Frugal Step: Make A Menu


Most of the recipes I link to can be found in my Pinterest boards. Check them out- lots of frugal dishes!

My youngest and I have come down with a cold, and I spent most of yesterday laying around feeling under the weather. I picked up three work days, I have three medical appointments, two nights with kids’ activities, and this week I have homework in both classes instead of the usual one. Meals need to be simple and easy!

Monday: Scrambled Eggs, Toast, Plums

Tuesday: Cheese Grits, Salad

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Thursday: Mushroom Risotto

Friday: Clean out the fridge

Saturday: Julia Child’s Potato-Leek Soup

Sunday: Hunt and peck

Feeding 5 For $100 Per Week: Last Week of August 2016


It looks like a lot of junk, but I volunteered to send in treats for the PTO’s September staff appreciation efforts at the kids’ schools. I don’t have too much time to do more on committees, so I’m adding a bit to our grocery plans every month or so and all I have to do is send it in. We need to use up what we didn’t get to last week.

2016-08-27 16.12.11

We also have to send in bottled Pediasure to school for our son to get coverage if needed. Thankfully this is only needed now and then, so I hope this lasts months. It was part of the $5 off 5 and there was a digital coupon this week, as were the Goldfish. At $0.99, they were cheaper than Aldi brand. This should last over a month. That cake was free!

2016-08-27 16.12.18

Weekly total: $97.16

Running total: $504.98

I’m slightly over $500, but juuuust over.

Frugal Steps and Stumbles


Frugal Steps:

  1. I earned $2 in Extra Care Bucks from CVS for taking a survey.
  2. I earned $4 in credits towards a Vudu movie rental for taking a survey.
  3. I had Ramen for the first time since college for lunch this week. Cost: $0.10.
  4. We had a medical visit this week and learned there was no copay. That saved us $25.
  5. I used a 45% off coupon to CafePress to buy an already discounted T-shirt for our upcoming Star Trek Convention.
  6. I put a hold on several books through the Ohio Digital Library, including Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles, Shonda Rimes’ Year of Yes, The Alchemist,

    Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (this is about an Appalachian family in Southeastern Ohio, and a review I recently read seemed intriguing), and I am first in line for blogger Luvvie Ajayi’s upcoming book I’m Judging You. Her blog is hilarious, so I’m looking forward to her book. I probably have some waiting to do, but I’m next in line for Year of Yes. And yes, I am still waiting for that new Harry Potter book. I’ve been waitlisted for over a month already.

  7. Our 5 year old passed her shrimp oral challenge at the allergist’s office. She is 100% food allergy free (she started out with milk, cashew, red dye, and shrimp), so this means no more Epi-pens, benadryl, and allergy bracelets. Hooray!
  8. I picked up a couple of shifts this week. I also negotiated to work weekend shifts every other weekend. The hours are flexible so I can work around activities and it will mean some steady work without child care needed most of the time. I will still pick up some day shifts during the week, so we expect my income to increase while still allowing me the flexibility to handle the kids’ needs and do my grad school homework.
  9. My mom hand-made two dresses for our girls. She also babysat once this week for a few hours while I had an appointment.
  10. I am 50% done with my Christmas shopping. My kids get books, one to two small toys, and maybe some clothes. We are getting an X-Box with Kinect for them to share. I bought everything else on Amazon on sale and used my cash back bonus  to pay $120 out of pocket.

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. We used the emergency pizza and we ordered pizza one night and my son got a last-minute invite to a friend’s house last night so the girls and I stopped and had Wendy’s.  We did use a coupon for the pizza, so it was 50% less than usual. Not our best week.
  2. We threw out some bad oranges and the last few slices of our Ezekiel Bread began to mold. Good thing I kept the second loaf in the freezer.

This post contains affiliate links.

Frugal Step: Make A Menu


Did you know Frugal Stepping Stones has a Pinterest page? The recipes I post can also be found on my recipe boards there!

Monday: Spaghetti Squash Au Gratin, Avocado Tomato Feta Dip

Tuesday: Cheese Grits, Salad

Wednesday: Chickpea Tikka Masala

Thursday: Ful Medames from Bean by Bean

Friday: Huevos Rancheros with Roasted Sweet Potato

Saturday: Potato and Carmelized Onion Leek Gratin, Sauteed Kielbasa (for the husband and kids)

Sunday: Hunt and peck

Also making: Chickpeas in slow cooker from dried, Homemade vegetable stock in the slow cooker, homemade mushroom stock in the slow cooker

Bread machine cinnamon rolls (Miss E is asking for these)

This post contains affiliate links.

Feeding 5 For $100 Per Week: 4th Week of August 2016

This is a five week month to us budget-wise, so we still have one more week to go after this one!


I hit a few things on the clearance rack. I am planning on making mushroom stock and vegetable stock to freeze this week. My brother is a chef and gave me his recipe. I’m also trying some yummy-sounding new vegetarian recipes this week and I had to buy some fancy-pants Manchego cheese. It was $6!

And yes, I learned my lesson. I restocked the emergency pizza.

2016-08-20 11.49.18

Now that school has started, I am going to go through a lot of apple juice. I prefer to buy in large containers and refill our reusable juice boxes. We bought a 6-pack of these reusable Rubbermaid juice boxes two years ago and they have survived being used and run through the dishwasher 5 days a week for two years. Kroger is selling apple juice for $1 each again this week, so I grabbed five more for our stockpile.

My husband only drinks soy milk, and it is usually $2.19 each or more. I grabbed all seven of these soy mils from the clearance rack for $1.39 each!

2016-08-20 11.49.25

Weekly total: $125.22

Running total: $407.82

Next week’s goal: Keep it to $92.18 or less.

This post contains affiliate links.

Frugal Steps and Stumbles


Frugal Steps:

  1. We stuck to our menu all week. No eating out!
  2. I watched Carol on Vudu using part of my gift card. It was good!
  3. I picked up three shifts. My mom babysat one day.
  4. I got  my quarterly Ebates check in the mail for $10. If you’ve never tried it, you can try it now and get $10 in free cash after your first purchase through Ebates.
  5. Crazy 8 has their annual sale of jeans for $7.99 each. Our son is super duper skinny and needs slim jeans (think BMI in 5th percentile). I always buy 7 pairs from Crazy 8 every year and they last the whole year without getting holes in the knees.
  6. The PTO at our kindergartener’s school gave all the kids a spirit wear shirt for free, so we didn’t have to buy one.
  7. We snacked on air-popped popcorn several times this past week, which costs just pennies to make, and has the bonus of being entertaining shooting out of the air popper. Well, at least when you are 2 and 5.
  8. We used the emergency frozen pizza last night, meaning there was no pricey take-out.

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. I was super annoyed to discover our spaghetti squash that I just bought started going bad, as did a few oranges. To the compost they went!

This post contains affiliate/referral links.

5 Easy Steps To Finally Start Your Blog

5 Easy
(This article contains affiliate links that help to support our family!)

I started blogging long before people worried about personal branding, building followers, or blogging strategy. That was back in 2007, when blogs were pretty much places online to connect with other people. I had an anonymous infertility blog (now private and closed) and found another tribe of women going through the same thing while we built our families or built lives without children.  Those blogs lead to opportunities for some of us, especially those of us who always saw ourselves as writers.

For me, that lead to working with Our Bodies, Ourselves and writing about Pregnancy After Infertility, talking about my experience, and working on the 2011 edition of the book.

A couple years after my first blog, I started a second blog to chart my weekly menu plans, food budget, and share deals with friends. It was mostly a way to keep myself honest, adhere to my budget, and ensure I had quick links to the recipes in my menu plans. I was couponing a lot back then, and this is the time I was able to get over 7 years worth of razors for my husband for $9 out of pocket. (I thought it would be 2 years worth at the time, but after he grew a beard, it vastly extended the life of that stockpile).

I made a little bit of money through blogging and freelancing, but the vast majority of the “wealth” I earned from blogging was in experience, practice, opportunity, and networking. I didn’t have a lot of bandwidth to play around with  ideas until I dropped to a contract position last year.

Last spring, before I left my full-time job, I had a big idea.

What if, instead of being a brick and mortar landlord, I became an internet landlord? I would create a series of niche websites that would be about subjects I find interesting and know well enough to be a valuable source for my readers. I would run ads and eventually create products that complement the sites.

The ultimate goal was not to be the highest earner in my niche, but to diversify and earn a moderate amount from 5-10 websites. This blog was the first step. Recently I launched my second site, Best Geeky Baby Names, and am in the process of tweaking it. I have an idea for five more niche sites that I hope to launch over the next two years.

Even if every site only earned me $500-1000/month, that would still be a full-time income for me over the course of the year, all from the comfort of my home.


What steps do you need to take to start your own blog or website?

1. Think of your niche. The process isn’t as hard as it sounds. All of us have expertise or interest in something. One friend of mine makes custom cakes and does custom embroidery and another takes amazing photos. One friend is horse crazy, another builds furniture from essentially junk, and another is raising and homeschooling four kids on a mini-farm with over 50 animals. Your work as a youth minister, art teacher, basketball coach, or mother of seven might give you a fount of wisdom or source of amusement to share with others. If you have an Etsy or an Ebay shop, a website can help drive traffic to your site.

What problem can you solve for others?


2.  Buy your domain. You can go through GoDaddy or Namecheap, or you can do it like I did and buy your domain when   you also sign up for your hosting service. For me, that was Bluehost.


3. Choose your hosting service. Your hosting service can make or break your website, so you want to choose one that     is reliable, responds quickly to problems, and loads quickly enough for your visitors. You won’t be able to make and           keep your audience if your site is always crashing or loads so slowly they feel like they are back on their mom’s AOL             dial-up connection circa 1999. I use Bluehost for both of my websites, and plan on using it as I launch the other ones. I have had to contact customer service twice this past year, and each time my issue was resolved within 10-15 minutes. My budget is small, and I only pay about $5/month. (If you are interested in starting a blog, on Wednesday August 17th, for one day only, Bluehost is offering their basic hosting plan for $2.95/month for 12 months! If you click on my affiliate link, it will take you right there.)


4. Build your website. Many hosting services easily integrate with the WordPress blogging platform. You can use a               basic theme and figure out how to configure it to your needs or pay for someone to build one for you. I spent time                   looking at websites that I liked and seeing how elements of their layout might work for me, and then bought a                           custom design. I spent about $100 for each site.


5. Start creating! Don’t expect to get it right immediately. Your site will become a unique work that reflects your                      interests and your audience’s needs.  Remember that you are writing to entertain or to help solve a problem. If your            audience is getting nothing out of your site, they won’t bother to come back.


Do you have a great idea for a web niche that you have been sitting on? What’s stopping you from starting?



Frugal Step: Make A Menu


Sunday: Hunt and Peck

Monday: Avocado Tomato Toast with Balsamic Drizzle, Roasted Sweet Potato Slices

Tuesday: Shirred Eggs with Herbs and Garlic, Salad

2016-07-06 18.31.38
Shirred Eggs with Herbs and Garlic

Wednesday: Cheese Grits, Roasted Mushrooms and Onions, Shallot Mustard Tomato Salad

2016-08-13 17.22.11
Cheddar Grits and Shallot Mustard Tomato Salad

Thursday: Lentil and Onion Spread over Rice


Friday: Cousin Alicia’s Seed Patties and Roasted Chard and Mushrooms with WoodNymph Sauce

2016-08-21 17.34.15

Saturday: Dinner with friends at the Winds Cafe

Feeding 5 For $100 Per Week: 3rd Week of August 2016

Kroger: $ 71.77

I learned my lesson and bought some frozen pizzas, just in case something falls off the rails at dinner time. The rule this week is Thou Shalt Not Eat Out unplanned.

2016-08-13 14.27.21

Farmer’s Market: $16

Look at those glorious tomatoes. We tried them already, and they were worth every penny!

2016-08-13 14.33.58

Health Food Unlimited: $43.32

Our pediatrician has been telling us to eat a little fermented foods every day for gut health, especially since one of the kids has had multiple rounds of antibiotics. I’ve been too afraid of killing us with a homemade ferment, but was excited to see this local farm makes a dozen or more fermented krauts. We tried this sweet onion dill kraut and liked it. Everyone will get a spoonful per day.

My cousin Alicia sent me a recipe for seeded vegetable patties, roasted veggies (including this rainbow chard) and woodnymph sauce, made by soaking raw cashews. It’s a vegan recipe and it will be on my menu this week. I also bought some fava beans. I’m looking ahead to next week and thinking of trying a recipe from Bean By Bean, Ful Medames, a Middle Eastern fava bean dish garnished with hard boiled egg.

We are going on a weekend trip in a few weeks, and I am desperate to try and find something that works for my motion sickness. I tried sea bands and meclizine last week, with only partial success. I picked up some ginger chews at the health food store, and we’ll see if those help. Dramamine works, but it knocks me out, and the non-drowsy formulation doesn’t quite work as well for me.

2016-08-13 14.36.22

Weekly total: $131.09

Running total: $282.60

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy.

Frugal Steps and Stumbles


Frugal Steps:

  1. We ate up all of the leftovers we brought back from my in-laws’ house.
  2. The mister was able to reattach the broken handle of our microwave with white duct tape. Works great!
  3. I worked an hour extra doing discharges, but that was all that was needed, so no extra on top of that.
  4. I picked up a shift covering for the medical team.
  5. We listened to music on Pandora for free.

Frugal Stumbles:

  1. I stayed up til midnight doing homework the day before a baby shower in an hour south of me. I left to go to the shower in the evening, but was so fogged and tired I came close to getting in an accident 10 minutes after leaving my house. I turned back around and went home, and will have to send that gift by mail. Cheaper than hurting myself or someone else though!
  2. I went to Target to finish school shopping. I have a Red card, but ever since it switched to those chips, I keep forgetting my pin and couldn’t use it, so I didn’t save the extra 5%. Never mind the fact the Eye of Sauron got me and I picked up a few outfits for the girls.

2016-08-08 19.18.27