Back-to-School Breakfasts {Eat Well, Spend Less}

It’s almost time for lunchboxes, early rising, big yellow buses, and homework. Yes, school is back, and no matter where your kids attend, everyone seems to have a “school” routine.

Even though we homeschool year-round, when we start back full-time, our routine changes. During the summer, we are more laid-back; come the middle of August, while not strict, we do have a schedule.

back-to-school-breakfast-ideas

One morning a week, we head to our Classical Conversations classes, while the other four are spent at home. I have found keeping the same routine for all five days helps us to be more organized on the one morning we “have” to be out by a certain time. {On this note, I have the utmost respect for those of you who public or private school your kids. The “school morning rush” is not something I look forward to on ONE day, so to you mommas who do it FIVE days every week? Well, you pretty much rock!} And while I’m not above serving a bowl of cereal if Cam and I have had a long night, I would much rather serve the girls something hearty that stays with their tummies and brains longer than cereal.

Here are my favorite {quick & easy!} breakfasts for school mornings:

Fruit, yogurt, and scrambled eggs – the fruit is quick because you can wash and cut it the night before {or, do like we do and wash it as soon as you purchase it… although doing this will make it disappear faster!}. And scrambled eggs only take a few minutes to whip up. If you have your kids helping, breakfast can be on the table in under ten minutes.

Oatmeal – and this isn’t the microwaveable kind, either. Top with blueberries or other favorite fruit and you can guarantee they’ll be full until lunchtime.

Breakfast Burritos – these yummy homemade-but-from-the-freezer burritos can be microwaved in about a minute. It doesn’t get much quicker than that, does it?

Easy Breakfast Parfaits with Homemade Granola – this is a breakfast your kiddos could throw together on their own, while you sip on some tasty coffee {links below, mommas!}.

Omelets, Pizza or otherwise – to make this even quicker chop and saute your veggies the night before; they’ll warm up when you throw them on the eggs.

Homemade Pop Tarts – once you’ve made and frozen them, these babies can be toasted and served almost immediately.

A few not-so-quick breakfasts for school mornings at home, weekends, or when you miraculously wake up early enough to actually cook:

Homemade Pancakes – make it quick by mixing the batter the night before; on school mornings just toss some butter on the griddle and bam! a hearty breakfast in a pinch.

Breakfast Casserole – again, mix all of the ingredients up the night before and pop it in a {cold!} oven. It takes about 30 minutes to bake, but it’s the perfect comfort breakfast for any morning.

Blueberry Muffins – what would a list of breakfast foods be without a muffin recipe? I could eat these muffins every. single. day. It takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, so that’s why it’s on my “not-so-quick” list.

Homemade Toaster Tarts – these are made with a homemade crust, but I bet you could make them with a pre-made just fine. This recipe made my not-so-quick list because you can’t just wake up {well you could, but you would want to start mighty early!} and throw these together. Now, if you made them the night before, warming them up in the oven or toaster would make them a quick breakfast indeed!

And for those special occasions, like the first day of school or the occasional snow {snow? it’s 100 degrees and Amy said snow?} day or holiday:

Cinnamon Roll Waffles – these make for a very decadent breakfast treat!

Baked Donuts – you had me at donuts.

Caramel Pecan Cinnamon Rolls – because you can.

And for those mommas who need special {can I get an Amen!?} coffee, here are a few make-at-home recipes to be enjoyed on the drive to the school drop-off line or for when the kids are safely on the bus and you have a few minutes to breathe {or not!}:

Iced Coffee Recipe – my very favorite iced coffee recipe. Hubby claims it’s better than what you can buy at a fast-food restaurant.

Easy Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee – you can’t have too many iced coffee recipes. #coffeejunkie

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte – pumpkin spice? ‘Nuf said.

I’m always pinning something, and breakfast ideas are some of my faves. Feel free to follow my Breakfast Bonanza board or my Coffee Recipes board!

What are your go-to school morning breakfasts?

August is back-to-school month! See more tips, tricks, and recipes for streamlining this year’s school days:

  • Share This:
  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this Post
  • Share on Twitter

Six Tips for a Simple and Frugal Birthday Party {Eat Well, Spend Less}

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really spent a ton of money on my girls’ birthdays. Usually, we have family over and roast hot dogs and eat cake. Every other year, they get to have a friend party at a local park, where they can invite a few friends (plus family) to play and have cupcakes.

Six Tips for a Simple and Frugal Birthday Party

This year, Reese had a blast playing at the playground and eating store-bought cupcakes. Even though I didn’t go the homemade route this year, I still didn’t spend much; less than $50 for cupcakes and paper goods.

However, I realize that many people can spend hundreds of dollars on one child’s birthday party. To each his own, but this just isn’t how we roll. Having four children means having four birthday parties, and I would rather spend my money on something tangible, rather than a party everyone wants to pin on Pinterest. I’m not very pinterest-y anyway, have you noticed?!

Ahem.

So here are six tips to help you eat well at your children’s birthday parties and still spend less.

Use a theme with toys you already have.

One year, we had a Dora-themed birthday for Abby Grace. We bought the Dora plates and cups, but all of the decorations were the Dora figurines we already had. Shane set up the Dora castle and figurines as the table centerpiece and Abby Grace loved it. When we had a Barbie-themed party, we bought the Barbie and some accessories as her gift and used those as part of the decor. Two birds with one stone, baby!

Fire up the grill…

… or have a hot dog roast. We enjoy roasting wieners in our fire pit, and it’s always a hit when we use it for a party. Snack on s’mores instead of cake and you have a campfire birthday to remember. Try purchasing hot dogs when they are on sale (mainly the months of May, June, and July) and then freezing them if your kiddo doesn’t have a birthday during the summer. Don’t forget to take your coupons!

Have one big party.

In the past, we have combined Abby Grace’s and Reese’s birthday parties; Reese was born in March and Abby Grace was born in May, so we have one big party in April. Since we are inviting pretty much the same people for both, this works really well. We save time and money and everyone still has a lot of fun.

I have made a huge pot of beans, homemade cornbread, and of course, cake and the party was a huge hit with the guests. I love this guide on how much to serve at a party. It will definitely help you plan and hopefully keep you from having too much (or not enough!) food.

We still make sure their special days are special by celebrating with just our family and each girl always gets a special lunch date with Daddy.

Eat cake…

… without serving a meal first. Have the party in the afternoon, between 2 and 4 and just serve cake (maybe some ice cream!) and punch. This option is definitely cheaper and there is a lot less work and clean-up. ‘Nuf said.

Take the easy way out.

No, I don’t mean go to Chuck E. Cheese. If you have to have food with your cake, but don’t want to cook a meal, go the easy route: mini sandwiches, fruit, veggies, and dip. Easy-peasy, satisfying, and you can keep costs down by buying the fruit and veggies in bulk, rather than pre-cut. You can also make your own dip or pair chips with salsa.

Opt for homemade.

You really can’t beat a homemade birthday cake (with an awesome homemade birthday banner to boot). Homemade can easily be the least-expensive, yet tastiest option for birthdays. It’s the way we usually do it, and while it can be more work, you can make it fun by including your kiddos in the planning, making, and creating.

Here are a few of my favorite homemade recipes:

What are your tips for having a frugal birthday party?

And don’t forget to visit the other ladies to see how they are eating well and spending less on summer parties!

  • Share This:
  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this Post
  • Share on Twitter

Eat Well and Spend Less… Two Years Later

Happy two year anniversary to our Eat Well, Spend Less series! I wasn’t there for the birth of this fantastic series, but the group was very welcoming when I took over the writing on this site. And while *I* may not be celebrating two years of being a part of this, I have followed along from it’s inception… and gleaned so much along the way.

Being a part of this series (and with this amazing group of ladies!) has pushed me out of my writing and cooking comfort zone. It has pushed me beyond limits I didn’t even know I had. I’ve shared my Whole30 and sugar challenges, about how I’m trying to eat better, my love-hate relationship with menu planning, food goals, and more.

Eat Well and Spend Less Two Years LaterReese with her pretty cupcakes

So, where am I, two years later?

Well, we aren’t perfect.

Sometimes I take shortcuts to get by during the busy seasons.

For example, I have always made the girls’ birthday cupcakes from scratch. Always. I have never bought store cupcakes or store cake or anything. Not that this is bad, it’s just something I have never done because their favorite cupcakes are homemade. The evening before her party, I went to the grocery store for ingredients and came back with really cute store cupcakes and Koolaid pouch drinks.

Yep, you read that right. Refined-sugar-laden and dye-filled goodies, all designed to make my life easier. And you know what? No one was any worse for the wear.

Did I feel a twinge of guilt for taking the easy way out? Yes. I’m sure it was just my OCD talking, but I let Reese decide if she wanted the homemade cupcakes or pretty store ones (my homemade ones are not so lovely!). She was happy, and I was able to go home that evening and have a little birthday dinner and movie with my family, instead of spending all night baking 4 dozen cupcakes.

Could I have “planned” better and started earlier? Probably. But our week ended up being really busy, and by the time Friday rolled around, I had not had a chance to get anything ready.

My point in admitting all of this, is that we all have to do what works for our family.

Even with my Type-A personality, perfection in the kitchen is something I no longer strive for. I may make my pie crust from scratch, but I may or may not have a Sonic gift card in my wallet. I love including my children when I cook, but at times having littles “helping” can be stressful. I can definitely tell you how to save money on healthier foods, but I don’t always follow my own advice. I am in a position to feed my family fairly well on a regular basis. I know not everyone is able to do this. Full bellies are more important than eating perfectly. Do what works for you and your family. Period.

Where am I two years later? Doing my best… which is exactly what you should do as well!

Feel free to browse the archives in this series. I’m including some of my favorite posts below!

We want to hear from you! Tell us your grocery spending challenge or question so we can better serve you in the next year by filling out this survey.

And don’t forget to visit the other ladies to see how they are eating well and spending less!

  • Share This:
  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this Post
  • Share on Twitter

Eat Well Spend Less Q&A: Favorite Grocery Stores

{photo credit: NatalieMaynor on flickr}

I have had several questions lately about the best places to shop, so the timing of our Eat Well, Spend Less Q&A was perfect! The seven of us live in different areas of the United States and Canada, so hopefully one of us will hit on some stores in your area.

I live in southern Oklahoma, right on the OK/TX border, so I can choose to shop in either state fairly easily. And since Alyssa showed us how she shops in Texas, I’ll mention the stores available in my little corner of the country.

I’m not much of a couponer anymore, but for those of you who do, and are fortunate enough to have a Homeland grocery store in your area, this is the place to coupon. While their prices tend to be higher than Walmart, Homeland doubles $1 coupons, which seems to be the exception in the coupon world. This has led to great savings for me in the past. Homeland is where I purchase organic produce, organic/natural products (like peanut butter), and hormone/antibiotic-free meats.

My new favorite store is Aldi. The town 25 minutes north of me just put one in about three months ago, and I love it! The produce is fresh and cheap, and while there isn’t as much of a selection as a regular grocery store, I’ve found I don’t need as many options. I am mainly after produce and juice, and the small size of the store gets me in and out quickly.

Walmart is also in my area, but I’m not a fan because I get very overwhelmed inside that store. However, I like purchasing some of their off-brand items, so I do venture in there, but only when I’m alone.

As I have mentioned before, I love that we have access to Azure Standard. I purchase many of my organic and specialty items from Azure. My milk, eggs, and honey come from a local farm. There is also a nice farmer’s market down the road from our Classical Conversations meeting place that I love to frequent!

What is/are your favorite store(s) to shop for groceries and why?

Mandi {blog} Easy. Homemade.
I’m a big fan of shopping at Walmart simply because of the prices. I typically save 20-30% off the regular grocery store prices without couponing, which makes a big difference in our grocery budget for our family of 6. That said, we also head to Martin’s regularly for organic/specialty products, and I much prefer their summer produce. I’d like to try Aldi’s produce as well, but living in the boonies makes running errands and stopping at multiple grocery stores harder, and I’m not sure the cost savings are worth dragging the kids to one more place after church on Sunday!

Aimee {blog} Simple Bites
A few years ago, I took my readers on a tour of where I shopped, and many were surprised that the supermarket was my last stop – and one I often could skip. I tend to jet around for my goods, stopping at city produce markets, small ethnic shops, and larger organic crookery stores to stock up. Once a week I’ll visit my butcher, and when we’re in the neighbourhoods, I’ll pop into small specialty shops for items like our famous bagels, smoked meat or cheese.

I am convinced that the savings I make when purchasing from the source, far outweigh the time (and gas) spent in seeking the items out. Not to mention the selection offered is wider and the quality of the ingredient are generally much better. If you can

a) source the cheapest versions of your grocery staples
b) take the time to gather them from their various locations and
c) easily transport them back to your kitchen

then you are going to be eating well and spending less.

Jessica {blog} Life as MOM
I used to coupon heavily and pick up every single deal I could get my hands on. As I’ve cleaned up our diet, I’ve lost the coupons almost completely as well as narrowed down our stores. I shop Ralphs for good deals on meat, coffee, and manager specials. I look to Costco for a wealth of organic products, including pasta, tortilla chips, canned tomato products, and dairy. While I get a weekly organic produce box, I still go to Sprouts for killer deals on fresh fruit and veg. I lean on Trader Joe’s for GMO-free items with no additives and fillers. I usually get cereal, crackers, rice cakes, fish, some dairy, and some veg at TJ’s. Those are my top 4. Walmart and Vons are closest to home, so they serve for convenient and quick and the occasional sale.

 

Carrie {blog} Denver Bargains
In our area, King Soopers (Kroger) is my go-to store, but I also shop Sprouts and Sam’s Club. I tend to pick up lots of produce and dried fruit at Sprouts (they have amazing sales) and have only recently begun shopping at Sam’s. I’d resisted the warehouse clubs for awhile, but now that my kids are getting bigger and eating more, it’s made more sense to buy in large packages. I buy staples like canned tomatoes, flour, and sugar there, which enables me to cook for the freezer a lot more efficiently than I was able to do by waiting around for the great sales at the regular grocery store. I buy our ground beef at Ranch Foods Direct, a local butcher – it’s a little more expensive but the taste is worth it (not to mention that it’s antibiotic- and hormone-free).

Shaina {blog} Food for My Family
I don’t have a single one-stop shop favorite. I tend to buy in waves, visiting several stores over a month for different purposes. During the summer months I live off the weekly market, buying as much as I can from local farmers and then complementing that with a trip to a grocery store. During the winter months I take advantage of bulk pricing on organic produce at Costco and cheap organics at Super Target before branching out to the co-op and Whole Foods. Because there are certain things I can only get at one store or another, I just try to buy in bulk (which can also lead to discounts) so that I am not visiting multiple stores each week.

Katie {blog} Kitchen Stewardship
My favorite place to buy food is not a store – I love the Farmer’s Market and mourn when it’s not open (much) in the winter. I prefer to buy in bulk via Country Life Natural Foods (clnf.org in the Midwest) and meat/milk/eggs direct from the farm. Had you asked me if I ever thought I’d get this far from cash registers and checkout lines a few years back, I’d have said, “No way.” Now I can go weeks, even in the winter, without visiting our local big box store (Meijer) that I used to frequent at least weekly. I do have a relatively new membership to Costco, and I must say that I’m really enjoying shopping there. I’m afraid they probably enjoy me shopping there too… ($$$) ;)

What is your favorite store to shop for groceries?

Find out more about our kitchen loves and food habits at the other q&a’s:

  • Share This:
  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this Post
  • Share on Twitter