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 

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:  (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


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


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. – 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.

Advent Calendar Day 20 – Homemade Bread Warm From The Oven

We had one of my favorite simple dinners last night. I roasted a chicken and made a loaf of homemade bread. I got the last of the lettuce from the garden and dinner was done. And it was delicious. There’s just something about adding warm bread fresh from the oven to make any meal special.

Hillbilly Housewife Advent Calendar Day 20Give it a try. Whip up some homemade biscuits tonight, make a cornbread to go with that chili or bake your first loaf of homemade bread. I’m sure you’ll be hooked.

35 Homemade Bread Recipes

“Fresh Out Of The Oven, Buttered and Gone”

There’s nothing more scrumptious than a warm piece of homemade bread fresh out of the oven. And with these 35 recipes, you’ll have more than just the basic bread to delight your taste buds. From chocolate chip pumpkin to banana to potato, there’s a wide variety of flavorful recipes to choose from.

Use them as a tasty breakfast treat or turn a simple soup or stew into a tasty and filling dinner with the addition of baked goods still warm from the oven.

Homemade bread is a staple in my frugal household and I’m sure it will become one in your as well.

Here are the some of the recipes you’ll find inside:

  • No Knead Dill Bread
  • White Bread
  • Easy No Knead Bread
  • One Hour Homemade Bread
  • Amish Bread
  • Homemade Cinnamon Bread
  • Banana Apple Bread
  • Five Ingredient Homemade Bread
  • Homemade Beer Bread
  • Wheat Bread
  • Easy Homemade Banana Bread

Download the Homemade Breads Kindle Cookbook free on Amazon today. 

Advent Calendar Day 19 – We All Scream For Ice Cream

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.

When my daughter started kindergarten, she learned this from a friend and we ended up hearing constantly for months. Whenever we asked her what she wanted to for snack, dinner, breakfast , you name it … we got the above… screamed out loud of course. It made such an impression, I think about it any time we have ice cream now.

Hillbilly Housewife Advent Calendar Day 19We’re getting down to the wire for Christmas and are all making our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day menus. One thing we haven’t really covered over the past few weeks has been desserts. I shared my pie recipe cookbook with you earlier this month, but that’s been about it.

How about some homemade ice cream? If you have an ice cream maker, this is a no-brainer, but the good news is you don’t even need one to make homemade ice cream and other fun frozen desserts. I’ll show you how in my Homeamde Ice Cream Cookbook.

Use coupon code “ADVENT” to get it at half-price. 

For lots of delicious homemade ice cream recipes, grab a copy of my ebook  Homemade Ice Cream and Other Frozen Treats right here.

You’ll find instructions for making ice cream – with and without an ice cream maker – as well as 100 delicious recipes for a wide variety of ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet and even homemade popsicles.

Click on and Get your copy today! – Don’t forget to use your “ADVENT” coupon code.

Advent Calendar Day 18 – Homemade Jelly or Jam

It’s getting down to the wire. In yesterday’s newsletter I mentioned next Wednesday was the day before Christmas Eve… and was promptly corrected that next Wednesday IS Christmas Eve – Yikes… I somehow thought I had an extra day to get things done.

Hillbilly Housewife Advent Calendar Day 18All the shopping is done (except for some last minute grocery stuff) and I’m starting to get ahead on wrapping. I do have a few more presents to make and am getting caught up on my knitting, fudge making and hoping to get a few more jars of jellies and jams made this weekend.

I thought you may want to do the same, so today’s Advent Calendar treat is a free copy of my very first Kindle Cookbook – Homemade Jelly and Jam Recipes

Homemade Jelly and Jam Recipes

This  is a collection of 35 tried and true family recipes for jellies, jams, fruit butters, and marmalades from the Hillbilly Housewife.

Made from fresh fruit and ingredients that YOU control, these recipes not only taste better than store bought, they also allow you the chance to create some hand-me-down recipes of your own.

Don’t worry if you’ve never made homemade jellies and jam before.  You’ll find a section in the book that covers the basics of jelly and jam making, along with helpful tips and a FAQ section that will cover just about every question you have.  This little ebook is designed to make the whole process simple and easy.

Want to get started right away but don’t have all the equipment you need to can jelly and jam? No problem! The freezer jam recipes are easy to make and you don’t need any special equipment.

Take a peek at just a few of the recipes you’ll find inside:

    •     Strawberry Freezer Jam
    •     Grape Jelly
    •     Apple Jelly Made From Peels and Cores
    •     Red Currant Jelly
    •     Hot Pepper Jelly
    •     Peach Butter
    •     Apple Butter
    •     Orange Lemon Marmalade
    •     Fig Jam
    •     Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
    •     Apricot Jam

Click on and enjoy this fun and frugal Kindle ebook today!

Download the US Version

Download the UK Version

As mentioned earlier, there are some who are puzzled about getting a book on Kindle. This is the question I’ve received repeatedly:

“I would love to read this, but I don’t have a Kindle.  What do I do?”

Here’s the good news. You don’t need an Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a variety of devices that have Kindle Apps. For example, there may be an app for your phone, iPod or iPad. You can get a full list of free Kindle apps here.

If you don’t have one of those devices, you can still easily download my Kindle ebook right on your own computer or laptop.  You’ll see right below the ‘Buy’ button the words “Available on your PC.”  Click on and it walks you right through.  It’s easy to read Kindle ebooks right on your computer via the “Cloud Reader“. I’ve been using that one myself and it works like a charm.

Advent Calendar Day 17 – Casseroles Made Simple

I used to love the last last day before Christmas break. We wouldn’t do much work and have a little classroom party instead. Looking at my daughter’s schedule, they’ve expanded it to take up most of the last week of school. So far her days have been filled with Christmas play performances, class room parties and today she and her class are on an all-day field trip. From the sound of it, the last two school days will be filled with games, movies and a classroom party. I’m hoping they’ll get at least a little school work in as well.

Hillbilly Housewife Advent Calendar Day 17My days on the other hand are packed full of last minute errands, meal preparations, decorating, cleaning, wrapping presents, getting a few last minute cards out and the likes. I’m sure you’re days aren’t much different. It’ll all be well worth the effort though.

For today’s Advent Calendar treat, I thought I’d share a coupon code for the Casseroles Made Simple Cookbook with you. As usual coupon code “ADVENT” gives you 50% off.

Inside you’ll find some yummy side dish ideas that would make a nice addition to your holiday table, along with all sorts of main dish casseroles you can make throughout the year. I love using Christmas leftovers and turning them into tasty dinners throughout January. I’m sure you’ll come back to this book month after month.

Casseroles Made Simple – Tasty Meals In One Dish.

You will go from the oven to the table with a mouth watering meal for you family in no time!   Hearty homemade meals, easy clean up, saving time, saving money… what’s not to love about casseroles!

Just click on Casseroles Made Simple to order your copy today!

Use coupon code “ADVENT” to get the eBook at half price.

Advent Calendar Day 16 – Homemade Mixes

One of my favorite gifts to give to friends, teachers and the likes is homemade mixes in a jar. They are easy to customize for each person and always well received. A few years ago when I was working an office job, I made instant potato soup mix in jars and gave them to my coworkers. They kept the soup mix in their desk and had a quick lunch or snack they could fix in the break room. They were well received and I got refill requests throughout the year.

Hillbilly Housewife Advent Calendar Day 16For today’s advent treat, I’d like to share my Homemade Mixes Kindle Cookbook with you. It’s a free download on Amazon. Browse through it and see if you get some ideas for quick and inexpensive gifts in a jar. And remember to use it throughout the year.  Not only will you save by not buying convenience foods, these mixes are also better for you since there are no added preservative and you know exactly what’s going in them.

Homemade Mixes – Make It Yourself and Save

homemade-mixes-kindleMaking your own mix from scratch rather than buying it in the store not only saves you money but also saves you from all the additives and preservatives that are put in the foods we buy. The recipes include:

  • Apple Pie Spice Mix
  • Basic Muffin Mix
  • Brownie Mix
  • Caribbean Jerk Seasoning
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
  • Corn Bread Mix
  • Cream of Soup Mix
  • Fajita Seasoning
  • Fish Fry Coating Mix
  • Fruited Oatmeal Mix
  • Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix
  • Homemade Vanilla Chai Tea Mix – Free Kindle Download 

Today’s Question

We all have some go-to little inexpensive gift ideas…things we make or buy and keep on hand for last minute gift giving to that neighbor that stops by or the wonderful mail person who’s been delivering all those boxes and Christmas cards for the past weeks with a smile on their face. What do you give these people? Let’s share some quick and inexpensive last minute gift ideas.