Monday, December 13, 2010

Divinity Escapades

Divinity is a great Christmas candy - pretty easy to make and inexpensive as far as candy goes. I made some last week and the kids loved it. I should say that I am really not a candy chef - mostly because candy is a precise art and expensive enough that I can't afford to keep trying to perfect a failed recipe. On the other hand, my kids are pretty good at eating sugar - even if it doesn't look like the Better Homes and Gardens picture. Last week when I made divinity, I overcooked the sugar solution and ended up making suckers instead of divinity on the first try. I just added food coloring and some peppermint flavor to the sugar solution and poured it over popsicle sticks I put on a greased cookie sheet. The kids thought it was the best mistake in the world. I was able to save the egg whites for my second batch - which turned out OK. For a good divinity recipe and tips go to

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fudge in a Bag

Christmas baking time is here! At a class I gave a few weeks ago in Billings, one of the participants mentioned that she made fudge in a bag with her kids. Not only was it a great Christmas tradition, it kept them occupied and quiet for Family Councils and Family Home Evening lessons. Since I want occupied and quiet kids at FHE, I was intrigued and looked up the recipe. It's very simple - and inexpensive!:) Here's the link Try it and give me some feedback. How did it work for your family?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yummy Yams

Looking for a delicious alternative for run-of-the-mill candied yams? I found this recipe at Better Homes and Gardens, and it looked so good I had to try it. Delicious! We're having this for Thanksgiving. See the recipe at
On a personal note - I don't like candied yams. My mother always served a yummy Apples and Yams dish at Thanksgiving which is heavenly. It's my traditional yam dish as well, but I found this, and had to try it out. So this year we're having two yam dishes.:) 
I did find an online recipe for Apples and Yams here It doesn't have a picture or really comprehensive instructions. To add to it - Cook the yams in salted water for 25 minutes. Peel them and slice in half-moons that are 1/2 inch thick. In greased casserole alternate yam slices (standing up) and apple (peeled) sections between the yams. Pour the sauce over and spread to cover.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Turkeys are 29 cents a pound at Safeway! I haven't seen a better (or even close) price elsewhere.

Also, I really liked this study on the Secrets of Low-Stress Families. Check it out at

  Officially, cooking from scratch is a secret of low-stress families! Actually I believe it. Families that use pre-packaged foods spend just as much time in meal preparation as families that cook from scratch. That's been proven before in other studies. So if you're not saving time, isn't peeling carrots more relaxing than reading instructions and scheduling the microwave? Of course. What I don't know is - does cooking from scratch make us a low-stress family? Hmm....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

If at First You Don't Succeed....

So last night we had an "Appreciation Dinner" - meaning what we ate made us appreciate all the other dinners we've ever eaten. I really had all the best intentions, but the rice didn't cook right (actually not at all), and the fried apples and onions that sounded so delicious and cozy in "Little House on the Prairie" were definitely not delicious and cozy in the year 2010. The kids and Jared ate without complaint - oh, how I love them! They did ask if there was any dessert - meaning, "Is there incentive to eat this pile in front of us?" But I didn't even have any dessert.
They were all so stoic about it, and I just kept apologizing, until Jared consoled me by telling me that it was OK; every dinner doesn't have to be a success story. That meant a lot coming from him, considering that 1) he knows I have my share of dinner failures and then some, and 2) dinner is his only really good meal of the day (He eats oatmeal for breakfast and no lunch.).
The real point, though, is that he is right. Cooking from scratch to save money is not always a success story - and that's OK. I'm a better cook because I've learned from failure, and my family seems to get easily over the less-than-delicious meals with no negative side effects. We can't learn and be successful if we give up because of failure. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!!:)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Keeping it Simple Saves Money

I found this great blog posted a while ago. This lady talks about how we save money by keeping things basic and simple. This is a very enjoyable read - and goes along perfectly with my thoughts and how I feed my family. Check out the post at

  Also, this weekend at the Bozeman LDS Stake Center is a Provident Living Expo from 10am-2pm. There will be lots of information on saving money in all areas of living. I will be doing a booth on food budgeting. (For example, did you know that cold cereal and milk cost over three times more than oatmeal and milk? You can save about $100 per year per person in your household if you make that simple switch! What are you going to do with all that extra money?:) Come check out all the fun stuff - plus lunch will be served! And if you have hubbies and boys, I hear the fire trucks will be there.:)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For Your Listening Pleasure

     A few months ago a good friend of mine, Quinn, put together a podcast of the "Oatmeal Story" from my book Centsible Meals. It was a great learning experience for me. I got to sit in a cool foam cubby with a big microphone while Quinn manned a console with tons of buttons and flashing lights. Quinn came to our house to tape the kids and Jared (who are also featured).
     The "Oatmeal Story" is oft-repeated at our house - sometimes as a funny event and sometimes as a stern reminder. Our family definitely had fun trying out this media, and we really appreciate Quinn for working with our time schedule and dubious talent.
Click to listen to "Centsible Meals -- The Oatmeal Story"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kids in the Kitchen

Hey! Found this great article in LDS Living Magazine called Kids in the Kitchen...:) Read it at I hope this doesn't post on facebook 59 times like my last update. If it does, and anyone knows how to stop it, please let me know.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Jared and I went on a hike to celebrate our engagement anniversary. ( He proposed while taking me hiking.) We discovered service berries that were at peak ripeness. They make excellent jam, so we picked some - and realized we didn't have a container - or a bag - or a water bottle - or anything - to put them in. Jared is resourceful  - and chivalrous - and volunteered to take off his sock to use as a berry holder. We picked berries all the way back down the mountain. A very fun, if not totally romantic, excursion. I made jam the next day and it is delicious. So I guess the tips we should glean from this are 1) celebrate all anniversaries, and 2) berry picking is a great family and couple activity this time of year and an inexpensive way to get yummy homemade jam for the winter.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Savvy

Summer is crazy, busy fun! Maybe it's just me, but I feel like I always plan a nice relaxing summer, and somehow it is non-stop. This year is no exception. We have been visiting friends and attending family reunions, and I wouldn't trade any of it for relaxation. (Although I wouldn't mind trying to add some relaxation.)
I taught some workshops in the cities we traveled in. I love the discussion and idea exchange in a good class! Others always have some great money-saving ideas. Here are a couple of my favorites:
A young mother of three in Lehi, Utah told me she has started making all her own bread. To keep her oven from heating her house in the summer, she bought a toaster oven at a second hand store and bakes her bread in it outside on her patio. Saves on her cooling bill!
I got to attend a class on making homemade ice cream in Casper, Wyoming. Our teacher said she uses a small vanilla pudding mix and mostly milk instead of buying  pricey cream and half-and-half. Her samples were creamy and delicious! - a great class on a hot July day!
If you have summer-time money-saving tips, please comment and let us all in on your savvy ideas.:)

Monday, May 10, 2010


OK. It's been awhile since I last blogged. I'll admit I'm not much of a blogger yet, but I was really trying. Life gets crazy, but I'm back! (At least this week.) One of the things I advocate in my book, "Centsible Meals", is no snacking. We all know it's not necessary; that's not rocket science. But stopping is a whole other issue. I'm looking for readers to post ideas about quitting. What helps you stop? How do you sit at home all day next to the fridge and stay away? Personally, I find summer vacation redeeming for me. The kids come home and I have absolutely no time to myself to sneak snacks. Plus, I seem to use more calories in the summer when all seven kids are home ALL DAY. However, that doesn't always help me during the school year. Please share what helps you!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Kids in the Kitchen

My tip and post for the week is an article that's in Montana Parent Magazine - the new March issue. The article is titled "Kids in the Kitchen" and discusses the advantages of teaching our kids how to cook. Of course, one of the advantages is that families save money when kids know how to cook, but there are also lots of other great reasons to teach this skill. In the article I also give ideas for how to involve kids at all ages and stages. If you want to save more money, make a picky eater happy, and give your kids something productive to do in the kitchen, check out!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Inexpensive and Yummy Muesli

I love granola and muesli, but I never buy either - way too pricey. Instead, we make our own! For a bowlful of delicious muesli put small handfulls each of homemade granola (see recipe on my website), cornflakes, regular uncooked rolled oats, and raisins in a bowl. If you have it, replace raisins with fresh fruit. Add milk or yogurt and enjoy! My kids think this is the best treat in the world (almost).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to Stick to a Budget

Some tips for sticking to a budget from money guru Dave Ramsey! I have done all of these, and I know they work!

1.Make sure you write it down. Give every dollar a name on paper. Spend your income on paper before you actually spend it.

2.Stay away from places that tempt you to spend. If you are overspending, you need to buckle down and get serious. It’s a sign of maturity when you delay pleasure today so that you can ensure a better tomorrow.

3.Use Dave’s envelope system to help you spend cash in line with your budget. Take some envelopes, write the budget categories on the envelopes, and use only the allotted money to purchase specific things. When an envelope is empty, don’t buy anything else in that budget category.

4.Stay motivated! Don’t give up! A budget gives you hope that your money situation can and will get better. Dwelling on the failures of the past, or fearing that you will never get to the end, will steal your hope. To avoid this, break your plan down into smaller goals. You can change your financial picture. You can change your life.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Recordkeeping = Big Money Savings

Here's a cool fact from yesterday's TV show:

(CBS) In the final installment of "The Early Show"'s "Five Ways To Boost" series, financial contributor Ray Martin and Farnoosh Torabi, author of "You're So Money: Live Rich Even When You're Not," showed how you can boost your finances, including getting some quick cash into your pocket.

Martin said to increase cash in your house you first need to measure and manage your money.

He explained, "The only way to really get a sense of where your spend your money and then make moves to keep more of it is to measure where it is going. And you know the saying: 'If you don't measure it you can't manage it!'"

Martin suggested starting an Excel spreadsheet for your family or by downloading one of the free budget worksheets on the Internet. Type "budget worksheets free" into Google, he said, and you'll get 191,000 results. Also, check out online expenses tracking websites and

Martin said when he's heard from people who start tracking their expenses, they start saving $500 to $1,000 a month.

The biggest savings, Martin said, can come from getting a handle on out-of-control grocery costs through better meal planning and buying in bulk and on sale. (See why I liked this?)

Martin said, "The point here is this: Don't ignore the little expenses, because those little expenses really add up."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What to do with Leftovers!?

Tonight we are having leftovers. There isn't enough of any one thing to have another complete meal with it, so we are going to the Bowden Bistro for dinner. I've made up some simple menus so the kids can choose what they want to eat. Catch - the menu item names, like "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride", have absolutely nothing to do with the food they represent. The kids will be choosing fun names and have no clue what they are ordering. This should be a fun way to get rid of ALL the leftovers sitting in my fridge. Any other fun ideas for finishing off those little containers taking up space in the fridge? Leave a comment!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

National Oatmeal Month!

We eat oatmeal. It's easy to make. It's warm on cold mornings. It's cheap and filling for all the little mouths we feed. It helps us appreciate the finer things in life. In honor of National Oatmeal Month, I'm posting some "add-ins" we've used to lend variety to our plentiful oatmeal mornings.

First the basic recipe:
Boil 4 cups water in a saucepan. Add 2 1/3 cups oatmeal and turn the stove off but leave the pan on the burner. In about five minutes, stir in 1/3 cup brown sugar. Enjoy! Serves 6-8.

Some add-ins we have liked:
-stir in 1/2 cup peanut butter with the brown sugar
-stir in 1 T cocoa with the brown sugar
-cook oats in apple juice instead of water and add 1 chopped apple with the oats; leave out sugar
-add 1 t. cinnamon with the brown sugar
-add 3/4 cup raisins with or without the sugar

Enjoy your homemade variety pak oatmeal this month!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is It Worth It?

There's a fine line between saving money and making the savings worth the effort. Today I made date newtons - a week-long process. Right there you may be on the verge of thinking, "She's crazy." Let me tell you just how crazy I am. This experiment is the result of three personal weaknesses - 1) I have a hard time passing up a good deal, 2) I like dates, and 3) I really like fig newtons.

Two weeks ago I found dates on clearance at the store for 50 cents a pound. I like dates. They are generally expensive and out of my budget. These were on sale for obvious reasons - age and dryness being two of them. I bought them anyway, convinced that I could turn them into something delicious, because I really like dates.

At home they sat in my fridge for a week. I was busy with Christmas. Jared observed them and asked if he should throw away the ancient dates. I informed him I was going to make something delicious out of them. Last Thursday I pulled them out to use. Stuffed dates were not going to be an option. These wonderful dates were going to have to be cooked to oblivion before they would be soft enough to eat. I put them in a pan on the stove just covered with water and a little sugar, and cooked them for several hours while I thought about what to make with them.

Fig newtons! I love fig newtons and they are also usually out of my budget. Dates are like figs, right?  After cooking down several hours, they were soft and gooey - perfect for a filling. I looked up a fig newton recipe on the internet that seemed like it would work.

New Year's Eve found me sitting at the table for a couple of hours peeling and seeding gooey dates. Did I mention I like dates? Kids are wonderful. They thought it was a great activity - plus it kept them occupied until midnight when we could say, "Happy New Year. We let you stay up until 12. Good night." Peeling boiled, sugared dates is now on my top ten list of "Messy Projects." Mashing them with the potato masher turned out to be another fun kid project.

Today I made the dough - not too complicated. It was the consistency of stiff pie dough, and needed to be rolled out very thin. It took me a good hour, but I didn't mind because strength training is one of my New Year's resolutions. Then I cut the dough in strips, put filling in the middle, rolled the long side edges over top, and baked them edges-side down on a cookie sheet. After baking and cooling, I cut them into newtons, and let the kids try them. Pretty good. I won't enter them in the county fair, but at least they're edible.

So now I'm lookinig back over the process, and realizing that I paid $1 for the dates, spent several hours on the cookies, and that Smith's has a decent-sized package of Fig Newtons for under $2 that taste a whole lot better than what is sitting on my kitchen counter. I'm asking myself, did I learn anything? Yes. Was it fun? Yes. Was it too much work? Yes. Will I ever do it again? No. I very much believe in "Waste not, want not," but sometimes it's hard to define the parameters. Next time I see dates on clearance for obvious reasons, it will be slightly easier to quell my desire to get in on a good deal.