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Our Cozy Den


Tip Tuesday: Spy Journal!

Tip Tuesday ~ Our Cozy Den

Start a Super Secret Family Spy Journal! ~ Tip Tuesday @ Our Cozy Den

I made this for my family on Shutterfly and my whole family is just LOVING it! When somebody finds it, they write a message (or draw a doodle if they can’t write yet), then hide it for someone else to find! *I* love that it is encouraging them to write and be creative without any nagging from mom! Click on THIS LINK to go to Shutterfly, edit with your family’s last name, and save it to your account. Then you can order it, or wait for a sale/deal — I got mine for free, and I’m sure you can too if you wait for the right coupon code!

Weekly Menu: September 20th – 26th

The last few months, I’ve been coming in well under my monthly grocery budget of $250/month, and I shared how I am saving to buy a quarter cow. Well, I’m happy that this boatload of beef has graced our freezer! Our Cozy Den ~ Feeding a family of 6 on under $250/month!

I don’t remember exactly how many pounds it is, but last time we got this much beef, it lasted our family 10 months!

As my husband and I were loading it into the freezer, he remarked to me that we had some old stuff in the freezer that we should use up first. And it got me thinking, “We kind of have some old stuff everywhere that needs to be used up…”

So I decided that this week is officially Pantry Cleanout Week.

I’m not buying any groceries. We do have some fresh carrots, tomatoes, and peppers that I’ll be pulling from the garden. And I got 2 gallons of milk free from WIC, so my grocery total for the week is $0.

I won’t lie, this is going to be tough. I absolutely abhor staring into the cabinets trying to figure out what to make with what I have. That’s why I usually stick to making menus, and my favorite tried-and-true recipes. But I’ll be doing a lot of improvising this week, which takes up a lot of precious brain-space.

Our Cozy Den ~ Feeding a family of 6 on under $250/month!

Some of our pantry stockpile!

A lot of this stuff came from random places — they might have been items I got for free after a coupon, that were free with another purchase, or they were located on a clearance shelf for pennies. Some are things people gave me, things that their family didn’t like or wouldn’t eat, or from a friend who was moving away and needed to get rid of the rest of their groceries. I never turn down free food! Other items were things I made ahead of time, when like homemade tomato sauce from tomatoes in my garden, or homemade cinnamon syrup, or soups and casseroles that I doubled and froze for later. Many of these things have just been taking up shelf/freezer space, and now it’s time to eat them!

I’ve never set aside a whole week for pantry cleanout before, but if it works out well, it might be something I try to do more often. It is certainly going to be a huge money saver, as it means I buy NO groceries this week!

Come on back next week for my regularly scheduled weekly menus!

Our Cozy Den ~ Feeding a family of 6 on under $250/month!

Homeschooling Elementary Home Economics

Homeschooling Elementary Home Economics ~ Our Cozy Den

This post is a long one, but it’s PACKED with goodies! Scroll down for both a FREE printable {Marketing Scavenger Hunt} as well as a GIVEAWAY!!! 

I’ve shared in the past a little about how we homeschool. One of the things we do in our homeschool is that we have 1 elective each year that rotates. The reason I do this all goes back to my first year of homeschooling…

Connor was 5, and we were doing Kindergarten. I also had a 3 year old, a 1 year old, and I was pregnant with Finn. In addition, it was the year we moved from Tennessee to Germany. To say it was a crazy year would be an understatement. On top of all that, I was terrified that I would somehow screw up this homeschooling thing, so I was teaching my five-year-old over TWENTY SUBJECTS. We were literally trying to do it all. Reading, writing, math, spelling, art, music, history, science, sports, Spanish, German, Arabic, health, geography… and more. 

Then I met Jennifer, my first homeschooling friend, who is now one of my closest friends. I look to her often for homeschooling and parenting advice. She quickly eased my fears and helped me to learn that I don’t have to do it all at once! 

So now, we switch out our elective each year. Last year we did health. Next year it’s going to be art. But this year we’re doing Home Ec.

Right now, my {school-age} kids are 5, 7, and 9 — so I knew that whatever we covered would have to work for those ages. However, it wasn’t quite easy to find curriculum on this subject for younger ages. Most of what I found was for high schoolers.

I considered what I wanted to cover, and came up with 6 subcategories: sewing, etiquette, cooking, baking, personal finance, and home management. Since our school year is 36 weeks, it was easy to divide it up into six 6-week sessions. These are the materials we used and my plan for each category!


Homeschooling Elementary Home Economics ~ Our Cozy Den

The books I used for teaching etiquette and manners were these two from Emilie Barnes, called A Little Book of Manners: Courtesy and Kindness for Young Ladies, and A Little Books of Manners for Boys: A Game Plan for Getting Along with Others.

This is what we covered in our 6 weeks of etiquette:

Week 1: Greetings & Introductions

Week 2: Talking to adults, answering the phone, respectful responses

Week 3: How to treat guests, how to be a respectful guest, and how to deal with conflicts

Week 4: Dinner etiquette, table manners, proper table settings

Week 5: Saying thank you, writing thank you notes

Week 6: Self-control


Homeschooling Elementary Home Economics ~ Our Cozy Den

The main core of our sewing unit was this book, called Sewing School. The other materials we purchased to go along with it were a needle threader, needles, embroidery floss, stuffing, ribbons, and fabric.

Week 1: we worked on threading needles, types of fabric, sewing basic stitches (straight stitch and whipstitch), and we picked out our projects for the following five weeks. This book has tons of projects, each rated 1-star (easy), 2-star (medium), or 3-star (hard).

Week 2: each child chose a 1-star project.

Week 3: another 1-star project.

Week 4: 2-star project

Week 5: another 2-star project

Week 6: final project, a 3-star project

Sometimes they would need help (especially Sophie, my 5-year-old), but for the most part the did it all on their own! By the end of the 6 weeks, they were sewing like pros. Now the book and all of their sewing supplies are in their own sewing bin, and they keep sewing for fun in their free time, even long after the classes are over.

Home Management

Homeschooling Elementary Home Economics ~ Our Cozy Den

Our home: 3 floors, 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1600 sq. ft., paid in full!

The only “curriculum” I used for this unit was our house! I wrote up a plan for what we were covering each week, and it looked like this. It involved a lot of housework, but also learning! The main things I wanted them to learn was how to take care of the home, including how to clean properly, how the inner functions work (insulation, plumbing, electricity), and why we do certain maintenance.

Week 1: How to clean windows, baseboards, & curtains; basics of electricity; periodic home maintenance items, such as changing furnace filters, flipping mattresses, changing smoke detector batteries.

Week 2: How to clean walls, floors, & furniture; how to do laundry

Week 3: How to clean the kitchen; how appliances work and how to clean/use them

Week 4: How to clean the bathroom; plumbing basics

Week 5: Exterior home care (gutters, foundation, other maintenance); lawn care (mowing, weeding, trimming)

Week 6: Vehicle care (what all the gauges on the dashboard do, how the engine works, how to check fluids, how to get gas)


Homeschooling Elementary Home Economics ~ Our Cozy Den

For our cooking unit, we used The Children’s Quick & Easy Cookbook. It has an assortment of appetizers, sides, entrees, and desserts. It also has an introductory chapter, all about rules of the kitchen and how to get started. There is also an index, with instructions (and photos) on how to do things like basting, blending, beating, mixing, whipping, etc.

Week 1: We went over the introductory chapters, read instructions in the index, and chose our menus for the other 5 weeks.

Weeks 2-6: Each week, each child prepared a part of the meal (appetizer, entree, side, or dessert). So every week, they all had their own dish to prepare. I made a chart so that each one would prepare each type at least once. They made lots of delicious things, like Spicy Chicken Burgers, Peppermint Creams, Thai Kabobs, Tiramisu, and more!

Personal Finance

Homeschooling Elementary Home Economics ~ Our Cozy Den

For our personal finance unit, we used Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Jr.  {This link goes to amazon.com, which is currently the cheapest place to buy it, at $19.99 plus free shipping. Occasionally, daveramsey.com runs sales that make it cheaper, especially around the holidays – so check there too!} I teach his grown-up Financial Peace University classes often, and I’m a huge believer in the principles he teaches! I also went to the kids & money section at my local library, and we read TONS of books about money, banks, saving, spending, investing, and more!

Week 1: Lesson 1 (working);  books about the history of money, plus we looked at money (both U.S. money, and our collection from our world travels) and discussed the images on it

Week 2: Lesson 2 (giving); books about giving back and volunteering, Bible verses about tithing

Week 3: Lesson 3 (saving); books about banks, how they work, activity about compound savings and how it adds up

Week 4: Lesson 4 (spending); books about spending, discussions about making good spending choices

Week 5: Field trip to the bank – we learned about the parts of the bank, how it works, and the bank let the kids go look in the vault

Week 6: Field trip to the mall, where we did a fun Marketing Scavenger Hunt — to learn about all the different tricks that stores use to entice us into spending more.


CLICK HERE to download a FREE copy of my Marketing Scavenger Hunt — along with a Parent’s Guide full of marketing strategies you can discuss with your kids!


How to enter ~ leave a comment below to enter the giveaway. Each comment is another entry. Earn additional entries for sharing this blog post on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, liking us on Facebook, and becoming an email subscriber!

Win a full Financial Peace Jr. curriculum set from Our Cozy Den!!!

Giveaway rules: open to residents of the US. Winner will be drawn Sunday, September 27th and notified soon thereafter by email. Failure to claim prize within 48 hours forfeits your rights to the prize. This prize was purchased by me (Christy) and was in no way sponsored by any company. It’s simply a product that I love and wanted to give away to my lovely readers!


Baking is our last unit — perfect for the cooling days of fall, and the season of apple pies, pumpkin bread, and lots of yummy baked deliciousness. For our 6 weeks, each of the big kids (Connor, Lia, and Sophie) are choosing 2 items to bake. They can choose out of the Children’s Cookbook we used for cooking class, or out of my own arsenal of recipes. Then each week, all 3 kids will help make the baked good of the week, while we learn about measurements, cook time, preheating the oven, how to blend ingredients (wet first, then dry), and professional taste-testing!

So what do you think?

Do you teach Home Economics with your elementary school kids? Which subjects do you want to cover but haven’t?

Great Lakes Adventure part 4: Lake Ontario

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

After our wonderful time on Manitoulin Island, we headed out for our longest day of driving on the trip: 6 hours. We were trying to keep the driving days shorter, because we have lots of kids, several of whom get carsick (along with yours truly). Our 6 hour drive ended up being almost TEN, because of horrendous Toronto traffic. I have been in pretty bad traffic in a lot of cities, including Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, London, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco — but Toronto was the WORST EVER. Which was crazy, because I went there last year and had NO problems at all!

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

Three of our four with Toronto’s famous CN tower! I’ll give you two guesses as to which kids didn’t want to be in the picture. {The one crying and the one missing…}

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

The old fashioned train station across the street from the CN tower is SUPER cool!

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

Playing at a downtown playground.

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

A bed! A real bed! I was pretty excited to sleep on a MATTRESS for the first time in a week.

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

Lake Ontario!

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

It was pretty nice, until the algae rolled in. Then the lifeguard said the beach was no longer safe to swim. But we got to for a little while at least!

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

Then we headed to a nearby splash park instead.

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

…which the kids thought was super fun anyway!

Our Cozy Den's Great Lakes Adventure! ~ All 5 Great Lakes in 10 Days!!

Gotta love free water parks!

If you missed my posts about Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, or Lake Huron, check them out on my North America Travel page here. Stay tuned for Niagara Falls, Lake Erie, and our Grande Finale!

9 Ways to Save on Garbage!

Save Money On Garbage ~ Our Cozy Den

Did you know that the average American produces 4.5 pounds of trash per day? For my family of 6, that would be 189 pounds every week! That’s crazy!!

Producing a lot of garbage is expensive, not to mention the fact that it just feels wasteful. I feel like a bad human being if we have a big pile of trash. It’s bad for the environment and my pocket. Here are some ways to save money on your garbage pile, and help the planet in the process!

1. Stop trash before it starts.

Buying things isn’t just expensive at the cash register. You also spend money transporting your purchase, disposing of the packaging, storing your stuff in your home (more stuff = more space needed to hold it), and eventually — throwing your purchase away. If you buy fewer items that you don’t need, then you will save a LOT more than just the amount on the price tag.

2. Buy used.

When you shop at thrift stores & yard sales, those items already have no packaging. You save a ton by buying used, and you also don’t have to get rid of all that trash to go along with it.

3. Buy in bulk.

I’ve mentioned before that we do most of our grocery shopping at GFS. When you buy in bulk, there is a lot less packaging, so there is less to throw away!

4. Cook from scratch.

We buy almost no groceries that are prepackaged or premade. Those things (in addition to being less healthy and more expensive) come with more trash! Cooking from raw ingredients: flour, eggs, spices, etc. — will result in less garbage.

5. Recycle.

We lived in Germany for 3 years, and one of my favorite things about being over there was that everyone recycled. They had to, it was the law! And it was color-coded to boot! {swoon!} This is what the trash cans looked like over there:

Save Money On Garbage ~ Our Cozy Den

In Germany, we could recycle almost all of our garbage. Only diapers and used tissues/napkins went in the regular trash. Back here in the U.S., we can’t recycle quite as much as we could in Germany, but we can still recycle quite a lot! We have a recycling station set up in our back room, where we have separate bins for: cardboard, glass, newspaper, plastic, & cans. And we have 2 in our kitchen for regular garbage and paper (my little arts-and-crafters go through a LOT of paper, so this made the most sense to have in the house. Also, it doesn’t stink.) We drive to the recycling center once or twice a month to take it all in, which costs us nothing.

6. Change the way you do holidays & birthdays.

Holidays and birthdays tend to be a big trash-producer for many families. Since we only do 3 small gifts per child, and I sewed reusable gift wrapping sacks, we don’t have much garbage from the holiday. For gifts from extended family, if you can convince them to spring for a membership to the zoo or a children’s museum, that’s another way to cut back on trash (and toys and clutter and room cleaning… it’s really win-win-win if the grandparents will go for it!) And there’s no rule that says you have to use disposable plates and cutlery when you have guests. Yes, it’s easier to just throw it away. But it’s not really that hard to throw it all in the dishwasher either, and it produces no trash that way.

7. Compost.

We started a compost bin this year, and I was surprised at how much we are able to put into it! All of our scraps from fruits and vegetables, banana peels, apple cores, egg shells, yard clippings… there’s just so much! It’s all going to turn into rich, fertile soil for my garden next year. And if you don’t garden, you could start a compost bin anyway and give the compost away to someone who does! (Or sell it! $$$)

8. Don’t use consumable things when you can use reusable things.

I haven’t purchased napkins, paper towels, or tissues in years. We just don’t go through them that often, because I can usually use a cleaning rag, a dish towel, a washcloth, a cloth napkin, or something else washable instead! We never use things like paper plates or plastic silverware. Even when we went on a camping trip, we took washable plates and I did dishes after each meal. I have a small stack of paper plates in my back room that have lasted for years that I use to take the occasional plate of cookies to the neighbor (and they were items I didn’t purchase, but were left at my house by some party or some guest at some point).

I do use a lot of ziploc bags for traveling and moving, but I never use them for daily tasks, like food storage or packing lunches. We use washable containers for those! When I do use them for travel & moving, I save them and use them over and over again. I’m still using a $1 box of bags that I bought from the dollar store in 2011.

9. Shop around for trash providers.

When we lived in Tennessee, we could drop off our garbage at one of the city’s trash places for free. That was nice! Here in Ohio, there is no free trash pickup, so we have to pay to have our garbage hauled away. I looked around for quite a bit, and the cheapest option I found was a 1-bag-per-week pickup for $6 a month. That’s pretty cheap for curbside pickup! It’s easy for us to stay under 1 bag a week, because we are diligent at following steps 1-8.

Weekly Menu: September 13-20th

Weekly Menus from Our Cozy Den ~ Feeding a family of 6 on under $250 a month!

Here is my menu for the week! I’m excited that my in-laws are coming to visit — they are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, and I am blessed to call them family! We are also eating out at restaurants a few times this week, which is more often than usual.

Again, a few notes before we get started:

  • Breakfast is not included in the menu, because in our house it is fend-for-yourself. But it is included in my budget and shopping. The choices are oatmeal, eggs, or my homemade cereal.
  • I recently did a post about my large once-a-month pantry shop. I try to plan most of my menu to use what we already have on hand in the pantry and freezer. Bulk buying = BIG savings!
  • Snacks are also not on the menu, but my kids do get a snack each afternoon around 4 pm. Their choices are veggies (usually carrots and celery), fruit (I always have on hand a selection of oranges, bananas, apples, pineapple, berries, etc.), hard-boiled eggs, cheddar cheese sticks, yogurt, and granola bars.

Here’s what we are eating this week:


Lunch ~ Leftovers

Dinner ~ Date night! Byron and I are going out to dinner, while a friend babysits the kids for free (score!). I’m watching her kids on Saturday — we do this once a month so we get free babysitting for dates!


Lunch ~vegetable soup, with crackers and yogurt

Dinner ~ chicken tacos – with fresh spinach and and homegrown tomatoes!


Lunch ~ sandwiches (peanut butter with jelly or honey, or turkey and cheese) with fresh fruits and veggies

Dinner ~ pork roast, potatoes, & vegetables


Lunch ~ black bean quesadillas with fruit

Dinner ~ homemade spicy chili (I use V8 as a base for mine, so it’s another veggie-packed meal)


Lunch ~ the grandparents come to visit, and we’re taking them out to lunch!

Dinner ~ pepperoni and spinach strata

{My husband will be gone for the weekend, Friday-Sunday, so I cook less when he’s not here.}


Lunch ~ sandwiches (peanut butter with jelly or honey, or turkey and cheese) with fresh fruits and veggies

Dinner ~ leftovers


Lunch ~ black bean quesadillas with fruit

Dinner ~ homemade mac and cheese (it has carrots in it, Sneaky Chef-style!) with hard boiled eggs and fruit


What I spent this week:

Like I said before – most of my groceries come from my big pantry shops at GFS. Here is my receipt from Walmart this week:

Weekly Menus from Our Cozy Den ~  Feeding a family of 6 on under $250 a month!

What I bought: 2 gallons of milk, 1 dozen eggs, yogurt, bananas, apples, french bread, spinach, almond milk, strawberries.

My total was $25.87, and WIC covered $15.82 of that, so I spent $10.05 out of pocket.


Stay tuned for the rest of our weekly menus! And have a great week!!!