Upcycled Fire Starters

Whether its a grill, fire-pit or fireplace, getting the fire going is the hardest part. There are all sorts of products out the for starting fires, and they all come with a pretty price tag. Over the years my family has tried a variety of DIY fire starters for the fire-pit at my grandparents farm. The one thing they all had in common? You still needed charcoal lighter fluid to really get the fire blazing. Alas, that day is gone!

Upcycled Firestarters

We’ve all heard at least one dryer fire story. But did you know that the same thing that causes dryer fires to be so destructive can make an amazing fire starter? Dryer lint. It is incredibly flammable but doesn’t burn out too fast. Making dryer lint the perfect fire starter.

Supplies:

  • Dryer lint
  • Empty toilet paper rolls
  • Newspaper
  • Twine

So here’s how it goes! Stuff the toilet paper rolls full of dryer lint. The tighter you pack them the longer they burn.

Fire Starter #1

Then roll the toilet paper roll up in the newspaper and immediately pinch the paper on either side of the roll. This will prevent the paper from unrolling.

Fire Starter #2

Then tie your twine around either end. Use something organic like cotton, hemp or sisal to prevent burning plastic.

Fire Starter #3

Viola! You just made your own fire starters by using up stuff you would have thrown out or recycled! Surround them with some dry kindling and you’re golden! I hope these prove to be as useful for you as they have for our family!

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

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Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

Prepare yourself for a restaurant quality bread side you’ll want to eat again and again! This version is semi-homemade because I used store-bought yeast rolls, but you can easily make rolls from my Homemade White Bread recipe for a completely homemade treat!

Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

I prefer Kroger brand yeast rolls, but any yeast roll will do. If you are making rolls from scratch, omit this first step. Set 16 rolls out at room temperature until they have thawed. Once thawed, cut each roll in half.

Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread #1

Melt your butter. Stir the Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, parsley, garlic powder, salt and Italian seasoning together with the butter. Toss the rolls in the mixture and pour into a greased, round cake pan. Let rise until doubled in size (about an hour depending on your kitchen temperature).

Top the rolls with the remaining mozzarella cheese before baking. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve by itself or with my Homemade Marinara Sauce for dipping!

Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread #5

Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 16 Frozen Yeast Rolls
  • 1/2 Cup Butter, melted
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 1/2 Cup Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp. Parsley Flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning

Directions

  1. Thaw the yeast rolls.
  2. Cut yeast rolls in half.
  3. Melt the butter.
  4. Combine the butter, Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, parsley, garlic powder, salt and Italian seasoning in a bowl.
  5. Toss rolls in butter mixture.
  6. Pour roll mixture into well-greased, round cake pan.
  7. Let the rolls rise until doubled in size. Approximately 1 hour depending on kitchen temperature.
  8. Top rolls with remaining mozzarella cheese just prior to baking.
  9. Bake rolls at 350 degree Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Freezer Friendly Chicken Parmesan

My husband tends to pick the more expensive options for lunches. A very popular freezer meal brand charges $2.50 for one portion of chicken and a whole lot of pasta in the Chicken Parmesan meal. That’s HALF the tasty part for $2.50. You’ll be delighted to know that these 2 chicken fillet portions will only cost you $1.75 each! I know I was!

Chicken Parmesan (Freezer Friendly)

I hadn’t ever fried anything before making this, but after a few batches I feel like an old pro. First, I prefer canola oil for two reasons. It doesn’t affect the flavor of the breading and it has a higher flame point than olive oil. The flame point is the temperature at which the oil will catch fire, and because I’m a big old chicken… I prefer a higher flame point.

The first thing to do is prepare your chicken. After playing around with it, two smaller portions of chicken reheat much better than one large portion. If you are serving immediately this obviously is a mute point. Cut up all of your chicken.

Chicken Parmesan #1

Then I set up my assembly line of chicken, seasoned flour, egg wash, bread crumbs and a plate for the breaded chicken.  Each piece of chicken gets dredged in all three dipping stations. Flour first, then the egg wash and finally a heavy coat of bread crumbs.

Repeat this process until all of the chicken fillets have been breaded. You’ll want to fully attend to them once they are in the frying pan, and you don’t want to leave the hot oil unattended.

Chicken Parmesan #5

Now you want to prepare your frying pan. You only need about 1 cup of oil, potentially a little more if you have a really large frying pan. Keep in mind it only needs to cover one side of the chicken. Heat the oil on medium-high heat until the oil starts to become wavy. Once the oil is ready, cook the fillets for about 1 minute on each side. You want the breading golden brown but not burnt.

After both sides are golden brown place the fillets on a broiler pan. (I jerry-rig my own with a cooling rack on a foil-lined sheet pan.) Top each fillet with a generous amount of my Homemade Marinara Sauce, then grated Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.

Then you bake them for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees. Make sure the chicken is cooked through and your cheese is completely melted. Then label and package in freezer safe containers (these are my favorite). When my husband takes these to work he always stores them in the fridge until lunch time, and then microwaves them for 3 minutes until heated through.

Freezer Friendly Chicken Parmesan

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Ingredients

  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour, salt & peppered
  • 4 Eggs + 2 Tbsp. Water, Beaten
  • 2 Cups Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1-2 Cups Canola Oil
  • Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • Parmesan Cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Cut chicken breasts into fillets.
  2. Mix flour, salt & pepper.
  3. Make egg wash with eggs and water.
  4. Form an assembly line with seasoned flour, egg wash and bread crumbs.
  5. Dredge chicken in flour. Tap off excess.
  6. Dredge chicken in egg wash. Let excess drip off.
  7. Dredge chicken in bread crumbs. Don’t be stingy!
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 until all fillets are breaded.
  9. Heat canola oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat until oil is wavy.
  10. Fry each fillet for 1 minute on each side or until golden brown.
  11. Place fried fillets on a broiler pan.
  12. Top with a generous portion of my Homemade Marinara Sauce.
  13. Then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.
  14. Bake chicken fillets at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes, ensuring chicken is cooked through and cheese is melted.


To reheat from frozen: Allow to thaw in the fridge from morning to lunch. Reheat in the microwave for 3 minutes or until heated through.

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

I love sauce, especially red sauces. While this will always be my favorite, this marinara sauce has quickly become a must-have staple in my freezer. Its perfect for spaghetti, dipping bread or topping Freezer Friendly Chicken Parmesan. I served it over Christmas with my Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread, and I think the bread may have become a delivery system. There was no marinara left behind!

Homemade Marinara Sauce

As far as sauces go, this one is pretty quick and fool proof. The most time consuming part is letting the sauce simmer to develop the flavors.

Start by heating the olive oil on low-medium heat. The oil is ready when it looks wavy. Saute the garlic and onion until they are translucent, pictured below.

Marinara Sauce #1

I like to go ahead and open the can of tomatoes and measure out the spices while the garlic and onion are sauteing. Once they are ready, you risk them burning if you wait to add liquid.

Marinara Sauce #2

Pour in the tomatoes and spices, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes. By now the flavors have developed, you can adjust salt and pepper to taste. The marinara sauce is very chunky at this point. To smooth it out either use an immersion blender (like this immersion blender I got for Christmas which is so much easier to use than a conventional blender and reduces clean up) or dump the whole pot of sauce into a blender and pulse until desired consistency.

Marinara Sauce #3

Use immediately or store in freezer safe containers to use for up to 3 months.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
  • 2 Cans Crushed Tomatoes (28 oz.)
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Basil
  • 2 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Salt
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil on low-medium heat until wavy.
  2. Saute garlic and onion.
  3. Add in tomatoes and spices. Reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes.
  4. Use immersion blender or conventional blender to smooth sauce to desired consistency.

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

 

Christmas Stovetop Potpourri

Y’all! Prepare to be wowed by one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES!!! Seriously, this stovetop potpourri will make your house smell like a Christmas wonderland. Unlike my Autumn Stovetop Potpourri  which I created this year, we have been using this Christmas version for many years.

Christmas Stovetop Potpourri - My Royally Cheap Life

Boiling water is a great way to get moisture into your home during the dry winter months, but its incredibly boring! Finding a way to make it smell pretty in addition to humidifying the air was awesome! As always, I prefer to use natural fragrances to add scent to my home.

Christmas Stovetop Potpourri #2

Four ingredients makes for a simple way to make your house smell amazing. This is a great recipe to use for parties or just because. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Christmas Stovetop Potpourri

  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Orange, sliced
  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1/2 cup Cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp. Whole Cloves

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large pot of water. Simmer on low-medium heat, adding water as the level decreases for as long as desired.

*Do not leave unattended.*

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Coconut Oil Eye Cream

This DIY version of an anti-wrinkle cream was one of the first things I made with coconut oil, years ago. My mom was complaining about how expensive tiny bottles of anti-wrinkle eye cream was, and I had recently read about the benefits of coconut oil on wrinkles and stretch marks.

Eye Cream Graphic

Most drugstore wrinkle creams have Vitamin E in them, which made it an obvious addition. That’s it! Coconut oil & Vitamin E make an excellent anti-wrinkle cream both safe and gentle enough to use on your whole face, including around your eyes.

Melt 1/4 cup of coconut oil in a double-boiler. Once the coconut oil is completely melted, remove it from the heat. Stir in 10 drops of Vitamin E Oil. Pour into a jar and allow to cool before using. Use once or twice a day.

For quality ingredients see My Favorite Ingredients.

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

 

Freezer Meal Prep Tips

As I sat preparing for my next freezer meal marathon, I knew it was time to share what I have learned with you. I started making freezer meals about 3 years ago. There has been loads of research, experiments and some pretty remarkable failures. Haha! But every time I make a freezer meal, I learn something new.

Freezer Meals Graphic.png

One of the experiments was how to go about making freezer meals. There are multiple methods to packing your freezer: making extra and freezing it, making one to two dishes a weekend or dedicating one day every month (or two) to a marathon session. I prefer to give a day to freezer meal prep, and then reap the rewards for at least a month! Play around with it and figure out a routine that works for you and your family.

Start with a list of what you want to make. (Avoid: foods high in water content like melon or potatoes, recipes with soft dairy like milk/cream or sour cream, and casseroles with cooked potatoes or rice.) Once you have your list together it’s time to organize your recipes. Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need to buy for each recipe and organize into a shopping list.

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Go shopping! To make your dollar go further buy in bulk wherever possible.

Let’s get cooking! Group recipes by main ingredient. For example, all your recipes with ground beef, then all the recipes with chicken and finally the recipes with sausage. Specifically if I’m making lasagna sauce, I’ll use the simmer time to assemble burritos or make enchilada filling. The more you can juggle at once the faster you finish!

Package & Label: First, you need quality packaging. I use a variety of Glad Press n’ Seal, Ziploc Freezer Bags, plastic wrap, foil pans and reusable plastic containers. You WILL NOT remember what is what or when you made it… Invest in some permanent markers and labels; include contents, date frozen and directions for cooking on each item.

What is on my freezer meal menu?

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What questions do you have about making freezer meals? Leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them! Until later, happy meal prepping!

See my post on Saving Money by Freezing to learn what you can freeze to save money!

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Homemade Chest Balm

As the temperatures drop, I’ve started looking forward to hot cocoa, wonderful treats and dazzling Christmas lights. Unfortunately, all those wonderful things mean cold and flu season aren’t far off. They’ve already started giving flu shots out at the hospital… I have a talent for getting at least one chest cold every year which sometimes turns into bronchitis. When at all possible, I treat my colds naturally. A good chest balm is a must for soothing a cough at night. Think of this as all natural vapor rub.

Young Living’s Breathe Again essential oil blend is the magic ingredient in this chest balm. The blend contains peppermint, myrtle, copaiba and four types of eucalyptus to open airways. If you are interested in more information on Young Living Oils click here.

Chest Balm Graphic

To make your chest balm simply combine the coconut oil and beeswax in a double-boiler until completely melted and combined. Remove from heat. Stir in essential oil and pour into a small glass jar. Let cool at room temperature until set.

 

Rub onto chest and neck to soothe coughs, sore throat and stuffiness. For an extra boost apply to chest before a steamy shower.

Organic Chest Balm

Ingredients

  • 1/2 C. Organic Coconut Oil 
  • 2 t. Organic Beeswax Pellets
  • 20 drop Breathe Again Essential Oil

Directions

Combine coconut oil and beeswax in a double boiler until fully melted. Remove from heat and add essential oil. Pour into jar. Let sit until set.

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Autumn Stovetop Potpourri 

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE the smell of cinnamon apple wafting through my house. I only have one brand of scented candle that I use because candles, air fresheners and plug-ins are packed full of chemicals. (My guilty pleasure is Vanilla Bean by Woodwick – seriously, they crackle like a fireplace and smell amazing… However, they are expensive and even they have a bunch of chemicals; I burn them sparingly and typically only for special occasions.) I love my house to smell “pretty” or reflect the season, but the majority of chemically produced scents give me migraines. Ain’t no scent worth a migraine. With a little creativity and my trusty essential oils I’ve been able to start enjoying  those “pretty” smells!

Autumn Stovetop Potpourri Graphic

This stovetop potpourri will leave your house smelling like you’ve been slaving away in the kitchen all day baking pies. Simply toss all of the ingredients in a pot with some water and stir. Simmer as long as you like, adding water as needed.

Autumn Stovetop Potpourri #2

Autumn Stovetop Potpourri

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • Water
  • 1 Packet Apple Cider Mix
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1/4 t. Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/4 t. Ground Ginger
  • Orange Peel (optional)

Directions

Stir ingredients together in a medium pot. Simmer on low-medium heat for as long as you like, adding water as needed.

40 Money Saving Tips

Money Saving Tips Graphic

I would much rather have some money left over at the end of the month for my husband and I to have a fancy date-night instead of buying my husband new shorts because the button popped off or because my dog was due for a nail trim and groom. But at the end of the month, the shorts are still without a button and the dog still needs a nail trim and groom. That’s where a little bit of elbow grease comes into play. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty! A bit of hard work can save you a ton of money while letting you keep the lifestyle of royalty!

 

Here is a list of things we have done to reduce our spending and increase our savings.

  1. Adopt the motto, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
  2. Learn to cook from scratch. Check out my many recipes here.
  3. Pack your lunch – a great way to utilize leftovers.
  4. Get rid of cable TV.
  5. Check out YouTube for tutorials on basic home repairs.
  6. Learn how to groom your dog. See how we keep our high-maintenance pup up for almost nothing, here.
  7. Don’t pay someone for services you can do yourself i.e. dog grooming, mending, dry cleaning, housework or landscaping.
  8. Use the minimum toothpaste, shampoo, handsoap and laundry detergent to maintain the same results. (I realized I was using double the amount of shampoo that I needed. Oops!)
  9. Utilize your library’s resources. Our library provides DVD rentals, digital audiobooks and e-books for download straight to your tablet.
  10. Utilize digital, online and print coupons. (Coupons.com & RedPlum.com)
  11. Using Prime Households, split a Prime membership with a close friend. All the benefits for half the cost!
  12. Buy store brand. Kroger & Target’s store brands provide excellent quality for a fraction of the price.
  13. Explore reusable options for disposable products, like these Un-paper Towels.
  14. Grow a garden.
  15. Learn basic mending such as sewing on a button or sewing a patch over a hole.
  16. Use cold water whenever possible, like when washing clothes or rinsing dishes. There’s no need to pay for the water AND the electricity to heat it.
  17. If you truly need to replace an item, save up to buy a quality replacement.
  18. Hang your clothes to dry on a drying rack.
  19. Do not buy more than you will use. You don’t have to buy the whole bunch of bananas or a giant bag of grapes. Only buy what you are sure you will use, or you might as well throw cash into the trashcan.
  20. Make your own coffee at home.
  21. Leave the lights off and open the blinds and drapes. Natural light doesn’t cost a dime!
  22. Do your own pest control. Don’t over-pay a pest control company for something you can do with a little research and elbow grease. We use this outdoors for prevention.
  23. Unplug chargers that aren’t being used. Chargers continue to pull minimal amounts of power when they are plugged in.
  24. Plan your cooking to group the use of your oven together, or use a microwave or slow cooker instead.
  25. Do your own dry cleaning.
  26. Learn how to make your own freezer meals.
  27. If your pets have prescriptions, look into discount programs at a pharmacy instead of buying meds from your vet. Wal-Mart has some great prices on pet meds.
  28. Teach yourself a new hobby like sewing, knitting, crocheting or baking.
  29. Go on a FREE date night. After all, it’s about quality time not elaborate dates.
  30. Meal plan to at least some extent! Here’s my Monthly Meal Plan. Just fill in the dates and what’s for dinner. 🙂
  31. Sign-up for customer loyalty and rewards programs. Here is more information on how I save money with customer loyalty programs.
  32. Only wash full loads in your washer and dishwasher.
  33. Eat dinner by candlelight. It’s a romantic way to be thrifty!
  34. Explore DIY security systems. We LOVE our security camera which we can view from anywhere using our smartphones, but you can DIY house-wide systems.
  35. Buy in bulk.
  36. Put on a sweatshirt, fuzzy socks and curl up under a blanket in the winter rather than turning up the heat.
  37. Make your own body butter.
  38. Sell items you aren’t using or no longer have a use for on eBay, Craigslist or through a local Facebook group.
  39. Shop second-hand at consignment or thrift stores.
  40. Stop buying store-bought cleaners and use vinegar, baking soda or dawn instead.

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This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.