Join my email list and get FREE ACCESS to the MSM Freebie Library, including my top printables & eBooks.
Classic View
Grid View
31 Oct 2008   ·   68
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: How do I make a fresh-baked breakfast without spending an hour each morning to do so?

Stephanie emailed me yesterday with this question:

I just read your Baking Day entries. I have a question that I hope you can answer. I see where you are baking things to last for a couple of weeks and was wondering if you have any suggestions about how to save time when someone like me has a very picky husband and 15-year-old son who only like fresh stuff (pancakes, muffins, etc.)?

Do you have any suggestions on how to make my "fresh baked" things any more time-saving? Would the pancake batter or muffin batter still taste the same if I refrigerated it the night before and just put it in the oven the next morning at 4:30 a.m. (my husband leaves for work at 5:30 a.m.)?

First off, I'd encourage you to perhaps discuss with your husband/son the possibility of making some fresh stuff and some frozen and re-heated stuff each week. Maybe that's not an option, but maybe you could come to a happy medium that works for everyone?

Secondly, there are many batter recipes which can be prepared ahead of time, refrigerated, and then used in the morning. I'd experiment with some of your favorite muffin, pancake, waffle, and french toast batter recipes and see how they work. You might even try make a double batch up and using it for two mornings. (See some muffins recipes here to get started with ideas.)

Other recipes which work well being made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight are coffee cakes, french toast, and breakfast casseroles. You might also consider using your crockpot.

To further speed up the preparation of these recipes the night before,
if you have a block of 30 minutes sometime, you might consider putting
together baking mixes with the dry ingredients from your favorite
muffin, pancake, coffee cake, and waffle recipes. If you know you like the recipe
and you'll be making it a lot, you might as well mix up a bunch to have
on hand!

Personally, if I were in your shoes and my husband left for work at 5:30 a.m., I'd likely come up with a plan where some mornings we'd do cold cereal, some mornings we'd do toast and eggs, some mornings we'd do something like waffles or coffeecake that I'd made up the night before. This way, we'd be having a nice variety of breakfasts–some which were fresh-baked–but I wouldn't have to get up an hour ahead of time or more to get them on the table!

Those are just a few of my ideas, I'd love to hear other readers' helpful input on Stephanie's question. Perhaps some of you are in a similar situation and can give some practical advice as to what has worked for you? Or if you have any delicious recipes which can be made overnight and refrigerated, please do share those as well!

30 Oct 2008   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day – Part 4

The beans and rice are cooled and divided into bags, the pancake mix is made to have on hand for later, the two packages of chicken breasts are boiled and diced and frozen, and the double batch of whole wheat pancakes is finished and in the freezer. And whew! I'm wiped! I poured myself a glass of orange juice and made
myself a fruit salad and I'm putting my feet up until Kaitlynn's nap time is over.

Here's the end result of all of our baking/cooking/kitchen work:


It really doesn't look like all that much, but having the makings of a number of breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners already on hand and in the freezer is so helpful. If you've never tried baking ahead or cooking up meat and freezing it, I'd highly encourage you to test it out. You might find, like me, that it's a huge time-saver, money-saver, and life-saver.

There were a number of questions left in the comments section of the Baking Day posts, many which were answered by other commentors. However, I wanted to specially answer two of them since they were directed at me:

Oooo, I hope you post about the
pot of beans. It sounds silly, but I haven't a clue how to soak and
cook beans, and then how to incorporate them into yummy recipes. I'd
sure love to learn, because it sounds a LOT cheaper (and more
healthful) to not use canned beans for everything.-Katy

To be honest, it's not hard so don't be intimidated! I just take a bag of beans, dump it in a big pot, run water over it and swish it around, then drain the water. I refill the pot with enough water to cover the beans and put them on the stove to boil.


Once they boil, I turn the stove down to medium heat or so–enough to keep them going at a soft boil. As the water evaporates, I add more. Every 30 minutes or so, I check them to see if they're doing yet and continue to add water as needed. I just keep boiling them until they are cooked and then let them cool and fill bags with them. If you like, you can add a few teaspoons salt to them while they are boiling.

I use these in Mexican recipes, in soups, when we have beans and rice and cheese for lunch, or in some of our other favorite bean recipes.

I really do try to involve my kids in kitchen stuff,
and it worked pretty well after my first turned 2. But how can you
manage to be so productive with a 1-year-old around? When I cook dinner
each night, my 1-year-old often tears the house apart. So yeah, I got
something done, but I have to spend just as long after wards cleaning
up. Do you use a playpen? My 4-year-old would be a good helper during
ONE of these projects, but she would lose interest after that and start
fighting with her sister instead or (if I'm lucky) go off and read or
play by herself.

Well, I think the real answer is that Kaitlynn is only 16 months old and she still takes two naps each day–that's usually when I get the most work done here! She is a very busy little girl when she's awake so I must always be near her to make sure she stays safe and nothing catastrophic happens!

This morning, while she wasn't napping, I had her playing in the kitchen with some different toys and objects I gave to her. I also gave her a snack and that kept her preoccupied for awhile. But things did get a little messy–which I fully expected.

Kathrynne (3 1/2), on the other hand, is usually a great help to me. This morning, she helped with watching Kaitlynn, picking up toys, dicing chicken (with a plastic knife, of course!), and making pancakes. With some training and practicing, she's learning to be a real asset to me–which I'm definitely going to need once baby #3 is here!

When Kathrynne wasn't helping me today, I gave her some special things to play with/work on nearby including foil (this is one of her very favorite things in the world to play with!), and crayons and scissors and glue which she used at the kitchen table for a very long time.

My biggest advice to young moms out there is to make sure that you put your children as the most important priority in your day. Expect that your home will look lived in and you will get less done when little ones are underfoot; it's a fact of life!

I've had to learn to lower my expectations a lot since having children. I'd rather get a lot less done in the day and have invested quality time with my children, than have gotten a huge, long to-do list done and neglected my family in the process. They are only little once and I never want to forget that fact!

By the way, if you have little ones and are struggling with how to "do it all", I love the advice given by Jennie Chancey (mom to many little ones) here. Her words and thoughts have been a real blessing and help to me in navigating this incredible (and sometimes overwhelming!) task of mothering!

30 Oct 2008   ·   50
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day – Part 3

Your "participation" through comments and emails is making this Baking Day so much more fun! Thanks for joining me! I just finished up making the banana muffins, boiling the pot of beans, cooking the brown rice, and freezing the bananas.

While I had banana bread on the list, I opted for banana muffins at the last minute. Guess it was due to a mood change? 🙂 At any rate, I'm really happy with how the muffins turned out. I used a whole wheat banana bread mix some friends had made up for us along with the organic bananas I bought marked down yesterday.


I substituted applesauce for oil to cut down on the fat and they turned out beautifully. Plus, they don't have any sugar in them–the mashed bananas serve as the sweetener. These will make for a perfect afternoon snack or quick breakfast.


I boiled the pot of beans and cooked the brown rice while I was working on these. Both of these need a bit more cooking time and then they'll be done. Once cooled, I'll portion them into bags and stick them in the freezer for easy lunch or dinner additions.

Next, it was time to freeze the bananas. Any time I can get a great deal on bananas, I buy as many as I can afford in our grocery budget and then we eat what we can and freeze the rest. Chopped frozen bananas are wonderful added into fruit smoothies or you can freeze the bananas whole and thaw later for use in baking.


I'm planning to use these bananas in smoothies, so I chopped them and put them on cookie sheet and stuck them in the freezer. As soon as they are frozen, I'll transfer them to a bag to use as needed.

Now I'm off to make pancakes, bran muffins, and hopefully cook up some meat.

30 Oct 2008   ·   51
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day – Part 2

Just finished up my first two projects: making homemade yogurt and granola.

I've made yogurt before, but never in a yogurt maker so this was a new adventure. A kind reader gave me a yogurt maker she didn't want any more so Kathrynne and I had fun testing it out for the first time. So far, I really liked it as compared to making it without a maker, though I wouldn't necessarily encourage everyone to go get yourself a yogurt maker unless you have access to one for free. 🙂


We used the marked-down Horizon Organic milk I picked up yesterday and some other marked-down milk we had in the freezer along with one little carton of vanilla yogurt as the starter. The basic recipe is that you boil the milk until bubbles form on the side of the pan, let it cool to 110 degrees, take out a little and mix it with the yogurt starter, mix it all back together, and pour it into the yogurt cups in the yogurt maker and let it run for 8-12 hours.


When I make it without the yogurt maker, I do everything the same except for putting the yogurt in a bowl covered in a warm oven overnight. It's best to use plain yogurt as a starter, but I couldn't find any small things of it at the store yesterday so I fudged and got vanilla. We'll see how it works!

The granola recipe is a new healthy one I got from What to Eat When You're Expecting. It didn't look terribly exciting but it was very healthful and that's what I was looking for so I decided I was game.


Here's the recipe, with my tweaking:

Great Granola (Makes 5 cups)

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons apple juice concentrate
3/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup wheat bran (I added this instead of nuts, if you like nuts you could use them instead.)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Spread oats in nonstick pan and toast in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 300 degrees.

Combine the raisins and 1/2 cup of the juice concentrate in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Drain the raisin liquid over the oats (set raisins aside) and add remaining ingredients. Combine well with a wooden spoon. Bake in 300-degree oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in raisins and press the mixture firmly in the pan. Bake another 5 minutes and let cool to room temperature.


I doubled the recipe because I had enough ingredients on hand. I wasn't incredibly impressed with this granola recipe, though I think it will be yummy with served over homemade yogurt with some fruit. If anyone out there has a particularly yummy recipe for granola which doesn't have sugar in it and is low in fat, I'd love to try it.

And now I'm off to make banana bread and start cooking a big pot of beans.

30 Oct 2008   ·   28
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day – Part 1

One of the ways we save a lot of money on our grocery bill is by cooking and baking from scratch. However, lest you think I spend hours every day slaving in the kitchen, let me tell you, I don't. Instead, I like to take one day every few weeks and bake/cook up a bunch of stuff to freeze.

In half a day or less, I can cook/bake up enough goods to last us for two weeks or more–saving us a lot of time and money in the process. And it's so nice to have our freezer stocked and ready for use at a moment's notice to pull off a quick and easy breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Today, just for fun, I thought I'd let you peek in on a somewhat-typical baking day at our house. I'll be sharing pictures and recipes

First off, I start out with a plan. I took inventory of what we already have on hand and made a list of things I could make based upon that. The goal here is to save money, so it's all about creatively using what I already have on hand.

I went through our cupboards and refrigerator last night and came up with this simple list which I've posted up on the refrigerator:


If I have extra energy, there are a few more things I'd like to make, but we'll see how the day progresses.

30 Oct 2008   ·   7
Money Saving Mom

Yesterday’s shopping trip: Aldi and Kroger (Dillons)


There weren't any screaming deals at Dillons (Kroger-affiliate) this
week, so I just stopped by to see if I could score any markdowns on
produce or milk. Sure enough, I was able get organic bananas marked down to $0.37/lb, Horizon Organic milk for $2 per half gallon, and bagged salads for $1.49 each. I also picked up some wheat germ and yogurt which I'll be using for our Baking Day today.

At Aldi, I purchased two cartons of strawberries, grapefruit, carrots, applesauce, raisins, and four things of frozen juice concentrate.

All in all, I spent $10.23 at Dillons and $14.20 at Aldi. That should last us through the end of this week, so I'm well under our $40 budget this week! Yay!

Stay tuned for more on our Baking Day today.

29 Oct 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

A “credit card crisis”?

Earlier today, my husband and I were listening to a local radio station and a bit of news caught my attention. The broadcaster was stating how America is facing a "credit card crisis" because credit card companies will no longer be sending out loads of credit card offers. Instead these offers will be "slowing to a trickle", according to the report.

Excuse me? We call that a "credit card crisis"? I think that I would instead refer to that as a "welcome change of pace". Call me old-fashioned, but I think anytime we can discourage people from buying stuff they can't afford with money they don't have, it's a good thing, not a national crisis.

Of course, I happen to be one of those weird people who pays with cash almost 100% of the time, doesn't own a credit card, hasn't ever had any debt, and isn't living paycheck-to-paycheck.*

*Note: All of this is only by the grace of God, the wise example of my parents, Dave Ramsey's inspiration, and a commitment to "live like no one else"! By the way, if you are struggling financially and feeling in a helpless situation, do not despair. Read more about our own personal financial journey and lessons we've learned along the way here, here, and here. And then check out my Top Four Tips for Those in Financial Despair.

29 Oct 2008   ·   152
Money Saving Mom

I’m not making this up!

I was just out for a quick grocery shopping trip when I passed a nearby gas station and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. I must be seeing things. Surely that's not really right.

But no, the sign was very clearly advertising gas for $1.99 a gallon.

$1.99 a gallon!!

Now that is certainly something to get excited about! With many prices on the rise, it is exceptionally nice to see gas prices falling… and falling at such a rapid rate! Wow!

I've heard that gas prices are close to the lowest in the nation where we live but I'm curious if anyone else has seen gas go below $2/gallon in their area? If not, hopefully you'll be seeing it soon!

28 Oct 2008   ·   23
Money Saving Mom

An exciting day!

This is a bit off-topic, but I'm so excited I just had to share: I had my first appointment at the birth center and got to hear our baby's heartbeat for the first time! After weeks of nausea and fatigue, that was the sweetest, most encouraging noise ever!

After my appointment, we celebrated with free tacos at Taco Bell (did you get yours, too, today?) and then dinner at Jason's Deli. Tuesday evenings kids eat free at Jason's Deli so we got quite the bang for our buck tonight–getting dinner, drinks, and ice cream for less than $14 for all four of us. And then we took two to-go boxes of food home, too!

We are slowly settling into life in our new home and surroundings here. We are so glad to be back in our hometown, but as with all moves, there is a period of adjustment that takes place. With my husband's change in work schedule, I'm still figuring out how to adapt our schedule accordingly. And I'm still re-working where blogging is going to fit into this. It'll all work together eventually, but things are a little rocky right now–which is why I seem to be blogging in fits and starts. I hope to find my "groove" soon, but I appreciate your patience with me in the interim.

27 Oct 2008   ·   36
Money Saving Mom

Our $40 menu for this week


After weeks of living in survival mode with our move and my morning sickness, I am so happy to be settled down a bit, feeling almost 50% myself again most days, and to be 
ready to start cooking, baking, and menu-planning in earnest again.

Since I'm pregnant and nursing, I'm especially taking care to eat well and get in lots of nutrition–especially when it comes to fruits, veggies, whole grains, and protein. The challenge is to come up with a creative, balanced menu that meets all of my nutritional requirements on $40 per week. It's a fun new adventure!

Here's what I came up with for this week:

Whole-wheat griddlecakes with pear butter, oranges, milk
Eggs, whole-wheat toast, grapes, milk
Homemade granola over yogurt, fruit, orange juice
Whole-wheat waffles, oranges, milk
Fruited oatmeal with yogurt, bananas, orange juice
Bran muffins, cottage cheese, fruit, orange juice
Banana muffins, yogurt, fruit

Tuna salad on whole wheat toast, steamed veggies
Mixed greens sprinked with chopped hard-boiled eggs and grated cheese, whole wheat toast
Baked potatoes with cheese and cottage cheese, steamed veggies
Beans and brown rice with cheese, steamed veggies
Turkey sandwiches on whole wheat toast, steamed veggies
PB&J on whole wheat toast, fresh veggies

Chicken enchiladas, steamed veggies, mixed greens salad
Meatloaf, baked potatoes, mixed green salad
Chicken and brown rice in the crockpot, steamed veggies
Homemad mac and cheese with ground beef and onions, steamed veggies
Chicken and veggie pizza, mixed green salad
Dinner out
Leftovers (Sunday evening)

Bran muffins
Banana muffins
Granola over yogurt with fruit

To see more menu inspiration for this week, visit Organizing Junkie.

24 Oct 2008   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Prescription eye glasses for $12.95 plus shipping!

In between moving last weekend, three flea treatments at our new home (Ick! We’ve almost obliterated them–or so we hope!), and having a garage sale this weekend, I’ve not done much bargain shopping this week. Next week it appears life should be slowing back down to a more normal pace, so I’m hoping to jump back into the game. And hopefully, I’ll finally have some pictures to share of what I’ve purchased, too!


That said, I did get a really incredible deal on prescription eye glasses that I had to tell you about. Back in September, a reader emailed me about Zenni Optical–a prescription eye glass company which sells glasses beginning at $8. While I was a bit skeptical myself, I posted about it since she had tried the company out and been pleased. To my surprise, a number of others left comments sharing about their good experience with this company.

Well, fast forward a few weeks later and my 15-month-old got a hold of my glasses and managed to break them beyond repair. I was really distraught over it as the glasses weren’t very old and I knew we didn’t have money set aside in the budget to buy new ones, nor did I want to pay for new ones.

I considered just not having glasses at all and only wearing contacts. After all, I wear contacts most of the time so glasses aren’t exactly a necessity, just a nice thing to have for back up.

But then I remembered that post about Zenni Optical. I showed the website to my husband and we agreed it was worth a shot. I picked out some glasses, we did the measurements, and paid our $12.95 plus shipping.

Two weeks later, the glasses arrived in the mail in perfect condition. While they aren’t the highest-quality glasses I’ve ever had, for less than $20, I was completely impressed. In fact, I like these new glasses much better than my last pair which I paid five times as much for at a discount eye glass shop with a coupon!

I would definitely recommend Zenni Optical to others needing prescription eye glasses. While you can’t try the glasses on ahead of time to see how they look, this is an excellent alternative–especially if you only wear your glasses part of the time or aren’t incredibly particular about how they look. Zenni Optical would also be a great place to order glasses for children who are prone to go through pairs rather rapidly.

I’m sold and doubt I’ll ever buy glasses anywhere else. A huge thank you to Education Mom and the other commentors here who shared this tip; you saved us a lot of money and made the glasses-buying process an exhilarating experience–something I didn’t know was possible!

So that’s one way we saved money this week. 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.**


24 Oct 2008   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

Tips for having a successful garage sale

A few of you asked wrote and asked for tips on having a successful garage sale since I mentioned our crazily-busy sale day yesterday. While I don't consider myself the "Garage Sale Queen" by any means, here are a few of my recommendations for holding a successful garage sale:

1. Collect stuff. Now I know this is a no-brainer, but a successful garage sale often begins months in advance by saving stuff to sell. Before you think I'm advocating the pack-rat mentality, let me tell you what I do: I keep a box in the garage or in an out-of-the-way place to toss things into as I come across them in the months leading up to a garage sale. As one box fills, I seal it, and start another.

I've been amazed at how much stuff I can collect by doing this! In addition, it gives me a set place to put said "junk" instead of having to walk by it repeatedly for months thinking "I'll sell that in our next garage sale." It also gives me an incentive to constantly be on the lookout for items which we are no longer using or loving and to free myself from this clutter.

2. Plan ahead. I know this should also be a given, but I learned the hard way with a garage sale I did a year ago that you can never plan ahead too much. At the last minute, I had so many loose ends left to tie up and ended up overdoing it as a result. So, at least a few weeks before you have your sale, start pulling things out of boxes and organizing them, start pricing things, and start thinking about how you will set everything up.

This is especially good to do if you are in a new location or have never done a garage sale by yourself before. A few days before the sale, make sure you have everything priced and organized in tubs and bins and boxes. The day before the sale, set up as much stuff in your garage as you can. Figure out what you will be using for signs, where you will put them, make sure you have plenty of cash on hand, and so on.

The more organized you are, the easier it will be when you actually have your sale, and it will mean that you are not scrambling around on morning of your garage sale. Plus, it will make it easier for your customers to buy things if you are organized and ready to go when you open your sale.

3. Price things to sell. When I go to a garage sale, I expect to pay garage sale prices. I always try to price things at what I feel would be a good bargain if I were buying the item at someone else's garage sale. I'd rather that someone pay me and actually buy my item, then 25 people pick up the item and put it back down because it is too expensive.

Also, be sure to price everything. Not only will those coming to your sale appreciate it, it will keep things more simple for you. As an added bonus, it will increase sales because people will know how much (or little) something costs! I try to have variety in pricing with plenty of $0.25 or less items.

4. Pick a good location. Make sure that wherever you hold your sale has a sizeable amount of traffic throughout the day. If it doesn't, consider holding your sale at a friend or relative's home. There's no point in having everything organized and lots of great stuff to sell if you don't have any traffic!

5. Pair up with a friend. This is one of the best ways to have a successful garage sale–join ranks with a friend or two! Not only will you have more stuff and more variety, but you'll also have lots of fun and fellowship in the process. Plus, you'll have more help in pulling it off.

6. Advertise well. Make sure you put up plenty of nice signs in conspicuous places which easily lead to your home. Also, consider advertising in your paper or a free local newspaper. In different areas, advertising in the paper is very helpful. Other times, it is not necessary if you have good traffic and good signage. Experiment and see what works best. Above all, have very presentable and attractive signs–a sloppily-thrown together sign is not very inviting!

7. Don't forget the cookies and lemonade! What better way to teach your children entrepreneurial skills and let them earn a little money in the process than to have them set up their own little cookie and lemonade stands at the sale? Or, if it's cold outside, try selling hot chocolate, coffee, and fresh cinnamon rolls. One garage sale, we even set up a pancake griddle and sold pancakes hot off the griddle on Saturday morning.

There are a few of my tips for having a successful garage sale; I'd love to hear from you all if you have any great ideas or thoughts to add.

24 Oct 2008   ·   14
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading: Aldi vs. Wal-Mart and Frugal Fall Family Fun

::Shannon did an excellent post today comparing staple Aldi prices to Wal-Mart prices. For those who aren't convinced it's usually less-expensive to shop at Aldi, this will be a great resource to check out. I use Aldi prices as my target prices for items we regularly buy since they are almost always less-expensive than traditional store prices. If I can get an item we regularly buy for less than the Aldi price with a store sale and/or coupon, I stock up.

::I enjoyed Jamie's post on how their family is enjoying a frugal Fall family day tomorrow for less than $20. You'll be inspired at her creativity and ideas and maybe it will spark a few of your own!