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We arrived home from our family celebration trip to California a few hours ago and were immediately shocked at how cold Kansas was after six days of sunshine in San Diego. Brrr!
In the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some fun stories of our vacation adventures… like how we paid $145 in an effort to save $40 (that would fit in the "Frugal Failures" category!) and how I was flabbergasted at how inexpensive the grocery prices were in California! (I always had heard prices were twice as much or more in California. Not hardly! I visited grocery stores and saw with my very own eyes that the prices there are every bit as good or better than what I can get here. Stay tuned for my full post analysis on that.)
It was great to be away, but I missed you all–and I missed blogging. Thanks for letting me have a few days off to play in the sand with my family, hang out with a good friend, and just recharge for the new year. It was a wonderful trip and we came home refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to hit the ground running.
I have a lot of catching up to do, so you can expect an avalanche of great deals here in the next few days. I hope you don't mind! 🙂
Guest Post by My Friend Kelly
Let's face it: we're all busy. No matter if you are married, single, in a
career or working at home, mother to seven, one or none, we all have enough to
fill our days and then some. Maybe the thought of adding one more challenge to
an overflowing Resolution list is too much to consider right now.
Relax, the Eat From The Pantry Challenge isn't boot camp. Crystal and Jessica are quite the opposite of
screaming drill sergeants. These are women who are willing to spend
considerable time and energy to share their struggles, successes, and failures
in order to encourage us.
This month-long challenge doesn't require you to
create a blog, starve your children, or eat leaves and wild roots. It's closer
to finishing the unread books on your shelf before buying new ones.
At the end of November, I embarked on my own challenge to clean out my pantry
and freezer. I am proof it can be done even if you’re not a master baker or planner.
If this pantry month seems too difficult let's start with a new perspective.
This is not a challenge, it's an adventure! Adventures are fun and exciting,
full of surprises and exploration. Here’s just a taste of what you might learn
on this adventure:
Remember the days when an empty plastic container and cardboard from the paper
towels could entertain you for hours? Or times in college when you made pasta
in the coffee pot and grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron?
It's time to get creative
again! Whether it's breakfast for dinner to finish up some pancake mix, using
stale bread for croutons, or finding substitutes, cooking is about enjoying the
process and breaking out of the mundane.
Creativity comes when you have seventeen cans of tuna and need a new recipe.
Creativity is testing new sauces on pasta and trying new recipes, ingredients,
and styles of cooking.
As we settle into our routines, grocery shopping can become a tedious chore.
Take this month to focus not on what you don't have in the pantry but what
you do. Instead of focusing on the deals you might miss, enjoy the ones you
found already! It's simple to grab chili on sale and celebrate a great
deal but it's a little harder to make chili and cornbread or chili on a baked
potato three times a week to use it up.
Look at all the opportunities we have to buy food and utilize discounts,
coupons, and rewards. It's easy to take that for granted. When was the last time
your family gave thanks for having a local grocery store, fresh produce, and the
funds to pick up a treat or two?
Once you embark on the Eat From the Pantry "Adventure", try a little trick I call 'spelunking.'
Simply dig through your stock and find something you can use in place of going
to the store. Crunchy salad toppers can be used in soup. Top macaroni and cheese with the last
tablespoons of bread crumbs. Turn mushy apples into
applesauce and juice into popsicles.
I know my great grandmothers would be ashamed to see the amount of food I
let spoil each week. They didn't waste; the mantra was to "use it
up!" In that spirit during my Pantry Month I rescued a ham from the work
potluck that was to be thrown away. Ham omelets, sandwiches, added to beans and
soup helped stretch many meals. If you're thinking your stock can't possibly
last 31 days give it a shot and find out how long it WILL last. The worst that
can happen is you'll find your answer.
Crystal has connected her savings to a charity, would you do something similar?
Soon we'll be collecting 2009 receipts and income information for taxes. Do you
find yourself wishing you could give more in time, donations or money? Food
banks are struggling this year so whether you donate some of your savings of
that can of creamed corn you don't want to eat, this is a great time to give
How about making a Saturday trip to a soup kitchen to
volunteer your time? Encountering people in your own city who really do
struggle for daily meals can add some much-needed perspective.
What are you saving money towards in 2010? Do you have a family vacation, new
baby, cash-only Christmas plans, or need new clothes? Remind yourself with
pictures posted on the fridge that represent your savings goal. When you sit
down to a meal get excited about your next adventure and what it means for your
family. If you have kids, talk to them about the importance of paying back
debts, saving for summer camp, or giving to others.
Check out some books on frugal cooking, there are hundreds available from the
library and paperback book swap
for just the price of postage. Or check out a new food blog for recipes that
utilize what you have on hand.
Re-discover Family Time
When you've got all you need right at home to prepare and share a meal, the
time really does center around family. Instead of running out to pick up one or
two things, find a substitute and create a new tradition–you may even
discover a new taste when you introduce variety!
Set the table, light a candle, and share about your day. And don't dismiss
family time if you're single like I am; use this time to decompress and relax.
Enjoy your quiet time and then call your parents or a friend and ask about
their day. Or pick up some nice cards and write a note to a friend or family
What I discovered
While I've never had a baking day or tried to prepare a month's worth of food
in one weekend, I survived the month of December without grocery shopping. When
I found myself thinking of eating out or running to the store for “just one
little thing” I would immediately challenge myself to recreate the meal at
home. And on the days when I was busy and pressed for time, a bowl of soup and
peanut butter with jelly sandwich worked just fine.
You will find yourself accomplishing more on this adventure than you ever
thought possible. Case in point: I've gone 31 days without Starbucks coffee!
In the end I still survived and I'm stronger for it. I
certainly believed I'd be down to mustard, olive, and spaghetti sandwiches by
now but I'm eating just as well as before. I've learned a lot of lessons which
I share on my blog. And I’m looking
forward to reading what y’all learn as well.
Are you up for a little adventure?
Kelly is a 25 year old single homeowner living in Northern
California. Despite a high cost of
living and tough job market, Kelly has created a cozy home without acquiring
debt. Now just $3,000 away from eliminating
student loans (the last of consumer debt), Kelly looks forward her first trip
abroad, thrift store decorating, and teaching financial awareness. Kelly blogs at My Friend Kelly.
photo by ex.libris
If you know me much at all, you know I'm a strong believer in having written goals. Not just dreams or ambitions or pie-in-the-sky ideas, but realistic, achievable goals.
At the end of every year, my husband and I sit down and review our goals from the previous year and make out a list of goals for the new year. We try to do this in all areas of our life–from personal to spiritual to vocational.
While we don't always complete all of these goals and some of them we decide to chuck altogether, just discussing where we're at and where we want to go and then writing it down is a very beneficial and motivational exercise in itself. And we've been amazed at how much more we accomplish when we are purposeful in how we live our lives.
As the saying goes, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." If you aim high, you might not quite make what you aim for, but you'll likely go much farther than you'd go if you aimed at little or nothing at all.
Over the next week, I'll be sharing some of my goals for 2010 with you here, not only so you can get a little peak into my life, but also because also because I've found public accountability to be a highly motivating thing.
To start things off, here are my blogging goals for 2010:
1) Keep God and my family as my first priority. If I manage to do nothing else this year but grow closer to God and spend the bulk of my time loving on my family, it will be a successful year. Everything else pales in comparison to those relationships.
While the computer can be an incredible tool and I love the opportunity I have to blog and interact with many of you, my family is my number one priority. Email, blogging, comments, Twitter, and Facebook all take a backburner to my husband and children.
One change I've made in the last few months is to set up parental controls on my computer so it is only accessible during certain times of the day–for an hour before my children wake up and for a few hours during our afternoon Quiet Time.
These self-imposed boundaries have been a huge help as they keep me accountable to make sure I am only spending a limited amount of time on the computer and am completely focused on meeting the needs of my family when my children are awake and my husband is home.
In the time that I do have set aside for blogging, here is what I want to focus my energies and efforts on:
2) Write more personal posts and share more pictures. While I plan to continue to share lots of great deals and bargains here like usual, I'm going to put forth a much greater effort in 2010 to share personal posts of things I'm learning, insights I'm gleaning, frugal tips and ideas, experiments and failures, and give you a little glimpse into our family's day-to-day lives.
3) Provide diverse content through guest posts. I have some excellent guest posts lined up for 2010 which I'm excited to share with you. My goal is to run one per week and I hope to include a variety of posts from individuals who come from a plethora of backgrounds and financial situations.
4) Foster community. We have some new features lined up for the site redesign we're rolling out in the next month which will encourage more interaction and help to foster more community and forum here. Many of you have asked for this so I'm thrilled to be able to launch these features in the near future.
5) Network with bloggers and encourage and help newer bloggers. A few months ago, a few bloggers and I banded together to create
SavvyBlogging–a website with the mission of helping others make the most of
their blogging efforts. What started as a simple idea for a
get-together, turned into a complete Round Table Dinner and
Discussion and an active Twitter stream packed with helpful tips and
ideas for taking your blog to the next level.
I also will be collaborating with other bloggers on some other exciting projects over the next year and am even jumping way outside of my "comfort zone" to speak at the Relevant Conference in October. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to encourage other bloggers and share a few things I've learned along the way.
Those are a few of my blogging goals for this coming year. Check out others' goals or link up yours here.