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19 Jan 2009   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

This week’s almost-$60 menu

Mpm12

I'm happy to finally be jumping back into more normal menus, baking, and cooking around here after a few weeks of stepping back from all but the basics for Christmas, New Year's, and traveling. However, I'm still trying to keep things simple since I'm 6 1/2 months pregnant and not usually oozing with energy as a result!

You can see what we bought for $62 at the grocery store this week here. And you can see why we've temporarily raised our grocery budget here (in case you missed it earlier).

One thing I do know I'm going to make a priority this week is to get back on track with having a bi-weekly Baking Day. It helps so tremendously when our freezer is stocked with breakfast, snack, and bread items. My planned Baking Day for this week is tomorrow and I'll be inviting you to join me, if you'd like. Stay tuned for more…

And without further ado, here's what's on the menu this week:

Breakfasts
Granola over yogurt with fresh apple/orange juice
Whole-wheat waffles with blackberries, scrambled eggs, orange juice
Oatmeal with brown sugar and apples, orange juice
Peanut butter banana smoothies, toast
Bran muffins, yogurt, fresh apple/orange juice
Whole-wheat pancakes, yogurt, orange juice
Breakfast pita pockets (whole-wheat pita pockets with scrambled eggs and cheese), grapefruit

Lunches
Spinach brown rice and cheese casserole, oranges
Shrimp, brown rice, steamed veggies
PB&J, yogurt, oranges
Whole-wheat pita pockets with melted cheese, steamed veggies
Annie's Mac and Cheese, applesauce, broccoli
Egg salad sandwiches, oranges
Leftovers

Dinners
Steak, sweet potatoes (I just cook and mash sweet potatoes and then bake in the oven with a little butter and brown sugar–yum!), homemade bread, steamed veggies
Roast with gravy over noodles, steamed veggies, homemade bread
Turkey burgers with melted cheese, steamed veggies, homemade bread
Steak, green beans, mashed potatoes, grapefruit
Salmon, wild rice, steamed veggies
Beef strips with gravy over noodles, green beans, sweet potatoes
Dinner Out

Snacks
Bran muffins
Cheese
Fruit
Yogurt
Peanut butter toast

See more menu plans for this week here.

17 Jan 2009   ·   46
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Finally back up and running again!

Thanks so very much for all of your patience with me over the last month or so as much of my usual blogging has been "shelved" for more important real-life things and a much-needed blogging break! I'm so excited to finally be jumping back into "real blogging" again and have loads of post and series ideas swimming around in my brain which I can't wait to get started on!

And, after a long break, Super Savings Saturday is finally here again–hooray!

Here's our shopping trip from yesterday:

001

I had planned to go to Aldi and Dillons (Kroger-affiliate), but it was so cold that I just decided to improvise when I was at Dillons and get everything there instead.

I'd also not been grocery shopping for 2 1/2 weeks so on our temporarily-raised $60/week grocery budget, I actually had $120 to spend. However, since we still have meat in the freezer and quite a bit of apples and oranges on hand, I didn't have to buy as much meat and produce as I usually do. Notwithstanding, I did splurge on a few items–like Annie's Mac and Cheese, whole wheat pita pockets, and Sara Lee bread.

Oh and I bought newborn diapers–I guess I just couldn't help myself! The Huggies diapers were on sale for $8.99 and I had a $2/1 coupon from a mailer I'd received. Plus, my ShortCuts coupon of $1.50 came off as well (wasn't planning on that!). So the package was $5.50 after coupons which is a pretty sweet deal for Huggies newborn diapers. Now I just hope that our little babe can actually wear these things and not have allergic reactions like Kaitlynn did. I suppose that I could always give them away if that happens, though. (And of course, as soon as we got home, I had to take a few diapers out of the package just to remind myself how teensy-tiny those things are!)

I also bought two packages of Kroger-brand diapers. I know, I know, I said I would never buy them again. But they were on sale for $6.97 with $3/1 peelies on them. And in this non-CVS-land, that's a super good deal for diapers. I'll probably regret it, but I just couldn't pass it up…

The Cottonelle, Johnson's Buddies, Softsoap, Johnson's baby oil, and Green Giant veggies were free (bet you couldn't have guessed that!). The meats and diary products were reduced or on sale, as were the fruits. I was especially excited to snag the blackberries for $1/package!

But the best deal of all was the Betty Crocker Sweet Potato casserole mixes. Originally priced at the exorbitant price of $3.98, they were reduced for quick sale to $0.87. However, a friend of mine had called me earlier to tell me to check the boxes on these as there were $0.75/1 coupons on them. Best of all? Our Dillons "doubles" $0.75/1 coupons up to $1. So yes, they paid me $0.13 per box to take these home. (By the way, for those of you locals who shop "my" Dillons, I left some on the shelves for you, too!)

The total before coupons and sales was close to $150. After sales and coupons? $62–substantially under the $120 I had available to spend! How I am enjoying shopping at a Kroger store again!

And if you want to know what we'll be eating using primarily the groceries shown above, I'll post our weekly menu on Monday.

—————————-
How'd you do this week? Post about the deals and bargains you
were able to snag this week or other ways you saved money on your blog
(with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and leave your
link below. **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 2009   ·   53
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Making Your Own Baby Food

Guest Post by Alisha Hughes from Meal Planning Mommies

If you have itty bittys in your home, there are many great reasons to consider making your own baby food. Not only is it healthy, but I've found that it is much cheaper, and very convenient to do. 

Some of my favorite foods to use are apples, pears, peaches, zucchini, squash, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. I recommend using what is in season and on sale as much as possible in order to save money. If you buy in bulk and process enough of the baby food to last you for a few months, you should always have an ample supply of a variety of different fruits and veggies at your disposal to feed to your little one.

The steps for making any of these fruits or veggies into baby food are very similar:

1. Peel (if desired) and cut into chunks.

2. Cook in boiling water until very soft (or use a steamer).

3.
Puree in a blender or a food processor with a little water.
If I am
having a hard time blending all the chunks I sometimes add a little
extra water. (Extra tip: I sometimes decide to add a little baby cereal
to the blended food to make it thicker, or more substantial.)


4.
Pour into ice cube trays and allow to freeze.
Put these cubes into freezer bags, labeled with
what is inside and the date you made it. This baby food will be good for up to six months in your freezer.

I've found that three ice cubes are about the amount in an average baby
food jar. When it comes time to
feed my daughter, I just pop a couple of "ice cubes" into a bowl and microwave
them–usually for about 30-40 seconds. If it is a little too warm, I
just let it cool some before feeding her.

Other great foods to start with are bananas
and avocados which are already softened when they are ripe enough. When
the banana is good and brown, mash that thing up with a fork and your
baby will get dessert!

keely%20messy.jpg

There is something very rewarding to me about seeing my
baby enjoy food that I have prepared!

Alisha Hughes is the mother of two vibrant children. She and two of her friends, who are also mommies to itty bittys, have joined hands in
creating a blog for moms to get meal ideas called Meal Planning Mommies. They include pictures and step-by-step instructions–straight from their kitchen to yours!

———————–

Note from Crystal: The beauty of frugality is that different things work for different people. I've only had two little ones so far, but I've escaped ever paying
for a jar of baby food. However, I've found that making my own baby food up in advance like Alisha does hasn't worked very well for us so far. Instead, we have a bit of a different approach. If you're interested, you can read more what we do for baby food at
our home at this post I wrote here.

Do you make your own baby food or have other creative alternatives to paying full-price for the little jars of baby foods? If so, I'd love to hear!

15 Jan 2009   ·   11
Money Saving Mom

Review: BISSELL Versus Bare Floor Vacuum

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As many of you know, I'm a no-nonsense, keep-it-simple kind of gal. I prefer to stick to the basics in most areas and am definitely not a big fan of keeping up with having all the supposedly "latest and greatest" things on the market.

However, when BISSELL contacted me regarding doing a review of their brand-new Versus Bare Floor Vacuum I decided to try it since we'd just moved and I was struggling to figure out how to clean my new Pergo "wood" floors in our rental home. Since nothing I was doing seemed to be working well, I figured that trying this out wouldn't hurt anything. And, I'll admit, the thought of foregoing a broom and dustpan in favor of a new-fangled vacuum cleaner was quite intriguing to me.

Over the last few months, I've enjoyed trying out this modern homemaking contraption. And surprisingly, I've come to like it quite a lot. I'm still not convinced that I can entirely do away with a broom and dustpan, but the Versus Floor Vacuum is quite handy.

PROS

::The Versus Bare Floor Vacuum is very lightweight and easy to maneuver around. Since this vacuum is small, it's simple to pull out and quickly run over our floor surfaces. I've found that it has cut my sweeping time by about 30% as a result.

::The Versus Bare Floor Vacuum picks up the dirt as you go. This is a huge plus for a mom like me with little children. When using a broom and dustpan, I've
found that I'll often be in the middle of sweeping and be interrupted
by a child needing immediate attention. More often than not, my dirt
pile will get messed up in the process and I'll have to redo what I
just did. The Versus Floor Vacuum eliminates this problem.

::The Versus Bare Floor Vacuum does exceptionally well at cleaning up big floor messes. If you have young toddlers in your home, you are probably well acquainted with the frequent spills of Cheerios or other such small items on your floor surfaces. I've found that this is one of the greatest advantages of this vacuum–large messes can be quickly eliminated in minutes! And I certainly love that!

CONS

::The Versus Bare Floor Vacuum doesn't seem to clean edges and corners quite as well as a broom would. While this vacuum was specifically designed to easily-access hard-to-reach areas, I found that those areas were still harder to reach and clean with this vacuum than a broom would be.

::The Versus Bare Floor Vacuum costs quite a bit more than a broom and dust pan. As you'd expect, a vacuum of this sort is a bit on the pricey side; it's average retail price is $79.99. I'm not sure that I'd encourage you all to run out and buy one of these if you're happily content with a broom and dustpan.

To read more information about the Versus Floor Vacuum, you can check out the website here. And if you've tried this vacuum yourself, I'd love to hear what you thought.

14 Jan 2009   ·   70
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Deals on TV adapters

Do you know anything about deals on those TV adapter boxes
the government is issuing $40 coupons on? I can't figure out where to
buy one or what a good price might be. I know I can't be the only Money
Saving Mom reader who doesn't have cable! -Catherine

Since we have a digital TV, I've not even looked into what a good deal on a TV adapter box might be. Anyone out there know or want to share hints or suggestions for those who are looking to buy one right now before all television switches over to digital service?

12 Jan 2009   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

I’m back–for real this time!

Well, so much for my grand idea that things would be back in full force last week–including all of our regular features like the Walgreens and CVS deals and Super Savings Saturday.

For those who didn't know, we took a long-anticipated and much-saved-for trip to San Antonio Thursday through Sunday to attend the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival.

I had every intention of blogging while I was gone since there was supposed to be free wi-fi at both our hotel and the convention center. But not only would the wi-fi not work for me, I had little time for blogging anyway. Meeting many of you, taking care of the girls, and listening to wonderful lectures and films filled up just about every waking moment of the first two days.

And then Kaitlynn came down with an awful stomach bug the last day and a half. I'll spare you the details, but I'm sure many of you other moms of young ones can imagine!

It didn't take long for me to just hope and pray we could make it home in one piece–and soon! I packed as many changes of clothes, wet wipes, and so forth as I could scrounge up and we left for the airport for our scheduled return flights home.

We made it through our first flight only to discover upon landing that our next flight was cancelled and we were stuck in the Dallas airport for five more hours–with two little children (one who was very sick) and a tired pregnant mama.

Needless to say, I was never so grateful to make it home. Kaitlynn is much improved today and other than mountains of thrown-up-on laundry that I have waiting for me, things are mostly back to normal.

So I also hope that I'll really and truly be back to regular blogging here starting today. Thanks for your patience with me this past week–and these last few weeks. I'm blessed to have readers who are willing to let me put the needs of my family before blogging. Thank you all.

9 Jan 2009   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: The Balancing Act

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photo by Shopping Diva

Guest Post by Kasey Tross from The Beautiful Thrifty Life

 
This
fall my two-year-old and I signed up for Mommy & Me gymnastics classes. As we began attending the classes and she started learning some basic
gymnastic skills, I was surprised by how adept she was at the balance beam.
Usually, being a two-year-old, her balance leaves a lot to be desired, but once
she gets up on that balance beam, she just holds on to my pinky with one hand
and scoots right along.

Her only downfall (literally) is when she loses focus
on the end of the beam. Once she looks down at the beam or at one of the other
children practicing another skill on the floor, she immediately begins to
wobble and lose her balance.

 
One
day as she was scooting along holding my pinky, I started thinking about how
much living life on a budget is like walking on a balance beam: there is not
much room for error, and distraction can lead to disaster and frustration. But I
have also realized if you practice and start to get comfortable up there,
not only can you stay on, but you can make it a thing of beauty.
 
Life
on a budget can be difficult–much like walking on that balance beam. We have only a few inches on which to
keep our footing, and if you try to pretend there’s an extra inch or two, you
can completely miss your mark, lose your balance, and fall.

Up there on the
budget balance beam, it is tempting to focus on the restrictions. It is
tempting to stare down at the narrow beam and at the long drop on either side,
to wish for money you don’t have, and gripe about a small paycheck. But once
you start focusing on the limitations, you begin to lose sight of the goal.

For
most, the ultimate goal is to someday have a little more wiggle room, so that
the balancing act isn’t so hard. When you keep your eyes up and focus only on
that end result–the dismount–you can keep your balance and put one foot in
front of the other.

           
Another
fatal distraction can happen when you start looking around at everyone else who
isn’t walking the budget balance beam. They may be bounding across the floor doing
their tumbling or soaring through the air on the uneven bars.

If all you do is
watch them, you will long to jump off the beam and run out onto the floor. In the process,
your focus on the end of the beam will be lost and you will fall. If you want
to reach your ultimate goal, then that goal is where your focus needs to be–not on the financial situations of those around you.

 
We
all walk the beam differently; there are some people who, like my two-year-old,
gingerly scoot across the budget beam, somewhat unbalanced at times, nearly
falling off once or twice before dismounting. But there are others who see the
tumblers flipping and twirling across the floor and rather than be discouraged,
they are inspired. They see the beam not as a limitation, but as an opportunity
to test their skills and do amazing things.

Granted, they can’t leap and bound
with the same freedom of those on the floor, but in their own way, up on that
balance beam, they can turn their balancing act into a
beautiful and graceful
gymnastics show, just as remarkable as those on the floor, even with only a few
inches on either side to work with. Time after
time, cartwheel after flip, they nail the beam and come up with arms
outstretched, smiling triumphantly.

 
So,
what are the financial life lessons I learned from the balance beam? Don’t look
down, don’t compare your financial situation with those of the people
around you, and keep your eye on the ultimate goal: financial freedom. Remember, too,
that sometimes it’s not just about staying on–it’s about making the most of
the journey, about exercising your creativity, and finding real joy in your
beautiful thrifty life.           
Kasey Tross is a
stay-at-home mother of 2 living in Richmond, Virginia. She celebrates the fact that the most beautiful things in life don't cost
money and blogs at The Beautiful Thrifty Life.
8 Jan 2009   ·   63
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: It’s not about how much we save, it’s about how little we spend

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Note from Crystal: One of the most exciting things about having this blog is the opportunity to hear from readers. Your kind and encouraging emails brighten my days. And while what is shared on this blog is the combined effort of hours of work from many different bloggers and readers who take the time to find and share the deals with me so I can post them, I am honored and humbled to have a little part in helping families to live on less than they make so they can save more and give more.

I hope Jill's testimonial below of how MoneySavingMom.com has impacted their family and the changes they've made as a result is an encouragement to you today–wherever you are in your financial journey.

————————–

Guest post by Jill

Prior to early July 2008, I never gave any thought to my purchases. If we
needed something, I bought it.  If we wanted something chances are we
bought that, too. I always rationalized that I was a working mom so we could afford those extras.

Then one day, on a parenting message board I
frequent, there was a topic of what websites you visited daily.
Someone responded with MoneySavingMom.com. I clicked the link and the rest, as they say, is history.

Originally, my thought was that I'd try to save what the higher fuel
costs were costing our family. That was easily achieved just by
entering the world of CVS shopping. 

I was proud of myself and my new found
frugalness. Oddly enough, I
found the deal finding, coupon clipping, and deal shopping strangely
entertaining. Suddenly, in addition to the weekly savings I was
accumulating at CVS, I was also saving in entertainment budgeting because my
new entertainment was saving money! 

Somewhere along the line, I came across a blog about questioning your
purchases. What stuck with me was the question, "How can I do this for
less?"
. It was a life-changing concept. 

It didn't say that I should
necessarily go without my desires, just that I should search for a way
to do it cheaper. Eureka!

I quickly started adopting that idea as
part or my daily mantra. Recently, for example, my husband and I
wanted to get our children the John Deere Gator ride-on toy. In the
time where we paid for shampoo and toothpaste (that's how I refer to our pre-CVS days!), we'd go to the toy store and spend the
$350. This time was different.

I sat with the idea of wanting it; I
knew we didn't need it right then, so I waited. Then, one day I found
one on ebay and we won it for $36–just under a 90% savings! You know
what? My kids are just as excited as if it were brand new. 

I've found there are two ways to think about being frugal. There is
the "Wow, I saved $95.23!" approach and there is the "Wow, I only spent
$5.32!"
approach.

When I first started this journey, I was amazed by
how much money I was saving and didn't focus on how little I was
spending. It wasn't until I checked my bank account recently, that my
eyes were truly opened. Our account was rapidly growing and it wasn't
because we were putting more money in, we were just taking less money
out.

Being frugal, shouldn't be about how much you save, it should be
about how little you spend.  Some days I could rack up great savings on
products I don't truly need, but I have to focus on spending less, not
saving more.

Throughout this journey, the economy has continued to decline and my job
has become less stable.  Back when we paid for shampoo and toothpaste,
the thought of being unemployed would have terrified me. Now, we are
actively planning for me to become a stay-at-home mom. Yes, our
spending has changed so dramatically, that it not only negates the
raise in gas prices, it would also balance my loss of income (along
with the savings in childcare and work-related expenses). 

We've
watched our savings account rise, our cupboards and freezer fill, and
our heart rest easy in knowing God's provision for our family. What amazes me is that while we are spending significantly less money
each month, we aren't sacrificing more. We are still eating the same
foods, buying the same products, and living a life with extras. We are
just being a lot more mindful of the sales, asking ourselves "How can
we do this for less?"
, and stockpiling a bit when there are good deals
on products we regularly use. 

MoneySavingMom.com hasn't just provided me with a few good deals; it has provided me the
opportunity to have a sense of peace in a worrisome economy.  We'll be
okay, it will work out, and if all else fails, we have enough Kashi, Chex
Mix, and Johnson's Buddies to see us through the rough patches!

Jill is a working mom of three who is eternally
thankful her mother-in-law's paper route nets her multiple copies
of the ads each week.

photo by Darren Hester

8 Jan 2009   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Get Your Finances in Line in 2009: Our financial goals for this year

Would you like to live on less, pay off debt, and/or save more money this year? If so, I’d love to have you join me and many others here in the Get Your Finances in Line in 2009 Challengea year-long campaign to encourage families worldwide to live on less
than they make and take personal responsibility for their finances.

Each family is going to have different goals, so I can’t necessarily tell you what your financial plan should look like. I can, however, encourage you to make every effort to get on a written budget and start making your money work for you. This is the first step towards really achieving financial freedom.

If you’re new to living on a budget, let me reassure you that it’s not some ball-and-chain sort of life. On the contrary, we’ve found great freedom in purposefully allocating our money to work in the most effective way for our family. And we’ve learned a lot about this from Dave Ramsey. I’d highly encourage you to check out his website, read his books, listen to his radio show, watch his TV show online, and even consider enrolling in Financial Peace University, if you’ve not already done so. (By the way, I don’t earn a penny of any sort for plugging Dave, we just have saved so much and been inspired so much thanks to him that I can’t help but recommend him to anyone who will listen!)

Secondly, I think it is imperative that we all set financial goals–whether big or small. If we don’t have a goals in place, it’s very easy to just wander aimlessly about, with money slipping through our fingers like sand.

My husband and I have been amazed at how motivational it has been to set down at the beginning of each year and map out goals for our family for the following year. We try to stick with goals which might seem far-fetched, but which are achievable if we really set our minds to it.

We try to avoid impossible resolutions such as, “We will not overspend this year.” and instead stick with doable goals, such as, “We will aim to have put an extra $200 in savings each month.” We publicly posted our financial goals last year and found that to be a huge source of accountability each month. In fact, by God’s grace and a variety of unexpected events, we ended up accomplishing all of our goals for last year. (You can read more about that here.)

Because of careful stewardship and living on a budget over the past six years of our marriage, God’s blessing, and lots of hard work and zealous frugality, we are currently in a financial position where we have no debt of any kind, have a fully-funded six-month emergency fund, are investing an IRA and in our children’s mutual funds, and are able to live comfortably significantly below our means. Because of this, our focus this year is on giving and saving.

We are so excited to see the fruits of frugality paying off so greatly in our lives and to be in a position to share more with others! It truly is “more blessed to give”.

In addition, we are aiming to have saved up enough money by the end of 2009 to pay 100% down on our first home. At this point in time, we have 33% of our final goal saved up. With my husband’s career change and our moving to a less-expensive area a few months back, we are very hopeful that we just might make 100% of our goal by the end of this year.

I’ll keep you posted concerning our progress each month. And even if we don’t quite make this very-ambitious goal, we hope that we’ll at least be much closer to it by the end of 2009!

Note: If you are interested in seeing my personal goals for this year, you can check them out here.

——————————

What are your financial goals for this year?
Post about them on your blog and then come back here and leave your
link below. If you don’t have an anonymous blog, feel free to only
share as much detail as you feel comfortable with. We’ll be having a
monthly check-up to track and report our progress in achieving these
goals.

5 Jan 2009   ·   9
Money Saving Mom

Our $60 menu this week

Greenmpm

I didn't get a picture snapped of our shopping trip from a few days ago, but here's what's on tap to be served this week (keep in mind that this is a bit different–and more expensive–than our normal menus since I'm trying to get in plenty of protein and iron to keep up my nutritional requirements for this pregnancy.):

Breakfasts:
Pancakes, cottage cheese, fruit
Homemade granola over yogurt, fruit
Cheerios, orange/banana smoothies
Cream of Wheat, fruit
Peanut butter banana smoothies, toast
Scrambled eggs with cottage cheese (cooked in for extra protein), bran muffins, juice

Lunches:
Mozzarella sticks, veggies, apples with peanut butter
Salmon, broccoli, bran muffins
Shrimp, baked potatoes, fruit
Cheese quesadillas, mixed veggies
PB&J, oranges
Leftovers x 2

Dinners:
Steak, mashed potatoes, broccoli
Hamburger patties with melted cheese, toast, fruit
Meat loaf, green beans, homemade bread
Chicken over brown rice, broccoli
Beef stir-fry over rice
Steak, sweet potatoes, homemade bread
Dinner out

Snacks:
Bran muffins
Apples/oranges/bananas
Banana bread
Peanut butter toast
Granola bars
Frozen yogurt

See more menus for this week here.

5 Jan 2009   ·   62
Money Saving Mom

Happy New Year!

Did you all have a good holiday season? I sure did! It was the first Christmas since we've been married to not travel out of town. And was that ever nice!

In fact, between not traveling and not blogging, I hardly knew what to do with myself! But it was really wonderful to take an extended break–and to realize again just how much I enjoy blogging and how much I miss it (and you all!) when I take a break from it.

Over the past few weeks, we spent lots of memorable time with family and friends, ate more sweets in a few weeks than we usually do in a few months, and I took advantage of my nesting energies and totally revamped my organization system for life, home, and blogging–something that was greatly needing to be done. And for the first time in my life, I'm going paperless (using RememberTheMilk.com–love it!).

Christmas and New Year's are behind us, and I'm ready to hit the ground running with blogging again. Here's to another year of spending less, saving more, and enjoying doing so!

19 Dec 2008   ·   13
Money Saving Mom

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: A few things we’ve enjoyed this season

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Inspired by Little House on the Prairie, we made bear pancakes for Christmas week. Kathrynne thought they were the neatest pancakes ever. Talk about an easy and simple way to bring a smile to a little girl's face!

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We made some of our favorite Brown Sugar Biscuit Twists to take to a Christmas gathering this week and will be making more for our Christmas morning brunch. These are just so delicious and relatively easy to whip up, too. I posted the recipe here.

HIBCover

December just wouldn't be the same without Christmas music! We love it and listen to it almost constantly as soon as Thanksgiving is over with (well, sometimes I can't wait and have to turn on some before then!). One of our favorites is the CD my sister recently produced in conjunction with The WILDs. (Listen to clips here.) Read more about some of the other CDs and music we've enjoyed this season here.

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Cozying up on the sofa with a stack of books and hot drinks has occupied many of our December afternoons. We always tackle quite an eclectic mix of books, but we've enjoyed a number of Christmas-y ones in the last few weeks. You can read about those here.

(By the way, I requested most of these off of PaperBackSwap–one of my favorite sources for building our family library! And since the girls love books so much, I've stashed some of the books away that we've gotten in the mail from PaperBackSwap recently and will be wrapping them up for Christmas presents. They will love this and it's about as frugal as it gets when it comes to Christmas presents!)

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And finally, one way we've sought to keep a Christ-centered Christmas this year is by doing a Jesse Tree. If you've never heard of this concept before, you can read more about what it is and how we're doing it here.

19 Dec 2008   ·   15
Money Saving Mom

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Homemade gifts

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One thing we did for some simple homemade gifts this year was to make up a bunch of hot drink mixes. I love hot drink mixes in the Wintertime and they're a nice gift to give since they don't need to be used right away but can be enjoyed at the recipient's leisure.

We made: Vanilla Chai Tea Mix, Fireside Coffee Mix, and Hot Spiced Tea Mix.

I bought some gift bags and tags and ribbon at 50% off at Hobby Lobby last week for $0.99 per 20 of each and used these to package up the gifts. While I could have made my own and probably saved a few dimes, I figured that keeping it simple and saving time and effort was worth paying a little bit extra for.

We'll be putting these drink mixes in gift baskets with the mini-loaves of sweet breads I made up yesterday and a bag of this Corny Snack Mix (thanks to Shannon for the recipe link!). All of these items can be stored in the freezer, too, so if the recipient has lots of homemade goodies around, they can save ours to enjoy later.

It's a simple and inexpensive homemade gift, but I think it will be meaningful and appreciated by those who receive it. And we had a lot of fun putting them together, too!

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18 Dec 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Cookie-Baking Day!

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We took the day off today from our usual routine and had a cookie-baking/bread-baking day. I always try to take at least a day or two the week before Christmas to do some fun baking. And it's especially enjoyable now that the girls are old enough to help some.

Today, we made 32 mini-loaves of different sweet breads (Pumpkin Chocolate Chip, Apple Walnut, and Lemon breads) to give as gifts and the girls made and decorated a variety of Christmas cookies to share with others.

There are more pictures of our day posted over here.

17 Dec 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Introduction

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I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I don't start any Christmas preparations until after December 1. Seriously.

That might sound odd coming from a person who usually is a pretty meticulous planner, however, I've found that waiting until December to start Christmas preparations helps tremendously to keep things simple.

And keeping things simple is one of the most important things to me about Christmas. If I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off and feeling completely overwhelmed and stressed, it's not worth it to me. I'd rather keep it simple, do less, and have time to really enjoy the Christmas season and all that it entails.

With this in mind, our family chooses a few things each year to do and enjoy during the Christmas season. Each year, it's a little different–and that adds to the fun!

This year, we're choosing to enjoy lots of Christmas music, put up our first Christmas tree and lights on our home, have a cookie-baking day, make homemade gifts for a few friends and family, read Christmas stories and books, attend a few get-togethers with friends, go caroling to some elderly folks and shut-ins, celebrate Advent with a Jesse Tree, get a few special gifts for our immediate family members, and enjoy lots of memorable time with family. We spread out these activities over the whole month of December so that no week is packed to the gills and we're able to take time to savor each thing.

Over the next few days, I'll be sharing a little peek into our family's simple Christmas celebrations this year. My goal in sharing is not so that you'll feel like you need to do exactly what we do (please don't!) but to just inspire you (hopefully!) to consider choosing what really matters to your family this Christmas and to encourage your family to stop and savor the sights, smells, and sounds of this season!

May your Christmas season be a wonderfully blessed, unhurried, and joyful time of year, a time for making memories, sharing laughter with family and friends, and, most of all, remembering the One Who was born so long ago in a humble manger.

photo by yvestown