Frugal Fun: Zero Waste, Minimalist Toy Frog Tutorial


Can you hear this sweet frog singing? Oh, the fun and joy this little frugal project has brought to my high-intensity household of six children! I never knew when I started cutting up worn-out pants into shorts that my frugality would bring such fun as making frogs.

If you stopped by our little log home on any given day, you may see one of these frogs peeking out of a couch cushion. Or you may see a little blonde boy carrying it with its pocket filled with rocks or small cars.  We don't have many toys around since I gave most of them away. However, these homemade frogs are a family favorite. 

The irony of this fun project is that I'm terrible at sewing. I give myself barely a passing grade. I know enough to be dangerous, not enough to be good at sewing. However, my boys look forward to Christmas when we secretly work on frogs for the younger siblings late into the night. Whispering and laughing with my 11-year-old boy is a precious treasure to my soul. This year, he told me "Mom, this is my favorite part of Christmas!" After a long day, that was healing balm to this momma of six. 

The instructions for this project are easy, I promise. Remember my sewing skills are below average. 

1. Cut off boys pants after they have shredded them beyond being patched. Cut the fabric so it's open and wide. You can also use old sheets or shirts like I did here. I cut out the pocket of my own pants for this particular frog. 

2. Draw freehand a pattern of a frog onto the pants legs or largest part of the fabric. Cut only once a doubled piece of fabric so you have both the front and back of the frog. 

3. Make silly jokes with your child about frogs singing and coming to life (this is a vital step, not to be skipped). 

4. Sew the pocket on what will be the outside of the frog. Turn the fabric so that it is inside out and sew around the edges leaving the bottom open for stuffing.

5. Turn the frog right-side out and stuff with whatever kind of stuffing you have. I used bulk raw cotton that was "seconds" online. I also have used old couch cushion stuffing or shredded t-shirts. Basically, anything can be stuffing if you cut it up small enough. 

6. Stuff the frog and use a knitting needle to evenly distribute the stuffing. 


7. Sew up the bottom of the frog securely. 

8. Name the frog and sing a frog-song.

9. Give your sweet frog to your precious child.

10. Talk about using what you have in new and creative ways. Share your heart for being a good steward of natural resources to protect real frogs and their habitat.  Hug the child and frog close to your heart and ignore the muddy face and crooked stitching.

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This moment is precious.

Giving doesn't need to cost money.

Gifts of time and experience and stewardship principles are precious.


Blessings for your sweet family,


Minimalist Menu: Real Food on a Real Budget


Welcome to my Minimalist Kitchen! I'd love to have you come over to our little log home in the woods and have a cup of tea at my kitchen table. You would definitely be greeted by the smell of fresh bread and the infectious giggling of children. Aren't your children always hungry it seems? Mine sure are, and thankfully a Minimalist Menu makes it easy. 

 When cooking for a large or small household, simplicity is key and it saves money in totally practical ways. Here's my best tips:

1. Buy quality ingredients as basic as possible. Children don't need processed snacks, fruit is better. Sugar cereal? Total waste of money. I'd rather shoot myself in my foot! The resulting behavior is bad and so is the nutrition. I choose 50 lb bags of oatmeal for $25 each. I do quick oats so that the kids can soak it in milk and eat it uncooked with peanutbutter and yogurt.

2. Add water. Seriously, this is my go-to for everything. If you were sitting here in my kitchen chatting, you'd see me add water to swish around in the yogurt container. Then, I add that water to the bread dough pictured above. Mind you, the yogurt container was pretty much emptied by my 4 year old power-eater. However, instead of scraping it out, water is faster. Minimalist that I am I cannot let it go to waste and it makes my honey flat-bread soft. Keep reading for the recipe below.

3. Plan simple meals. Often I will declare a "Snack Meal." This means we have smoothie and oatmeal. Or all the leftovers in the frig must get eaten no matter how weird the combo. The kids laugh and put ketchup on everything. No problem! I have a hard-core rule in my kitchen, "Eat what you have and then you can have more." This principle has literally saved us thousands of dollars!! Before you've finished your first cup of tea, you'll probably hear me quote this rule at least six times to my 4 year old just because he needs to hear it again. Truth.

And here is my Minimalist Menu. By having "Theme nights" the children know what to expect and I can be flexible depending on what is in season locally:

Monday: Ethnic night

Tuesday: Lentils in the Crockpot

Wednesday: Soup and Salad

Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner

Friday: Protein/Rice/Veggie

Saturday:Homemade Pizza

Sunday:Leftover/Grilled Veggies

I always make enough of the main meal to have for lunch the next day. That means, whatever we eat for Monday night is Tuesday lunch also. This pattern is a complete life and sanity saver!! Breakfast is oatmeal, yogurt, leftover pancakes, or self-serve eggs (again kid-cooking skills are the best!).

And finally, my favorite easy bread recipe that saves time and money.

4 cups of oatmeal or spelt flour

1/4 to 1/2 cup of yogurt or whatever amount is left in the container. Plain Greek yogurt works best. You can rinse out a large plain yogurt container with water to save from having to scrap it out. 

2 cups of warm water, stir into the flour and forget about it on the counter as you chase away a 2 year old who wants to play cars in the dough. Feed the baby, listen to the teenager, and remember about 2 hours later that the bread is soaking. Don't worry, you SHOULD forget it because it turns out better that way. No yeast needed. The yogurt acts to soften the dough.

 Add 1 teaspoon of Himalayan Sea Salt

1/4 cup local honey. Stir and plop a bunch onto a coconut oil greased pan. This is FLAT bread so you can make it pretty much anyway your heart desires.

Bake at 350 degrees until cooked in the middle about 20 minutes. Super easy, super cheap, and yummy. For the photo above I used Spelt, although we are almost entirely gluten free, it works out fine for our family. These are not set in stone amounts or ingredients but high quality ingredients always work best.

What are some of your Minimalist Menu ideas? I always love to swap recipes and share a good cup of tea.



3 Ways to Never Say I Can't Afford It Again


Confession: when I left my corporate job due to my newborn daughter's medical complications, I worried about money. I knew that although we lived as frugally as we could, I was leaving a secure paycheck to care for my daughter and I was scared. During those years, I often said, "No, I can't afford it." I quickly realized that although kids don't need to be expensive, I was the one who was truly expensive. My time was expensive.  And I began to focus on everything in my life that I couldn't afford. Maybe you know that awful, hollow feeling as well. It's terrible. Fast forward 12 years + six kids total, and my life is totally changed.

Waking up every morning in house that is paid for, not being in debt for student loans or credit cards, and being available to my kids....that feeling is priceless! 

I'm sure you could guess that it has been a long journey to get here. Maybe you are still on that same journey and it feels. very. very. long. There's hope! Along the way, I found 3 key ways to change that horrible feeling of not being able to "afford it" into a feeling of gratitude, ultimately leading to a place of abundance. 

1. Change of Mindset

I redefined what I needed. What is truly necessary? Children need their parents' love in the form of time, patience, attention, discipline, and a huge amount of affection. Children don't need a gazillion migraine-making toys or a string of stressful activities. It took me a while to learn that. Looking at all of the abundance that I did have, rather than focusing on the areas of lack,  was a huge shift and one that I still remind myself to keep. It's too easy to slip by into scarcity and fear. Abundance is first a choice.

2.Change of Patterns

In my journey to affording the time with my loved ones, I found I needed to change my patterns. First my mindset, but next my actions. I changed what I did for more shopping even if it was sales or thrift stores or *gasp* upscale neighborhood garage sales. Instead I found I loved hiking and trail running. Maybe you might enjoy free museum days in the city or walking the beach like I do. Quality experiences can be free! I changed my pattern of eating to more homemade, wholesome foods. I changed my social obligations to working with families and business owners so that my calendar correlated with my desire to help others. All of this reflected my new attitude of abundance. I found wealth in hidden places. "I Can't Afford It" began to stop coming out of my mouth!

The path to freedom

must include right choices....

3. Asking the Right Questions

All of these changes happened as I was searching for more income and for more time, less stress and more happiness with my family. And these changes of mindset and patterns brought me to face serious questions. I found that I questioned what I truly needed as far as material possessions and ended up giving away 2/3 of everything I owned to charity. I questioned relationships that weren't life-giving, and allowed those negative relationships to diminish. I found that with asking the right questions, I got the results I was looking for...more time with the ones I loved and less time worrying about affording it. I know you're probably thinking that's not rocket science, but for me, asking the right questions changed everything.

Instead of saying "I Can't Afford It" I began to ask .......

  Does it move me closer to my dreams and vision for the future?

  Does the item/event/service create value or solve a problem to get me closer to my dream life?

 Does this decision provide something that is an asset, creating addition income or making it possible in the future?

You may rightly wonder how these questions wiped away the worry about affording things. Changing my mindset, changing my patterns, and asking the right questions led me to find all the answers I was looking for. I was able to use our resources better. I balanced our finances without fear. I worked from home to expand our residual income with adding new rental properties because I had the time and vision (a ton less time cleaning with 2/3 of everything donated).  I was able to start coaching families and business owners in the area of finances through my training and my work with a financial publishing company.

I changed that hollow ache of not "affording it" into an abundant attitude of sharing and loving and living intentionally because I was willing to take the leap of faith and do the work to change.

What faith decisions have you made on your journey to simplicity?

Simplify Your Summer Kitchen: Save Time & Money to Enjoy Your Best Summer Yet

 Hello Summer! I absolutely adore summer. In our little neck of the woods, the warmth is so welcome after the winter months. I love the smell of summer, the brightness of summer, and the food of summer. All things summer are my favorite.

The pace of summer, however,  is the one thing that in our household could always use a little fine tuning. Perhaps you are sometime breathless like me as we have weddings, graduations, vacations, summer sports, and just plain old summer time chores. I needed a few time saving (and money saving, of course!) tricks. So several summers ago, I created a few of favorite short-cuts for my sanity. Seriously, don’t re-invent the wheel on this…just shamelessly steal my ideas. Go ahead, and create some simplicity and sanity in your summer.

Simplify the kitchen: The heart of the house is the kitchen.

Step 1 Simplify your stations in the kitchen. Go cupboard by cupboard and pretend they are your paid servants. Assign each cupboard or section of your kitchen a task. Get rid of everything that “servant” doesn’t need and keep only what is important for that particular task. For example, I have a coffee station (a must-have for busy mommas) that has all the needed items to create the black creamy deliciousness quick. I have a smoothie station with ingredients for healthy starts to the day or night. Donate any unused utensils, appliances, or misc. junk to your local charity. Remember your donation receipt and stash it with your tax folder for the win!

Step 2 Simplify your dishes. I seriously wish I would’ve done this years ago! Hear me out….I have 8 people in our family and when we are running hard in our business and personal activates the dishes monster can grow to epic proportions.  Yes, I have an electronic servant called a dishwasher. However, it has become for decorative purposes only and I’m thrilled. Here’s what I did. I got matching stainless steel plates and bowl total of 8 (one for each person). Then, I got 8 spoons and forks but not butter knives because my sons sword fight with them defending the castle from invaders. I also got white coffee mugs that are all slightly different at the thrift store so that each person could tell which water cup was theirs. Only 8 of those! Do you see my strategy? If a person wants to eat or drink, they have to wash a dish or plate or cup. There’s a limited supply and they can’t dirty the whole kitchen in an hour. And one little rule: we can’t run out the door to do something fun until the meal routine is done. So the family all works together quickly so we can go to the pool. We wash the dishes, dry, and put away after every meal and that’s possible even in a huge family like mine. You will save sanity and not be tempted to use paper plates every meal, which gets expensive with a family of any size. Your summer will thank you!

Step 3 Simplify your food. Oh my goodness the money we spend on food! Here’s my go-to tricks for keeping a reasonable food budget. I buy in bulk. I know that may not be practical for every household, but I think you can definitely modify it. When I had a small family, I split bulk with other small families. I buy 50 lbs. of rolled oats from the local Mennonite store for $25. One small 1 lb. container even at the discount grocery is $3.59. That’s a huge savings and I store it in Walmart #2 plastic paint buckets. Win. Win. Win. The children can cook it, it’s cheaper than cereal and better nutrition too.  Set up a simple meal plan with theme nights so you have the flexibility to create a masterpiece from whatever may be in the frig. Schedule a grocery trip only once a week or 10 days. Be committed to use what you have before you get more. This concept alone has save me thousands of dollars!

Extra Tips: Just for fun because there’s so many and if you were having coffee in my kitchen you’d see me do this stuff without thinking.

-trade with neighbors for fresh garden produce. I wish I had a garden but I don't so we trade with the sweet older neighbors who do garden.

-add water to rinse your ketchup and cans into a crock pot of lentils (super cheap and easy and yummy)

-grate your own cheese, it’s just better all the way around and cheaper in bulk

-buy fruit and veggies even if you buy it precut it’s so much better than fruit roll-ups for snacks on the go

-color coordinate water bottles and teach the children to fill their own before heading out the door. No more nasty plastic water bottles that may be toxic and are expensive too. I use Kleen Kanteen and let me just say, they are indestructible. My kids have tried and not been able to destroy them yet! Saves a ton of time and money just having your own water bottles.

-Keep easy emergency meals on hand, like oatmeal, or buy the huge bags of frozen berries for smoothie dinners. Make your life easy momma!!

-Teach your kids to cook. Even my 4 year old can cook his own breakfast with slight supervision. It may take time on the front end but seriously it will be an asset that pays you in time and money for years to come!


So have your best summer by creating simplicity of systems in the heart of your home….Blessings for your best summer yet!!  

How Minimalism Saves Our Family Time AND Money

If you are like me when I first heard of minimalism, you are probably curious about how minimalism really works. I thought of empty houses and museums right? Could the concept of minimalism ever be practical for real people? And I also wondered, would it seriously solve any of my problems...the two big ones being TIME and MONEY?

When I started this journey, I had three children ages 5, 3, and 1 years old. My amazing, hard-working husband had a job that took a ton of his time and I was doing different side gigs to help make money without having to compromise raising our children. In the almost 7 years since I started that journey toward living with less, I have given away 500 + bags to charity and 10 huge pieces of furniture. And yes, we still have couches to sit on and live in a "normal" home (see the tab market HOME TOUR). And I wondered if it was worth the time and money of giving it all away....

What I wanted in the beginning was some sanity in my home and life. What I gained has completely blown my mind.

As I peeled back the layers of 6 tubs of scrap fabric I was never going to use and mismatched dishes that I hated, I slowly and painfully and ironically questioned the sanity of "why am I doing this? It's taking forever!" I felt it was my penance for having allowed all this junk in my house in the first place. I felt like God was punishing me! Stuck in my basement or head-first in my disaster closet, I felt like I was being punished and miserable for allowing other people to determine what I kept in my home. I determined that I would change. My thinking was the problem. And then, the miracles happened...

Suddenly, small miracles. I could find my keys. I could find my shoes and purse every single day. Items had a permanent home. I could see progress. The anger and overwhelm that had plagued me slipped out of my heart and mind quietly leaving like an unwelcome guest finally told to go. The children were happier. With every bag gone, the burden began to lift. And I got my time. Seriously, I wish I could yell this from the mountain tops....everything took less time!! Can you believe it!? So simple yet so revolutionary for me.  Less time to do dishes, laundry, cooking, and kid chores. Less time looking for things. Less time sorting and putting things away because there was simply less things to put away. Halleluiah!!

Then, another miracle happened. Opportunities opened. I had the time to work on our investment properties and triple our rental income in about 4 months by adding additional units. I had the time to really get to know our tenants who became dear to our family. They would feed our kids grapes and cheese while we chatted and changed furnace filters. Seriously, who does that? People with time. People with time invest in other people!

Because of the compounding impact of minimalism, I also was able to work with my husband and start another business helping families and business owners with financial education and game planning. I found all my skills from the corporate world brought much needed help to underserved communities in our area where financial mentorship and hope is truly needed. And because I had the mental clarity and I was spending less time with "stuff," I could spend more time serving people. That simply makes my heart sing.

In terms of exact numbers, I have on a consistent basis saved 20+ hours per week compounding by donating all those bags of very useful items. 20 hours X Years of Freedom = So Worth It!

As far as money is concerned, saving money is one category. It regularly saves us about 50% of our household budget by choosing a minimalist lifestyle. But that's not all, not only do we SAVE more money, we have CREATED more income as well. By being free to work on our businesses, I estimate that the amount exceeds double my salary in corporate world. It's significant. And I am still raising my children rather than commuting into the city.

And although I am a huge advocate for Creating Minimalism, I am also a realist. This will take work. It took giving it all away to find the life I was looking for all along. May you find your best life as well. Blessings for your journey!