Kris Mares

Just a woman trying to love Jesus and others a little bit more…

5 Frugal Things April 21, 2016

For me, being a good steward of resources means using things us, making do with what I have and just not buying what isn’t necessary. For me, being frugal isn’t being “cheap,” but instead is about saving money where/when I can so that I can give more to others and use the resources of this earth in the kindest way possible. It’s not about “saving the earth” (although Earth Day is tomorrow and I am a bit of a tree-hugger), but it is more about ending unnecessary use of “new things” and making do with things that are already produced. I’m a fan of the “reuse” part of the 3-R’s of recycling.

So, in advance honor of Earth Day, and along with one of my favorite bloggers, The Frugal Girl, here are 5 things I’ve done this week that are frugal:

  1. Took my own bags to a store that actually has plastic bags. I mostly shop at Aldi and need to take my bags, but this week I went to another store where I typically get fewer items and use plastic bags (which I reuse for bathroom garbage). This week, I took my own cloth bags!
  2. I meal planned for the rest of the monthLately I have been just buying the same old stuff at the store and we’ve been getting burned out. So I downloaded the app, found easy recipes (mostly for the crock pot since we have sports practices/games that started up), used the grocery list feature and did my shopping! We’re set for the rest of the month and it was super easy to do! Now I won’t be tempted to just “pick something up” or wander around the store looking for “something that sounds good.”
  3. I sent recycling items with Gorilla to school for an art project. Gorilla’s class is learning about Earth Day, so we sent some items destined for recycling to be “repurposed” as art! Totally free, educational, and it reuses them before recycling!
  4. I printed on the back side of paper print mistakes. In the church office, I sometimes make printing/copying mistakes. Instead of tossing them in recycling right away, I put them in a reuse tray, then when printing drafts or something, I use those papers and eventually recycle! Saves the church money AND reuses the paper.
  5. I divided out yucca plants and used them elsewhere in the yard. I have several yucca plants that were growing “extras,” so I divided them, replanted a few in other locations and have some to give away! Good for my body, my yard and another yard too!

So, what did you do this week that has been frugal? Any plans to celebrate Earth Day? Tell me in the comments below!


Today I Dyed August 25, 2011

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 9:19 pm
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Today, I felt very much like a domestic diva! I was the queen of the castle, caring for my children while utilizing the resources I had in an efficient and effective way.

In an effort to be frugal and “use it up and wear it out,” I dyed some clothes for the first time. Professor has to wear uniforms to school and after a year of wearing the same navy shirts and shorts (mixed with red and white and khaki), the navy was faded. They all still fit (I’m expecting a growth spurt any time now), so I needed to simply freshen them up and they would be ready to go!

I wanted to use the washer dye method, but since we have a new HE washer, I wasn’t sure how I do it. Plus, the dye will stain plastic and with a plastic agitator piece in the bottom of the drum… Well, let’s just say Racer’s response was this “I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on a bid new fancy washer for you to stain it with some project.” So instead, I used the sink.

After 2 hours, 2 bottles of Rit dye, one wooden spoon and 3 trips to the washing machine, I successfully freshened the navy on 3 shirts, 7 pair of shorts, 2 pair of pants and 1 skirt (for the neighbor girl). I also tried to dye 2 white shirts, a pair of khaki pants and 4 white dish towels that were stained. Since I did those last, they didn’t quite make it to navy, but more of a purplish, indigo color. I think another round in some navy dye will do the trick though.

Now everything is washed, dried and looking great for another new school year. The Frugal Girl would be proud of my efforts today. Next time though, I think I need to remember the rubber gloves…


Yumminess from the Pantry February 12, 2011

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 6:46 am
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Menu – Mexican Cheese Casserole | How to save money and get out of debt – Living on a Dime.

I was needing to go the grocery, but didn’t have time, so I needed something that was easy and I had all the ingredients on hand. I came across the recipe linked above. With some modifications, it was perfect! I even doubled it and invited the neighbors over for dinner!!

My modifications were easy and I think added a lot. I had a bunch of tortillas frozen from a close out sale I came across last month. So I used two 9×13 pans, sprayed them with cooking spray and layered 8″ tortillas in the bottom. For the meat mixture, I used the ground turkey, green onions and cream of mushroom soup I had on hand. I spread the meat mixture on top of the tortillas. Then I added some salsa to give the dish a little bit of a bite. Then I added shredded cheese. Next was another layer of tortillas and then I added some tomato sauce and more shredded cheese! It was super yummy!!!

I served the casserole with the Cinnamon tortilla Crisps linked above and a salad the neighbors brought. The food was good, the conversation was fabulous (and loud – lots of kids around) and I didn’t have to go out and buy anything. I love being able to “scrape something together” from what I have on hand.

What’s your favorite “from the pantry” pull-together dish? Cheap, easy and on hand are my favorites!


Homemade Laundry Detergent February 5, 2011

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 9:23 am
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Homemade Laundry Detergent – Simple, Easy, Fast, & Effective.

In my quest to live more frugally, simply and environmentally friendly, I decided to try my hand at making my own laundry soap. With as much laundry as I do, anything that’ll cut that cost down is wonderful. I used the “recipe” linked above because it really was fast and easy. Effective, well, I’d have to try it first.

I also saved more money that the article/recipe says. Since Racer stays in a LOT of hotels, he’s always bringing home the hotel shampoo, soap, lotion, etc. The lotions are great for the car, diaper bag and purse. The shampoos we use when we travel. The soaps I’ve had a harder time figuring out a use for. Not any more! Instead of using a regular bar of soap (4.5 oz), I used some soap slivers we had in the tub and shower (need a good use for those too) and added in some hotel size soaps too. I just guesstimated the amount so it looked about the same size as a regular size bar of soap.

I also used my food processor. I put the soap in first with the blade attachment and turned it on for about a minute. Then I added the Borax and Washing Powder and turned it on for another minute. I stored my double batch in mason jars.

When I washed my first load, I did use 2 tablespoons full. Since we have kids and Racer’s work clothes, I usually use the amount for “heavily soiled clothes” anyway. We get our clothes pretty dirty. So I washed and dried and the clothes came out looking no different that normal! I’ll use up this batch and probably will keep going. Since I use “hotel soap” and the little soap slivers from the shower, I feel like I’m being even more frugal. All I have to buy is the Borax and Washing Powder!

This recipe is a keeper! Try it and see what you think.


Coke Sale at Food Lion January 22, 2011

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 1:29 pm
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This is really a random post, but since I try to pass my bargains on to others, I’m sharing this deal. It’s a huge deal since Racer is such a big Coke drinker.

Right now at Food Lion, there is a deal on Coke and Kraft products.  Buy 5 Coke or Kraft products, use your MVP card and get an automatic $5 off at the register. Coke 12-packs are on sale for $3 each. Buy 5 of them for $15, get the $5 off at the register and you end up with Coke for about $0.17 a can. Not too bad. If you recycle, you could even recoup some of that cost. 2-litres are also on sale – 4 for $5 – so if you buy 5 of them, you’d only pay $1.25 for the five bottles. 

Since you have to use your MVP card, I think you can only get the deal one time per day. Good news is though, the sale runs through the 25th, so we have a few more days to stock up!

I hope you can find a good Coke deal near you!


Apple Cranberry Bread December 11, 2010

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 4:43 pm
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A couple of Wednesdays ago, The Frugal Girl posted her baking adventure making cranberry bread.  I wondered at the time if it would be any good or not, but I wasn’t willing to buy cranberries just to try it out. 

Well, I bought cranberries.  Bags of whole cranberries were on sale, so I figured “Why not?”  I put them in the cart still wondering if anyone would eat the bread.  I decided I just wouldn’t tell them the red parts were cranberries…

So here is The Frugal Girl’s recipe – Cranberry Bread.  I realized that I didn’t have any orange juice, so I substituted 100% apple juice (hence the Apple Cranberry Bread title).  I actually quadrupled the recipe and made 3 larger loaves.  I ended up baking them for 55 minutes.

After I let them cool a bit, I wrapped one up to put in the freezer for later.  Then I tried it – I cut a slice and took a bite.

By golly the bread was good!  I can see how the orange juice would give the bread a little more of a tangy flavor, but the apple juice was a great substitute.  We’ll have it with my thrown together what we have beef stew tonight at dinner.

The other loaf I have is going home with our neighbor girl who is over here playing.  I hope they like it!  And I hope you like the bread too.  Try it and let me know what substitutes you made to make the bread work for you.


Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix December 9, 2010

I love hot chocolate.  I really do.  I drink it all year-long, but during the colder months, one of my favorite things is a cup of hot cocoa with a candy cane in it.  And I make my own mix.  I make it for myself, as gifts and just to share with friends.  There are a lot of different recipes (simply search and you’ll find them), but the one I tend to like best is from a little gift book my mother-in-law got me several years ago for Christmas.  Here is the recipe found in The Twelve Blessings of Christmas by T.J. Mills.

  • 10 c. non-fat dry milk powder
  • 3 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 lb bag of powdered sugar
  • 4 c. non-dairy creamer

Just combine all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container.  To make your hot chocolate, just mix 1/3 cup of the mix with boiling water. 

I also like to make what my friends call a “redneck mocha.”  Instead of using hot water to mix the cocoa, just use brewed coffee instead.  If you want to make a mocha mix (using hot water), simply add 3 c instant coffee to the dry mix.  For an extra Christmas touch, add a candy cane as your stir stick to either “concoction.”  Be forewarned, the cups usually need an extra rinsing before the dishwasher.

Now it’s time for you to mix up a batch and let me know how you like it!  Enjoy!!


Lovely Baby Shower November 15, 2010

A couple of days ago, I was the recipient of a lovely baby shower.  The church my family attends was the host.  When I was asked if they could throw a shower for us, I was really surprised!  It’s our 5th child, we have sooooo much we’ve saved and we have only been attending for about 2 1/2 months!  Such unusual circumstances for a shower; at least that’s my thoughts on it.  Surprised as I was, I said yes, because the church is so excited to have a new baby in their midst!  At the shower, I found out they haven’t hosted a baby shower in about 6 or 7 years – so they are REALLY excited.  Far be it from me to deny them that joy…

When I was asked for what we might need, I was kind of stumped.  I just answered “consumable kinds of things” but was asked for a list of stuff.  As I created my list, I thought of all the stuff we had and what new babies really need.  I’ve learned to be pretty frugal over the last couple of years – especially over this last year.  I’m still learning and have a lot of things to still learn.  New moms sooooo over guess what they need for the first baby and end up with a lot of stuff that isn’t really necessary or that they hardly ever use.  Since we had the major stuff (crib, sheets, blankets, car seat, stroller, toys, gender neutral clothes, gender specific clothes) this was the list I gave:

  • Diapers up to size 2
  • Wipes
  • 4 and 8 oz drop-in bottle liners
  • Baby wash, lotion, powder
  • Diaper rash ointment
  • Bibs
  • Socks
  • White plastic child size hangers, with and without pant clips
  • Diaper Genie refills
  • Flat changing pads
  • Advent bottle nipples, larger size, stage 1/slow
  • Baby bathtub

We had bottles, but the nipples were well used after 2 babies and thus some new were needed.  I’m fond of bottles w/drop in liners because you need far less bottles, the collapsible liner minimizes the air baby takes in and they are far easier to clean up.  I do plan to breastfeed, but I’m not sure how long, so we do have bottles on hand.  As for the Diaper Genie, I have found that using a plastic grocery bag works just fine to wrap a dirty diaper in and toss in the regular garbage, but Racer likes to use the Diaper Genie, so we have one.  Since I’m the one home most often, one DG refill lasts us a pretty long time.  With the changing pads, we have a washable one that I usually have on the changing table, but having a package of the disposable kind is handy for when the other is in the wash.  We do use the disposable ones until they are dirty.  We did get one package of socks; add that to the few we have still and that’s plenty for a newborn.  I prefer pants/rompers with feet in them anyway because baby ALWAYS kicks off socks and they get lost anyway.  But we do have some outfits that don’t have feet in them, thus socks are necessary.  I just don’t like matching socks…  We did get a few bibs and that will be plenty.  I did have to toss after Gorilla was done with them – 2 babies w/milk stains was just too much for them.  Some stayed good and with the new ones, we’re set.  We did get diapers, wipes and a few items not on the list too.  A beautiful baby photo frame was a great gift that we “needed” for the precious first picture.

I say all this for those new mom’s that might be out there looking to register or for those of you that will buy baby gifts in the future.  Please be practical.  I once asked a friend and seasoned mom to list her “must haves” for a new baby.  Her response?  “Boobs, blankets and diapers.”  Minimal is best at first until you know baby’s size, how you’ll really function day-to-day and what you actually might use.  Too many new mom’s get newborn and 0-3 month clothes.  I will never again buy those sizes for a baby gift.  If I do, it will be something like a sleep sack that is 0-6 months.  But really, there isn’t much need to register for small sizes for outfits and such.  And, if there is a plan to have more than one child, I highly recommend registering for gender neutral stuff.  Then you have it ready for the next baby.  No real need for baby towels or wash cloths – regular ones work just fine.  New babies don’t take that many baths anyway.  Diapers and wipes?  Go for the big refill wipes box over the individual boxes.  And don’t be afraid to buy the store brand.  Often store brand diapers are 1/2 the cost of name brand diapers.  I find that they generally work the same and at the cost and amount gone through right at first, quantity is important. 

The shower had for me on Saturday was small and simple.  Minimal decorations, no games (yeah!  I think most are silly), a simple cake and snacks and punch.  What was a blessing to me was that in our new home – away from all our family and close friends – we had people who wanted to celebrate with us!  God used our new church family to provide for the basic needs of the baby, but he also provided people to help us celebrate.  I missed having family and good friends there, but I know that this baby will be loved by a new church family just as out other children were loved by our “old” church family. 

I’ve seen feelings get hurt over baby showers, people get bent out of shape by “having” to host one, and moms-to-be get stressed out over guest lists.  Really, in the end, it is about celebrating a new life – a gift from God – and helping a family provide for the initial needs of a newborn (a sometimes overwhelming prospect).

So, for those of you planning a baby shower, registering for a baby shower, trying to be frugal while having a baby or just helping celebrate a new life, think minimal, practical and CELEBRATE!

P.S.  Don’t overlook “non baby” things like gift cards to local take-out restaraunts for the first few weeks mom and baby are home or gas cards for dad’s trips to/from the hospital.


Swagbucks October 7, 2010

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 6:48 am
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So, I do Swagbucks.  It’s a really easy way for me to earn some free stuff.  I choose to earn the gift cards, but there are A LOT of things to choose from.  Some people have asked me what Swagbucks are.  Here’s my take on it.

Swagbucks is a search engine that randomly awards “swagbucks” to you for doing online searches. There are also daily ways that you can win sb’s – taking a daily poll, downloading and using the SB toolbar, clicking through (but not filling out) that day’s “no obligation special offers” and checking to see if you have any eligible surveys. Taking the eligible surveys can also award you swagbucks.

Some people really go all out trying to win swagbucks (the points awarded). I don’t. I do the daily things (takes about 1 minute) and then go about my day like normal.  I have Swagbucks set as my home page and I have downloaded the toolbar.  When I want to go to my “regular sites” like email, Facebook, message boards, blogs, etc., instead of typing in the address or using favorites, I just type the site name into the SB search box.  Everyday I earn sb’s for at least one, usually 2, of those sites. If I’m doing a search on something, I don’t use google, I use the SB search box. I try to make it easy.  We also have four people using the same computer, so I have also asked my family to use the SB’s search box instead of going to another search engine.  Sometimes they let me know that they to have gotten “some of those bucks things.”

I also check in for surveys that I can take.  Those are totally hit or miss and sometimes you start one and get kicked off.  No biggie.  People who are REALLY into Swagbucks go all out in doing the special offers and such.  I’ve done a few, but for the most part, I’m not interested in signing up for stuff, earning the sb’s and then cancelling.  I don’t have that kind of time or brain power to keep up with doing something like that.

You can also connect Swagbucks to your social media account like Facebook.  On occasion, you will see a special “code” that can be entered onto the homepage for additional sb’s.  The codes are hit or miss too as they do have a time frame.  Some people do a really great job of hunting for these codes.  Me, if I get one I get one; if not, no big deal.  I do appreciate a good code, but I’m not going to spend all day searching for them. 

So as you earn sb’s you’ll see the number accumulate in your toolbar.  You can use those sb’s toward any of the items in the Swag Store.  When you have 450 sb’s, you can “cash them in” for a $5 gift card. It’ll take a week or so to be delivered via email.  You then just load the gift card # into your Amazon account and your ready to go!  This is what I prefer to do as I can then use what I “earned,” toward all kinds of stuff.

If you decide to join, and use my referral link  (please), I will also earn the first 1000 sb’s that you earn. That helps me out. If you have people join under you, you get to earn the first 1000 sb’s they earn. It helps accumulate sb’s faster.  Some people go crazy trying to get referrals as it does help you earn more faster.  I’m trying to be upfront about this to you so you know that you are not just earning for yourself, but also for the person who “referred” you.  Here is my link if you would like to use it – Kris’s referral link.

So, that’s my take on Swagbucks.  Thus far, since the summer, I’ve earned about $40.  Not a ton as I know people who earn that amount in one month.  For me though, it’s “free” money that I’m not doing a lot to earn.  I just search like normal.  The big thing is remembering to stay logged into the SB toolbar and using Swagbucks as your search engine. 

Let me know – do you do Swagbucks?  If so, what works for you?  Enjoy your swagging!


My Attempt at Homemade Yogurt October 5, 2010

Filed under: Frugal living — Kris @ 12:09 pm
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My kids and I really like yogurt.  We like flavored yogurt the best, with vanilla and strawberry as top universal flavors.  I’m getting tired of buying it though, because I don’t buy it unless it’s on sale and I have a great coupon too.  The hassle of watching the sale/finding the coupon is getting too much for me right now, so when I read The Frugal Girl’s post about making yogurt I thought I’d give it a try.

So, on Saturday, I tried.  Here’s the recipe from The Frugal Girls’s blog – How to Make Homemade Yogurt.  Blue helped me that day (reluctantly) since I wasn’t sure this baby belly would allow me to lift and pour pots and hold jars and get the cooler out of the barn/shed, etc.  So during nap time, we went to work.

I did boil/sterilize my jars and next time I will have 5 jars ready.  There was a lot of temperature watching.  I think since it was my first time making it, I was overly watchful of the temps.  They are important, but I wasn’t sure how fast the milk and water would reach the temperatures necessary.  We did make the vanilla yogurt (using a vanilla flavored “starter”) and I would suggest adding the full amount suggested, if not a little more. 

The biggest hassle was the pouring.  I forgot about the suggestion to pour from the pot into a pitcher and THEN into the jars.  Pouring from the pot into the jars was a mess – I spilled everywhere!  Had I not made such a mess, I think I would’ve needed a 5th jar anyway, so I guess it all worked out.  I just hated to have had the waste I did. 

After waiting the 3 hours and putting the jars in the refrigerator, we tried some with dinner.  It was still warm and a little too runny, so not the best.  After curing in the refrigerator for a day, the yogurt was MUCH better.  Sorry, I just don’t like warm yogurt.  The vanilla taste was slight, but there.  Today I had some with granola in it – YUMMY!  I also bought frozen strawberries at the grocery, so smoothies are on the menu at some point.

Overall, will I make it again?  I think so.  I want to try to up the vanilla flavor, use a pitcher to pour into the jars and heat the milk up a little higher then cool it a little lower.  I think the heating/cooling will help make it a little thicker.  After reading some of the comment and suggestions from other Frugal Girl readers, I also think I’ll use a different brand of starter. 

It is WAY cheaper to make it than buy it (especially since I used a gallon of milk purchased with WIC vouchers).  The taste is good, the time is no different for me that what I took to search for sale/coupon combinations to make it reasonably priced anyway.  Occasionally, I would catch a deal that made the yogurt free at the store, but my new grocery doesn’t double coupons, so those “free yogurt days” are gone. 

I shared about my yogurt adventure – your turn!  Have you ever attempted homemade yogurt?  If you have, what was your experience like?  If not, try it and tell me about your experience!


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