The Rice Box Activity: How A Box of Rice Turned This Mom Into a Rockstar

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Tot Tuesday is a (mostly) weekly feature where I highlight a special kids activity, frugal recipe for kids, kids tutorial, etc. Want to contribute? Email me heather @ familyfriendlyfrugality.com.


Have you ever noticed that the simplest activities tend to be the most thrilling for children? 

Today I went to pick up my daughter from school. Full of anticipation for my “Rockstar Mommy” moment of the day (those of you with kids totally know what I’m talking about), I walked into her class expecting a beaming smile and a big comfy hug.

Look at that sweet face!

Instead?

My daughter looked at me, smiled and then quickly turned around to continue playing with her friends.

I was crushed! What could possibly be stealing away one of my favorite moments of the day from me?

Did I forget something important in her lunch? Did my 2 year old decide that the outfit I chose for her this morning wasn’t fashionable enough?

What was wrong!?

At this point, I realize her and her friends are gathered around a bin of rice. In that rice, the kids were riding around toy cars, using spoons & funnels to scoop and pour handfuls of rice. They were hiding fun toys for their friends to treasure seek. In short, they were playing in a sandbox filled with rice. 

Now this concept was not new to me. I’ve played the good ol’ rice box game at home with the kids many times. 

However, it had been awhile and my 2 year old has a short memory.

Finally, I coaxed her out of the classroom by telling her that I had a box at home filled with rice and toys with her name on it!

When we got home, I pulled out the box and set it on the table. For the next HOUR, my son (age 4) and my daughter played in this box. Not one argument. Not one bit of fussing.

Sure I had some rice to clean up on the floor when they were done, but it’s a great reminder that the simplest things in life are generally the best. 

Oh I’m sure my son will want to play Skylanders when he wakes up, and my daughter will beg me to play barbies.

For just a moment though, I was Rockstar Mommy simply because of a bucket of rice and a few plastic spoons.

Not bad 😉

The Rice Box

  • Rice (any kind, dry and uncooked of course)
  • Cars, Spoons, Funnels, Cups, Shiny stuff to hide, etc
  • Box of some sort (if you have one with a lid, that’s preferrable)

Combine and let your kids go to town! 

Disclaimer: I hardly thought up the rice box on my own, so credit for this wonderful activity is not mine.  Also, remember that dry rice is a choking hazard. Monitor your children and if you have younger babies that like to put everything in their mouth, this  probably isn’t the activity for them just yet.

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

Homemade Ranch Dressing

Guest Post by Cheryl Siens

I have a daughter who has type 1 diabetes, and my husband has heart issues.  It isn’t always easy finding healthy, tasty foods that they can both eat.  I stumbled on a recipe for homemade ranch dressing many years ago that works for both of them.

It has less than 1 carbohydrate in the whole recipe (good for the diabetic), and even though it has about 4 grams of fat per tablespoon, when I use either canola oil mayonnaise  or olive oil mayonnaise I feel good about serving it to my husband. It really is the best ranch dressing I’ve ever tasted, and it is inexpensive to make.  We use it on so many things: salads, hot wings, chicken nuggets, raw veggies and even dunking our pizza crust.  My youngest daughter likes to dip crackers in it for a snack.  The mix makes about 5 or 6 pints of dressing.  Enjoy!

 

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

Ingredients:

  • 2 Teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried minced or powdered garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 8 teaspoons dried minced powder onion
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2-½ teaspoons paprika
  • 2-½ teaspoons parsley flakes

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to distribute evenly.
  2. Place mixture in dry container with tight fitting lid.
  3. You can store the mixture for up to 6 months.
  4. Shake dry mix before measuring for prepared dressing.

 

TO MAKE DRESSING:

Mix 1-tablespoon mix with 1-cup buttermilk and 1 cup mayonnaise (not miracle whip).

Refrigerate for several hours before eating.  (I keep my prepared dressing in an old blueberry syrup bottle, but you can store it in any plastic or glass jar.)


Are you interested in guest posting on Family Friendly Frugality? Please email me heather @ familyfriendlyfrugality.com. I’m looking for anything in the family friendly/frugal niche, but specifically how-to’s, DIY posts and RECIPES! Must be original content not posted elsewhere.

Quick & Easy Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

This is a guest post by Cheryl Siens

Here is a recipe that is quick, easy, inexpensive and tasty.  It’s one of those recipes where you can buy the ingredients, then wait till you’ve had one of those days.  Even when you are frazzled and running behind, you can still serve your family a hot, delicious meal with very little effort.  Everything comes out of your pantry except the pie crust, and you can keep that in the fridge for weeks.

CHICKEN POT PIE

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) Veg•All Original Mixed Vegetables, drained
  • 1 can (10 oz.) cooked chicken, drained
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz.) cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 frozen ready-to-bake pie crusts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375º F
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl; mix well
  3. Place one pie crust into 9-inch pie pan; pour vegetable mixture into pie crust.
  4. Top with remaining crust, crimp edges to seal, and prick top with fork. Or if you want to get fancy, try using mini cookie cutters to cut designs into the crust. Just place the pieces of crust that you cut out on the top of the crust.
  5. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes (on lower rack) or until crust is golden brown and filling is hot.  You may need to wrap the edges of the crust in foil for the first 35 or 40 minutes to keep the edges from burning.
  6. Allow pie to cool slightly before cutting into wedges to serve.

Makes 4 servings (but it’s really easy to double)


Are you interested in guest posting on Family Friendly Frugality? Please email me heather @ familyfriendlyfrugality.com. I’m looking for anything in the family friendly/frugal niche, but specifically how-to’s, DIY posts and RECIPES! Must be original content not posted elsewhere.

Roasted Chicken With Risotto & Caramelized Onions


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Have you ever watched Hell’s Kitchen? It’s a show about a famous chef with little (if any) patience. Gordon Ramsey’s goal throughout the show is to find one chef capable of being the head chef at a famous restaurant. He puts the contestants through several “hellish” dinner services to test their skills and how they handle the pressure of being a real life chef in a hardcore setting. Throughout the show he equally berates/rewards the contestants for their efforts and I have to admit…it’s pretty entertaining.

The dish that so often seems to trip up Hell’s Kitchen contestants is the infamous risotto. Risotto sounds fancy, doesn’t it? I guess it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s actually a very simple (albeit time consuming) frugal meal that anyone can make. It’s very creamy and filling. Now can you make it to Gordon Ramsey’s standards? Who knows, but I suspect he would be horrified by my laid back approach to risotto making. Regardless, when I first took on this epic dish, I was terrified. Anytime anyone brings a risotto up to the “pass” for Chef Ramsey to inspect, I hold my breath. The few times he sings praise I feel instant relief. More often though he spits it out and knocks over a trash can or two.

Don’t worry though, grab a book and pull a chair up to the stove. Risotto doesn’t have to be your downfall. This recipe is ridiculously easy, fairly frugal and oh so yummy.

Roasted Chicken With Risotto And Caramelized Onions

Inspired by Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice (important…be sure to use this rice)
  • 7 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • thyme
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken breast (I roast mine with some olive oil and salt and pepper)

Directions:

  1. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a sautee pan. Sautee onions low and slow for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and add vinegar. Set aside
  2. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pot over medium heat. Add rice and stir for about 2 minutes
  3. Stir in broth 1 cup at a time until absorbed…this requires vigilance and it can take quite a while. Stir consistently, but don’t stress…just make sure too much liquid doesn’t evaporate before you add more.
  4. Stir in onions mixture, chicken, butter, salt & pepper and thyme
  5. Top with some shaved Parmesan if desired. (I topped this one with some Kraft 5 Italian Shredded Cheeses)

Time consuming, but so worth it. This is probably my husband’s favorite meal that I make. It might not be Gordon Ramsey worthy, but my family definitely enjoys it!

Linking up:

Full Plate Thursday

Life As Mom

It’s A Keeper Thursday

Marriage and Finances – It’s All About Teamwork

One of the biggest challenges of marriage is learning how to handle finances together. Some couples never quite figure out how to come together and figure out the whole budget thing and often times their marriage will suffer as a result. It does not have to be that way! Read our story to learn some tips and truths about what you NEED to do to work as a team financially. I hope this encouragement will spark a fire and if it helps even one struggling married couple, I am so happy that I shared it.

Our Story: 

Early in our relationship, our finances were kept separate.

We very quickly (maybe too quickly) combined our money and got a joint bank account. My husband took over most of our finances and I thought things were going pretty well.

Let me rephrase that, I chose to believe that things were going well. There were plenty of signs that things were in fact NOT going well, but I chose to ignore them. Until I couldn’t any longer and our car insurance was threatening to cancel our policy for non-payment.

At that time, I took over. Mainly because I couldn’t handle how stressed out my husband would get over money. Stress over money turned him into a very uncomfortable person to be around.

I like things to be positive…happy…fun! My solution was to take the problem out of his hands and handle it on my own. I think it was a relief to him because things stayed that way for years and years after that.

I’d like to say I was better at handling our money. Truth is, I was just cleverer about stretching it. I wasn’t spending it more wisely…just giving it to the right people at just the right times to avoid cancellations and disruptions of service.

I won’t lie, we haven’t had many problems in our marriage, but money was one of them. It was easiest swept under the rug and forgotten until the next argument.

We are not confrontational people.

It was easiest to fix the problem quickly and move on. We kept coming to the same dead ends though! Things would be going okay for a bit and then we’d be behind again. It was a frustrating merry go round to be on.

My husband would come at me angry…demanding I cease all control of the finances and give it to him to take over. He did it in an ugly manner though (he’s an amazing guy, but money problems legit bring out the worst in everyone…myself included), and needless to say I was not receptive.

I don’t take well to being controlled and in his anger he came across very controlling (my husband is a FANTASTIC man and treats me amazing…which goes to show just how bad the situation had gotten).

So we would fight. I would cry. He would feel bad.

We’d sweep it away under a rug and come back to it the next time we were faced with an NSF fee from our bank or a pink notice from a utility company.

Finally one day…I think we’d just both had enough. It wasn’t going to work for him to take things over completely. Tried it…didn’t work. Obviously I couldn’t do it on my own. The only option was to do it together.

Imagine that, married people taking care of their finances together! Sounds like a no brainer, but from my small sampling of people I know…it actually is kind of rare. It is more typical for one person to be in charge.

We sat down and thought about where our strengths were in handling money:

Husband:

Good at record keeping and a bit better at prioritizing

Not as “emotional” about spending (in other words I spend money when I’m happy, sad, mad, etc….)

Simply more knowledgeable about finances. His mom owns her own business and he was taught about money from pretty early on.

Me:

I’m a deal seeker. I always have been. Give me $100 and I’ll get you a Lexus with it. Well not really…but I’m good at finding deals and knowing when to buy and when to hold off

I am much more aware of what is going on in our household. If we need toilet paper, kids need clothes or haircuts, new shoes, money for school, etc.

I had more knowledge about OUR finances. I had been doing them for years and knew the payment schedules, estimated amounts for any given month etc.

So we decided we were going to work together. In the past when we would entertain this idea, we wouldn’t follow through because it was simply easier for me to pay the bills because I knew when/how. So he would commit to keeping an eye on the bank account, but inevitably he’d decide it was easier to just sit back and let me handle it once again.

In order to make this work, I needed to take a more hands off approach. He needed to take a more hands on.

This was hard.

Thankfully (and maybe because we were both at the end of our rope with the situation) the transition went pretty well.

In some ways it was a relief for me to not carry the burden of our finances on my own. I’m sure he felt better about being more in control of the money coming in.

There was a time where our finances were so bad; it was hard to believe what his annual salary actually was.

Today we work together. It’s teamwork. He keeps a close eye on what goes in and what goes out, and I work within a budget for all of our household and family needs. We hold each other accountable.

I fully admit, I could not do it on my own.

Sometimes I feel regret when I think of all the money lost and all the arguments that could have been avoided. I think we needed to go through that to get to here though. To fully appreciate what this teamwork feels like. To not take it for granted.

Even if your finances are not in trouble, one spouse should not have to carry the entire burden.

Finances should be partnership just like everything else in marriage.

Consider sitting down and talking things out.

You might be surprised even the most stable bank account might have room for improvement (and growth!) when you put your heads together!

Maybe you don’t even know WHERE to start to create a budget…well here you go:

Step 1: Decide Your Non Negotiables

Step 2: Write Down All Your Monthly/Yearly Expenses and Prioritize them

Step 3: Starting from the top, create your budget

Step 4: Revisit your budget often. At least once a month, more if your situation changes.

We have a GREAT marriage. Now though, it’s on a whole new level. Money is SO personal. It’s such a polarizing subject. Being on the same page…with equal representation…it’s brought us even closer together than I thought possible.

Our next challenge to tackle? Housework….more on that later 😉

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe EVER!

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

This is THE best chocolate chip cookie recipe on the internet! Guaranteed to make your house the “cool” house. Try the best chocolate chip cookie recipe and let me know what you think!

 

Today we’re going to talk about cookies. Not just any cookies, but CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (yes that word is bolded, italicized AND underlined…if I could add sparkles to it I would have).

Before I had kids, I was on a mission to find the BEST Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe ever.

I had visions of my children declining invitations to friends houses, instead saying “No, come over MY house. My mom makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever“.

Of course, I’d have my hair curled and be wearing a pretty dress with heals and a frilly apron. More than happy to bake cookies for all the neighborhood kids.

Well so far, that hasn’t happened. Give it time though, my kids are only 3 and 1. However, I do believe I’ve found the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

It’s not just about the ingredients! Oh no. It’s also about the techniques!

Get your printer ready for this one!

Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
adapted from this recipe

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of melted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
 

 

 

 

  1. Melt the butter in the microwave (be sure to use REAL unsalted butter)
  2. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. 
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. 
  4. Dissolve baking soda in hot water. 
  5. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour and chocolate chips
  6. Place batter into refrigerator for at LEAST 1 hour, preheat oven to 350
  7. Take out the dough and drop by rounded tablespoon fulls onto an UNGREASED cookie sheet
  8. Let bake for 15-17 minutes, checking often until the edges are browning and the middle is just barely set. Don’t overcook! They cook a little more once you take them out of the oven.

 

As my son would say DELICIOUS!

I guarantee your house will be the hot spot if you bake these cookies! It makes a pretty large batch so you can even freeze some of the dough in portions.

Sometimes, if I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll go ahead and freeze the dough in balls on a cookie sheet. Than I place the balls in freezer bags so I can just pull out however many cookies we want at that time.

Made to order homemade cookies! Doesn’t get much better than that!

(if you are looking for more chocolate chip goodness, don’t miss out on these chocolate chip caramel cookie bars OR this chocolate chip cookie pie!)

Well okay, maybe it does:

Isn’t she precious?!
Tot Tuesday: Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of melted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in the microwave (be sure to use REAL unsalted butter)
  2. Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.
  4. Dissolve baking soda in hot water.
  5. Add to batter along with salt. Stir in flour and chocolate chips
  6. Place batter into refrigerator for at LEAST 1 hour, preheat oven to 350
  7. Take out the dough and drop by rounded tablespoon fulls onto an UNGREASED cookie sheet
  8. Let bake for 15-17 minutes, checking often until the edges are browning and the middle is just barely set. Don’t overcook! They cook a little more once you take them out of the oven.
3.5.3251

 

Fun and Easy Make Your Own Play Dough Recipe

Make Your Own Play Dough Recipe

Check out this fun and easy make your own play dough recipe for kids! Slime is all the rage nowadays, but kids still love Play Dough! Mom will love this non crumbly, made from ingredients you already have on hand, non stinky play dough recipe! Hurry and make this play dough with your kids. It is an awesome sensory activity no matter what your age!

I detest the smell of Play Doh. I remember disliking it even when I was a little girl and I loved playing with it myself.

When I was newly pregnant with my daughter, I almost had to leave working in the church nursery because the kids were playing with play doh and the smell just overwhelmed me.

Not to mention…it’s crumbly, it sticks to your carpet, it goes dry very easily, it can be expensive (although if you are in the market for the real deal…this is a GREAT price right now!)!

The early childhood educator in me knows that there are many benefits to the creative play that play dough offers:

Play dough (and other art materials)

Any early childhood educator will tell you: The benefits of play dough are enormous. Not only does it give children a chance to get creative, it’s also great for small-motor-skills’ development (hand/finger muscles) and can be soothing in times of stress (think of the corporate executive’s squeeze ball)

So I was on the hunt for a make your own play dough recipe that wasn’t crumbly, was easy for my kids little hands to manipulate, and was low cost.

Related: Make Your Own Paint Recipe! Homemade Doodle Paint

I tried many different recipes. Some were rock hard, some started to go bad after only a day or two, and some required ingredients I don’t typically have on hand.I stumbled upon this recipe, and with some slight tweaks, it’s the best one I’ve found yet.

The consistency of the play dough is more soft and pliable than commercial play doh and it’s very easy for little hands to manipulate. It lasts a LONG time too.

Related: Fully Stock Your Arts & Crafts Closet On A Budget! 

Make Your Own Play Dough Recipe

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tarter
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • food coloring

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients (add food coloring last)*.
  2. Stir over medium heat until smooth.
  3. Remove from pan, let cool slightly, and knead until blended and smooth.
  4. Store in a plastic bag or airtight container when cooled.

 

*I added food coloring during the kneading process. I also found the dough was way too sticky while kneading and added a good bit of flour until I got the consistency I wanted.
You don’t need fancy toys to play with play dough, cookie cutters, plastic knives work fine (age appropriate of course).
However, you might check out this fun play dough accessory kit. It is very well priced and will last forever!
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