Homemade Nutella

Nutella is a staple in our house.  We use this wonderful spread on bread, bagels, banana slices and graham crakers, it’s something we pull out for breakfast, lunch and dessert.  occasionally I will find a coupon for this and wait until I find a good deal to purchase a few jars of this goodness.  The price of this wonderful treat will run anywhere between $3 – $7 depending on the size.  It’s totally worth the price, but… because we are such fans and I’m discovering you can make lots of things for less the cost you would find in stores, I decided to make this deliciousness from scratch. The most costly ingredient was the hazelnuts but I figured once I have the basics, I could make twice as much for half the cost.  We haven’t been able to put the jar down since I’ve made this wonderful snack!  Thanks Browneyed baker for this amazing recipe!

Nutella Recipe

Ingredients you will need:

2 cups ( 8 ounces) hazelnuts

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I had a hard time finding this but so I substituted regular unsweetened cocoa powder).

 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

⅛ teaspoon salt

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spread the hazelnuts out on a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until dark brown and fragrant, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking.  Keep a close eye on them, they can go from perfect roasted to burnt very quickly.  Transfer the hazelnuts to a medium-sized bowl.

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Once the hazelnuts are cool enough to handle, place a second bowl upside-down on top of the bowl with the hazelnuts. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds to remove the skins of the hazelnuts. It may take a few times to get all of the skins off; each time, remove the hazelnuts that have lost their skin to the bowl of a food processor, then continue shaking.

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 Process the hazelnuts in a food processor until their oil is released.

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It should form a smooth, loose paste, it takes between 2 to 5 minutes.  Scrape down the bowl often

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 Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, hazelnut oil, vanilla extract and salt and process until fully incorporated, scraping the bowl as needed, about 2 minutes. The mixture will loosen and become glossy.

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Transfer the spread to a jar with a tight-fitting lid or an airtight container. You can store it in the refrigerator or at room temperature for up to 1 month.  Enjoy your frugalistic snack!!!

Homemade Magnet Fabric Bulletin Board

three magnet boards

One of my favorite things to do is crafting. Wait! Before I type any further, I must first confess my projects don’t always come out as planned… ok, most of the craft experiences turn out complete failures. But who’s keeping tabs? The lesson is in the struggle, not the victory right?

Anyway, this past Christmas I decided to dig a bit deeper in my crafting adventure and give homemade “GOOD” gifts to my family. My Brother  has a beautiful family of five girls!! So you can imagine they are all so beautifully different and of all ages so my goal was finding something that could fit each of them.  After a bit of searching the web, I came across several different ways to make bulletin boards.  These that you see listed in the post, were ones  I made from the combination of websites I came across.

Here’s how I made these fun magnetic bulletin boards for their rooms!

Supplies You’ll Need:

11 x 14 Canvas
sheet metal 12 x 18
Gorilla Glue
Bottle Caps (to make
Heavy duty Magnets
Staple Gun

I went to Hobby Lobby to look for inspiration fabric that I felt matched each of the girls personalities.  I found these particular fabric pieces in the remnant fabric section so it was discounted.


I also purchased a multi-pack Canvas 11 x 14.  This pack runs $5.99 regular price but you can use your 40% off coupon for extra savings:)


I chose these particular magnets because I read that you need a good magnet strength. This one had the highest rating. Heavy Duty magnets can also be found at a home improvement store. You will use these magnets and hot glue them to the back of the bottle caps or gemstones if you would like:)Sheet Metal

Sheet Metal can be found at Lowe’s or Home Depot. At my Home Depot,  I found it near the hardware section, with the ropes, nails, and chains. It is called Sheet Metal Zinc. A 12×18 in sheet was $4.97. In a different section of the store, they had thicker sheets of metal that is called “sheet metal”, but it is MUCH more expensive.  You can ask the Home depot representative to cut this sheet into two equal parts. If you choose to cut the metal on your own, you will need a tool called “Tin Shears” which can be bought at a Home Improvement store. They cost around $8.00 and go up from there.

1. Lay your metal on top of your canvas, and cut your fabric out large enough to wrap around the back about 1 inch.
2. Use your Gorilla Glue and past the sheet metal to the front of your canvas and allow to dry. I allowed a few hours and laid some hard items like a book, or computer on top to secure the metal tightly to the canvas.
3. Lay your fabric on the metal canvas and smooth out any wrinkles.
4. Flip your canvas over, and start stapling the extra fabric on the edges with your staple gun. (Make sure you pull the fabric tight as you do this, so it looks crisp)
5. Make your magnets by hot gluing them to the back of the bottle caps.
6. Use some beautiful ribbon and tie a pretty bow to the top. I also secured the ribbon on the back witha few staples.

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You can either purchase a few adhesive clip backings to the back of the fabric Bulletin Board or purchase a metal stand like the one you see above.Magnet Board 2

Here is the way the back of the canvas looks! Put on something cute and personal, and you’re done!  After all said and done, this Christmas present ended up costing around $8.00 a piece and the girls LOVED them!!  Do you have any frugal Christmas or Birthday present ideas you want to share???

Velveeta Cheese Copycat…YES it actually melts for Queso!

chow cheeseI recently posted about my first experience with trying to make my own velveeta cheese.  While the cheese was fantastic, it did not melt to make queso.  I did a little (Okay….maybe a LOT) of scouring online and found out why.  You can check it out here. Chemically, when cheese melts, the fat and water separate.  There is a chemical, sodium citrate, that will help them not to split when heated.

Now….I laugh at my hypocrisy.  I cook most of my foods from scratch because I hate all the chemicals that are in processed foods.  I want to be able to identify what I am eating.  Sodium Citrate is one of the things I would have scoffed at.  It is made from fermenting molasses and citric acid.  Crazy huh!

Now…you can’t just go over to Wal-Mart and buy this stuff.  You have to order it online.  I actually bought mine on eBay because it was cheaper.  The end result was super melty cheese that you can make amazing macaroni and cheese or chile con queso out of!

Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup plus 1 TBS water or milk

1 tsp. Sodium Citrate

5 Ounces cheddar cheese (DO NOT buy pre-shredded cheese)


Grate the cheese.


Boil the water and dissolve the Sodium citrate completely using a whisk.


Slowly, about a 1/4 of a cup at a time, whisk in cheese.  Do not add more until it is completely melted.


Repeat until all the cheese is melted.

Pour this cheese over cooked macaroni, or add some Rotel for queso.  AMAZING!!!  (And super FRUGALICIOUS!!)

I normally double this recipe to make chile con queso!!

(I wish I had pictures of the final product……In my excitement I dropped my phone and picked up some chips!!!!!)


cheeseA few weeks ago a friend of mine and I were at lunch talking about our most recent adventures in the kitchen and I proclaimed, “I am tired of buying velveeta cheese!”  She literally flapped her arms erratically and told me that she had come a cross a recipe for it on Pinterest.  I pulled out my phone and we looked at it.  I stopped at the store on the way home from lunch and made it that afternoon.  (Yes….I DO have issues!)

I was so excited.

And then I wasn’t.

Now…..American Test Kitchen did in fact create a recipe for American cheese.  It makes wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches.  I makes fantastic sliced cheese.  But the all time favorite chile con queso….it does NOT.  I have, however, made several batches of this cheese and will never buy individually wrapped slices of American cheese.  (I say never loosely.  There will be a time when I am in a crunch and will buy it or I will find it on sale so cheap that I can’t resist.)

If you want a similiar recipe that you can make melty velveeta chile con queso out of go here.)


Here is the Recipe:

1 TBS water

1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatine

12 ounces Colby Cheese, grated

1 TBS Whole Milk Powder

1 Tsp salt

⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 Cup plus 2 TBS whole milk

NOTE: Whole milk powder cannot be substituted for non-fat dry milk powder.  That yellow can there in the picture is what you want.  I found it at Wal-Mart in the Hispanic food section.  It is all in Spanish….I can’t read a word of it!  Once you have a can of it, you will be hooked. You can use it to substitute milk in recipes!!

NOTE #2: You CANNOT buy pre-shredded cheese.  They add cellulose to it so it won’t clump.  It will ruin this recipe!


Pour your water in a bowl and sprinkle your gelatin over it.  Set aside.


Grate your cheese.  (I did this in my food processor and then had to dump it in a bowl to change out the blade.  Not my smartest move!)

IMG_4831Line your loaf pan with saran wrap.  This mini-loaf pan is what I had on hand.  The best pan to use is a 5X4.  My cheese ended up a little short.

IMG_4829Sprinkle your milk powder, salt, and cream of tartar across the top.

IMG_4830Pulse a few times to mix it all together.

IMG_4834 Heat the milk until boiling and then whisk together with the gelatin/water.

IMG_4835Pour into food processor.

IMG_4836Pulse in the processor until your cheese is nice and creamy.  Use a rubber spatula to spread into your bread loaf pan, and refrigerate.  (I forgot to take a picture! :))  Press firmly and wrap the saran wrap over the top.  refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Now….  You can add flavors to this cheese.  I am going to make some pepper jack and tomato basil!  YUMMY!!!  Just add the ingredients when you add the salt.)

Cheap Airfare


Traveling is expensive with a family of 7!!  I love sites like Priceline for hotels and cars, but haven’t had much luck with airfare. It is almost never cost-effective to fly rather than drive.  BUT recently I have discovered a way to cut back on airfare.

My kids have never flown and they have been dying to!  So, as we began to plan a vacation for the end of this year we started looking at airfare.  I found a TERRIFIC site called Airfare Watchdog.  You can visit this site and put in where you want to fly.  Anytime there is a drop in cost, they will email you to let you know.  We have not purchased tickets yet, but I have seen the tickets drop as much as $75/person.  If your dates are flexible, this is a FRUGALTASTIC way to hit the skies!!!

One of my favorite features is that it also gives you alternatives to your flights.  It might find a good deal at an airport that is a little further from you.  You may fly into DFW instead of Lovefield or LaGuardia instead of JFK….not super inconvenient but it might save you a lot of money.

What do you do to save money on vacations????

A Word about Thrift Shops…..


I have been looking for a small dresser or nightstand that I want to re-purpose for my bathroom.  What that really means is that I have spent LOTS of time visiting thrift shops.  This week I found 2 GREAT finds!

You all know about my shameless love affair with my bread machine.  (Yes…I need therapy.)  Well….it works fine, but often times I have to unplug it in order to get the buttons to function correctly.  So when I came across one that is almost the EXACT same as mine in the thrift shop for $9, I snatched it up and skipped to the check out counter.  (Seriously….I practically started a flash mob right there in the store!!!!)

THEN….in the very next store I went into, I found a deep fryer for $9.  Every now and then I think to myself, I need a fryer!  You know…like when you want to make homemade doughnuts!

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(I think I just gained 5 pounds!!!)

Anyways….I wanted to take the time to tell you how much I love thrift stores.  Whether it is a local one or Goodwill or Salvation Army.  I. LOVE. THEM.

You always need to be careful when shopping.  You don’t want to over pay for things.  If I am shopping around and I find something that I THINK is a good deal, I put my phone to good use.  Look it up and see what it goes for new.  If the gap is significant…..go for used!!

I love old furniture.  It is made of quality wood.  The new stuff I have purchased over the last few years may look nice when I bring it home, but it scratches easily and gets wobbly.  The older stuff doesn’t do that.  I am making it my new goal to learn how to re-finish furniture.  (In other words….I will be posting my newest projects soon!!!!)  Thrift shops are a GREAT place to find old furniture.

Costumes, kitchen items, small appliances, and toys are always good second-hand.  (Last year I bought a HUGE tub of lincoln logs for $4.  Those things are like $30 retail.  My kids have built some stellar cabins with my cheap find.)

Many thrift shops have even better sales.  With Goodwill they try to turn over their stuff in 30 days.  Each week when new items are brought into the store they are assigned a color.  That color changes every week. After four weeks, they put everything in a certain color on sale for 30% off.  (If it makes it 30 days….it goes on sale.)  Make sure you check out the signs at the front to see what the specials are for the week!

Most Salvation Army stores around Houston have half-price clothes days on Wednesdays.  My girls have lots of brand name jeans that I paid a buck or two for on sale!  They also have specials every week.  Check out signage at the front of the store when you go in.

Lastly…..don’t be ashamed!  By being a savvy shopper and saving money…..you are blessing your family.  We are trying to save up to take a vacation to New York at the end of the year.  Every time we find something for a bargain, my kids cheer about how the savings can go into the vacation fund!    They LOVE saving money!

What are your Thrift Store success stories??????

Strawberry preserves

So after our family outing to the strawberry farm I had to find many things to do with our strawberries.  I decided to take my first little adventure into canning.  It was seriously so much fun!


Here is what you need:

5 cups mashed strawberries (about 2 pounds)

7 cups sugar

1 lemon

1 tsp. butter

8 cup sized mason jars, or 4 pint size jars

1 box powdered pectin

On the left here you see this nifty kit I purchased at Wal-Mart for $7.  It comes with tongs to remove the jars, a magnetic wand for the lids, a measuring stick, and a wide mouth funnel.  You don’t have to have this but it sure was FUN!!!

IMPORTANT NOTE!!!!  Do not try to double the recipe.  If you do, you will end up with a runny mess.  The reason is because it takes longer to heat up and the extra heat breaks down your pectin.  If you have enough to make multiple batches, just do one recipe at time.  It is worth it!!


You will need some canning jars.  I have lots of pint-sized mason jars so I only had to buy the lids.  You always have to use NEW lids.  If you re-use old ones, there is no guarantee that they will seal properly and it can cause you to get sick.  Don’t risk it.  These were only $1.50.

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Put your lids in a pot and let theme simmer, NOT boil, in hot water.  This will allow the seal to warm up.  Also, put your jars in a large pot to simmer.  You can buy fantastic little racks and pots…..I didn’t.  I had a seafood steamer and it worked GREAT!  It has an insert that keeps the jars from sitting on the bottom of the pot.

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Take your strawberries and cut out the stem.  Rinse well.

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Mash all the strawberries and put them in a pan.


Squeeze the lemon juice into your pan.  (Yes, I know this picture is silly!!  In my excitement…I forgot to snap the picture of me squeezing the lemon juice in the pan.)

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Add the powdered pectin and whisk well.

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Add 1 tsp of butter.


Cook on medium-high heat until your strawberries are at a rapid boil.

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Stir in sugar completely.  Continue to stir occasionally until it boils rapidly.


You want it to REALLY boil.  You will have to stir it to keep it from over flowing.  Keep a full boil for about a minute.

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Turn off the heat and skim the scum off the top. (I just use a rubber spatula)  This is a before and after  picture.  I got MOST of it off.

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Pull your jars out, one at a time, as you need them.  This way they stay hot.

IMG_4983 IMG_4985Fill each jar up almost to the top.  Leave about 1/4 inch at the top.


Run a knife around the edge of the jar.  This releases any air that is in the jar.

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Take one of your lids out of the simmering water and gently set it on the jar.  Take a rim and twist it on until it just starts to meet resistance.  (DO NOT tighten the jars.)

IMG_4991Put all four (or 8 cup size jars) into the pan.  Your pot needs to be big enough that the jars can be submerged in the water and a lid can go on top.  Let the water boil.  Boil for 10-12 minutes, covered.

Turn off the heat and let sit in the pot for 5-10 minutes.

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Pull each jar out with tongs and let sit overnight.  Try to handle them as little as possible!  You might hear some popping from your lids.  This is a GOOD thing.  It means your seals on your jars are working!!

In the morning, gently remove the ring from the lid and tug the lid of each jar to make sure it is sealed tightly.  Don’t pull tight enough to remove it, just make sure it is tight.

ENJOY!! Save the jars for your next batch 🙂

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