“Sneaky” Ways To Make Money With Your Credit Card

Let me start this frugal tip of with a note of caution. Using credit cards can be risky. The tips I’m going to share with you will only work for you if you’re very disciplined about your purchases and make sure you can pay off your balance at the end of each and every month. Even a little slip here and there that causes you to carry a balance will eat up all the money you’re making in the form of interest (and then some).

Early on in our marriage, we went through some lean times and ran up quite the credit card bill. Through some extra work, cutting back to the bare essentials and living as frugally as we possibly could, we were able to pay all that debt off in less than a year. After that we didn’t use credit cards for a while. We kept one around for emergencies, but never had a balance on it. While we didn’t stick it in the freezer, we didn’t carry it around with us either.

A year or so later, we slowly started using a credit card for online purchases. It just seemed safer at the time. The card we used also gave us a nice little cash back bonus if we paid it off in time. Which brings us to my first tip…

Use A Card That Will Give You Cash Back 

Check with your credit card company or look for a new one with a good cash back offer. Be sure to read all the fine print to make sure there are no annual fees that will eat up your cash back reward.

Next start using your card strategically. If you get the most rewards from grocery purchases, start putting that on your credit card. If it’s on gas … you guessed it, use your card at the gas pump.

As I mentioned earlier, I also like using my credit card for online purchases because it’s easier to get your money back if something goes wrong.

Saving money by using your credit cardUse A Card With Points 

Another option and one we use quite a bit right now is to use a card that gives you points for your purchases. Ours gives us points for anything we put on the credit card and provided we pay the balance in time, we get the points. As a result, most of our purchases are made with the card, from groceries and gas to utility bills and the likes. If we can pay for it with a credit card, we’re doing that.

About once every 3 to 6 months we have enough points accumulated to cash them in.

Now here’s the important part – Don’t be tempted to get that cute weekend travel bag or the shiny toaster. Instead look for gift cards to stores you’re using quite a bit. We end up with $100 gift cards to Home Depot or Walmart on a regular basis. I get groceries at Walmart and the Home Depot ones are used for projects to do around the house. Amazon gift cards are another nice option. Save them up and do your Christmas Shopping there in December.

Whatever you do, make sure you use those cards for something you would be buying anyway.

Get Creative

Of course those aren’t your only options. If you get a little creative, you can come up with all sorts of other little ways to make or save a little money here and here by using a credit card. You can sometimes get a better deal on a service or product if you put it on autobill with your card. We even save a little on our utility bills by using the credit card payment option. No need for them to send us a bill, which results in a little credit each month, and no need for us to mail in a check (and pay for postage). It may not seem like much, but do that with every utility bill every month and those savings will add up. (Do be sure to check your online statements each month though to make sure nothing is going amiss).

Here’s another creative idea. Douglas Clinton figured out a way to pay for his Netflix account and even make a little extra each month by strategically using a Credit Card. Read how he’s getting Netflix for free here. It wouldn’t take long to implement and for us having Netflix makes it easy to live without Cable TV.

Now It’s Your Turn

I’m sure you have some other great ideas on how you’re currently using your cards smartly and frugally. I’d love to have you share your favorite tip in the comments below. I can’t wait to read your ideas and strategies (and implement them myself).

Frugal Back To School Shopping

It’s that time of year again… summer is almost over and the kids are heading back to school. That of course means back to school shopping. Or does it? I’m here with a couple of frugal strategies that will save you big.

Looking at the news, magazines and what everyone is doing, you get the impression that kids need new backpacks, lunch boxes and an entire new wardrobe to start school. And don’t even get me started on the 2 page list supplies the school district sends out (also conveniently provided by your major discount and office supply stores).

If you’re ready to get your child back to school on a dime, follow the strategies below in the order I share them. When in doubt, don’t buy right away.

Start With What You Have

Which brings us to my first point. Start with what you already have. Get out your child’s bag from last year along with any binders, lunch box, pencils, pens, barely used notebooks etc. Take stock of what you already have and cross that off your list of things to buy.

Look outside your kid’s room too. For example, this past year my daughter started taking a messenger bag to school that I had sitting in the closet leftover from my college days. It’s still in good shape and she’ll continue to use it this year. The same goes for her lunch box.

Frugal Back to School ShoppingLook through your own stash of office supplies, pens and pencils and see what can be repurposed for school this year.

Last but not least, there’s no need to buy an entire new wardrobe. This is however a good time to go through the closet and see what fits, what doesn’t and what’s appropriate for school. For the next few weeks it should still be warm enough for summer clothes. We usually start buying what’s needed in the fall, or wait and get new jeans, long sleeve shirts and the likes as part of Christmas.

If you have older kids, don’t forget to look in their closets to see what can be passed down to younger siblings. Putting off cloth shopping even or a month or two can help not blow your budget in the weeks before school starts. It also gives you a little extra time to shop around for great deals, or pick up something at a thrift shop or yard sale that fits your kids.

Do They Really Need That?

Next look through the list of school supplies and find out if they really need everything on that list. I used to buy everything suggested during summer break, only to find out once school started that the teacher didn’t use all 5 binders and prefered a couple of different style notebooks instead. We know pick up what we know they’ll need early, and hold off on everything else until we talk to teachers.

Also, don’t feel obligated to buy classroom supplies right away. Teachers have more than enough hand sanitizer, copy paper and the likes at the beginning of the year. Instead, make a note to check after Christmas and see if there’s anything else needed. Again, this gives you a little extra time to save up and budget and keeps you from buying things the kids don’t even need.

This is also a great time to have a conversation with your kids about what’s truly important. Hint – those designer sneakers that “EVERYBODY” has aren’t it.

Buying What You Need The Smart Way

Now that you have a pretty good grasp on what you actually need to get it’s time to start shopping around. Save the circulars and look for loss leaders. These are ridiculously cheap items stores offer to get you in the door. The hope is that you’ll also buy whatever else is on your list there instead of shopping around and driving to multiple stores.

Office supply stores will often have 2 or 3 basic items super cheap. I was able to find pencils and notebook paper for a penny. Drug stores on the other hand tend to have great deals on things like backpacks and notebooks or binders. Find those amazing deals, stick to just those few items and plan to get to the store early before they sell out.

Don’t forget to check online for things too. We’ve gotten some great deals on lunch box containers, water bottles, bags and the likes on places like Amazon.

Planning Meals Day By Day

I just got back from a short trip to Germany. I love how traveling to a different country gives me a fresh perspective on how I’m doing things here in the States.

Today I want to talk to you about meal planning and grocery shopping. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that I’m a big fan of meal planning. I like to sit down on Sunday night and plan out our meals for the week. Monday is my grocery shopping day, and I try to buy everything I’ll need in that one trip. It’s been a big time saver and has helped me manage how much I’m spending on groceries in a given week.

With that said, I got a chance to do things a little differently while I was in Germany last week and there were some things I liked about more frequent, quick shopping tips. Of course there were some pitfalls and I’ll be sure to point those out as well.

Sometime during the day we would decide what we wanted for dinner. With plenty of veggies and salads from the garden and a well stocked pantry, it was usually a matter of picking up some sort of meat and maybe a fresh loaf of bread. Since we were out and about most days, it was easy to pop into the grocery store to pick up 2 or 3 things on the way home.

Since we often didn’t know who would join us for dinner and when we’d end up going out to eat, it worked out really well. This could also be perfect during summer break when you’re not in your usual routine and traveling some days. Or when you have company over and play things a little more by ear than usual.

How To Shop For What You Need (Almost) DailyLet’s talk about what it takes to make this spontaneous day-to-day cooking work.

You’ll Need A Well Stocked Pantry 

You don’t want to have to pick up a bunch of pantry staples or worry about what you’re fixing with your main dish. Having a garden to provide lots of fresh produce helps as well, but isn’t essential.

Make sure your pantry is stocked with rice, pasta, potatoes, flour, spices and anything else you may need. Having some canned tomatoes, canned veggies and the likes is helpful too. As we talk about recipes in the next section, you’ll get a better idea of what you need to keep your pantry stocked with. Make note of non-perishables and plan to stock up on what you need over the coming weeks.

You’ll Need A Few Simple Dishes / Recipes 

Coming up with meals or dinner ideas on the fly while you’re out and about is so much easier when you have a couple of “go-to”dishes that you know by heart. Let’s stay one of them is Spaghetti with meat sauce. You know you’ll need the pasta, a jar of tomato sauce, some ground beef and parmesan cheese. Keep the pasta, sauce and cheese stocked. All you need from the store is some fresh ground beef and maybe a garlic bread, some fresh tomatoes or a head of lettuce to go with it.

Come up with a list of 4 or 5 simple dishes like that that you can shop for and cook without having to look them up. Make sure you have all pantry items you need to make them on hand.

You’ll Need To Be Flexible 

Last but not least be prepared to be flexible. There will be times when you head to the store and they’ll be out of the one fresh ingredient you need. Or maybe you’ll find that a different cut or type of meat is on sale. For example, earlier this week I wanted to make barbecued pork chops and serve them with oven roasted potatoes. When I got to the store, boneless, skinless chicken thighs were on sale. I grabbed those instead and made rice instead of the potatoes. Having both rice and potatoes in the pantry and barbecue sauce in the fridge made it easy to switch things around.

Give this a try during busy summer days when you’re not quite sure when and if you’ll be home for dinner. Stock your pantry and stop at the store for anything fresh you need.

I do still have my regular  shopping trip to stock up on pantry items, staples such as bread, milk, eggs and anything else we might need (toiletries, cleaning products etc.).

One note of warning when you give this a try. Make it a point to be quick and get just what you need at the store. Head to the meat counter to pick up your ground beef, grab a head of lettuce from the produce section and head back out. Don’t give into the temptation to grab a couple of extra things because they look good, or you might need them later on. Those extra purchases can make this whole daily meal planning an expensive proposition.


My Best Tips For Using Garden Fresh Tomatoes

I thought I’d share a few simple tips with you for storing, cutting, peeling and deseeding tomatoes. These will come in handy when you are blessed with an abundance of garden fresh tomatoes (like we are right now). These tips will come in handy if you grow your own, or get a big basket of tomatoes from a kind neighbor, or just come across a deal at the farmers market or store that’s just too good to pass up.

Before you can put those tomatoes to good use in pasta sauce, soup, or even tomato pie, you need to know how to properly store and prepare them for cooking.

How To Store Tomatoes

The best place to store tomatoes is right on your kitchen counter. Avoid direct sunlight though. You can also keep unripe tomatoes on the counter for a few days to allow them to finish ripening.

If you need to speed things up, stick them in a brown paper bag with a banana. Bananas release ethylene that will help speed the ripening along. Tomatoes release their own, which is what allows them to continue ripening after they are picked.

If you want to slow things down and need a few more days before using your tomatoes, store them in a cool, dry and dark place like a cellar or cupboard.

Do not store your tomatoes in the fridge. The temperature difference is too big and will cause your tomatoes to turn mealy. Stick with room temperature or slightly below to store your tomatoes.

Tips for Using and Storing TomatoesHow To Remove The Skin From Tomatoes

There are lots of recipes out there that call for skinned tomatoes. Here’s the easiest way I know to get the skin to peel off.

Get out a large pot and bring water to a boil in it. Clean any lose dirt off your tomatoes and cut a small x in the top of each tomato.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Keep extra ice handy to add in case the water starts to warm up. If you’re only peeling a few tomatoes, that shouldn’t be needed, but if you’re working with a big batch, it will come in handy.

Gently set a few tomatoes at a time into the boiling water. Let them cook for up to a minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set them in the bowl of ice water.

When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin starting at the spot where you cut the “X”. You’ll notice the skin starts to peel back and loosen after the tomatoes hit the ice water.

How To Deseed Tomatoes

The best time to deseed tomatoes that you are peeling is right after you follow the instructions above. Once the skin is off, cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds.

If you are using fresh tomatoes and plan to keep the skin on, you can quarter them and use a knife or spoon to scoop out the seeds.

If you plan on using whole tomatoes (to fill them), cut off the bottom and then use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Make sure the core is all the way out before trying to scoop out the seeds.

How To Cut Tomatoes

The key to cutting tomatoes is to use a very sharp knife. If you are slicing them, a serrated knife (like your bread cutting knife) works best. Lay the tomato on its side. You’ll start slicing at the very top of the tomato, ending down at the core. Discard the last slice or two that have the core in them, or cut away the tomato flesh and use it for chopped tomato recipes. (Of course you can always sprinkle on some salt and eat it, too). Tomato slices are usually meant to be about 1/4 of an inch thick when called for in recipes.

To chop or dice tomatoes, cut them in half length-wise using a paring knife. Cut each tomato half again, creating quarters. Cut out the core and seeds of each tomato quarter.

Lay the tomato pieces skin side down on a cutting board and cut them into strips. Rotate your strips and cut into cubes.

How To Freeze Tomatoes

My favorite way to freeze tomatoes is already prepared as tomato sauce, tomato soup or stewed tomatoes. Just use the recipes below and freeze any leftovers.

You can however freeze your tomatoes without cooking them using the following method:

Peel and deseed your tomatoes using the instructions above.

Squeeze out any excess water and put the tomato pieces in a freezer bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible and freeze for up to a year.

Thaw your tomatoes overnight in the fridge and use in your favorite recipes.

Speed Up Your Grilling – 5 Tips For A Faster Meal

Grilling can sometimes be a bit of a process. From marinating your food, to waiting for the grill to heat up, and standing there watching and turning, turning and watching, it can be sort of tedious.  But, only if you let it be.

If there was a way to speed up the process, wouldn’t you jump all over it like a sizzling steak? Sure you would. Well, here are five tips for quicker grill meals that will get you from start to finish faster, and with very tasty results.

Plan Ahead Marinade

If you know you’re going to marinate your food, prepare the marinade the day before, or even earlier.  Allowing the food to marinade while you are sleeping or at work is a nice time saver.  This long marinating time won’t work for everything, but when you can do it, like for hearty foods like chicken, or for lighter marinades, go ahead and give it a try.  It’s a great time saver.

Even if you don’t want your food to actually sit in the marinade more than an hour or so, you can have a bowl prepared in the refrigerator so when the time comes, you pull it out, plop in the food, stir it up, and it’s ready to do its magic.

The Right Temp is Room Temp

Pulling a piece of meat out of the refrigerator and slapping it down on a hot grill is just asking for problems. When a piece of meat is cold throughout, two things happen.  The meat will cook faster on the outside than on the inside, resulting in an over-charred piece of meat that surprises you with a terribly under-cooked inside. This also results in a tough chewy meat. The fibers of that ice cold meat actually seize up when confronted with the heat. You want your meat’s fibers relaxed when they hit the flame, so they can ease into the idea of being turned into your dinner, happily turning juicy and tender for you.

Whatever you are grilling, whether it is beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or even vegetables and fruit, let them come to room temperature before you begin to grill. A quick tip here is to take it out of the fridge at the least an hour or two before you plan to cook it, or just let it marinate on the counter at room temperature to begin with. It’s really a misconception that food can’t stand a little time out of the refrigerator before spoiling.  Letting the food come to room temperature will help speed up the cooking time, keep your product evenly cooked, and ensure that you get the tender juicy results you want.

5 Tips To Speed Up Your Grilling TimePint Size Helpings

Chicken parts, meat parts, fish fillets, and more can usually stand a bit of portion reduction.  If you have an hour and a half, you can rotisserie cook a whole chicken.  But, you can throw on chicken cutlets and they’ll be done in minutes.  If you’re in a hurry, look at your ingredients and ask yourself if they can be cut in half, made thinner, or diced.

This is more than about just cutting a piece of meat in half, it’s about getting crafty with your cooking.  One inch squares of pork on skewers will make a faster dinner than a pork roast.  Potato wedges cook faster than whole potatoes.  If you want your salmon to cook in ten minutes rather than 30 minutes, cut that whole fillet into four pieces.  Think tapa size dishes on the grill for a shorter time from grill to table.

Flip Your Lid

There are very few meals that should be made on a grill with the lid off. When you have the grill uncovered, the outside air cools the food and actually slows down the cooking time. Yes, even on hot days. Because if you think about it, most of your grilling is done at roughly 300 to 400 degrees, so even a 90 degree day is cooler than the food needs to cook.

By keeping your lid lowered, your grill acts more like an oven so that your food cooks thoroughly inside as well as getting that nice grilling on the outside. Read your owner’s manual for your grill and you’ll find instructions and recipes for grilling particular foods.  Follow these instructions, close the cover, and you’ll find your meal is done perfectly every time, and on time, too!

Divide and Conquer

Your grill has sections that are hot, and sections that are not so hot.  It just makes sense when you are trying to gain a few minutes on the grill to use those different temperatures wisely. While gas grills heat in the same pattern, you still need to know what that pattern is. Charcoal grills are a different matter; you create your own patterns of hotter and cooler areas by arranging the charcoal.

Either way, you have to think about how you are going to arrange your food. Thinking about cooking on the various heat to best suit your food can speed up your cooking time. For instance, placing the meat on the hot section first to get a good sear, then moving it to indirect heat, frees up your hot section for more searing, such as to give your foil packets of veggies a good start. Then move those off to a cooler area to continue ‘roasting’ and use the hot spot again to give those pineapple slices some nice grill marks.  As you move the food around, everything finishes cooking at the same time and as quickly as possible.  Utilize all the areas of your grill to maximize the efficiency rather than moving food on and off the grill, cooking one food at a time.

Learning these few little methods to speed up your cooking time will make grilling much more enjoyable.  If you think of the process as long, tedious, and tiresome, chances are you won’t be lighting your grill any time soon.  Make friends with your grill again.  But do it fast!


bbq-flat-cover-1000Grilling Basics To Grilling Greatness 

During the hot summer months, it’s no fun being stuck in the kitchen cooking while everyone else is enjoying the great outdoors. The solution … grill your food outside on a gas or charcoal grill. It’ll taste great, is a healthy way to prepare your food and will keep your kitchen from heating up.

Even if you’re new to grilling and have never lit a grill, this book’s for you. You’ll find plenty of tips, information and of course lots of yummy recipes. Click here to order your copy right now and you’ll be ready to grill all summer long.



Cooking for a Crowd on a Tight Budget

A couple of days ago, I received a private Facebook message from a Hillbilly Housewife reader. She asked me for some suggestions on what she could cook for her church youth group on a tight budget. I gave her a few ideas, but knew that the HBHW community would come up with some things I hadn’t even thought of… sure enough, they didn’t disappoint.

Reader question about cooking for 12 people on a budget

We’ll get into specific suggestions on what to cook in just a bit. First though I wanted to share a great suggestion from one of the comments. The basic idea is to ask for help. You don’t have to cook for a crowd on your own. No matter if you’re organizing a church supper, or if you’re having a big gathering for a family reunion, birthday or the likes. It is perfectly fine to ask people for help.

Make It A Potluck

You can approach this idea in two different ways. You can take care of the main dish or entree and ask everyone to bring complimenting dishes (assign them if you’d like by asking a few people to bring sides that will go well with your main entree, a salad, a dessert etc.). The second option is to ask everyone what they would be willing to make and bring and just make what you feel is missing.

There are a couple of reasons why I love the potluck ideas. Obviously it is the most frugal option, but also saves you a lot of time in the kitchen. I also like the fact that you end up with a greater variety of food, making it more likely that everyone finds something they like.

But it goes further than that. By allowing people to contribute and bring their favorite dishes, you make them part of the celebration. If you’re feeling a bit embarrassed about “having to ask for help” (which it really isn’t), think back to some times when you’ve been asked if you could bring your famous macaroni salad or apple pie. Did you mind? Did you think the person asking was being cheap or lazy? Nope… You probably felt proud and honored to be asked to contribute to the meal.

Great Frugal Dishes To Cook For A Crowd Great tips for cooking for a crowd on a budget.

Start with some filling but inexpensive appetizers. A platter of deviled eggs is always a crowd pleaser, as are chips and dips. Buy a bag or two of store brand potato chips and make a batch of homemade ranch dip.

Homemade Ranch Mix 

From the Homemade Mixes Kindle Cookbook.

  • 1/4 cup dried parsley leaf
  • 1 tbsp. dried dill leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil leaf
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined. Store in an airtight container.

For homemade ranch dip, stir 1 tbsp (or to taste) into a 16 oz container of sour cream. Keep in the fridge for at least one hour or until you’re ready to serve it.

Main Dish Ideas

My biggest piece of advice here is to use meat as a flavoring instead of main ingredient. Instead focus on some starchy main ingredients like pasta, rice or even tortillas and beans.

Side Dishes

With all-in one meal ideas like above, you won’t need much when it comes to sides. I suggest sticking with some garlic bread and a side salad if you feel the need to add some side dishes.


When it comes to drinks, keep things simple. Buying a bunch of soda or even juice can add up quickly. Instead I suggest you stick to one of the options below. They have the added benefit of not being nearly as bad for you as soda is.

  • Water
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Koolaid


It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to dessert. Most of the time, people just want a little something after a big main meal. Pick something from the list below and make it from scratch or use your own favorite dessert recipe. Of course the simplest option is to ask someone else to take care of dessert.

  • Cake
  • Cupcakes
  • Brownies
  • Cookies
  • Pie

Ready For More Great Recipes?

Homemade Convenience Cookbook:

Make even more convenience foods right at home! You’ll save money, control ingredients, and avoid expensive “fast foods” when you start making your own favorite convenience foods. Click on here to find out about our informative resource Homemade Convenience Foods – and dig into over 200 recipes for handy convenience foods you can make at home.

Eliminate those prepackaged foods from your pantry, eat healthier and cheaper while still cooking fast. Order your copy today!



Tips for Grilling Moist Meats

This is a guest post by Christine Steendahl from AuthenticMoms.com Spring is here!

One of the first things I think about when spring appears is “time to grill”! I love a grilled meal and we just don’t grill in the winter. I know you can, but something about heading outside in our Illinois sub-freezing temperatures just is not appealing to me or my grill-master hubby. So at our house grilling is reserved for the spring, summer and early fall months. By the time spring rolls around I am beyond ready to fire up the grill! Most everyone likes to cook outdoors on a grill, especially when it’s just too hot to cook in the kitchen. However meat cooked in the hot dry environment of a grill, will often dry out if precautions are not taken. No one enjoys a dry tough piece of meat. Here are a few tips to help create a tender, juicy, meal. First, purchase the right meat. Do not use tiny pieces that will fall through the grates (although kabobs work great for this!). Also look for cuts that are uniform in thickness. Finally make sure your meat is fully defrosted before placing it on the grill. Some great choices for grilling include steak, chicken breasts, chicken legs, pork chops, hamburger patties, or fish fillets. Second, be sure to get the grill hot before adding any meat. Lock in flavor by keeping the grill closed as much as possible. Grilling with the lid up is similar to grilling on a camp fire. It will get the job done, but it cooks slower and does not lock in the moist flavor you get with the quick hot cooking that will be accomplished with the lid closed. Also, go easy with the spatula. The more pressure placed on the meat, the more the natural juice lost. Thirdly, use the proper cooking time for the selected meat and remember to let the meat rest after removing from the grill. This gives it time to finish cooking and reabsorb some of its juices. Here is a link to some recommended cooking times and methods of various meals: http://help.weber.com/grilling-tips/grilling-guides/ (at the top you can click for various types of foods) For indirect cooking, a good marinade is the best choice for locking in moisture as well as flavor. The best cuts of beef need only soak for 20 minutes to an hour. For less choice cuts of meat, increase the soak time to tenderize. Always marinate in the refrigerator—never at room temperature, but DO let the meat sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so before putting it on the grill. Chicken needs to marinate for at least 20 minutes but generally not more than an hour. For a few favorite grilling recipes and marinades check out the Spring Recipe Collection in my spring bundle. For meat that is to be cooked for a long period of time with the lid down; a simple small pan of water set inside the grill, away from the meat will help replace some of the juice lost during cooking. Flavored chips (Mesquite for example) added to the water will also enhance the taste. An open can of beer set over the hottest part of the fire will boil and saturate the air with vapor and flavor. Sauces should be added during the last few minutes of grilling. I hope you enjoy getting outside and grilling this spring! I can’t wait to have that smell wafting in the air. Grilling always makes for a flavorful, succulent meal the whole family enjoys. Grill full of meat cooking

3 Big Benefits of Homemade Cleaners

I’ve been hanging out with my friend Amber over the past few weeks and have been learning all kinds of neat tricks, recipes and ideas from her when it comes to all natural homemade cleaners. Amber teaches a lot of classes and workshops on this topic and has recently published a Kindle book with some of her best information and recipes for cleaning products you can make and use at home. Amber shared her 3Gs of homemade cleaners with me and I loved the concept. That’s why I asked her to share them with you, which she was happy to do. Enjoy!

Why You Should Be Making Your Own Cleaning Products

This is a guest post by Amber Bradshaw of The Coastal Homestead. We have all been reading about the dangers of synthetic chemicals, dyes and fragrances, well your beloved cleaners are full of them. The only thing natural about cleaners are the added water. Making your own cleaning supplies will not only be easy to do, (almost effortless in fact) but they are Good for you, Good for the Environment, and Great for your wallet, my 3 G’s. I often hear “my grandma used to clean with that” guess what? It still works! It never stopped working; we were sold by commercials that we needed something that worked quicker and easier for our busy lifestyle but you can get back to the way our ancestors used to clean and detox your life all at the same time.

My 3 G Principal

Homemade Natural Cleaners that are good for you, good for the environment and great for your wallet

#1 G- Good for You. You may ask “why should a cleaner be good for you?” As long as it gets the job done, who cares—right? Anything that goes onto your skin goes into your body. If you’re using store bought cleaners, the chances are you are exposing yourself to cancer triggering substances. In less than one minute of contact with your skin, trace elements of chemicals can be found in every organ of your body. Without sounding like a Capitol One commercial but “What’s in your body?” In order to meet my first G, a cleaner is required to, on no account, be a threat to human safety when used properly. #2 G- Good for the Environment. As a nation, we are contaminating our water supply with the use (and manufacturing) of toxic chemicals. Many do not realize, but we are all drinking recycled water. The water we now consume is the same water that was around when dinosaurs roamed the earth (I tell my kids all the time they drink dinosaur pee!). What we put on our; lawns, wash on our cars, flush down our toilets, and pour down our drains, eventually, will all end up in our drinking water supply. From prescription medicines to drain cleaners, they all end up in our drinking water supply. A large portion of chemicals are impossible to filter out of our water, and some can never be removed. Be mindful of what you pour down your drains and what you flush down your toilet because eventually it will makes its way into your drinking water supply. To meet my second G’s requirements, a cleaner has to: pose no threat to the environment when used properly, be biodegradable, and have a natural origin. #3 G- Great for Your Wallet. As a self-employed family of five, we have to be frugal. I would have never been able to convince my husband to support my decision, if going organic cost double what we were currently spending; we simply wouldn’t be able to afford it. Truth is, if you are going to buy organic, biodegradable, all-natural products, you will see a rise in your shopping bill. Although, if you made your own cleaning products you will see a 90% savings or more! Who wouldn’t love to save over 90%? A 2009 study showed the average family spends over $800 per year on household cleaning products; I am here to tell you that you can cut that bill by 90% by making your own products. Who doesn’t like to save 90% off? While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of DIY cleaning products recipes on the internet, any recipe I share has to meet all three G’s. If I can’t afford to make it cheaper than I can buy it, I won’t. Here is a price comparison for the recipe I am going to share with you for my herbal antibacterial bathroom cleaner.

Lysol Antibacterial Cleaner $3.99 (on sale)

Seventh Generation Organic Cleaner $4.99

3 G Cleaner that you make $0.29

That is an incredible savings! Let’s get started. I call this my “bathroom” cleaner because I add specific ingredients that are known for killing bacteria but you can use this cleaner anywhere* in your house. Herbal Antibacterial Bathroom Cleaner

  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • Fresh Herbs (Thyme, Rosemary, Eucalyptus)
  • Glass Container with plastic lid (I use quart mason jars with plastic lids)
  • Water

Instructions Fill your glass jar ¾ of the way full with herbs. You can use many different herbs but this is my favorite combination. Pour vinegar over herbs and fill the glass jar. Place cap tightly on jar and let set for two weeks, shaking every other day or so to help release oils from herbs. After two weeks (you can leave longer if you want), strain herbs and fill your spray bottle ¾ of the way full with your herbal vinegar infusion. Fill the remaining of

the spray bottle with water. Store left over vinegar in a glass jar for future use. Vinegar– Vinegar by itself kills; mold, bacteria and viruses. You can use straight vinegar and clean your entire house but when you add herbs you kick the germ fighting, bacteria killing properties up a notch. Herbs- Herbs have been used for thousands of years, as well as vinegar, for many medicinal purposes. Herbs have; antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, and a 100 more properties. When you infuse them with vinegar you create a powerhouse cleaner that is safe for you and the environment. *Do not use vinegar on granite or marble. You can replace the vinegar in this recipe with witch hazel or rubbing alcohol. To learn more about green cleaning recipes you can read my new ebook, The 3 G’s of Kitchen Cleaning The 3 G's Of Kitchen Cleaning Amber Bradshaw and Husband

Amber is a environmentalist, garden and outdoor enthusiast. She is a wife, mother of three, owns a contracting business with her husband, is President of the local Herb Society, and a 4-H Leader. Amber strives to get back into nature with a more sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle that fits a busy schedule and a tight budget. In effort to reduce our environmental impact and toxic chemical exposure she teaches workshops sharing with others how to make all of their household supplies implementing her 3 G principal.
  • Good for you
  • Good for the environment
  • Good for your wallet

She lives on the east coast with her family on a little over 1/4 acre and encourages others to do big things with small spaces. When not out in the garden you can find her sharing her latest homestead tips at The Coastal Homestead, on Facebook, or on Pinterest.  

The Family Command Center – One Spot To Keep You Organized

I originally wrote this article for the February issue of the Homemaker’s Hutch digital magazine but wanted to share it with you here as well. 

As your family grows and the kids get older, it starts to get harder and harder to keep track of everything that’s going on. There are school functions, doctor’s appointments, play dates, after-school activities, PTA meetings, book clubs, library book due dates and business trips to keep track of. Then there are phone messages and the likes.

It can be hard to keep track of everything including the everyday stuff like meal plans, shopping lists, bills to pay, homework and the likes. The solution to tame the chaos? A Family Command Center.

The Family Command Center is simply a spot to keep you (and the rest of your family) organized. It’s where you want to keep all essential information to keep things running smoothly.

How Much Room Do You Need

Your command center can take as much or as little room as you can afford. It could be as simple as a drawer in the kitchen and a dry erase board on the fridge, or it can take over a corner of your living room or home office. Like many things it will grow to fill the space you allot to it. At the very least you want a binder or box to keep paperwork in and a notepad or dry erase board. A calendar will come in handy too.

Finding A Central Location

One of the first things you want to determine is where to put your command center. You want a central location that everyone in the household frequents already. This will ensure that important documents and messages are dropped off and that everyone sees any messages on your calendar or message board several times a day.

Our top spots for this are the kitchen and the living room. A small table or desk in the entry way may also work. In the end, the most crucial part is to pick a spot and get everyone into the habit of using it.

What To Keep In Your Family Command Center

We already touched on this but some of the things you want in your command center are as follows.

  • Calendar with any pertinent dates filled out.
  • School info and assignments.
  • Doctor, Hospital and general medical information.
  • Ongoing shopping list.
  • Weekly meal plan
  • Permission slips, report cards and other important school documents.
  • Emergency contact information.
  • Insurance information.
  • Cleaning schedule.
  • Daily and weekly chore schedule
  • Weekend plans

Of course you are going to want to customize this to your own family’s needs.

A Mobile Command Center

What do you do if you’re living in a very tight space, or you need to carry the most important information with you at all times (because you travel, are running around town with the kids all day etc). You make a mobile command center of course. This could be nothing more than your smart phone and a small organizer. Keep all important paperwork in the organizer and all other digital information on your phone. A Google Calendar can be very helpful and can be shared with everyone in the family. Create an email folder or label for family specific information and scan in (or photograph) important documents (like insurance cards, contact info etc.).

Set aside a little time this month to start setting up your own family command center. Take it for a test drive for a week or two and make tweaks to it as needed. Yes, it’s a little extra work up-front, but it will safe you so much time and headache in the long run when you no longer have to run around to hunt down important information or are trying to remember when that school field trip was.

The Kitchen Command Center

Happy New Year – Resolutions and Word of the Year

It’s been a little while since my last full post here. I haven’t added anything new to the site since Christmas Eve. To be honest, I needed a bit of a break after the daily Advent Calendar posts. We enjoyed the holidays and the rest of winter break.

This morning though, as we were getting back into our regular weekday rhythm, I missed sitting down and writing. I think it’s something I want to do a lot more regularly this year. I’m not committing to a new post, article or recipe every single day, I but I do want to work on something most days.

With that said, let’s talk about New Year’s Resolutions. I have been making a few and noticed an overall theme with them. My goal for this year is to focus on becoming more disciplined in what I do. What I mean is that I want to establish some good eating, cleaning and working habits and stick to them daily.

Happy New Year 2015

Let’s start with the Word of The Year – Discipline

I’ve been seeing  a lot of people choose a word of the year for 2015 and thought I’d give it a try myself. The idea here is instead of making a lot of resolutions, the focus is on one word.

I chose (as you may have guessed) discipline. I want to get into the habit of doing certain things daily. One of them being blogging more regularly and keeping the Hillbilly Housewife Facebook page updated.  I’m also working on adding pictures to both older and new HBHW recipe posts and sharing them on Pinterest. My overall goal here is to spread the word and introduce more people to the Hillbilly Housewife website. In addition I’d like to create more of a community on the Facebook page. Feel free to stop by and ask a question, share a recipe etc.

The area of my life where I need discipline more than anything though is in the kitchen. I want to get into the habit of fixing healthier foods and eating better. We’ve also gotten bad about leaving dirty dishes in the sink overnight. I’d like to get back into the habit of cleaning up after we eat and waking up to a clean kitchen and sink.

How about you? Do you have some eating or homemaking resolutions? Feel free to share them as a comment below and maybe we can hold each other accountable.

Last but not least, I made two crafting goals that I think will help me work on becoming an overall more disciplined person. If you’ve been with me for a while, you know that I knit and also learned to spin on a drop spindle last year. The picture on the about page is me spinning on one of my drop spindles. My spinning goal is to spend 15 minutes each day on my drop spindles. It’s working well so far and gives me time to think and mediate as I spin along.

I also have a scrap yarn blanket I’ve been knitting on. My goal here is to add at least one new square per day and post my progress on Instagram (along with the daily spinning picture). I only use Instagram for knitting and spinning related stuff.

Here’s a picture of the sock yarn blanket.


Advent Calendar Day 24 – My Gift To You

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

We’re all busy today getting everything ready for Christmas, so I’ll keep this brief. I wanted to share something special with you as this last Advent Calendar treat. It’s my Christmas gift to you.

Hillbilly Housewife Advent Calendar Day 24A little over  a year ago, I retired of of my big cookbook collections. It is all about freezer cooking and includes a guide and several recipe collections. It’s all you’ll ever need (other than some freezer containers and casserole dishes) to make delicious homecooked meals you can freeze and enjoy later.

As today’s Advent calendar treat, I would like to give you the entire collection. It used to sell for $24.95, but is no longer available. I set up a special link for you and a coupon code that allows you to download it for free (through December 26th).

Freezer Cooking Made Simple

Click on this link. Then use coupon code “CHRISTMAS” – The coupon expires on 12/26/14

Here’s what it will look like. After you check out, you will be redirected to a special download page and also get both the freezer cooking guide and the recipes collections via email.



I want this to be a special treat just for you since you’ve been reading and following the Advent Calendar throughout December, so the coupon is only good for the next two days. It will expire on 12/26/14. Go grab the freezer book now, download it to your computer and then go about the rest of your busy day. When you’re ready to start reading about freezer cooking and trying out some new recipes, come back to it and use it to save both time and money throughout the new year.

My family and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope you are having a wonderful time over the coming days.

Advent Calendar Day 23 – Breakfast Casseroles On Christmas Morning

How do you start your Christmas morning? We usually get up, make some coffee and stick a Breakfast casserole in the oven to bake while we open one or two presents.

By the time breakfast is ready, we’re usually ready for a break and sit down to eat before getting back to reading cards and of course watch our daughter open a few more things. We like to take our time and open things one thing at a time.

Hillbilly Housewife Advent Calendar Day 23When our daughter was little, we would let her unpack and play with each toy for a bit before moving on to the next. We’ve always had a great time doing that. It’s a nice way to spend time together Christmas morning.

Speaking of making memories and what truly makes Christmas special, my friend Faydra wrote a post for us that I just published this morning. It’s called “Things I wish I knew about Christmas when I was raising my children“. Its a great post. Please take a moment to read it and if you’re so inclined, share it on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Let’s get back to breakfast for a minute though. If you’re looking for something quick, easy and delicious to fix Christmas morning (or any morning for that matter (or even a quick weeknight dinner), I have a treat for you. For today’s Advent Calendar Treat, I’d like to give you my Breakfast Casseroles Kindle book. It’s a free download on Amazon.

Enjoy and if you make one of the recipes Christmas morning, please come back and leave me a comment. I’d love to hear how you and your family liked it.

Breakfast Casseroles 

Inside you’ll find 35 recipes your family will love including:

Ham, Hash Brown and Cheese Breakfast Casserole
Sausage Breakfast Casserole
French Toast Breakfast Casserole
Sugar Free French Toast Breakfast Casserole
French Toast Breakfast Casserole – Syrup on the Bottom Version
Apples and Raisins French Toast Breakfast Casserole
Peach French Toast Breakfast Casserole
Sunday Morning Breakfast Casserole
Cheese Grits Breakfast Casserole
Spinach and Cheese Breakfast Casserole
All-in-One Breakfast Casserole

What a perfect way to start your morning. Get Breakfast Casseroles – 35 Recipes for Everyday & Special Occasions today.

Things I wish I knew about Christmas when I was raising my children

The following was written by my friend Faydra. She has some great points about what’s truely important around Christmas. It isn’t the things we buy our kids or the expensive trips we take. True Christmas magic happens while liking a spoon of cookie dough or reading a favorite Christmas story… but I don’t want to give too much away. I hope you enjoy this article and find a good reminder this busy time of the year. 

Creating Christmas Magic With the KidsDo you Facebook? I do. Just before creating this guest post, I was looking at my wall and noticed the comments from frazzled friends who were so busy trying to create a magical holiday that they were, in fact, creating chaos in what is supposed to be a sacred time of year.

Their posts actually began shortly after Thanksgiving- selfies of themselves on Black Friday shopping sprees with their bellies still digesting stuffing and pie.

With lists in one hand and a red Starbuck’s cup in the other, they set out to find everything their children ask for in the name of being Super Mom, errr, I mean Santa, and making sure that little Johnny and Jane have their quintessential Christmas.

They don’t know what I know.

That none of this really matters to their kids.

I mean, they think it does and so do the kids. Now.

But it doesn’t matter in the end.

What’s the end?

The end is that magical time that your children grow up and realize that they can’t really recall many of the Christmases past. In fact, it isn’t the years that they got everything on their list that they remember with fondness. Nope, it’s actually the Christmases that were flawed or simply off somehow that resonate in their memory banks. You know, the year the turkey was raw in the middle and you had to order pizza. Or the year the dog was loose and peed on the presents the night before they were opened.

I’m an empty nester- I LOVE it. I think empty nesters should have honorary sashes that we wear that symbolize that we’ve made it through every season of parenting minors. Sort of like Girl Scouts where we get badges for things like cleaning vomit without gagging, making Halloween costumes from random items found in the home and repurposing cribs into crafting stations. We should have merit badges for surviving the teen age years and special occasion badges for teaching our daughters how to use tampons effectively without them dying of embarrassment or to shave their legs with minimal cuts to their shin bones.

One of the many benefits to being an empty nester is that I have hindsight. I have the knowing that many of the things I thought were vital were, in actuality, optional and I didn’t know it.

I was that mom who had been raised by wolves and I used my children’s childhood to try to make up for what I never had. In some ways it was incredibly cathartic and in others it was stupid. I mean, I love that my children always had traditions and that they knew that they were valued and loved unconditionally, but I am not so proud of the times I neglected the utility payments in December so I had extra money to spend stuffing their stockings. I mean, did the chocolate oranges and other filler items really make that big of a difference? NO!

Kids decorating Christmas tree So imagine me sitting here with my sash on with all of my shiny badges glistening in the glow of the Christmas tree and listen up. (insert sound of eggnog laced with brandy being slurped) Here’s the stuff I wish I had known about Christmas when I was raising my children.

  1. When your kids grow up, they won’t love you more because of what they got for Christmas when they were small. As a matter of fact, when you jog their memory about the items you fought over in the store to win for them, they won’t even remember getting it. So that limited edition action figure that you boarded the karma train over won’t even be remembered by the time he hits high school, but karma will remember and karma likes to be repaid.
  2. The small traditions you do that seem so cute and special- they totally are. Throwing glitter and oatmeal on the roof and telling your kids that the reindeer see the glitter from the sky and know where to land and eat the oatmeal while Santa is putting toys under the tree, keep that up. That stuff matters. That’s the stuff that gets handed down to the next generation.
  3. Baking is greater than shopping. The days that you spend with your kids baking (and sometimes burning) cookies and liking batter from the spoon under the threat of salmonella means more than the time you spend in the car searching for that damn action figure I warned you about. The special recipes you share, the candy that you make those are the sugarplums that dance in the heads of your grown children. They love to recall the goodies they made with you when they were young.
  4. If you are going to throw money around, do it on a dress. You know that dress your daughter needs for the Christmas pageant. That matters. There is pictorial evidence of this time and when you daughter is older, she will have a strong opinion about the outfit she wore. I am talking tights, shoes and a headband. Do not tell yourself that a cute dress with her tennis shoes is fine. It’s not fine, it’s tacky. Worry less about stocking stuffers and let her be a Christmas princess for the pageant.
  5. The best gift you can give your children is the Christmas spirit. Save your change and give handfuls to your child to put into the red kettle. Volunteer to ring the bell. Purchase gifts for the Angle Trees that you see in the store. Tell your child that there are those who don’t have ninja mothers who are willing to board the karma train for that action figure. That there are actually moms who literally can’t do a thing to make the Christmas wishes of their children come true. That there are moms wrestling with what bills they can put off to make sure that their child has presents under the tree.

These are some of the most poignant things I have realized after raising my children through a collective of over 23 Christmases with children at home. That’s what it boils down to. Anything else was just meaningless fluff and sort of worthless sort of like nuts in fudge.

For the first time in my life I can honestly say that Jesus is the reason for the season in my home and though I thought I was being the best mom, err I mean, Santa ever, all I really was doing was driving myself crazy for no good reason.

I wish you all peace this holiday. I wish you joy and nut-free fudge that you make with your child who will remember that above all else.

Happy Holiday’s


Faydra Koenig is a mental health professional, author, blogger, podcaster and lover of iced tea. You can find out more about Faydra at DoingLifeWithFaydra.com


Faydra also created an amazing Guide to help you make it through the Holidays. If you’re feeling stressed out, or are dealing with difficult family issues around the holidays, you definitely want to grab this. Well worth a read and many of the strategies she shares will help you throughout the year (not just around Christmas).

Advent Calendar Day 22 – Let’s Dip

I’ve gotta tell you… I’m getting excited about Christmas. A good chunk of the presents got wrapped yesterday and this morning I promised my daughter we could go to the store to get ingredients to make two different types of fudge. She’s busy right now combing through Pinterest to find two recipes she wants to try. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

Other than that, we’re taking it easy today. I’m going to clean most of the house and finish wrapping the presents that are here so far. Amazon is supposed to get a few more to us by Wednesday. How about you? Are you staying on top of things, or starting to get stressed out?

Hillbilly Housewife Advent Calendar Day 22My big goal for this year is to have a calm and enjoyable Christmas. I don’t want to race from obligation to obligation, fixing food in between. I’ll let you know how it goes.

One thing we’re doing is keeping the food simple. We’re having cookies and fudge for dessert, Pizza on Christmas Eve and a ham with a few fixings for Christmas Day.

I will however be fixing some yummy dips to snack on in between. They are also great if you are asked to bring something to a Holiday Party and aren’t sure what to do. Most dips are quick, easy and the ingredients won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Easy cleanup too.

If that sounds like a good idea to you, I have a treat for you today. My Best Dip Recipes – one of my newer Kindle cookbooks is a free download on Amazon today.

My Best Dip Recipes

My Best Dip Recipes - Kindle CookbookTasty dips are a great way to please a crowd or to serve company. They also come in handy when you have a hungry family and dinner not quite ready yet.

Many of the dips in this book use ingredients commonly found in your refrigerator so if you have unexpected guest you can whip up something quick and easy.

Make them as a treat for your family, to entertain company or to take to a potluck. Dips and a few veggies or chips are always a welcome addition to the table.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do in our home.

http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/dips – Free On Amazon

Advent Calendar Day 21 – A Little Healthy Fare

We’ve been making and eating Christmas cookies and fudge the past few days. And looking at my Christmas menu, we’re not exactly living healthy right now. Of course that’s ok, it’s the Holidays. I do plan to cook and eat a lot healthier starting a few days after Christmas and may try to sneak in a few more healthy meals between now and then.

Hillbilly Housewife Advent Calendar Day 21It’s much easier to justify those cookies I snack on at night, if I had a healthy breakfast and lunch that day. Are you with me?

If so, today’s Advent Calendar treat is for you. I’d like to share my Healthy Mix and match meals with you at half price. Just use coupon code “ADVENT” during checkout.

And in case you missed one of the other eBooks from the advent calendar, they are still available at the 50% discount as well… but it won’t last until after Christmas.

Healthy Mix and Match Meals

Healthy Mix and Match MenusIs your busy lifestyle making it harder and harder to create healthy meals for your family? How would you like to be able to plan a day’s worth of meals without juggling a pile of recipes or cookbooks?

I have great news – you can! Healthy menu planning just got easier with this great little resource: Mix & Match Healthy Meals – Nutritious Meals From Morning To Night

When you’re trying to keep up with a busy family, it’s just so easy to run through the drive-thru or pick up something pre-packaged to throw in the microwave. Yes, it’s quick, but at what cost? Lots of money and little nutrition.

With this easy to follow guide, you’ll be able to Mix & Match Meals to make for your family right at home. Along with the recipes, we also include lots of planning sheets to help you choose and organize your menus for the day.

Click on and buy your copy today to start feeding your family nutritious meals from morning to night.

Don’t forget to use the “ADVENT” coupon code.