Thursday, October 30, 2014

Witches Brooms

This is an easy and fun Halloween idea that my kids loved! It would be great for a Halloween party or just something that the kids can make.

Witches Brooms
1 package of miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Pretzel sticks

Unwrap the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Stick a pretzel stick in the center of each peanut butter cup to make a broom.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monster Meatballs

I love making fun Halloween meals for my kids. Especially when they're simple like this. I made spaghetti and meatballs but we called the meatballs "monsters" and we served them over "worms". My kids had so much fun decorating their own "monster." Some of my kids put lots of eyeballs all over their monsters. They had so much fun!

Monster Meatballs
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 lbs lean ground beef, or a combination of ground beef, pork, and/or turkey
2 tsps dried parsley
1 egg
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Marinara sauce:
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup grated onion
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the panko bread crumbs and buttermilk. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and all other ingredients. Mix well.

Shape into large golf-ball sized meatballs and place about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from oven and drain on paper towels before transferring them to a plate. 

To make marinara sauce, melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes. 

Serve meatballs over spaghetti noodles and top with marinara sauce. Place two olives on each meatball for the eyeballs.

Makes about 24-30 meatballs

Recipe adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nutter Butter Ghosts

My kids love these Nutter Butter Ghosts. Aren't they so cute? The best part was how simple they were to make. Just dip them in chocolate and stick on the eyes. That's it! I'm all about simplifying things. I don't see the point of spending hours making something when the kids are going to be just as happy with something simple.

Nutter Butter Ghosts
1 lb pkg Nutter Butter cookies
1 1/2 lb white chocolate chips or vanilla candy coating
64 mini chocolate chips (about 4 tsp)

Place white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until melted. Using tongs, dip each Nutter Butter into the white chocolate, letting the excess drip off. Place on wax paper. Place two chocolate chips on each cookie to form the eyes. Let stand for 10 minutes until set. 

Recipe adapted from Tablespoon

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Easy Halloween Party

There are a lot of moms who really go all out for parties. If that's how you are and you like to do that, that's great!

I have found that when I spend a lot of time planning a party and I really go all out, my kids don't really care. I always have high expectations about how it will turn out and my kids just don't appreciate what I do. And then I'm frustrated! So I have learned to keep things simple and only focus on the details that matter. My kids always have so much fun at our simple parties and I don't spend a lot of time or money so we all win!

This weekend we had a Halloween party with my kids and their cousins. It was simple, low-key, and inexpensive. The kids had a blast!

This is what we did:
Monster Pizzas
(Click here for the recipe)
The kids had so much fun making their own "monsters."

 Spooky Halloween Drink
You can do this with any drink. I just used soda because it was easier but any drink will work. All you do is fill a plastic glove with water, tie it off, and stick it in the freezer. When you're ready, carefully cut off the glove and place the ice hand in the punch bowl. Sometimes the fingers fall off, like in the picture above, but that only adds dramatic effect. The kids love this drink!

We played two games at the party and they were both very simple and inexpensive. I only spent about $2.00 on ping pong balls that we used for both games. The kids had so much fun playing these games! Either one of these games would be great for class parties.

Eyeball Toss
Items needed:
5 or 6 ping pong balls with an eyeball drawn on each one
2 different size bowls

Each kid will take turns bouncing the "eyeball" into one of the bowls. The smaller bowl is worth 10 points and the larger ball is worth 5 points. The person to score the most points wins!

Eyeball and Spoon Race
Items needed:
2 ping pong balls with an eyeball drawn on each one
2 spoons

This game is played just like the egg and spoon race game. The kids will form 2 lines. The kids will place the "eyeball" on their spoon and race to a designated spot and back without dropping the "eyeball." Then they will pass the spoon and "eyeball" to the next person in line. The team that finishes first wins!

Monster Pizzas

This is my kids' favorite thing to make for Halloween. They can make their own "monster" however they want. It's so much fun!

Printable Recipe

Monster Pizzas
1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
pizza sauce
bell pepper
any other desired pizza toppings

Cut dough into 6 equal sections. Roll out each section until flat. Top with pizza sauce, cheese, and desired toppings. Bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes.

Makes 6 individual pizzas

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How I Save Money on Gas

Here is my big secret:

Gift Cards

I do the majority of my grocery shopping at Smith's. If you live outside of Utah, any Kroger affiliated grocery store works the same way. When you buy groceries at Smith's, you earn one point for every dollar that you spend. 100 points equals 10 cents off each gallon of gas (up to 35 gallons).

When you buy gift cards, they offer 2 points per dollar. Frequently they have promos where they offer 4 points per dollar. They have a huge selection of gift cards. They sell gift cards for most restaurants and retail stores.

If you bought a $25 gift card to your favorite restaurant, you would earn 100 points (during the 4 point per dollar promo) which equals 10 cents off each gallon. If you got 35 gallons of gas, you would save $3.50 which is essentially earning 14% cashback from buying that $25 gift card.

So how do I maximize my savings on gas? Every time I go to Smith's, I think about where I'm going to shop during the week. If I need to go to Target, I'll buy a gift card. If my kids need clothes, I'll buy a Children's Place gift card. When we remodeled our bathrooms this year, we bought A LOT of Home Depot gift cards. I also stock up on gift cards to our favorite restaurants. When we go out to eat, we look through our stash of gift cards and choose where we want to eat. The best part is that they're already paid for! I usually earn enough points every month to get at least $1.00 off each gallon of gas. 

What I recommend:
*Stock up when they offer the 4 points per dollar promo.
*Buy gift cards for restaurants and stores that you frequently shop at.
*With the holidays coming up, buy gift cards for whatever stores you're planning on shopping at. If you're giving gift cards for Christmas gifts, this is the place to buy them.
*Make sure you keep track of what gift cards you buy and actually use them. If you're buying gift cards just to save on gas, it kind of defeats the point.
*When you buy gas make sure you take two vehicles and purchase all 35 gallons to maximize your savings. Get a $1 off per gallon and buy 35 gallons...guess what, you just saved $35.
*Enjoy your gas savings!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chicken and White Bean Enchiladas

These enchiladas were so tasty with just the right amount of heat. You can add more or less jalapeno depending on the way you like it. My kids like their food with a little heat, but not too much!

Printable Recipe

Chicken and White Bean Enchiladas

Chicken and white bean filling:
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
1 can (15 oz) navy beans or cannellini beans
1/2 cup water
1 tsp chicken bouillon granules
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb cooked shredded chicken

Green chile sauce:
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 (4 oz) cans diced green chiles
1 jalapeno, seeded (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup lowfat sour cream

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
8-10 flour tortillas
chopped cilantro for garnish

Preheat oven to 375

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add green chiles, beans, water, chicken bouillon, cumin, and salt. Mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove cover and add chicken. Cook for 5 minutes. Set aside.

While chicken mixture is simmering, make the green chile sauce. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add flour and mix well. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in chicken broth until smooth. Cook over medium heat until it begins to boil. Add salt, green chiles, and jalapeno. (Add a little of the jalapeno at a time and taste. You can always add more heat but you can't take it out.) Cook for 1 minute until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream.

Spread 1/4 cup of the sauce onto the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture. Roll tortillas and place seamside down in the baking dish. Pour sauce over enchiladas and top with cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.

Serves 6-8

Recipe adapted from Skinny Taste

Monday, October 20, 2014

How to Find a Good Deal on a Rental Car

A few weeks ago I did a post on flying for less money. If you're going to fly, you'll need a rental car and that can get pretty pricey. So I came up with some tips on finding a good deal on a rental car.

The most important thing you can do is shop around. Don't just go with the first car that you find. I have never found a good deal going directly through the rental car company. Instead, I look at different websites that compare prices with all of the different car rental companies and find the best deal for you. If you compare prices with all of these different websites, you'll find a great deal on a rental car. Here are some of my favorites:

Car Rental 8
I have always been able to find a good deal through Car Rental 8. Every time I've checked this website, the prices have always been really low, if not the lowest.

Book through your airline
The last two times we flew, I booked our rental car through Southwest Airlines. It was about the same price as Car Rental 8 but I decided to go through the airline to get the bonus points. For certain cars, the airline will offer points in their frequent flyer program. But you have to make sure the extra points are worth it. If you book a car that earns you 600 bonus points you have to figure out how much money you will actually get back and if that's the best deal you can find. 600 points may seem like it a lot but it's actually only worth about $10 so if you can find a car that's more than $10 cheaper, go with that instead. If you have a credit card through an airline, you may also earn double or triple points just for booking through the airline.That's in addition to the bonus points I already mentioned.

Check websites like Priceline, Expedia, and Travelocity
These websites are great for comparing the prices of different rental car companies; however, I've always found a better deal through Car Rental 8 or the airline.

Another great tip is to use your credit card points to help pay for your car. When we went to Florida in April, we had the Barclaycard credit card. After redeeming 80,000 points which cut the cost of our flight in half, the credit card company rewarded us with 10% of our points back. So that was $80 right there. By the time we went on our trip I had about 22,500 points to redeem which cut the cost of our rental car in half. We rented a mini-van in Orlando, Florida for 10 days for $450. After we used our points, I only payed $225. Not bad!

Here are some of the best travel reward credit cards:
Barclaycard Arrival 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar
Capitol One Ventures card 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar 
Chase Sapphire Preferred 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar on dining, 1 point per dollar on all other purchase
Southwest Rapid Rewards card 25,000 bonus points, 1 point per dollar (sometimes they offer 50,000 bonus points) 

Friday, October 10, 2014

White Chocolate Snickerdoodle Blondies

This is one of my favorite desserts. I always have all of the ingredients on hand so it's super easy to throw this together when I need to make a dessert. So delicious!

Printable Recipe

White Chocolate Snickerdoodle Blondies
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3 tsps vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9x13 baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in salt, eggs, and vanilla until combined. Add flour and beat until combined. Stir in white chocolate chips. Press down evenly into prepared pan.

Mix together sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over bars. Bake for 28-33 minutes or until set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Makes 24 bars

Recipe adapted from Life as a Lofthouse

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Creamy White Chicken Chili

This is my favorite soup recipe ever! I've made this so many times and I think my whole neighborhood has tried it. This recipe also freezes well. When I make this I usually make a double batch and freeze half of it. Then I can have this delicious soup on a busy night when I don't have time to make dinner.

Printable Recipe

Creamy White Chicken Chili
1 Tbsp olive oil 
1 medium onion, chopped
2 lb chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
4 cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
32 oz. chicken broth
2 (4 oz.) cans diced green chilies
3 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups sour cream
1 cup half and half

In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil. Add chicken, beans, chicken broth, green chilies, and spices. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir in sour cream and half and half. Heat through. Serve with Fritos, if desired.

Serves 8

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to Fly for Less Money

Our family loves to go on vacation and I am always planning our next one. We usually go on vacation to states that are close to Utah and we always drive because flying can get pretty expensive, especially with 4 kids. But we recently went to Disney World and I realized that flying can actually be affordable if you know how to plan it right.

1. Finding the right fare

Flights fluctuate like crazy! The prices of flights change every day, sometimes even throughout the day. About 6 months before your trip, start checking flights and comparing prices. This way, you can figure out what the average fare is and decide how much you're willing to pay. For example, when I started looking into flights for Orlando, I decided that a good rate was about $320 but I was hoping to find flights for under $300. I was willing to pay about $320 if I hadn't found a flight 1-2 months before our trip. About 3 1/2 months before our trip, I found a flight for $270 so I booked it. I knew that the chances of finding something cheaper were pretty slim and even if I did, I was very happy with the price I got. It was well under what I was hoping to pay.

The best time to book a flight is about 3-4 months before your trip. Once you get to this point, check flights every day, or even a few times a day. A good website to check is This website checks and compares most airlines to give you the best deal. On this website is a fare calendar that will tell you the lowest roundtrip price for each day in a month. If you click on it, it will take you directly to the airline to book the flight. Some airlines, like Southwest Airlines, are not included in this search so you'll have to check those airlines separately.

2. Sign up for airfare alerts.
Before you plan your next trip, sign up for Airfare Watchdog. This is such an awesome website! You sign up for the city that you want to fly to and they'll send you email updates when the flight prices go down. I signed up for cities that I want to watch like Orlando and a few others. This is how I found our flight to Orlando for $270.

Early this summer I got an email alert for a roundtrip flight from Salt Lake to San Diego for $118 per person. We weren't planning on going on a trip but this was such a good deal and we couldn't pass it up! So my husband and I decided to go to San Diego for a weekend. It was so much fun! I also recently helped my sister-in-law find roundtrip tickets from Salt Lake to Phoenix for $98. This website really is amazing.

3. Use credit card reward points.

I strongly recommend this, but I don't think it's for everyone. If you struggle to make ends meet and you think you might not be able to pay off the balance in full, then this probably isn't the best idea for you. You don't want to go into debt just to get a cheaper flight. If you know for sure that you're going to pay the balance in full every month, then the benefits from credit cards can be awesome. My husband was a little skeptical when I suggested this. He hates credit cards and hates debt! I told him to let me try this for a few months and if I didn't pay off the balance, he could cancel the credit card. It's been a year and a half and I haven't paid a dime in interest and I've made over $2000 in travel credit!

We had the Barclaycard and I really liked this card. With this card we earned 40,000 bonus points, which was equivalent to $400, and 2 points per every dollar that we spent using the card. I used my credit card for all of my purchases and paid the balance in full each month. So when we combined our awesome flight deal and our credit card points, we only spent $800 for our family of 6 to fly to Orlando. Not bad, right?

Here are some of the best travel reward credit cards:
Barclaycard Arrival 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar
Capitol One Ventures card 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar 
Chase Sapphire Preferred 40,000 bonus points, 2 points per dollar on dining, 1 point per dollar on all other purchase
Southwest Rapid Rewards card 25,000 bonus points, 1 point per dollar (sometimes they offer 50,000 bonus points) 

Most of these cards waive the activation fee but charge a yearly fee after the first year. If you don't want to pay fees, there are other cards available but the rewards of those cards aren't as high. In my opinion, the rewards of the cards mentioned above outweigh the fees that you would pay.

4. Get creative with how you save.

Anyone can save money and there are many ways to cut back. Only you know your spending habits and how you can save. To save up for our flight, I donated plasma for a year. I'm a stay at home mom with no income of my own so this gave me such a huge sense of accomplishment to be able to pay for our flight.

Good luck planning your flight! I hope these tips help you to save money on your next trip. If you have any other tips on finding good deals on flights, leave a comment below.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chunky Twix Cookies

I'm a sucker for anything with caramel. These cookies were a huge hit with my family. So delicious!

Chunky Twix Cookies
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups coarsely chopped Twix candy bars

Preheat oven to 325. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients. Stir in twix. Roll into balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before removing from cookie sheet.

Makes about 4 dozen

Recipe adapted from Lovin' From the Oven
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