Weekly Menu Plan For 9/14/14

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Weekly Menu Plan | www.pennypinchinmom.com #menu #plans


If you have never done a menu plan, you may think that you don’t need one.  That is actually not true.  By planning, you can save yourself time and money.  Of course, if you’ve never set one up before you might not be sure where to start!  Take a look at this post on How to Create a Weekly Menu Plan and Shopping List.

Before you get started creating your own plan, make sure you take a look at all of our FREE Menu Plan and Shopping List forms.  You can either print them off, or even fill one out before printing it for the week – the choice is yours!

Here is my menu plan for the week!








Sandwiches, Gogurt, apples, raisins, baked chips, cereal bars, and/or cheese sticks
School lunches



Cheese and crackers
Cereal bars
Apples with peanut butter




Sunday:  Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, fresh veggies
Monday:  Spaghetti, french bread, salad
Tuesday:  Grilled chicken, rice, green beans
Wednesday:  Leftovers
Thursday:  Fish Tacos
Friday:  Sutffed pork chop, salad, cubed potatoes, corn
Saturday:  Dinner Out

How To Help Teach Your Kids How To Let Go Of Toys (And Other Items)

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Got clutter?  More importantly - do your KIDS have clutter?  Are they afraid to get rid of toys and other treasures?  No worries as you are NOT alone!  Check out this list of tips to help you teach your child learn to let go of toys and other things they no longer use.  #parenting     www.pennypinchinmom.com
Kids accumulate so many toys, animals and special treasures that they can quickly take over their room.  As an adult, we know we need to get rid of items and can quickly discern which can be kept and which need to go away (be it donations or trash).  However, for a child, this is different.  All they own in this world are these items, so letting go of them can be very difficult.

There are some things you can do to help your children learn to let go of their toys and treasures, while not being too emotionally challenging for them.

Talk about space and growing up.  Talk to your children about how too many toys will prevent them being able to play.  You can talk about how they trip over items or step on toys and how that hurts them.  At this same time, you can talk to your kids about how great it is to grow up and part of that is learning to let go of those toys they no longer play with or need.

Move items to a temporary home before getting rid of them.  If your child is not yet ready to part with items, you can give them a temporary home, outside of the bedroom.  Have your child help decide which items they want to try to get rid of.  It can be difficult for them as getting rid of toys means they are growing up, and they may still want to cling to them so they can stay your little boy or girl.

This summer, we took around 20 stuffed animals out of our kids’ rooms.  We placed them in a plastic bag and put them in the basement.  This was done around 8 weeks ago and our kids have yet to ask for any of those items.

If they do not look for them after 6 or more months, we get rid of them.  We usually just do another check with our kids to make sure they don’t want one of them back and usually, all of them can leave.  Once in a while one or two make it back into their room, but keeping 2 out of 20 is definitely a step in the right direction.

Allow your kids to sell their own items.  Our daughter recently outgrew many of her LEGO sets.  She and I worked together to take photos and count out all pieces to ensure the sets were complete.  We then listed them for sale on Amazon and she was able to keep the profits.  She was able to clean out items from her room and turned it into a profit – which helped her want to get rid of even more items.

You could also even allow them to sell those items at a yard sale or other method.  Your child is in complete control of the items leaving – and gets to turn their toy into money, which they can use towards other items they may want.

Let them select the charity (teaching empathy).  Teaching your children about how other kids may not have toys and clothes helps them learn empathy.  They can relate to another child their own age not having items like they do.  An easy way to help instill this value is to allow your child to select the charity where you will make your donation.  You can research local organizations and your child can decide where the donation will go.

When they get a say, they will feel that they are making a difference and are in control of the items leaving the house (rather than mom or dad telling them what to do).  They may even surprise you by getting rid of items you didn’t think you’d ever see leave their bedroom.

Do a monthly swap.  When our kids were younger, we would take some of their toys and keep them in a box in the basement.  Every 2 or 3 months, I would clean their rooms and take out the old toys and put new ones in their place.  This kept toys new and fresh and kept them entertained.  This allowed me to also weed through the toys I knew were trash, find broken items and just declutter their rooms.  This also helps your child because the toys are not leaving completely, just going a way for a while.  You may even find that you don’t need to put the toys back into their room as they have since lost interest.


Whatever you do, don’t force your child to get rid of items.  They will let go of items in due time – and perhaps even sooner than you may be ready for them to do so.  Helping teach your child about letting go of items is a valuable lesson, which will help them later in life.

25 Delicious Apple Recipes

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apple recipes tracie
There is something about apples and fall.  They just seem to go together!  Below you will find a round up of TWENTY-FIVE (25) amazing apple recipes from donuts to ice cream and more!  Click on each link below to go directly to the website to learn more!

  1. Caramel Apple Bars
  2. Fall Harvest Cake
  3. Cinnamon Apple Cake
  4. Apple Strudel Cake
  5. Caramel Apple Spice
  6. Apple Muffins
  7. Apple Crumb Bars
  8. Apple Spice Cake with Maple Cream
  9. Custard Style Apple Tart
  10. French Apple Pie
  11. Caramel Apple Dip
  12. Apple Cider Ice Cream
  13. Apple Pie Ice Cream
  14. Apple Cider Doughnuts
  15. Apple Streusel Muffins
  16. Zucchini Applesauce Bread
  17. Cheddar Apple Biscuits
  18. Apple Bacon Cheese Bread
  19. Roasted Carrot-Apple Soup
  20. Apple Avocado Salsa with Honey Lime Dressing
  21. Butternut Squash Apple Bake
  22. Apple Cider Punch
  23. Apple Cider Milkshake
  24. Mulled Apple Cider
  25. Apple Butter

Get FREE Personalized Recipe Recommendations From McCormick!

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I cook so my family doesn’t starve.  I don’t love it – and admit that freely.  Part of the reason is that my family is very picky and so fixing dinner can be frustrating.  I recently found this new way to find recipes – based upon your OWN flavor profile and preferences!

McCormick has a new site called Flavor Point.  It is really easy to get started and create your own profile and then find amazing recipes – which you will actually enjoy!!!  Here is how to get started:

  1. Click HERE and click the red Let’s Get Started button.
  2. Answer the series of questions about the foods you like to eat.
  3. Once you are done, you can review your recipe recommendations.  (I’ve got a few that I’m anxious to try out).

So that’s it!  Just head HERE to get signed up and create your own custom profile!

Mabel’s Labels Review: Perfect for Back to School!

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Here is my math problem — 3 kids + back to school = lots and lots of labeling!  We had to label backpacks and jackets and lunchbags and pouches….and the list goes on and on.  Rather than try to use a sharpie or a mailing label, we used Mabel’s Labels.  I absolutely LOVE these!!!

My kids like them because they can sit beside me and customize them.  They can select their own image on the labels and even select from various colors — all to make them one of a kind and show off their own personality.  The one that we purchased was the Mabel’s Labels Ultimate Combo Pack, which retails for $42.  This is a great option as it isn’t just one label – it includes several items!

  • 40 Skinny-mini labels
  • 50 Tag Maes
  • 16 Shoe Labels
  • 2 Teeny Tags

While your kids are most interested in the colors and design of the labels, moms (and dads) will appreciate the quality.  These labels are dishwasher and microwave safe.  We’ve had a bottle with a label on it which we’ve used for more than 2 years – and it still hasn’t come off through lot and lots of washing!  They are also safe enough to go through the washing machine.  We tagged a t-shirt of my daughter’s and that label has lasted for through 4 months of washing.   These labels just work.  Plain and simple.

I’ve seen other styles (and actually tried them).  Some of them peeled shortly after being applied. I had one that came right off in the dishwasher.  I don’t have the time (or money) to have to keep replacing labels on the items we use all of the time.  We “stick” with Mabel’s Labels for our kids because they just work.

Saving money is always important to my family.  However, so is quality.  If I have to purchase something over and over again because it fails, I may end up spending more in the long run than if I had just spent a bit more up front to buy a quality product.  That is honestly how I feel about Mabel’s Labels.  You get what you pay for.


*This is a sponsored review.  All opinions are truly my own and were not influenced by any parties.

Using a Snack Basket to Make After School Snack Time Quick and Easy

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Is this you?  Do your kids burst through the door after school yelling "I'm Hungry!!!"?  If so, then this post is for YOU!!  Follow these tips to make your own snack basket in a matter of minutes to help your kids find something to eat quickly and easily!  #lifehacks  www.pennypinchinmom.com

It is 4:00 p.m.  Your kids come rushing through the door from school and the first words you hear are “Mom!!!!!  I’m Hungry!!”  They run to the pantry or fridge and then stare blankly at what is inside.  They aren’t sure what to have to eat.  You intervene and help them figure something out and finally, after 15 minutes of empty stares, your child finally finds something to eat.

Fortunately for us, this is not the case!  My kids never have to ask what they can eat for a snack nor do they say we’ve got nothing to eat.  How?  Simple.  We use a snack basket.

I’ve actually used this practice since my oldest was around 2 years old.  I found a wicker basket and filled it with mom-approved snacks.  Then, when she was hungry, we would go to the basket to find something to eat.  We’ve kept this going now for nearly 8 years and it still works as well today as it did back then!

It is really easy to make one yourself.  It will take a few minutes each week to stock it and then, your kids will know what to grab to eat after school or on the way out the door to soccer practice (which saves you time and sanity).

I pick up the items my kids like to eat.  Sometimes they are individually wrapped, but often, they are in a large box.  When I get home, I read the side where it tells me a serving size.  With most crackers, it always says a number, rather than a measurement.  I have found that, in most cases, the number they share is around 1/2 cup.  That makes it simple to make servings for my kids.

I pick up snack size baggies and then use a measuring cup and fill them up.  Then, stack them into the basket.  That’s it!

snack basket | www.pennypinchinmom.com

By measuring serving sizes, you help make sure your kids don’t over eat and can keep the portions to a size that is appropriate for them.  When my kids were younger, the bags were not filled quite as fully as they are now that they are older.  They also know they get one snack.

Um, Tracie?  What about fruit and other items?  That is simple as we keep a snack drawer in our fridge too!  That is where we have fruit, cheese sticks, yogurt cups, yogurt sticks and those types of snacks.  My kids know that they can go to either basket to find a snack — without having to ask mom if it is “OK.”   There are also days when they walk through the door where I will say — “Today is fridge snack day” and they know to go there and find a snack from that drawer instead.

They love the independence it provides to them and I love that I don’t have to stop to find them something to eat after school.  It really makes our after school routine a bit simpler and keeps us on schedule so that they are not eating too closely to dinner, and ruining their appetite!


Weekly Menu Plan For 9/7/14

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Weekly Menu Plan | www.pennypinchinmom.com #menu #plans


If you have never done a menu plan, you may think that you don’t need one.  That is actually not true.  By planning, you can save yourself time and money.  Of course, if you’ve never set one up before you might not be sure where to start!  Take a look at this post on How to Create a Weekly Menu Plan and Shopping List.

Before you get started creating your own plan, make sure you take a look at all of our FREE Menu Plan and Shopping List forms.  You can either print them off, or even fill one out before printing it for the week – the choice is yours!

Here is my menu plan for the week!








Sandwiches, yogurt sticks, baked chips, cheese sticks, cereal treats, apple sticks, yogurt raisins, and/or grapes




Graham Crackers
Cheese and Crackers



Sunday:  Roast, potatoes and carrots
Monday: Chicken enchiladas
Tuesday: Lasagne, french bread, salad
Wednesday:  Leftovers
Thursday:  Sandwiches, chips and fresh veggies
Friday: Cheese and chicken enchiladas
Saturday:  Dinner Out

Should You Stay Or Should You Go? Congrats, you’re pregnant! But, what are you going to do after the baby is born?

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Dan Gering


Is it a boy or a girl? Do you have a name picked out? Will you breastfeed or use formula? Once you and your partner announce your pregnancy, you’re likely to be bombarded with questions and most of them aren’t easy to answer. One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is what you’ll do after your bundle of joy arrives: Are you going to stay home or go back to work? If you go back work, will you hire home care or use a daycare?


What’s Best For You And Your Family


…is ultimately what’s best for your baby, too. Everyone’s situation is different and no one’s choice is easy. There is no wrong or right decision because everyone who makes this choice is doing what’s best for themselves and for their families. With that being said, here are some financial questions you can ask yourself as you decide what’s best for you:

  • One of the biggest questions – If your spouse works, can you afford to live on one income?
  • Do you have paid maternity or paternity leave?
  • Do you want to leave your career at this point?
  • Do you have a support system around you to help care for the child?
  • Will staying at home hamper your career later in your life?


Taking The Time Off


If your company offers paid maternity (or paternity) leave, you have an opportunity to ‘test the waters’ without taking an extreme financial hit. If parental leave isn’t offered, you’re still eligible for FMLA leave for up to 12 weeks unpaid and a guaranteed position upon your return.

Typically, it’s better for everyone involved if you make your decision and inform your work before giving birth, but some working parents experience a change of heart. It’s financially critical to see what percentage of income your leave covers and how many weeks it covers. You don’t want to have any surprises when you start leave.


A Dual Focus


As the due date approaches, your thoughts may turn to tiny outfits and nursery preparation. Or, you may be thinking about finishing everything at work and delegating tasks before you go. You might be thinking about both.

Many men and women are satisfied with their careers and in positions that not only allow them to support their family, but help fulfill them emotionally or socially as well. Some people are also at critical junctures in their careers and want to have a family while securing their position at work. With both parents working, the obligations of home and the office can be a challenge but also very rewarding. Prepare yourself to return to work by establishing routines.

If you are looking into daycares, you cannot start too early! Some institutions require a deposit and have up to a year wait list, so identify what’s important to you in a childcare option and schedule site visits in your first trimester, if possible. Take notes about requirements and your own observations.


One Income Family


If you’ve decided that you or your spouse is going to stay home, it’s time to consider how it will affect your primary and long-term budget. Typically, whoever has the higher income becomes the primary breadwinner but take into account schedules, benefits, travel time and opportunities for advancement. A short-term financial gain could very well carry long-term consequences.

Adjusting to a single income requires a bit of strategy, too. You will want to start saving before the baby is born. Write out a list of your most nonessential spending and start cutting- for this you’ll need to start at square one with a basic budgeting worksheet budgeting worksheet.

For some families, sacrifices may be cable television, a gym membership or magazine subscriptions. It’s smart to clip coupons and re-examine your grocery list, too. This will feel like a bit of a shock at first, but trust me, you will be so busy with baby you won’t notice the extras are gone. To acclimate yourself early, start practicing with your new budget before baby arrives to get used to the changes. This will also help you boost your savings.


Is Help Around?


Your surroundings, especially the people in them, will likely have the biggest influence on whether or not you choose to stay home or go back to work. Being a stay at home parent is a full-time job and usually, there’s no time-off or lunch breaks. You’ll need all the help you can get no matter what choice you make.

Some families chose home care help rather than a daycare, which can be a nice (it really does take a village). Some parents divide up their options, working part-time and utilizing a daycare provider on the other days. Start conversations with your employer early on to see what your options are and that may just be the right choice for you.

Many stay-at-home parents rely on ‘co-ops’ or ‘mom groups’ as a means to stay connected (and sane). They meet with other new moms or dads to not only remain social, but to help ease the stress of being a primary caretaker. Some parents even participate in babysitting exchanges. Talk with your significant other about time for you to regroup and recharge, too! Balance allows you to be a focused parent.

No matter how you stay involved, it’s important to try and gauge how much support you’ll have from your family and friends when deciding if you’re staying home or going back to work. There are always options for every situation, it just may take a bit of flexibility and financial creativity to make it all work.


In the coming weeks, we’ll explore the pros and cons of stay-at-home parenting and how you can best prepare yourself for one of the biggest, and best, changes of your life. For more advice on navigating financials or saving up for your growing family, click here for friendly advice from the CommunityAmerica Credit Union Savin’ Mavens. This post was written by Maven Dana Gering.


How to Organize School Papers, Photos and Artwork

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Organizing school papers and projects | www.pennypinchinmom.com


As your child starts another school year (or is starting for the first time), you may find that you have a stack of artwork, projects, school portraits and report cards.  These may be tossed into a box or bag because you aren’t sure what to do with them.   As a parent, you want to keep many items for your kids to have when they grow up.  I still have items from kindergarten that I share with my kids.  They find it hilarious to see that mom couldn’t write very well either!

Organizing these papers will save your sanity and help you find the item you want, when you need it.  Not only that, but you won’t end up looking at a paper your child wrote and end up wondering — how old was he when he wrote that?  You might see that handprint and think, was she 5 or 6 when she made that in school?  I’ve got a simply way for you to keep those cherished items AND help organize them.  The best part of all is that you only have to do your filing ONE time a year!

With three kids, I had to find a simple way to do this.  I started out by purchasing storage tubs.  I found some which had a way to hang files inside of them.


I found mine at Office Max and they were around $15 each.  I loved the winged lid because it was easy to open and had the ability for me to put hanging folder inside of it.  You can find them at many stores, however, make sure that you find some which will allow you to hang folders inside of it.

I then picked up hanging folders. I opted for box bottom folders, so that they could expand wide enough to hold all of the items I needed to store.  These were a little more expensive, but knowing I could use one for each year and they would hold all of my items, it was worth it to me.  Here is what a bottom box folder looks like:

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 9.01.54 AM


I took the tabs and wrote each school year on them – starting with Preschool.  I didn’t go higher than 6th grade, as I was not sure if years after that time would fit into this same box or not.  I can add additional years later on.

As you can see in the photo below, I have mine created from Preschool up through 6th grade for my kids.  I then filed the paperwork for each year into each folder.  I didn’t have to cut anything. I didn’t have to put it into a scrapbook. I literally just placed each item into the appropriate year for each child.


So, what should you save?  Here are some the things I have filed in each of my children’s folders:

  • Report cards (I save ONLY the final one of the year and file it away and don’t keep the one for each quarter)
  • School photos (includes class picture and those given to them by friends)
  • Funny stories
  • Up to 3 pieces of artwork per year
  • Certificates
  • Desk Tags
  • Yearbook
  • Other items which show my children’s personality at that age

As I mentioned, I only file once per year.  I have a large box which I set on top of these in my basement.  All year long, I just toss in the items I may want to save into the box for all of my kids.  Once the final report card of the year is issued, I print it out (they email them to us) and that is my cue to do my filing.  I go through the box of papers and open each child’s storage box.  I file the items I need to save and toss those things we don’t need to keep.  It takes me no more than 30 minutes to do this for all 3 of my kids!

I place a paper inside the box with each child’s name and school years listed.   They go into my basement and I have no worries of water damage (since the tubs are plastic) and I can get to them quickly should the need arise!

Organzing school papers


There you have it!  A quick and easy way to get those papers filed away and off of your kitchen counter, desk or wherever they happened to lie.



Back To School with Target! Every Little Thing Is a Really Big Deal! #btswithtarget

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target bts


Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Target via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Target


While school started for many kids this past month, many more are starting back today, September 2nd!  While it is fun for kids to shop for all of the supplies, one thing truly matters most of all.    It isn’t the backpack.  It isn’t even seeing friends.  It is the clothes.

My kids and I had a lot of fun shopping at Target for clothes for them to wear back to school.  In fact, the minute my nearly 6 year old kindergartner saw this green Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt in the store she told me that she had to have it to wear on the first day of school.  And you know what, she did just that!

first day of kindergarten

My kids and I actually made a day of shopping for our supplies and clothes.  I know as a kid, every little thing matters (and Target actually gets that too).  The prices are always affordable, although I did teach my kids to always check before we shop.  They had fun checking all sorts of clothes:


We were able to find the perfect shirts and then visited the shoe department.  So many styles from which they could choose!


While my kids had fun finding the items that THEY wanted, there was still one thing that is a must when it is back to school time.  If you are a mom, you know what I’m talking about.  Socks and underwear!!!  Just like with myself, I hate spending too much on these items.  I was able to find the things my kids needed and even tracked down a Target Cartwheel coupon to use with them – to save even more!  Seriously — don’t you LOVE how much money you can save at Target?!!!  Click the video below!!


Back to School with Target - Video fun!


With three kids heading to school this year for the first time, my budget had to be in check.  I couldn’t afford to overspend.  I had to make sure that my kids were able to get those extra special things that really mattered to them, as this is THEIR time of the year.  Visiting Target allowed this mom’s wallet to still have money left after we shopped and we still were able to pick up all of those items my kids wanted.  After all, Every Little Thing Matters.