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Where in the world has Money Saving Mom been?

My darling little children who see to it that there is rarely a dull moment at our home!

Wow! Is it already closing in on March? That seems impossible, but the calendar says it’s true.

At any rate, a number of you have mentioned recently that you’ve missed my more personal posts the last few weeks. You’re so kind to even notice, and I thought you all deserved an explanation of what’s been happening behind-the-scenes at MoneySavingMom.com.

I’ve purposed to do my best to stick with the computer time slots in our schedule–and that’s been going great! However, it hasn’t been extremely conducive to a major blog change like switching for Typepad to WordPress. Or at least it’s meant that pretty much 80% of my computer time has been swallowed up in making this transition.

We knew that switching blog platforms was going to be a fairly big deal. However, like usual, it turned out to be a much bigger and more time-consuming deal that we could have initially ever imagined. In fact, it took five professionals (none of whom were me!) around 70 hours combined to pull it off. Yes, I’d say it was a rather audacious undertaking.

But it’s done–finally! And while a few of you are still experiencing a few glitches here and there, for the most part, it’s been smooth sailing for about a week. So I’m happy to say that I think the move was successful.

A huge thanks to Joy from FiveJs who has invested hours and hours and hours to make this switch happen. She’s been amazing to work with and my hat is off to her incredible expertise and diligence to see this move to it’s finish. It’s certainly not been a task for the faint of heart!

As the site has grown this past year and we’ve begun homeschooling and had our third child, I’ve begun to feel rather strapped for time. I often found myself spending so much of my computer time taking care of nitty-gritty details which had to be done in order to run this blog that I was barely able to churn out many worthwhile posts, if any at all.

My husband and I spent a lot of time praying and discussing direction for this site over the last six months. Neither of us felt like it was time to let it go, but neither of us also felt like I could single-handedly keep up with the load of work it was producing and still have my priorities as a wife and mom in their proper place.

After much discussion, we’ve decided it’s time to take the plunge and hire skilled people to help carry some of the load. God has blessed the blog far beyond our wildest dreams and now that we’ve saved up enough to pay cash for our house, we feel like we can invest some of the earnings from the blog back into it. So as of last week, my sister, Amy, and Joy are all working part-time behind-the-scenes to help MoneySavingMom run smoothly and be as user-friendly and helpful as possible.

They’ve taken a big load off of my shoulders so that I can focus on being a wife and mother, homeschooling, and writing blog posts. This change will, hopefully, make this blog much better than I could make it on its own and also free me up to spend my computer time writing, not dealing with tech problems and so forth.

We have some really wonderful new features we’ll be rolling out next week, thanks to their help. I can hardly contain my excitement, but I will try to keep my mouth shut until next Wednesday. Stay tuned!

In the mean time, thank you for your patience with the blog switchover and for being patient when I haven’t been able to respond to many of your emails or write as many personal posts as I’ve hoped to. I’m really excited about the great things in store for this next year–especially now that I am freed up to focus more on bettering this blog! I still can’t promise I’ll be able to personally respond to all the emails I receive, but I am very hopeful that you’ll be seeing a lot more content posts here beginning this very week.

Look what we got from Amazon.com today!

The girls were delighted to open up a box from the UPS man today to discover five entire pounds of YummyEarth organic suckers that I’d ordered from them for a surprise.

Thanks to a tip from The Thrifty Mama, I got them at a steal on Friday. All five pounds were only $14.88–which is a fraction of the price we’d pay at the health food store. Plus, I used some of our Amazon gift cards that we’d earned from Swagbucks so we didn’t pay anything out of pocket for them.

It’s a HUGE bag of lollipops and will make for lots of special treats for the girls… and maybe even some for mom, too! Thanks, The Thrifty Mama!

Menu Planning Makes a Difference

Rhonda recently emailed me about her menu-planning success:

I GET IT! I always thought meal planning was a waste of time. As long as I had plenty of variety in my freezer and pantry and fresh produce and milk, why meal plan?

To be honest, I couldn’t understand why you and many others did this. Well now I get it. I started meal planning as a New Year’s Resolution. I thought I’d try it for a month and prove it made no difference and quit.

Was I ever so wrong!

On Sunday each week, my husband and I now plan our meals for the entire week. I then do an inventory of what we have available. Then I make my shopping list to get the items I need to complete the meals on our menu. Of course, I also pick up a few extra items if they are free or nearly-free to stockpile.

Our weekly menu is posted up on the refrigerator, so there’s no more “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know”-type conversations. The amount of time and money I save meal planning is unbelievable. Why didn’t I do this sooner? -Rhonda

I wholeheartedly concur that planning a menu (or even a basic sketched out plan) makes a world of difference in our grocery budget, how well we eat, and just in my overall sanity. If you’ve never planned menus before, I’d challenge you to consider doing what Rhonda did. Commit to doing it for a month and see how it works for you. You just might be surprised!

Speaking of which, here’s this week’s menu plan:

Breakfasts

Oatmeal, fresh carrot/apple/orange juice
Cereal
Whole-Wheat Blueberry Pancakes
Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls, fresh orange juice
Our Favorite Banana Bread, fresh orange/carrot juice

Lunches
Open-Faced Tuna Sandwiches, carrot sticks
Whole-Wheat Pasta sprinkled with cheese, oranges
Peanut Butter & Honey sandwiches, carrot sticks
Beans and brown rice with cheese, avocados, oranges
Baked Potatoes, cheese, broccoli
Leftovers x 2

Dinners
Homemade Pizza, cantaloupe
Barbecued Beef, Homemade Buns**, peas, oranges
Italian Chicken over rice, steamed broccoli, grapefruit,
Chicken Stuffing Casserole, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls, mixed green salad, peas, fruit salad
Broccoli Ham and Cheese Casserole, fruit, Whole-Wheat Blueberry Muffins
Dinner at Friend’s House
Dinner Out

**I’m looking for a really good Homemade Hamburger Bun recipe which can be made in the bread machine for tomorrow night’s dinner. Does anyone have a link for an excellent recipe to share?

Photo credit: Jen_Maiser

Crockpot Italian Chicken

My friend Connie, from Smockity Frocks, is hosting a “What’s In Your CrockPot?” link-up today! Head over to her blog for all sorts of yummy crockpot recipes and ideas.

It’s hard to say whether I love my crockpot or my bread machine more. Both of them are invaluable tools in my kitchen that I use again and again and again.

Recently, I’ve been making Italian Chicken and serving it with Bread Machine Buttery Rolls and some fruit on the side. You can make this complete dinner from start to finish in 15 minutes. How’s that for simple? Plus, if you get the chicken on a good sale, the Italian dressing for almost-free, and use fruit that’s in season and on sale, it’s also very much a budget meal, too!

Super Savings Saturday

After taking the week off from grocery shopping last week, we did more stocking up this week. Here’s what we bought:

My husband took my coupons–and children!–to the store earlier in the week and came home with the above. Get this, he only spent $27.12 and he saved $71. Yep, he’s quite the bargain shopper. And he had both girls with him, too. I’m impressed–as usual!

I went to the health food store, Aldi, and Walmart later on in the week and got all of the above for just under $20–which I was very happen about considering quite a bit of it was organic! (The girls asked if they could be in the picture and then they had fun posing with silly faces!)

Since we saved up enough to pay cash for a house a few months ago, one of the few budget changes we’ve made was adding a gym membership for my husband. It’s not something our frugal natures ever thought we’d do, but it works out much better for my husband’s schedule and it also has been a much greater motivation for him than trying to exercise at home.

He loves it and I love that he’s putting forth a lot of effort to be physically fit and healthy. The only thing is that he also needs to add more protein into his diet, so I ordered the above for free using Amazon gift cards I earned through Swagbucks.

All told, we’ve spent around $115 total on groceries this month. The $45 left in our grocery envelope should easily last us through the end of this month.

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Did you snag any great deals or bargains this week or save money in other ways? If so, be sure to post about them on your blog and leave your link below. Please remember that this weekly round-up is to share deals you personally got and/or money you were able to save this week. In order to keep this weekly round-up focused on helping and inspiring others in their efforts to save money, links which have little-to-no content other than promoting affiliate links, etc. will be deleted. Also, to make it easy for everyone to navigate quickly through the links, your link must link directly to your Super Savings Saturday post.

Olympic Athletes and Financial Success

I don’t watch TV. Ever.

Except for something historically monumental–like the presidential elections–or, when the Olympics are on. I find the Olympics to be incredibly inspiring and interesting, unlike 99.9% of the rest of what airs on television.

As I’ve been watching the Olympics these past few days, I can’t help but notice so many financial lessons which can be gleaned from the success of these highly-trained and experienced athletes. The principles which they’ve applied to achieve athletic success can be equally as helpful when it comes to finances:

1) Success Requires Strategy

None of the Olympic athletes woke up one day last month and decided they’d compete in the Olympics. No, they’ve spent days, weeks, months, years, and even decades preparing, planning, and practicing.

I read the autobiography of Michael Phelps last year and found it fascinating that he and his coach had set exact goal times–down to the hundredth of a second–that they were aiming for him to hit in each of his Olympic races in 2008. They practiced for these times over and over and over again, and they were forefront in Phelp’s mind at the Olympic games. I have no doubt that having a clearly mapped out strategy is one prominent reason Michael Phelps brought home eight gold medals from Beijing.

If you want to be financially successful, it’s not enough to say, “I’m going to get out of debt.” Or, “I want to save to pay cash for a car.” No, you have to have a clear-cut game plan. You have to have goals and then break those down into attainable, bite-size objectives.

2) Success Requires Sacrifice

Olympic athletes make phenomenal sacrifices. While the rest of us are sleeping, or vegging, or shopping, or eating, they are in the gym training. They don’t live a normal life or participate in many of the social activities that most in our culture do because so much of their focus and energy must be devoted to physical training.

If you want to succeed financially, it’s also going to require sacrifice. You’ll likely have to give up some of the societal “norms” if you’re working your way out of debt or living on a beans-and-rice budget in order to save for a big purchase or stay out of debt. You might be driving an old car, wearing thrift store clothes, and clipping lots of coupons. Your friends might not understand or think you’re weird. That’s okay. In the long run, those sacrifices and your counter-cultural living will pay off with big dividends.

3) Success Requires Self-Discipline

No athlete ever makes it to the Olympics without exerting enormous self-discipline–probably more than most of us can fathom! They push themselves through pain, injury, exhaustion, and excruciating fatigue.

They don’t give up when the going gets tough. Winners aren’t quitters.

I believe self-discipline is one of the greatest keys to financial success, as well. If you’re not willing to stick with a budget, to say “no” to what you can’t afford, and to stop living beyond your means, you’re never going to get ahead.

If you keep going, keep plodding along, keep sticking with your budget, keep pressing forward when it seems like you’re not getting any traction, you will reap the fruit of your efforts.

An Olympic medal is probably not a reality for most of us, but implementing the principles of Olympic athletes in our personal and financial lives can result in amazing success–which will hopefully be much more long-lasting than a one-time Olympic victory.

photo credit: Shazz Mack