Good morning from Texas!

author Meredith Duke

Good morning! Molly asked me to sit in today as a guest blogger and I’m so thankful she did. I’ve been a Molly fan for years and have read just about every magazine and E-Book written by Molly Green.

This year I’ve been blessed to become a part of the Molly team as a writer for the “Gardening Made Easy…From the South” column. It’s been awesome writing about something I love. Of course, there’s always something to learn and there are as many ways to garden as there are gardeners. But, I’m so excited to be part of this amazing team.

You might be wondering who I am. For starters, my name is Meredith and I live in the heart of Texas, just northwest of Austin. I was born and raised in Austin and thought I’d never (ever) leave the city. But, in 1994 I married my college sweetheart, who happened to be a country boy and while we lived in the city for our first year of marriage (to finish college), we soon moved way out to the boonies. I absolutely loved it. Fast forward almost 20 years and we still live in the country in a small cabin on a hill. My husband, his brother and father built our little home. Over the years we’ve added with salvaged wood from new neighborhoods going in around us. It’s amazing what you can get just by asking.

At any rate, we’ve raised our children in the country and wouldn’t have it any other way. I started a blog several years ago and have recently changed and updated its look. We even went from a blog to a website, which is now called The San Gabriel River runs just south of us and is where my husband and his brother grew up fishing and running when they were in high school. A branch of it runs through our property which is where we train our labs for hunting and retrieving. It just seemed to be the right name.

On our website you can find all kinds of great information on gardening, homesteading and homeschooling. Some of my blog posts contain information on companion planting (with a detailed list of companion plants), 10 Frugal Steps to a Clean Oven, a whole series on processing a deer and making sausage, and even new ways to use fresh rosemary. There are quite a few recipes and homesteading advice and ideas throughout the website and blog. My hope is show my readers that there is more to homesteading than having livestock and owning land. Homesteading is a state of mind. Anyone can be a homesteader … even if you live in the city.

Thank you for letting me post this little blog this morning. I hope you have a blessed and glorious day! I look forward to future posts that include more ways to homestead where you are!

Meredith Duke is a homesteading, homeschooling mama on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She is married to her college sweetheart,  Johnny, and together they raise and homeschool their two children, James and Lauren. Life is never dull at San Gabriel Farm. There’s always something to do and there seems to be an adventure around every tree, just waiting to be discovered. You can read more about her and her family at She is also the author of Shining Through the Grief: Memoirs of Emma’s Mom as well as Bubba’s Beez Honey From the Hive Cookbook.


Be sure to keep up with Meredith’s articles on Gardening in the South in each issue of Molly Green Magazine! Get your membership HERE today and gain access to Dine on a Dime by Build a Menu  and much more!

Frugal healthy lunch ideas: works for me Wednesday

frugal healthy lunch

Frugal healthy lunch ideas from Midge

Hi all! It’s Molly’s cousin Midge here. Molly knows I’ve been working hard to find new ways to be frugal and for this new year – I’ve set some personal goals for my health as well.

Fortunately for me, my Molly Green magazine membership will allow me to have exclusive access to the Dine on a Dime menu planner from Build a Menu (coming soon) AND I get a big discount on a full membership to BAM which includes the fabulous Trim Healthy Mama recipes to help me even more.

Now, I know you may be thinking “lucky Midge – being related to Molly and all”  but, this is not just a family deal - YOU get the same benefits with a Molly Membership – see,  you can join the Molly Family too!

So now, about those frugal healthy lunches . . .

I’ve been making my very own kind of “Lean Cuisine” meals for the week.  When I do my batch cooking  or prepare evening meals – I set aside food to build the lunches with the tips as follows:

  1. Measure 1 cup of extra brown rice to add to broth. Freeze in baggies for quick access.
  2. Place portions of rice in freezer containers and add chopped veggies for a frugal, healthy homemade lean cuisine.
  3. Use broccoli stems to chop small pieces to add to rice for lunch stir-fry or to salads.
  4. Use the tops of tomatoes and bottom portion and chop for a fresh pico de gallo - to add to beans, salad, or chicken,  a Mexican rice dish or fish – for an instant burst of flavor that will light up your taste buds!  pico de gallo
  5.  Use tops and bottoms of white onions and peppers you might normally toss out for the same purpose. Chop ‘em small and throw them into sauce or soup too.
  6. Freeze washed berries and grapes individually on a tray and then divide them into portion sizes for your smoothies and health drinks.
  7. Chop bite size pieces of leftover meats – chicken, fish, steak – and freeze in portion sizes to go into your rice or healthy pasta for a protein boost at lunch.
  8. Once cooled, freeze lunch size portions of your homemade chick broth  in Mason jars or other freezer containers – add leftover rice, chicken, and veggies for a hearty hot lunch.
  9. Use frozen broth to make a homemade Egg Drop Soupfrugal healthy lunch: egg drop soup
  10. Freeze stuffed bell peppers  for a flavorful lunch – use leftover ingredients of rice and lean ground beef, turkey, or venison to fill them with.

Frugal healthy lunches can be yours with just a little bit of prep and planning ahead of time.

Don’t wait to get your Molly Membership so you can take advantage of the big discount for Build a Menu and have the Trim Healthy Mama recipes at your finger tips – or just use the Molly Membership to enjoy the ever frugal Dine on a Dime menu planner!

Go here to get your first month for only $1 and only $7.95 ever after. 

linking with Works for Me Wed

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Build a Menu: Puffy Chicken Recipe

build a menu - trim healthy mama


This Build a Menu: Puffy Chicken recipe has 3 ingredients, takes about 5 min to prepare and about 35 min for it to cook! It costs an average of $10 at most major grocery stores.  Best part is, my family really enjoyed it!  Hope yours does as well.  Enjoy.

build a menu - puffy chicken 3 ingredients, about 5 min to prepare it and about 35 min for it to cook and cost an average of $10 at most major grocery stores.  Best part is, my family really enjoyed it!  Hope yours does as well.  Enjoy.

If you are on the Trim Healthy Mama plan then this is an S meal.

  • 4-6 chicken breast boneless skinless
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese shredded
  1. Mix together Parmesan cheese with mayonnaise, to make a thick paste.
  2. Place chicken in a pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven till half-done.
  3. Turn over the chicken pieces and coat each thickly with the cheese/mayo mixture. Return to oven and bake until done.
  4. The paste will puff up into a delicious coating.

- See more and print the recipe on the Build a Menu blog here.

Molly Members will soon have weekly exclusive access to the BAM – Dine on a Dime planners!

Find out more about the new member benefits here.

Learn how having a Molly membership can save you money!

Homemade foaming hand soap: DIY project you will love-Frugal Fri

*affiliate links may be present
homemade hand soap

This homemade foaming hand soap is a DIY project you will love!

Our special recipe today comes from one of the new authors of the all new Molly Green Magazine. Lisa blogs at Homestead on topics we know and love. Frugal homesteading, DIY projects, and much more can be found there.

homestead originals blog

Use an empty foaming soap bottle, a bottle of Dr. Bronners Castile Soap, and your favorite essential oil to make this lovely homemade foaming hand soap. Lisa used an up-cycled bottle to make her hand soap and saved even more money.

foaming hand soap

One suggested essential oils combination is a Lemon/Lavender mixture (naturally antibacterial, smells out of this world!)  OnGuard Essential Oil blend (smells ‘fall-ish’ – spicey) and is unparalleled at fighting germs and bacteria, perfect for cold and flu season!

Lavender doTerra Oil

Making your own Foaming Hand Soap is just smart. It takes only a matter of minutes, it’s frugal, healthy, and super fun!


There is something really cool about the way it foams up and something even more special about knowing that it is wonderfully healthy for your family. The fact that you are saving money is almost an after thought. This recipe costs less than 50 cents to refill the Foaming Hand Soap Dispensers.

The hand soap is completely non-toxic. It smells DIVINE, you can obviously customize it, and Castille Soap is wonderful on the hands.

It’s a winner all the way around– Lisa loves to use this all over the homestead– bath, kitchen, wiping down counters…’s wonderful!  Give it a try!

Visit Lisa’s blog – Homestead Originals  to gain insight and information on cooking from scratch, homestead gardening, and much more.

You can enjoy another great recipe from Lisa, exclusive to Molly Green Magazine in the January-February “Hearth and Home” issue. Get it here. 

If you get my Friday newsletter, you most likely read Midge’s question about cooking with “exotic spices” (if you don’t get my FREE newsletter be sure and subscribe via the sticky note in the upper right corner). Read below to see my response.  Molly

Dear Midge,

There are quite a few recipes that use paprika, don’t be intimidated of this yummy spice! I think most people are familiar with using paprika on deviled eggs, here’s a great recipe. Some other recipes you might enjoy are: New Orleans Jambalaya, Paella and/or Baked Paprika- Parmesan Chicken. There are many more recipes out there, give one or two a try and see what you think.

Happy cooking! Love ya, Molly


Linking with: Simple lives Thurs Fabulously Frugal  BlackFoxHomeStead

Link up your own Frugal Friday tips and tricks! Grab the button for Frugal Friday on the side bar – or use a text link back to this post. Encourage others by visiting their links – I’ll be Pinning away. 


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Frugal living: ways to save money this year

frugal living

You may have heard the news – the all new Molly Green magazine has turned over a new leaf. We are spreading our wings to include homesteading, self-sufficient living, back yard farming, and all things home industry.

But, we are nothing if not a frugal bunch! And, in that spirit, I wanted to start our New Year off with a super frugal post to help you find ways to save money in 2014.

10 Ways to Save Money in the New Year:

  1. Fix it yourself – use the internet to watch video’s and read tutorials on how to fix various household items. Learn to stitch up clothing and make repairs to the things you use regularly.

2. Cut the Entertainment budget by finding frugal ways to play together.

3. Cook at Home & Take Advantage of Specials.

4.  Ask for a Discount! 

bowling for free

5.  Get a Discount on Children’s Activities

  • Volunteer your services to the organization for a discount on children’s sports when possible – certainly, you want to give of your time for free to help out, but you may be able to offer other services such as – photography, computer work, accounting, or other skilled work to save on sports and more for your family. Look for services they might normally have to pay for & fill in the gap where you are qualified. 
  • Set up a co-op or trade with other parents for sports and extracurricular clothing items. 
  • Take advantage of free programs like Kids Bowl Free

6.  Barter for Services. 

  • As with the above info on getting a discount on children’s extra-curricular activities – consider trading for other services as well. Think outside the box and look for needs that you can meet and then offer up your solutions to the problem in exchange for a repair or other service you cannot do yourself. Small businesses are great for this, but don’t count out the larger companies either. Big companies need endorsements, or reviews from consumers and are sometimes willing to trade for free products. Bloggers do this regularly. 

7. Grow Your Own. 

8.  Up-cycle 

9. Make Your Own Homemade Cleaners.

  • Simple ingredients can go a long way and can be used safely and inexpensively –  Baking Soda, Borax, Vinegar, Alcohol, Mild Dish Detergent, & Washing Soda are a few simple ingredients that can be used to clean almost anything. 
  • Get recipes from The Family Homestead here

10. Educate Yourself. 

Link up your own Frugal  ideas  and we will share them!

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Frugal Friday – recipes for leftover ham


frugal family leftover ham

Christmas ham is an all time favorite at our house. We love to get the honey baked ham and we always have plenty of it left over. After the first day or two, I always need to come up with a new way to serve that delicious ham to keep it interesting.

One of the best ways I’ve found to use it up is to put it into a cheesy macaroni casserole. This recipe once gained me a standing ovation – right in my own kitchen! It really is THAT good!

I call it:

“Cheesy Delicious Macaroni & Ham Casserole” 


  • 2 cups  macaroni -cooked according to package directions & drained
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup  flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion or other onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 pack (10 ounces), frozen chopped broccoli, cooked & drained (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups chopped/bite size pieces – cooked ham
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs or crushed Ritz crackers tossed with 1 tablespoon melted butter

cheesy delicious ham casserole


Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and set aside. In a medium saucepan melt 3 tablespoons butter over low heat. Add flour, green onion, salt, and pepper; stir until blended. Add milk and stir until blended. Bring to a boil; cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Add in broccoli, macaroni, ham, and 1 cup cheese. Transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese & buttered crumbs over top of the casserole.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, or until top is brown.
Stretch those leftovers a little further by using the ham bone and scraps to slow cook pinto beans. Follow this delicious step-by-step recipe for southern pinto’s ,so good it’ll make yer tongue slap yer brains out! (If any of my northern friends need a translator for that one, just holler)
I’d love to see some of your family recipes or favorite ways to stretch a dollar.

You never know . . . you could be featured in a magazine or blog post – Share using the links below.

Be sure to follow me on Pinterest –  here - I’ve been collecting wonderful ideas to last all year long

frugal friday

Grab the button above or from the sidebar and link your post up below. Be sure to visit others to see their lovely projects.

After entering your link by clicking below, come back to click on the link again and you can click on any of the pictures to visit their blogs:

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Crafty Christmas: simple, easy, on a dime

christmas crafting


The count down is on. Christmas is almost here.  There is always much to do on the homefront and Christmas is no exception. Actually, Christmas adds much more to the regular to-do list.

I don’t know about you, but it’s time for me to crank up the Christmas music, and dig in to finish up some Christmas crafting!

antique blue glass thrift find

I found these lovely antique Belgium Blue Glass jars at a local thrift stores and paid a few dollars for a set of three. I immediately began brainstorming about what I can fill them with, and came to the conclusion that bath salts treated with essential oils will make a wonderful Christmas gift. (Just don’t tell cousin Midge as she could be the recipient of one of these – keep it just between us – K?) 

The first thing they needed was a good washing with warm soapy water. Once they are completely dry, I will add my top secret, special bath salt recipe (which I’m about to share with you – again – we can keep it just between us). 

I use a simple plastic container with a tight fitting lid. That tight lid is important because once I add the ingredients, I shake -shake- shake it up to ensure we have a well blended mix. I make a big batch because I refill my own bath salt container and can give extra bags of it for refills to go with the pretty gift containers.

Top secret ingredients:

  • Epsom Salts – large bag (about $2.99 or less)
  • Lavender essential oil  (I pay $9.99 for the NOW brand to use in salts)
  • Chamomile (free – I dry my own)
  • Optional additions I like (lemongrass or citrus essential oils)

Here’s the thing – I don’t have a formula and you don’t need one. I add as much of the salt as I want into the plastic container. I then crush and sprinkle in my dried Chamomile throughout. I pay attention to the amount of the Chamomile, as this salt mix will be going into the bath tub. If you are unsure, grab your scoop or a big spoon and scoop out the approximate amount that will be added to the bath (2-3 big scoops). You can then adjust accordingly.

wild chamomile

Learn more about wild chamomile here. 

 Or read about it’s many uses in the Aromatherapy bible here. 

 I’ll be sharing another simple, easy, on a dime craft for Christmas on Frugal Friday.

Are you crafting Christmas this year? Come link up with us for Frugal Friday and share your ideas!


Frugal DIY Christmas ideas

frugalchristmasideas*affiliate links may be present

In case you missed yesterdays guest post from cousin Midge – she brought us frugal ideas for thinking outside the box this Christmas. Midge has several loved ones who are avid gardeners, and she put together some wonderful gift baskets they are gonna love! Go here to read about her frugal finds in her gift basket. 



(I am secretly hoping to be one of those loved ones who are the lucky recipients of these great gardener gifts!)

With personal, frugal, and handmade gift ideas in mind – I’ve gathered a few more choices for you from around the web. Each of these DIY gift ideas include step by step instructions on the original sites. Just click on the photo’s below to learn more and get recipes and directions for each project.

Be sure to follow Molly Green on Pinterest to find unique recipes, money saving tips, homesteading advice and more!

diy soap crayons

handmade lemon soap

branch bangles

Be sure to wrap up all your lovely DIY gifts with a beautiful burlap bow – go to factory direct for step by step instructions

diy burlap bows

 Don’t miss the Molly BOGO Christmas Bundle – see it HERE


frugal friday

Grab the button above or from the sidebar and link your post up below. Be sure to visit others to see their lovely projects.

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Creative Christmas gift for friends & loved ones

*affiliate links may be present

Thinking outside the box this year for Christmas? Midge has a few ideas up her sleeve to share with you!

midge Christmas ideas

Hi there! Midge again – I’m giving my newly educated frugal mind a good old fashioned work out this Christmas, as I try to stick to a rather strict budget for our family.

Although the gifts are not the most important thing about our Christmas celebrations, I do like to make sure each of our loved ones has a little something to show how much they mean to us.


With a budget as strict as the one cousin Molly has put me on this year, it means digging deep and getting creative. I thought you might enjoy seeing some of what I have come up with so far for some special friends who love to garden.

Any input is welcome as we put our heads together and think outside the proverbial Christmas box!
For those sweet gardener friends of mine – I thought new gardening kits would be fun. I found this one pre-made.

Fiskars 9424 Garden Bucket Caddy – Under $12 (not including the bucket or tools – just the apron bucket caddy)


gardening bucket - Christmas ideas
I also found this beautiful pink one that I love, but it is double the cost at about $25:

pink garden caddy for Christmas


Bond 6930 Pink 5 Piece Garden Tool Bag Gift Set

Other things I came across in my research include this good looking garden hat that could be added to a basket of goodies!

The Womanswork Cotton Rancher hat is $15.98

I found a 3 pack of pretty garden gloves for only $9.47 – which could all be added to one big basket or separated into 3 individual gift packs for friends and loved ones.

For my particularly small budget, I have gathered several pretty baskets from around the house. A couple of them will get a fresh coating of paint to freshen them up. Using things I have, giving them new life with a fresh coat of paint, and creating something new as a creative gift idea is a terrific way to be both frugal and green. So far, I am sure I have Molly’s approval!

My plan is to use homemade shredded paper – from saved colored scrap paper or left over paper grocery bags to fill the base of the up-cycled baskets. I get free shipping from Amazon on all the products I’ve added here with my Amazon Prime membership. You might find other deals locally instead of shopping online. I find it both frugal and convenient to use the Amazon Prime account.
I could divide the 3 pairs of pretty gloves between each basket. I have ordered this 4 pack of Heirloom tomato seeds – from Ferry Morse for only $7.16 and will add a packet of those for sure. Each of my loved ones will appreciate the heirloom seeds because they will be able to reproduce the tasty tomatoes year after year!

I was fortunate enough to find a large pack of vegetable seeds for less than $21  - Ferry Morse Vegetable Garden - It contains 12 different Ferry Morse seed packets.

With the addition of these Peat pots, my plan began to take shape!



My most frugal option, and one I believe my friends will love, came together as follows:

3 baskets from my own gift storage – FREE

Paper filling for gift baskets – FREE

Wooden tongue depressors - $6.56 (I plan to paint and label these to dress them up)

12 packs of Ferry Morse Vegetable Garden seeds - $20.47

4 pack of Heirloom Tomato seeds – $7.16

Set of 15 Peat pots – $4.27

3 of the $5 aprons – $15.00

Total cost = $53.36 or $17.79 for each gift basket

Add the gloves and the total would be $20.94 each

Additionally, I have several mason jars to place in the baskets. They will hold the personalized plant markers and may be used for ice tea or lemonade while working in the garden. I’ve added little garden notebooks for recording planting information.

These were also FREE as I had them on hand. If needed, you can easily find cute notebooks at the dollar store.

If you decide to think outside the box and make a frugal Christmas basket of your own – you could even add a small container of home baked cookies just to push your delighted friends right over the edge!

Comparable gift baskets  I came across ran on average between $40 and $124 a piece and were far less personal.

All in all – I believe any garden savvy friend would love to receive one of these as a gift any time of the year, and they sure won’t break the bank.

Meet our friends at BuildAMenu: Caramelized spiced pumpkin seeds


If you have been visiting our Facebook page lately, you have surely heard mention of our friends at Build a

We are excited about our new partnership with them and thrilled to introduce you!

Beginning in January, Molly Green Magazine members will have exclusive access to the Dine on a Dime section at BAM – super frugal, delicious recipes – organized so that you can plan your shopping at local stores!

It’s a valuable resource we know you will love as much as we do.

You’ll be hearing more from the ladies at BAM in their newly featured column in Molly Green Magazine issues beginning with our site and magazine launch in January.

I hope this works for you – because it totally works for me!

linking with: Works for me Wednesday 


Print The Recipe Here