Thrifty Tips

Tools to stretch your dollars from two women, Jaci Dunphy and Theresa Vardilos

From Jaci Dunphy
Over the last 10 years, I have been blessed to be a stay-at-home mom and as a result, have really learned the value of a dollar. Penny-pinching and finding new ways to save money has always been a top priority. I have tried many different ideas but the only thing that has worked for me, saved me time and proved over the years to save the most money, is to be prepared. Preparedness is the best advice I could ever give to help save money and time in the kitchen.

On the weekdays, we are always keeping the road hot. As you can imagine with four kids and each of them being involved in something, Mondays thru Thursdays we aren’t home until 6 p.m. After a long day, the last thing I want to do is come home and figure out what to make for dinner. Stopping on the way home for a burger and French fries would be an easy option, but before you know it there’s more than $80 a week and over $320 a month, gone! So let me share with you a little about what being prepared looks like in our home.

We do our Costco runs about twice a month and get pretty much the exact same things every trip. Justin and I are on high protein diets and track our daily intake of carbs and fats. Because of this, our Costco list consists of LOTS of boneless-skinless chicken breasts, quinoa, sweet potatoes, eggs, Greek yogurt, fruits, and veggies. Going to Costco with a list is also a great tip for keeping your bill to a minimum.

Sundays and Wednesdays are our meal prepping days. On Sundays, I cook enough food to make portions for five meals per day, through Wednesday, for Justin and me. I also make enough to use for dinners for the kids, through Wednesday. I do mix it up for the kids though and stir in things like taco salads, chicken tacos, and even breakfast for dinner. Having the main ingredients prepared already makes it a million times easier to throw something together when I get home in the evenings. Then again on Wednesday, I meal prep all over again.

The Dunphy essentials recipes:

Boneless skinless chicken breasts—our favorite ways to cook our chicken is on the stove and on the barbeque. We use garlic, salt and pepper as our seasonings.

Sweet potatoes—my FAVORITE! Peel sweet potatoes, cut them up into small cubes, throw them into a pan, add a whole onion chopped and mix together with a little coconut oil. Cook until potatoes are cooked through.

Quinoa–we cook our quinoa as instructed on the package.

image1Veggies—we don’t always do our veggies the same. I do like to mix this part up. I love sautéed veggies, so I do sauté a variety of veggies in coconut oil with garlic, salt and pepper. I also steam our veggies sometimes, or even boil frozen veggies in water.

I know that every family won’t be ok with eating the essentials that we do. Finding those foods that you and your family would enjoy would be your first step. I recommend a lean meat, a potato, rice or quinoa and then a couple different veggies. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. I would love to help in any way. Your wallet won’t be the only thing thanking you for your preparedness, but your health and figure will too!


From Theresa Vardilos
When I was asked to share a few of my “thrifty tips” I immediately thought of our health? We are firm believers in taking care of our bodies by doing healthy things (exercise) and by eating healthy foods. Exercise is an easy one. You don’t need to be a member of a gym or own expensive equipment. You just need to get up off the couch and move more. Park further out at the mall or grocery store and take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can.

However, eating healthy foods can be a challenge. Buying and eating organic and natural foods can be expensive so my thrifty tip is to join a food co-op that supplies locally grown organic and natural foods. Buying locally supports our area growers so we will always have access to healthy food options and by joining a co-op you help our growers and yourself to keep costs down.

I’ve found two local growers that I really like who offer co-op programs. They are Azure Standard and J.R. Organics. I’ve found both of these growers to provide good quality organic fruits and vegetables at a fair and competitive price. Take a minute to check them out.

Buying organics and eating healthy can seem more expensive at first, but in the long run you will feel better, look better, reduce your medical expenses and save money.

The next thrifty tip I thought about was the benefit of becoming a do-it-yourselfer. There are so many “how to” videos and instructions online to make and do anything yourself from gifts to home decorations to refinishing furniture.

Even if you’re not a crafty person that likes to do this as much as I do, for I’m almost always in the middle of some project, you can still learn lots of money saving tips by learning how to do simple things yourself. Whether it’s finding a healthy recipe, creating a new centerpiece for your table or making a special gift for a friend … doing it yourself will save you lots of money and add just the right personal touch that only you can. Plus, you just might develop a new skill and find a new hobby that you really enjoy. Best of all, nothing is more special or shows your love and the love of Christ more personally than blessing a family member, friend or co-worker with a handmade, handcrafted gift. One of my favorite websites for finding simple, easy and creative ideas to make just about anything you can think of is Pinterest. It’s a relatively new site, but well worth checking out.

The next time you are out shopping, looking for just that perfect gift, stop and ask yourself, “could I make something myself for less money?” That’s how many of my ideas get started and how I stretch our dollars.



Jaci Dunphy Headshot

Jaci Dunphy
I am 30 years old and am a stay at home wife and mom. My husband and I have been married for 8½ years and we have 4 children, Donovan (9), Drake (7), Irelyn (3) and Raegan (1). We keep our kids active in sports and activities, so we are very busy, most nights not getting home until 6pm. Fitness and nutrition are a huge passion of mine. My goal is to become a certified personal trainer to help and motivate others to achieve their health and fitness goals.

Theresa HeadshotTheresa Vardilos
Married to Byron for 17 years, we have four wonderful children, two boys and two girls between the ages of nine and 14. I’m a stay-at-home mom busy with homeschooling and the daily duties of managing of our home. Some of my favorite things to do include inspiring other through prayer, teaching and making things with my hands from floral designs, knitting and beading to bread making and adapting recipes to meet the health needs of my family. We’ve attended The Father’s House since 2003. My current favorite verse is “Truly He is my rock and salvation; He is my fortress; I will not be shaken” Psalm 62:6.


The Keys to Lifelong Friendships

Q & A

What keeps you bonded as friends through the years?
Stacy Brown: One of the things that keeps you bonded in friendships through the decades is familiarity. It is so cool—and sometimes comforting—when someone just knows and gets your story. I have one friend whom I don’t see often, but she knows my family, she knows my history and struggle through the years and she’s a go-to when things are really tough. She knows enough to listen and pick up wherever you were last. It’s great to have at least one friend who knows your secrets and you know hers. I think an important part of this type of friend is loyalty and confidentiality—on both parts.

Marilyn Jordan: I’ve had many dear friends over the years, and have unfortunately lost track of far too many. I often think of them and wonder what they are doing, where life has taken them, are they still alive?! Life has taken us in different directions, and the wear of time and distance have taken their toll.
But as with two very dear college friends and with the other friends I have stayed close with, the thing that has kept us connected is our relationship with Jesus—He is the glue that keeps us together. For Jesus doesn’t fade over time and He’s never far away. He’s the common link that we can share for a lifetime.
Being “sisters” in life is one thing, but being “sisters in Christ” is everything. It’s that bond that keeps us close, keeps us united and keeps us lifelong friends.

How have you noticed your friendships evolve over the years as priorities have shifted and lives have become busier?
SB: I think some friends are for a season, such as a friend from your kid’s school or church or from a certain group you are in. It’s important to remember every friend doesn’t have to be your confidant. This can be exhausting thinking you have to tell every friend everything. Be a friend who is understanding of family priorities, and surround yourself with friends who are understanding to you. Be careful not to be a flakey friend who uses kids, etc., as excuses for bailing, and don’t waste your time with a friend who is like that.

MJ: Friendships definitely evolve over time—some mature and grow closer, and some drift apart. Staying in close physical proximity certainly helps as your kids then become friends too, which helps to keep you connected.
But true friendships are of the heart. So for my friends no longer nearby or those I don’t see as often due to the busyness of life, I try to call or send a special note when God brings them to my memory. I definitely pray for them and love to think back with fond memories of the times when we were together. I don’t want to ever forget them and always look forward to the day I will see them again.

How do you make time for and nurture friendships in the business of working, being a wife, a mom?
SB: It’s important to schedule friend time. This can be as easy as a quick phone call check-in, to scheduling lunch or dinner or something fun once a month. I found when my kids were younger, it was easy to get together around kid stuff, and some of my closest friends are the ones I made in my kids’ elementary school years.

MJ: As a working wife and mom, I’ve always led a very busy life. Friendships take time—something I didn’t have a lot of over the years. I didn’t really realize it until writing this story, but as I look back over the years, the friendships I have kept are the ones in which we shared Christ.
But taking the time is key. It comes down to keeping your friend and your friendship a priority, even if that means simply calling every week or two to check in and catch up, or writing a quick note to let them know you’re thinking of them. Life will always be busy, so keeping your friends close is your responsibility.

What would you say is your greatest quality as a friend? Conversely, what is the most cherished quality a friend can offer you?
SB: I think my best quality as a friend and the one I look for the most is loyalty. I have one close friend who, whether I am right or wrong in a situation and I say, “You need to back me on this one,” I know she’ll say, “OK, I’m with you.” And I have done the same for her. Sometimes we have both been dead wrong, but it’s just the attitude of “I am here and I back you.” Also I appreciate someone who loves my kids and family—this is an important one. A friend to me joins me in my happiness when my kids are doing great and is also right there supporting me and crying with me when they struggle. I know their struggles are safe with my friends.

MJ: Encouragement, support and grace—these are the most cherished qualities of a friend to me. A friend is with you in the good times and the bad, and stands with you through the hardest trials of life. A friend grieves with you, laughs with you, rejoices with you, encourages you—and admonishes you when needed. A friend lets you “vent,” scream and cry without judgment. A friend gives you grace to fall down and then helps you back up.

What advice would you offer to someone who’s struggling to maintain long-term friendships?
SB: I would tell them to ask themselves, “What kind of friend am I? Am I putting an unrealistic expectation on this person? Am I looking for friends who are compatible for where I am in life?” For example, if you have young kids and your closest friends don’t, this friendship will be a struggle. People going through the same stages of life as you make friendships that are easier to maintain. Don’t be petty, don’t hold offenses, don’t gossip!

MJ: Pray about it. Ask God why you are struggling in this area. Ask Him why you don’t have close “sisters” with whom to share your deepest heart cries. It could be that your focus is too much on yourself and your own needs.
I’ve learned over the years that when I’m dealing with a difficult, all-consuming issue that the best thing to do is to get my eyes off my own circumstance and reach out to help others in need. Long-term friendships work very much in the same way. When we reach out to put others before ourselves, God has this amazing way of meeting our own need, whether that be resolution of a “crisis” or starting a relationship that turns into a lifelong friendship.



StacyBrown_IMG_3986Stacy Brown has been married 28 years and has four children, ages 19-27. One is married for five years, one married in January and two are in college. She’s a business owner and entrepreneur. “I believe friendship is one of the best gifts you can receive and have some that go back 25-plus years,” she says. “Especially in this ever-changing season of life, friends are even more important!”




DSC_9384Marilyn Jordan has walked with the Lord for nearly 40 years and has been a member of The Father’s House for over ten. Married to her husband, Larry, for nearly 39 years, they have two grown sons, one of whom lives in Vista, Calif., with his wife and attends The Father’s House. Marilyn is a strong promoter of daily journaling and meditation on God’s Word. “Heaven is never far from those who will linger on a mountain with their Lord” Luke 9:32. Every life that desires to be strong must have its “Most Holy place” (Exodus 26:33) into which only God enters.

My Journey as a Single Mom

My life is not much different from that of any other mom: constantly pouring out and rarely getting anything back in return except a smart remark. There are two major differences between me and most other moms. First, I didn’t give birth to the child I am raising; I adopted her. Next, I didn’t take on this sweet girl as a baby, but as an adolescent. I didn’t get all the major years of bonding. I am trying to encourage and train a child to become a healthy young adult. I am also trying to be God’s hands and feet to bring healing to the wounds and damage she endured most of her life.

As if that isn’t hard enough, I am doing this as a single lady. I don’t have a partner to take over in the moments I don’t have grace but am full of bitterness. I have no one to build me up on the nights I cry over my own selfishness. The hardest part of all is playing the role of mom and dad. I never realized how important these roles were until now. I had no idea how hard it would be to nurture and be compassionate when I am also exhausted from working a full day. All livelihood, discipline, teaching and training rely on me. In the midst of this, we are trying to learn each other’s unique personalities.

I understand why many people do not take on the responsibility of adoption. I don’t have precious memories of her as a baby needing me, my milk, my care, and my love. I don’t have memories of her as a toddler crying for me when someone else tries to take her because I am her whole world. Bonding is very difficult because I don’t have these memories. If she doesn’t ask me for a hug, I don’t think to hug her because I don’t know her little signs yet. When she gets angry, I become defensive and feel so unappreciated at a time when I am pouring out more than ever! I cannot tell you how many times I cry myself to sleep, or simply cry anywhere, because I feel so depleted.

I’m sure many of you reading this are thinking, “This is so sad. Poor Victoria. Why would she do this?” That’s a great question, and I love answering it! The answer is that I am crazy! I am only half kidding.

I would like to share a small secret with you. I was once a horribly disgusting human being completely drenched in mud from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes. Remember the woman about to be stoned in the Bible? I like to compare myself to her in more ways than one. The first comparison is the obvious: sin. The second is the great life-changing gift she received by the grace of Christ. You see, when you deserve death and know it greater than any adversary can state and then have purity Himself stand up for you, even stand up in front of you, your life is no longer yours. At that moment everything in you belongs to Him.

Throughout all of the trials in my life, God was molding me into the kind of person who would say yes whenever and however He called. Years ago my heart was broken, my dreams shattered and my hope was lost. It was then I learned there is a name for hope, peace, love, and joy. That name is Jesus Christ. Trial after trial, I continually ran to my Savior. There were many moments I wanted to give up and run away from my own life. I remember God asking me as He did the disciples, “Are you also going to leave?” I replied out loud as Peter did, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (John 6:67-68 NLT).

When the day came that a broken little girl asked if she could live with me I only had one question: “If this is Your will then I’m going to need a lot of miracles and open doors, and if this is not Your will for me can You please help me help her somehow?” I can just hear God laughing and smiling. The Good Book says God is searching for people who love Him and want to do His will, so I said, “Here I am, God. Send me.” And He did. What made this decision hardest was my seeking wise counsel. Most of my family and friends discouraged me from taking on this responsibility. Who would blame them? I was broke, single, and prime marriage age with the world ahead of me. This could ruin my chances of finding a quality mate, traveling the world, continuing my education or becoming debt free. Yet I have never in all my life seen so many miracles happen in such a short period of time all for one little life. The greatest lesson I have learned to date is how miraculously and powerfully God will move for one person! Here are just a couple examples. The month I was asked if I could take Destiny I had just been hired back to my old job and given an unexpected raise. The following month all placement paperwork was done. Apparently this takes many months, and all those involved were shocked.

One week I realized I had $10 in my account until payday, which was six days away. I cried out angry to God, “You called me to this and promised me You would provide for us. You are my husband and provider right now! I refuse to call family and friends and beg for bread because You are my provider!” The next day there was an unexpected check in the mail for $300.00. The list goes on and on.

As I am sitting here writing this blog I have been weeping and writing because writing all this is again inspiring the awe of God’s goodness and faithfulness. This may not be the life I planned, expected or asked for but it sure is blessed beyond anything I could imagine. I have loved God, walked with Him and talked with Him, but it wasn’t until I decided to adopt a little girl that I saw the heart of God. When you think about it, is there really any greater picture of how our Savior loves us? We were born into flesh, have hardships and abuse thrown our way, and then choose sin and death. For some reason, God chooses and adopts us. It’s strange at first to be loved by someone we’ve never met. Yet deep down it’s what we always hoped and prayed for: that we were actually worth being loved well.

We serve an amazing God whose heart I don’t deserve to rest in, whose greatness I will never understand, and whose power words cannot describe. We serve a God who runs after the one, loves those the world casts away, and miraculously works all things for greatness for all who love Him. I can’t wait to see what He asks of me next.



I was given tVictoria Thomas piche name Victoria at birth, which means Victorious; a powerful identity I would not understand until the age of 28. I was raised in a loving Christian home, but sadly walked away from truth at age 15. I wouldn’t return to truth until age 19, the same year my little girl was born. The moment I surrendered to Christ happened when my pitiful, shameful self asked, “If You are real, then prove it!” and He did. Since then, I have worked through many painful choices and memories, bringing forth a life I believe is nothing less then Victorious. I then traveled the world, gained wisdom, took leaps of faith and watched God work miracles.


Season of Contentment

Upon leaving the Women’s Retreat, I began searching my heart for what God would specifically say to me in the area of being tested. I was nine months pregnant, feeling great, and ecstatic for where my life was and where it was going.

For the first time in a really long while I find myself truly content. Of course, there are things that I would enjoy having like more time or a little more money. While I wouldn’t turn any of these things down if they were offered to me, I don’t find myself coveting them and focusing my mind, money and attention to try to gain more of them. At times, being content doesn’t seem possible this side of Heaven but I have clung to 1 Timothy 6:6 which says, “But godliness with contentment is a means of great gain.” This must mean it is possible to be content. Through this passage, I’ve discovered that the closer I am to God, the more content I will be despite my circumstances. It also brings perspective in regards to finding contentment with life’s necessities and not all of life’s luxuries. Paul wants to be sure believers realize that conforming to God’s truth and being godly is of utmost importance and he is advocating that you truly can be content in being godly. We don’t have to look to other things or get caught up in greed to find fulfillment since God is the only true source of contentment.

It’s often difficult to focus on a topic or message that doesn’t seem to immediately apply to you, such as the topic of “being tested” was for me. Sure, I’ve been through my fair share of trials and I know without a doubt that more are on the way, but at this point in my life I have found a joy, peace, and an ease to life that seem like the antithesis of testing. While reflecting and processing the amazing truths and stories of women who are going through or who have gone through immense difficulty and struggle, I found myself immediately thinking—Oh no! Life is good…which means something bad must be lurking around the corner. How easy it is for me to think that enjoying life and being content must mean that I’m doing something wrong as a Christian! And yet Jesus promises a full and abundant life (John 10:10). How sly of the enemy to take even a sweet and fulfilling season of life and bring fear and uncertainty because life can’t surely be this good, right?

I’ve learned that it’s okay to hear a message for a season that I may not be experiencing presently. Instead of tuning out the message because it doesn’t apply to me, I know that my God is strategic and wants to help me through the tough times, even before I get there. I have chosen to pay very close attention and to meditate on the scriptures and stories of those who have walked through the valley. I am saving the stories of my fellow friends who have gone through incredible testing and I am holding onto the things that have gotten them through. I am also guarding my heart and mind to not be consumed with fear about when it will be my turn to walk through the valley. Philippians 4:8 instructs us to keep our minds on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, anything excellent, and worthy of praise.” When thoughts and feelings that do not reflect these attributes instantly come rushing in I find that I have to take control of my mind and surrender it to the Lord, asking Him for help. He reminds me that this time of learning about trials and testing isn’t to scare or warn me about imminent trouble heading my way. It is to reveal the refinement and purpose that He has done in my life through past struggles and to equip me for whatever may come my way in the future. To think that the Lord would allow me to glean from others and to hear their stories and battles in order that my faith in Him might increase is truly beautiful.

No matter what my life looks like, if God has a truth to tell me or a lesson to teach me, I want to listen and learn. The future is uncertain to me, but as I keep my eyes on Jesus and live in obedience to His word I can be sure to experience contentment, regardless of life’s circumstances. It is perfectly fine to experience times of joy, peace, and contentment—in fact, I believe it is God’s desire for us to experience these things often. Your situation is not always a reflection of your performance. While consequences to sin are real, we serve a God who is perfectly merciful, just, gracious, right, and loving all at the same time. He gets to determine what to do with us. We have the privilege and responsibility to trust and follow Him through the good times and the bad times. There is no room for guilt when experiencing a good time in life. And when things get difficult, look back and see how the Lord has given you wisdom, support, and strength to help get you through the difficulties. I think you will be amazed to see what you will find. I am grateful for a God who generously gives good gifts to His children that often tend to be wisdom through His word and through the Testimony of other believers to strengthen and encourage us through each and every season of life.

All praise and glory and honor be to God!




I am Kaity Harmon. I’m 27-years old, I have been married to my amazing husband for five and a half years and am now the mother of a beautiful 6-month old. I am currently on staff at the Father’s House as the Discipleship Process Administrative Assistant and have been attending The Father’s House for about two and a half years. I graduated from Life Pacific College with a degree in Biblical Studies and have a heart to see people grow in their full potential in Christ.