How I Slashed My Monthly Vegetable Bill By 53%

vegetable bill

Guest post from Cassie of Vegan Insanity

I’ve been vegan for over a year now. When I first made the switch to a plant-based diet, I spent an enormous amount of money on vegetables. Since I have them with pretty much every meal, I was buying them in abundance, and my bank account was showing that.

I started doing a bit of research and experiments to see if I could save a serious amount of money on my produce – and I did! In fact, last month I gave myself a budget of $30 per week for my produce purchases (at that point I was spending about $60), and came in under budget by $6!

Here’s what I did to save money on vegetables:

1. Check the discount rack.

My local grocery store has a discounted produce rack, and every time I went shopping, I would check it out for veggies that I could use. I often walked away with peppers, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes (among other things) for 50% off or more!

Some vegetables had to be used right away, some would last a few days, and some of them I would stick in the freezer for later use.

2. Scour the farmer’s markets.

Farmer’s markets were a lifesaver for me last month! I went every weekend, and I always scored a ton of great deals when I was there.

I would usually show up about 30 minutes before closing time, and would ask the vendors for rock-bottom prices on their remaining vegetables. Most of them accepted!

One of the best deals I scored at the farmer’s market was a 10 pound box of bell peppers for just $5! I brought them home, washed them, cut them up, and popped them in the freezer. Now I have months’ worth of peppers in the freezer for soups, chili, and more!

3. Pick your own.

If you don’t have a farmer’s market nearby, check to see if there are any farms in your area, and if they offer “pick your own” vegetables.

Many farms allow you to pick your own potatoes, tomatoes, fruits and more – for a lot less cash than what you’d pay at a grocery store.

Plus, a trip to the farm is a fun family outing!

4. Shop in season.

One of the biggest things I did to lower my costs on veggies was to stop buying things I wanted, and instead only purchased the things that were in season.

When produce is in season, it’s not only much cheaper, but it also tastes way better.

Visit Fruits & Veggies More Matters to learn all about in-season produce and when you buy your favorite vegetables (and fruit).

These are the ways that I was able to cut my bill on veggies by 53%. Since this experiment was so successful, I’ve decided I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing.

There are always ways to save on foods that make up a big part of your diet, no matter what they are!

What are some ways that you’ve been able to save money on vegetables?

I’m Cassie – vegan food lover, money-saver, and blogger. I live in Vaughan, Ontario, right near the big city of Toronto, with my husband, our 2 kids, 3 cats, and a dog that thinks he’s a cat, too. I love to cook and share delicious vegan food with everyone I know.

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Five Frugal Family Fun Ideas (+ Win a Copy of In This House, We Will Giggle!)

frugal family fun

Guest post from Courtney of CourtneyDeFeo.com

The conversation starts so pure and with great intention. You are a fun mom, thank you very much! You want your kids to have fun – but you forgot one thing. When you ask your kids questions, you will get honest answers.

For instance: “Kids! How would like to have some fun today? What would you like to do?”

Child 1 – “Go to Disney?”

Child 2 – “Go buy new clothes?

Child 3 – “Go get ice cream?”

Child 1 – “Okay, fine, how about Six Flags?”

Child 2 – “Just a headband then?”

Child 3 – “Can we make milkshakes?”

And you just see dollar signs and exhaustion. Here are just a few simple ideas on how to have some family fun without spending money and or too much time.

1. Have Box, Will Create

The next time a box comes in your house (or you see a giant moving box around a friend’s house) – grab it! Save it!

Challenge your family to make it into a sailboat, rocket ship, school bus or playhouse. You would be surprised what a family can create together – just need imagination and household supplies.

2. Raid The Closets

Set the timer and tell the kids they have 1 minute to find their best outfit in mom and dad’s closet – they will have two minutes to prepare a song or dance for the group.

If they picked dad’s outfit – they must sing or dance like him. If they picked mom’s outfit – yep, they are impersonating mom. Respectfully, of course.

3. Hide That Treasure

Our family started this tradition years ago and it’s a winner.

We had an old antique “pink lady” that I strongly disliked as a child. I wanted it out of my room. So my mom hung onto it and planted it in my home as an adult. I discovered it and giggled. Then, I hid it back in her house and then it became a game.

Find an old treasure or trinket and keep moving it from house to house in your extended family. The hunt and thrill of the game becomes highly amusing among the cousins.

Or, play the same game with your immediate family members: hide an item somewhere in the house and then see who finds it first. When they find it, they have to re-hide it. And so on and so forth.

4. Sneaky Giving

There is something in your house that a neighbor would enjoy. As a family, make a surprise treat bag or donate a toy to a child. Go deliver to your neighbor’s porch with an anonymous note. All the family has to sneak together.

Don’t get caught! Generosity is more fun when it’s a surprise!

5. Kitchen Dance Party

Our family loves all of the free stations on Pandora. Get dad to play DJ and just pick your nightly dance spot. Challenge each family member to their best moves – the sprinkler, the worm, anything goes.

Remember, family fun doesn’t have to cost a dime. Just pick a tradition and go for it. Don’t forget to giggle!

Courtney DeFeo is the creator of ABC Scripture Cards featured on “The View” and author of In This House, We Will Giggle. She is a graduate of Auburn University and has worked in marketing for Chick-fil-A. Courtney and her husband, Ron, are the parents of two children. To connect with Courtney, visit CourtneyDeFeo.com.

in-this-house-we-will-giggle

Win a Copy of In This House, We Will Giggle!

Need some fresh ideas and inspiration for making virtues, love, and laughter apart of your daily life as a family? Check out Courtney’s new book, In This House, We Will Giggle. I got my copy recently and can’t wait to read it soon!

I’d love to give away a copy to three readers today. Just leave a comment telling us your favorite frugal family fun idea.

I’ll choose three comments on Wednesday and will send you a free copy of Courtney’s book!

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The Long Road Bag Tutorial

long road bag tutorial

Guest post from Abi of The Modern Prairie Girl

This bag was made for those LONG road trips.

It holds everything, while still being slouchy enough to get crammed into the car with everything that’s brought along for a vacation! The Long Road bag is super quick and fun to make – so let’s get started!

Walk through it carefully, so you don’t miss anything that might be needed. Lay out your fabric pieces as you go, so it comes together without any mishaps!

I give you some ideas about what fabric choices that would be extra fun to use when you decide to whip up this bag. The handle is really unique. Having the knot or bow option leaves way for it being sized for a petite, regular or tall lady. You can adjust the length of your bag for a cross body style or if you just want it to hang from your shoulder.

The Long Road Bag

Finished flat measurements: 12” wide x 14 ½” tall x 2 ½” deep
Handle strap: 35” to 56”

long road trip bag

Required Supplies:

  • fabric straps
    • for outside bag two pieces 13”x10” top half
    • for outside bag two pieces 13”x 6 ½” bottom half
    • for lining two pieces 13”x 15 ¾”
    • for handles two pieces 4”x36”
  • 13” piece of lace (optional)
  • sewing machine
  • scissors
  • sewing pins
  • matching/coordinating thread

Notes on fabric:

I love to play with my fabric combinations, and I would encourage you to do it also! This bag would be super cute out of burlap, cotton velveteen, or a cotton home décor as well as a fun quilting weight cotton print.

Also, play off of your special piece of lace that you want to show off on your Long Road bag. Sew, have fun!

DIRECTIONS:

1. Sew outside bag pieces, right sides together, along the 13” side. Press seam open. Pin and sew optional lace down to front of bag along the middle seam.

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2. Sew outside bag right sides together. Turn bag to the side, matching bottom seam, with side seam. Pin both corners of bag.

Using a ruler, make a straight 2 ½” line. Use a pencil or marker to make your line. Sew down line and cut off excess peek of fabric. Turn bag right side out.

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3. Take handle strips. Take one short end of each strip and turn the fabric in on itself ½”. Press. Turn the long sides in to meet in the middle of your strip. Fold over again, so raw fabric edges are encased. Sew along both long sides and the finished short end at 1/8”. Repeat with other strip.

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4. Sew handles at each side of finished outside bag.

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5. Take lining pieces and sew right sides together, leaving a 3” gap in the middle of the bottom of the bag. Repeat making gussets from step 2 for your lining.

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6. Put finished outside bag inside lining. Stitch bag around the top at 5/8”. Clip off excess fabric around the top.

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7. Pull outside bag through gap. Sew gap closed and push lining into the outside bag.

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8. Topstitch around the mouth of your bag at ¼”. Put your bag on your should and knot or bow your handles at the top.

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Your Long Road Bag is finished!

Keep in mind that this bag isn’t just for road trips, but any good times!

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This bag is a great Christmas or birthday gift – especially if the recipient loves a beautiful handmade gift!

Sew… what are you waiting for? Have fun and please share your success story with me on the Modern Prairie Sewing facebook page.

designed & made by Abigail A. Long, author of Modern Prairie Sewing: 20 Handmade Projects for You & Your Friends. Head on over to her blog: The Modern Prairie Girl.

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5 Things to Remember When Bartering

bartering

Guest post from Meagan of More Than a Coupon Queen

Our family has lived on a tight budget for a long time. My husband works for a non-profit ministry and I homeschool both of our children.

I have always wanted my children to enjoy the things we couldn’t afford without breaking our budget. This is where the idea of bartering came into play. I may not be able to pay cash for something but I have a few skills I can trade.

If you’re interested in bartering, here are 5 things to consider…

5 Things to Remember When Bartering

1. Don’t be afraid to ask.

I have bartered with people I never would have expected to. Sometimes a Facebook question such as, “Looking for someone to help us with a stopped up toilet. Willing to do a photo shoot for you in exchange for your time” can end with a great partnership.

2. Make sure the value matches.

I have seen people trade services worth a lot for something small. Make sure your trade is even. Examples of this would include trading 1 hour of babysitting for a full photo shoot or trading 1 hour of yard work for 3 hours of house work.

The only way bartering will make you happy is by making sure that both people are getting the same value.

3. Put terms in writing before you start.

In order to avoid disagreements later, establish the terms of your trade before you start. You don’t need a lawyer and a contract but having something in writing will prevent either of you from feeling taken advantage of.

4. Put a timeline on your trade.

Don’t give someone something with the understanding that they will someday pay you back. Instead, say “I will do this for you by this date if you will do this for me by this date.”

Not only will this give both of you a clear deadline, it will remove a potential disagreement over when something should be done.

5. Realize your Strengths.

I went to school for photography, I work well with children, and I know how to do some basic business cards and branding. When someone is looking to trade with me I will offer these things as options.

What are you good at? Are you good with children? Do you know how to work with Photoshop or an excel spreadsheet? Are you good at cleaning? Knowing your strengths gives you something to barter.

Bartering is a great way to take care of your family without spending cash you don’t have. I highly recommend giving it a try!

Have you ever bartered for something you needed? Did it go well for you?

Meagan is a Sci-loving homeschool mom from Central Florida. She blogs with her husband at More Than a Coupon Queen. If you visit their site you are sure to find money saving tips, homeschool ideas, and Central Florida fun. Meagan hosts a weekly Science link up and offers a monthly Doctor Who inspired printable.

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9 Ways We Cut Back to Afford More on One Income

9 ways we cutback

Guest post from Jennifer

After being a stay-at-home mom for almost 2 years, my husband and I had to make a decision of where our first child would go to school. Although we were excited about sending her to a private school, we were also a bit overwhelmed wondering if could afford it on one income.

I know there are many families out there living on one income and “affording more” of what’s important to you because of budget cut-backs in other areas of your life. And after looking at our own budget, we found several areas we could cut back to make a private school tuition work on one income:

1. Debt: 

We had already purposefully eliminated all credit card and car loan debt, so we only owe money on a reasonable mortgage.

2. Entertainment:

  • We use a TV with bunny ears, so we do not pay for cable, Netflix, etc.
  • We check out movies and books at the local library for free!
  • We do cheap dates (sometimes sharing an entrée at a restaurant to be able to eat out).
  • We are blessed to have grandparents in town who babysit for free.
  • We limit our eat-out budget, and drink water when we go out.
  • We only have one smart phone in our family.
  • We called our phone company to get a promotional rate on internet.

3. Clothing:

  • I shop for my kids’ clothes at garage, consignment, and thrift store sales. I also buy ahead for the next size up at the clearance racks at the end of a season.
  • I consign my kids’ clothes (and old toys) at a local sale three times a year. I price the clothes and make 70% of what they sell for and they do the work of selling them.

4. Groceries:

  • I shop primarily at Aldi, with some items bought at Dillon’s with sales and coupons.
  • I have started making more things from scratch, and I love using my bread machine (inspired by this blog!). My kids love “Mama Jenny’s Pizzeria”.

5. Gifts

  • I make many gifts (birthday cakes, burlap wreaths, bracelets, baby blankets).
  • I shop for gifts year round.
  • I recycle all old gift bags and tissue paper that are in good condition.

6. Gas

  • We buy gift cards at Dillon’s for specific purchases and get fuel points to get discounts on gas.
  • We fill up both cars at once to take full advantage of fuel discounts.

7. School Credit for Reloadable Gift Card:

Our school offers credit towards tuition for purchases bought with a reloadable Dillon’s gift card, including money spent on gas. We make about $3.75 for each $100 spent and every little bit adds up!

8. Hair:

I highlight my own hair and cut all four of our hair.

9. Home repairs:

I am blessed to have a handy husband who can do most home repairs and lawn maintenance with only a few trips to Home Depot.

I realize that all of these tips will not work for everyone, but I hope this is inspiring to many readers who read MoneySavingMom.com for more ideas to cut back to afford more!

Jennifer is a stay-at-home mom of two children, 6 and 3, whose mom, out of necessity, taught her to be frugal growing up. She enjoys looking for more ways to save money, crafting, reading, teaching children at church, and spending time with her family.

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5 Ways to Save On Family Train Travel

train travel

Guest post from Kaylea

I thought about taking the train for years before I booked my first trip, but every time I did a search through a travel agent website, the trip came up costing a lot more than I wanted to spend.

Looking back, I am sure I missed out on some wonderful experiences, and could have saved a lot of money on some of my long road trips, if I’d had a better understanding of the Amtrak system.

If you’re living with a train enthusiast who’s eager to take a ride on the rails; or, if you’re looking for an alternative to driving or flying for your next family trip, these tips will help you keep more money in your wallet.

1. Plan ahead….way ahead!

My experience with train travel is that the best prices are available four to six months in advance, and the cost can double over the course of that time. Yikes!

2. Learn the routes that serve your town and your destination.

Whether you live in a major rail hub or only see a train a few days a week, trains follow set routes – certain cities, certain times. Use the Amtrak route guides to figure out what trains serve your area and your desired destinations.

If you know what routes you’re interested in, you’ll be able to more easily identify the sales and options that apply to you. You can travel to a larger hub and change trains if a point-to-point option is not available – just make sure that your luggage will be permitted on each train in your itinerary!

3. Flip the trip – focus on the journey, not the destination.

Amtrak doesn’t go everywhere, and it’s often not the cheapest way to get from point A to point B.

When planning your next family vacation, ask yourself, “Where can we go via train?” You can cross the country with lines like the Empire Builder or the California Zephyr, or take a day-trip to a point of interest. Consider going half-and-half — take the train on your way there, and then fly home.

Pursuing a train trip without first determining whether your destination is well-served by train routes could be seriously expensive!

4. Join Amtrak Guest Rewards.

This is the Amtrak equivalent of frequent flier miles, and you can accrue points with each trip. You can also earn points via Amtrak partners, like hotels, airlines, car rentals, and online merchants.

I always join the frequent guest programs when I travel, but I don’t travel often enough to accumulate very much at any given company. The option to transfer points from other frequent guest programs is useful in this case.

Scraping together what I have scattered around has helped me to build my points totals more quickly. And if you don’t end up becoming a frequent train rider, you can redeem for gift cards or give your points away to a friend.

5. Plan a SmartFare trip.

Taking advantage of sales is an obvious tip, but Amtrak’s SmartFare sales are a bit trickier to plan around.

Amtrak posts their coach SmartFares weekly, typically at a 25% discount. Sounds good, but here’s the tricky part: your trip has to take place within the next few weeks! This is a challenge for vacationers, since there’s no guarantee that a desirable destination will be on the markdown table at the time you’re planning to travel.

One way to get a handle on SmartFares is to read through the history of the specials and sales offered over the last year. If you visit a train travel resource like RailServe or Amtrak Unlimited, and scroll through the history of what’s been posted, you’ll get a sense of what might be available for you.

Since SmartFares are coach fares, this approach may be more suitable for a day trip or single overnight than a cross-country journey.

I keep a list of a few destinations for which I’m watching for SmartFares to pop up – in my case, that’s our state capital of Springfield, the water park resort area called Wisconsin Dells, and the city of Galena, a walkable historic town. Using these inexpensive fares for a short trip is a great way to get your feet wet before deciding to take a longer ride.

Traveling by train has other advantages beyond simple economics. You can focus on your family instead of watching the road. You can move around the train and hop off at longer stops to stretch your legs. And the availability of bathrooms, sightseeing cars, and a café car keeps everyone traveling comfortably.

By train is our family’s favorite way to travel, and I hope it will be an enjoyable and economical option for yours as well!

Kaylea is a Chicago writer and technologist. Together with her husband and two daughters, she has taken seven overnight train trips in the last four years. Her e-book, Family Travel by Train: Riding the Rails with Kids Five and Under, is available via the Kindle Store.

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