3 Ways We Eat Healthier and Save

3 ways we we eat healthier

Guest post from Alex of Good Steward Club

Two goals my husband and I are always working on are saving money and eating healthier At a glance, it appears these two goals are at odds. But our use of coupons has actually enabled us to meet both of those goals in an unexpected way.

Here’s what we do:

1. Clip coupons for all toiletries and household expenses.

I watch for deals at CVS and Target on paper products and stock up when I can get them below my price points. CVS will often send me coupons that I can add to my card for dollars off my entire purchase, such as $5 off $15 or $10 off $30. This sweetens the deal when I already needed toilet paper! Using Target’s Cartwheel app often results in further savings on cleaning products as well (and just about anything else you can think of).

I’ve found that while there is sticker shock when you look at the price tags for cosmetics and personal care items at drugstores, they are the absolute best place to shop for toiletries. Between the cashback programs (ExtraBucks at CVS, +Up Rewards at Rite Aid, etc.) and the store coupons that can be added to your card or printed to stack with manufacturer coupons, I have walked out of the store with countless free and moneymaker shampoos, body washes, and facial care products. Yes, please!

2. Use discounted gift cards.

This is one of my favorite savings methods because it doesn’t require much work at all. Gift Card Granny is a great search engine for available gift cards at discounted prices. Because grocery store gift card discounts are on the lower end (1-2% off), I like to purchase drugstore gift cards to further save on toiletries and household expenses.

At the time of this writing, CVS cards are selling at more than a 17% discount!

3. Shop the manager’s special section.

Meats are some of the most expensive products you can buy. Even as we have removed grains from our diet and begun purchasing more meats, our grocery budget is lower than it has ever been because I load up on the manager’s special meat cuts and plan our meals accordingly.

I’ve gotten grass-fed beef, steak, seafood and more for 30-50% off the lowest price marked. Since meat coupons are few and far between, this is the best way for me to use coupons on your actual food purchases.

We have cut out all processed foods (with the exception of an occasional carton of ice cream when we have company), and I’ve been amazed to see that our grocery expenses have actually gone down.

Even though I’m no longer using coupons on most of our food purchases, I’m saving so much money by using coupons and discounted gift cards, that I’ve been able to allocate more of our budget toward eating whole, healthy foods. Our wallets and our waistlines thank us!

How have you been able to save on healthier food choices?

Alex is a full-time homemaker and blogger at Good Steward Club. She is passionate about educating others on the many ways to save money as an act of good stewardship out of love for God.

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3 Pieces of Advice I Wish I Could Give My 23-Year-Old Self

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Guest post from Angela of Setting My Intention

If you told my 23-year-old self that, 20 years in the future, I would be writing a blog about decluttering, I would have laughed.

When I was 23 years old, I had just graduated from college and traveled across the country (with only one large suitcase) to serve in an inner city ministry.

How did I get from one large suitcase to a house full of things that need to be decluttered?

I moved into an apartment…

got married…

had kids…

moved into a home…

In other words, life happened.

If I could give my 23-year-old self advice, here is what I would tell her:

1. Invest in Experiences, Not Things.

You will be tempted to “nest” many times: when you get a new apartment, move into your first home, have children. Along with that temptation, you will want to buy many things. Try to resist that temptation.

Experiences and time are the best gifts to give and receive.

Instead of making a wish list of things you’d like as gifts, try making a wish list of experiences that you’d like to give and get on your birthday and/or holidays.

When you do decorate your new spaces, only keep and purchase things that you love.

Invest in a few lovely pieces. Use your local thrift stores — they are often goldmines if you look carefully. Keep open spaces in your home.

2. Be a Thoughtful Consumer.

Wait to purchase things until you know what you need and will use.

When my husband and I were getting married, I naturally assumed we should have a wedding registry. However, we were clueless as to what we would actually use and need. We registered for many items that “we might be able to use” because we had that nifty handheld scanner that made it so easy!

The same thing happened to us when we were having our first baby. We registered for the things listed in the baby books that told us what we absolutely must have.

Can I just give you a heads up? You will NOT need a diaper genie. Wrapping them up tight, or plastic bags work just fine. You might even consider cloth diapering.

Again, wait to purchase things until you know what you need. It will save you the time later when you end up donating or consigning the pieces off of your registry!

Another tip: kids’ consignment sales have great, barely used items for a fraction of the price.

3. Don’t Get Emotionally Attached.

What your priorities or life circumstances change, don’t be afraid to get rid of the things that are no longer relevant or important to you.

Here are some areas to consider and declutter on a regular basis:

  • Clothing/purses/shoes
  • Books
  • Papers/yearbooks
  • Photos

The memories have been made, the mementos can be let go of.

If you are in your twenties, what advice has been most helpful to you? If you older, like me, what advice would you give your 20-something-aged self? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Angela blogs at Setting My Intention. She is a wife and mom to three boys. She works part time outside the home, and full time inside the home. She loves to spend time outside with her family, read, write, and most recently, run. She writes about simplifying life and developing healthy habits.

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Boosting Your Fertility on a Budget

boosting fertility

Guest post from Sally of Getting Pregnant Faster:

Trying to get pregnant can be not only stressful, but also expensive if you’re truly focusing on maximum health for yourself and your future pregnancy. I know that when I was trying to get pregnant I focused more on high quality foods than I did when not seeking to be as fertile as possible.

I’m going to share with you some things that I did to help improve my fertility (and overall health) while staying on a tight budget. Let’s save money and focus on boosting your fertility as much as possible, shall we?

Protein

Getting enough protein when trying to conceive is important, but how do you do it on a budget? Usually, protein means meat, right? Well, meat is important, but there are plenty of other high-quality protein sources as well that can help your wallet as well as your fertility.

Beans, cottage cheese, milk, eggs, and fish are all great sources of protein. Beans can especially help you save money, particularly if you buy dry beans in bulk. You can make it a complete protein meal by adding corn bread.

Eggs are a complete protein in themselves, but they can be pricey if you choose eggs from pastured hens. Eggs can be stretched further if you make omelets or scrambles that include lots of veggies and/or rice.

Additional ways to save on protein is to eat smaller portions and limit your meat consumption to only once or twice per week, eating cheaper proteins like beans the rest of the time.

Salmon is not only a great protein source, but it’s also loaded with fertility-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. To include salmon in your diet, you can purchase canned, which tends to be cheaper than fresh. For less than $3 a can, you can provide a protein-rich meal for 4 people by making salmon patties or blending in with a rice dish or stir fry. Canned salmon is also good added to scrambled eggs, which will stretch both foods further.

Liver is a fairly inexpensive meat and is very nourishing for fertility. Many people don’t like it, but you can incorporate it into your diet by cooking it and crumbling it into soups and mixing in into other ground meats such as beef to mask the flavor.

Eat Green

Green leafy vegetables are especially good for fertility, so eat plenty of them, but also try to eat the rainbow.

You can soak your non-organic fruits and veggies in vinegar water for 15-20 minutes in order to get rid of most of the surface pesticide residue, making them healthier to eat.

Avocados are another excellent fertility food that you can incorporate into a lot of dishes, including smoothies, sauces, and salads.

Buy in Bulk, Pick Wild, or Grown Your Own

Consider “gleaning” as a possibility to save money. There are many fruit trees in my area that go unpicked. If you pass by and notice fruit falling on the ground, chances are that the owners either don’t have time, interest, or ability to pick the fruit. Stop and ask if you can pick some and offer to pick for them as well in return. You may be surprised how much food you can acquire this way.

Red raspberry leaf and stinging nettles are two excellent herbs to increase fertility in women. In order to save money, you can either buy in bulk or grow your own. The best time to pick raspberry leaves is after the canes have finished producing fruit (note that the berries are also excellent for female fertility).

You need to take special care with nettles if picking your own, as the thorns are savage! Thick work gloves are sufficient, however, and they lose their sting once cooked or dried. I have enjoyed both herbs as infusions (which is an extra-strong tea).

If you’re struggling to get pregnant (or just desire to eat healthier), eating more fertility foods is possible even on a budget. Focus on eating the most nutrient-dense foods possible and seek to de-stress on a daily basis.

Sally is an author and fertility coach who delights in helping women improve their fertility and get pregnant more quickly. She also seeks to save money for her family while providing fresh, wholesome meals and natural remedies when needed. Connect with her at Getting Pregnant Faster where you can read her advanced-age infertility story.

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5 Ways to Give on a Tight Budget

5 ways to give

Guest post by Kelly of Kelly Cox At Home:

Giving to others is a joy. Often I hear people say that they can’t afford to give, but I think that we can all give something. In fact, you can do this without spending money!

Ever thought of that idea?

Here are a few ways to give (joyfully!) and not blow your budget in the process.

1. Your Time

We can all give of our time. I know it’s precious and we have busy schedules; however, all the more reason to give some of it up to someone else!

Can you help a friend move? (We were the thankful recipients of this gift not too long ago!) Do you have the time to pick up a shut-in and drive them to an appointment? How about visit an elderly person in a nursing home?

There are SO many ways to give of your time. I can assure you that the person you assist and bless will find it worth the weight in gold.

2. Garden Veggies

If you garden, consider sharing your veggies with neighbors, family and friends. What an amazing way to bless others!

Recently, my husband came home from work and had a bag full of vegetables that a coworker had given him. I was thrilled, and this small gesture meant so much to us.

3. Coupon Gifts

I use coupons for food, toiletries, makeup and just about anything else. One thing I learned as I began to coupon is that I get a lot of freebies. YAY! I think it’s fun to give some of these things away to our friends and family. Consider giving a “coupon present” to someone, full of products that they can use in their home. I bet it makes them smile!

Further, my husband and I have been able to give more to food pantries and other programs through our church because of coupons. We’ve had fun as we incorporate this into our giving and stewardship goals.

4. Hand-me-downs

I am a huge fan of hand-me-downs. In fact, I have a friend that has passed along so much to me over the years. She’s blessed me with jewelry, clothes and even baby items that she no longer needed. She has a giving heart, and I’ve been the happy recipient of all sorts of things that could be used in our home.

Never underestimate that you may have something that would bless someone else.

5. Meals

The gift of food is a big blessing. Consider taking a meal to a new mom or a family that lost a loved one. In fact, if you are tight on money, you could make a 9×13 pan and split it into two 8×8 pans. Your family could eat that evening and so could another.

Get creative and find ways to bless others with a meal during their time of need.

What a joy to give!

Please, never feel that a tight budget means that you can’t share, give and bless.

We are on a continuous journey to give and be good stewards of the resources that God has given us. After all, “it is more blessed to give than receive.”

Kelly is a Christ follower, blessed wife and a lover of all things home. She blogs over at Kelly Cox At Home about her journey at home and passion for debt-free living. She hopes to encourage others in that goal, while sharing tips on how to manage and enjoy all things that make up HOME!

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How to Be a Meal Planning Mama

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Guest post from Kristi of Klover House

I have talked with so many moms over the past few months, and I can’t believe how often I’ve heard them voicing frustration when it comes to meal planning.

I used to be in that camp, too! With my planners, and whiteboards, and calendars, and cookbooks, and lists everywhere…  I found myself throwing away food way too often, erasing and rewriting my plan over and over again, and abandoning my plans month after month. It left me so frustrated.

We were wasting money, and I was stressing out daily.

Friends, no more.

I am no longer frustrated, stressed or wasteful. This method has saved my sanity and my budget. I am so happy to share it with all of you.

To follow my process, simply…

1. Evaluate what you already have.

I quickly take a peek at three separate areas: the pantry, the refrigerator/freezer, and my baking supply cupboard, that holds our baking powder, soda, corn starch, honey, extracts, coffees, teas, etc.

I go shopping every two weeks. I used to go once a month, but with more children came more trips to the store. I have found that going every pay day makes the best sense for our family.

I use what we still have on hand to inspire and drive the next list of meals. For example, if I have Red Hot, chicken, buns, and leftover fruit salad from the previous day, I’ll plan for buffalo chicken sandwiches and fruit salad on “grocery day”, so I’m able to plan ahead even when the inventory seems impossibly low. Sometimes, we’ll just simply use that day as our “Order Pizza” day to avoid the scramble after a long day of shopping with my four little ones.

2. Draft your two-columned list.

On the lefthand side, I have the day/date. On the righthand side, I have my list of 18-22 meals usually.

I shop every two weeks, typically, so having a few extra options on my list gives me the flexibility to change my mind or roll meals over to the next list. (I save all of my previous lists as inspiration, and I also rely on Pinterest, other bloggers’ recommendations, my favorite cookbook, and a catalog of long standing family-favorite recipes.)

My list always looks like this: 

meal planning list

3. Prepare to grocery shop.

Using my list of possible meals as a guide, I create my grocery list based off of what I already have and what I still need.

I create my list using meals that are versatile and that can compliment one another in the event that there are leftovers. For example, if pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes is an item and fajitas is an item, I will plan to use my leftover tenderloin as my fajita meat that week.

By using leftovers effectively and creatively, my family doesn’t get bored with what I am serving them, and I am almost never wasting food. If I make spaghetti and meatballs, I’ll leave a large portion of meatballs plain to be thrown into wedding soup or stuffed peppers that week.

By planning meals in this way, you are saving time, money, and sanity. Trust me.

4. Keep it consistent and basic.

I keep my list simple. I don’t go into great detail for multiple reasons.

I’ll write chicken and mushrooms. It may end up being a pasta dish paired with roasted cherry tomatoes and a garlic lemon butter sauce, or it could become a marsala dish served over mashed potatoes.

I consistently stock up on fruits and vegetables (many frozen), and I will make a more detailed decision on the dish the day before or the morning of, depending on what I have left and its state of freshness.

I love this system, because it is so easy to take a quick glance and create a plan for each day. If I open my refrigerator and see that the strawberries won’t last much longer, I’ll choose that night for a chicken and strawberry salad with poppyseed dressing. I may even have my husband grill a double batch of chicken and plan to use it later in the week.

Work and plan smarter, not harder.

5. Keep track of meals prepared using the simple number system.

If chicken parmesan is #7, and I am making it on August 12th, I simply write #7 next to August 12th, and I cross it off the list on the righthand side. I know that I am taking a meal to a family on August 5th, and stuffed chicken breasts seems like a good choice for that, so I will make it for us as well.

By coordinating our inventory, likes, budget, and plans, I can easily make a realistic meal plan that spans each two-week timeframe.

6. Include “the usuals” and the special events.

We have a pizza night, an eat out night, and a date night scheduled on each plan. Do we get to have those consistently? Nope. But I plan for them.

I also include any other dinner plans as their own number. We recently held our daughter’s birthday party at dinnertime, so “Isla’s Party” was assigned a number.

Using my list in conjunction with my monthly planner/calendar helps me in making the best possible plan for our family. By using the two-weeks-at-a-time method, I am never overwhelmed, caught-off-guard, or scrambling. Flexibility, accuracy, and simplicity makes this technique ideal for our family.

7. Keep your lists handy.

I save all of my previous lists and keep them handy. You can do this with a binder, an envelope, or simply by tucking them in your cookbook. I also like to take a picture of my lists so that I can reference them quickly on my phone while I’m out or if I lose my paper list.

By keeping all of my previous lists, I am creating a library of meals from which to choose when it comes time to plan for the next two weeks. I never have to think too hard when it comes to meal planning, because I’ve already done the legwork ahead of time.

Again, work smarter not harder, and you’ll be a “Meal Planning Mama” in no time!

If you’d like to see more of my plans, visit us on Instagram @kristi_kloverhouse.

It is my hope that this system helps you to make the most of your budget and your groceries, while giving you the inspiration and freedom to create delicious, healthy and affordable meals for the people you love without frying your brain cells in the process!

Kristi is a former elementary teacher and ministry school graduate turned SAHM mom to four spunky blondies (and one sweet Heaven Baby). She writes about faith, family, food, and occasionally, random diy projects. She is also the owner/designer behind Eden Gray Clothing, using her four daughters and three nieces as the never-ending inspiration behind her dressmaking (and excuse for her undeniable fabric addiction). Babies, budgets, and beautiful things are her passion. Kristi blogs at Klover House.

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5 Things We’re Not Buying (While We Get Out of Debt)

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The following is a guest post by Renee of Tune My Heart Blog

Sometimes I’ll jokingly say to my husband, “when we’re out of debt, I would like to buy __________.”

Then we both say, “womp womp,” because it’s not really a joke. There are a lot of fun, extra, optional things we aren’t buying right now while we pay down student loans.

1. Books, Music, Movies & TV

The hubs and I like all of these things. If we weren’t giving gobs of our money to Auntie Sallie Mae, we’d load up our kindle accounts, buy new music, go to movie theaters, and watch cable.

Right now, however, we use the library or borrow books from family and friends. We listen to music we already own, YouTube channel playlists, google play radio with ads, or free podcasts.

2. Eating Out

We almost never eat out. There is no I’m-too-tired-to-cook-let’s-get-pizza card anymore.

For lazy nights, it’s PB and J, pancakes, rice and beans, or something that requires a similar level of energy. And yes, I said rice and beans. All 3 of my family members love rice and beans. I barely tolerate them.

3. Clothes

My husband and I each have a small amount of “pocket money,” or “blow money” every month. The only new clothes we buy right now come out of this category. Whether it’s a clothing necessity [underwear], or fun purchase [vacation outfit], it always comes out of our individual pocket money.

As someone who used to shop whenever I wanted, this is a big change. The silver lining is that it now feels like a treat (rather than an entitlement) if I do spend my monthly pocket money on a fun clothing item.

4. Random Kid Stuff

Toys, games, puzzles, clothes, whatever. We don’t buy it. Any fun treats for the kids come out of individual pocket money or Swagbucks.

We also have a very small monthly kid budget ($10) that somehow has lasted us through all the kid necessities.

Our kids have very generous friends and relatives who keep them in style and get them fun toys. Plus we love sharing hand-me-downs and toy-swapping with friends.

If the kids do need something boring like new socks, shoes, or undies, the $10 budgeted amount rolls over each month and ends up covering it.

5. Home Improvements

We rent right now, so we are not responsible for the major necessary home fixes (water heaters, air conditioners, plumbing, etc.)

It was really hard for me mathematically to justify “wasting” the money to rent when we could pay the same amount monthly toward ownership. But the thing is, it’s not the same.

Any homeowner will tell you there are always extra expenses to owning a home. The cost of renting is 100% fixed. Not to mention, we didn’t have the 20% down payment so we would have added PMI.

I’m not saying you need to sell your house in order to get out out of debt. Often that’s not a good idea. But trying to buy a home for the first time with a pile of debt can be stressful. Renting has kept our costs and stress minimal. Plus, I put no pressure on myself to decorate or have a nice home.

I love home decorating, but since our current home is relatively short-term, it’s easier for me to not decorate or paint or fix things up. The goal is to get financially free and get out of here, not make it so beautiful that we don’t want to leave. :)

These are just 5 of our “off-limits” purchases. I’d love to know what you do to find extra money in your budget!

Renee is a former music teacher turned stay-at-home mom blogger. She loves Jesus,  people & coffee. She writes on Tune My Heart Blog about babies, budgeting, grace and everything in between.

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