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This Week’s Menu

my lunch today

It’s a busy week at our house this week. I’m finishing up the final edits for my book (I’m so excited that it’s almost done!), my husband has this big legal case he’s involved in, and we’re hosting a bridal shower for a special couple at our house on Saturday (There are 60-75 people coming, so it’s the biggest event we’ve hosted in our home so far!). At any rate, we’re mostly eating from the freezer this week to keep things simple.

Breakfasts
Granola bars, fruit
Peanut butter & homemade jam sandwiches
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies
Scrambled eggs and toast, fruit
Oatmeal, Blueberry Ginger Smoothie
Fried egg sandwiches, fruit
Pancakes, scrambled eggs

Lunches
Leftovers
Salad with hard boiled eggs, peaches
Peanut butter & homemade jam sandwiches, fruit, carrots
Macaroni & Cheese, peas
Refried beans with cheese & salad, fruit
Tuna salad sandwiches, fruit, carrots
Leftovers

Snacks
Banana Almond Smoothie
Toaster pastries
Banana Cocoa Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Fruit/Veggies

Dinners
Dinner at friend’s house (we brought salad toppings for a salad bar)
Build-Your-Own Haystacks, fruit
Crockpot Barbecue Chicken, Bread Machine Bread Sticks, green salad, fruit
Lemon Garlic Grilled Chicken, fruit, Bread Machine Bread Sticks, green salad
Hamburgers, Oven Baked Parmesan Seasoned Fries, steamed veggies, fruit
Asian Barbecue Chicken, rice, steamed veggies, fruit salad
Dinner at extended family’s house

Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour Plan (I’ll share pictures/details on how this goes on Thursday!)
Homemade Pancake Mix
Honey Pizza Dough
Fruit Crisp Topping

Did you make a menu plan this week? If so, I’d love to have you share your link in the comments.

Super Savings Saturday: Aldi, Dillon’s, Health Food Store, and Dollar Tree

I had a 2.5-hour time block today to run errands and do my grocery shopping. Jesse was working on things with the children, so I went by myself. And somehow, in that 2.5 hour time block, I made it to six different stores!

One of my errands was to go to the party store to buy things for a big bridal shower I’m hosting at our house this next week. They had everything I was looking for and almost all of it was on sale! I also stopped at Walgreens but they were completely out of everything I’d hoped to buy (no surprise since it’s Saturday, but I still decided to stop since it was right on my way!).

Here were the groceries I ended up getting at the four other stores I went to:

Dillon’s Shopping Trip

2 heads of lettuce marked down to $0.75 each

2 bags of croutons — $1.99, used 2 $0.55/1 coupons that “doubled” to $1/1 = $1 per bag (not the best price for these, but I’d signed up to bring them to a get together tomorrow so I went ahead and bought them since I knew I didn’t have time to make homemade croutons between now and then.)

Total: $3.81 with tax

Dollar Tree Shopping Trip

3 packages of Nature’s Own Hamburger Buns — $1 each

Sea Salt — $1

Total: $4.29 with tax

Aldi Shopping Trip

2 bags of shredded cheddar cheese — $2.99 each

Baking soda — $0.49

Straws — $0.99

Carrots — $0.99

Colored pepper pack — $1.79

2 packages of sweet corn — $0.99 each

4 packages of tomatoes on the vine — $0.99 each

Total: $17.36 with tax

Health Food Store Shopping Trip

10 cartons of Almond and Rice Milk for $0.99 each

2 organic Toaster Pastries at $0.99 each

6 mangoes at $0.33 each

4 lbs. of peaches at $0.79 per lb.

6.3 lbs. of marked down bananas at $0.39 lb.

Blueberry yogurt marked down to $0.99 each

Brown cow yogurt marked down to $1.99

Total: $24.11 with tax

Would you like to know what the best deals and coupon match-ups are for your local stores? Be sure to check out the Store Deals section of our site where we post the best deals and coupon match-ups each week for over 100 different stores across the country. You can sign up to receive the top deals in your email inbox each week as soon as they are posted!

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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.

I Paid Cash: The First Two Years of an MBA Program

We paid cash!
A testimony from No Debt MBA

When I graduated from college a few years ago, I was pretty sure I wanted to go to business school after gaining some work experience. Through scholarships, work, being a resident assistant, and the generosity of my family I had graduated with no student loans from my undergraduate degree.

That taste of freedom was sweet and I loved doing my job search without minimum payments hanging over my head. So I challenged myself with a big goal — when I went to get my MBA I wanted to go to the one of the best schools and avoid student loans, graduating completely debt-free.

I started saving and researching as soon as I got my first paycheck. I knew that I’d have to continue living like a student to reach my goal. I’ve been budgeting carefully and tracking what I spend while slowly putting money away to build a nest egg that could help defray the costs of the expensive degree I wanted.

I’ve hit my first big payoff: this summer I’ll be getting the bill for the first of two years at my top MBA program. I’ll pay that bill in cash.

But the hard work isn’t done yet. Going forward I’m going to be maintaining the same frugal habits that have served me so well over the last few years:

  • I’m living on half of my school’s estimate of living expenses — groceries for two are $25 a week and we live in a very small apartment to save on rent.
  • I’m working all the way up until the first day of school and will work next summer to give my nest egg all the padding it can get.
  • I’ll reapply for financial aid this spring.
  • I’ll continue to pay cash for everything.

I know I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I feel so thankful and fortunate to be able to pursue a top-notch education without taking out a dime in student loans. By challenging myself with a goal I really didn’t think I could reach at first, I’ve achieved more than I thought I could.

No Debt MBA is a 20-something professional who will graduate from a top business school in 2013.  You can read more about how the goal of graduating debt-free is progressing at NoDebtMBA.com

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

photo credit

Why to Have a Well-Stocked Pantry

Guest post by Heather at Fake-It Frugal

I’ve always loved to play Grocery Store. Ever since I was a little girl when my mom would give me empty cereal boxes and rinsed-out cans of vegetables, I’ve been stocking and re-stocking my shelves. Today, as a Home Economist in Training, I am taking that love of playing Grocery Store to the next level — in my basement.

My rules in keeping a Well-Stocked Pantry are:

  • Only purchase and store what you know your family will be consuming in the next six months, making sure to rotate older items to the front as you buy new to replace them.
  • When you find a good bargain, and if you can afford to do so, buy two or three of the same item.
  • Try to keep everything visible so that you know what you have.
  • Visit your pantry regularly, especially when you’re putting together your shopping list and when you’re planning your weekly meals.

My goal in keeping a Well-Stocked Pantry is threefold:

1. If the need arises for an emergency cake or snack for entertaining, you’re all set. There is no need to waste gas running to the grocery store for an unplanned run.

2. If you have a well stocked pantry and freezer, you’ll be able to make many more meals (if not all) at home instead of eating out, thus saving lots of money.

3. If your pantry and freezer are really well stocked to suit your family’s needs, there will be some weeks that the only thing you need to buy at the grocery store is fresh bread, eggs and milk. That translates to big savings since you can cut approximately one week’s worth of a grocery bill out of your monthly budget.

Heather Bea is a “Home Economist in Training” with a focus on frugal cooking and crafting. She’s the mother of one very sweet boy, Cameron and wife to a real and actual Economist, Justin. You can join her journey to find better and cheaper ways to do things that she’s been paying way too much money for in the past at Fake-It Frugal.

Freezer Cooking in an Hour: Strawberry Freezer Jam, Crockpot Barbecue Chicken, Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

Well, yesterday’s planned Freezer Cooking session didn’t go anything like I’d planned. It turned out to be one big interruption fest. Gratefully, somehow God gave me grace to keep it together even when I felt like severely losing my patience.

Remembering this saying I had recently found on Pinterest helped, too:

The Strawberry Freezer Jam and the Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins did turn out well, despite the interruptions. I’ll share more about the Strawberry Freezer Jam along with pictures tomorrow since it was one of my monthly Do-It-Yourself Experiments.

I wish I had a picture of the Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins but my children ate every last one of them up in less than a day. Okay, I confess, it wasn’t just the children who are the culprits. Ahem. 🙂

And I was also able to wash and freeze the rest of the strawberries, as well as a bunch of blueberries we’d bought this week (they were on sale for $0.99 each at Aldi!).

I waited to make the Crockpot Barbecue Chicken until today, because I just ran out of time and energy. But I made a double-batch this afternoon and we had one pan for dinner (I baked it in the oven instead of the crockpot since I was short on time) and froze another bag of it. The whole family loved this recipe and it’s definitely something I’ll be making again in the future. We served it with brown rice and vegetables on the side and it was delicious!

Cheap or Free Toys for Kids

Guest post by Charity Hawkins

If you’re wanting to save money by not shelling out dough for more camps and clinics this summer, but are wondering what on earth to do with your children these last few weeks, take heart. Here are some mom-tested “toys” to keep your kids busy and best of all, they require minimal intervention from you:

Duct Tape

If you have boys (maybe over age three or so), give them a roll of duct tape, send them out to the backyard, and go make yourself an iced coffee. So far this summer, my seven-year-old son has constructed intricate forts with sticks, duct tape balls (what?), and zip lines with stuffed animals duct-taped to hangers.

Duct tape is best complemented with a generous supply of…

String

Get some good string in the tools section of Walmart (or your garage). It’s unbelievable the things my children have come up with: reins, with my five-yea- old daughter being the horse (nothing tied around necks, of course), lassos, and a net “for catching robot bears.”

My son went through a phase when he wore some rope around daily, just slinging it over his shoulder when he got dressed in the morning, like he was a short and very serious cowboy. You never know when you might need some rope. (Granted, my children aren’t what you might refer to as … uh… normal. This morning my daughter dressed herself in ski pants, sweater, snow boots, hat, and mittens and sat on the porch in the one hundred degree heat waiting for friends to show up. She wanted “winter to hurry up and get here.” We tend to not be constrained by propriety in our family. Or reality.)

Sheets

Get some sheets out of the closet and let your kids make a fort. This is a good rainy-day activity, but it’s also nice when the July heat sends everyone, wilted and whining, inside. My kids like to tuck a sheet in to the top bunk and let it hang down, but draping sheets over the dining room table is good, too.

Sidewalk Chalk

I know, your children have probably grown tired of drawing pictures on the driveway, but have you tried the bathtub? We have tiled bathtub walls and spend hours playing phonics games (shh, don’t tell the kids they’re learning), drawing pictures, or just scribbling.

The chalk wipes right off the tiles and then the kids enjoy wiping the tiles clean with a washcloth. Whenever I get around to cleaning the tub, perhaps next January, I will just scrub off the chalk ring on the tub with baking soda.

Books

When school starts, we all get busy. Summer is the perfect time for lolling around on the couch reading. One excellent one to check out from your library is Roxaboxen, a short picture book about children who build an imaginary town with just the trash around them. It will give your children lots of imaginative ideas of “building their own Roxaboxen” in the backyard. They will probably use more of that string and duct tape to do so.

Boredom

Okay, technically not a toy, but I believe that if your children don’t have time to be bored, they won’t have time to be creative. Children need time at home, lots of it, great gobs of it, to lie around in, and think of things to do. If anyone says “I’m bored” at our house, I say, “Great! I have lots of work you can do!” and they’re out the back door.

The best thing: these toys are good all year long and no batteries are required. Have fun!

Charity Hawkins is the author of The Homeschool Experiment, a hilarious and authentic novel about one mother’s first year of homeschooling – through dinner, diapers, meltdowns, and math lessons. The book is due to be released in 2011. (Charity Hawkins is a pen name that the author used for the book. The real author has a real husband and three real children and really does homeschool in Oklahoma.)

photo credit