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23 Oct 2009   ·   5
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading Round-up

Just a few links I’ve enjoyed this past week:

::Struggling to instill contentment in your children? The Happy Housewife has some great insight here.

::Life as Mom shares here how to cook one night and eat for three nights. Now that’s my kind of deal!

::Wish you could come up with creative ideas to waste less food? Check out the plethora of ideas here from Planet Green.

::If you’re wondering whether using coupons and shopping sales is worth the effort, check out Saving Your Cents post here on ten items you’ll likely never pay for again if you use coupons.

::Heather wrote and said:

My boys drink yogurt smoothies every day, so
we go through tons of yogurt in a week. We buy organic dairy, so you
can guess how expensive that can be. Instead of buying $12 (are you
cringing, yet?) of organic yogurt a week, I buy a gallon of
organic milk at about $5.97 and use it to make yogurt in my slow cooker using this recipe. It makes about 13 cups of yogurt and supplies our family with yogurt for about 2 weeks. I do have to buy a “starter” quart of
yogurt, but this lasts a long time. It is very
easy to do and I was amazed with the results.
22 Oct 2009   ·   52
Money Saving Mom

The Frugal Homeschool: L is for Leaf

Just for fun (and because I've received many requests!), I'm going to start posting a little peek into our homeschooling here every few weeks. I hope that it is an inspiration to those of you who are homeschooling young ones or looking for educational things you can do with your little ones which are inexpensive and simple.

If you haven't done so, you can read more about our homeschooling curriculum and philosophies here.

Recently, we studied the letter "L" and our theme of the My Father's World unit was leaves. What fun we had!

School

The girls collected leaves and we used them for quite a few different things: we sorted from smallest to largest, we talked about big and little, and used them to practice counting.

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We talked about patterns and used these lollipops to make a variety of patterns.

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This is one of Kathrynne's favorite games. It's just the uppercase and lowercase alphabet printed on cards and we use it to play Alphabet Memory.

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While Kathrynne and I work at the table, I have a basket of different fun things for Kaitlynn to play with that I slowly dole out one by one to keep her occupied. Here she's "reading" Caps for Sale–one of our read-alouds from the leaf unit.

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She loves the Paint with Water Books–and so do I! I just give her a paint brush and a cup of water and let her go at it. Sometimes water ends up in many more places than the book, but it's much less mess than actual paint!

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Next up: bubbles! Again, these make a little bit of a mess, but it's very easy to clean up and she has a blast playing with them. I picked these up at the Dollar Store and they gave the girls hours of fun!

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We took the leaves that the girls had picked and made leaf rubbings.

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Who says you have to wait to teach Home Ec. until high school? The girls have a real interest in cooking and baking so I've been making a point to spend time teaching them basic cooking skills. It takes extra time and effort now, but I'm hopeful it will pay off in the long-run with my girls being able to do much of the cooking and baking for our family in the not-too-distant future.

20 Oct 2009   ·   270
Money Saving Mom

Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom: In the Beginning… (Part 1)

I am a firm believer that, with God’s blessings and lots of hard work, anyone can successfully work from home. However, I will be the first to tell you that working from home is just that–it’s work.
I’m by nature a positive person but I won’t sugar-coat the truth when
it comes to working from home: if you are not prepared to put in lots
and lots and lots of time and effort, working from home won’t work for you.

I’m sure many moms could look at me and want what I have–the
ability to make a good income while staying at home, choosing my own
hours, and taking care of my husband, home, and family first. I can
take a day off (or even a few days off!) whenever I like and
the money continues to come in at about the same rate because of the many
multiple streams of income I’ve set in place.

All this might sound really wonderful (and it is!) but what most people
often don’t add into this equation are the countless hours, days,
weeks, months, and even years I’ve spent working, learning, and experimenting to get things to the point they are at.

The effort has paid off and I’m now reaping the fruits of my labors
(though I’m still making lots of mistakes and I’m sure I’ll continue to
do so until the day I die!), but I won’t ever forget the struggles I
had to go through to getwhere I’m at or the mountains I’ve had to
climb along the way.

This series is my personal journey to Becoming a Work-at-Home Mom. I will be sharing what things have and haven’t worked for me, what I
wish someone had told me when I was first contemplating starting a
business from home, and how you, too, can become a work-at-home mom.

Let me start at the very beginning…

When my husband and I were married–over six and a half years ago–we knew we wanted to stay out of debt, live on a budget, and we wanted my primary place to be at home. I had no desire to pursue an outside-the-home career; I just wanted to be a stay-at-home wife and mother.

However, there was also this thing called money. We didn’t have a lot of it and my husband still had three and a half years of school left ahead of him. We were living on a very tight budget but we weren’t even making enough to pull that off. We knew that the only way we’d survive the next three and a half years was if we not only continued to pinch pennies, but if we also found ways to increase our income.

Before we got married, I worked an odd assortment of side jobs to produce a little income: I taught violin, babysat, tutored, and worked as a mother’s helper and a waitress. I continued on in some of these after we got married but when we moved to a new town where we knew no one so my husband could begin three years of law school, I found that my side job possibilities narrowed a great deal!

However, we prayed a lot and talked about a hundred different ideas. And then we got creative.

I advertised my experience as a mother’s helper in the local homeschool newsletter and soon was working for four different families each week. I enjoyed this work and it helped to pay the bills. We didn’t have any wiggle room at all, but by carefully squeezing every little thing we could out of every penny, not buying anything but basic necessities, and strategic grocery shopping, we were able to survive on $800-$1000 per month.

A number of months went by and one week I began noticing that I didn’t feel so well. I was tired and sick to my stomach much of  the time. I went about my usual routine, but I could barely keep up with my mother’s helper jobs. I continued to feel worse and worse and we couldn’t figure out what on earth my problem was. After about a week of this, I realized that the one thing I’d not considered was the possibility I could be pregnant.

We’d wanted to have children since we were first married but we’d struggled with some infertility issues and I’d finally just given up the hope that I’d ever be a mom. However, I had some pregnancy tests stashed away and that morning I decided–on a whim!–that I’d just take one. After all, it wouldn’t hurt anything.

Imagine my total shock when I took it and looked down a few seconds later to see two pink lines! No wonder I’d felt so sick and tired!

We were ecstatic, elated, excited, and overwhelmed all at once! We were thrilled to be parents, but we realized this was going to turn our world a little upside down. Never could we have realized at the time just how much having a baby was going to change our lives forever–for the better!

To be continued next week…

Just for fun: How many of you currently work from home?
Tell us a little about what you do. (And if you have a website, be sure to leave the link in the comments section.)

Graphic designed by A Source of Joy Graphic Design

19 Oct 2009   ·   36
Money Saving Mom

Experimenting with a Two-Week Menu Plan

Mpm-1 

I'm changing things up around here a little in order to strive for more efficiency. Not only am I experimenting with doing much of my cooking ahead, but I'm also trying my hand at planning two-week menus instead of one-week menus.

Kate, from Stolen Moments Menu Planning, asked if she could make a sample month-long menu plan for me to try out and review so I'm basing much of this two-week menu plan off of that. But I'm also adding in things I already have cooked up in the freezer and other items I have on hand which need to be used up.

I printed this Two-Week Menu Plan Template here and jotted down the full menu. However, since I don't like to be completely "boxed in" when it comes to menu plans, I wrote it in pencil! I'm going to do my best to stick with what's written here, but I'm sure there will be some adaptations as I go along.

I'm also going to be making some cookie dough and baking mixes to freeze this week. I'm finding that cooking ahead is benefiting me so much, I'm looking for other ways to maximize my efficiency in the kitchen. If my efforts turn out satisfactorily, I'll be blogging about them later on this week.

By the way, if you have any great Baking Mix recipes, I'd love to have the links or recipes. I've never done something like this before so I haven't a clue what I'm doing. But I might as well jump in and try, right?

Here's the plan:

Week 1 Breakfasts:
Sunshine Toast, apples, orange juice
Blueberry Banana Smoothies
Pumpkin Waffles, apples, orange juice
Southwest Scramble (scrambled eggs with hashbrowns, cheese, peppers, onions, and tomatoes), fruit, orange juice
Cereal x 2
Blueberry Coffee Cake, orange juice

Week 1 Lunches:
Cheese quesadillas, spinach
Homemade mac & cheese, applesauce
Baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese
Egg salad sandwiches, carrot sticks
PB&J sandwiches, applesauce
Leftovers
Bean and Cheese Burritos

Week 1 Dinners:
Chicken Tetrazinni, homemade applesauce, peas
Dinner at Grandma's house
Ziti, homemade bread, green beans
Turkey Sausage Corn & Broccoli Bake, fruit, banana bread
Homemade Barbecue Chicken Pizza, fruit, chocolate chip cookies
Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore over noodles, fruit, homemade bread
Leftovers

Week 2 Breakfasts:
Peanut Butter Toast, fruit, orange juice
Yogurt, Fruit, and Granola Parfaits
Mini Blinis, fruit, orange juice
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal (without pecans), fruit
Cereal x 2
French Toast, fruit, orange juice

Week 2 Lunches:
PB&J, carrots
Homemade mac & cheese, peas
Egg salad sandwiches, carrot sticks
Cheese quesadillas, fruit
Lunch at Grandma's house
Leftovers
Cheesy Rice and Broccoli

Week 2 Dinners:
Country Breakfast Pot Pie, fruit
Ziti, homemade bread, green beans
Chicken Tetrazinni, applesauce, carrot sticks
Hamburger Vegetable Soup, homemade bread, cheese, apples
Homemade Barbecue Chicken Pizza, fruit, chocolate chip cookies
Dinner out
Leftovers

Snacks
Apples
Carrot sticks
Homemade Bread
Homemade hot chocolate
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Apple Pie
Applesauce
Cheese and crackers
Banana Bread
Chocolate Chip Cookies

See more menus for this week over at Organizing Junkie.

17 Oct 2009   ·   24
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: A quiet week and my Alice.com order

I didn't go shopping this week. Not at all. In fact, aside from a quick day trip with Silas to Denver for the ShopatHome.com Blogger's Summit, I didn't leave the house much at all.

The girls had lingering coughs and congestion from their nasty flu last week and then Silas came down with a fever a few days ago. So we've stayed in, stayed put, and been taking lots of Vitamin C, trying to eat well, and getting extra sleep. And it's been nice! In fact, I realized that I need to make a concerted effort to go back to saying "no" to busyness and stay home at least a few full days per week. Life is so much more organized and calm when I do so.

We didn't go grocery shopping at all this week, but since we have a great stockpile of food built up, we just ate from our pantry and freezer (seeing as last week's Baking/Cooking Day guaranteed that we had plenty of food at the ready in our freezer!).

I didn't even so much as open up my coupon box until this evening. It stayed closed for almost ten days and it was a great feeling to just let it sit for awhile while I baked and cooked and tended to sick children.

Of course, I missed out on some deals, for sure, but it was good to take a break. I've found that giving myself a breather every now and then really helps me to keep things in balance and it also prevents coupon "burn-out" (see this article for more on that topic).

I did, however, get 24-roll pack of toilet paper and 8 bottles of shampoo in from Alice.com. They wanted me to try out their new service and gave me a small shopping credit to do just that. Most of the prices are more than what I'd usually pay, but the shampoo/conditioner were only $0.60 per bottle, which is about $0.10 more than I usually pay after a sale and coupons. The toilet paper was also just a tad bit more than I have been paying for it recently as well.

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All in all, I spent $11.28 for everything pictured above. Not the greatest deal ever, but seeing as it was shipped straight to my door and shipping was free, it's a decent deal in my opinion.

If you live way out where there aren't many shopping options, I'd definitely recommend checking out Alice.com. Their "Best Deals" section is my favorite place to frequent. They often have manufacturer's coupons available which can further sweeten the deals–like the 64-oz. bottle of Snuggle I got last week for $0.40 shipped.

I'm planning to do a more extensive review of Alice.com as well as a giveaway in the near future so be looking for that if you're interested in trying this shopping service out.

And this has nothing to do with bargains, but a lot of you have been begging for pictures of Silas, so here's one from this past week that I took of him with his new teddy bear:

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Can you believe he's already five months old? He is growing like a weed, starting to jabber a lot more, trying to scoot around a little, and he's very much a Mama's boy. I love him to pieces and feel so blessed to be his mother.

Stay tuned for pictures of the girls this next week when I'll be sharing a peek into our homeschool lessons recently. So many of you have been asking for more pictures and tidbits from our life, so as I have time, I'll be doing my best to share these. And I'll also be posting the first installment of the Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series. I promise. 🙂 This past week flew by and I never had a chance to finish it, but I'm determined to sit down and get it completed in the next day or two and have it posted early next week.

——————————–
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 Oct 2009   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading Round-Up

Just a few articles I've enjoyed over the past week:

::20 Different Ways to Make Crafts Pay–for those of you who are more skilled with your hands than me, this article has some creative ideas for earning money from craft-related ventures.

::Dear People with Grown Sons: PLEASE HELP–If you have sons with voracious appetites, you'll certainly be able to understand Shannon's plea. And you'll likely find some great tips and ideas in the comments section.

::Can Buying a Grain Mill Save You Money? Laura answers this question by doing the math and sharing how her initial investment in a grain mill has saved their family $552 in four years! (By the way, if you are looking for a grain mill which is a little less expensive than what Laura has, I have the BlendTec Grain and Flour Mill and really like it.)

16 Oct 2009   ·   52
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Maximize Your Freezer’s Potential and Minimize Freezer Burn

After I live-blogged my Baking/Cooking Day last week, there were hundreds of questions asked about methods of freezing. I’m hoping to address many of these in future posts, but while you’re waiting on that, my friend Amy from The Finer Things in Life offered to write a quick guest post on a creative way she’s discovered to maximize her freezer’s potential and minimize freezer burn. I think those of you who feel like you don’t have space or pans to pull off Cooking Ahead might just re-think that after reading her guest post!

Freezing meals ahead of time for busy days sounds like a great idea, in theory. But what about freezer space? What about pans? What about freezer burn?

A technique that my high school home economics teacher shared with us many years ago has stuck with me and served my family well when it comes to freezing meals. Here’s what works for us:

Prepare freezer meals in 8×8, 9×9, or other smaller pans. Anything that will fit in a gallon-sized freezer bag will work. Before filling it with food, line the baking dish with aluminum foil or freezer paper.

 

Fold the foil over the top and freeze the meal.

Freezer2

Once frozen enough to hold its shape, pop it out of the baking dish. Seal the meal in a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible.

Freezer3

When you are ready to use the frozen, there are two options: you can either remove the wrapping while the item is still frozen and place the food back into the original pan to thaw and bake. Or, you can just slip the whole thing (still wrapped in foil) in a pan and bake it making clean up a snap!

Here are just a few of the reasons I love freezing meals this way:

* The smaller pans prevent leftover burnout (If you have a large family, just pop two pans in the oven.)
* Several meals can be in the freezer while favorite baking dishes remain handy.
* There’s no need to purchase lots of expensive aluminum pans (or clean them!)
* Foil and freezer paper can often be found on sale with a coupon.
* Wrapping the meal and then sealing it in a bag prevents freezer burn.
* This method maximizes freezer space since the baking dishes aren’t stacked up.
* And, in light of yesterday’s post, it’s also worth mentioning that your freezer bags can be reused when food labeling is done on the foil or freezer paper.

Amy is a Tiny Town coach’s wife and mother of three convinced that the The Finer Things in Life offer more joy than anything money can buy. 

15 Oct 2009   ·   188
Money Saving Mom

True Frugality Considers the ROI

Frugal in Virginia's husband, Ryan, has another smashing piece up here which you'll want to go read. I found myself nodding along in agreement until I came to the sentence which said they don't reuse their Ziploc bags.

I had to stop and catch my breath for a second.

They don't reuse Ziploc bags?? Doesn't that break rule number 10454 in The Frugal Zealot's Handbook? Doesn't everyone know that you must get at least 543 uses out of a Ziploc bag before throwing it out? That's just what we frugal folks do. Anything else would be… well, it would just be unthinkable.

Jesting aside, the point of the piece was excellent: true frugality considers the ROI (return on investment of time) as the bottom line. There are thousands of ways to save a buck. But each family needs to carefully weigh how much time it is going to take to save that buck. Time is money, too.

So figure out which money-saving efforts are worth your time and stick with those. Don't feel guilted over the fact that you might not be doing all the frugal things some other family is doing. You can't do it all, so pick and choose what works for your family in the season of life you're in.

For me, it's not a big deal at all to reuse Ziploc bags. I do a lot of baking so when a freezer bag of baked goods is empty, I just dump the crumbs into the trash and stick the empty bag back into the freezer door to be at-the-ready for my next Baking Day spree. It probably takes me all of ten seconds and it means that I only buy a box of freezer bags twice a year–at the most.

But there are a lot of things I don't do. For instance, I don't use a clothesline, don't cloth diaper, and we do go out to eat once a week. Just like it seems weird to me that someone who considers themselves frugal would not also reuse their Ziploc bags, it probably seems strange to some of you that I don't hang my clothes out, use cloth diapers, or make every meal from scratch.

I've done each of those things before and might do them again in the future, but I've found they just don't work well for our family right now. And I'm okay with that. What works for one family, won't necessarily work for another family.

I love how Ryan ends his post:

Check up on yourself. Evaluate your frugal techniques. Which ones are really
worth it? If you wouldn’t accept $2 per hour as payment for your labor
from another, don’t accept it from yourself under the guise of
frugality. Valuing your time is the subtle and important difference
between being cheap and being frugal.

The frugal experience is about living better on less. If you miss the living better part, you’ve missed it entirely.

Just for fun: do you reuse your Ziploc bags? What common frugal techniques do you find to not work or be worth it to your family? Tell us about it in the comments.

13 Oct 2009   ·   24
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: Join a Coupon Exchange Group

Do you have extra coupons you'd love to exchange with someone for coupons you could use? Samantha emailed me a great tip:

I just joined a coupon exchange group on Yahoo! and I thought others would like to know about it. This has been a great solution for giving away the coupons I had but didn't need and exchanging them for coupons I can use. Instead of throwing away coupons I can't use, I now send them to others in my group of women! Whatever coupons I receive from this group of women that I can't use, I send on to others who can use them.

The coupon group that Samantha mentioned joining is here. There are coupon exchange groups on HotCouponWorld.com, AFullCup.com, as well as a variety of other places. If you've found a great place to exchange coupons, let us know in the comments section.

In addition, don't forget that you can send your expired coupons to military families. Read more about the Coupons for Troops Program here.

13 Oct 2009   ·   79
Live on Rice and Beans for a week! This frugal meal plan is SO creative!

How to Live on Beans and Rice for a Week

Live on Rice and Beans for a week! This frugal meal plan is SO creative!

We use a lot of beans around here; they’re inexpensive, they’re filling, and they’re nutritious. Pair them with rice (we prefer brown rice) and you have a complete protein.

When I read Ruth’s post here on how to live on beans and rice for a week, I thought it’d be fun to try and come up with my own version. While we’ve never tried to just have beans and rice all week long, Ruth inspired me to come up with an almost-week-long beans and rice menu plan, too, using some of our favorite legume recipes. Maybe we’ll have to do this sometime!

Day One:
Cook up a big ole’ pot of beans (I do mine like this. You can add in seasonings, onions, etc. if you prefer). I’d recommend cooking black beans, pinto beans, and chili beans. Mix equal parts of the beans and make chili (we like to add onions, diced tomatoes, tomato juice, spices, hot sauce, pickle juice, and anything else that strikes my fancy that evening! You can add some browned ground beef if you like.). Serve over brown rice with cheese and hot sauce.

Day Two: Take the leftover chili and make “haystacks”–set out bowls of chopped lettuce, tomatoes, corn chips, rice, cheese, sour cream, olives, and hot sauce. Let everyone pile things on and make up their own “haystack”.

Day Three: Mash up some of the black beans and pinto beans (you can make them refried like this, if you like) and mix with a little salsa and chopped chicken. Roll up in tortillas, sprinkle with cheese and heat through.

Day Four: Make pizza crust and top with mashed/refried beans, salsa or diced tomatoes, onions (if you like) and cheese. Bake. If you have leftover lettuce and tomatoes from Day Two, you could sprinkle them on top of the baked pizza. If you have any leftover chili, you could also make “Chili Pizza” using chili and tomatoes and cheese as the pizza topping.

Day Five: Use any leftover chili, beans, or mashed beans you have left to make Mexican Lasagna (like this or this or this–only substitute most of the meat for beans.)

Those are a few of our family favorites. I could probably come up with more, but five days of beans is likely about all we could take around here!

What about you? What are your favorite ways to cook beans and rice? If you were to try and subsist mostly on beans and rice for a week, what would you serve?


12 Oct 2009   ·   55
Money Saving Mom

September Financial Update: It starts with the small things

Meagan left the following comment on my August Financial Update post:

I just wanted to tell you something. This morning I have about a week’s worth of dishes piled up. We don’t have a dishwasher and I hate it so much. Although this sounds weird, this post and others you’ve posted before have inspired me to get my life in order. We aren’t in the position to be debt free yet but you’ve inspired me to do the dishes. I can’t do the huge things yet, but I can do the little things, so that when we are in a position to do the big things, we will be ready to face the challenge. -Meagan

Meagan, your comment was right on the mark. You are so absolutely right!

My desire in sharing our financial goals and progress here is not to discourage others who are in different financial situations but hopefully to inspire everyone–no matter what your financial situation–to do something and start somewhere.

You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t stand up and take the first step. It’s easy to dream big dreams and make big plans, but the execution of them must happen one step at a time.

Back whenever my husband and I first had this crazy idea to pay cash for a home, we thought it truly would be impossible. We crunched a bunch of numbers, talked about all sorts of money-saving and income-earning ideas, and we both wondered if we’d lost our minds to set this goal and then share it with the world by publicly posting it on my blog back near the beginning of 2008.

But we did anyway, because we knew that, if we were going to pull this off, we’d need all of the accountability and cheerleading we could get. And then we dove in and took the first step: we set up a house savings account and we started setting aside every penny we could squeeze out of our small budget.

The first hundred and then the first thousand we saved were very rewarding. Little by little, things started picking up steam: our efforts and years of work on various income-earning things started to produce real fruit; we found new ways to cut our expenses even more; and we were the recipients of some unexpected financial gifts. The snowball just kept rolling downhill and picking up more and more snow–at a much greater rate of speed than we had originally ever envisioned.

Last October, God supernaturally opened up the door for us to be able to move back “home” (where cost of living is low) and start our own law firm. We used some money we’d set aside for extras, made the move, took a big leap of faith to start the law firm, and watched in amazement as God has blessed it far beyond our wildest expectations.

We kept plowing forward and our momentum grew. We continued to live on a modest budget (see a basic idea of that here) even as our income increased and we were constantly on the lookout for ways to earn extra income on the side (we’ll be talking more about these in the new Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series).

One day last June, we woke up and realized we were half-way to our goal! Lord-willing, by the end of 2009, we are hoping to be at 85-95% of our goal–miles closer than we could have ever dreamed we’d be at this point.

How do you run a mile? One step at a time.

It is the same with financial goals or any goals, for that matter. They can only be accomplished one small step at a time.

It’s takes faithfulness in the little things to eventually see big progress. For us that’s been little things like: matching coupons with sales, planning a menu, purposing to live on a budget, reusing something instead of buying another new item, shopping around to get the best rates on insurance, making homemade pizza instead of ordering carryout, driving older vehicles, shopping at thrift stores, and learning to be content with what we have. All of these things might seem like a drop in the bucket when done individually, but, over time, each of those drops can start adding up.

Maybe you can’t save up to pay cash for a home, but you might be able to save $5 on your grocery bill this week and set that aside for savings. Start with the small things, be faithful in the little things, and stick with your goals–even when it feels like you’re going nowhere.

Start somewhere, do something, and don’t give up! Over time, as you become more experienced and adept at saving and earning money, you’ll likely start to see those little steps add up to a large amount of ground covered… and it will be worth every little sacrifice!

********************************

Now for the numbers:

We began September at 65% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 69%! 

(If you’re new here, be sure to check out this post where I explain in detail why we’ve committed to this “crazy” idea to pay 100% down on a home. )

——————————————–
How did you do in September? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and/or failures in September and, if you’d like, the areas
you hope to improve in October. 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!

10 Oct 2009   ·   103
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Sam’s trip, Dillon’s trip, green peppers galore, diapers, Snuggle, and a Baking Day!

First things first, I promised you a report of our Sam's Club trip last Saturday. Here's what we ended up buying:

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48 10-inch tortillas–$4.46 (this was about the same price as Aldi, but the tortillas were much nicer than theirs)
10-lb bag of pinto beans–$6.23 (beats Aldi price by about $0.30 per pound, I believe)
72-oz bag of Nestle chocolate chips–$9.34 (beats Aldi price by a few cents per 16-oz.)
1 pint pure vanilla–$6.88 (I'm not entirely sure if this beats the store prices of vanilla since I never buy vanilla but I've been told this was a good price. Is it? Anyone know?)
1 5-lb block of cheese–$10 (beats Aldi price by $0.60 per pound)

Total: $39.26 (We used all of the leftover grocery money from September to make these bulk purchases as well as a few dollars from this week's grocery budget.)

So far, I was very under-impressed with Sam's Club. Yes, we saved a small amount of money by shopping there, got a bit higher-quality food than Aldi offers, and got it all in larger quantities. However, some of these prices I can beat with a good sale and coupon on occasion. In addition, I was very careful to only buy those items which would truly be a better deal than the prices I normally pay. I found such deals to be far and few between.

Most of the items at Sam's Club were priced much higher than I usually ever pay. And that's not even factoring that it costs at least $35 to buy a year-long membership to Sam's Club. I am not convinced at all that in our area, it would be worth spending $35 a year. In fact, I am doubtful that I'd break even in savings. However, we are blessed to live very close to Aldi and to stores which double
coupons. If we didn't have either of these, I can see where it
definitely might be less expensive to buy a lot of your groceries at
Sam's.

I'm not giving up on Sam's Club yet. I'm going to try a few more times and see if my perspective changes at all. I'll keep you posted!

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In other savings news for this week: we had Great Flu of 2009 at our house this week and everything was a bit topsy-turvy, including shopping. I couldn't really get out to do any shopping because I was taking care of two very sick little girls, but I still managed to get some great deals without even walking into a store!

My husband went to Dillon's late Tuesday night to buy some drinks for the girls to help them stay hydrated so I also had him get a few of the deals while he was there. Here's what he came home with:

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After coupons, he spent $23.54 for everything pictured above.

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Some friends gave us a bunch of peppers from their garden.

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We used some of them this week and I chopped and froze the rest to use this Winter. That will definitely save us some money to have plenty of peppers ready to use in casseroles, stir-frys, and so forth.

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I also got a box of diapers free from Amazon thanks to Swagbucks and I got a 64-oz. bottle of Snuggle for $0.40 shipped thanks to Alice.com. (I thought this deal was no longer available, but a reader said she was able to get it. Login/signup here and then go here to see if it shows up for you. I'll be posting more deals from Alice.com as they surface! They offer free shipping and coupons every week so some of their deals are the same or better than what I can get locally with a store sale and a coupon. But you have to pick and choose as many of their prices are much higher than most of us usually pay.)

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And last but not least, I had a Baking Day and stocked my freezer. What was most exciting to me about this Baking Day was that I was able to make a lot of dinners and breakfasts and I didn't spend any extra grocery money to do so. I've just been stocking up on good deals for the last 6 weeks or so and I had enough stuff on hand to make almost a month's worth of meals–all on a $40/week budget!

All totaled this week, we spent $63.20. However, $35 of that was leftovers from September's budget so we're starting week one of October out a little under our $40/week budget again–and our freezer is filled. I'm totally loving that! It just goes to show how a little creativity can certainly go a long way in maximizing the mileage of your dollars, can't it?

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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.

8 Oct 2009   ·   85
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day: Lasagna, Ziti, and a picture of the fruits of my labors

After the girls went to bed last night, I quickly whipped up three pans of lasagna and three pans of Ziti.

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The lasagna recipe was a new one (go here to see it) that FishMama highly recommended. I'm curious to see how it tastes. It was easy to make and less expensive than usual lasagna since I can often get cream cheese for $0.50 per package (with a sale and a coupon)–which beats the price of cottage cheese or ricotta cheese that I'd usually use in lasagna.

I don't have a recipe for the Ziti because I just made it up on the fly using ground turkey, pasta sauce, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, noodles, and spices. I've learned that a great way to be frugal in the kitchen is to learn to be creative and flexible with ingredients!

After finishing up the pans of Ziti and Lasagna, I called it a day. I didn't get to quite everything on my list, but I did get a lot done yesterday–and that's a very good feeling! In fact, I was surprised at how much I'd gotten done when I laid everything out on the table to take a final picture:

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5 batches of Whole-Wheat Waffles
3 bags of browned ground turkey (we'll use this for homemade pizza or possibly pair it with pinto beans to make chili)
1 bag of cooked chopped chicken
1 batch of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
5 bags of cooked Pinto Beans
3 pans of Lasagna
3 pans of Ziti
3 meals of Chicken Tetrazinni
1 bag of Southwest Roll-ups

It was about seven hours' worth of work total to make all of that and I'm figuring it will make at least 20 dinners and 8-10 breakfasts. That is totally worth it to me for seven hours of work. Plus, it means I don't have to worry about "What's for Dinner?" many nights for the next month nor do I have to mess up my kitchen as much!

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Did you have a chance to do any baking or cooking this week? If so, post about it
on your blog and leave your link below to your direct blog post. I'd
love it especially if you could share pictures and recipes so I can get
more ideas for my next Baking Day projects! And I'm guessing many
others would be inspired as well.

7 Oct 2009   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day: Pinto Beans and Chicken Tetrazinni

Did you think I up and forgot about you? Nah, I just had to take a break for dinner and time with my husband. But everyone went down for an early bedtime so I'm trying to make the most of a quiet house!

Here's what I've done since my last update:

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I bought this big 10-pound bag of Pinto Beans at Sam's Club on Saturday for just over $6 so I used some of it to make a big pot of Pinto Beans. You can read how I cook these up here.

Once the beans cool, I will divide them into two-cup portions in bags and freeze them. Then, whenever I make a recipe which calls for canned beans, I can just use these instead. It's much cheaper and better for you, too. In addition, it's so easy to do.

I didn't have any brown rice on hand, otherwise I would have cooked some of that up, too, and then stuck it in the freezer in two-cup portions as well. It's so simple to then pull out a bag of rice and a bag of beans and thaw them overnight to use for a healthful and very inexpensive meal of beans and rice. (You can set out bowls of corn chips, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and cheese along with the beans and rice and let everyone build their own Mexican dinner on their plates. Or just serve plain beans and rice with cheese.)

In addition to the Pinto Beans, I made a double batch up Chicken Tetrazinni. This is an easy and inexpensive recipe which freezes well:

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(For the record, this looks a whole lot better cooked than uncooked!)
 
Chicken Tetrazinni (serves 4-6)

2 cups spaghetti, cooked and drained
2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
1 can cream soup (you can make your own with this recipe)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper (or red pepper, as I used this time since I had some given to us from a friend's garden!), chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, grated

Saute onions and peppers in a little oil. Mix with the rest of the ingredients. Cool and put a freezer bag and freeze flat.

When ready to use, thaw and place in a 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until heated through. (I like to sprinkle with additional cheese.)

I doubled the recipe and split it into 3 freezer bags as it will be enough for three dinners for us.

Next up: Lasagna and Spaghetti Pie (and I haven't forgotten about the Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins; I just keep procrastinating on those!)

7 Oct 2009   ·   62
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day: Southwest Roll-ups and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

I'm not meaning to leave you all hanging for hours on end, I just find that when I sit down to blog, I lose my focus. So I'm trying to stay off the computer more this Baking Day and just focus on, well, baking!

We also took a break from being in the kitchen to have our afternoon Reading Time. We love reading together and I try to make a point to read to everyone at least 20-30 minutes every day, even on those days when we take a break from our usual routine.

But here's what I've accomplished since I last checked in:

I finished all the waffles! I ended up with a mountain of waffles (five bags!) which should last us for every bit of 8-9 breakfasts. That means we should be stocked on waffles for at least another 5-6 weeks. And that's a great feeling. My picture of all of these will be coming in the final Baking Day photo.

I also chopped up all the chicken I had boiled and made up Southwest Roll-ups. These are one of our family's "staple recipes". You know, the kind that you turn to when you are feeling brain fried in menu-planning or just need a really easy dinner. I've been making these and freezing them ahead of time recently and have found this works well, too.

Southwest Roll-ups (makes 8 roll-ups)

1 can refried beans
1/4 cup salsa
1-2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
8 tortillas

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Mix together beans, salsa, and chicken.

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Spread 1/8 of mixture onto one tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese. Roll up and turn ends under. Stick in a freezer bag or in a 9×13 baking pan.

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When ready to bake, thaw and bake in a pre-heated 350 degrees oven for 20-30 minutes until heated through. Sprinkle with more shredded Cheddar cheese, if desired. Serve with salsa. Serves 4.

I bought this huge bag of chocolate chips at Sam's Club on Saturday so I made some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (the recipe is here).

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I've heard there is a canned pumpkin shortage in some parts of the country, but I have quite a few cans which I bought a number of months ago for $0.25 each so I'm well-stocked. And now that I have plenty of chocolate chips, I'll likely be making more of these muffins as they are one of our favorites.

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I made them with all whole wheat flour and I don't think you can even
tell a difference. My husband loves these in his lunches! I stick them
in the freezer once they are cooled and then just pull out a few and
stick them frozen into a baggie into his lunch box. By lunch time, they
are thawed and ready to eat!

PicltLptr
(Picture from Marg at RecipeZaar)

Next up: Chicken Tetrazinni and Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins