Our $9 Thanksgiving Meal

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Guest post by Asheritah of One Thing Alone

Your Thanksgiving feast doesn’t have to break the bank to be delicious.

This year, to help us reach our monthly financial goals, I decided to keep our Thanksgiving meal simple. I asked each of our family members which traditional Thanksgiving food is most important to them, and then strategized ways to make everyone (and our budget) happy.

Obviously, I haven’t yet prepared the meal, but here’s what we’ll be having:

  • Turkey breast: $3.49
  • Peas: $0.89
  • Corn: $0.49
  • Mac & Cheese: $0.49
  • Sweet potatoes: $0.07
  • Stuffing: $0.69
  • Corn muffins: $0.47
  • Pumpkin pie (homemade): $1
  • Butter: $0.80
  • Eggs: $0.50
  • Milk: $0.20

TOTAL: $9.09

In all, the meal will cost us less than $10 for 3 adults and 1 child. I’d say that’s a win!

Here’s how you can do it, too:

1. Simplify the meal.

Ask your family members what’s one item they each really want, and feel free to let go or downsize those foods that are never a big hit anyway.

My husband wanted stuffing. I wanted corn muffins. Our daughter wanted mac & cheese, and my father-in-law wanted something sweet. I felt like we HAD to have turkey, but we’re not really a fan of the big bird, so the little turkey breast tenderloin fit the bill without hitting our wallet.

We also simplified the sides. Since we’re loading up on carbs, I added some veggies to make our meal healthier but opted out of the typical casseroles.

2. Shop sales at discount stores.

I bought most of my ingredients at Aldi, but I also scored cheap produce at a local discount store that offers incredible deals (like two 10-pound bags of sweet potatoes for $1.69).

I also try to shop sales whenever I can, especially if they’re cutting already-low prices. I bought the turkey tenderloin when it was on sale a few weeks ago and stuck it in the freezer for the future. I also got the butter on sale awhile back and keep a stash in the freezer. By buying sales in bulk year-round, I can stock up and save on staple pantry items.

3. Cook what you can from scratch.

Most pumpkin pies cost around $5 in grocery stores. By making it at home, I’ll be saving 80%. I’m using a small pie pumpkin a friend gifted me for fall décor, a $0.65 can of evaporated milk, and a homemade crust that will cost a fraction of what ready-made crusts cost in-store.

Cooking from scratch means I can afford more variety because I’m paying less for raw ingredients.

At the end of the day, it’s not the Thanksgiving meal that matters but rather a thankful heart. Whether you have a table overflowing with the richest foods or a simple meal shared with those you love, the important thing is to come together with gratefulness and express our appreciation for each other.

How to you keep your Thanksgiving celebrations frugal and fun!

Asheritah is a writer, speaker, and blogger at One Thing Alone. She helps overwhelmed women find joy in Jesus through devotionals, videos, and Scripture art. She’s also the author of “Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional.”

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Tips for Allergy-Friendly Baking on a Budget

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Guest post from Becky of Milo & Oats

Living with diet restrictions can be a huge budget-buster. From food allergies to celiac disease, there are a variety of health needs that might leave you searching for an economical way to bake for your loved ones.

Here are some tips that will have you baking up delicious treats without breaking the bank!

Make your own flour blend.

Do you eat gluten-free? Do you have a loved one with a wheat allergy?

If you’ve had experience baking gluten-free, you know it requires multiple flours for baking success. However, commercial pre-made blends can be expensive! It’s much more cost-effective to make your own.

There are many gluten-free flour blend recipes out there. A quick Google or Pinterest search should get you started in finding recipes with which to experiment.  Once you have a recipe in hand, you’ll need to actually purchase the appropriate flours!

The natural foods section of your local grocery store will likely carry a variety of gluten-free flours. However, this is usually not the most cost-effective. My favorite to place to purchase gluten-free flours at a great price is Azure Standard. I buy rice, milo (sorghum) and teff flour, as well as potato and tapioca starch. If you don’t have a local Azure drop, Vitacost may be a good option.

Use everyday ingredients.

Ingredient substitutes can be shockingly expensive. We have an egg allergy in our family, so previously I have used egg replacer powder. Then, I realized there are many other ways to replace eggs. Flaxseed, banana, or applesauce work well as an egg replacement.

These are all ingredients I tend to have on hand, anyway. Not to mention, they are healthier than using a synthetic replacement!

Buy in bulk.

We love our Costco. I have found savings on ingredients that would otherwise be considerably more expensive — coconut oil and flax seed make the list.

We also buy the Kirkland brand chocolate chips. Did you know that they don’t contain dairy?? They have been one of my greatest Costco discoveries. Way less expensive than buying those little bags of specialty chocolate chips!

We are not Sam’s Club members but I’m sure they have some allergy-friendly deals worth discovering, too.

Focus on foods you can eat.

This one is so important, but probably took the longest for me to discover. Focus on all of the delicious, safe foods that you can eat!

Baking with allergies can be discouraging because there are so many ingredients to alter, or replace entirely! By concentrating on recipes that require less replacement, your baking success will be greatly increased. Your results will actually get eaten, not thrown out…again.

Apple crisp naturally requires no eggs and a smaller amount of flour. A big bowl of berries with some lightly sweetened coconut whipped cream is a treat! Cut yourself some slack and relish eating those wallet-friendly, in-season foods.

These are just a few tips we use — I’d love to know what you would add to my list! 

Becky is a wife and homeschool mom to five incredible kids. She loves chocolate, books, and baking allergy-friendly treats for her family. Becky is the blogger behind Milo & Oats and loves chatting about everything from parenting to curriculum hoarding to what’s for dinner.

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How I Save With Off-Brands

how i save with off brands

Guest post from Liz of The Quick Journey blog

As a wife and mom who is trying to save money for our family, trying “off-brand” products sometimes makes me nervous.

Will the off-brand items be as good?

Will they taste the same?

Will the products hold up as well as the name brand?

Those are all questions I have when I am about to place a cheaper branded item in my shopping cart.

If you shared these same concerns, I wanted to share a few off-brand items that I feel are equal, or better than the name brand items. These are items that I will buy without hesitation because I have had such good success with them in the past. These are items that taste yummy, hold up to wear and tear, and perform really well despite the lower price tag.

1. Diapers

I am super picky about what diapers I use — I like a diaper that holds moisture well and doesn’t get saggy.

After diapering four kiddos (one is still in diapers), I will choose Target brand diapers every time. I much prefer them to the name brand diapers and the lower price point coupled with coupons and the Cartwheel app… you can’t go wrong!

2. Plastic Baggies

When I have snacks and food inside a plastic baggie and then shoved in a full diaper bag, I need those baggies to stand the test of time! There is nothing worse than cleaning smeared PB&J out of a diaper bag.

My favorite, go-to, baggies are the Boulder brand from Aldi. I have tried every version and size of their baggies and they are just as good, if not better, than the name brand.

3. Paper Towels

As I mentioned above, I have four kids, so there are a lot of messes happening in my house on a daily basis. While we like to limit our use of paper products, there are just times that require a paper towel.

I used to be a huge fan of the name brand towels that cost an arm and a leg, but I now use the Walmart Great Value brand of paper towels as I find them to be very durable and long-lasting when scrubbing yucky messes.

4. Canned Goods

I have found, after much trial and error, that canned goods, like soups, veggies, fruits, sauces, are pretty much all created equal. If you are new to off-brand buying, canned goods is a good place to start! Definitely do your pocketbook a favor and save your pennies by buying off-brand canned goods.

These are just a few of the off-brand items I  but to save more at the grocery store!

What off-brand items do you buy?

Liz is a stay-at-home momma to her four kiddos. She enjoys cooking, drinking a piping hot cup of coffee, and reminiscing with her “high school sweetheart” hubby. She shares her journey through motherhood on The Quick Journey blog.

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5 Ways to Teach Children to Serve… Even On A Budget

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Guest post from Kimber of Let’s Do Some Good Today

As a mother, I learned something very quickly: everything I do, good or bad, is being watched by my children – and by watching how I live, they’re learning what kind of person to be. No pressure, right?

That can be kind of scary – especially when you hear your two-year-old sternly and grumpily putting her toys in time out (“Do I really sound that cranky?). But it is also absolutely amazing when you see your children learning the good things you have modeled.

With a little bit of intentional parenting, you can teach your children to be givers. And of the many things I want for my children, I can hardly think of anything that I desire more than that.

Are you with me? Do you want to teach your children to be givers? I’m so glad!

Sometimes, you might wonder exactly how to go about that — especially when money is tight. But I believe that there is always, always something you can do to make the world a little bit better.

And by choosing to give, even when you don’t have much extra in your budget, you are teaching your children a poignant lesson that will last a lifetime.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to teach our children to give on a budget:

1. Teach them to respect their community by picking up trash.

Have you ever been to a park (or at a lake, or on a hike) and been frustrated by trash on the ground?

Whenever we’re going to be in nature, I try to remember to stick a plastic bag in my pocket. If we see a few pieces of trash while we’re out, we pick them up. As we do it, I teach my kids about what a blessing our beautiful surroundings are, and what a gift we’re giving the people behind us by making it a little bit cleaner.

2. Practice good manners everywhere you go.

Both of my children can be a bit shy, particularly my son. But every time we are checking out at a grocery store, I insist that they thank the cashier. If they have a name tag, I always read it. “Son, please tell Miss Jennifer thank you.”

It’s a very small act of kindness, and some people barely notice. Many times, however, we are rewarded with a huge smile. To be noticed and to be appreciated is something that everyone craves, and it’s extra special when it’s coming from a cute kid!

The nice thing is, after working on this for a long time, it’s now second nature to my kids. It’s not unusual for my son to pipe up with a “Thank you, ma’am!” or for my daughter to read the name tag of the employee herself.

3. Teach your children to serve those in your family.

During the month of October, we have a “service ghost” that floats around our home. When the service ghost pops up in your room, someone has done something nice for you – and you then get to pay it forward!

There’s something fun about sneakily serving others. You can adapt this to whatever holiday is coming up, or just leave behind a little note.

I’ve found that the child who does the service is usually even happier than the person who receives it. What a blessing, to learn that lesson at an early age!

4. Allow your child to earn money.

Some people are “for” allowances and some are “against” it. Whatever your stance is, if you have even just a few extra dollars in your budget, I’d encourage you to find some way to allow your child to earn money – and then to give a portion of it away.

Find a cause your child is excited about, and then find out exactly what his or her money can do. For a child, handing over a dollar might be difficult. Encourage them by reminding them things like: “Wow, you just gave the animal shelter a dollar – that buys a homeless doggy food for three days!” or “Hey, your quarters means that a kid in our neighborhood gets to have new crayons to take to school”

This makes the gift tangible, and it allows your child to see that he or she really can make a difference.

5. Find hands-on ways for them to serve.

Ask around to see if there are any places in your area that allow children to volunteer. Try to think of someone in your community who needs something that your family might be able to help with (like gardening or perhaps preparing a meal).

For my children, participating in Operation Christmas Child has been a huge blessing. All year long, they are helping me keep my eye out for great deals “for the kids”. I LOVE to see their faces light up when they see a cute toy, and rather than asking, “Can I have that?”; hearing instead, “Can we PLEASE buy that for shoeboxes?”

Another way they’ve been able to serve is by spreading quarters around town. Loading up peoples’ carts with quarters at Aldi, sticking quarters into vending machines, leaving them in coin-operated cranes, even leaving them taped on vending machines at the hospital — this is such a simple way to serve.

I hope I’ve given you a new idea or two that you can use to teach your children to love giving and serving — EVEN if your budget has little to no wiggle room!

What works for your family?

I’d love to hear your budget-friendly ideas to help your children give back!

Kimber is a wife, a stay-at-home mom, and as of recently, a writer. She blogs at Let’s Do Some Good Today, where she shares practical suggestions of ways you can make a difference in the world. Every Thursday, she posts a new service challenge. She’d love to have you join her!

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5 Ideas to Make Extra Cash TODAY!

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Guest post from Angie of The Work at Home Wife

Cash crises will happen. There will be a time when you simply don’t have the cash on hand to pay for an emergency; or maybe you just don’t feel said emergency is worthy of dipping into your savings. Or maybe you just have a little time on your hands that you would rather spend making money over spending it.

Whatever the situation, there are numerous opportunities to work today and get paid today.

Since you are looking to have cash in your hand by the end of the day, we are focusing on local ideas. The 5 ideas below provide the opportunity for you simply show up, do the job, and walk away with a check. No minimum payments or waiting for a pay date to roll around like online!

Work Today, Get Paid Today

1. Clean Out Your Closets

You need money now, so there is no time to plan a yard sale or post eBay auctions. You need to find who needs or wants your stuff and get rid of it ASAP – for cash on the spot.

See if you get any bites on your local Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade Group or Craigslist, or head straight to Plato’s Closet or Once Upon a Child to cash in.

2. Donate Plasma

Many larger cities have clinics that will pay $35 to $50 for plasma. The Red Cross recommends you donate plasma no more than once every 28 days.

3. Babysit

Every weekend there are parents in your community wishing they had a reliable, responsible babysitter so they could go out to dinner and a movie. That could be you!

Put out the word and you may have more work than you can handle. Pets and the elderly may also need paid companions.

4. Odd Jobs

Maybe there aren’t a lot of kids in your neighborhood. There are still so many services you can offer for some quick cash. Walk the dog. Run errands for the elderly. Do a little lawn “dooty.”

You don’t need to love the task enough for it to become your day job. You just need to be able to tolerate long enough to do a good job and get paid.

5. Lost and Found

Don’t forget to turn over those couch cushions and check the pockets of your coats and purses. You can almost always find a few forgotten bills hiding around the house.

These are just a few ideas to get some extra cash in your hands ASAP.

When it comes to finding ways to make money locally, Facebook can be your best friend. You no longer have to rely on a calling tree to get your message out. Hop online and post a message of your availability both on your private profile and any local groups that allow this.

Do you have any other quick-cash ideas to add to my list?

Angie Nelson has been a home business owner since 2007. She firmly believes saving money is just as important as making it. Visit her blog The Work at Home Wife for more money-making and money-saving tips.

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The Year I Cried on Christmas – and Why I Wouldn’t Change It

the year i cried on christmas

Guest post from Kaley of Cha-Ching on a Shoestring

I remember it well… the Christmas of 2011.

We had just finished opening the massive pile of gifts under my in-laws’ tree. About 90% of these presents had been shopped for, purchased, and wrapped by me —  and then schlepped from PA to NY on Christmas Eve in our blue Camry.

I remember clearly that we had quite a time trying to cram all the gifts in our little car. We had stuffed and smooshed until each gift was squeezed very carefully into every possible crevice available and strict instructions were given to limit breathing lest my beautifully wrapped gifts become less perfect in any way.

And now it was Christmas morning, and we were surrounded by the usual piles of torn wrapping paper and bows tossed to and fro, and the strangest thing began to happen to me. I sat surveying the room and all its chaos… and rather than gratefulness welling up, a small lump in the back of my throat began to form and I found myself running to hide in the bathroom because really – who is allowed to CRY on Christmas Day?!

Why the Tears?

As I pondered my heavy heart on what was meant to be The Most Joyful Day, I was able to pinpoint two causes:

1. I couldn’t believe that all this rushing from gift to gift could possibly be what Christmas was all about.

2. I was exhausted from late nights baking, wrapping, and packing that week.

I promised myself in that moment that Christmas would be different next year.

Christmas – and my preparation for it – has changed drastically since that day. And I can honestly tell you that I revel in the Christmas season now.

Here are three changes that I’ve made:

November is my month to get things done.

Throughout the month of November, I hold a freezer baking session, finish my shopping, wrap all my gifts (if possible!), and finish any DIY projects. When December arrives, I am fully ready to soak up the traditions and meaningful ways that our family honors this holiday.

We’ve changed our focus on gift giving.

I no longer buy a gift just because it’s on sale. We give a smaller amount of gifts, but they are gifts that I know my children will love. We also take our time on Christmas morning to savor each gift as it’s being opened.

I hold myself accountable.

To help hold me accountable, I created a Facebook group called The Merry Little Christmas Project. Our Christmas-loving community focuses on encouraging each other to have a simpler, more organized, and more meaningful Christmas. We hold daily 20 Minute Missions throughout the month of November to tackle our To Do lists and we daily inspire each other to Do Christmas Well.

I remember the year I cried on Christmas – and how deeply it has changed me – and looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Kaley Ehret is wife to Wes and Mom of three very active, very awesome boys. She’s fluent in Star Wars Speak and Coupon Lingo – and if you tell her she’s funny, she’ll be your friend for life. She blogs about finding creative ways to save money at Cha-Ching on a Shoestring – and wants to help the world learn to live large on a limited budget and have a Merry Little Christmas too. 

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