What Is Cozi Family Calendar & How To Use The Cozi Family Calendar To Make Life Easier For Your Whole Family!

What is Cozi Family Calendar? Cozi Family calendar is the solution to taking the stress out of your family's busy life. With Cozi Calendar, you can keep up with a shared calendar, chore lists, to do lists, shopping lists, meal planning and more!

I think you will agree with me that sometimes getting your whole family on the same page feels like a never ending battle that we can never ever win. For years, I struggled with the fact that I could talk until I was blue in the face, but my family consistently acted like I was giving them brand new information every single time.

“I told you, we have that meeting today”.

“What?! You never told me that!”.

Cue exasperated groan and questioning why I ever even open my mouth if nobody will bother to listen!

Okay, in reality, I am making it sound MUCH worse than it really was, but to be fair…I could just sense it was going to continue getting even more difficult to communicate the goings on in our lives the older the kids got (because we all know, the older the kids get, the busier the whole family becomes!).

Thankfully, I had a friend YEARS ago that told me about Cozi Family Calendar!

I attempted Cozi Calendar once before when my children were small. Honestly, we just didn’t really have enough going on at the time for me to need to keep up with it. It wasn’t until years later (and a few failed attempts with Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and a few other calendar apps) that my friend’s advice came back to me.

I downloaded Cozi Calendar on my phone (it is also web based), and pretty immediately subscribed to Cozi Gold (Cozi Gold is NOT necessary, but we think it is worth it for our needs and our family. More on that later.).

Now, we have been using (and paying for…although this is NOT a sponsored post, but there are affiliate links in this post) Cozi for well over a year now and we just love it. (My favorite feature? Using Cozi for CHORES! Read on to see why.)

Sign up for Cozi Calendar here. 

Here’s a quick testimonial from my husband:

“A little work in Cozi can go a long way.  With just a few entries, suddenly everyone in the family had an easy reference point to remind ourselves of the kids’ baskebetball schedules.  No need to ask each other or go digging around in old emails to see what time the next game is.  The shared Lists feature is also pretty handy.  Aside from keeping track of your own to-do lists you can easily see what the family has left on theirs.  Great way to keep each other accountable or to see if anybody needs some help.”

I highly recommend Cozi Calendar for any busy family and here is why:

What Is Cozi Calendar?

Cozi is the must-have organizer for families. It helps coordinate and communicate everyone’s schedules and activities, track grocery lists, manage to do lists, plan ahead for dinner, and keep the whole family on the same page.

For us, this looks like our shared calendar, color coded for each family member and synced on everyone’s devices. My daughter does not yet have an actual phone with a data plan yet, but she uses an old iPhone of mine here at home with WiFi. If she did not have a device, she would also have the option to access Cozi Calendar from one of our computers.

This looks like to-do lists for every member of our family AND shopping lists for all of the stores we frequent that anybody can add to.

This also *could* look like our grocery list and meal plan, but at the moment I am using the app Paprika for this (I am planning to transition all of my recipes over to Cozi, but it is going to be a pretty big undertaking, so for now, I don’t mind not using this feature of Cozi Calendar. Paprika is a great app too.).

How to Share Cozi Calendar With Your Family

With Cozi calendar, you have a shared password for everyone in your family.

To add family members, sign into your account from Cozi on the web or from your Cozi mobile app, click Settings, and add names and email addresses. Once you enter names and email addresses for your family members, they will be able to access the account by signing in with their own email address and the shared password

Cozi is meant to be shared as a family, so if you are wanting a personal calendar that your family does not see (maybe for your workday, you don’t necessarily need your family seeing every scheduled conference call!), you might want to keep that on a separate Google Calendar.

Sign up for Cozi Calendar here. 

How to Use Cozi for Family Scheduling

Using the Cozi Calendar for family scheduling is SUPER easy. You just click to add an event and then you can input as much or as little info as you want!

You can even specify which family members need to be reminded about this event so that not everyone needs to be reminded about your upcoming Well Woman’s visit (but like I said earlier, they will still see this appointment if they go in and look, they just won’t be notified by reminders!). 

With Cozi Gold, you can even add additional reminders so if you are the type of person that needs a reminder the night before, the morning of and 10 minutes before, you can totally do that with Cozi Gold!

You can view your calendar in day/week/month format. I love this list view!

You might also like – School Morning Routine Hacks – Get Out the Door with a Smile (and On Time!)

How to Use Cozi For Chores!!!

Okay, right here is my favorite Cozi feature! My kids might not admit it, but even they love using Cozi for chores.

Why would my kids love using Cozi for chores? I have found that giving my children a list of chores/responsibilities takes away from the emotion of the “ask”.

Let me elaborate:

“Could you please empty the dishwasher.”

Finishes emptying the dishwasher. Kid thinks he is done and moves on to something else (fun).

“Okay, now I need you to bring down your laundry”.

Kid brings down laundry. Starts another (fun) task.

“Okay, now please feed the dog.”

Kid feeds dog and then hides from you for the rest of the night.

It’s funny because it is TRUE! I actually remember doing this as a kid myself!

With Cozi calendar, you can create chore lists in the app and either tell your kids to look in the app for their chore list or you can even text their list to them! Then, as they complete tasks, they check them off. Which is not only satisfying for them, but also satisfying for ME as their mom!

I find my kids do great with lists, and they are also obsessed with getting their lists cleared.

My daughter will even add to her list sometimes. Look at her adorable addition to her Cozi Chore list (Cookie is our dog):

Sign up for Cozi Calendar here. 

How To Use the Cozi App for Meal Planning

Like I said before, I don’t really use Cozi for meal planning. I reverse menu plan and have been saving recipes to the app Paprika for a long time. While it would be nice to have our meal plan and recipes on Cozi, I have known it would be a big task to transfer everything over. I might get to it one day though, and if I do, I will definitely update this section!

You might also like: How To Become A Better Cook – Learn To Cook Better At Home To Save More Money!

Other Perks of Using Cozi Family Calendar

Shopping Lists – I have different shopping lists for all of our favorite stores and anybody can add to them at anytime. My daughter is a strawberry FIEND, and if we run out of strawberries, she can easily go in and add them to our HEB calendar.

Whoever finds themselves in an HEB for whatever reason will quickly pull up the shopping list and see what we might need.

You can also add to your shopping list via Alexa!!

Journal – We have not done much with this (but I am currently using the 1 second everyday app and that is super cool), but I want to get better about it. You can keep a journal/photo journal of your family in Cozi! It’s a great way to preserve those special memories and you can even share your journal with family and friends if you choose to! It’s a neat feature that our family definitely under utilizes.

 

Cozi Calendar vs Google Calendar

Why did we choose Cozi Calendar vs Google Calendar? Well, to be honest it has a lot to do with simplicity.

Google calendar is robust and there is a lot you can do with it. You can also subscribe to the Google Calendars for your school district, your PTA, your favorite baseball team, etc. Honestly, it ends up getting super cluttered and it is just a lot of noise.

My husband uses Google Calendar for work, and it is best if he keeps his Google Calendar dedicated to his work. The Cozi calendar interface is just so family friendly and easy enough that our kids can do absolutely everything on it without us even needing to show them.

It just works well for our family and is a one stop shop to help us keep our lives in order.

Is Cozi Gold Worth It?

For us, Cozi Gold is worth it. The additional reminders are lovely and that alone makes it worth it to me.

I enjoy that it is an ad free experience, I like the month view on the calendar and the ability to change the theme. The best part is that you just pay ONE Cozi Gold fee for your whole family.

You can grab a 14 day Cozi Gold trial for FREE to see if it suits the needs of your family.

Sign up for Cozi Calendar here. 

I have been wanting to write a post about Cozi Calendar for awhile. Whether you use the free version of Cozi or Cozi Gold, I think you will find that Cozi Calendar is the best calendar/meal planning/chore app out there to get your family all on the same page and to keep them there!

Do you have any more questions about Cozi Calendar? Do you have any tips/hacks that I don’t know about for Cozi Calendar! Comment below and let me know!

How To Become A Better Cook – Learn To Cook Better At Home To Save More Money!

Do you want to cook at home more often, but you know you need to become a better cook first? Does your family cringe as you place their dinner plate on the table? You can become a better cook by just picking up a few new and simple habits!

One of the easiest ways to save money is to cook at home. Making meals at home for your family is almost ALWAYS cheaper than getting a meal in a restaurant. Fast food might be cheaper than cooking the same meal at home (think Taco Bell tacos compared to home made tacos with all of the fixings), but the long term repercussions of that fast food might just make you lose money over the longterm in health issues.

The argument I hear OFTEN regarding why people don’t cook at home is that they just don’t think they are a good cook! Or maybe, they think they are an okay cook, but they can’t cook *insert dish here* better than their favorite restaurant can.

I am here to tell you…if this is you…you are WRONG! You can cook! I am under the firm belief that anyone can cook. Maybe you aren’t a good cook now, but you can become a better cook!

Now, here is my caveat…I love to eat out. I love going to restaurants. I do feel I am a good cook. I actually think I am an above average cook when I have the time and inclination! If your budget allows for eating out, then by no means am I saying you need to stop! You still might benefit from these tips to become a better cook though!

My Tips For Becoming a Better Cook

Season, Season, Season –

When I first met my husband, we would go out to eat and he would sometimes declare something didn’t taste so good. I would take a bite, add some salt & pepper and all of a sudden, he couldn’t get enough! The thing I have noticed about most self proclaimed “bad” cooks is that they do not season their foods. (my husband now seasons when necessary and follows this first rule very well!)

Not only do you need to season your food to taste at the end of the dish, you really should be seasoning at every single stage of the cooking process. This is why my recipes (except for baking…baking is like chemistry, you need to have exact amounts!) typically state “Salt & Pepper to taste”. I wish I could also put “to taste” for all of the spices I use, because truthfully…I only season to taste.

Do you hear that? Just because a recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of Italian Seasoning, does not mean you only need to use 1  Tablespoon! Taste it after it’s had some time to permeate the dish. Does it still need more? Add some more!

Let’s say you are cooking a soup. First you are sauteing some veggies to go in your soup. Season them with some salt & pepper as they cook. Next you are cooking the chicken for your soup. Who likes bland chicken? Absolutely nobody. Season your chicken! Now you put your broth in with your veggies and chicken. Allow it to simmer to let the flavors blend, then taste it….and see if it needs more seasoning! (it probably does!). Don’t be afraid to season your food.

If you are on a low sodium diet, you can get very creative with Mrs Dash type no salt seasonings or other herbs and spices. Don’t let your food be bland! Season, Season, SEASON!

Use Reputable Sources for Recipes

Pinterest rocks. Blogs rock. However…when I want to make a dish I have never made before, I head over to AllRecipes. Why? Because I can crowd source my recipes!

I want to make risotto? (I have an awesome risotto recipe here, lol) I will head over there and look for the one that is rated the best. Then I will read the reviews (not all of them, mainly just the top few) and see where people made substitutions or what their comments are regarding the recipe. If there seems to be a theme through all of the comments (this asks for too much broth, you need to cook this for longer than the recipe says, etc), I will take that feedback into consideration.

The reason I say don’t rely on Pinterest and blogs (and I am saying this as a blogger who posts recipes!!) if you are not somewhat experienced in the kitchen is because often there is no feedback. Nobody else is proving the trustworthiness of this recipe. Often, you’ll just see “Oh I can’t wait to make this!” or “Oh this looks so good, I am making it tonight!” in the comment section of blog recipes. Nobody comes back to update whether they made the dish and how it turned out.

There are some exceptions to this. Obviously, Pioneer Woman gets a lot of feedback on her recipes. That said, (and I am not accusing anyone of anything), bloggers can delete comments that criticize their recipes.

Unless you are an experienced cook who can use blog recipes and Pinterest as inspiration and adapt along the way if things don’t taste to your liking (remember, you need to be seasoning and tasting all along the way!), then find your recipes through cookbooks and/or websites that allow unfiltered feedback and reviews.

Use the Right Equipment

Don’t use a cast iron pan for a recipe that requires non stick. You will just give yourself a headache.

Don’t try to shred cheese using a fork. Make sure you have a cheese grater.

You really don’t have to spend a ton to have a well stocked kitchen. However, investing in good kitchen equipment that withstands repeated cooking, and makes your life easier, is well worth it.

My favorite kitchen items are:

My Instant Pot

My Ninja Foodi

My KitchenAid Stand Mixer

However, you don’t need any of those pricey appliances (although they sure do make my life infinitely easier) to have a well equipped kitchen. Here is all you really need:

This is certainly NOT an exhaustive list. You might find you have no use for a potato masher because you use your stand mixer to make your mashed potatoes/mashed cauliflower (I do). Or you might not need a cast iron skillet because you have no desire to cook with cast iron.

However, having the right equipment can make the difference between you attempting to cook a whole chicken in a pot on the stove or roasting it in a roasting pan in the oven (I’ll give you one guess for which will taste better and actually cook evenly!).

Use Shortcuts

Speaking of roasted chicken! If your budget allows…buy that rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and shred it at home for recipes. Use the carcass for stock and bam…you have made a budget friendly decision that is only a bit more expensive than cooking the roast chicken from scratch at home yourself.

If your budget allows, buy the already cut veggies. The bagged salad. The pre-cooked bacon (although..yuck? I hate that stuff).

Even when you use shortcuts, you can still spend less money and eat more healthfully cooking at home vs going out to a restaurant.

Be Organized and Tidy

This is where I fail y’all. I am just going to admit defeat here! No, I’m not…I will never be defeated by a messy kitchen! I HATE to cook in a messy kitchen, but I also hate to clean the kitchen. What’s a gal to do? (my solution…make the husband and kids do it! Hey, I’m the one cooking, menu planning and grocery shopping!)

Clean the kitchen y’all.

Have you heard of a mise en place?

Mise en place (French pronunciation: ​[mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]) is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” It refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift. – Wikipedia 

This means that you get everything nice and neat and prepared for cooking à la food blogger style. When you have to run to the pantry while the onions are sauteing, you might just get side tracked and they will burn. Ask me how I know this? Trust me, been there, done that a time or two!

When I start off with all of my ingredients in front of me and a clear and defined work space, my cooking experience is much smoother and much nicer. If you pretend hard enough, you can actually convince yourself you are the next Rachael Ray! (grab the garbage bowl and the EVOO!).

These are my tips! I hope they will help you to become a better cook. I know they all make a difference in MY cooking and I think I am a pretty good cook if I do say so myself!

What are some tips you have for becoming a better cook?

Reverse Meal Planning – How I Save A Ton On Groceries By Reverse Meal Planning!

Have you tried reverse meal planning? Learn how I use reverse meal planning to make a HUGE dent in our weekly grocery budget without having to clip coupons!

Over the past several years, I have discussed here on FFF how I truly feel that the “secret” to saving money on groceries is meal planning. Meal planning can make an enormous difference in your grocery budget.

The difference between walking into my local grocery store with a list and without a list is absolutely measurable. I spend so much more money if I walk in without a plan!

Meal planning in general is one of those tasks that can initially seem super challenging, but once you get into a flow and have a few weeks of plans under your belt, it can become incredibly effortless. OR, you can also just outsource meal planning to a service like eMeals, Eat at Home, Six Sisters, etc.

Even though I do find meal planning to be a huge money saver, the biggest money saver I have found regarding grocery shopping is REVERSE Meal Planning! Oh, and I RARELY use coupons when I reverse menu plan…only if they are right there next to the product and stupid easy to grab!

Click to purchase on Amazon!

Oh gosh, what is this fanciness you might be asking?

Reverse Meal Planning is not for everyone.

Reverse meal planning might not be for you if you don’t have:  

Time – It involves shopping multiple stores, or at least going to one store more often than you would typically go grocery shopping.

A lack of brand/store loyalty – If you REFUSE to give up your favorite brand, or maybe you have specific dietary needs so you CAN’T buy just any kind pasta, etc this might not be the form of meal planning for you.

Creativity – Okay, you don’t need a ton of creativity, but some weeks you might only find foods on sale that are not in your typical wheelhouse! You need to be okay with hopping on to AllRecipes or Pinterest and finding a recipe for something that is potentially outside your family’s typical rotation.

Storage – If you don’t have a lot of storage for both perishables/non perishables, this might not be the meal planning option for you. However, you CAN do Reverse Meal Planning without a lot of storage, but you likely will not be able to build up too much of a stockpile which means you will have to be very inventive in the kitchen from week to week as you will have less of an arsenal to pull ingredients from.

Okay, now that we have established who Reverse Meal Planning is NOT for…

Reverse Meal Planning might be for you if: 

  1. You don’t mind stopping by Kroger on your way home. HEB once over the weekend. Aldi a few times a month. Checking the store ads at Walmart/Target/Amazon Subscribe & Save/insert other grocery store here. You will go to the grocery store more often with reverse meal planning.
  2. You enjoy being a bit creative in the kitchen!
  3. You have room to store extra items for when you find a good deal and you are able to stock up!

You Still Want To Give Reverse Meal Planning A Shot? 

Well, here goes…first off, you walk into the store without a list.

Are you shocked? Are you wondering why I just harped on always entering a grocery store with a LIST above and now I’m telling you to walk into a grocery store without a list?

Are you concerned I am going crazy?

Here’s the thing, Reverse Meal Planning is about creating your meal plans based on what is on sale and what you have in your pantry/fridge/deep freezer.

The longer you Reverse Meal Plan, and the more you build your stockpile, the more money you will save!

How to Reverse Meal Plan

First off, you’ll walk into your local grocery store and raid the markdowns! Look for the loss leaders (the top half of the store ad is usually the loss leaders. These are the items that your grocery store is selling for dirt cheap to get you in the door in the hopes that the rest of your cart will be filled with full priced items).

My biggest hint is to look for Manager’s Specials in the meat department. 90% of the proteins I bring into our home are either on sale or Manager’s Specials that are 25-75% off the retail price! Use good judgement here, if the meat already looks iffy…it won’t get better looking at home. I ONLY buy markdowns if they look just as good as the full priced meat.

Often these proteins are so deeply discounted only because they are close to their “sell by” date.

Guess what though? I have a deep freezer! I package all of these proteins in freezer friendly bags and write the date on them (FoodSafety.gov has a great chart for how long items can stay refrigerated/in a typical freezer/in a deep freezer).

Then I scan the rest of the store for good deals. The signage for markdowns in most stores is generally pretty clear. You can usually whiz down aisles pretty quickly and the markdowns will stand out.

You HAVE to be able to resist impulse purchases. Adopt the motto, if it’s not marked down…it does not go in my cart! 

Do this at as many local stores as you have access/time to visit. At first, you’ll still have to menu plan a bit traditionally.

I recommend trying to use Week 1 and Week 2 of Reverse Meal Planning as “clean out the pantry/fridge” weeks. As you gradually build your stockpile, you will be able to menu plan based on what you have on hand. You will rarely be shopping for THIS week’s groceries each week. 

Instead, this week’s grocery shopping trip will be for fresh produce (on sale if possible), fresh dairy for your family and finding markdowns to stockpile for future menus. You will also likely have to buy a few items here and there to flesh out your meal plan.

For instance: 

I might have a dinner of pork chops (found on markdown and frozen a couple of weeks ago), mashed cauliflower (frozen bag of cauliflower found on sale about a month ago and stashed into my deep freezer) and a spinach salad planned for dinner one night this week.

This week, I will put a bag of spinach for my spinach salad on my grocery list, but otherwise, everything else for this meal I already have on hand!

Reverse meal planning will not be for everyone. It requires time and effort. There are many other alternatives to reverse menu planning that will also save you money and cut down on your grocery bill. I encourage you to give it a shot though. Or do a hybrid!

Leave a couple of days of the week unplanned until after you grocery shop. Use your grocery store markdown finds to play your own personal version of Chopped based on what you find.

Do you reverse meal plan? Are you considering it? Comment below and let me know what you think!

How to Feed Your Family on a Budget During Busy Sports Seasons!

Are you a sports mom? Here are some great ideas for how to feed your family on a budget during busy sports seasons! These budget tips are not just for traveling sports moms, these money saving tips will work for all busy families that are on a budget!

Does spring mean weekends spent at the ball park watching your little softball/baseball player play anywhere from 4-10 games in 3 days?

Does the fall mean early mornings at the soccer field followed by running across town to watch another child play in their fall flag football league?

Are weeknights filled with dividing and conquering while this kid needs to be at this practice at 5:30, but this kid needs to be across town at that practice at 5:45 (oh and those two locations are conveniently 20 minutes apart)?

If so, you might be a sports mom! Welcome to the world of being your child’s biggest cheerleader, chauffeur, stain fighter, etc! The days might be long, but the years will go by fast, so soak up every moment!

Have you seen that meme? The one that says, well it’s baseball season! So we’re either having dinner at 4pm or 10pm.

That’s real life y’all!

Unfortunately, if you are a ball-er (haha) on a budget, busy sports seasons can wreak havoc on your budget. Concession stand dinners, quick trips through the drive through, etc. can really add up!

Here are some tips to get through busy sports seasons on a budget:

Meal Plan

First off, the obvious…meal plan! I suggest you read these 2 posts about how to meal plan here on FFF:

Meal planning is essential if you want to really cut down your grocery bill and it is SUPER important if you have a busy schedule.

Meal planning can be as simple as designating each day of the week to a specific food “theme”:

Monday – Italian

Tuesday – Tacos/Mexican

Wednesday – Slow Cooker Meal

Thursday – Soup & Sandwiches

Friday – Pizza Night

Saturday – Eat Out

Sunday – Leftovers

Or, whatever works best for your family!

OR, you can opt to meal plan using an app like Cozi (I have a full review of the Cozi Family Calendar, we LOVE it and this is personally where I do my meal planning and keep my online recipe box!).

In addition, you might consider letting a meal planning service like eMeals do all the hard work for you! They have options for 30 minute meals, slow cooker meals, kid friendly and just about every dietary/nutrtional need your family might have (including Keto, Diabetic, Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free and more!)

Regardless of what you utilize to meal plan, the key will be syncing up your meals with the reality of your evening plans. If you have 2 back to back games from 4-7pm, you are pretty much stuck eating dinner VERY early or VERY late. In this case, a slow cooker meal might be most realistic for this day.

Or this might be a day that you pack sandwiches and chips in a cooler and take it to the ball park with you.

This is actually why I love using Cozi to plan our meals. I can see the meal plan right next to the actual events of the day/night and I can get a good picture at how realistic the meals are for that day all in one screen. I also utilize eMeals for meal ideas, so you could say I use a combination of all of the above techniques!

Action Tip: Start meal planning today!

Use your slow cooker/instant pot

I actually have a Ninja Foodi AND an Instant Pot. Both of these can pressure cook and slow cook food for me. Honestly, I find myself doing pressure cooking more often because it just works better for my schedule/family.

However, even if you just have a slow cooker, this can totally save your budget during busy sports seasons! These salsa chicken bowls are SO easy and can also be portable if you  need them to be! This crack chicken travels well as well (and is low carb and keto friendly!).

Slow cookers are great for when your family all needs to eat at different times. You can just pop something in the slow cooker and leave directions for serving so dad can feed the first shift of kids while you feed the second shift while you divide and conquer!

Action Tip: Check out these awesome Instant Pot/Slow Cooker/Ninja Foodi recipes I have posted here on FFF!

Avoid Concession Stand Trips By Having Fun & Filling Snacks on Hand

My kids LOVE LOVE LOVE going to the concession stand! I can’t say that we completely ban concession stand trips. Truthfully, for most leagues, these concession stands are actually fundraisers. So we do try to buy a little something every now and again (and usually, the prices at kids sports activities for a small treat are not bad at all).

However, one of my biggest tips is that mom’s bag of snacks should be a bit more exciting than anything the concession stand has to offer. Snacks that are fun (and different from what they get at home) and snacks that are power packed and filling for your little athlete!

Having a good arsenal of snacks on hand offers you an alternative when your kid is begging for the foot long pixie stick from the concession stand.

Some things I like to pack (especially for something like a swim meet or day long tournament!):

    • hardboiled eggs
    • jerky
    • fruit
    • nuts
    • cheese and meat
    • sunflower seeds or pistachios or almonds
    • gum
    • waters and gatorades
    • chips

Action Tip: Sit down with your kids and write out a list of what snacks they would love for you have on hand. Come to an agreement that if you stock these snacks, that they will only access them when you are on the go and that they will NOT ask for concession stand money!

Utilize containers for meals on the go

This ties into the meal planning and the snacks above. If you are going to be bringing sandwiches or cut fruit to the ball field, you need to have good quality containers to lug back and forth! You also probably don’t want to use your best tupperware though because let’s just be honest, something is going to end up left in the car for a few weeks until you start smelling something funny at some point!

Here are some good quality economical options you might consider:




In addition, if you live in Texas and have an HEB, they have GREAT containers that are very sturdy and inexpensive!

Action Tip: Now is a great opportunity to see what you already have on hand in your reusable container inventory. Pull it all out and see what still looks good, what might have cracks or what doesn’t have a lid. Set aside the containers you are willing to take to the ball field and put the ones that you really only want to use in house for leftovers in a separate place.

Invest in a cooler bag

I think most of us with children own a cooler. A cooler bag can really save the day though for keeping drinks/fruits/other items cold without having to lug your giant cooler to and from the ballpark.



You might consider a smaller rolling cooler if you think a cooler bag might end up being too heavy to carry around though.

We had one like this and it worked great!

Action Tip: If you don’t already have a cooler bag or small soft side roller cooler, start shopping around!

Get to know the kids eat free days and dollar menus at local restaurants

Let’s just be honest…sometimes you are going to have to eat out. It will just be inevitable! Maybe you didn’t have much faith your team would make it to the last round of the tournament and now you have only 30 minutes between games and no time to run home and eat dinner. Maybe you had a tough day at work and rushing to get everyone fed before getting everyone dressed and to practice might just be the straw that breaks YOUR back.

Sometimes you need to grab food on the go. This is okay! I suggest having a good list of what days kids eat free in your area. In addition, remember that the WHOLE meal does not need to be drive through. You can use some of your snacks (like chips and fruit) and then drive through the nearest fast food place to pick up some dollar menu cheeseburgers.

Action Tip: Grab your phone and make a list of what restaurants in your area have kids free days. Also note which fast food joint has options on their dollar menu that will be a good fit for your whole family.

The key to saving money during busy sports seasons and/or your busy everyday life comes down to planning. The death of your food budget (and some would say your diet too!) will always be impulse food decisions.

When you have a plan (even if that plan does include eating out), you will feel more in control and less stressed about what you are spending and what food your family is eating even when your schedule involves multiple extracurricular activities with multiple children every single night of the week!

What are some of your tips for feeding your family on a budget during busy sports seasons?

8 Tips & Tricks To Decorate for the Holidays On A Budget

You want to have a well decorated home, but seasonal and holiday decorations can be really expensive! How do you create that festive atmosphere in your home year round when you are on a budget? Here are 8 tips & tricks to keep your home looking appropriately seasonal no matter what holiday comes next.

The Dollar Store – 

Did you know that dollar stores actually have pretty good holiday decor options? Sure, some of it is garbage, but honestly some of my most complimented holiday decor actually came from the Dollar Tree!

The trick is to get there fairly early when they first put out the holiday decor. The good stuff gets grabbed quickly!

Here are some cute displays for spring I saw at my local Dollar Tree the other day:

Hobby Lobby – 

Hobby Lobby ALWAYS has a 40% off coupon available! Just download their app and every time you go, you can use the 40% off one item at regular price coupon.

That said, Hobby Lobby puts their seasonal items on sale well before the holiday actually even happens. Their prices are generally pretty fair and reasonable and the quality is quite good!

Micheal’s – 

Michael’s is another one that almost always has a 30-40% off coupon in their app (in fact sometimes they even offer 50% off one regular item coupons!). They also will sometimes offer short periods of $x off $xx coupons as well. In some cases you can stack coupons as well.

JoAnn’s – 

JoAnn’s is another great place to buy holiday decor. I find that their decor is a bit pricier than the two above though, so I always try to check the app to see if there are any coupons I can stack to get a great deal.

After Holiday Sales – 

If you can wait to decorate until next year, be sure to hit up the after holiday sales! Some stores start their after holiday sales on decor the day OF the holiday, but most start it the day after. The problem is that everybody else knows this little tip too.

So you’ll need to get there early and be prepared to make quick decisions!

One of my favorite places to nab after holiday decor sales is actually Walgreens! They drop to 70% and then pretty quickly to 90%.

This is also a great opportunity to make some of those bigger holiday decor purchases, such as Christmas trees.

DIY – 

I hesitate to recommend DIYing holiday decor as a budget saver, because we are all guilty of buying $40 worth of materials to create something that would have cost $20 outright and then never using those materials ever again.

However, check out my tutorial for making a fall wreath here. You can totally use that as a base to make a wreath for any season! It uses all very inexpensive materials and you will have a lot of pride knowing that you made that!

Pinterest is filled with great holiday DIY home decor tutorials!

Buy Generic “Season” items – 

Rather than buying Easter decorations, buy mainly “Spring” decorations and you can keep those up for 3 months! Rather than Christmas, focus on “Winter”.

When you purchase for a season instead of a holiday, it allows you to get a bit more use and enjoyment out of your decor. Which makes investing in good quality pieces a bit more reasonable!

Decorate with Consumables & Otherwise Functional Items

Don’t underestimate the beauty of a gorgeous bowl of lemons on the table to celebrate spring/summer. In the fall, a bowl of gorgeous bright red apples will really cheer up any household.

Fresh cut flowers from the garden, pinecones from the backyard placed in an attractive glass jar (check out these, you could change out the contents for every season!), you can even use a wax warmer or a gorgeous scented candle to provide an attractive piece of decor and to add to the overall seasonal ambiance of your home with an appropriate seasonal scent.

Thrift Stores & Garage Sales 

I have a good friend that changes her Christmas “theme” every 2 years. I mean, she donates EVERYTHING that isn’t actually a family heirloom and does a whole new decor theme every year. NONE of her decor ever looks like it has been used, and it all ends up in the local Goodwill for anyone to purchase at a major steal!

Be sure to check out thrift stores and garage sales for wonderful seasonal and holiday decor. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Some of my favorite Christmas decor items came from a local thrift store because I just so happened to walk in the day they set all of the Christmas decor out!

What are your tips for decorating for the holidays on a budget? 

 

Spring Cleaning Budget Tips – Give Your Budget A Spring Makeover!

Whether you are a budget beginner or you have been living on a budget for years, these simple spring cleaning tips for your budget can make a HUGE difference for your finances! Don’t let your family suffer because you didn’t use this opportunity to plan and maintain your budget for the upcoming spring/summer. Check out all these great budget tips, most are super simple and quick!

Happy Spring!

Whether it is still snowing in your neck of the woods or the flowers are blooming and the birds are chirping…it is now officially SPRING weather you like it or not (see what I did there? I can be very pun-ny 😉 ).

This is a great time to sit down with your budget and give it a little makeover!

Don’t currently have a budget? Be sure to start here to learn how to create a budget.

Here are some tips for giving your budget a bit of a spring cleaning: 

Start Preparing for Summer Expenses: 

I don’t know about you, but our bills tend to go UP during the summer. For one, the kids are home more. Which means all of a sudden, they think they need 2nd breakfast every day and 35-36 snacks a day. As a result, we do try to accommodate for a slightly higher grocery bill during the summer.

In addition, if you live in a warm (or HOT) climate, like I do…you will see an increase in your electricity bill due to your air conditioner running 24/7. In some climates, your heating/cooling even each other out, but here in Texas we pay MUCH less to heat our homes than we do to cool them. This bill will double or triple sometimes in the heat of summer!

If you know your children always participate in summer swim team, travel baseball/softball, etc during the summer, it’s time to start budgeting for those expenses. Don’t just think registration fees, also think about gear, clothing, possible hotel stays, etc.

Action Tip: Consider adding a “Summer Bill Increase Expense” line item to your budget. 

Set Aside Funds for Spring Cleaning: 

Ugh, who wants to spring clean? I know at least a few of you are excited about this. Not me, but a few of YOU are. First off, I have a great spring cleaning series right here on FFF. You can follow along and break your spring cleaning down into manageable chunks!

With spring cleaning will inevitably come some extra expenses:

Cleaning Supplies: Some dollar store supplies are amazing (READ: What To Buy/What Not To Buy at the Dollar Store)!

No need to spend a ton for pricey items when you can pay $1 for a huge bottle of awesome glass cleaner that works just as well! Also, consider using natural household items for cleaning. Plain white distilled vinegar mixed with water can clean mirrors, floors, windows, etc. (you can get the spray bottle at the dollar store)

If you SWEAR by a certain brand name (I am snobby about the toilet cleaner I like personally), check out Amazon’s Subscribe & Save! Read this post for more details on how to save BIG using Amazon’s Subscribe & Save. 

Other Supplies: You might also use this time to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors, swap out your AC filters, plant a vegetable garden in your backyard, etc. Set realistic spending goals because these little items can add up and create a large dent in your budget if you are not prepared!

Action Tip: Consider adding a Spring Cleaning line item to your budget

Begin Funding a Summer Fun/Entertainment/Vacation Sinking Fund: 

Planning on going on vacation this summer (Read: How To Travel On A Budget!) ?

Most likely at this point, you have already started saving if you are planning to go on a BIG vacation. However, maybe you want to do a few road trips? Or have a staycation and enjoy your city (I live in Houston and there is SO much to do here!). Either way, now is a great time to start a sinking fund to plan for all those extra hours you have to entertain your children and to fulfill all those summer bucket list expectations!

For more details on setting up a sinking fund, click here. 

Action Tip: Consider adding a “Summer Fun” line item to your budget

Audit Your Current Budget for Excess: 

This has nothing to do with spring other than some people view spring as a fresh start. Sit down and audit your budget to see if it is still working for you and your family!

I have a great post here for where to find excess or flaws in your budget.

Action Tip: Consider DELETING some line items from your budget if possible! 

Do a Closet Audit for Everyone In Your Family: 

If you have children, especially young children…you already know about this. Maybe you have already had your first warm weather day. You pulled out last year’s shorts and realized that your 7 year old probably shouldn’t wear those Daisy Dukes to school this year.

It’s time to get into the closets and see what fits, what doesn’t, what can be passed down or donated and what just needs to be trashed (or you can thank it for it’s service if that’s your jam? ).

Now, I am a HUGE fan of thrift, resale and consignment shopping. I find SUCH great deals on items for both of my children (and sometimes even for myself) at the thrift store! Often I find new with tags items at the local Goodwill! In fact, I think I brag about this so much that eventually I am going to have too much competition from local friends at my local stores.

Here is a post all about shopping at thrift stores if you want to learn how to get the most bang for your buck.

Action Tip: Consider adding a spring clothing line item to your budget

Finally, take a moment to smell the flowers, to plan an outdoor picnic and to just enjoy the moment. We are already in season #2 of this year and it is amazing how fast life passes us by. Don’t let financial woes keep you from the joy of life!

If you need more help creating a budget or learning to save, be sure to check through my frugal living posts here on FFF. You can live a joy filled life on a budget!

Resources For Those Affected By The Government Shutdown

Looking for resources for federal employees affected by the government shutdown? Here are a few resources to help those affected.  This article will hopefully help federal employees and their families navigate their lack of paycheck(s) during this time of uncertainty.

The Government has been shut down for 26 days as of today (1/16/19). 800,000 federal workers are either currently working without a paycheck, or unable to work at all (and obviously  not getting paid either).

Without pointing fingers or making things political…this just sucks.

The reality of the situation is that people are going to start hurting (if they aren’t already). Just today, I was at Walgreens and a woman asked how long it would take for her prescription. She commented that she was going to have to wait around for it because she lives two towns over and her husband works for the TSA so they need to spend as carefully as possible.

This woman was worried about gas money. The amount of gas money it would take to drive less than 4 miles back and forth. Most of of us take for granted 4 miles worth of gas. Even the penny pinchers among us probably don’t worry too much about 4 miles worth of gas.

Her fear is understandable though. At this point, nobody knows when the government will re-open. Nobody knows when things will go back to normal. Even AFTER the government opens, at this point..there will be delays.

I asked on my Facebook page, what can I do to help? Neither myself or my husband are federal employees, but I knew I wanted to help. The response was just to share helpful resources. I will do my best.

#1 Lean in to your community: 

Truthfully, I will not be able to provide you with ALL of the resources at your disposal. Some communities are bonding together and creating support for local federal workers. Local restaurants are providing free food. Our local baseball and softball leagues are delaying registration fees for the children of federal employees that want to play (oh, that makes me tear up).

Our communities are bonding together to help support those among us who are struggling, so first off…I encourage you to ask around your community and see where your fellow neighbors might be just waiting to see how they can help YOU.

Look on Nextdoor, Facebook and Twitter. I, personally, have been sharing every single local business offering support to furloughed workers on my own personal facebook timeline.

#2 Check what resources your department has for you: 

I did a quick check and found this great resource for the US Department of Transportation employees. The Letter to Creditors is awesome, take advantage of it and get in contact with your creditors ASAP. MOST are willing to work with furloughed employees.

Here is info for the GSA employees that are furloughed.

NASA has a huge PDF guide here. 

Honestly, if you are a furloughed employee, just check your departments website and they SHOULD have a resource available for you.

Some workers/states are eligible for unemployment. Some are not. You will need to check this out for yourself to verify. If you are, know that the process does take awhile, so don’t wait until you are in dire straits to apply.

#3 Talk to your bank/credit union

Some banks/credit unions are offering loans or covering pay for federal employees. I know JSC Federal Credit Union is offering 0% furlough loans for qualified members. See if your bank/credit union is offering anything similar.

#4 Start cutting your spending any way you can

Here on FFF I have tons of articles that can hopefully help you save money and help you deal with your new, limited budget:

Learn How to Use Coupons

How To Become A Better Cook – Learn To Cook Better At Home To Save More Money!

Reverse Meal Planning – How I Save A Ton On Groceries By Reverse Meal Planning!

My Favorite Money Saving Apps

10 Ways to Make Living On One Income Easier

How to Save Money Easily – 5 Simple Tips to Create Wiggle Room In Your Budget

The 5 Biggest Budgeting Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them!)

How and Why You Need to Create a Budget

4 Easy Ways to Coupon Without a Printer

5 Important Financial Tips for Beginners

10 Tips On How To Save On Your Car

How to Save Money on Utilities

10 Easy Ways to Build Up the Emergency Fund

How to Shop a Thrift Store

How to Build Up a Pantry for Less (From Scratch) in a New Home or Apartment

What to Buy/What Not to Buy at the Dollar Store

Strategic Shopping without Coupons! My Supermarket Shopping Trip

Find Out Why You SUCK At Saving Money!

Simple, Basic Ways to Cut Household Spending to “Find” Much Needed Cash

Five Disadvantages of Budgeting

Marriage and Finances – It’s All About Teamwork

#5 Reach out to your kids school, your church and the local food bank

In addition, reach out to your church and your local food bank for support. Let your children’s school know your situation. I know our school district has already proactively set up a donation center AND has agreed to allow kids meal accounts to go negative, let fees go unpaid, etc for the duration of the shutdown to alleviate financial stress due to school related expenses.

This feels so small. I don’t feel like this article is enough. If you know of more resources, please comment below and I will add to this list. If I have any misinformation on here, please kindly correct me. I just want to help and if I can give a bit of support from my tiny corner of the internet, then it is worth it.

How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day As A Family On A Budget

Are you on a tight budget this Valentine’s Day? You can celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family on a budget, you just might have to get a bit creative. Here are 5 clever and frugal ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your family.

Valentine’s Day.

You can argue that it is a Hallmark holiday, a made up holiday, a day for suckers, etc.

Let’s be honest though, who doesn’t (even secretly) enjoy a being a bit more loved on from time to time?

If you have young children, chances are likely that you won’t be heading out to a fancy dinner with your significant other. Even if you could find a babysitter, the wait times at most restaurants are AWFUL on Valentine’s Day (hence my friend Katie making this tasty dish for her family a few years ago!).

We actually celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family by choice!

In addition, at least in our case, our anniversary is just 3 weeks after Valentine’s Day which makes us hesitant to go “big” on a holiday that is of national importance compared to our anniversary which is of our own personal importance.

Therefore, we celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family! I have referred to our Valentine’s Day celebrations as a family before here on Family Friendly Frugality, but I thought it would be worth it to share some more general ideas so that you can see how you might fit celebrating Valentine’s Day as a family into your Valentine’s Day celebrations (and budget!).

Make a Fancy Dinner (or Breakfast…or BOTH) at Home

This one is a given! One of the best ways to show love is to cook for someone! Cook something out of the ordinary. Go grab those steaks that you usually wouldn’t spend so much money on (it’s still cheaper than eating out!). Or, you could just make an ordinary dish, EXTRAordinary by making it heart shaped (think about it! Heart shaped Fathead Pizza! Or Celebration Pancakes!)!

Here are some ideas I have here on FFF that you might consider cooking for celebrating Valentine’s Day as a family:

Homemade Gifts

Encourage everyone in your family to make homemade gifts for each other. This can be as simple as drawing something for each other to as complex as going to your local craft store and picking out some pottery/wooden crafts to paint.

Pinterest has a wealth of ideas for homemade crafts.

Or you could make it a no spend challenge!

One year for Christmas, my daughter had placed so many handmade crafts under the tree, at least half of the presents everyone received that year were from her! She did not spend any money, she just went around the house and used items we already had, drew pictures, created coupon books, etc. Her creativity was so special and everyone was so touched by the sweetness and thoughtfulness that went into each and every gift.

Write Love Notes to Each Other!

Challenge your whole family to write letters to each other. Okay, you might not want to call them love notes if you have children over the age of 8. It’s unlikely my 9 and 11 year old would set pen to paper if I gave them the task of writing love notes to each other.

So maybe, call them notes of encouragement and thankfulness. Whatever you have to say to get your brood on board ;).

This has the added bonus of forcing, I mean encouraging, time spent in reflection over our relationships. Who knows, this small act of kindness between family members could mend fences and create a more harmonious household! (well, we can dream, right?!)

Help Your Kids Show Love To Others

This can be as simple as helping your children fill out Valentine’s Day cards for their class (did you know I have free printable Valentine’s Day cards available?).

Or, take this a step further and go volunteer together.

Find a shelter that needs help. Go through your house finding items to donate to someone in need. Go visit a nursing home with your children.

Do something that shows loves for others, but do it as a family. Model what love for others looks like outside the walls of your home. This can be a life changing opportunity for your children!

I always love when I hear the stories about the teen that buys “candy grams” or “carnations” for all of the girls/boys in the school. Valentine’s Day can be a very very lonely time for some people. Maybe your family can change that for somebody!

Take a Walk Down Memory Lane

This is my favorite! Do you upload your pictures for the year to Amazon Photo? (this is FREE if you have Amazon Prime) Maybe you back them up via Dropbox, Photobucket, Flickr, etc.

Either way, set that account to slideshow mode and sit with your family and reminisce!

Maybe print pictures out ahead of time and sit down with your family to scrapbook. Maybe watch old videos.

Spend sometime looking back on your journey so far as a family. Sometimes nostalgia is just what we need to really feel the love.

Regardless of how you plan to spend Valentine’s Day, I hope you will consider at least a few of these ideas to make Valentine’s Day special for your family this year regardless of how big or small your budget might be!

Comment below if you have any fun traditions you use to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family! 

My Favorite Money Saving Apps

Top 10 Money Saving Apps

Your smartphone can be a very powerful tool if you know how to use it for more than just surfing social media and posting memes. There are so many money saving apps available that can help you save large amount of cash every single year! Here are my favorite money saving apps and the ones I tend to reach for on a daily/weekly basis.

If you have a smartphone, you know that there is an app for darn near everything. Type in “money saving apps” and the huge array of choices can be a bit overwhelming. It is hard to know what is legit? What companies will actually pay out? Some of these companies require you to enter sensitive information. Who can you trust?

Some of these we use on a regular basis. Some of these money saving apps are on our “2019 to-do list” to set up. Some of these are used daily! I hope you’ll enjoy our list of money saving apps, and please comment below with some of the apps your family enjoys using to help save money and meet your financial goals!

Ibotta

One of my faves and super easy to use! Simply scan this before you head out the door to shop and you can add offers to your account. Then go shopping and afterwards, just take a pic of your receipt and Ibotta will give you credit!

This is definitely one of those “small trickles make a big stream” apps but it can really add up over time!

Click here to sign up for Ibotta (this is my referral link FYI!).

Target

The Target app makes me so  happy. Not only is it now a one stop shop for all Target Cartwheel offers and coupons, but it also offers a built in price checker AND you can pay via the app!

As you peruse Target, pull out the app to scan items to see if there are relevant coupons/Cartwheel offers that you can apply to your purchase.

Are you a Target RedCard holder? You can actually link your card to your app so that you can pay with your phone at checkout!

This app saves me so much money because it makes finding the great deals at Target so easy!

Coupon Sherpa

This app saves my butt every single time I leave the house to go shopping and forget to bring my retail coupons! Standing in line at Sally’s Beauty supply? I quickly open up this app to see if there are any relevant coupons I can use!

I love the interface of this app over other retail coupon apps and I have found that if there is a coupon out there, Coupon Sherpa usually has it available.

Groupon

I love Groupon. You can save on products, services and travel! I have Groupon on my phone and try to check it on a daily basis to see if there are any deals that will help my family.

You can also use Groupon if you intend to travel. You are not limited to only buying deals in your local area. Say you are traveling to Branson, just plug Branson into Groupon and see what deals you can find! This can be a great and frugal way to travel for less.

Sign up for Groupon here if you have not already!

Cozi

This one might seem a bit strange. This is a calendar/family organizer that you can use to organize basically your entire life. My family uses the Cozi app and I have a full review planned for later this month about how much we love it (well, I’m not sure the kids love the chore lists…but it’s better than us barking orders at them!).

This app is a money saving app for me because it includes meal planning and from your meal plan, you can make grocery lists! Meal planning and never going to the grocery store without a list are HUGE money savers for me and my family!

We pay for the Gold version of Cozi, which is a bit pricey, but we more than earn that money back in our annual savings.

Gas Buddy

This app will do just what you think it will! It will help you save money on gas! Tell Gas Buddy where you are and it will find the cheapest gas around town for you!

If you are going on a road trip, you can even plan your trip based on where you can find cheap gas along your route!

My Grocery Store Apps

I’m not sure what grocery stores you have near you, but all of my local grocery stores have an app. Their apps all have coupons available that I can either add to my store loyalty card, or I can at least see the weekly ad. In my area, most grocery stores have stopped mailing their weekly physical ad, so I find this super helpful!

Restaurant Apps

Do you frequent your local Starbucks? Are you a Chili’s regular? Regardless of where you tend to spend your eating out cash, be sure to see if that restaurant has an app! Often times, chain restaurants will have apps that link to loyalty programs. The more you frequent their establishment, the more perks you get.

Here are a few of our faves:

Starbucks

Buffalo Wild Wings

BJ’s

Acorns

Acorns is a way to make saving and investing basically effortless. It works by rounding up your purchases to the nearest dollar and then adding that difference to your Acorns account.

Then, the money will be invested in your portfolio and you will earn a return on your investment.

It takes 5 minutes to set up and is a super easy way to increase your savings with minimal involvement.

You Need A Budget

This app works by going off of last month’s income. The theory is that if you are only spending money that is over 30 days “old”, you will relieve yourself of the neverending paycheck to paycheck cycle that most of society tends to live in.

FYI, you work your way up to this level. They don’t automatically assume you can just stop spending/paying bills this month to free up your income for next month.

This app does require you to hook up your bank account info for it to work effectively. It is highly rated and has great support if you have any issues. This app can be tried for 34 days for free, but afterwards you will have to pay a $6.99 monthly fee.

I have several other apps I use, and several others that I am interested in checking out.

For now though, these are the money saving apps that I am personally most excited about!

Do you have any apps that you love to use to save money? Am I way off the mark on my top 10 list? Let me know in the comments below!