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MSN: How to get groceries for free by gleaning

MSN posted an interesting article recently on how to get groceries for free by gleaning:

A truck pulls up, two people jump out, and, within minutes, they’ve loaded up a few cases of dented cans, a box of ripe pears and a few dozen loaves of day-old bread. Jumping back in the cab, they pull out of the grocery store parking lot and head for the next store on their list.

Some call it food rescue or grocery recovery, or even an old biblical term: gleaning.

But no matter what you call it, the practice of rescuing food before it hits the garbage bin is becoming increasingly popular as a way of reducing waste, feeding people who’ve fallen on hard times and even helping average families save hundreds of dollars a year on groceries.

Read full article.

Thanks to Ashley for passing along this article!

Three Bean Chili Chowder Recipe

This soup has been a family favorite for years. It’s simple, easy and foolproof. And it would be scrumptious with some honey cornbread.

Reader Testimonial: My Money-Saving Christmas

Lecia from Kindly Deeds emailed in the following testimonial which I thought many of you would enjoy reading:

Due to two consecutive layoffs, my husband has been employed for only seven out of the last 24 months. That means we’ve had two holiday seasons in a row with very little money to spare on gifts. Each year we draw names with both sides of our family, which gives us an extra 14 people to shop for, in addition to our own family of seven!

Both this year and last year, I relied heavily on my email updates from MoneySavingMom.com to help me provide Christmas for all those people. If you haven’t signed up yet for the Money Saving Mom® email list, you definitely should. Reading and using those emails has saved my family hundreds of dollars over the past two years.

As a direct result of the emails, I got:

  • Two cute little change purses from Target for my daughters. They love these and keep their dollar store Silly Bandz in them!
  • About $40 in gift cards to Amazon.com by using Swagbucks for several months. Plus, I signed up for the Amazon Mom program and got free shipping throughout the holiday season.
  • A free Duplo-style car that I just had to sign up for. That was perfect for my little nephew.
  • Three $10 credits from Kellogg’s after buying three boxes of cereal per credit (and I got the cereal three for $7, and then saved more by using coupons)! These credits were good for any toy or electronic product at stores like Wal-Mart.
  • About $20 in PayPal cash from taking surveys on sites recommended by MoneySavingMom.com.
  • A free photo collage from Walgreens. I used my son’s Homecoming photos to make a collage for him that he treasures.
  • Free or nearly free photo books from various sites that made perfect gifts for grandparents.

We also scrambled together a few more dollars by trading in books and video games at our local used bookstore, and transferring some prescriptions at a time when K-Mart was offering $25 gift cards for each transferred prescription. Since three of my five kids take daily medications for asthma, we were able to get $100 in gift cards this way.

Once I got through the Christmas season and took a minute to breathe, I realized how blessed we had been, and I was so full of joy and gratitude for the wonderful and frugal Christmas we were able to have.

Lecia Crider lives in Mesa, AZ with her husband, Jay, and their five children. She blogs about service opportunities at Kindly Deeds, and she’d love for you to take a peek at her husband’s resume on LinkedIn!

Mortgages, Paying Cash and Goal-Setting Run Amuck

I finished sharing our story of paying cash for a house two weeks ago and but I promised I’d follow it up with a few thoughts on mortgages and paying cash. Unfortunately, I completely forgot about writing this post last Wednesday, so I’m finally getting it done this week. Thanks for your patience!

While being debt-free is a wonderful thing, I want to stress very clearly that it’s not the be all, end all. Paying cash for a house doesn’t make you a better person than someone who is barely struggling to make ends meet and doing good to pay the utility bill and grocery bill.

We all have different families, different backgrounds and different situations, so our financial stories are all going to look quite different. And that’s perfectly okay! I want to give you ideas, inspiration and encouragement here, but then I hope you’ll take it and go find how to best steward the resources God has given to you.

With that said, if you are considering the benefits of paying cash for a house versus getting a mortgage, here’s what I’d encourage you to think about:

1) What are the costs of housing in your area?

Don’t just believe what everyone says about how much houses cost where you live. Go research it out yourself. All real estate is local. The prices in one area will be different from another, even if in the same city with comparable cost of living. For example, if you live in an area where most houses cost $400,000, you very well may be able to find a fixer-upper for $200,000 in a decent part of the other side of town.

Since we live in the Midwest, housing prices are really affordable, compared to many parts of the country. In fact, with some looking and patience, you can buy a very decent relatively new starter home for around $100,000 to $110,000. (Some of you who live in high cost of living areas just had to pick yourself up off the floor, I know!) The low housing prices is one reason we moved here and one of the big factors in our decision to save to pay cash for a house.

2) How much can you save each month?

This is not meant as an exercise in frustration, but as a reality check. Look at your written budget and see if there are any areas you’d be willing to cut or downsize for a time period in order to free up more money to go to savings.

Our family decided to keep our grocery budget low, have a moratorium on spending, not have any monthly subscriptions, delay college and retirement savings and downsize in rental home in order to free up more money to put toward savings. We also were blessed with a good income from both of our businesses, so the fact that we kept our expenses as minimal as possible and didn’t have any debt allowed us to be able to save a sizable amount of our income each month towards a house.

3) What do the numbers look like in ten years?

Once you have a good understanding of how much you can expect to pay for a house and how much you can save each month, you’re ready to run numbers and calculations to determine what is the best plan of action for your family. Figure out how much you could potentially save over the course of the next ten years if you were to live on as little as you can, rent and save as much as you can.

Then, calculate how much you’d have in equity in a home in ten years if you were to instead save aggressively for a great down payment (at least 20% down, maybe even 40%+) on a 15-year fixed rate mortgage on a very modest home, buy the home and then throw everything you could at the mortgage payment to pay it off early.

Running these numbers can give you a very helpful gauge to decide what is the best course of action for your family.

Don’t Get Too Focused and Miss Out On Life

My husband and I are very focused, driven and stubborn people (well, it’s probably just mostly me who is stubborn!). These can be wonderful qualities when exercised in balance.

Unfortunately, we didn’t exercise a lot of balance while saving for a house. Since we’re both self-employed and our income is based a great deal on our productivity, we became work-a-holics with a single-minded focus of earning enough to make our monthly house savings goals.

Instead of pacing ourselves and allowing ourselves margin, we sprinted and ran ourselves ragged. We accomplished our goal, but not without it taking a major toll on our family, friendships and health.

I’m grateful that God was gracious, our friends and family were forgiving and we survived the grueling months of hard work. But neither my husband nor I would recommend that you follow in our footsteps.

Just in the last year, we’re finally feeling like we’re beginning to learn to know our limits, have our priorities in better order and have more margin in our life — and we are happier and healthier for it.

So please, go right ahead and set big goals and work hard, but pace yourself and give yourself grace and breathing room.

Ask the Readers: Is a chest freezer worth the investment?

Today’s question is from Corrie:

I am thinking of purchasing a chest freezer. I have a family of six and the refrigerator in my apartment is so small. In fact, it is shorter than I am and I can only fit enough food in it for one week. I wish I could get a bigger one but the cabinets above it won’t allow anything larger.

My question is, is it worth it to buy a freezer so I can stock up on sale items?  Am I going to pay the difference in electricity for a five-cubic-square-foot chest freezer?

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Money Saving Mom® readers? Read the submission guidelines and submit it here.