Brigette’s $91 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

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Brigette’s $91 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6
Aldi 1 large Hazelnut Coffee Creamer – $2.18 1 can Whipped Dairy Topping – $2.65 1 32-oz carton Plain Greek Yogurt – $3.15 4 individual cartons Greek Yogurt – $2.56 1 tub Goat Cheese Crumbles – $2.19 2 cans Green Beans – $0.78 2 boxes Butter – $4.56 1 32-oz carton Egg Whites – $2.85 1 Chocolate Syrup – $1.25 1 gallon Milk – $0.97 1 pkg Romaine Hearts – $1.97 1 bag Mini Cucumbers – $1.99 1 Pineapple – $1.59 1 carton Grape Tomatoes – $1.19 1 carton Strawberries – $1.79 2 bags Red Grapes ($0.99/lb) – $3.12 1 2-lb bag Lemons – $1.39 1 3-ct pkg Colored Peppers – $2.19 2 pkgs Broccoli Crowns – $3.78 2 pkgs Frozen Broccoli Crowns – $1.98 1 pkg Zucchini – $1.99 2 Avocados – $1.18 2 bags Baby Carrots – $1.78 2 bags Fresh Asparagus – $2.28 1 Cauliflower – $2.19 1 12-oz bag Chia Seeds – $2.29 2 boxes Corn Dogs – $4.30 1 pkg String Cheese – $1.99 2 cans Pinto Beans – $0.98 3 cans Diced Tomatoes – $1.08 2 cans Tomato Sauce – $0.38 1 16-oz pkg Deli Meat – $2.85 1 8-oz pkg Sliced Cheese – $1.33 1 pkg Pepperoni – $2.19 1 bag Brown Sugar – $0.99 1 bag Chocolate Chips – $1.19 1 bag Gluten-Free Pretzels – $1.75 1 bag Rice Cakes – $1.19 1 loaf Bread – $0.65 2 boxes Macaroni and Cheese – $0.66 1 Cumin – $0.69 1 box Corn Flakes – $0.99 1 bag Mini Marshmallows – $0.89 1 box Graham Crackers – $0.89 Total: $80.76 Harris Teeter (Double Dollar Coupons) 4 pkgs Perdue Shorts Cuts Grilled Chicken – $8.56, used $1.50/1 printable (doubled), plus $1.00/1 Catalina printout (doubled) – $3.56/4 after coupons 4 large boxes General Mills Cereal – $9.88, used 2 $1.00/2 GM cereal (SS 2/23/2020) (doubled), plus receive 700 points ($0.70) from Fetch Rewards – $5.18/4 after coupons and rewards 1 large bag SeaPak Shrimp – $3.79, used $1.00/1 SeaPak SS 2/23/2020 (doubled) – $1.79 after coupon 1 pouch Barilla Ready Pasta – $1.99, used $1/1 Barilla Ready Pasta Pouch, exp. 4/5/20 (RMN 02/09/20) (doubled) – FREE after coupon 3 dozen Eggs – $2.31 3 cans Pillsbury Biscuits – $3.00, used $1/3 Pillsbury Refrigerated Baked Goods Products, exp. 3/7/20 (SS 12/15/19) (doubled) – $1.00/3 after coupon 1 Galbani Ricotta Cheese – $1.99, used $1.00/1 printable (doubled) – FREE after coupon 2 pkgs Stonefire Naan – $3.49, used 2 $1.00/1 printable (doubled) – FREE after coupon 1 pkg Truvia Sweetener Packets – $2.79, used $1.50/1 printable (doubled) – FREE after coupon 1 bottle Sundown Kid’s Gummy Vitamins – $3.49, used $2/1 Sundown Product, exp. 4/30/20 (RMN 02/23/20) (doubled) – FREE after coupon 2 Siggi’s Greek Yogurts – $2.50, used $1/2 Catalina printout (doubled) – $0.50/2 after coupon 1 box Crest Toothpaste – $3.99, used $2/1 Crest Toothpaste, exp. 3/7/20 (P&G 02/23/20) (doubled) – FREE after coupon 1 Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Cleaner – $1.99, used $1.00/1 printable (doubled) – FREE after coupon ~Used $2.00 Catalina from a few weeks back (doubled) Total after Coupons and Tax: $10.52 Grocery Total for the Week: $91.28 Weekly Menu Plan Breakfasts Cottage Cheese Pancakes (Birthday Breakfast Request from my 6-yr old) Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include: Cereal, Oatmeal, Toast, Yogurt, Fruit, Scrambled/Boiled/Fried Eggs, Veggie Omelets, Smoothies Lunches Corn Dogs, Strawberries, Carrots (Birthday Lunch Request) Deli Meat/Cheese Sandwiches, Cucumbers, Grapes x 2 Pretzels with Peanut Butter, Cheese Sticks, Carrots/Peppers, Grapes Leftovers x 3 Dinners Shrimp, Roasted Broccoli, Biscuits, Sliced Apples Domino’s Pizza, Tossed Salad, Ice Cream Pie (Birthday Dinner Request) Pearl’s Chili (recipe from Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook), Cornbread, Fresh Veggie Tray with Dip, S’Mores Bars (recipe from my mother-in-law) Chicken Gravy over Rice, Asparagus, Pineapple Date Night Out (kids eat Macaroni and Cheese at home) Venison Roast in the Instant Pot, Baked Potatoes, Tossed Salad, Broccoli Leftovers [...]
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Taking a Disney Trip? Here Are Two Key Budget Hacks

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Taking a Disney Trip? Here Are Two Key Budget Hacks
Between the ages of 7 and 21, I visited the happiest places on Earth — Disneyland and Disneyworld — a total of five times. My first four times, my mom paid for my trips/tickets. For my fifth visit, I was actually paid (in per diem) to go to Disneyworld by my college to compete in ... Read More about Taking a Disney Trip? Here Are Two Key Budget Hacks The post Taking a Disney Trip? Here Are Two Key Budget Hacks appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom. [...]
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Brigette’s $91 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

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Brigette’s $91 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6
Aldi 1/2 gallon Orange Juice – $1.59 1/2 gallon Unsweetened Almond Milk – $1.65 1 gallon Whole Milk – $0.97 1 32-oz carton Half and Half – $1.55 1 box Butter Quarters – $2.58 1 box Rice Squares – $1.49 1 pkg Plain Rice Cakes – $1.45 1 32-oz carton Egg Whites – $2.95 1 jug Pancake Syrup – $1.29 1 jar Chicken Bouillon Cubes – $1.69 1 jar Beef Bouillon Cubes – $1.69 1 jar Hot Sauce – $1.53 1 jar Chili Powder – $0.79 1 jar Onion Powder – $0.79 1 4-lb bag Sugar – $1.73 2 loaves Sandwich Bread – $1.34 1 pkg Flour Tortillas – $0.95 1 10-lb bag Fresh Chicken Leg Quarters – $4.99 1 jar Green Olives – $0.79 3 cans Green Beans – $1.14 1 pkg Romaine Hearts – $2.29 1 bag Mini Sweet Peppers – $2.69 1 pkg Zucchini – $1.17 1 Cauliflower – $1.99 1 bag Lemons – $2.09 1 pkg Mini Cucumbers – $1.99 1 pkg Broccoli Crowns – $1.979 1 large tube Organic Spring Mix – $3.49 1 2-lb bag Shredded Cheddar Cheese – $4.99 1 2-lb bag Shredded Mozzarella Cheese – $4.99 1 pkg Deli Sliced Cheese – $1.33 1 tub Goat Cheese Crumbles – $2.19 1 pkg String Cheese – $1.99 1 24-oz carton Cottage Cheese – $1.55 1 16-oz pkg Deli Meat – $2.85 1 pkg Pepperoni – $2.09 1 pkg Turkey Bacon – $1.89 2 bags frozen Steamed Mixed Vegetables – $1.14 2 pkgs frozen Broccoli Florets – $1.92 1 carton Grape Tomatoes – $1.49 1 jar Salsa – $0.79 1 jar Spaghetti Sauce – $0.85 2 cans Biscuits – $1.90 3 dozen Eggs – $2.88 Total: $85.29 Harris Teeter I got all of the above for $5.88 during 3-day Double Dollar Coupons last weekend. I’m not including the coupon links as the prices are no longer valid, but I am including this in my grocery total this week. Total: $5.88 Grocery Total for the Week: $91.17 Weekly Menu Plan Breakfasts Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include: Cereal, Toast, Fruit (we have lots of leftover fruit from the last few weeks), Cottage Cheese, Scrambled/Boiled/Fried Eggs, Veggie Omelets, Smoothies Lazy Monkey Bread  (for a brunch with friends on Saturday) Lunches Deli Meat/Cheese Sandwiches, Apples, Cucumbers x 2 Cooked Pasta with Shredded Cheese, Oranges, Carrots/Mini Peppers x 2 Leftovers x 3 Dinners Crustless Broccoli, Bacon and Cheddar Quiche, Biscuits, Applesauce Chicken Noodle Soup, Dill Bread Shredded Venison BBQ on Homemade Buns, Roasted Broccoli, Tossed Salad Crispy Baked Chicken, Tossed Salad, Roasted Cauliflower, Creamy Milk Rice Date Night Out (kids eat Grilled Cheese and Green Beans at home) Pepperoni Pizza, Mixed Vegetables, Tossed Salad Leftovers [...]
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Brigette’s $87 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

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Brigette’s $87 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6
My older sister, Brigette, shares her shopping trips and menu plans every week! You can go HERE to see all of her weekly menu plans and you can go HERE to read all about her family! Aldi 1 5-lb roll 73/27 Ground Beef – $9.95 1 pkg Turkey Bacon – $1.89 1 pkg Uncured Turkey Franks – $2.09 1 2-lb bag Shredded Cheddar Cheese – $5.19 1 16-oz pkg Deli Meat – $2.85 1 8-oz pkg Deli Sliced Cheese – $1.33 1 pkg American Cheese – $1.45 1 pkg String Cheese – $1.99 3 large cans Diced Organic Tomatoes – $4.77 2 cans Green Beans – $0.76 1 can Garbanzo Beans – $0.48 1 can Tomato Paste – $0.29 1 can Baking Powder – $0.99 1 Garlic Powder – $0.69 2 cans Chili Beans – $0.96 1 24-oz jar Pasta Sauce – $0.85 1 16-oz carton Heavy Whipping Cream – $1.55 1 gallon 1% Milk – $0.97 1/2 gallon Orange Juice- $1.64 1-lb box Butter Quarters – $2.61 1 large jar Unsweetened Applesauce – $1.95 1 Cauliflower – $2.19 1 bag Mini Sweet Peppers – $2.79 1 2-lb bag Yellow Onions – $1.16 1 pkg Zucchini – $1.17 1 pkg Romaine Hearts – $2.39 2 pkgs Fresh Broccoli Crowns – $2.38 1 3-lb bag Mandarin Oranges – $2.29 1 large tub Organic Spring Mix – $3.69 1 16-oz bag Mini Cucumbers – $2.19 1 bag Baby Carrots – $0.69 1 3-lb bag Pink Lady Apples – $3.69 1 bunch Bananas – $0.91 1 pkg Grape Tomatoes – $1.29 2 cartons Blueberries – $2.96 1 large canister Quick Oats – $2.36 1 box Raisin Bran – $1.59 1 Family-Size box Honey Nut Oats – $2.45 1 bag Pretzels – $0.82 1 bag Gluten-Free Pretzels – $1.85 1 loaf Sandwich Bread – $0.67 1 pkg Plain Rice Cakes – $1.45 2 dozen Eggs – $1.76 Grocery Total for the Week: $87.99 Weekly Menu Plan Breakfasts Lazy Monkey Bread (Birthday Breakfast Request from my 9-yr old – I completely forgot to buy the canned biscuits for this recipe! I’ll either be making a quick trip back to the store, or experimenting with homemade biscuit dough.) Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include: Oatmeal, Cereal, Smoothies, Fried/Scrambled/Boiled Eggs, Veggie Omelets, Fruit, Toast Lunches Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Blueberries, Carrots (Birthday Lunch Request) Rice Cakes with Peanut Butter, Cheese Sticks, Oranges, Cucumbers x 2 Deli Meat/Cheese Sandwiches, Apples, Mini Peppers Leftovers x 3 Dinners Pakistani Kima over Rice (recipe from “More With Less” Cookbook), Make-Ahead Butterhorns, Cauliflower, Ice Cream Cake (Birthday Dinner Request) Pancakes, Turkey Bacon, Scrambled Eggs, Blueberries Meatloaf, Baked Potatoes, Broccoli Chili with Shredded Cheese, Corn Muffins Hot Dogs on Homemade Buns, Baked French Fries, Broccoli Date Night (kids eat leftovers at home) Taco Salad, Mexican Rice, Roasted Zucchini [...]
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National Park Free Days: When to Plan Your Next Trip in 2020

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National Park Free Days: When to Plan Your Next Trip in 2020
If you’re already looking ahead to road trips or family vacations this year, here’s one way to do it on the cheap. While most of the 417 national parks in the U.S. are free to use anytime, 125 of them charge an entrance fee.  To encourage travelers and campers to visit new places, the National Park Service will waive these fees for five days in 2020: Jan. 20: Martin Luther King Jr. Day April 18: The first day of National Park Week August 25: National Park Service Birthday Sept. 26: National Public Lands Day Nov. 11: Veterans Day Some of the nation’s most popular parks are among those that normally charge a fee, making fee-free days an opportunity to see places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Death Valley and Crater Lake. Not the outdoorsy type? Even some national historic sites, like Vanderbilt Mansion in New York, are included. If you’re interested, you can find all participating parks by state or search through the full list of national parks, including those that are free anytime, to find one near you (or your next destination). Note: You may still encounter fees for things like camping, parking, reservations or concessions. The fees waived on fee-free days include entrance fees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees. If you plan on camping, here are a few tips for camping on a budget. More Ways to Use National Parks for Free If you can’t make it to a national park on one of the fee-free days, you may be able to get free or discounted entrance to national parks year-round some other way. The National Parks Service offers an $80 annual pass that covers entrance to national parks, lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and other sites. Military members can get the annual pass for free. Through the national Every Kid in the Park program, fourth-graders can get a free annual pass for their families. Educators can also get involved through this program, obtaining free passes to take students on a national park field trip. Seniors age 62 and older can buy a lifetime pass for $80 or an annual pass for $20. Senior passes require proper documentation and may be purchased in person at a federal recreation site, online or through the mail. People with disabilities can get a free pass in person, or through the mail or online with a $10 processing fee. Both the senior pass and the access pass offer a 50% discount on some amenities like camping, swimming, boat launching and specialized interpretive services. Volunteer with participating federal agencies for at least 250 hours, and you’ll receive a free volunteer pass that is valid for 12 months. If you want to learn while you travel, you can apply for an Artist-in-Residence program with the National Park Service and stay at a participating park for free while you work on your next project. However you do it, consider including national parks or historic sites in your 2018 travel plans. For families — and curious travelers of all ages — it’s a fun, educational and affordable way to spend a vacation. With more than 400 to choose from, there’s probably one not far from you! Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a former branded content editor at The Penny Hoarder. This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017. [...]
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Brigette’s $88 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

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Brigette’s $88 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6
Aldi 1 bag Frozen Blueberries – $1.85 2 bags Frozen Mixed Vegetables – $1.14 1 2-lb bag Pazazz Apples – $2.49 1 2-lb bag Honey Crisp Apples – $2.49 1 16-oz bag Mini Cucumbers – $2.09 1 bag Baby Carrots – $0.89 1 large bag Organic Kale – $2.89 1 pkg Romaine Hearts – $2.39 1 Cauliflower – $2.29 1 Pineapple – $1.19 2 Avocados – $0.98 1 bag Mini Sweet Peppers – $2.39 1 bag Dried Cranberries – $1.19 1 tub Grape Tomatoes – $1.39 2 bags Red Grapes ($1.29/lb) – $4.97 1 large tub Organic Spring Mix – $3.49 1 pkg Turkey Bacon – $1.89 1 8-oz pkg Deli Sliced Cheese – $1.79 1 Goat Cheese Log – $1.55 1 pkg String Cheese – $1.99 1 16-oz carton Egg Whites – $1.69 5 dozen Eggs – $4.95 1 16-oz pkg Deli Sliced Meat – $2.85 1 jar Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil – $3.59 1 24-oz jar Pasta Sauce – $0.85 2 cans Tomato Sauce – $0.38 1 box Honey Crunch Oats – $1.29 1 box Cinnamon Crunch Squares – $1.32 1 box Crispy Oats – $1.15 2 boxes Macaroni and Cheese – $0.66 1 gallon Whole Milk – $1.99 1 gallon 1% Milk – $1.99 2 64-oz cartons Orange Juice – $3.28 1 64-oz carton Unsweetened Almond Milk – $1.65 1 16-oz carton Heavy Whipping Cream – $0.99 1 32-oz carton Half and Half – $1.55 1 pkg Butter Quarters – $2.49 1 24-oz carton Cottage Cheese – $1.59 1 can Parmesan Cheese – $2.29 2 large cans Organic Diced Tomatoes – $3.18 1 large canister Old Fashioned Oats – $2.29 1 pkg Sliced Pepperoni – $2.19 1 bag Gluten Free Pretzels – $1.85 1 loaf Sandwich Bread – $0.67 Grocery Total for the Week: $88.07 Weekly Menu Plan We have SO MUCH food in our pantry and freezer right now – 7 deer from my husband’s hunting season efforts, plus all kinds of foodie christmas gifts and leftovers. We will be working on eating it up over the next few weeks especially (although the venison will take the whole year ;)). Also, I got an Instant Pot for Christmas! So feel free to hit me up with your favorite recipes. Breakfasts Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include: Oatmeal, Toast, Fried/Scrambled/Boiled Eggs, Veggie Omelets, Cereal, Fruit, Cottage Cheese, Smoothies Lunches Deli Meat/Cheese Sandwiches, Apples, Cucumbers x 2 Pretzels and Peanut Butter, Cheese Sticks, Grapes Baked Potatoes with Shredded Cheese/Cottage Cheese, Grapes Mini Peppers Leftovers x 3 Dinners Pancakes, Eggs, Turkey Bacon, Roasted Parmesan Broccoli (breakfast for dinner) Instant Pot Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots (I’ll use a Venison Roast and my variation of this), Tossed Salad Homemade Pepperoni Pizza, Steamed Mixed Vegetables, Kale Craisin Salad Taco Salad (using ground venison), Spanish Rice, Oranges Chili with Shredded Cheese, Homemade Cornbread, Raw Carrots/Ranch Dip Date Night Out (Kids eat Mac and Cheese at home) Leftovers [...]
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Life Update: Pregnancy (Week 22) + our trip to Kansas for Christmas

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Life Update: Pregnancy (Week 22) + our trip to Kansas for Christmas
Welcome to my weekly life update where I share about my pregnancy & give you a peek into our life this past week. If you want to follow a lot more behind-the-scenes and real-time updates every week, be sure to follow my stories and posts on Instagram. 22 weeks!! And this week’s pregnant belly picture is brought to you from our Starbucks bathroom road trip pit stop (we drove back from Kansas yesterday). HIGHLIGHTS I’m so grateful to be feeling great overall! It was such a blessing to be able to enjoy Christmas! I only had two days where I felt pretty nauseous and one really bad night. Besides that, other than moving at a slower pace than usual and lingering congestion and cough from my recent head cold, I am feeling so good!! NOTABLE This trip to Kansas to visit family for Christmas was our last big planned trip before the baby arrives. That’s pretty surreal to realize — that the next time we’re in Kansas, we’ll have a baby with us (and maybe another child or two from foster care, too!) It seems like the time is flying by right now and I’m trying to soak it up! CRAVINGS I was able to enjoy most all the Christmas food, including one of my mom’s amazing Peanut Butter Bon-Bons! Weight gain: 14 lbs. We traveled to Kansas to spend Christmas with both of our extended families. (We’re so blessed that they live about 5 minutes from each other!) My dad — ever the practical one! — buys a live evergreen tree for their Christmas tree each year. They only keep it in the house for two days and then he plants it on their land afterward. We all got matching blinking light hats for Christmas! We’re getting ready to celebrate 17 years of marriage — oh how I love this man! My dad usually does a scavenger hunt for the kids with their gifts, complete with poems that take them all over the house to find their gifts! Christmas morning with Jesse’s side of the family always starts with group pictures in jammies. Jesse with his siblings… this was the best picture I got as they were all giving each other a hard time and then only half of them would be looking at the camera at once. (Jesse’s face here is all, “Are we done with pictures yet??”) My nephew was SO excited about this Batman costume he got! We finished out the day like usual — with stockings. The kids were so anxious to tear into theirs, but they waited patiently so we could snap another picture! 🙂 In Case You Missed It: All the details on our family Christmas celebration Maybe you needed this reminder this Christmas? Why I Failed on My Goals for 2019 The Top 10 Books I Read in 2019 [...]
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These 14 Strategies Will Help You Save Big on Your Universal Orlando Trip

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These 14 Strategies Will Help You Save Big on Your Universal Orlando Trip
While theme parks are high on the list of favorite vacation destinations, they can get really expensive really quickly when you factor in extras like hotels and food.  Here at The Penny Hoarder, we believe in a healthy balance between work and play. So if you can afford it, take that dream vacation and enjoy every second of it — just make sure you don’t completely abandon your penny hoarding ways.  If you’re headed to Universal Orlando Resort — home to the incredible Wizarding World of Harry Potter — check out the insider tips I’ve developed as an Orlando native and former witch at Universal’s Diagon Alley. You’ll save money in the parks without sacrificing any of the fun.  Find Tickets for Less Your savings can start before you even step through the turnstiles — check out these ideas for cutting the cost of park admission! 1. Buy Your Tickets Ahead of Time The simplest way to save on Universal Studios’ prices for park entry is to buy your tickets before you get to the gate. You can save up to $20 per person when you buy multiday tickets online. If you’re traveling with a family of four, that’s $80 in savings already.  2. Use Your AAA Membership to Your Advantage Prices vary, so make sure to ask about discounted Universal tickets at your local AAA office. You can save 15% or more when you buy through AAA. 3. Buy the Lowest-Tier Ticket and Upgrade Later As long as you purchase your tickets directly through Universal Studios, you can upgrade your tickets at guest services at any point during your trip.  This is a good idea for anyone traveling with kids — they get sick, burned out and do not care if you spent a hundred extra dollars on a three-day ticket.  If you come to find everyone is up for an extra day, you can upgrade your tickets by paying the difference — as long as you do so before you leave the park. Once your tickets expire, you’ll have to pay for new ones.  4. Shop Around Carefully Orlando is riddled with sleazy ticket vendors promising half-price theme park tickets.  But beware — even if the tickets you purchase are real, these vendors may be selling them illegally. These tickets often come from park employees or locals who work special events and receive complimentary passes. Universal does not permit the sale of these passes.  If you get caught at the gate, you’re out of luck — and money.  Still, there are some reputable ticket sites out there. Just make sure to do your research on the seller before buying. Travel and Accommodations After tickets, the hotel and travel fees are the biggest items in your vacation budget. Here are some strategies for saving on these expenses. 5. Book Everything in Advance If you’re a seasoned Penny Hoarder, you probably already know this tactic: Purchasing plane tickets and reserving your hotel room ahead of time are the easiest ways to get the best rates. 6. To Resort or Not to Resort? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer here: It’s going to take some number crunching on your end to figure out which hotel situation is right for you. There are less expensive hotels (or Airbnb rentals!) if you leave the Universal Resort property, but you may end up paying more in the long run because you’ll miss out on some pretty sweet perks at the parks.  To keep it brief(ish), here’s a cost-effectiveness breakdown: Select Universal Resort hotels include shuttle transport to and from the airport and the parks. So staying on the property could save you on transportation costs, plus the $25/day parking fee you’d pay if you were driving. But more importantly, and something to consider if you had planned to buy Express Passes anyway: Certain resort hotels throw in free Universal Express Unlimited passes for each member of the family — a $129 value per person per day. (Think: Family of four spending four days in the parks. $129 times four people times four days = $2,064.)  Another bonus? Universal Resort hotel guests get early entry to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and parts of Volcano Bay: You’ll get a whole hour to explore each morning before the major crowds come pouring in. Whew. Did you catch all that? Great, because I have one final point to make: If you go the Universal Resort hotel route, and you take advantage of those Express Unlimited passes, you could feasibly cut a day off your in-park time and a day off your trip (which means one less day paying for tickets and a hotel.)  If you’re not concerned about crowds, wait times or transportation (maybe you’re driving in to save on airfare!), then a cheaper, off-property hotel might be the right answer for your family. I’m just trying to show you all the options, friends! Making the Most of Your Time By making the most of your time, you can hit more attractions without shelling out for extra days inside the gates. 7. Decide if Express Passes Are Right for You If you’re still on the fence about whether to secure Express Passes for your trip (and you’re not going the resort hotel route), here are some points to consider. Visitors can often package Express Passes with admission tickets, lowering the overall cost significantly.  However, if you’re a serious Harry Potter fan, you should know that Express Passes are not valid for some attractions in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Here’s a really helpful guide that breaks down Express Passes along with the rides and attractions they work on.  If you decide you don’t need to skip the lines all day every day, you could buy each member of your family a one-day Express Unlimited pass. You can knock out a pretty hefty list of attractions that day, then go at a more leisurely pace for the remainder of your trip. 8. Plan Your Vacation Around Peak Season Check this handy crowd calendar from Orlando Informer (a seriously great resource for all things Orlando and theme parks) to figure out which days will be the least crowded. Smaller crowds mean less wait time; less wait time means you can spend fewer days in the parks; and fewer days in the parks means you save on tickets.  Attendance is lowest on weekdays, particularly in late fall and late winter. If your family can afford the time off work and school, you’ll get the most bang for your buck at these times. Save on Universal Studios’ Prices Inside the Park While most of your savings will come from big-ticket items like park entry and the hotel, the little things can add up quickly.  9. Use the Lockers Bring everything you think you’ll need with you, and rent an all-day locker for about $10 per day. You get unlimited opening privileges, unlike the timed and complimentary lockers, so you can use your locker as a home base to return to when you need to reapply sunscreen, change into dry clothes or grab a sweatshirt for the evening chill (yep, even in Florida).  Even though you’re paying $10 a day, you’re saving money by not shelling out for $40 sweatshirts for the whole family when the sun goes down.  10. Avoid Paying for Pricy Food Theme park food is expensive. On your way to your hotel, purchase breakfast food (if your hotel doesn’t offer free breakfast) and portable snacks. The parks allow small snacks that don’t require heating or refrigeration — and while you can’t bring a picnic lunch, the rules are a little fuzzy as to what constitutes a “small snack,” so you can probably make a case for many items. Avoid buying expensive sodas and bottled water inside the parks — you can bring in sealed or empty water bottles to refill throughout the day.  Now, while this Penny Hoarder would usually recommend bringing all the snacks, splitting meals four ways, and avoiding expensive alcohol and novelty treats, I do have one caveat: If you’re primarily there for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter experience, consider investing in a dining plan. Even if you just purchase one, your whole party will be able to sample the fun Wizarding World treats — and if butterbeer i [...]
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Life Update: Pregnancy (week 18), a trip to Kansas, Thanksgiving meal prep

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Life Update: Pregnancy (week 18), a trip to Kansas, Thanksgiving meal prep
Welcome to my weekly life update where I share about my pregnancy & give you a peek into our life this past week. If you want to follow a lot more behind-the-scenes and real-time updates every week, be sure to follow my stories and posts on Instagram. Week 18! I can’t believe I’m almost halfway!! HIGHLIGHTS Baby has been kicking up a storm and all the kids were excited that they were able to each feel kicks this week!! They want to sit and just keep their hands on my belly so they don’t miss any kicks!! NOTABLE I implemented some of your suggestions for heartburn and sleep and while I can’t point to one specific thing that I’m certain worked, I am thrilled to report that I only had one really bad heartburn/nausea day this week and I’m positive it was because I wasn’t super careful with what I ate that day. Otherwise, I had very little heartburn this week and I slept for six hour stretches multiple nights!! Also notable: this week marked my last planned flights until (likely) well after the baby is born. It feels weird that, if all goes as planned, I won’t be hopping on a plane again for months and months! I’m excited to get to stay home and write my next book, possibly get to love on and care for a child who is in foster care (we think there’s a good chance we’ll be getting a placement soon!), and start prepping for bringing this new baby into our home! CRAVINGS Scrambled eggs and avocados with sourdough toast and butter (this has become one of my go-to meals) and frozen yogurt. Also, I absolutely loved the turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving! It hit the spot! WEIGHT GAIN: 9 lbs. We went to Wichita, Kansas all week to spend time with both sides of our family. I took almost zero pictures the entire time because I was just offline and soaking up the time with family, so I have almost none to show of our time there. But it was a really fantastic trip and we’re so glad our families both live so close so that we can spend holidays with both sides! We all enjoyed getting to spend a lot of time with so many of the nieces and nephews/cousins. Each year, we have two family Thanksgiving celebrations with extended family on Thursday and everyone who comes signs up to bring parts of the meal. This year, because I’m running on a lot less energy that I usually have, I asked the kids if they would be willing to help out. They each signed up to make one item for both houses. Kathrynne made Pistachio Salad and Green Bean Casserole. Kaitlynn made two Apple Pies (be sure to check out the braided crust she did — see below!). Silas made two Pumpkin Pie fillings. And Jesse peeled and cut up 10 lbs. of sweet potatoes. All I did was oversee, make pie crusts, and finish the two Sweet Potato Casseroles — and we were done in two hours with everything! Mamas of littles, holidays might be really hard right now. You’re tired. There’s so much to do. And you have to do so much of it yourself. Well, just hang on… there’s a day coming soon when your kids will be old enough to not only take care of getting themselves dressed and fed, but they’ll be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for you, too! What I’m… Reading: Parenting and The Killing Tide Watching: We subscribed to Disney+ for December at the kids’ request since we usually watch a lot more family movies together this month! The kids are loving it! We watched 12 First Dates last night as a family. This was a fun, feel good movie that reminds us to see our blessings right in front of us. (Note: It was a big cheesy in parts, had a tiny bit of mild language in it, and was definitely a bit of a rip-off of Groundhog Day, but we all still enjoyed it.) What are your family’s favorite Christmas movies? Listening to: Christmas Music! (Of course!) Also, after months of getting nauseous from listening to audiobooks (just one of the many weird things that makes me sick to my stomach in pregnancy!), I just downloaded a few from Libby and am going to try again this week! Loving: That it’s December and we have so many memory-making plans for this month! It’s one of my favorite months and I’m excited about it! What are you reading, watching, listening to, and/or loving? I’d love to hear! [...]
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Brigette’s $87 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

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Brigette’s $87 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6
Aldi 1 20-lb Turkey – $15.40 2 64-oz cartons Orange Juice – $3.28 1 gallon Whole Milk – $0.97 1 gallon 1% Milk – $0.97 1 64-oz carton Unsweetened Almond Milk – $1.79 1 bag Coffee – $3.49 1 Olive Oil Cooking Spray – $0.97 2 5-lb bags Flour – $1.98 1 5-lb bag Corn Masa – $1.65 1 box Pie Crusts – $0.99 1 jar Baking Cocoa – $1.49 1 pkg String Cheese – $1.99 1 24-oz carton Cottage Cheese – $1.59 5 single-serving size cartons Greek Yogurt – $3.45 1 2-lb bag Shredded Cheese – $4.99 2 bag frozen Broccoli Florets – $1.90 1 bag frozen Riced Cauliflower – $1.89 1 bag Steamed Mixed Vegetables – $0.95 1 head Cauliflower – $1.99 1 3-lb bag Mandarin Oranges – $2.39 1 3-lb bag Apples – $2.99 1 large tub Organic Spring Mix – $3.49 1 pkg Romaine Hearts – $1.99 2 bags Fresh Green Beans – $2.98 1 bag Lemons – $1.99 1 bunch Bananas – $1.09 1 pkg Snacking Tomatoes, reduced – $0.99 1 pkg Pepperoni – $1.99 1 16-oz pkg Deli Meat – $2.69 1 pkg Flour Tortillas – $0.65 1-lb Ground Sausage – $1.89 2 large cans Chicken Breast – $3.98 1 bag Pecans – $3.99 1 pkg Deli Sliced Cheese – $1.49 1 can Whipped Topping – $2.65 1 large jar Corn Syrup – $1.69 1 bag Brown Sugar – $0.89 2 cans Tomato Sauce – $0.38 2 large cans Crushed Tomatoes – $1.04 1 jar Spaghetti Sauce – $0.75 1 box Frosted Flakes – $1.19 2 boxes Honey Crisp Oats – $2.38 1 large canister Quick Oats – $2.16 1 loaf Sandwich Bread, reduced – $0.25 1 pkg Plain Rice Cakes – $1.15 2 dozen Eggs – $1.54 Used a $20 Aldi Gift Card received as a gift from a friend Total: ($102.52 – $20): 82.52 Harris Teeter 1 pkg fresh Cauliflower Rice, reduced – $1.00 1 bag Spinach, reduced – $1.00 5 cans Green Beans – $1.38 Sweet Potatoes ($0.25/lb) – $1.38 Total: $4.76 Grocery Total for the Week: $87.58 Weekly Menu Plan Breakfasts Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include: Cereal, Oatmeal, Banana Muffins, Boiled/Fried/Scrambled Eggs, Veggie Omelets, Toast, Yogurt, Smoothies Lunches Cheese Quesadillas, Apples, Mini Carrots Deli Meat/Cheese Sandwiches, Grapes, Mini Cucumbers x 2 Peanut Butter on Rice Cakes, Oranges, Cheese Sticks, Grape Tomatoes x 2 Leftovers x 2 Dinners Spaghizza, Tossed Salad, Roasted Cauliflower, Breadsticks Chili with Shredded Cheese, World’s Best Honey Cornbread Chicken Pot Pie, Steamed Green Beans, Tossed Salad Pancakes, Hashbrowns, Sausage, Roasted Broccoli Meatloaf, Twice Baked Potatoes, Cauliflower Rice (I make it similar to this without the cilantro), Green Beans, Butterhorns, Pecan Pie (company for dinner) Date Night Out (kids will eat leftovers or something simple at home) Leftovers [...]
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Life Update: Pregnancy (week 16), a trip to Wichita, the Blissdom blogging conference

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Life Update: Pregnancy (week 16), a trip to Wichita, the Blissdom blogging conference
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here. Welcome to my weekly life update where I share about my pregnancy & give you a peek into our life this past week. If you want to follow a lot more behind-the-scenes and real-time updates every week, be sure to follow my stories and posts on Instagram. 16 weeks!! (And excuse the sort of goofy pose/facial expression. I was hanging out with some good blogging friends after the Blissdom conference on Friday night and we were all laughing over something right before this photo was taken and I couldn’t stop laughing enough to take a more normal looking photo!) Jami Balmet is pregnant with baby #6 (she had two sets of twin boys in two years and then she had a little girl!) and we are both due on the same day so we had to get a belly shot! We were teasing her that she’s so chill about her pregnancy because she’s so experienced that she rarely ever talks about it online. Whereas I’m over here documenting everything like a first-time mom! HIGHLIGHTS I can feel the baby moving a lot more — especially in the last few days. The kids are so hopeful they’ll be able to feel movement on my tummy soon. I keep telling them it likely won’t be for another few weeks, but they are super excited about it. NOTABLE I have finally been able to start drinking more water again after weeks and weeks of having to get super creative in getting in liquids since water made me sick. As someone who used to drink a gallon of water everyday, this has been a challenge and I’m so happy to be back to my water-guzzling habits! CRAVINGS I have been ravenously hungry this past week! It seems the baby is going through a big growth spurt or something. I am so grateful that I have been able to get back to eating much healthier now, even if I do still crave pizza and tacos and (now) desserts. But hey, being able to eat and enjoy salads after so many weeks of just eating whatever I thought I could keep down has been so nice!! WEIGHT GAIN: 9 lbs. How are the rest of you pregnant mamas doing?? I got to fly down to Wichita, KS for my mom’s 66th birthday this past weekend. Unfortunately, I only got one picture (the one above of my parents) because I was so focused on just hanging out with my family. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to go. Since we’ll likely be opening up our home soon to a child (or children) in foster care and I’m having a baby in the spring, I know that I probably won’t be able to just hop on a plane and go somewhere by myself in the coming months and years! I love these three more than words can describe — but I kinda wish that they had a little more personality. 😉 We went to get their passports renewed over lunch break on Tuesday. (Kathrynne is going to Suriname in the Spring so we renewed them all while we were at it!) In my usual desire to document life so I don’t forget, I asked them all to stand under the passport sign so I could take a cute picture of them. I said, “Smile!” and this was the result. Of course I could have said something like, “C’mon guys, actually smile for me!” (And I do say that sometimes!!) But I also love having photos like this that show their personalities way more than a perfectly staged smiling picture ever would. I’m trying to soak up these days, these moments, these personalities, these people who are growing up so quickly. It’s hard to think they were once tiny babes in my womb! Also, this current tiny human in my womb has no idea what they are in for when they arrive into this world!! These three already have a host of plans, ideas, and dreams for how they will be loving on, nurturing, teaching, and spending time with the baby and I can hardly wait to get to watch them all interact together (though I’m wondering if I’m ever going to get to hold the baby myself! Maybe at the midnight feedings?!?) I got to speak at the Blissdom blogging conference on Friday on the topic of live video (one of my favorite topics!). It was so good to get to meet some of you there! While I love getting to speak, one of the best parts of conferences is getting to connect individually with people after I speak! I love hearing stories and providing individual encouragement and cheerleading! I loved getting to meet and do an interview with Jo Saxton on leadership. One of the best parts of the conference was getting to see so many longtime blogging friends! A bunch of these women had gotten an AirBnB together and they invited me to come over afterwards for dinner. I haven’t laughed as hard as we laughed in a really long time. It was such a gift for my soul! What I’m Currently… Reading: Families Where Grace is in Place and The Killing Tide Watching: You’ve Got Mail (I haven’t watched this in ages! We had a discussion about AOL recently as a family and I remembered this movie so I watched it with the girls to give them a better understanding of what email was like when we were teenagers!) Listening to: Christmas Music! Loving: The fact that I’ve finished all my business travel + speaking engagements for 2019! I’ve loved getting to travel and speak and meet so many of you this year, but I’m also grateful that I get to stay home now and just enjoy my family and making special memories together for the holidays (plus begin work on the new book I’m writing in 2020!) In Case You Missed It… This Past Week’s $63 Grocery Shopping Trip — Plus, see our dinners that we ate last week. 20+ Gifts for Outdoor Adventurers Under $30 — This is a great gift guide for the nature lover/hiker/outdoors person in your life! The Enneagram & Marriage — Whether you love all things Enneagram, are skeptical of it, or don’t even know what it is, I think you’ll enjoy this candid conversation Jesse and I had about our differences, how we have worked through them, and what it looks like to love and respect someone who is the complete opposite of you in many ways. 20+ LEGO Gifts Under $30 — Do you have a LEGO lover in your life? Sometimes finding the perfect set to give as a gift can be difficult. Check out this list of LEGO gifts for some ideas! [...]
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This Week’s Kroger Shopping Trip + Amazon Order = $63 spent!

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This Week’s Kroger Shopping Trip + Amazon Order = $63 spent!
Want to see what we bought for this week’s $70 grocery budget? I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.). For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here. I only ended up going to Kroger once this past week, but I got some great deals and markdowns! The Cream of Chicken soup was in the markdown section and it was just $0.49 each + it was part of the Buy 10, Get $5 off deal which meant that I got $0.50 off each — making them free! I was super excited about finding the Yoplait 8-count packs of yogurt for just $0.99 and also the Off the Grid Waffles for just $0.99 each! There is a $0.50/1 iBotta rebate with a limit of 5 so I got back $2.50 for buy 5 boxes! And finally, I was super thrilled to find eggs marked down! We were down to our last few eggs so it was perfect timing! Kroger Shopping Trip: 5 Campbell’s Soup — marked down to $0.49, got $0.50 off each because they were part of the buy 10, Get $5 off deal 2 cans of Swanson broth — $0.49 each when you buy 10 participating items 4 cans of Green Beans — $0.49 each when you buy 10 participating items 2 pounds Land O Lakes butter — $2.49 each when you buy 10 participating items 3 boxes Creamette Pasta — $0.49 each when you buy 10 participating items, used $1/3 coupon from a Kroger mailer = $0.50 for all three 2 cartons cottage cheese — $1.49 each when you buy 10 participating items 3 boxes of Swiss Miss hot cocoa — $0.99 each when you buy 10 participating items Annie’s Mac & Cheese — marked down to $0.45 5 boxes Off the Grid Waffles — marked down to $0.99 each, plus I got $0.50 back per box from iBotta Old El Pasa Taco Shells — marked down to $0.39 2 boxes SO Right frozen burrito bowls — marked down to $0.89 each 1 dozen Kroger eggs — marked down to $0.59 5 dozen cage-free brown eggs — marked down to $1.29 each 2 Chobani yogurt flips — marked down to $0.19 each Kroger peanut butter — free with Kroger coupon from the Kroger mailer Kroger water — $0.89 2 Dannon Oikos yogurt — marked down to $0.49 each 2 packages Roasted Turkey — marked down to $1.79 each Broccoli crowns — $0.70 Kroger smoked sausage — free with Kroger mailer coupon 2 8-count packages of Yoplait yogurt — marked down to $0.99 each 1 bunch of green leaf lettuce — $1.79 Bag of 3 apples — marked down to $0.99 Bananas — marked down to $0.50 Dole Salad Kit — $1.79 4-lb bag of oranges — $3.99 Milk — $2.99 Total with tax: $53.28 Since I had some extra wiggle room in the grocery budget, I went ahead and ordered this great deal off of Amazon. Dinners This Past Week Monday: Frozen Pizza Tuesday: Lasagna Casserole, Green Beans, Rolls Wednesday: Chicken Noodle Soup, Best Bran Muffins, Cinnamon Apples Thursday: Homemade Mac & Cheese, Green Beans, Grapes, Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins Friday: Pumpkin Waffles, Bacon, Scrambled Eggs Saturday: Leftovers (fend for yourself) Rebates earned: $2.75 back from iBotta + 225 points from Fetch Rewards [...]
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Brigette’s $92 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

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Brigette’s $92 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6
Aldi 2 64-oz carton Orange Juice – $3.28 1 64-oz carton Unsweetened Almond Milk – $1.49 1 gallon Whole Milk – $0.97 1 32-oz carton Half and Half – $1.55 1/2 gallon 1% Milk – $0.58 1 10-lb bag Russet Potatoes – $3.29 3 bags frozen Broccoli Florets – $2.65 1 pkg fresh Zucchini – $1.48 1 bag Mini Sweet Peppers – $1.59 1 pkg Romaine Hearts – $1.79 1 Pineapple – $1.39 1 Cauliflower – $1.79 1 pkg Grape Tomatoes – $1.09 1 pkg Mini Cucumbers – $1.59 1 large carton Organic Spring Mix – $3.49 1 carton Blackberries – $1.19 1 carton Strawberries – $1.39 1 bunch Bananas ($0.38/lb) – $1.28 2 pkgs Broccoli Crowns – $3.38 1 large bag Green Grapes ($0.89/lb) – $2.10 1 16-oz pkg Turkey Deli Meat – $2.85 1 10-lb bag fresh Chicken Quarters – $5.49 1 pkg (2.49lbs) 80/20 fresh Ground Beef, reduced – $3.94 1 pkg Pepperoni – $1.99 1 24-oz carton Cottage Cheese – $1.59 1 pkg Sliced Colby-Jack Cheese – $1.59 1 2-lb bag Shredded Cheddar Cheese – $3.99 1 pkg String Cheese – $1.95 1 can Whipped Topping – $2.45 1 large canister Quick Oats – $2.16 1 4-lb bag Sugar – $1.44 1 5-lb bag Flour – $0.99 1 jar Paprika – $0.79 1 box Rice Squares – $1.39 2 boxes Honey Nut Oats – $2.38 1 jar Balsamic Vinegar – $1.59 2 dozen Eggs – $1.54 1 jar Honey – $4.79 1 loaf Sandwich Bread, reduced  – $0.25 Total: $80.52 Harris Teeter 1 pkg Tortillas – $0.89 1 box Krusteaz Pancake Mix – $1.49, used $0.25 printable (doubled), plus receive $0.75 Rebate from Ibotta – $0.25 after Coupon and Rebate 1 bag Red Grapes ($0.99/lb) – $2.08 1 bag Pillsbury Best Bread Flour – $3.39 Total:$6.62 The things in the above are from a trip I took to Harris Teeter this past weekend during a 3-day Double Dollar Coupon Event. It has already ended, so I won’t put the coupon links in for you since these prices are no longer available. I got all of the above for $6.10 after coupons and rebates! Grocery Total for the Week: $93.24 Weekly Menu Plan Breakfasts Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfast. Choices include: Cereal, Oatmeal, Fruit, Yogurt, Smoothies, Fried/Scrambled/Boiled Eggs, Veggie Omelets, Toast Lunches Cheese Quesadillas, Grapes, Cucumbers x 2 Deli Meat/Cheese Sandwiches, Bananas, Carrots x 2 Baked Potatoes with Cheese/Cottage Cheese/Broccoli, Grapes, Mini Peppers Leftovers x 2 Dinners Pepperoni Pizza (using the flatbreads as crust), Tossed Salad, Green Beans Chicken Noodle Soup, Roasted Broccoli, Butterhorns Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs, Roasted Cauliflower Freezer-Friendly Barbequed Meatballs, Butterhorns, Green Beans, Tossed Salad, Fruit Salad, Cheesy Hashbrown Potatoes, The Best Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies (making enough of this meal to take to some friends who just had a baby) Classic Grilled Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli, Fruit Venison Roast in the Crockpot, Green Beans, Creamy Milk Rice Leftovers [...]
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$47 Kroger Shopping Trip

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$47 Kroger Shopping Trip
I had a little more energy and a little less nausea this week (YAY for almost being in the second trimester!!), so I did a bit more of a “real” shopping trip. Full disclosure: We’re still a few weeks away from getting back to our $70 grocery budget and the family is still eating a lot of cereal, snack foods, super quick meals (like scrambled eggs and frozen waffles), and take out. I’m okay with that because we always loosen up our grocery bill and eating out budget during the first trimester of pregnancy. It’s a season and one of the reasons we are so careful and intentional with our finances is so that we can change up the budget categories, if need be. I hope to be back to our $70 grocery budget and menu planning in the next few weeks, just as soon as more energy returns and I feel well enough to be able to do more cooking/planning/grocery shopping. For now, I’m just celebrating the fact that I made it to the store with a small plan and was able to get some good deals on groceries and managed to survive without getting sick! Here’s what we bought: $47 Kroger Shopping Trip 5 boxes of Red Baron pizza — $1.99 each as part of the 3-day deals 4 bags of Kettle Chips — $0.99 each as part of the 3-day deals Simple Truth Greek Yogurt — marked down to $0.49 Grapes — $0.99/lb. — $1.90 30 eggs — marked down to $1.49 1 bag of avocados — marked down to $0.99 5 boxes of Mott’s Fruit Snacks (40-count) — $1.99 each as part of the 3-day deals Yoplait Gogurts — marked down to $0.99 Tropicana OJ — $3 Flour — $1.59 Sugar — $1.59 Milk — $2.99 4 cans of pumpkin — $0.89 each Chocolate chips — $1.99 (I was craving Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins… unfortunately, my stomach quickly decided it did not like them at all. But hey, my family was happy to eat the rest!) Total with tax: $47.19 Cash Back I Earned: 1,025 points from Fetch Rewards + $0.10 from iBotta. Did you find any great deals at the grocery store this week? [...]
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Life Update: Pregnancy (week 11) & a trip to South Africa & Herndon, VA

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Life Update: Pregnancy (week 11) & a trip to South Africa & Herndon, VA
Welcome to my weekly life update where I share about my pregnancy & give you a peek into our life this past week. If you want to follow a lot more behind-the-scenes and real-time updates every week, be sure to follow my stories and posts on Instagram. In case you missed last week’s update, check it out here. 11 weeks! I’m so excited to be getting close to the 2nd trimester! This week was a week full of ups and downs. I had some really bad days and two surprisingly decent days where I actually had a few short windows where I didn’t feel nauseous. It was the most incredible feeling and, even though it was short-lived, it was just the encouragement I needed after having a really rough and discouraging week last week nausea-wise. (By the way, it seems that most people have told me that their nausea is always worst in the mornings. For some reason, mine gets progressively worse as the day goes on. By bedtime, it’s at the severe level and often keeps me up for a few hours. I don’t have any explanation for this but it’s how it’s been in all my pregnancies so I guess it just is what it is!) HIGHLIGHTS: I had another doctor’s appointment this week and another ultrasound. Since Jesse and Kathrynne are in South Africa, I took Silas and Kaitlynn with me to the appointment. It was exciting for them to get to see our baby on the screen! Also, my doctor says the baby has grown quite a bit & everything is looking so healthy. NOTABLE: We had the NIPT test done this week. We opted to do it for a variety of reasons, even though it’s not 100% accurate. One exciting side benefit: we should be finding out what we’re having in the next two weeks! We haven’t decided whether we’ll be telling people or not. We didn’t find out with either of the girls but chose to find out with Silas and decided that we preferred finding out to being surprised. However, with Silas, we decided to keep it a secret from everyone, including our extended family. We may or may not do that again. WEIGHT GAIN: A total of 4 pounds so far… which means that I have officially outgrown a lot of my clothes. I ordered a few new tunic tops from Amazon and a few new pairs of leggings. I also went through my closet and pared it down to the looser-fitting tops/bottoms I already own that I can still into comfortably. I’m guessing I’ll be transitioning to maternity clothes sometime in the next 4-6 weeks. (If I remember right, I usually start wearing them around 17-20 week but I feel like my belly has popped faster this pregnancy!) A Peek Into Our Week A number of you have asked for me to post a picture of Quill (our pet hedgehog). He’s doing so well and has grown so big. A Trip to South Africa Jesse and Kathrynne flew to South Africa on Wednesday to visit our friends there and see how things were going with the ministry we support there. (We usually go every year and it’s one of my favorite places ever, but for some reason, I didn’t feel a peace about going this year. It didn’t make any sense at all, but I just felt strongly that I wasn’t supposed to go… little did I know that it was going to be because I was pregnant!) They’ve been sending me pictures of their time there and I am just so happy for them. Jesse said that Kathrynne is having the best time and it warms my mama heart so much to see my girl halfway around the world loving on these kids and teens. While they’ve been gone, we stayed busy back here. I got to interview Aundi Kolber for next week’s podcast episode. I can’t wait for you to listen to this episode; it is fantastic! (Also, we looked like we were dressed for a gender reveal party or something! I didn’t even realize it until I looked at the picture we took together after she left!) I also was so excited one morning to feel well enough to go to Kroger quickly and pick up their Friday-Saturday deals! A Trip to Herdon, VA And then Kaitlynn and Silas flew with me to Herdon, VA for me to speak at the 2:1 conference. (I usually only bring one child with me on speaking engagements, but since they were both on fall break and Jesse and Kathrynne were gone, they both got to come with me!) One of the highlights of the conference was getting to meet Janet Benge, who has co-authored so many of the Christian Heroes Then and Now books. I had to get a picture for my mom. I loved getting to do a breakout workshop about exploding your engagement on Instagram! The attendees were the best and I could have stayed for another hour or two and answered all the questions I didn’t get to answer during the session and at the end! One of my favorite things is getting to help others also fall in love with the power of Instagram. Speaking of which, are you following me on Instagram? If not, you’re missing out as I share lots of behind-the-scenes, money-saving deals, and real-time updates there… many that I never get space to share here on the blog! I also gave the morning keynote sharing how my parents impacted my life and the power of legacy. What I’m… Reading right now: The Only Plane in the Sky (Note: This has a little bit of language in it, but it is a very worthwhile read and I would highly recommend it.) Watching right now: Have you seen the Enneagram Rhapsody? Multiple sent it to me this week and I had to laugh because there was so much truth in it. If you are an Enneagram fan, you’ll probably love it, if you haven’t seen it yet. 🙂 Listening to right now: This week, I’ve been listening to the Serene and Pearl UnShow at night when I have trouble sleeping because of nausea. I love the Trim Healthy Mama podcast and their quirky sense of humor and the way they disagree with one another and tease one another. (A lot of people are annoyed with how they talk over each other on their podcast. I happen to love it — probably because I grew up in a large family and we are always talking over each other and teasing one another mercilessly!) Loving right now: This kimono (I have it on in the photo at the top of this post. It’s perfect to dress up an outfit, so comfortable, and is something I’ve worn multiple times in the last month!) What are YOU reading, watching, listening to, and loving right now? I’d love to hear! In Case You Missed It: Guess what? I actually went to Kroger! Jesse Answers Your Burning Questions 2019 Goals: September Update [...]
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Gretchen’s Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 5

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Gretchen’s Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 5
Dillons 2 Enlightened Ice Creams – $5.47 each, used $1/1 e-coupon and $5.99 Ibotta rebate AND $5.99 Kroger cash back rebate – Free plus $1.40 overage after coupons and rebates 1 Yoplait Gogurt – Marked down to $0.49 1 Sara Lee Loaf Bread – $2.49, used $1/1 e-coupon – $1.49 after coupon 2 bags Kroger Tortilla Chips – $1.25 each 5 bags Kroger Cheese – $1.99 each, used $0.50/1 e-coupon x 5 – $1.49 each after coupon 1 bag Apples – Marked down to $0.99 2 pkg Kroger Applesauce – $1.29, used $0.30/1 e-coupon x 2 – $0.99 each after coupon 1 Kroger Eggs – Marked down to $0.49 2 Mott’s Fruit Snacks – $1.99 each, used $1/1 e-coupon x 2 – $0.99 each after coupon 1 bag Kroger Flour – $1.59 1 Kroger Sour Cream – $1.39 1 bag Green Peppers – Marked down to $0.99 2 pkg Strawberries – $2.88 each, used $0.50/1 e-coupon – $2.63 each after coupon 3.32 lbs Bananas – $1.63 2 Green Leaf Lettuce – $1.29 each 1 Stonyfield Yogurt – Marked down to $1.79, used $0.50/1 e-coupon – $1.29 after coupon Received $0.10 Ibotta rebate Received $0.09 Coinout rebate (I’m loving this new app!) Total after coupons and rebates: $30.51 Aldi 2 bag Frozen Broccoli – $0.95 each 1 Half & Half – $1.59 1 pkg Butter – $2.88 1 bag Frozen Peas – $0.79 1 bag Frozen Chicken Breasts – $5.99 1 bag Baby Carrots – $0.99 1 pkg Cream Cheese – $0.99 1 pkg Taco Seasoning – $0.39 1 pkg Flour Tortillas – $1.19 1 box Cheese Crackers – $1.49 1 pkg Chocolate Chips – $1.89 1 can Refried Beans – $0.79 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup – $0.49 2 Cucumbers – $0.59 each 1 gallon Milk – $1.49 1 pkg Granola Bars – $1.59 Received $0.03 Coinout rebate Total: $25.60 Total for both stores: $56.11 Menu Plan for This Week We are still getting veggies from our garden which I will be using this week! Breakfasts Cereal, Toast, Eggs, Fruit, Oatmeal Lunches Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Tossed Salad Bar, Fruit/Veggies/Cheese, Cheese Quesadillas, Mac & Cheese, Leftovers Dinners Chicken & Noodle Casserole, Steamed Broccoli Dinner with Lifegroup (I’m bringing Chips and Bean Dip!) BBQ Meatballs, Rolls, Steamed Peas, Mashed Potatoes Pancakes, Eggs, Fruit Salad Out to dinner for our wedding anniversary Homemade Cheese Pizza, Breadsticks, Tossed Salad Taco Bar [...]
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This Week’s $70 Grocery Shopping Trip (I was under-budget!)

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This Week’s $70 Grocery Shopping Trip (I was under-budget!)
Want to see what we bought for this week’s $70 grocery budget? I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.). For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here. I was out of town for two days this week at a blogging conference where I helped lead small group discussions in Instagram and also met with a number of different brands who are interested in working with me. So once again, I didn’t end up writing down what all we ate this week. I had to laugh at my frugal ways though, because I managed to only spend $0.53 on food while I was on the road (I used a small Starbucks gift card to buy a few things one of the days and it didn’t quite cover everything so I owed $0.53!) Some of our friends were out of town this week, so they offered us their share at a local farm since they wouldn’t be in town to pick it up. And they wouldn’t let us pay them for it! So we had roasted broccoli, cabbage and sausage, fresh strawberries, and lots of salads with fresh greens! And then I found some great deals at Kroger on Friday: Kroger Shopping Trip 5 boxes of Go-gurts — $0.99 each with Friday-Saturday deal 2 packages of Turkey Breast — on closeout for $2 each 5 packages of Danimals Smoothies — $0.99 each with Friday-Saturday deal 8 bags of frozen veggies — $1 each 1 bag of Chex Mix + 1 bag of Bugles — $0.99 when you buy 5 participating items, used $0.50/2 Kroger Digital coupon = $0.74 each 2 bottles of Aussie shampoo/conditioner — $1.99 each when you buy 5 participating items, used $2/2 Kroger Digital coupon = $0.99 each 1 Simply Popped Popcorn — $0.99 each when you buy 5 participating items 2 boxes of Earth’s Best French Toast Sticks — marked down to $0.79 each 3 bags of Simple Truth Dried Mango — marked down to $1.12 each 3 Kroger Greek Yogurt — marked down to $0.49 each 2 Kroger yogurt — marked down to $0.25 each Turkey Jerky — marked down to $0.99 each Parmesan Cheese — $2.19 10 1/2 pounds marked down bananas ($0.39/lb.) — $4.09 Simple Truth Eggs — $2.79, used $0.50/1 Kroger Digital coupon = $2.29 Half & Half — $1.79 3 pounds ground sirloin — marked down to $3.79 each Kroger milk — $2.99 Turkey Hill Tea — $1.34, used $0.75/1 Kroger Digital Coupon = $0.59 1 bag of peaches — marked down to $0.99 Total with tax: $67.68 Last week, I was a few dollars over-budget (intentionally), but I promised I would be under budget this week — and I was! Of course, we got our FREE Krispy Kreme donuts on Friday + Silas got free donuts for his A’s on his report card. (Note: They said that they have a limit of 6 free donuts per report card. Also, I’ve heard that some stores no longer offer this.) [...]
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How to Build a Backpacking Trip on the Cheap

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How to Build a Backpacking Trip on the Cheap
You might be looking at your belongings in your new backpack and the balance in your bank account with the same question: Is this enough for the weeks- or the monthslong journey ahead? In all likelihood, you overpacked and you’ll ditch half of it at the next hostel. Then, a week into your life-changing trip, you’ll realize... Meghan Coyle is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mcoyle@nerdwallet.com. The article How to Build a Backpacking Trip on the Cheap originally appeared on NerdWallet. [...]
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Brigette’s $87 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

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Brigette’s $87 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6
My older sister, Brigette, shares her shopping trips and menu plans every week! You can go HERE to see all of her weekly menu plans and you can go HERE to read all about her family! Aldi 2 bags Riced Cauliflower – $3.78 1 10-lb bag Russet Potatoes – $3.89 1 bag frozen Broccoli Florets – $0.95 1 3-lb bag Sweet Potatoes – $1.55 1 Pineapple – $0.99 2 Avocados – $0.88 1 pkg Zucchini – $1.24 1 Cauliflower – $2.19 1 large tub Organic Spring Mix – $3.49 1 bag Mini Sweet Peppers – $2.49 1 2-lb bag Red Onions – $1.79 3 large Cucumbers – $1.47 1 pkg Baby Carrots – $0.79 1 pkg Vine-Ripened Tomatoes – $1.48 1 pkg Broccoli Crowns – $1.39 1 3-lb bag Pink Lady Apples – $2.79 1 bunch Bananas (3.52lbs @ $0.42/lb) – $1.48 1 pkg Baby Bella Mushrooms – $0.99 1 pkg Artisan Lettuce – $2.39 1 pkg (5.53lbs) Fresh Boneless Chicken Breasts – $8.45 1 jar Extra Virgin Olive Oil – $2.69 1 gallon Whole Milk – $1.45 1/2 gallon 1% Milk – $0.95 1/2 gallon Orange Juice – $1.59 1/2 gallon Unsweetened Almond Milk – $1.69 1 can Whipped Dairy Topping – $2.65 1 24-oz carton Cottage Cheese – $1.59 4 Individual Cartons Flavored Greek Yogurt – $1.96 1 can Parmesan Cheese – $2.29 1 can Baking Powder – $0.99 1 can Garbanzo Beans – $0.48 1 2-lb bag Shredded Mozzarella Cheese – $4.49 2 2-lb bags Shredded Cheddar Cheese – $4.30 1 pkg Flour Tortillas – $0.65 2 boxes Honey Nut Oats – $2.30 1 bag Gluten-Free Pretzels – $1.85 1 box Cheese Crackers – $1.49 1 pkg Plain Rice Cakes – $1.15 2 cartons Egg Whites – $3.18 2 dozen Eggs – $1.78 1 pkg Turkey Pepperoni – $1.99 1 loaf Sandwich Bread – $0.65 1 pkg Hot Dog Buns – $0.59 1 pkg Hamburger Buns – $0.65 Total: $87.87 Grocery Total for the Week: $87.87 Weekly Menu Plan Breakfasts Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include: Cereal, Oatmeal, Toast, Fruit, Yogurt, Scrambled/Fried/Hard Boiled Eggs, Veggie Omelets Lunches Cheese Quesadillas, Carrots, Apples x 2 Pretzels/Cheese Crackers with Peanut Butter, Mini Peppers, Bananas x 2 Build-Your-Own-Salad Bar, Rice Cakes Leftovers x 2 Dinners Hot Dog Cookout (Church Event – we just have to show up!) Pizza Casserole (recipe from the “Trim Healthy Table Cookbook” – the crust is made from riced cauliflower), Tossed Salad Crustless Ham Quiche, Broccoli, Brown Sugar Biscuit Twists Meatloaf, Baked Potatoes, Pineapple, Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower Healthy Roasted Veggie/Rice Bowl (making a variation of this recipe), Cucumber Salad Oven Baked Chicken Breasts, Quick Garlic Breadsticks, Zucchini Fries, Pineapple Venison Burgers, Oven Baked French Fries, Tossed Salad [...]
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