Valentine’s Day Mini Ombre Cakes Recipe

Looking for a fun dessert you can make for Valentine’s Day? If so – try these mini Ombre cakes.

They are cute from the outside, and when you cut through them you’ll reveal a surprise:

different colored mini layers of cake! While these may look fancy, the good news is that they require easy to find, inexpensive ingredients and equipment.

Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Boxed Yellow Cake mix (Duncan Hines was used for today’s recipe)
  • Ingredients for the cake mix (Duncan Hines is: 3 eggs, 1/3 C oil, 1 C water)
  • Red food coloring
  • Pink food coloring
  • Round cookie cutter
  • 2 sheet pans/cookie sheets
  • Parchment paper
  • Cooking spray

For the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting, you’ll also need: 

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 4 C powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs milk
  • Red food coloring
  • Pink food coloring

Start by preheating the oven to 350°F.

Line pans with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Prepare cake mix according to box and divide the batter evenly into 4 bowls. (3 bowls plus the one you mixed in is fine.)

Leave one the way it is, and color the remaining 3 different tints of pink and red.

Free New Year’s Resolutions Planning Printables

I love a good New Year’s Resolution! In my experience, your success in reaching your goals starts with making a solid goal and plan in the first place. It’s so easy to slap down a resolution without giving much thought to why it matters or how you’re going to achieve it.

This year, I wanted to help you make your best set of New Year’s Resolutions ever! To do that, I’m offering up a FREE set of New Year’s Resolutions printables you can download and use to assist you through the process. You can always find these on Amazon, yet we wanted to make them accessible here.

I recommend you print these out and find an hour or so when you can be quiet and reflect on what matters to you for the year ahead. This might involve leaving your house to hit up the coffee stand or library so you can clear your thoughts.

Resolution Brainstorm

The first printable you’ll want to print out is the Resolution Brainstorm. On this sheet, your goal is to come up with all of the ideas in your head…all those resolutions that appeal to you or you’ve been kicking around for a while.

The Best Freezer Waffle Recipe Ever


I sometimes get the urge to make a whole mess of pancakes or waffles on a lazy Saturday morning. I happen to have had a bit of buttermilk in my fridge, so I decided to peruse for a great buttermilk waffle recipe.

I’m happy to say, I found one! In fact, these waffles were so good I decided to make them again, this time doubling the recipe so I could freeze them.

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I’m going to warn you though – while this recipe is simple to follow, there are definite steps you will need to follow. Don’t skip them! They result in what I think has got to be the absolute best waffle batter I’ve ever worked with.

10 FREE Printables for Your Road Trip

As I’m preparing for our family’s upcoming road trip, I have come across many awesome, FREE road trip related downloads across the Internet and I thought it would be nice to compile them for you here in one post!

If any of these strike your fancy, make sure to click on the link below the image to be directed to the blog that created it free for your use and download it there.

10 Free Printables for Your Road Trip – help your family get organized, and keep the kids occupied!

Printable Packing List for Young Kids = from OrgJunkie


License Plate Bingo Printable = from The Dating Divas


Road Trip Bingo Printables = from Oopsey Daisy

Mini Calzone Recipe (Easy, Kid-Friendly Lunch Idea)

Mini Calzones Recipe: Easy, Portable Back to School Lunch idea (and freezer friendly!)

Mini Calzones Recipe

Have you ever come up with an idea so simple, it’s just genius? I don’t mean to gloat – but that’s basically what you’re about to encounter here with today’s recipe.

Not only are these calzones simple and inexpensive to make – they are portable, freezer-friendly, and kid-friendly. In other words, they are perfect to tuck into your kid’s lunch this fall.

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One of my kids’ favorite meals is pizza. However, pizza isn’t always so easy to make and pack for school lunches. I researched many recipes for pizza rolls and pizza pockets, but many of them involved making dough from scratch or many ingredients, so I decided to strike out on my own with today’s recipe.

I wanted to create something that was delicious, and portable, but that wouldn’t require a huge time/energy commitment on your part, either. The good news is this recipe ticks all those boxes.

Simple Homemade Mac’n Cheese

Simple Homemade Mac'n Cheese: Never buy the boxed stuff again!

One of my daughter’s very favorite (and most requested!) meals is macaroni and cheese. And yes, while I’ve purchased boxed varieties over the years, I’ve wondered if I couldn’t develop my own homemade version using whole ingredients that I control. After several months of tinkering and experimenting, I’m happy to say her favorite macaroni and cheese is now my recipe, not one from a box!

Not only is today’s recipe delicious – it’s very quick and easy to prepare and chances are, you have most (if not all) of the ingredients right now!

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 6-8 oz dry pasta (I am using elbow macaroni today, but we’ve also used rotini, shells, and other shapes)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I use sharp cheddar for a nice cheese flavor)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs + 2 tbsp melted butter (optional)

The 15 Best Bargains You’ll Find at Trader Joe’s

There are a few items I buy at Trader Joe’s regularly that I believe to be a really good deal. While contemplating this recently, I got a great idea for a post: uncovering the best bargains at Trader Joe’s!

As I know how easy it is to gravitate toward the same items, I decided to ask my friends what they thought some of the best values were at Trader Joe’s. Not surprisingly, they mentioned many items I had not considered!

Earlier this week, my lovely friend and I spent some time at Trader Joe’s, noting the prices/size of each of these items and many more. We arrived at a list of nearly 40 items. While many things did seem to be priced well, I decided to dig a bit deeper.

Taking my list, I went to three area grocery stores to see could I find a better deal. There were definitely some surprises: some things I thought were good deals turned out to only be just OK, while other things ended up as clear winners.

After price comparison, I arrived at a list of 15 items. A few notes on my selection criteria:

  • I am only including items you could find at other stores. Sure, the corn & chile salsa and caramel chai are delicious (and often value-based), but I consider these items unique to Trader Joe’s. They aren’t included on my list.
  • I may have compared across brands. Where possible, I worked to keep this comparison apples to apples. So as much as possible, Trader Joe store brands were compared to other store brands.
  • I paid attention to unit prices. I’ve noted ounces and quantities to make sure the comparisons are fair.
  • Prices are subject to change. Trader Joe’s tends to make a price and stick with it. (AKA, they don’t do “sales.”) However, that doesn’t mean that prices may not vary from region to region or change over time. I also tried to note regular prices at other stores and pay less attention to sales prices. Please note: Some of the prices listed here are from April 2015.

I also want to make it clear that it’s quite possible you might best these prices in other ways. For instance, you might get a better deal by waiting for a sale with a coupon, a loss leader at another grocery store, buying in bulk, or growing your own.

For the purposes of this post, I’m just hoping to point you to some really good deals, in the absence of sales, coupons, or other tactics.

Top Bargains At Trader Joes

With that, here are the items that made the cut:

Ezekial Bread at Trader Joe's

1. Ezekiel Bread: $3.49

What you’d pay at other stores: $3.99 – $5.99

Not only is this brand more expensive at other stores, some stores don’t carry it at all.

Fresh Basil at Trader Joe's

2. Fresh Basil, 4 oz: $2.49

What you’d pay at other stores: $3.99

This is a great price for a large container of fresh basil! At two other area stores, I found the same size priced at $3.99 (full disclosure: one was organic). Incidentally, you can also buy a large potted basil plant at Trader Joe’s for $3.99 – much smaller ones were selling for the same price at another store I visited.

Fancy Medjool Dates at Trader Joes

3. Medjool Dates: $4.99 (for 12-oz organic)

What you’d pay at other stores: $7.99

While I was able to find a pound of dates for cheaper at other stores, they were not Medjool dates, which tend to run more money. This is another item that you may struggle finding at other grocery stores, too. I only found Medjool dates at one of the three comparison grocery stores I visited today.

Light Coconut Milk at Trader Joe's

4. Light Coconut Milk: $0.99

What you’d pay at other stores: $1.57 – $2.49

My friends both suggested I check out the price on canned coconut milk at Trader Joe’s. At $0.99, this was definitely one of the best bargains I noted in my research!

Hummus at Trader Joe's

5. Hummus, 8 oz: $1.99

What you’d pay at other stores: $2.99

Trader Joe’s offers a variety of different hummus flavors. At $1.99 for an 8-ounce container, I’d definitely include this in the best bargains category. Two other grocery stores I visited were offering the same size of their store-brand for $2.99.

Organic Peanut Butter at Trader Joe's

6. Organic Peanut Butter, 16 oz: $3.49

What you’d pay at other stores: $3.99 – $4.49

Several of my friends suggested that Trader Joe’s had good deals on nut butters, but after doing some research, the only nut butter I found was a deal was the organic peanut butter at $3.49. The regular peanut butter was priced at $1.99 and I was able to find lower prices than that at all three grocery stores I visited today. (Still, the Trader Joe’s PB is just peanuts and salt, if you’re looking for a product with super simple ingredients.)

Chutney at Trader Joe's

7. Mango Ginger Chutney, 9 oz: $2.29

What you’d pay at other stores: $3.28 – $5.79

Trader Joe’s Mango Ginger Chutney is easily one of the best bargains in the store! This specialty condiment is delicious when served on chicken or mixed in rice. It can also be expensive at other stores! Two stores I visited today were selling another brand in the same size for over $5 a bottle.

Frugal Gardening: Smart and Safe Re-Purposing

Today’s post is one that I’ve had on my mind for awhile now, but one of those topics that may cause a bit of upset. If you’re reading this site, chances are you care about saving money. I do, too! When it comes to gardening, there are many ways one can recycle, re-purpose, and up-cycle.

However, I’m seeing more ideas shared on Facebook, Pinterest, and social media forums about ways to reuse items in the garden that make me…concerned…and sometimes, just puzzled.

So before I get very far into this Frugal Gardening series, I wanted to share some of what I’m seeing with you and ideas for how you can safely re-purpose items in your garden.

When Re-Purposing Might Be Harmful

I love that more people than ever are getting passionate and creative about growing their own food, particularly in urban and small spaces. But I’d like to raise a bit of a red flag of caution about some materials you probably don’t want growing right next to your edibles!

9 Tips for Shopping Costco Like a Pro

After writing about Costco shopping for several years, and fielding comments and insights from readers, I’ve decided to compile a list of my very favorite pro tips for shopping Costco.

White Chicken Chili made with Costco chicken!

Tip #1: Don’t leave without a Rotisserie Chicken. 

I recently saw an article circulating on Facebook about why you should just make your own roast chicken at home, but I absolutely beg to differ. The roast chicken at Costco is huge, perfectly cooked and only $4.99. That chicken is easily one of the best deals in the store! While you can certainly eat it as is, it’s also a great base for many recipes, such as this White Chicken Chili.

Cart = more room for STUFF.

Tip #2: If you are on a mission to buy one or two items, skip the shopping cart. 

Costco can be a great place to find all kinds of stuff you didn’t know you needed. If you are trying to stick to a shopping list and a budget, leave the cart at the front door! Make a beeline for the item you came for (wearing horse blinders through the electronics and housewares may be helpful), grab your item(s) and head for checkout.

Instant Pot Cheeseburger Soup Recipe

Looking for a delicious, but easy recipe you can make in your Instant Pot this week? Try this hamburger soup! I purchased an Instant Pot myself a couple years ago (you might want to read more about my experiences with the Instant Pot if you’re on the fence!). If you don’t have one, Amazon has been the best source of Instant Pot deals in my experience, and there are many models to choose from.

Not only is it delicious and hearty – chances are you already have most of the ingredients in your pantry right now!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into cubes
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 2-3 celery stalks, cut into pieces
  • (2) 10.5 oz cans of cheese soup
  • 3 C. chicken broth
  • 1/2 C. half & half
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder


Don’t forget the Instant Pot!

Place the ground beef, garlic and diced onion in the Instant Pot and turn on the sauté function.

How to Trade in your Old Amazon Devices (Kindle, Fire) for Amazon Credit

I’m in the process of cleaning out my office – a monumental task that I’ve been putting off for years.

One of the reasons I’ve put it off is because our office is one of those “dumping ground” areas in our home where everything and anything goes that we don’t know what to do with. After a couple weeks, I’m proud to say I’m nearly done and can see floor again!

Today, I thought I’d share about how I dealt with a small pile of old Amazon Kindle readers and Fire tablets I had. They were broken and out of use, but what to do with them?

It didn’t feel right to just throw them away and I also didn’t want to wait until the next recycling event in my area.

What I ended up doing: trading them in for instant Amazon credit! This process was so quick and easy, and I thought it might help someone else out there who’s knee-deep in cleaning and purging.

Trading in your Amazon Device, Step-by-Step

First, gather your devices.

Easy Egg Bites Recipe {Freezer-Friendly; Batch-Friendly!}

I swear that I always get the best ideas when I’m out running. Maybe it’s the blood flow finally hitting the brain or the chance to get away from other distractions and just think.

Whatever the case, the inspiration for today’s recipe came while I was out running the other day.

I’ve been seeing these ads from Starbucks about sous vide egg bites and I really dig the idea of nourishing, portable breakfast ideas.

I tend to just be a cereal or oatmeal kind of gal, but there are times when you want something a bit more hearty to “stick to your ribs!” Today’s Egg Bites Recipe fits the ticket.

Not only are these egg bites delicious to make – they are easy. Even better, they are budget-friendly (but what else would you expect from a frugal living blog)?

This recipe is also extremely versatile. Change up the protein, cheese, or veggies to suit what you have in your pantry, your tastes, or whatever diet you’re on.

Here’s what you’ll need to make 12 egg bites: 

  • 9 large eggs
  • 4 pieces of bacon
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely minced
  • 1 onion, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons half and half or milk
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Start by heating your oven to 350°.

In a pan, fry up that bacon to desired crispness. I like mine fairly crisp, so that means an extra minute or two. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon onto paper towels. I decided to fry up my veggies in some of the bacon grease (yum!), so I left some of that in the pan, ready to go!

How to Make a Mason Jar Bug Catcher

My daughter has decided that bugs are very, very cool. So cool in fact that she hopes to become an entomologist when she grows up! For awhile now, she’s been begging to craft a bug catcher so she can trap and observe this special little creatures.

I figured that surely we could assemble something ourselves without a spendy trip to the craft store. I came up with a very simple, but fun solution that I wanted to share with you today using mason jars.

In fact, I bet you have most of these items lying around your house right now!

Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation 101

My friend Mike is what I’d call a true Disney expert! He’s been to the parks many times and as a travel agent, he’s coordinated many family vacations over the years. He’s written many posts on this blog over the past year (see my Disney page for all of them). Today I’m pleased to be sharing a new post from Mike!


If you’re a West Coast reader, you probably consider Disneyland to be, as the kids say, the bee’s knees (I didn’t say which generation of kids said it). And for many, a trip to the other side of the country to see Walt Disney World might seem either daunting, expensive or redundant. Why fix what ain’t broke? But with the newly opened Frozen Ever After ride in EPCOT, Pandora, the World of Avatar now open, Toy Story Land coming after that, it might be time to explore a whole new World of Disney (see what I did there?).

For those not familiar with Walt Disney World, I thought I’d give a bird’s eye view of some the basics to planning your first trip and a few way to save some money.

Getting There

For many the idea of a flight to Orlando might as well be another country away. But do not fret, a non-stop flight from the Pacific Northwest takes about the same amount of time as a trip to Hawaii. It’s only about 5 to 6 hours, which you know if Disneyland was only a 5 to 6 hour drive, you would be there every other weekend.

Once you land, there is a big money saving opportunity right from the start. Walt Disney World offers free transportation from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to any of their resorts on Walt Disney World property. A nice big comfy touring bus, that even comes with cartoons for everyone to enjoy.


Step right on and head to your resort!

Typically, you won’t even have to grab your luggage as they will deliver it right to your room. Once at your hotel, they have resort wide buses that can take you to the parks and a variety of other locations. If comparing a Disneyland vacation to Walt Disney World in terms of price, remember you won’t need to rent a car, pay a shuttle service or call a cab to get from the airport.

Staying There

Did you know that Walt Disney World is roughly the size of San Francisco? Well you do now, and nothing on the internet is ever false. EVER! With a resort that big, they have over 25 different hotels you can stay at, with various price points. They break their hotels in a couple different categories: value, moderate, deluxe and then “home away from home” villas. As a reference point, the three Disneyland owned and operated hotels would be most comparable to a Walt Disney World deluxe resort in terms of price range. The “Good Neighbor” hotels near Disneyland would be comparable to the value to moderate price point hotels at Walt Disney World.

The Wilderness Lodge, themed around the Pacific Northwest.

Often when people come to Disneyland they want to save the most money possible, but still be steps away from the parks since they anticipate being at the parks from open to close. Walt Disney World offers 5 value resorts (and campgrounds) for those who are attraction-driven, park junkies. And while they won’t be steps away from the Magic Kingdom, you have the bus system so you’re not walking miles at the start or (more importantly) end of your day.

Starbucks Cinnamon Scone Hack

Do you ever have mornings where you wake up and a bowl of cold cereal just won’t do?

Today was such a morning for me. I felt like making something extra special. My kids and I love the scones at Starbucks (guilty pleasure, I know), so I decided to make our own using items from our pantry. If you’ve never made scones before, they are incredibly easy to make and require only a few ingredients. I decided on cinnamon scones, and was able to find and adapt a recipe from a cooking forum.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk*
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

* I didn’t have this on hand, but easily made do with 1/3 cup milk and a squeeze of lemon juice for acid.

How to Freeze Your Greens {and a couple ideas for how to use them!}

What do you do if you end up finding a tremendous deal on leafy greens or end up with a surplus from your garden? Well, one simple thing you can do is freeze them! Yes, that’s right – greens such as kale, collards, and spinach can be frozen.

I found several nice bunches of greens at my local grocery store recently – they had a few varieties of organic kale, plus rainbow chard, and spinach, all at very good prices, and I couldn’t resist.

Now there are two schools of thought when it comes to freezing greens. First, you can freeze them as-is, raw. This is going to be the easiest, quickest way to achieve your goal. The second way involves blanching them. This helps the greens last a bit longer in the freezer. As you’ll soon see, this method also helps reduce the space in the freezer your greens will take up.

Simple Custard Recipe

It seems that dessert recipes keep getting fancier and fancier. But I think some of the simplest desserts are the best. Today I’d like to take a look at the humble custard. It requires very few ingredients and very little prep.

With Easter right around the corner, we’re seeing lots of deals on eggs. So if you have a few extra laying around and are tired of omelets or hard-boiled eggs, today’s recipe is going to be right up your alley!

I stopped by my local grocery store and do they ever have an awesome selection of eggs – they’ve got an entire case devoted to all the varieties including pasture raised and locally farmed options! Since I was in the dairy section of the store, I decided to pick up some milk for my recipe. Now you can use whichever milk you’d like, but I decided to go with whole milk for a creamier, richer result. My store carried a lactose-free variety that I opted for, since it’s gentler on my family’s stomachs.

Best Ever Tamale Pie Recipe

A few weeks ago, I wanted to make some sort of tamale casserole. I perused a number of well-rated recipes on, but didn’t find anything exactly that I had in mind. So I used this one for some basic inspiration and then made a number of modifications to it. The result was so delicious that my husband declared it to be one of the best meals I’d ever made. I figure that made it worth sharing with you!

While there is quite a little list of ingredients in this recipe, have no fear. I promise it’s easy to put together and I bet you’d have most of these items in your pantry right now.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Olive or canola oil, for cooking
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup prepared salsa
  • 2 boxes cornbread mix, such as Jiffy
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 8 oz shredded Mexican Cheese blend (or Monterey Jack or Cheddar, any combination)
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°.