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9 May 2009   ·   61
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Do you think we bought enough cereal?!

Seeing as I had a baby Wednesday night, I didn't go out shopping today. I did consider it all of about three seconds but then quickly decided I'd much rather stay home and snuggle with my precious little baby boy.

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I mean, wouldn't you choose time with these little ones over grocery shopping anyday? 🙂

But, I'm pretty sure that my hubby did every bit as good at bargain shopping tonight as I could have. Look what he got:

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All that was $108 before coupons and sales. After coupons and sales? He paid $43.13! Yep, I'd say he's pretty good at this bargain-shopping thing.

We didn't need to buy that much this week since we're being blessed with meals from families in our church, but there were a few items we had to get (milk, rubbing alcohol, ibuprofen, and toilet paper) and I also wanted to pick up some easy snacks to have on hand for myself and the girls (fruit, cheese cubes, Kashi waffles, and Chiquita bites).

Since Jesse was going to be heading to the store anyway, I thought we might as well take advantage of the cereal deal they were running, too. Do you think we now have enough cereal to last us for awhile? All the boxes were $0.98 each after the sale and coupon–which is my target price for cereal–so I figured we might as well stock up!

Maybe by next week, I'll be ready to be back in the saddle when it comes to grocery shopping and menu-planning. In the mean time, though, I'm just enjoying the brand-new newborn days. They won't last for long and I want to soak every bit of them up!

———————————

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.

Note: 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.

8 May 2009   ·   89
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Is It a Better Bargain to Buy in Bulk?

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photo from stock.xchange

Guest Post by Beth from In Good Cents

Each month many of us head to a nearby wholesale or warehouse, like Costco or Sam’s Club, where we can stock up on everything from chicken breasts to toilet paper. Warehouses claim by cutting out the middleman and offering you the products in bulk, you are getting an amazing discount, so sales and coupons are needed or even accepted. Because we can get so much so easily, we often don’t ask ourselves if we’re truly getting the best deal available.

As a frugal blogger, I get asked a lot if I recommend buying in bulk to save money. Personally, I knew what I did and preferred, but when it came to my professional word, I wanted to do some research to give my readers the truth, instead of an opinion. So to do so, I headed to my nearby warehouse to compare and see if buying in bulk truly was a bargain.

Here were just a few of the results from my investigation:

I found I could buy a 6-pack of Puffs Plus Lotion family size boxes of facial tissue for $9.88. With 132 tissues per box, that equaled to be about $0.0125 per tissue. At Meijer that same week, smaller 60-count boxes of Puffs Plus Lotion were on sale for 10/$10. Using a $0.25 coupon per box, which doubled to $0.50, they were suddenly $0.0083 per tissue.

By buying at Meijer instead of in bulk, I could save 33% on each tissue. Though this may seem like pennies, tissue is always something we need in our family and those pennies add up over the years. However, facial tissue wasn’t the only item I found was actually cheaper at the grocery store using sales and stacking them with coupons. Here are some other random price comparisons below:

Pampers Cruisers

 
Warehouse Size 4 Value Pack (140 ct)
=$37.62 (or $0.27/ diaper)
vs.
Target Size 4 Big Pack (100 ct)
Use $1.50/1 coupon
=$18.49 (or $0.18/ diaper)
Save 33% at Target

Tide
Warehouse wth Bleach Laundry Powder 95 Loads
= $20.32 (or $0.21/ Load)
vs.
Meijer with Bleach Laundry Powder 63 Loads
Use $0.35/1 coupon (doubles to $0.70)
=$10.28 (or $0.16/ Load)
Save 24% at Meijer

Milk-Bone
Warehouse Dog Snacks Large 14-lb.
=$8.87 (or $0.63/lb)
vs.
Kroger Dog Snacks Large 10-lb.
Use B1G1 coupon
=$3.50 (or $0.35/lb)
Save 44% at Kroger

While comparing warehouse prices to the price I could get at the grocery store by stacking a coupon with a sale, I found that every single random item I price-checked was less expensive at the grocery store.  But that wasn’t the most shocking news. To my surprise, I found that most items were less expensive during grocery store sales before coupons were even figured into the mix.

Even Tyson Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, which my husband would live on if I wasn’t around to cook for him, were cheaper at Marsh and these are a product that rarely has a coupon available.

Tyson Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
Warehouse 96 oz. Bag Frozen
=$12.97 (or $0.14/oz.)
vs.
Marsh 40-oz. Bag Frozen
No Coupon Available
=$4.99 ($0.12/oz.)
Save 14% at Marsh

Though I expected to find many items were a better bargain using sales and coupons, I was shocked to find that prices overall were more expensive in bulk. So while I know that there are advantages to buying in bulk and matching sales with coupons does take a little more work and effort, the savings are every bit worth it for our family.

Beth Montgomery is very happily married and the mother of two beautiful little girls, with a little boy on the way who will soon be joining their family in July. She works as a part-time at her church, authors the frugal blog, IN Good ‘Cents’, she teaches seminars to help others learn how to dramatically cut their budget on everyday items.

Note from Crystal: I personally have only found a few items (such as yeast, honey, and cheese) which were consistently less expensive at a warehouse club. For the most part, my experience has been that I usually can substantially beat warehouse club prices. However, we also have a small family (so we consume less which means buying in bulk is not always as practical) and we live where grocery stores run fairly good sales.

I'd love to hear from the rest of you on this subject since we are all in different situations. Do you find shopping at warehouse clubs is worth it for your family or not?

6 May 2009   ·   26
Money Saving Mom

Monthly Financial Check-up (and some thoughts on financial stewardship)

It's the beginning of May and guess what that means? It's time for our monthly financial check-up. How did you do in April?

I've mentioned many times here in the past that I believe one of the greatest keys to financial success begins with setting goals. As the saying goes, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." My husband and I have been amazed at how much harder we work, how much more careful we are in our spending, and how much more ground we cover when we set goals for our finances.

Most of you know that our big goal for this year is to save up enough to pay 100% down for our first home. However, our ultimate goal is not just owning a home free and
clear; our ultimate goal is to wisely steward our money in such a way
that we have as much as possible leftover to give to others.
We see staying out
of debt and owning a home as one step closer in the direction of being
more financially able to help others.

It's wonderful to use coupons, bargain shop, take advantage of free restaurant meals, and so forth. But, for us, it's not just about the coupons, the sales, or the freebies–those are just a means to an end. Our heart's desire is to live on less than we make so we can take care of the needs of our own family first so we can then be able to give and reach out to others. Giving abundantly is our biggest goal financially.

In order to be able to "give like no one else" as Dave Ramsey says, we must first "live like no one else." If we are squandering all of our earnings and then living paycheck-to-paycheck, we will never be in a position to be able to help many others because we will just be barely eeking by ourselves.

Jesse and I recently watched this video by Dave Ramsey on giving and it gave us goosebumps–literally! To think of the impact we can have in this world if we are committed to doing all we can to be wise stewards of our finances. Just imagine the possibilities!

If you have yet to watch this short video, I highly recommend you go do so right now. It just might change your whole perspective on finances! Later this week, I'll be sharing a few ideas we've been implementing for giving which anyone can do–even if you have a very meager budget. Stay tuned!

With these things in mind, we're especially excited about the headway we were able to make in April:

We began April at 40.5% of our house savings goal. We ended the month at 45.5%!

I just can't even begin to express how thrilling it is to see our goal of owning a home debt-free becoming more and more a reality. God is good! And truly, setting goals makes a huge difference!

——————————————–
How did you do in April? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in April and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in May. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

6 May 2009   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: A Thrifty Mother’s Day Idea

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Sarah from A Thrifty Mom sent in this creative but thrifty Mother's Day idea:

As Mother's Day approached this year, I found
myself stressed about what to get for my Mom. I wanted to make sure
she felt special and appreciated but I don't have the money to buy her an expensive gift.

Now that I am grown, I look back on my
favorite memories at home with my Mom. They are not the gifts she
bought me or the money she spent. It was the time she spent with
me–reading me a good night story, doing my hair, teaching me to bake
bread, picking fruit and then canning it together. It was the time
she took to show me how to serve others. It was the time she took to just be a
wonderful Mom.

With this in mind, I picked up a little scrapbook from
the dollar store, added a few ribbons, flowers, and pattern paper
to the inside. Then I added a little tag to the front that reads “My
Mother”.

The whole book cost me less than $2 to make, but it is what
I am adding inside that will be the true gift. I filling the book
with photos and short stories of my favorite memories of my Mom and
what I love most about her. Sometimes we forget to tell those
closest to us just how special they are to us and I am hoping that this Mother's Day, through this simple gift, my mom will catch a little glimpse of how much I appreciate her.

What are your creative and memorable ideas for celebrating Mother's Day without breaking your budget? I'd love to hear!

5 May 2009   ·   42
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: Make restaurant foods at home–for much less!

Mail.google.com
Pictured: Lynn's Panera-Style Broccoli Cheese Soup and No-Knead Bread

Lynn from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures wrote me with this great tip recently:

I am always amazed at the amount of money people spend eating out and how often they eat out. And I have to wonder if they have any idea how much they are really spending on all that restaurant food? If they would add up what they spend on lunches out, drive-thru dinners, and gourmet coffees, they would likely be surprised.

Eating at home is so much less expensive than eating out. You can make at least twice the food, usually more than that, for the same price. Many times when I have eaten out, I look at the food and think "what a waste of money this was!" I could have made a whole pan of lasagna and a loaf of bread for the same cost as my meal. If I eat out at a deli or sandwich place, I end up thinking how many sandwiches I could have made for the cost of the one that I just ate.

My family can easily spend $20 ordering pizza, but how many pizzas can I make at home for $20?  Quite a few. Maybe I think this way because I love to cook. I love to create meals and try new recipes and I like the challenge of trying to recreate a restaurant meal or dish. Yes, cooking at home takes time, but there are many meals that you can make in 30 minutes or less.

One of my favorite places to eat at is Panera Bread. I love their soups and loaves of crusty artisan style bread. But I don’t love spending $5 or more a person to eat there. So, I make several versions of their soups at home. I have a broccoli cheese and also a potato soup that taste pretty close to Panera’s versions. In fact, I think I like my versions better!

I have also learned some of the tricks to making artisan-style bread at home. Martha Stewart’s website has a great recipe for no knead bread. I also love the book “Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day”. I still have a lot to learn about bread making, but I can now make a pretty good loaf of bread, and it does not cost me $3-$5 a loaf like it would at a bakery or restaurant.

You can also find many "copy-cat" restaurant recipes online. I recently searched for how Jamba Juice made their smoothies, and I was amazed at how many recipes I found. I have tried the strawberry version and also the orange version. You can also find recipes for Olive Garden’s salad dressing, Red Lobsters cheese biscuits, IHOP pancakes, and more. One of the best sites for finding "copy-cat" recipes is Recipezar.

With a little time in the kitchen, you can whip up some of your favorite restaurant meals at home–and save yourself a lot of money in the process!

Have you made any restaurant meals or recipes at home before? If so, I'd love to hear about it!

4 May 2009   ·   24
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Homemade Pesto

Guest Post by Hannah and Abby from Safely Gathered In

Basil is one of those plants that grows really well in all types of situations. You can even grow it indoors in a small pot.

Once your basil leaves have sprouted, pick
off all the leaves that look decent. (This is a job your little ones can
help with. Especially if it's the end of the season and the plant is
just going to die anyway!)

And then it's time to make some Homemade Pesto!

Homemade Pesto
from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

1/4 cup olive oil or cooking oil
1/2 cup walnuts and/or pine nuts

2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper

Rinse
your basil and pat dry gently. Don't wash the leaves until you're ready
to make pesto. They mold easily if you don't get all the water off.

Peel a couple of cloves of garlic. You don't need to chop them since it's all going in the food processor.

Stuff your tiny food processor full of basil.

Add the garlic and Parmesan.

Now
add the nuts. I've used pine nuts, walnuts, and almonds–toasted and
untoasted. You can pretty much use whatever you have available.

Add the oil.
Puree until smooth. Serve with crackers or pasta or just eat with a spoon.

Pick a container to store your pesto in.
Any tupperware or jar will do. To help the top from going brown, layer
a little olive oil over the top of the pesto before putting the lid on.

If
you aren't going to eat the Pesto right away, it will refrigerate for a few
weeks or freeze for at least eight months. I've had some in the freezer for much longer and it tasted just fine.
As with all food, the farther back in the freezer, the longer the food will last. If you'd like, you can freeze the pesto in ice cube trays and then, once frozen, remove these cubes to a freezer bag. Pop one of these pesto cubes into your hot cooked past for an easy, quick dinner!

Hannah and Abby share recipe ideas, food preservation
tutorials, and more information regarding food storage
at SafelyGatheredIn.blogspot.com.

1 May 2009   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: My hubby’s shopping trip

My wonderful husband volunteered to do the shopping for us again this week. And I happily took him up on his offer! It was kind of a last minute thing, so I just wrote a quick list for him and he went to Dillons. Here's what he got:

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In addition, pictured are the other groceries we got this week–2 dozen eggs from my family's chickens (nothing beats farm-fresh eggs!), 4 loaves of bread and 4 boxes of stuffing that a friend picked up for me at Aldi which were reduced to $0.49 each! I think I'm seeing some French Toast in our near future! 🙂

All totaled for the groceries pictured we spent right around $42. I was really happy with that since in addition to what we already have in our cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer, we should have plenty of groceries to last us for this next week and I never even had to step foot out of the house to get any of them! And, at this point in my life, that's a pretty good bargain!

Someday soon, I hope to be back to more regular bargain-shopping and super sweet deals, but at this season of my life, I'm aiming to keep it simple and very manageable. And thanks to our stockpile of past past deals, so far we've been able to do that while sticking with our grocery budget–which I'm very happy about!

———————————

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.

Note: 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.

30 Apr 2009   ·   72
Money Saving Mom

Our $0.31 night of fun!

Did you get your $0.31 ice cream from Baskin Robbins tonight? We certainly did!

We've missed a lot of the other recent great food freebies and deals since I was too sick to make it out of the house. But the antibiotics are finally kicking into gear and I'm feeling much more energetic (I didn't know that was possible at 40 weeks pregnant, but compared to how sick I was last week, I feel great this week!) so we ventured out tonight to enjoy some very inexpensive and delicious ice cream.

Of course, apparently we weren't the only ones to have decided to hit up Baskin Robbins tonight. In fact, we had a hard time even finding a place to park–there were scores of people everywhere when we pulled up! The line was stretched quite far out the door but that didn't deter us. After all, patience is a virtue, right?

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Waiting on the bench outside for Daddy to bring our ice cream. Kaitlynn wasn't too thrilled at having her picture taken!

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And still waiting for Daddy to get to the front of the line! The girls were very patient and had a blast watching through the window as the long line of people gradually made it up to the ice cream counter.

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Ice cream at last! Yum!

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Yours truly (aka The Very Pregnant and Swollen Mama!) with my two little precious girlies.

It was a fun and memorable evening–all for only $0.31 per person!

29 Apr 2009   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading: Balancing Computer Time and Family Life

If you are a blogger or a work-at-home mom, or if you are considering becoming either of those things, may I strongly encourage you to head over to my other blog and read some of my thoughts on the importance of prioritization and balance when it comes to the computer and family life?

I rarely do interviews, but I recently agreed to do an interview on HomemakerBarbi.com on this very subject as it is something I am passionate about. I've struggled a lot with balance since my first days of blogging and working from home and I've learned a lot of hard lessons along the way.

As I said in the interview:

"If there is one thing I could encourage every mommy blogger or
work-at-home mom out there to remember, it is this: anyone can be a
pretty good blogger or pretty good business owner, but there is only
person who is mommy to your children and wife to your husband. Don’t
let all the good things out there take precedence over the best things.
You only have one life to live–make it count!"

Go over here to read the three-part interview, I share some of my thoughts and tips for having your priorities in order when it comes to blogging and computer time and what measures I take to make sure my family and home and community are my first priorities.

29 Apr 2009   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

Review: Feed Your Family for $12 a Day

Feedyourfamily
I was recently browsing titles at the library when my eye landed on Rhonda Barfield's book, Feed Your Family for $12 a Day. As you can imagine, I quickly scooped it up and added it to my pile of books to check out.

Although the prices in this book were outdated and most of the recipes looked very uninteresting, bland, and even downright bordering on unsavory, there were numerous practical tips, hints, and ideas in this book making it every bit worth the read.

I appreciated the author's understanding that not all of her ideas would work for every family. We're all in different seasons and situations so what method of cooking and grocery shopping works well for one family could be completely unpractical for another family. Feed Your Family for $12 a Day acknowledges this and offers a plethora of ideas which can be implemented to lower your grocery budget.

The book also addresses many common misconceptions regarding eating healthfully on a budget and walks the reader through a full year of ideas on how to make little changes to not only eat more healthfully but to greatly reduce your grocery bill in the process.

If you are just beginning to attempt to lower your grocery budget, Feed Your Family for $12 a Day would be a very helpful book to add to your reading list. And even if you're like me and have been shopping on a small budget for years, I'm quite certain you'd find inspiration and fresh ideas in these pages as well. At least I know I certainly did!

Have you read any helpful books on frugality or money recently? If so, tell us about them! I'm always looking for new book ideas to add to my reading list!

28 Apr 2009   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

The Emotional Benefits of Becoming Debt-Free

This was such an excellent article by Simple Mom on "The Emotional Benefits of Becoming Debt-Free". Here's a little snippet:

Now, I’m not trying to paint a rosy picture that being debt-free
solves everything.  Economic setbacks still happen.  Layoffs still
happen.  And unexpected money pits still happen.  But being debt-free means those things don’t hit you like a mack truck – they’re an annoyance.
They don’t have to change our entire lifestyle – they can further
confirm our conviction that living without debt means having more
options, having more peace.

And while we may never be rich, we can be wealthy in those areas
where we want to be wealthy – in relationships, in experiences, and in
supporting causes that matter for eternity.  I’ll take that over depending on Master Card, any day.

It takes work and effort to stay out of debt. Believe me, I know.

It takes sacrifice, it takes commitment, it takes self-discipline. It means you have to forgo some things others might think you're entitled to, you have to stop worrying what the Jones family thinks, and you probably will come across as rather weird to a number of people.

But it is every bit worth it to be free from the bondage of payments. To not have to worry so much if you are hit with unexpected things like job loss (we've been there twice in the last few years), or a big medical bill (we've had that, too, more than once in the last few years), or an accident which totals your one reliable vehicle (yep, we had that happen to us last year, too!).

We've hit a lot of financial rough spots in the six years my husband and I have been married and life has thrown us a number of unexpected curve balls. But that's life, isn't it? No one is free from crisis or difficulty in some form or another.

There were many times along the way when pulling out a credit card to pay for an unexpected bill or taking out a loan to pay for a bigger expense would have been really easy to do. There have been times when we've both faltered and wanted to throw in the towel. But by the grace of God, we've stayed true to our commitment to stay out of debt–even when we didn't know how those ends were going to meet at the end of the month.

And you know what? Committing to stay out of debt from day one of our marriage has been one of the best decisions we've ever made. After years of scrimping and sacrifice, we're reaping the benefits now of being able to live significantly below our means because we don't have any payments. We're not only able to take care of the needs of our own family, save for our childrens' future, our retirement, and our first paid-for home, but we're also able to give abundantly to our church, to missions, to causes we believe in, and to those who are needy.

To us, that is what it's all about–"living like no one else, so we can live and give like no one else".

Enough said. Go read the article by Simple Mom here.

28 Apr 2009   ·   30
Money Saving Mom

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

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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!