Patriotic Mantle Decor - for patriotism inside and outside!

Patriotic Mantle Decor - for patriotism inside and outside!

We are so grateful to live in a country where freedom and independence are cherished values. We know that politicians and criminals can make freedom seem like less of a blessing. But the truth is that we do have so many options and choices we can make and so many freedoms that we can exercise - we've got to be grateful. 

Part of our expression of freedom is to decorate the inside of our home as festively as possible.

Annette loves changing decorations around our house for each season and for special holidays. Every summer she puts a splash of patriotism into our house, and last year she came up with this simple and beautiful display for our fireplace area.

Read more about the components and the cost on our Summer Craft Collection page.

How do you exercise your creativity in your home - send us a comment through our contact form - we love hearing about and seeing your frugal creativity.


Prescription drugs spilling out of a medication bottle onto money.

9 Ways to Save on Prescription Drugs

Are prescription drug costs making you choke?

According to the Center for Disease control, last month 48% of American’s took at least one prescription drug and 21% took 3 or more prescription drugs. Legal, prescribed drug use in our country, and around the world is at all time highs. It’s true that properly used, prescription drugs can greatly improve the length and quality of our lives. It’s also true that the cost of prescription drugs can greatly reduce the size of our bank accounts.

Government controls don’t work

Despite governments’ attempts to control our medical expenses, they are rising so quickly that it’s enough to make you sick. And the cost of prescription drugs shoot daggers through many household budgets— especially hampering folks who are retired and on fixed incomes.

There are no simple solutions, but many options exist for reducing or eliminating the excessive cost of prescription drugs.

The Average cost of prescription drugs

Since 1993, the retail price of prescription drugs has increased by 7.5 percent each year — almost triple the average inflation rate. According to a recent national survey of senior-age community newspaper readers, seniors pay an average of $4,000 to $8,000 per person per year out of pocket for prescription drugs. This is money above and beyond what Medicare and the “Affordable Care Act” cover. And, these numbers don’t appear to be declining.

If you haven’t researched ways to reduce any large recurring expense, chances are you’re spending more than you need to. Even if you aren’t retired, keep reading — many of these ideas may still benefit you. And some significant “elders” in your life may need your assistance as they wrestle with these increasing costs.

Drug Store Alternatives

Judy (a website visitor) wrote us several months ago with her strategy for saving on prescriptions: “There are several places on the Internet to buy prescriptions, but I don’t feel comfortable about that. I’ve found that Costco or Sam’s Club is my next best bargain. They carry the medication I need at almost half the price. I was paying $12.87 per month at my local drug store and now I pay $ 7.32 at Sam’s Club for the exact same medication. I also learned that Costco’s online price guide is not the same as their “in store” price. Remember, these pharmacies are open to the public — even if you don’t have a membership card!”

Make a list of your medications and call the warehouse clubs, grocery stores and pharmacies. Always get the name of the person you speak with and make note of the prices. If the medications are the same and you don’t have to drive too far, go with the least expensive option.

Saving the Co-Pay

It used to be that a doctor could prescribe a 3-month supply of a needed drug and the pharmacy would fill it and only charge you one co-pay. With the Affordable Care act, many insurance companies have curtailed this practice. But it can result in substantial savings, so call your insurance provider and find out what their rules are. If this doesn’t result in any savings, we’ve discovered that if we ask our doctor to prescribe a readily available generic for a 3-month supply, then pay for it without using our insurance it’s less expensive than paying 3 separate co-pays. Check with your pharmacy to see if this strategy will work.

Generics and Alternative Drugs

A few years ago, while on vacation in Texas, our son John became ill with bacterial pneumonia. We went to a medical clinic and had his condition diagnosed and a prescription authorized. The young doctor prescribed a new antibiotic that cost more than $100. We countered the doctor’s recommendation and asked for erythromycin — an older, but effective antibiotic. He consented and we paid $18 for the prescription. Yes, John recovered just fine.

Consumer Reports has a free Web site

2 children sitting on green grass reading a book.

Summer Reading Programs and Discount Movies for Kids!

Summer Reading Programs and Discount Movies for Kids!

We love reading at our house – always have! With more than 4000 books on our shelves we’re usually highlighting and turning down pages on at least 2 or 3 books at a time. It is so amazing to glean information from current day experts to those who lived generations before us. The most successful people we know are voracious readers.

Encouraging our kids to love learning and to love reading books is critical to their success also. Every summer, when our kids were younger, they would sign up for Summer Reading Programs at our city and county libraries (yes, we often involved them in two or three reading programs).

Why Summer Reading Programs are important

These programs provided encouragement for our kids to broaden their horizons. Because you had to check in several times each month to log the books or hours spent reading, our kids tore through books like crazy. The accountability and the rewards were super motivating. They also met other kids who were crazy about reading—teens who volunteered at the library to help run the program.

The Prizes

Most public libraries have summer reading programs. The programs in Phoenix reward kids with prizes for each reading benchmark they achieve. They’ve won things like: Major League baseball tickets, movie, restaurant, ice cream, smoothie, and miscellaneous treat coupons; pencils, creepy plastic insects, book marks and other little trinkets. They loved tracking their progress and eagerly anticipated their next reward.

Bonuses: Libraries often schedule story times, clowns, magicians and other kid-friendly entertainment on a regular basis . . . especially in the summer. Get the schedule and be there to expand your horizons.

How we check out books at the library

When we checked out books with five kids, it was a massive operation. So each child came to the library equipped with his or her “Book Bag,” usually a canvas tote bag that could hold 10 to 20 books. When the kids were too small to carry that many books, we’d bring our red Radio Flyer wagon and load the book bags and a kid or two into it and pull it through the library. At the check out, each kid stood in line with Mom or an older sibling to scan their books and put them in their book bag with the due-date slip.

Watch the renewal date.

Checking out large quantities of books can be a budget buster if you miss the due date. Our libraries allow phone or Internet renewal, which makes it much easier to avoid fines. And recently they’ve even started doing automatic renewals on books which have no “hold requests” on them.

A couple of afternoons each week were set aside as quiet reading or art time from 2 pm to 4 pm when the kids could devour their books. We also had story time each evening before bed—reading programs for younger kids rewarded time listening to books as well.

Other Summer Reading Programs

Not only do public and private libraries sponsor summer reading programs for kids, but so do several other book sellers and businesses.

Heirloom Audio Productions 4 Audio CD selection.

Powerful Audio History Series from the Producers of Adventures in Odyssey!

Awesome History Audio Series for kids and families.

The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty by Heirloom Audio Productions

We love audio books and audio dramas – can’t get enough of them. When Steve was working for 23 years as an advertising account executive he would regularly go to the public library and check out a number of audio books every three weeks and listen to them as he drove around to client meetings.

When we took the kids on driving vacations we’d take several audio books with us also. Working on projects around the house – like painting a room and trimming trees in the yard are also perfect times for listening to them as well.

Recently we were contacted by Bill Heid from Off the Grid Radio to preview a new audio drama project he was working on through Heirloom Audio Productions. Bill is a great guy and when we heard that the he was using top rated actors/actresses (see the list below (you’re sure to recognize several from “The Lord of the Rings,” “Downton Abbey” and “ Fireproof”) along with superb quality sound designers from the “Adventures in Odyssey” series, we jumped at the chance to preview the series. These aren't just short stories, but they are 2 hours to 2 1/2 hour long dramatic presentations - they have been dubbed "Disney for the Ears." They are just that good.

The entire series is designed to bring to life the historical novels of G.A. Henty (1832 – 1902). While the stories are historically accurate, what we love the most is the melding of courage and faith that Henty weaves into every story. His heroes experience deep emotions as they wrestle with seemingly impossible obstacles. Their faith fails at times, but is always bolstered as they walk through their battles, instead of running from them. You’ll find great inspiration for your own life and for your children too.

Riveting Stories

Heirloom Audio Productions first dramatic production was Under Drakes Flag where a young boy, Ned Hawkshaw, is given the opportunity to sail with Sir Frances Drake. During the story Ned experiences and survives a shipwreck, fights off sharks, and comes face to face with the terrors of the Spanish Inquisition. It was fantastic.

  • Free Sample Audio Chapter     

  • You can listen to an entire chapter with all of the drama, music and sound effects here. You will need to give them your email address to listen to the preview of Under Drakes Flag.

We’ve also listened with rapt attention to The Dragon and the Raven, a story about young King Alfred of Wessex standing against the vicious Danes who ravaged England in 875 A.D. The tale portrays the ravages of war, the courage of men (young and old) who faced overwhelming odds of survival with faith in God and their companions. The battle scenes are realistic and as a result could be a little scary for children under the age of eight to listen to. However, we believe that the way Henty wrote and the way the audio theater portrays the scenes gives the listener a great understanding into the hearts and minds of the people who experienced these days in history.

The other story that we absolutely loved was With Lee in Virginia. This Read More...

Hand holding a clipboard to inventory a refrigerator

The Easy Way to Inventory Your Food!


Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half.



This is an excerpt from the planning chapter of our book, Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half with America’s Cheapest Family. It will help you manage your food inventory and tame food budget so you’ll always have extra money for stocking up on killer deals!

Sometimes we’re both dog-tired and the thought of inventorying the freezer or planning a month’s worth of meals is the last thing either of us wants to do.

But before we embark on our once-a-month grocery trek, we do want to be efficient and economical, so Annette takes stock of what we have in our pantry and refrigerator, and Steve inventories the freezer.

Freezer Meat Inventory sheet.

Evaluating our stockpile

Annette records items in a number of categories, noting what we’ll need to buy in order to make it through the month.

If you go shopping once each week or twice a month you may not have to do a full inventory each time. But this step is still critical for making sure your pantry and freezer are fully stocked so you won’t have to make a special trip to just pick up one missing item for a meal you are preparing. Taking stock also helps us minimize duplicate purchases and reminds us to use the things we already have in the house.

Taking Stock the Easy Way

Using a blank sheet of scrap paper, we make note of the following items and quantities we have in stock. (Of course, your list will differ.):

Breakfast Foods: Eggs, milk, juice, oatmeal, farina, cold cereal, bagels, and ingredients for waffles, pancakes, and French toast. Annette also makes sure our pantry is well stocked with baking soda, flour, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and commonly used spices.

Lunch Foods: Peanut butter and jelly, tuna, bread, lunch meat, eggs for egg salad, tortillas and shredded cheese for cheese crisps, hot dogs, cottage cheese, yogurt, salad fixings, and plenty of fruit.

Dinner Foods: Steve takes almost everything out of our chest freezer, and gets a count of the number of items in each of the following categories:

  • pork/ham,
  • sausage,
  • chicken/turkey,
  • beef,
  • lamb, and
  • lunch meat.

He also notes how much


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