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18 Jan 2010   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

The Frugal Map: Finally, a State-By-State Frugal Blogger’s Listing!



I often receive emails from people asking if I know of a blogger in their area who blogs about local deals. I'm usually not able to take the time to answer all these emails and I often can't keep up with exactly who blogs about what and where. But these emails have made me realize how much of a need there is for a state-by-state frugal blogger directory.

A few weeks ago, I discovered–much to my excitement!–that Bargain Briana had taken on the mammoth task of creating a state-by-state listing of frugal bloggers. Her creative directory, The Frugal Map, just rolled out today and you'll definitely want to stop by and check it out.

Briana writes:

The Frugal Map was created to help readers find their perfect blog
match. Whether the perfect blog match is by category, store, location,
there is a blog out there for your particular style.

At launch, there are 35 bloggers on the map. I would
love to get the map filled out as much as possible with bloggers all
over the country! If you aren’t included on the map, please read
submission guidelines along with the form here.

The Frugal Map has some unique features:

  • Frugal Map Function: Allows users to find a blogger near their location in an interactive map format.
  • Search Function: Allows users to search multiple blogs across the Frugal Map Network.
  • Hottest Deal RSS Feed: Gives users the most recent hot deals from the bloggers in the Frugal Map Network.
  • Specific Store Landing Pages: Allows users a one
    stop resource for for store deals including blogger store deal links,
    resources, and FAQ for the particular store.
  • Specific Blogger Landing Pages: Allows users to
    read more about their favorite blogs and connect with them via Twitter,
    Facebook, RSS, and specific store deal links.
  • Embeddable iFrame: Embed The Frugal Map on your blog as a resource for your readers.
17 Jan 2010   ·   30
Money Saving Mom

Eat From the Pantry Challenge: Week 3 Menu Plan

Eat-from-the-pantry-challenge 

We've been Eating From The Pantry for over two weeks. The first week was hard but it seemed to get easier the second week. My creativity kicked in and I had fun experimenting in the kitchen, trying some new recipes, and using up a whole lot of odds and ends from our freezer, cupboards, and refrigerator.

There was only one night when Jesse and I both just felt really tired of the whole Pantry Eating thing. So we decided to forgo the Chicken Tetrazinni planned on the menu that night and eat at Taco Bell instead. It was a nice diversion–and then we just skipped our planned dinner out on Friday night!

Here's my list of ideas for Pantry Meals this coming week (some of these are repeats from last week because we still have more ingredients or I ended up making something else last week instead of what I'd planned–yes, I'm giving myself lots of freedom to experiment on this Pantry Challenge!):

Breakfasts Ideas:

Cereal x 3 (we're still using up some of our free or $0.50-$0.99 cereal!)

Whole-Wheat Blender Pancakes

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls (A reader sent me a yummy-looking recipe to try out in my bread machine so I'll post it if these turn out well.)

Whole-Wheat Waffles

Oatmeal with cinnamon, apples, and sucanat

Side options: Fresh Orange/Apple Juice, Oranges, Grapefruit

Lunch Ideas:

Creamy Mac and Cheese

Tuna Salad

Homemade Stromboli

Taco Potatoes

Beans and Rice with cheese sour cream, and lettuce

Leftovers x 2

Side options: oranges, apples, carrot sticks, frozen veggies

Dinner Ideas:

Barbecue Chicken, Cornbread Muffins, Oranges, Chocolate Pudding

Hot Wings/Chicken Nuggets, Steamed Mixed Veggies, Twice-Baked Potatoes, Oranges

Sweet and Sour Chicken Stirfry over rice with Chow Mein Noodles, Apple-Pineapple Salad

Turkey Meatballs, Sweet Potatoes, Homemade Rolls, Corn, Grapefruit

Chicken Tetrazinni, Mixed Green Salad, Broccoli, Homemade Bread

Homemade Pizza, Carrot Sticks, Apples, Brownies

Dinner out

Snack Ideas:

Popcorn, Crackers/Cheese, Popsicles, Fruit, Cereal, Hot Cocoa

How's
your Pantry Challenge going? If you've been blogging about it, be sure
to stop by FishMama's place tomorrow morning and leave your link so we can all be inspired. See more menu plans for this week over at I'm An Organizing Junkie.

16 Jan 2010   ·   21
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: $25 total for the month so far!

Well, we survived another week of Eating From the Pantry. We only made one quick trip to the store and purchased the following:

A bag of grapefruit
A bag of oranges
A gallon of milk
A 16-oz. block of Cheddar cheese
Organic lettuce
4 packages of frozen veggies

Our total was a little less than $25–which is all we've spent on groceries this month and it's halfway over. I think we're going to make our goal of only spending $75 total on groceries this month.

Except, we are definitely going to have to buy eggs. Because I came out to the kitchen earlier this week to discover this:

006

I'm not exactly sure what that was all about but I do know that it involved two little girls who were apparently trying to "help" by concocting something in the kitchen.

And I couldn't help but be a little cracked up about it. (Yes, I know, I just had to throw that in there!)

I'm glad my girls are eager to learn how to make things… now I just need to teach them to learn how to clean up after they cook and we'll be all set.

Ahem.

————————–

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.

16 Jan 2010   ·  
Money Saving Mom

A HUGE thank you, even though there are no adequate words

THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for blessing our family so abundantly by being involved in our Help for Haiti project.

We had hoped maybe five bloggers would be willing to participate. When I briefly posted and Tweeted about a Haiti project I was working on, I was completely blown away when over 50 bloggers committed to post and donate based upon your comments and links. Some of these bloggers are facing layoffs, are extremely strapped financially, or have been without a steady income for months. And yet, they stepped up and committed to give as a way to help those in Haiti who have nothing.

Our posts went up Friday morning and then amazing things started to happen. You all passed the word around Facebook and Twitter, you told your friends, and, most importantly, you gave in many different ways. I know that many, many of you are in difficult financial situations. Your generosity–even when it was a great sacrifice–touched our family beyond what words can even express.

All I can say is THANK YOU. Thank you for caring, for giving, for sacrificing. Together, our efforts are going to make a major difference in the lives of many of the desperate people in Haiti.

15 Jan 2010   ·   590
Money Saving Mom

Help for Haiti: Everyone Can Do Something–Comment or Link-Up and We’ll Donate!

This post will stay at the top of the page all day today. Scroll down for the usual blog updates as I'll be posting them below this post.

Help_for_haiti

You've seen the pictures, you've read the stories, and you can't
help but be heartbroken for the hundreds of thousands of people in
Haiti who have suffered tremendous loss this week. Loss we cannot even comprehend as we sit in our heated homes on our comfortable sofas with plenty of food to eat, a roof over our heads, and luxuries like access to the internet at our fingertips.

We all want to do something to help these people, but it can be a little overwhelming to even know where to start. There are hundreds of thousands of people in dire need.

However, while each of us likely don't
have the resources to feed, clothe, and provide medical services to
hundreds of thousands of people, if we all do something, we can and will make a difference.

So, today, I'm calling you to action. And here's what I'm asking you to do:

1) Pray–Pray
for these destitute people to have the provision they need. Pray for
the mothers and fathers who are left childless. Pray for the children
who are left motherless and fatherless. The heartache
and suffering they are experiencing is unimaginable to us.They need miracles; they need hope;
they need our prayers.

2) Give–There are so many different ways you can give and no matter your financial situation, there is something you do. Even if it seems like it's a drop in the bucket, remember that a bucket of water is made up of that–drops!

Here are three ways I would encourage you to give:

::Give to Compassion International, an organization dedicated to help children who are living in poverty. Our family has supported Compassion for quite some time and we feel they are truly wisely stewarding their resources to the best of their abilities.

All funds raised in response to the Haiti
earthquake will be used immediately to provide for Compassion-assisted
children and families affected by this crisis. Any funds raised in
excess will be stewarded by Compassion for additional and future
disaster relief efforts.

::Give to Numana, Inc., an organization dedicated to giving food to the starving. One of my friends works closely with Numana and I also believe this to be an organization worthy of your donations. They are currently providing thousands of meals to the people of Haiti. For only $0.30, you can donate one meal to a starving person in Haiti.

::Give to the Red Cross. You can donate online here or you can text “Haiti” to 90999 to send a $10 donation to the Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.

Some of my readers have told me they are eating from the pantry
this month and donating the extra to Haiti. One of my readers, who is
on a very limited budget, told me they donated their small amount of
"fun money" to help those in Haiti.

No matter the size of your budget, you can likely spare $1 or $2–which can go quite far in Haiti! Even if you can't afford to give money, you can likely come up with something you can do. Which is where point number 3 comes in…

3) Blog–Today I want to encourage you to blog about what you've done to help those in Haiti. I want to
hear your stories of how you are helping–even on a small budget. Get creative,
think outside the box, there's something everyone can do. And every
little bit helps!

Plus, for every person who blogs about what you specifically did to help
those in Haiti and leaves your link below by January 21, 2010, my
husband and I will personally donate $10 to Compassion's outreach in
Haiti.

If you don't have a blog, you can leave a comment on this post or email
me with details on what you specifically did to help. For every person
who comments or emails telling me what they did to help, my husband and
I will donate $0.30 to Numana to provide one meal for a starving person.

But wait, there's more–and this is the really exciting part!

Yesterday, I put a call out for other bloggers to team up with me in this "Help For Haiti" Project. I expected a few might come forward, but I was blown away at the response!

Are you ready for this? Every single one of the following bloggers have committed to donate to Haiti in some way, shape, or form to each person who stops by their blog and leaves a link or a comment:

Mommy Snacks

The Diaper Diaries

Lamp Unto My Feet

Scrapbook of Sorts

Mom's Toolbox

Cha-Ching on a Shoestring

Thrifty Northwest Mom

Saving Money Plan

The Happy Housewife

4 Hats and Frugal

Cincinnati Coupons

Baby GoodBuys

Another Mom's View

The King's Court

The Frugal Girl

Mrs. MoneySaver

SwagGrabber

Puget Sound Prudence

Saving Money in Missouri

Heavenly Homemakers

Pennies and Blessings

Faithful Provisions

She Saved

Saving with Amy

The Prudent Patron

I Heart Publix

Frugal Living and Having Fun

A High and Noble Calling

Sharpen Your Scissors


Cincinnati Cents

Coupon Lady Online

Common Sense with Money

The Homespun Heart

Ava's Mom

Bargain Blessings

Coupon Geek

The Gothros

Saving Bits and Pieces

The Suburban Tree Hugger

My Litter of Six

"Deal"lightful Savings

Sixth Cents Saving

Really, Are You Serious?

Christian Frugal Mama

Sharpen Your Scissors

The Krazy Coupon Lady

The Stearns' Weekly News

Making Time for Mommy

The Simple Life of the Boreings

The Frugal Find

The Coupon Basics

My Fave Deals

Thrifty on the Dollar

My Blessed Life

Kingdom First Mom

The Thrifty Couple

Frugal Living NW

My Pet Savings

Mama's Laundry Talk

Frugal Follies

The Haney Life

Covenant Homemaking

Coupon Teacher

Mommie Cheapest

This is so incredible, folks! What are you waiting for? Do something and blog about it and then come back here and link up on this post and visit all the other bloggers above to link up as well.

THANK YOU for being a part of this exciting opportunity! Together, we can make a major impact in the lives of people who desperately need our help!

———————-
Want to join in the "Help for Haiti" Project? Please leave your link below to your post (click here to do so if you're reading via feed or email) on what you have specifically done to help those in Haiti. My husband and I will personally donate $10 to Compassion for every link left below which meets this criteria. Don't have a blog? Leave a comment (click here to do so) telling us what you have done to help those in Haiti. My husband and I will also donate $0.30 to Numana for every comment left on this post which meets that criteria.

14 Jan 2010   ·   7
Money Saving Mom

A Few Great Links

Birthday-banner

::Looking for a fun and inexpensive way to make someone's day? Myra from My Blessed Life shows you how to whip up a cute homemade banner.

::During the Eat From the Pantry Challenge, the question we've heard a
lot is "Won't I have to spend an arm and a leg to refill my pantry
after the challenge is finished?" FishMama adeptly answers that over here on her blog.

::I loved this article on SimpleMom on creating a paperless kitchen. It's pretty much how we roll, except a few paper napkins and the occasional paper plate does find it's way onto our table every once in a blue moon.

::Speaking of kitchens, Saving Money Living Life renovated her entire kitchen for around $1500. See pictures and how she pulled it off here.

::In the mood for snow? Heavenly Homemade has your fix for all things snowy and delicious here.

13 Jan 2010   ·   96

Bread Machine Buttery Rolls

My dad surprised me with this brand-spankin’-new bread machine for Christmas! My other bread machine was on its very last leg after being used countless times over the last seven years, so I was thrilled with this gift. Plus, this new one is more high-tech, larger, and has two kneading paddles. I’ve already been extremely impressed at the difference in texture of the dough I’ve made as opposed to my other smaller bread machine.

The new bread machine came just in time for the Eat From The Pantry Challenge and has proven to be a very useful tool to have at my disposal–especially on days when I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen.

I tried a new recipe yesterday since we needed some bread to go along with dinner. This is a recipe from my brother, it uses basic ingredients you usually will always have on hand, and it literally took me 5 minutes of labor!

The rolls turned out beautifully and my whole family thought they were very delicious. It’s definitely a winner recipe and one I’ll be making many times again.

Now that I have a bread machine which makes beautiful dough with only a few minutes of work, I think I’m going to be doing a whole lot more baking. I might even attempt making cinnamon roll dough in the bread machine–something I’ve never had success with before.

Do you have any favorite bread machine recipes which only take staple ingredients that I’d likely have in my pantry? Leave me a link to them so I can consider trying them during our Eat From the Pantry Challenge!

11 Jan 2010   ·   38
Money Saving Mom

Pantry Challenge: My Update and Menu Plan (Share Your Progress, too!)

Eat-from-the-pantry-challenge 

Well, we've officially been Eating From The Pantry for a whole week. And I'll admit, it's definitely been a challenge.

We always have surplus since I practice the "Buy-Ahead Principle" in my grocery shopping, but I didn't do a whole lot of shopping in December, so we actually started this month a little low on reserves.

I'm okay with that, though, because I wanted this to be a true challenge. A learning experience. Something to force me to be creative.

You see, I've been feeling stuck in a rut when it comes to cooking recently. I've been making a lot of the same things over and over again. Sure, they are good recipes–and we like them!–but too much of the same thing quickly becomes lackluster and boring.

So this Pantry Challenge and spending a few days eating at a gourmet chef's house has been exactly the motivation I've needed to experiment in the kitchen again. And while it was hard at first to get my momentum going, I'm starting to get all inspired. In fact, I keep coming up with new ideas and am beginning to wonder if the month will be up before I have a chance to make all the recipes I want to try with our pantry ingredients. I suppose that is a good problem to have.

013

We made a quick trip to the store yesterday to pick up fresh produce, milk, and cheese and then I made up a list of meal ideas for this coming week based upon those ingredients and what we already have on hand. These ideas are just to serve as a starting point as I'm giving myself free reign to be creative in the kitchen–so long as I can make the recipe with what we already have on hand!

Breakfasts Ideas:

Cereal x 3 (trying to use up some of our extra boxes of free or $0.50-$0.99 cereal!)

Whole-Wheat Waffles

Pumpkin Pancakes

Oatmeal with cinnamon, apples, and sucanat

Side options: Fresh Orange/Apple Juice, Oranges, Grapefruit

Lunch Ideas:

Creamy Mac and Cheese

Tuna Salad

Mixed Green Salad with Hard-Boiled Eggs, cheese & crackers

Chicken Nuggets

Fish Sticks

PB&J

Leftovers

Side options: oranges, apples, carrot sticks, frozen veggies

Dinner Ideas:

Lit'l Smokies with Potatoes, Onions, and Carrots in the crockpot, Cornbread Muffins, Oranges, Chocolate Pudding

Sweet and Sour Chicken Stirfry over rice with Chow Mein Noodles, Apple-Pineapple Salad

Turkey Meatballs, Sweet Potatoes, Homemade Rolls, Corn, Grapefruit

Chicken Tetrazinni, Mixed Green Salad, Broccoli, Homemade Bread

Barbecue Chicken in the crockpot served on buns, Steamed Mixed Veggies, Twice-Baked Potatoes, Oranges

Homemade Pizza, Carrot Sticks, Apples, Brownies

Dinner out

Snack Ideas:

Popcorn, Crackers/Cheese, Fruit, Cereal, Homemade Funnel Cakes, Hot Cocoa

So there's my list of ideas to work from this week. I'll let you know how it goes. And if I have any colossal flop or discover a really incredible recipe, I'll be sure to let you know.

How's your Pantry Challenge going? If you've been blogging about it, be sure to leave direct links to your update posts below so we can all be inspired!

9 Jan 2010   ·   22
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: I skipped shopping this week

After a four-week-long hiatus, Super Savings Saturday is back! Only I have nothing to report on the shopping front because I didn’t go shopping this week.

I was planning to go in the middle of the week, since we’d been gone for almost a week, but I challenged myself to make the milk and produce stretch until Saturday–and it did! We didn’t eat the most varied meals ever, but we didn’t go hungry by any means.

(But lest you think I was really being heroic for skipping shopping this week, I confess that I had a rather selfish motivation: I was trying to avoid having to take three children out into the bitter, bitter cold we’ve been experiencing here to go shopping!)

We’re stopping by Aldi later today to snag some of their produce deals and also to pick up some milk and cheese. I’m hoping to spend about $25 total and make that last for another week and a half. The rest of the food will come from our pantry.

I have to tell you all that I really appreciate the encouragement you’ve been for me in the Eat From The Pantry Challenge. Your blog, Facebook, and Twitter updates have kept me going this week when I really wanted nothing more but to pick up carryout. It was just one of those kinds of weeks and had I not had your inspiration, I am pretty sure I would have given in to the temptation.

So thank you. It was a good exercise in self-discipline for me–something which I feel like I’ve not been as good at recently.

I had planned to write a detailed update this week on what we were eating and how we were pulling off the Pantry Challenge. But it just didn’t happen. The children have been cranky and fighting colds, Silas has been teething, and I have just been plain tired and uninspired, so blogging has gotten shoved to the bottom of the pile.

Here’s to hoping for warmer weather, cheerful children, and a little uninterrupted sleep this next week. 🙂 And look for an Eat From The Pantry update and link-up here bright and early on Monday morning.

————————–

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.

6 Jan 2010   ·   123
Money Saving Mom

How We Spent $145 Trying to Save $40

Trip 

We had a wonderful trip to San Diego last week, but it was not without a few mishaps–one which cost us pretty dearly.

We'd watched the sales, compared lots of prices on many different websites, and ended up getting an excellent travel deal through Travelocity for our trip package. To further sweeten things, we had shopped through ShopAtHome during their double cashback days around Thanksgiving so we also got a nice refund on our travel purchase.

And we were paying with cash we had set aside for this celebratory vacation, so we were feeling pretty happy about how inexpensively we were pulling off this trip to San Diego. We should have known better than to be patting ourselves on the back, though, for we were about ready to make a silly and costly mistake–all in an effort to save more money.

We're not seasoned travellers and we've only flown a few times in the last few years so we haven't done a great job of keeping up with the rules and regulations for air travel. The last time we'd flown, we'd brought in our two smaller hand-me-down suitcases and ended up having to pay $80 ($20 per suitcase per flight) to get our suitcases to our destination and back. That seemed like an awful lot of money to pay and we noticed pretty much everyone else around us checked only one large bag.

This time around, we decided we'd get smart. We'd do what it seemed everyone else did when travelling and we'd only bring one suitcase. This would save us $40 and would be more efficient, right?

We used a gift card to buy the largest suitcase we could find and we packed everything in it.  And I do mean everything. Aside from us each having a small carry-on bag, we had packed every article of clothing, all the diapers, and pretty much every other thing we'd need for five people to be gone for six days. Suffice it to say, it was a lot of stuff, even though we tried our best to only pack essentials.

We could barely lift the stuffed-to-overflowing suitcase to get it in the van when we left, but we'd done it–we'd only used one suitcase!

By the time we got everyone out of the van and into the check-in line at the airport, it was only 40 minutes until our flight was scheduled to leave. (In our podunk Kansas airport, there's usually no need to get there early since the lines are short and move quickly.)

We were feeling happy with how everything was going until we noticed that the folks in front of us had their big suitcases open and were rearranging things. The couple next to them had clothes and miscellaneous items all strewn around the floor in front of the check-in counter and they were quickly dumping more out and angrily talking amongst themselves. 

It was then that we heard the reason behind all this craziness. The lady at the check-in counter bellowed out: "If your suitcase is over 50 pounds, there's a $145 charge!"

Jesse and I instinctively looked at each other, looked at our one gigantic suitcase, and looked back at each other. We were in trouble.

We took our suitcase up to the scale and weighed it. It totaled a whopping 71 pounds. Um, yes, what were we thinking?!

A simple phone call or web search would very likely have let us know days ago that our suitcase was going to be too heavy. But we'd foolishly never taken the time to check.

With about 35 minutes to spare until our flight took off, we quickly surveyed our limited options. There was no way we could lighten up the load in the suitcase by 21 pounds–we'd basically only packed essentials but when you're travelling for six days with three little children, it requires quite a few essentials! And we'd miss our flight and very likely not be able to catch another in the next 24 hours if we waited for someone to bring us another suitcase.

Realizing we didn't really have any other options, we stepped up to the counter, gulped, and paid $145 for that massive suitcase.

Next time we think we're making a "smart" decision based upon what we think we see other people doing, we hope we'll remember our suitcase mistake and stop and do our own research. It just might save us $145–or more!

By the way, we borrowed a carry-on suitcase from FishMama for the way home and we were able to strategically work things so our big suitcase only weighed in at 49.5 pounds!

5 Jan 2010   ·   35
Money Saving Mom

The Envelope System “Prettified”

Wallet

I like pretty things. They make me smile and they make life more cheerful and exciting. I wasn't gifted with a knack for creating pretty things, but I sincerely admire others who are skilled in that area.

So when I saw Kelleigh's Envelope System, my heart fluttered. Yes, it did.

Wouldn't paying cash just be so much more exciting if one's envelope system was all prettified like that? (Wait, is "prettified" even a word?)

You know what's so cool? Kelleigh isn't selling her envelope system (though I really think she ought to!), instead she generously posted the complete tutorial and template here so you can create your own.

By the way, if you're new here and wondering how The Envelope System works, you can read more about it here and here. We save thousands of dollars every year by using this system.

5 Jan 2010   ·   41
Money Saving Mom

Ready or not, our Eat From The Pantry Challenge is beginning!

Eat-from-the-pantry

Now that we're back from vacation, our almost-month-long Eat From The Pantry Challenge commences today. I'm excited and just a little bit scared as to how it's all going to work out. Whatever the case, it'll certainly be an adventure!

I'll keep you posted on how it goes and will be sharing recipes and pictures as the next four weeks unfold. My husband has promised to be a willing participant in this whole thing (bless his heart!), so I'm hoping my creativity in the kitchen doesn't turn out to be a whopping failure.

I'm usually sort of a make-do-with-what-you-have cook anyway, so it's not a completely new concept. However, I've never "made do" for four whole weeks, so I'm positive there'll be some flops along the way. Be prepared to laugh along with me!

Are you participating in the Eat From The Pantry Challenge? If so, I'd love to hear about how it's going for you. And if you've been posting about it on your blog, you can link up your progress over here.

4 Jan 2010   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

Home Sweet Home!

Beach

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! 🙂

4 Jan 2010   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

Eat From the Pantry Challenge: Are You Ready for an Adventure? (Guest Post)

Pantry

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:

Re-discover Creativity

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. 

Discover Thankfulness

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?

Discover Usefulness

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.

Try Amy
Dacyczyn’s Universal Casserole Recipe
. Or, if you get stuck without an “essential”
ingredient this site
on substitutions is one of the easiest to reference.

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.

Discover Giving

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
back.

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.

Discover Purpose

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
member.

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

4 Jan 2010   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

My 2010 Blogging Goals: Priorities, Personal Posts, Diversification, Community, and Networking

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.