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Good Gifts for Families in Need

Originally posted December 9, 2011

Guest post by  The Prudent Homemaker

Good Gifts for Families In Need

Do you know a family who is unemployed, underemployed, or just having a really tight year this year? Here are some of the best things to leave at their doorstep this Christmas.

1. A box of oranges

Fresh food is a great help to those who are struggling. A family might have boxed and canned goods in their pantry, or they may be getting those items from a food bank, but fresh fruits and vegetables are a much needed luxury item for many. Food is always a great gift. Refrain from giving junk food, however; most families desperately need nutritious items more than they need candy. Apples, oranges, lettuce, carrots, milk, cheese and eggs are especially helpful.

2. A warm blanket

Many families are turning down their heat to keep their bills lower. Some may have periods where they can’t afford to have the heat on at all. Others struggle with inadequate clothing. A warm blanket or two will be a great help. It doesn’t have to be brand-new. Just make sure it’s freshly laundered.

3. Socks, underwear, and gloves

It’s a common misconception that the thing children need most for Christmas is a toy. More useful than several dollar store trinkets are socks, underwear, and gloves. There are many children (and adults) who cannot afford these items at all—and have to go without. Socks can span several sizes, so if you know the approximate size of your recipient’s feet, you can easily include socks in a gift. If you have children the same size and age, you can determine the sizes for underwear. Gloves are usually multi-sized. Besides warm gloves, work gloves—especially for adults and teens—are helpful, whether for bringing in wood or doing other chores.

Sweatpants and sweatshirts are also helpful, especially for families with growing children who are struggling to keep their children warm at night. A package of undershirts is also helpful.

A warm coat may be the dearest wish of many. A used coat is fine. Thrift stores and children’s consignments stores are good sources for inexpensive coats.

4. Items from your stockpile

Any of the following would be helpful:

Hygiene and cleaning items: Toothpaste, toothbrushes, cleaning supplies, laundry soap, stain remover, dish soap, bar soap, baby wipes and diapers (if there is a child in diapers), shampoo, washcloths, toilet paper, tissues, cotton balls and swabs

First aid and sickness items: children’s and adult ibruprofen, throat lozenges, Band-Aids, hydrogen peroxide, antibiotic ointment

Kitchen items: Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, Ziploc bags, muffin papers

5. A gift card or cash

A gift card to a Walmart, Target, or a grocery store can greatly help a family to meet unseen needs (including buying underwear and warm clothing).

A jar of change or other cash may be the best gift of all to a family who is struggling to keep the lights on, the water running, and to keep warm this winter. Even if you just have a small amount to give, it can be the perfect gift.

Is your family unable to make ends meet this year? If someone were to leave a box at your door this Christmas, what would you most hope for it to contain?

Brandy Simper has several ideas for making gifts from items you already have on hand, for a $0 Christmas. She writes about gardening, cooking, frugal living, food storage, sewing, and homeschooling at The Prudent Homemaker( ).

10 Resources for Learning to “Do It Yourself”

Learning how to do your own home improvement projects can save you money. Doing things for yourself will also give you a sense of pride in your own accomplishments. If you’re not sure how to learn to “do it yourself,” check out these ideas.

Local Library

Your local library can be a gold mine of information. Take a look at the assortment of books on building and home improvement to learn how to do home improvement projects.


YouTube is a great resource for “how to” videos. Search around for quality videos that teach simple DIY principles.


Ask your friends if they are going to be doing any projects around their home. Offer to help if they will teach you how to do the work. (this is especially helpful when it comes to vehicle maintenance or repair DIY!)

Local Home Improvement Centers

Many local home improvement centers like Home Depot and Lowe’s offer occasional classes for DIY projects. Ask about upcoming workshops then plan to attend and learn as much as you can.

Community Colleges

Community colleges often offer free or low-cost classes in a variety of subjects. Check with your local college about any DIY and home improvement classes that are available during the given semester.

Internet Resources

The Internet is full of websites and articles that explain how to do things. You can easily learn basic home improvement principles or even some harder projects through various websites. You will need to have time to wade through the fluff to find the gems that are hidden, though.

Check out:

Anna White

Tip Junkie

A Southern Mom 

Home Improvement Television Shows

Check out your cable or satellite stations for home improvement shows that demonstrate various projects. Stations like HGTV, DIY Network, and The Learning Channel usually have a variety of shows that you can learn a great deal from (also look for links during the shows. Sometimes they mention that the link to the instructions are on their website!)

DVD Resources

Check your local video store or library for DVD’s that teach home improvement skills. These will usually be found in the documentary or personal fulfillment sections.

Volunteer Opportunities

Check around your area for volunteer opportunities that can teach you home improvement skills. Groups like Habitat for Humanity are always in need of volunteers to help build their homes. They usually accept volunteers with all skill levels and will teach you as you work on projects with the group.

Family Members

Ask your family members for help. You may have several family members who are handy with tools and are quite the DIY experts. Ask them to teach you some basic things or ask to help with their next project.

Learning how to “do it yourself” doesn’t have to be difficult. Most often you can learn what you need if you just know the right places to ask. Take some time to research what’s available in your area or ask the people you know for help. Your friends and family will probably be happy to teach you what they know.

10 Ways to Garden for Less!


If you enjoy getting your hands dirty in the garden, you may not enjoy the expense that can come along with it. Gardening — whether you are growing veggies or flowers — doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. Check out these tips for gardening for less.

Start Your Own Seeds

Starting plants from seed is actually much cheaper (and more meaningful) than buying plants from a nursery. You can start flower seeds and vegetable seeds before the gardening season starts then have those plants ready to transplant after the danger of frost has passed.

Save Your Seeds

At the end of the growing season, save and dry flower heads from your perennials. You can even save some vegetable seeds. Save these for next season and start again.

Create Your Own Compost

Every gardener should have a compost pile. This will give you rich soil to add to your existing soil.

This Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting (Third Edition) (Storey’s Down-to-Earth Guides) is a highly rated resource to learn more about the practice of composting.

Do Some Trading

Use the old barter and trade system to get plants, gardening supplies, seeds, and other things you need.

Use Recycled Containers for Pots

Don’t go out and buy new pots and containers for your gardening projects. Take a look around at items you already have that can be used as containers. Use old buckets, milk jugs, soda bottles, even disposable cups and bowls. Anything can be used as a flower pot or a container to grow garden plants in.

Plant Perennials

Perennial flowers are the perfect choice for low-cost, long-term gardening. While the initial cost of buying perennials is not cheap, the lifespan and benefits of these plants make them a worthwhile investment. Perennials will come back year after year and will spread to fill in a flower bed. You can split them up and transplant so you will end up with several plants from one.

Shop Dollar Stores

Dollar stores are great sources for cheap gardening products. Whether you are looking for decorative items, seeds, or gardening tools, your local dollar stores is worth shopping at.

Ask for Starts of Plants

If you have friends and family who have a lot of perennials growing in their gardens and flower beds, ask for starts. Even one small start of a perennial can turn into several plants for you — for free.

Use Newspapers for Weed Cloth

Plain newspapers make great weed cloths. Save up your newspaper sections then put them down to keep weeds at bay in your garden area. Wet the newspapers as you lay them out then cover them with dirt and compost. Don’t use slick ads, but opt for the plain newsprint papers.

Save Your Kitchen Scraps

Some kitchen scraps can be added directly to your garden soil instead of the compost bin. Drop a banana peel around a rose bush to help it grow better. Grind up eggshells then sprinkle the dust around the base of plants. Dry out your coffee grounds then sprinkle into the soil around the base of plants.

Keep a trash bowl on your countertop for scraps! This Rachael Ray Melamine Garbage Bowl with Rubber Foot is a popular one (but of course you can use whatever bowl you have laying around! This one is just super pretty 😉 )

Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive if you know a few of the cheap tricks. Don’t spend hard-earned money that doesn’t need to be spent — use a few of these ideas to save you money on your gardening projects.

10 Easy Ways to Build Up the Emergency Fund


Who said saving money and building up an emergency fund had to be difficult? It can even be a little bit of fun if you put some thought into it. There are tons of effective and creative ways to build your emergency fund.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

1. Ask the bank about savings programs

Most banks (and credit unions!) have some type of program that allows you to automatically save a certain amount. Others offer programs that round your purchase up and put the change overage in an account. Find out what your bank offers and join the fun. It adds up!

Related: Banish Fees & Overcharges From Your Budget! 

2. Collect aluminum/metals

Taking the time to do this will not only help your emergency fund, it will also help the environment. That is a double win.

Related: How to Use Coupons

3. Have a yard sale

Why not get rid of some clutter while you save money? Yard sales are a great way to purge on occasion and putting the money into an emergency fund is a great motivator. Yard sales are also a ton of fun if you join in as a neighborhood.

4. Cut a particular spending habit

If you are having trouble finding money in your budget for emergency funds, pick out a spending habit you detest. For example, you may have a problem with buying single size drinks rather than larger bottles that are much cheaper. Cut that habit out and every time you get an urge for one, put that money in savings instead. You might be shocked at how much it piles up.

Related: Is Your Expensive Habit Ruining Everything? 

5. Make one coin or bill an auto saver

This is a great way to save money and fairly easy to get used to. Pick out a particular coin or bill that you will save every time you get it back in change. For example, every time you get a dime, it will go into a savings jar. When it gets full, roll them up and add them to your emergency fund. If you can afford it you can do this with five dollar bills too.

Related: Make A Date To Go Over Your Budget Every Month! 

6. Cut out a particular bill

Like spending habits, there are some bills that can be avoided. Cable is optional for most people and can be eliminated for an emergency fund. It might not be fun but it sure is effective.

Related: How To Watch Your Favorite Shows Without Paying for Cable (Legally)

7.  Redo your budget

When you are trying to accomplish something like an emergency fund, you need to make sure you have a plan. Budgets are still the best way to create an emergency fund. Try it and you will like it….eventually.

Related: How To Create A Budget

8. Save your coupon savings

Although it is a mental thing, putting back money that you “would have spent anyway” is highly effective. Use coupons and special offers to save cash and then take that savings and deposit it into your savings account.

Related: Actually Save Money When You Save Money

9. Pick up an extra shift or two

Working a little more is not always possible but if it is, it is still the most efficient way to boost your income. If you can, add a shift or couple of hours to your work schedule for emergency savings only.

Related: How To Start a Money Making Mom Blog!

10. Save based on a day, month or week

This is a ton of fun and can really be effective if you stick with it. The premise is simple. Pick out daily, weekly or monthly to get started. The most popular choice is weekly. There are 52 weeks in a year and you should put back $1 the first week and $2 the next….right up to $52 during week 52.

Related: 10 Easy Ways to Build Up Your Emergency Fund

 What are some of your favorite tips for saving up for your emergency fund? Do you already have your emergency fund saved up? How do you replenish it after you use it? Comment below! 

Easy Weeknight Lasagna-Yes, Really



Lasagna can be a pretty big undertaking. It’s a meal that I don’t really put on our menu all that often. Mainly because it takes a veritable army of pots, pans and ingredients to go from kitchen to table. I am a work at home mom of a 3 year old and a 2 year old. I don’t have time to:

  1. Brown the meat, while simultaneously not overcooking the pasta noodles.
  2. If I’m really doing lasagna right, of course I’ll be making my own sauce. Generally taking up burner #3, simultaneously simmering away while my meat browns and my pasta overcooks.
  3. Now to assemble the lasagna, I need to set up an assembly line worthy of Ford Motor Company. No less than 3 cheeses…oh and remember those lasagna noodles we overcooked? Somehow we need to pry those apart without burning the fingerprints off of our fingers, or haphazardly turning them into thin spaghetti noodles (this is lasagna right? I forgot. Because you know,  the baby needed some attention about 2 hours into the lasagna prep and with no end in sight, I finally just threw everything into the casserole dish and hoped for the best!)

Okay, it’s not quite that dramatic, but I am sure you get the picture.


Continue reading Easy Weeknight Lasagna-Yes, Really

Monkey Bread Recipe – With A Surprise Stuffed Inside!

Monkey Bread Recipe

This easy monkey bread recipe is made with canned biscuits and other yummy ingredients. The best part is that there is a SURPRISE inside every bite! What is the surprise? This monkey bread is stuffed with cream cheese! Read the post for all of the details on how to make this super special monkey bread recipe! This recipe for Monkey Bread will KNOCK your socks off!

I remember the first time I had Monkey Bread. It tasted sooo good and I was so surprised to find out how easy it was to make!

If you’ve never had Monkey Bread, the basic recipe for monkey bread is just biscuit dough with sugar and butter that is baked up into a sweet and fluffy breakfast dish (find more breakfast recipes here).

I was flipping through a new cookbook of mine recently and I saw this clever recipe for monkey bread that added a filling inside each biscuit and I knew I wanted to try it out.

Related: Cake Batter Pancakes

I’m calling it Monkey Bread Surprise!

This can be breakfast, or you can serve this for dessert!

Here’s what you’ll need for this ooey gooey recipe for Monkey Bread (with a Surprise!):

Recipe for Monkey Bread: An Easy Monkey Bread Recipe!

Adapted from Gooseberry Patch Big Book of Home Cooking

Recipe for Monkey Bread Ingredients:

  • 2 refrigerated biscuit cans (each with 10 biscuits)
  • 8 oz of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of butter

Recipe for Monkey Bread Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350. You’ll need a greased bundt pan for this dish, so go ahead and grease your bundt pan.

2. Mix together the 1/2 cup of white sugar and the 1 tbsp of cinnamon (from here on out this will be known as the “sugar mixture”)

3. Open up your biscuit cans and flatten each biscuit (I use the bottom of my half cup measuring cup for this!)

4. Place a 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar mixture on each biscuit.

5. Cut up the cream cheese into 20 cubes and place ONE cube on each biscuit.

6. Meanwhile, melt the butter and the brown sugar in a pan on the stove on low heat, stirring occasionally.

7. Fold the biscuit dough up over the cream cheese, being careful not to let the sugar mixture fall out. Roll these into balls. (so the cream cheese/sugar mixture will be inside of the ball)

8. Place half of the biscuits on the bottom of your greased bundt pan. Top with 1/2 of the sugar mixture and half of the butter/brown sugar mixture. Repeat this pattern for the other half of biscuits.

10. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

11. Take your Monkey Bread Surprise! out and let it sit on the counter for 5 minutes. Then flip it out onto a plate (if you’ve never done this, it’s easy. Take a plate wide enough to cover the entire opening of the bundt pan and place it on top of the open side of the bundt pan. Hold the plate firmly against the bundt pan and flip the whole thing over so the plate is on the bottom. Lift up the bundt pan and your Monkey Bread Surprise! will be on your plate!)

Dig in! Tell them it’s Monkey Bread, but watch how surprised they’ll be when they see the sweet creamy middle! Yum.

Share this Recipe for Monkey Bread with your friends and pin it on Pinterest! Thank you!


Ridiculously Easy Chicken Tacos (Crockpot Recipe)

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Follow Family Friendly Frugality Find more delicious recipes:
Chocolate Chip Caramel Cookie Bars
Recipe for Monkey Bread
Chicken Thighs with Red Wine Vinegar
25 Top Tex Mex Recipes

Typically, the best things in life are free.

My son’s infectious laughter
The beautiful bond between my husband and my daughter.

Or close to free.

In many cases, at least pretty darn cheap.

However, sometimes the best things in life cost a lot of money and are worth every single penny (a vacation or two come to mind!).

Lucky for you, this recipe falls into the “pretty darn cheap” category.

3 ingredients + 1 crockpot= delicious dinner your family will rave about!

Plus, unless you have a very large family…this recipe easily makes enough chicken for TWO meals. (you could use the leftover meat to make baked taquitos!)

Which makes it practically a freebie, right? 😉


Ridiculously Easy Chicken Taco Crockpot Recipe


  • 3-4 large bone in chicken breasts (or you can use boneless skinless chicken breasts…I just had some frozen bone in chicken breasts in the freezer!)
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning (or make your own homemade taco seasoning) *If you are sensitive to salt, look for a lower sodium taco seasoning packet*
  • 1 jar of your favorite salsa


  1. Throw all the ingredients into your crockpot and turn on low for 8-10 hours (less if using boneless chicken).
  2. If you use bone in chicken, take it out and shred it (around 30 minutes before you plan to eat) and return it to the juices for another 30 minutes or so.
  3. Serve with your favorite taco fixings!


Ridiculously Easy Chicken Tacos
  • 3-4 large bone in chicken breasts (or you can use boneless skinless chicken breasts…I just had some frozen bone in chicken breasts in the freezer!)
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning (or make your own)
  • 1 jar of your favorite salsa
  1. Throw all the ingredients into your crockpot and turn on low for 8-10 hours (less if using boneless chicken).
  2. If you use bone in chicken, take it out and shred it (around 30 minutes before you plan to eat) and return it to the juices for another 30 minutes or so.
  3. Serve with your favorite taco fixings!


Find more family friendly recipes here: 

Chicken with Rice: A One Pot Meal

Pecan Pie Bites

Cheesy Ground Beef Bean Dip

Easy Weeknight Lasagna

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