MoneySavingMom.com
FREEBIE LIBRARY!
Join my email list and get FREE ACCESS to the MSM Freebie Library, including my top printables & eBooks.

Category: Freebies

How Gardening and Preserving Can Save You Money (Guest Post and a Giveaway)

**GIVEAWAY CLOSED**

Guest Post by Laura from HeavenlyHomemakers.com

People often ask me how I am able to afford feeding my family of six such a wholesome diet of mostly organic foods on a limited budget. My answer: I make almost all of our food from scratch and I grow and preserve as much of our food as possible.

I don’t claim to be an expert at gardening; in fact, I often tell people that my garden grows in spite of me. I also don’t have the yard space to grow as much food as I need for my family.

How I Preserve As Much Organic Produce As Possible Each Year:

  • Grow what I can, making the best use of my garden space.
  • Utilize my farmer’s market and learn which vendors grow their produce organically and which ones are willing to “give me a deal” when I buy a large quantity.
  • Talk to people. Many people have more apples on their trees and strawberries in their patch than they know what to do with.  They are often happy to give me their excess for free.
  • Trade. If I have an abundance of potatoes, I’ll trade it for a bunch of green beans. Or, if I don’t have an abundance of any produce, most people are happy to accept a couple loaves of fresh bread in trade!

During the Summer and Fall seasons while fresh produce is readily available, we eat as much as possible. Any extra goes into the freezer or into my jars (and oh wow is there usually extra!).

By the middle of October, I have usually put away enough potatoes, corn, green beans, peaches, pears, applesauce, strawberries, tomato sauce and tomato soup to last us for the entire year.

Also by the middle of October, I am so sick of looking at tomatoes I don’t care if I ever see another one as long as I live!  I soon get over it and begin to realize the fruit of my labor as all throughout the coming months I am able to pull delicious organic foods out of my freezer and pantry for our meals.

How Gardening and Preserving Benefits Our Family:

  • Our family has saved hundreds of dollars on groceries.
  • I know exactly the kind of food going into our pantry and freezers and then into our bodies. I know what I put into my sauces. I know what soil my food came from. I know I can trust the food to be healthy for my family.
  • Our family gets to work hard together. Planting, weeding, and picking all becomes a family affair. We are a family with dirt under our fingernails!
  • The food is delicious! In my opinion, nothing is better than home grown organic produce!

Be on the lookout now for deals on garage sales on jars and other canning and preserving needs! Brand new jars can be pricey, but at yard sales, you can find them for almost nothing!

Gardening and preserving your own food is a wonderful way to help provide your family with great quality, delicious, inexpensive produce all year round!

Laura Coppinger and her husband have four sons ages 5-12.  She blogs at HeavenlyHomemakers.com encouraging women daily in the areas of healthy eating, gardening, parenting, homemaking, faith and fun.

Would you like some help getting started with gardening and preserving? Well, Laura has graciously offered to give away 10 copies of her ebook, Heavenly Homemaker’s Guide to Gardening and Preserving, here today. To enter to win, just leave a comment on this post in the next 24 hours. Winners will be chosen and posted on Monday.

Free Pack of 11 Different Printable Menu Planning Forms

I don’t know about you, but menu-planning is a whole lot more enjoyable when you have a pretty and organized page to write on. So I asked Joy from FiveJs if she could whip up a few downloadable pages I could offer on my blog.

Well, after it was all said and done, she ended up doing 11 different menu-planning forms! There’s a one-week, two-week, and four-week form and different variations of each.

Download the free Menu Planning Forms Pack here and choose which form works best for you–or try them all!

How I Plan My Freezer Cooking Day + Free Planning Worksheets!

Planning is key in pulling off a successful Freezer Cooking Day. Believe me, I’ve tried winging it before and it just doesn’t work. Many of you have asked questions on how I actually go about planning a Freezer Cooking Day so I thought it’d be fun to share a little peek into my planning process this time around:

1) Shop The Cupboards

I always start my planning by opening up my cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer. I’m always amazed at how much inspiration I find just from the ingredients I already have on hand.

Jot down a list of ingredients you already have to work with and possible recipe ideas as you go along. If you have an odd assortment of ingredients and are stumped for ideas, check out the Ingredient Search feature on AllRecipes.com.

To give you an example, I went through my cupboards and freezer this morning and found the above ingredients: canned tomatoes, whole-wheat pasta, and cream cheese. I immediately remembered FishMama’s lasagna and added that to my list.

2) Consult The Sales Fliers

If your cupboards don’t produce enough ideas or recipe fodder to work with, the next step is to consult the sales fliers. I often combine both the ideas from my cupboards and what is on sale to make up my Master List of Recipes.

3) Make A Master List and Grocery List

Take the recipe ideas you jotted down and narrow them down to 4-10 different final choices (or more, if you want to be a SuperWoman like FishMama!). Shoot for some variety in the main dishes you choose (I doubt you want to eat three weeks of nothing but chicken casserole!) and keep in mind how much time each will take. I usually try to pick a few simple meals and a few more time-intensive dishes.

Once you have your Master List of Recipes, read through each recipe and note what you’ll need to buy at the store. Since you’ll likely need duplicates of many items, you can just write onions and then in make a mark next to them as you go through the recipes for how many onions you’ll actually need. Like this:

Onions – I I I I (this means I’ll need to buy 4 onions)

Cheddar Cheese – I I I I I I I (this means I’ll need to make sure and have enough to shred seven cups of Cheddar cheese)

And so forth…

If your list starts to get really messy and you’re afraid you might not be able to decipher it when you’re shopping, re-write it on a clean sheet of paper once you’re finished with the rough draft.

Match up any coupons to items you’ll be buying and put these in an envelope along with your final Grocery List.

4) Make a Freezer Cooking Day Prep List

Once your grocery list is completed, go through your recipes and quickly write down what things you need to prep in bulk next to the recipe. These would be things like shredding cheese, chopping onions, browning ground beef, cooking and chopping chicken, and so forth.

For instance, if I were doubling the lasagna recipe, I would write it like this:

Lasagna x 2 — recipe on LifeAsMom.com

Brown 2 pounds of ground beef, Grate 24 ounces of mozzarella cheese

I might have three other recipes which also take browned ground beef and four which take mozzarella cheese. So once I’ve written the prep work next to each recipe, I can make a Master Prep List which combines all the prep work for all the recipes together.

My Prep List for next week’s Freezer Cooking Day.

I recommend then also making a final Master Plan which includes the order of events for your Freezer Cooking Day. First, you’ll do all the items on your Master Prep List and then you’ll actually put together all the meals. You’ll save a lot of time and effort by doing all the prep work first. And when you get to the actual putting together of recipes, you’ll just fly through them.

My Master Plan for next week’s Freezer Cooking Day.

I always try to put the most time-intensive recipes first and the easiest recipes at the end. That way, if I’m starting to drag halfway through the cooking, I know that I’ve saved the easiest for last and it gives me renewed energy!

So there you have a simple explanation of how I plan a Freezer Cooking Day. My planning method might not work for you at all, but hopefully it will give those of you who are completely new to cooking in bulk some inspiration and ideas to get started.

Free Downloadable Freezer Cooking Day Planning Worksheets

Freezer-Cooking-Planning-Worksheets

Just for fun, I asked Joy to put together some free downloadable Freezer Cooking Planning Sheets which you are welcome to use, if you find them helpful. I’ve always used a simple notebook in the past, but I’m excited to finally have something a little snazzier to use.

A) Freezer Cooking Day Ingredient Planner

This simple worksheet has space for you to jot down ingredients you have on hand, recipe ideas, and ingredients you need to buy. Download the Freezer Cooking Day Ingredient Planner here.

B) Freezer Cooking Day Master List

This worksheet is a place for you to write down your final list of recipes, where they are located (cookbook, website link, etc.), and all of the prep work each recipe requires. Download the Freezer Cooking Day Master List Planning Sheet here.

C) Freezer Cooking Day Prep List

Once you’ve decided on your recipes, made your shopping list, and jotted down all the prep work each recipe requires, you can create your final list, the Freezer Cooking Day Prep List. This is where you’ll put the planned order of events for your Freezer Cooking Day. Check things off as you go and be encouraged by your progress and accomplishments! Download the Freezer Cooking Day Prep List here.

I’ll post my Freezer Cooking Day Master List and Prep List later on today along with a link-up for you to share yours, as well. I’m excited to get our very bare freezer filled up again! For more ideas on how to pull off a Freezer Cooking Day, be sure to stop by and read FishMama’s post called Freezer Cooking Basics.

I won! Really, I did!

043 

I posted back in October about Little Debbie giving away 125,000 boxes of cupcakes. Well guess what arrived in my mailbox yesterday? A coupon for a free box of Little Debbie Cupcakes!

Now, for some of you who win stuff all the time (like my friend Amy who seems to win something just about every single week!), this might not seem too exciting. But for me–a person who has pretty much never won a giveaway of any sort in her life–it was very exciting! (We won't mention the fact that there were 125,000 winners so the odds were a little in my favor!)

It's only a free box of Little Debbie Cupcakes and I'll just be buying them and sharing them with friends, but the fact that I won, inspired me to consider trying my hand at more giveaways.

Maybe, just maybe, the tide is going to start turning. Probably not, but I'm going to be paying a lot closer attention to the giveaways posted over at Sweetie's Sweeps regardless.

Who knows? Maybe I'll win a truck next!

Dolly Parton Imagination Library: Free book each month for children 5 and under

Images

I have mentioned this before but I wanted to mention it again since some of you asked about reading programs for younger children yesterday. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library is a program available in many areas which offers a free book each month to children 5 and under.

It is not available in our area so I have no personal experience with it, but I have heard from many different readers that the books they send are good quality and that it's definitely worth your while to sign up if your area offers this program.

Check to see if this program is available in your area and read more details here.

Thanks for reminding me to post about this, Kimberly!

A great website for birthday freebies

2855234725_450761b4dc

photo by plindberg

Thanks to Thrifty Northwest Mom for passing along the link to FreeBirthdayTreats.com. This website has a very thorough and extensive listing of free birthday offers available for adults and children. Best of all, you can search by your state so you can find state-specific birthday freebies!

I searched in our state and found a number of birthday freebies at local restaurants and elsewhere that I'd never heard about before. If you have a birthday coming up in your family, you will definitely want to check out this website!