then heat these up in the microwave (or you can bake in the oven) until heated through and then serve with chips and salsa or spread onto tortillas to make bean and cheese burritos.

10. Breakfast For Dinner

Breakfast foods are always a quick and easy pantry meal idea, depending on what you have on hand. Pancakes, Waffles, or French Toast served with eggs and/or bacon (if you have any) and fruit. You could also do a big pan of Baked Oatmeal and top it with any fruit you have and serve it with yogurt or milk.

Tip: Have extra eggs on hand and some meat and cheese? Make these yummy Egg & Cheese Bites.

Pantry Meal Ideas From My Followers:

11. Quesadillas

Betsy said, “We have what I call refrigerator quesadillas. Tortillas, cheese and anything else leftover– chicken, ham, zucchini, corn, etc. Stick it in between tortillas and cheese and you’re pretty much set!

12. Have a Chopped Competition

One of my followers, Amanda, said that they love to play Chopped when they are trying to use up what they have on hand. (If you’re unfamiliar with it, Chopped is a TV show where contestants are given random ingredients and they have to make a recipe with those ingredients.) What a fun idea!

13. Tortilla Soup

Charity said: “I almost always have bullion, diced tomatoes, canned black beans, an onion or garlic and some veggies (typically celery, carrots and corn) and a handful of rice and crushed tortilla chips around. We’ll top it with shredded cheese.”

14. Cheater Chili

Tanya said: “I always have the ingredients for ‘Cheater Chili’ in my pantry and boxes of Jiffy cornbread mix. A can of chili beans, a can of white beans, a can of kidney beans (or whatever kind you want really) and a jar of Pace Picante sauce. Heat until hot. I add ground beef when I have it or have time, but it’s great without it too.

15. Barbecue Cups

Amanda said: “We make Barbecue Cups — ground beef with bbq sauce, place on top of raw biscuit in a muffin tin add cheese to top, bake in oven.”

What are YOUR favorite budget-friendly meals to make when money is tight?

P.S. For more ideas, check out this post on my Facebook Page.

Sign up for the 14-day Back to School Fitness Challenge for just $7! {last chance!}

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

Need some motivation to workout, get a little more fit, and feel more energized? Join the 14-day Back to School Fitness Challenge! It’s just $7 through the end of today!

If you’ve been following me on Instagram recently, you know that I finished a 21-Day Squat Challenge.

I have never done squats for 21 days in a row. In fact, I thought I despised squats. But I decided to challenge myself to sign up and do it anyway when I saw my friend, Sarah Haley, was running the challenge online.

To my great surprise, I ended up actually sort of falling in love with squats. And I even got some of my best friends to join me in the challenge, too!

I think my favorite part about challenge was that it pushed me but it was something I could easily fit into my life. And it made me feel so accomplished and energized. Plus, I loved the accountability of the worksheets, the videos, and the Facebook Group of women who were doing it alongside me, too.

When the 21 Days of Squats Challenge was almost done, I realized that I was going to really miss having the accountability and the daily workouts planned out for me. So I reached out to Sarah Haley and said, “What’s next?? Can you please offer another similar challenge? Because I loved this one so much!”

14-Day Back to School Fitness Challenge

And that’s when she told me about her 14-Day Back to School Fitness Challenge she was working on. I was all YES! YES! YES!

She just launched it and I already signed up! If you need some inspiration and motivation to get in a little exercise each day, I’d love to have you sign up and join me!

The workouts can be done in just 10 minutes a day — and right now, it’s only $7 to sign up for the Back to School Fitness Challenge (the price goes up tonight to $14)!

When you sign up for the Back to School Fitness Challenge, here’s what you get:

  • Downloadable Print Outs that you can print out (or save to your phone) to help you remember all the exercises and keep track of your progress.
  • Video tutorials to teach you the correct way to perfect each exercise as well as follow-along workouts
  • Daily accountability through check-ins on the private Facebook Group where you can share your progress and struggles with all the participants.
  • Music playlists to keep you motivated
  • THIS YEAR’S BONUSES: Self Care Snacks e-Book Sweat Stretch Download (an additional $10 value)

Go here to sign up for the 14-Day Back to School Challenge. But hurry, because it’s just $7 through midnight tonight on August 31, 2019!

Let me know if you sign up! I’ll make sure to look for you in the Facebook Group! The workout challenge officially begins on September 4, 2019.

How to Cut Your Budget By $100 This Month

Need to cut your expenses by at least $100 right now? This post is for you!

Cut Your Budget By $100

How to Cut Your Budget By $100 This Month

A few months ago on Facebook, I asked this question: “If you had to cut your expenses by $100 this month, what would you cut out?”

There were lots of great comments and I wanted to put together a post with some of the top suggested strategies for cutting your budget by $100 this month:

1. Call and Re-Negotiate Your Bills

Look at all of your monthly bills and see if there are any you can discontinue (subscriptions or membership fees?) or call and ask for a better rate.

It never hurts to ask — especially when it comes to things like phone plans, internet, and insurance! The worst that can happen is that they say no!

Bonnie says: “We cancelled our landline phone for savings of $38 per month. We re-negotiated our DirecTv bill and got it cut by $50 per month. We also discontinued a monthly subscription service to save $10 per month. Finally, we re-negotiated our internet and got faster service with a savings of $7 per month!”

2. Switch Your Cell Phone Plan

There are so many cell phone options out there now! If you’ve not checked into them recently, you definitely should!

For instance, Twigby currently offers phone plans starting as low as $8 per month!

Judy said: “I just ordered the phone and plan from Tigby. With the plan I selected (unlimited talk –I will only use wifi option), I will be saving approximately $50 a month. I currently have Verizon – a basic plan with unlimited talk/text/2g of data. I keep my data off most of the time and hardly use any at all, but my current total cost per month was $73.00 with Verizon.”

3. Brown Bag It

Since we’ve been married, we’ve saved thousands of dollars alone just by packing sack lunches. While Jesse was in law school and we were living on a beans-and-rice budget, brown-bagging it was a must as there was no way we could afford even eating off the dollar menu on a regular occurrence.

But even though we brown-bagged it out of necessity, we found lots of ways to make it easy and yummy — so it really didn’t feel like a sacrifice. Plus, the money we saved made it every bit worth it!

Tip: I’ve got lots of great tips for how to make sack lunches quick and easy here.

4. Eat From Your Pantry

One very simple way to save money is to skip shopping for a week or two and use what you already have on hand. We call this Eating From the Pantry at our house and it’s something we try to do fairly regularly

Instead of approaching eating from the pantry as a difficult thing, we make it a game on occasion to see how long we can survive without going to the store. When you view it as a fun challenge, it makes it exciting and interesting. And it can help bolster your spirits when you find yourself eating some rather interesting meals.

Need some tips and ideas to get started? Here’s my post with how it works for us!

5. Cut Back to a Barebones Grocery Budget

What would you need to cut or change in order to save $25 per week off your grocery bill? (If saving $25 per week isn’t possible, what about challenging yourself to trip $5 or $10 per week off your bill?)

Could you eat less meat, eat more beans, plan your menu around the markdowns, or shop at Aldi?

I’ve got 10 of my best tips for cutting $50 off your grocery budget this week in my free cheat sheet here. Sign up and I’ll email it to you!

What would you do if you had to cut your budget by $100 this month?

I’d love to hear! This is something Jesse and I regularly talk about and it really helps us to remember what are needs versus wants and what we could do if we needed to quickly reduce our budget. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. If you feel like you’ve cut everything you can cut and you still are coming up short, I highly recommend looking into making more money. I compiled a list of some of my best income-earning ideas here.

10 Ways to Save on Visiting National Park with Kids

If you love visiting national parks or have always wanted to visit some, then be sure to check out these great ways to save on visiting National Parks with kids!

{Looking for more budget-friendly tips on vacationing as a family? Check out our posts on Creative Ways to Fund Family Vacations, Tips to Plan a Memorable Vacation Without Spending a Fortune, and Money-Saving Vacation Tips.}

Save on National Parks with Kids

Guest post from Brigitte of

Did you know there are over 400 National Park Sites in the United States?!

This includes national historic sites, national recreational areas, national sea shores, national monuments, and just over 60 national parks that you can explore with your family. Check out the National Park Service’s website to find one near you (or for your next vacation).

If you love traveling and adventuring as a family, then be sure to check out these 10 ways to save on visiting National Parks with kids!

1. Purchase or Sign Up for an Annual Pass

Families who frequent national parks that charge a fee may benefit from an annual pass, which is good for 12 months from the purchase month.

Seniors (ages 62+) can take advantage of an annual pass (or even a lifetime pass) aimed specifically at them for an even steeper discount. The senior pass will cover the cost of everyone in a non-commercial vehicle if the site has a per vehicle charge. Great way to enjoy some time with grandkids!

Families with a fourth grader can enjoy free entry at hundreds of locations from September through August by getting a free annual pass through the Every Kid in a Park program. Even homeschooling families with a fourth grader can take advantage of this opportunity!

Active duty military members (and their dependents) can receive free annual passes for many sites. Just ask for a U.S. military annual pass.

Even if your family has an annual pass, it is still advisable to contact parks ahead of time to ensure the pass is accepted at that location.

View from Effigy Mounds

2. Go on Free Days

If you don’t plan to visit the national parks multiple times in a 12 month span, an annual pass may not make sense for your family.

Instead, check to see if they offer any free days. It’s suggested to arrive early and be prepared for large crowds of people on these days!

(NOTE: Some national sites are free all year round.)

3. Check the Events Calendar

Junior Ranger days, astronomy programs, family days, historic days, nature walks, sled dog demonstrations, movies, archaeology days, and photography walks are just a few of the low cost or even free events offered throughout the year at national sites.

Schedule your visits accordingly by checking the events calendar.

4. Check out the Junior Ranger Program

Kids may enjoy participating in the free Junior Ranger Program where they can complete fun yet educational activities and earn badges at each national park.

Even kids who don’t have an opportunity to visit many national parks can earn badges at home! They can complete booklets about bats, archaeology, caves, the Underground Railroad, and more.

National Parks Junior Ranger Badge

5. Create a Webrangers Account

Kids (and even interested adults) can earn virtual badges and rewards as they complete activities while learning about people, history, animals, nature, science, puzzles, and parks through the Webrangers program.

Registration is free and simple- just create a user ID and password. Once an account has been created, all of the completed activities are saved so progress can easily be tracked.

Kids can even have fun personalizing their own virtual ranger station! They get to choose a theme and customize the walls, shelves, chair, desk, floor, picture, and window view. What a great way to get kids excited about visiting National Parks and learning more!

6. Carpool

By carpooling with others, you can split the cost of the entrance fee if the site charges a per vehicle fee.

7. Stop by the Visitor’s Center

Visitor’s centers often provide free maps, guides, suggested tips, exhibits, and even videos to ensure you get the most out of your visit.

woods in a national park

8. Talk to Park Rangers

Park rangers are often quite knowledgeable about the area and can offer additional suggestions and information about the site.

You may even be able to get a personal tour if you ask (particularly on a non-busy day)!

9. Plan Ahead

Be sure to ceck out the site’s “plan your visit” section! It’s full of great information about fees, hours, things to do, suggestions, and more to make the most out of your visit. It’s helpful to have an idea of what you want to see ahead of time since some parks are so big!

Also, check the weather to ensure you are wearing weather-appropriate clothing for the day.

Walking Stick in a national park

10. Bring Supplies

Besides wearing weather-appropriate clothing, comfortable footwear, and a hat, it may be beneficial to bring water, a camera, sunglasses, bug spray, and sunscreen.

Finally, don’t take a bag for collecting specimens since it is illegal to remove items from national sites.

Instead, bring a bag for any trash you may have. And take pictures of all of the neat rocks, shells, and leaves if you want a record of them!

What other tips do you have for visiting National Parks with kids?

Brigitte Brulz is a homeschooling mom, creator of the Adventure Writing Prompt Journal, author of the book Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles, and freelance writer. She offers free coloring pages, activity ideas, and more on her website at

More Budget-Friendly Vacation Tips:

Our Visit to Christian County Discount Freight & Grocery

Have you checked out Christian County Discount Freight & Grocery in Ozark, MO? In this post, I share about our recent trip there, the deals I found, and my honest thoughts on the store.

Deals at Christian County Discount Freight & Grocery


Visiting Christian County Discount Freight & Grocery

Our family met up with all of my extended family this past week in Lampe, MO for our annual week at the lake trip. On our way home, we stopped at Lambert’s Cafe in Ozark, MO for lunch.

I had mentioned this on Instagram stories and one of my followers messaged me and said we had to check out this discount store that was close to Lambert’s called Christian County Discount Freight & Grocery.

(Note: they don’t seem to have an actual website that I could find. They do have a very regularly-updated Facebook Page.)

It just so happened, that we were at the gas station right down the road when I read the message and it just so happened that we had some wiggle room in our day. So I asked Jesse if we could run into the store to check it out.

I Was So Impressed With the Deals!

Honestly, because of all of the great deals I often find at my local stores, it takes a lot to impress me when it comes to grocery deals. And when we first walked in and I looked at some of the prices, I figured that this might have a few good deals but probably most of the prices weren’t anything to get too excited about.

But then I kept looking and I started getting more and more excited. I should have known one of my followers wouldn’t steer me wrong!

I picked up a few boxes of $0.49 cookies and crackers and then a few more. Pretty soon, when I started dropping things because my arms were full, Jesse looked at me and said, “Um, I think you need to get a shopping basket.”

That was the point when I knew that I wasn’t going to make it out of this store with “just a few purchases” as I had initially planned on. I was quickly falling in love with Christian County Discount Freight & Grocery.

There were SO many, many good deals! I was especially impressed with the prices on crackers and cookies. They had boxes and boxes and boxes of name brands that were $0.49 to $0.99!

Also, I discovered that if you kept looking, there were many that were marked down to half price!

The Best Deals Were on Snack Items

Some of the prices were more than what I’d pay at my grocery stores when pairing coupons and sales. However, most of the snack prices were less expensive than I can ever find.

For instance, Jesse was thrilled to find Sunflower Seeds for $0.49/bag!

All of the protein bars — including RXbars — were $0.50 each!!

They even had this medicine area with $0.49 items!

I found a number of organic items at great prices, too!

And the candy prices were so good. My kids just couldn’t believe it!

So much for buying just a few things!

How Much I Spent at Christian County Discount Freight & Grocery

Jesse laughed as he saw me walking towards him with my precariously balanced basket. I couldn’t fit one more item in so I knew it was time to call it quits. (We didn’t have a lot of extra space in the car, otherwise I probably would have purchased 2-3 times as much!)

Guess how much we paid for this entire basket full of stuff? $14!!!

Basically, I felt like we were shopping at Dollar Tree! That said, since so many of the items were just $0.49 each, it felt even better than Dollar Tree!

If you are ever in or near Ozark, MO, I highly recommend checking out Christian County Discount Freight & Grocery!