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1 Nov 2011   ·   98
Money Saving Mom

Sometimes, you just have to give yourself grace… and order Subway! :)

You know how I ran a guest post all about the benefits of menu-planning last week? Well, I totally dropped the ball on menu-planning for the first two days of this week.

I had all these great visions of maybe doing an Eat From the Pantry Week and blogging about it. But I didn’t make it very far with that idea–especially after I opened my fridge and freezer and found no motivation whatsoever to pull together meals.

In fact, for the sake of complete honesty here, I’ll tell you I’ve not showered in two days nor have I made it out of my pajamas. (You will be very happy to know that I did change into another set of pajamas, so at least I had clean pajamas on, if that counts for something! :))

There were some delays with our flights coming back from Relevant and we didn’t end up making it home until after 9 p.m. on Sunday evening. So my plans for getting things unpacked, laundry started, and a to-do list made for Monday morning went straight out the window.

I slept in on Monday in an attempt to catch up on multiple nights of little sleep, got up late, and then Monday was a blur of playing catch-up and homeschooling. I had an idea for dinner, but 5 p.m. came and went without me pulling anything out of the freezer to thaw.

So guess what I did? Oh yes, I know it goes against everything I’ve preached here again and again… but I called Jesse and asked if he could pick up Subway.

I know, you probably just fell out of your chair. But it’s true.

And I decided I wasn’t even going to feel guilty about it. Instead, I enjoyed the yummy sub and decided to switch Friday night’s usual dinner out for Monday and call it even. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do and give yourself grace for doing it, instead of feeling like a failure.

However, I did make myself pull together a last-minute menu plan for the rest of the week this afternoon so that I actually had a plan at 5 p.m. tonight! Here’s my very simple menu plan for this week:

Breakfasts

Granola bars
Cereal x 2
Steel Cut Oats with dried cranberries
Pumpkin Ginger Waffles
Toasted bagels, scrambled eggs
Granola

Lunches

Hard-boiled eggs, pasta, peas
Carrots, hard-boiled eggs, granola bars
PB&J, carrot sticks, apple slices
Macaroni & Cheese, applesauce
Tossed salad hard-boiled eggs, feta cheese, and dried cranberries
Leftovers x 2

Snacks

Fruit/veggies
Chocolate Banana Bread
Cheese & Crackers

Dinners

Subway 🙂
Barbecue Chicken, potatoes, steamed veggies
Chicken Parmesan Casserole, Easy Italian Breadsticks in the Bread Machine, fruit salad
Cheesy Chicken & Rice Bake, steamed veggies, fruit
Cheese Ravioli, leftover breadsticks, fruit salad
Dinner at extended family’s house
Dinner with friends (we’re bringing a fruit salad)

Freezer Cooking

Pumpkin Ginger Waffles
Homemade Applesauce
Cheesy Chicken & Rice Bake

What’s on your menu this week? Share details and/or your link to your menu plan in the comments.

1 Nov 2011   ·   52
Money Saving Mom

The Relevant Conference: A Photo Recap

I had all these plans of blogging a short recap everyday while we were at the Relevant Conference last week. But, ahem, that plan went completely by the wayside. I got so involved in just enjoying the wonderful people who were at Relevant that it was hard to break away to even check my email or post.

However, since I had promised some recaps to many of you, here’s a one-post recap of some of the events (it would take at least 10 posts to even try and scratch the surface of all that went on and all I learned and gleaned!).

Since we were one of the Relevant sponsors, we were generously given three display tables. The problem? We don’t really have any products to sell.

However, I hated for the table space to go to waste, so I asked if we could give stuff away from some companies we love and have worked with in the past. The Relevant coordinators kindly gave us permission to do that, so we contacted a few companies and asked if they’d be willing to send free items for us to give away.

Well, let me tell you, we were blown away by the generosity of these companies. In fact, we were a little overwhelmed to arrive at the hotel and have 30 boxes of free stuff waiting for us to go through and organize. Gratefully, I’d brought my assistant, Erika, along and she transformed the 30 boxes into a beautiful display.

I was worried about what we were going to do with all the freebies and whether or not we’d really be able to get rid of everything. Well, I should have known better. As soon as the 250 bloggers attending the conference showed up for dinner, our table was pretty well mobbed. It was so much fun to get to be the bearer of freebies. It felt a little like blogging about freebies, only I got to hand-deliver them this time.

People kept asking, “Is all of this really free?” And then they’d go pass the word that we had free stuff and it was going fast!

The planners from Home Educating Family were especially big hits. Erika and I could hardly keep the stack stocked. And long after we were completely out, people kept coming back asking if we had anymore left.

My publisher also offered to give away a free pre-release copy of my upcoming book, The Money Saving Mom®’s Budget, to every blogger who was willing to sign up and do a review on their blog. I was so humbled and blessed at how excited everyone was about the release of my book. Dozens upon dozens of bloggers signed up and we ended up running out of sign-up sheets!

(You can get a little sneak peek of my book’s cover here. It’s now available for pre-order on Amazon.com, too, for those who have been asking to see what it’s going to look like! I can hardly wait for the release date in January!)

One of the best parts of the whole event was getting to introduce bloggers to some of my favorite products and companies — like The Imagination Station books, All You magazines, Tropical Traditions coconut oil, and Marie-Madeline Studios products. My sister even made a bunch of bars of homemade soap that I gave out–which people loved!

Friday afternoon, I hosted the first official Money Saving Mom® Reader Meet-Up. While there were some hiccups and some last-minute scrambling (thanks to those of you who came early and patiently endured me running around like a chicken with my head cut off!), it turned out incredibly well.

I was so blessed in meeting all of the amazing women who came. I laughed until I cried at how hilariously funny you all were during the games. I was touched deeply with your stories that you came up and shared with me individually at the end. And I was so humbled that many of you drove 30 to 100+ miles to attend this event.

(A group picture of the reader meet-up. Such beautiful ladies!)

Meeting these precious readers in person solidified something I’ve long believed: I have the best readers on the planet. It’s hard to describe in words just how much of a blessing my readers are to me on a daily basis. And I can’t wait to do more get-togethers in 2012 in other parts of the country so I can meet more of you face-to-face!

31 Oct 2011   ·   41
Money Saving Mom

20 Things You Can Do With Others for Little or No Money

Guest post by Lacey

One of the things motherhood has taught me–besides how much I love my daughter–is to value community. Yes, my baby girl is great, and I adore spending time with her, but time with other moms is incredibly important for the heart and soul. Too much time in isolation, and I find myself growing discouraged, impatient, and less likely to embrace the goodness I have been given.

Spending time with other women who are in the same spot in life provides encouragement and perspective. But, if you’re not careful, meeting up with someone else or a group can turn expensive quickly. It’s easy to say, “Meet me for lunch,” or, “Let’s get coffee,” and not think about how much money you’ll be spending.

So, here is a list of 20 things you can do with others for little or no money that still allow you to find the community that we all need:

1. Go to a park and enjoy a pretty day.

2. See if your city has a Science Spectrum. In the city where we just moved, a year long membership costs just $5 a month–and I can invite another adult woman for free, as long as our children are under age three.

3. Make your own coffee and invite someone over. If you want to make it extra special, try making some homemade syrups or your own lattes.

4. Rent a redbox movie and pop your own popcorn.

5. Walk around the neighborhood and enjoy a pretty day.

6. Do potluck lunch. Suppers are often hard to do (and that’s family time), but a potluck lunch with several friends could be a lot of fun!

7. Have a dessert buffet: everyone brings one snack or sweet to share! (This could be a lot of fun around Christmas time!)

8. Start a book club.

9. Have a baby sitting circle–one mom watches the other kids while the other moms shop or run errands.

10. Have a baking day and get caught up on all of your baking for the month.

11. Take a picnic.

12. Take a nature walk with all your children.

13. Walk the mall (and window shop!).

14. Visit a museum.

15. Hold a craft party, or any other “skill:” knitting, photography, etc.

16. Make brunch.

17. Have a weekly/monthly group where each member takes a turn teaching the others how to do something.

18. Start a blogging group.

19. Plan menus together.

20. Create an accountability group.

To Remember:

::It doesn’t matter what you do. The point is to build a community of people that helps you stay encouraged and in the proper perspective.

::In order for this to happen, the people with whom you are in community (yourself included) need to be real, vulnerable, and honest. This is the surest way to build solid community.

::As well, each person needs to be willing to be sensitive to the needs of others—listen at least as much as you talk (if not more). Keep your eyes out for new people to include–remembering that you were once where they were!

What are your best tips for finding and building community, without spending a lot of money?

Lacey lives in Lubbock, Texas with her husband, Kade, and sweet daughter, Selah, where they work at Redeemer Church. She regularly captures her musings on all things related to being wife, mommy, and recipient of grace at her blog. There’s usually a cup of coffee involved.

photo credit

29 Oct 2011   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

The Importance of Saving for A Rainy Day


Testimony from Mauree who blogs at Today is Sweeter

When my husband and I got married almost three years ago, I was in the process of paying off numerous credit cards, a small school loan, and a car loan. Though I had made tremendous headway, we still had close to $8,000 to pay off when it was all said and done.

As a result of my husband’s personal commitment to saving before we were married, we were able to pay off all but the car loan within days of coming back from our honeymoon. The car loan was paid off a few months later after we had “packed” some more away. That left us completely, 100% debt free!

Because we had been debt-free for that first year of marriage and saving on a monthly basis, we were able to purchase a house and take advantage of the First Time Home Buyer’s Credit. We received a check for $8,000 a few months after closing on our home. While it was tempting (okay, really tempting!) to splurge on new furniture and home upgrades, we decided to simply leave those funds in our savings account as an emergency fund and to do any decorating and small home improvements out of what we were saving monthly.

Saving for a rainy day was hard at times, but because of our resolve to stay debt-free and to save for the future, we were blessed to have the ability to pay cash for three unexpected expenses over this past summer. That “rainy day” certainly came!

During a morning thunderstorm, a large tree fell on our deck leaving us with tree removal and deck repair costs. A week or so later the 25-year-old oven that came with the house gave up the ghost and had to be replaced. And while we knew our home would be in need of a new roof when we bought it, replacing it came sooner than planned and had to come out of our savings account this summer as well.

While it would have been easy to spend that “free” money on the non-essentials, I’m so thankful that we chose to save it. By choosing saving over spending, we have the peace that those unexpected expenses are paid in full and we have not gone into debt to meet those needs.

Maureen Polderman is a stay-at-home mom, private piano instructor, and writer of the blog Today Is Sweeter. She and her husband Josh have one son, Blake, and live in Wyoming, Michigan. They are striving to live debt-free and cherishing the sweet days God gives them!

photo credit

28 Oct 2011   ·   38
Money Saving Mom

10 Things I Learned From My First Attempt at Freezer Cooking

Guest post by Jessica from The Abundant Wife

I have been following Money Saving Mom® for over a year now, and I have long been curious about the concept of Freezer Cooking. As I was creating my meal plan for this week, I looked on Crystal’s website for some Freezer Cooking Recipes. It was then that I realized that her recipes were not all that different from recipes that I already use. This was a new idea to me!

Then I reviewed her instructions for how to begin Freezer Cooking. I had always imagined Crystal gathering with her friends to cook all their meals for the month together.  I was surprised to see that Freezer Cooking can be done any time of day, and does not require a team of cooks.  Here are the top ten things I learned from Freezer Cooking for the first time:

1. Freezer Cooking can be done using what you already have in your kitchen, with recipes your family already enjoys.

That big pot of soup you made for dinner? Just freeze the leftovers in individual meal sizes, and pop it in the freezer. Voila! Now you’re freezer cooking!

2. Freezer Cooking can be done at any time during the day.

I made my soup for dinner, and prepared Mexican rice (to freeze) at the same time.

3. Freezer Cooking reduces anxiety.

You don’t have to experience stress at 5 p.m., wondering what to make for dinner or if you’ll have time to cook it.

4. Freezer Cooking simplifies meal planning.

When you are making your weekly meal-plan and grocery list, you can count on some meals already in your freezer.

5. Freezer Cooking reduces waste.

You don’t have to worry about food spoiling before you can cook it, or about running out of an ingredient before you can use it.

6. Freezer Cooking and using Supercook.com is a great way to utilize what’s already in your pantry.

You can list your current ingredients in your free Supercook account, and the website will give you hundreds of recipes based on what you already have. Choose one to cook, and then freeze it for later!

7. Freezer Cooking is great if you have children who grow impatient while you’re cooking.

By planning ahead, I can cook during a quieter time of the day. With a meal in the freezer, I can spend less time on food prep and more time with my kids.

8. Freezer Cooking will save you clean-up time all week long.

My husband loves this part. He usually washes the dinner dishes, so Freezer Cooking means less work for him!

9. Freezer Cooking gives you more opportunities to be generous.

Once you have food prepared, it’s easier to offer a meal to someone in need.

10. Freezer Cooking saves money!

You’ll be less likely to buy more expensive convenience foods at the last minute when you have a meal in the freezer ready to go.

I could keep talking all day, but I’ve got to go defrost our dinner. 

Jessica’s family of four just moved 2,700 miles from Maryland to California for her husband’s new job. When she’s not freezer cooking, you’ll find her blogging at The Abundant Wife about faith, family, and finances.

photo credit

27 Oct 2011   ·   65
Money Saving Mom

How to Make Freezer Cooking Work When You Have a Busy Schedule

Guest post by Melissa from Mom’s Plans

By the time my second child was born, I was a die-hard freezer cooking mama. I had my freezer cooking session every month, and we ate meals from the freezer every week. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

After my third child was born, I relied on freezer cooking even more. I followed Crystal at Money Saving Mom® and Jessica at Life as Mom and had my freezer cooking day on the same weekend everyone else did. I loved feeling like I was part of a freezer cooking community.

But then I quit my outside job so I could stay home. Without my income, our family could not make ends meet, but I was willing to sacrifice so I could be home with our kids.

We trimmed our budget, but I still found it necessary to bring in some money, so I began to do work as a freelance writer and virtual assistant in the evenings when my kids were sleeping. God does provide, and slowly more and more work trickled in until I was making enough to supplement our budget so that it finally balanced every month.

However, I was no longer able to get all of the work done in two to three hours at night. My husband watched the kids on the weekend so I could go someplace quiet and write for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday in addition to my evening work time.

My weekend work time was when my freezer cooking time used to be. I could no longer find a place to fit a large freezer cooking session, and I was growing frustrated. Shortly before this, Crystal admitted that having a freezer cooking day was no longer working for her, and she turned to freezer cooking in an hour.

I loved the concept! Seeing Crystal’s flexibility created a new way of thinking for me. Instead of stressing about not being able to freezer cook, I gave myself permission to realize that in this season of life, it was no longer working for me.

The five o’clock hour with three small children still gets crazy, so I had to come up with another plan. Now, I prepare our meals based on the week. If it has been a chaotic week, then on the weekend I do what I can which may be only prepping some foods such as veggies to make dinners easier on the week nights.

Last weekend I had time to prep all of our upcoming meals for the week night and put four additional meals in the freezer. This will give me some leeway when I have another chaotic week. Other times I cook all week long, but I double each recipe so I have five new meals in the freezer for another week. In short, I do what I can, and it seems to be working.

Here are some of my favorite meals to put together quickly:

  • Tacos – We make up a large batch of taco meat and put some in the freezer to pull out on a busy night. This meal is great because it takes no more energy to prep five batches of taco meat instead of one meal size serving.
  • Chili – I love meals that I can double and put in the slow cooker. I just put one in the freezer to save for another night.
  • Chicken “Dump” Packages – Simply put the chicken breasts in a freezer bag with the sauce of your choosing. Put this in the refrigerator to use later in the week or put it in the freezer – Simply toss it in the slow cooker in the morning.
  • Meatloaf – I make three batches of meatloaf, bake them, and put two in the freezer for later.

Don’t forget if you work outside the home to take some of these meals and put them in the freezer in single serving packages. They make quick, nutritious lunches and will save you a bundle.

Also, I love to cook up a bag of dry beans and put the extra in the freezer. I just pull them out when I am cooking; it is like using canned beans without the extra price and sodium.

Thanks to Crystal’s inspiration, I have modified my cooking plans, which has lifted my guilt and made me feel less tense about meal preparations. It is still busy around our house, buy I am much more relaxed about feeding my family.

Melissa is a work-at-home mom to three little ones ages 7, 2, and 1. She blogs at Mom’s Plans where she shares her family’s desire to learn to live a fulfilling life on less.

photo credit

27 Oct 2011   ·   29
Money Saving Mom

My attempt to re-purpose a t-shirt into a knit bracelet

Ever since I posted this knit bracelet, I’ve wanted to try it making it. So this past Saturday, I pulled out a t-shirt from the rag bag and got to cutting.

I initially was going to do the four-finger knitting, but that didn’t go so well. I settled on the two-finger knitting and that was much easier.

After two tries, I finally ended up with a decent finished product. The girls were especially impressed that I made that out of an old stained shirt!

Speaking of knitting, here’s my latest dishcloth. Slowly but surely, I’m seeing some improvement in my stitches–and that’s encouraging to this not-crafty-at-all gal. 🙂

27 Oct 2011   ·   100
Money Saving Mom

Why I Don’t Buy Taco Seasoning Packets

Guest post by Heather from Feel Good About Dinner

Premixed spice packets and sauces promote convenience, but are they really saving you time? If you knew you could get the same (or better) results by adding just a few spices to the pot, would you still buy them?

It is a lot easier than you may think. In fact, once you learn how to use your own spices, you will wonder why you ever bought those little packets.

Not only is it easy to use your own spices, but a lot cheaper. An average spice packet costs anywhere from $0.50 to $2. That sounds pretty cheap, but when you consider that it is only for one meal, it really adds up.

Basic spices can be purchased in generic varieties for $0.50 to $1–or even cheaper if you buy from a bulk food store. These can be used for several meals or even dozens of meals.

For example, I could buy a taco-seasoning packet for $0.50 on sale for one meal, or I could buy $3 worth of spices and make more than 20 taco/Mexican dishes. Multiply that by all of the different mixes we buy, and that is a huge savings over time.

Not only is it easy and inexpensive to season your own dishes, it’s also healthier and tastier. Spice packets add a lot of extra salt, empty calories, and mystery ingredients. In addition, seasoning dishes yourself doesn’t lock you into one flavor, but allows you to adjust the flavor of the dish to your taste.

I have known people who even used both seasoning packets and spices. The packet doesn’t provide enough flavor for them, so they add extra oregano or crushed red pepper. They could have skipped the spice packet all together and just added their favorite spices.

While it can be a time and sanity-saver for some people to pre-make baggies of seasonings, I’ve found it’s easier for me to just have the spices on hand and add them in to a recipe as I need them.

Not sure where to start when making substituting homemade seasoning for seasoning packets? The following is a list of basic spices to keep stocked in your pantry and the types of dishes for which they are used:

Italian Spices
Oregano
Basil
Thyme
Fresh Garlic

Mexican Spices
Chili Powder
Crushed Red Pepper
Cumin
Fresh Garlic

Miscellaneous Spices
Rosemary: Pork, Broth
Sage: Stuffing, Sausage
Cinnamon
Paprika
Garlic Salt

For additional help, find a good homemade spaghetti sauce recipe to learn Italian spices and a taco-seasoning recipe to learn Mexican spices. Think of these recipes as a method and not just a recipe. Once you learn how to use your own spices, it will open up a whole new window of creativity in your kitchen.

Heather lives in a Detroit suburb with her husband, Mark, and two boys, Jonathan (15) and David (10). Heather is a full-time wife and mother and a part-time substitute teacher. Heather shares how to make delicious, healthy meals for the family that are time and budget friendly at Feel Good About Dinner.

26 Oct 2011   ·   251
Save money without even changing your spending habits! These are GREAT ideas!

3 Ways You Can Save Money Without Changing Your Spending

Save money without even changing your spending habits! These are GREAT ideas!

Guest post by Rebekah

A frugal lifestyle is more than just refusing to spend money or going after the best deal. It is about being a good steward with all of your resources. Some people are unwilling or unable to change their spending budget. That doesn’t mean they can’t be frugal.

Here are three ways you can save money without changing your spending:

1. Use Less

There are some things that you just have to buy, but if you use a little less of them, you’ll stretch those products further. It is better to go back for a little more shampoo than to use too much to begin with!

Here are some ideas for things you can experiment with to see how little you can actually use while still getting the job done:

  • shampoo/conditioner
  • toothpaste
  • laundry detergent
  • hand soap
  • dish detergent
  • lotion
  • toilet paper
  • milk – in your cereal or coffee
  • electricity – Turn off lights and other devices when you’re not using them.
  • heat – Use a blanket, sweater, or hot drink to warm up.
  • baby wipes – Tear them in half and only use what you need.
  • gas – Crystal shared 15 ways to save money on gasoline here and here.
  • water – Turn off water when possible, take shorter showers, or recycle “gray” water.

2. Use it All

Don’t waste what you’ve already paid for! I shudder just thinking about how much money I’m “throwing away” each time I clean out my refrigerator. Food is the most obvious thing people struggle to use completely, but there are more.

Here are some ways you can be sure to get your money’s worth out of products by using all of it:

  • Keep a container in your freezer for leftover veggies that you can add to regularly. Then when the container is full, make soup.
  • Swish some water in your “empty” shampoo/conditioner bottle to get out the last drops.
  • Freeze over ripe bananas to use for baking or Crystal’s chocolate banana smoothies.
  • Peel off that last annoying, glued-to-the-roll square of toilet paper and add it to the next roll.
  • Cut the tops off your “empty” toothpaste, face wash, and lotion to access some hidden product. There is more left in there than you think!
  • Save stale bread for making bread crumbs or go on a duck feeding adventure.

3. Use it Twice

There are some things that you can truly only use once. That dab of toothpaste on your toothbrush? Yeah, I’d love to see you try to use that again! Then there are other things that really can be used again and it will save you money in the long run.

Here are some things around your house that can use twice or more:

  • laundry – Do a sniff test. If it passes, then what’s the harm in wearing it again?
  • paper towels – Do you use one to cover your food in the microwave? Use it over & over or use it as your napkin for that meal.
  • tin foil – Did you cover a dish without it getting messy? Fold it up & save it.
  • old t-shirts – Cut them into rags or make a necklace.
  • gift bags – Use them for a future gift. If they are too wrinkled or ugly you can use them to carry things around.
  • gift bows – Put a piece of tape on the back and use them over and over.
  • tissue paper – Did you know that you can iron tissue paper?
  • plastic food storage bags – I don’t recommend doing this with meat, but you can wash and reuse bags several times.
  • plastic grocery bags – Use them in small trash cans, to pick up behind your dog on walks, or as a “wet bag” in your diaper bag.
  • q-tips – If you use one end for touching up your make-up, save it to use the other end next time.
  • birthday candles & decorations – They are used for such a short time. Why not save them for the next birthday?
  • disposable swim diapers – Put swim diapers in your laundry and use them several times before throwing them out.

You don’t have to be a coupon queen or a penny pincher to save some cash! Those things certainly help, but when you’ve done everything you can to save money, try these three tactics to stretch your dollar even further.

What suggestions do you have for getting the most out of your products?

Rebekah is a stay-at-home mom who blogs about frugal lifestyle tips, going green baby steps, and all of life in between at SimplyRebekah.com.

All photos by Simply Rebekah.


26 Oct 2011   ·   61

Simple & Easy Autumn Meals on a Budget

Make a Hot Breakfast in Minutes

In the colder months, there’s just nothing that beats waking up to a hot breakfast. But you don’t have to get up in the wee hours of the morning to pull it off.

You can take a half hour one weekend and make a quadruple batch of Freezer-Friendly Baked Oatmeal. Then, you can pull out a pan of it the night before you plan to serve it.

Or, mix together all the dry ingredients for my Baking Mix and then use it to make Cinnamon Roll Biscuits in just 10 minutes or less. If your family loves waffles or pancakes, you can mix all the dry ingredients for your favorite recipe ahead of time and then just add the wet ingredients at the last minute, saving you prep time.

I’ve also mixed up pancake or waffle batter a day or two ahead of time and refrigerated it and used it in the morning. It gets a little thicker, but it still works well. If need be, you can always add a little extra water or milk to thin it down.

If you’re on the run a lot and don’t have time to sit down for breakfast, try Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos. You can assemble them on the weekend and freeze them and then just pull one or two out and zap in the microwave before heading out the door. They are delicious and so much better for you and less expensive than anything you’ll find at McDonald’s.

Have some extra time? Wow your family with these Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls or amazing Pumpkin Scones.

Double the Pot of Soup

Soup is one of the best antidotes for chilly weather. I like to make a big pot of Hamburger Vegetable Soup or Three Bean Chili Chowder to use for multiple meals that week. If your family doesn’t mind eating the same thing more than once in a week, this might work well for you, too. If not, you can freeze half the pot and save it to serve again in a few weeks.

Serve some yummy Homemade Bread, Bread Machine Buttery rolls, or World’s Best Honey Cornbread and you’ve got a nutritious and scrumptious meal that will fill everyone’s tummies up without costing you an arm or a leg.

Use Your Crockpot

The sooner you can become friends with your crockpot, the easier your life will be. If you’ve never used the crockpot before, start with something really easy like my Italian Chicken Recipe. If you don’t want to mess with freezing this ahead of time, just dump the bag of frozen chicken and the bottle of dressing into the crockpot and cook on high for 4-6 hours. You can also do the same idea with your favorite barbecue sauce to make barbecued chicken in the crockpot.

Crockpots aren’t just good for quick and easy main dishes. You can also make Applesauce, Apple Butter, Pumpkin Puree, and even yogurt in your crockpot. For hundreds of other crockpot recipes and ideas, see the Crockpot 365 blog.

What are your favorite quick, easy, and inexpensive autumn meal ideas? I’d love to hear!

This post was brought to you by T-Mobile. America’s Largest 4G Network — Now faster than ever. Click here for more details.

25 Oct 2011   ·   119
Money Saving Mom

Cooking with Leftovers

Guest post by Jenna from Wichita Coupons

I know this is something that many of you already do and it is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time, but just could not quite get used to the idea of it. But, I’m happy to say that my husband and I have started cooking with leftovers.

I can’t tell you how many times we would make dinner only to have food left over. We would put it away in Tupperware and toss it in the refrigerator with every intention of eating it. However, a few days or even a week would pass and we would end up throwing it out.

I know, I know! This goes against my saving money policy, but let’s face it: some things just don’t taste very good when reheated.

Last night was our second attempt at cooking with leftovers. On our first attempt, we used leftover grilled chicken drumsticks. I pulled all of the chicken off of the bone and we used some of it for chicken enchiladas and put the rest in freezer bags for casseroles. It was a great success.

Last night, however, we decided to use our leftover burgers from a party this past weekend. I looked online for different options and many people suggested freezing them and just eating them as burgers later. But we decided to break up the patties and make Sloppy Joes. This way, we used both the burgers and buns.

They were quite delicious, thanks to the amazing sauce my husband made. Tonight, we’re going to make sloppy joe quesadillas; we’ll just add some cheese and put the Sloppy Joe meat between tortillas. We still have hamburger patties left, so later this week we will probably use them to make chili.

I know we are not making anything gourmet here, but we are using what we have and not letting it go to waste. I’m excited to see what else we’ll be able to come up with and I look forward to no longer having to clean out the refrigerator and throwing away perfectly good food.

What are some of your family’s favorite leftover meals?

Jenna is mom to two, soon to be three, and loves finding great deals and ways to save money. She currently shares all of her money saving ideas and bargains at Wichita Coupons.

photo credit

25 Oct 2011   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

Ask Jesse: How do you feel about keeping life insurance as a form of inheritance?

My husband and I are currently switching our life insurance policies from whole life to term, thus resulting in better coverage for the same premium. We are wondering how you felt about keeping our life insurance as a form of inheritance for our three children (our youngest has severe autism). We are in our lower 40’s.

I understand the premium will go up as we grow older but we want to insure that all of our children, especially our son with a disability, is covered. He also has a special needs trust. – a reader

I applaud you for taking the bull by the horns and thinking long-term. It is not often that people, when still younger, not only think about but make preparations for the care of their children, in the event of your death.

I think it is important for anyone, whatever their age, if they have dependents, to make sure to have a lawfully executed will with guardians set up for their dependents. So many people do not have this and, instead, leave it to the state to determine who gets what and who takes care of the children, if both parents are gone.

The purpose of life insurance is to make sure your children have something to take care of them for their support and maintenance when you die. It should actually be called “death insurance” or “care insurance” but that is beside the point.

Because you have a special needs child, it sounds like you have done the necessary estate planning to make sure he is cared for with a special needs trust. This trust can be funded with life insurance by naming the trust as beneficiary of the life insurance. The trustee would then disperse and manage the money according to the terms of the trust, while the other children would be named as beneficiaries and get the money outright (unless they are minors at the time).

If you did not have the trust set up by an estate planning attorney, I would highly recommend it and have them look at the methods of funding. Most trusts go unfunded and the last thing you would want is to have this special trust not funded properly and your child not benefit from your planning. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

That said, while at this point you can fund with that life insurance, your goal should be to fund it with other assets developed over time so you don’t just have to rely on the life insurance–especially if that life insurance is the term insurance. While you could always reapply for term insurance, which is wise to do when the term gets close to being up, it would be good to have a real asset there to fund the trust if that life insurance is no longer available.

Thus, I do not think that it is necessary for you to keep both the whole life and the term policies going simultaneously, especially when you can get quite a bit more insurance for the price of the whole life with term insurance. The term should work just fine as long as you keep on the ball with estate planning.

Again, I would recommend you talk with an estate planning attorney in your state to make sure all i’s are dotted and t’s crossed.

Jesse Paine is a licensed attorney who owns his own law firm. He’s married to Crystal and is the numbers nerd of the MoneySavingMom.com team! If you have a question you’d like him to answer in a future column, you can submit it here.

The content of this column intended for informational use only and is not to be construed as providing legal, investing, accounting, or other professional advice. Your situation is factually specific and you should accordingly seek qualified professional counsel concerning your specific legal, investing or accounting needs.

25 Oct 2011   ·   111

Homemade Go-Gurts

Update: The recipe for Homemade Yogurt in the Crockpot is here.

Guest post by Angie

My kids barely know what a Go-Gurt is, but since I’ve been making yogurt by the crockpot full, I thought making homemade yogurt tubes would be a fun way to eat it up as well as travel with.

First, I made a batch of yogurt in my crockpot (I add in 3/4 cup powdered milk to the initial milk to improve the consistency). Milk in my area is about $3/gallon and I usually use a half-gallon, so between the milk and the two other ingredients I used (3/4 cup powdered milk and ½ cup yogurt), I estimate it costs me about $2 for a half gallon of yogurt.

I divided it into four different bowls and added one of the following to each bowl:

* Strawberry jam (1/2 cup) and sugar (1/4 cup)
* Chocolate pudding mix (1 small box)
* Vanilla pudding mix (1 small box)
* Lime juice (1/4 cup) and sugar (1/4 cup)

(Two of the flavors)

Then, I put ½ cup of the flavored yogurt in a SNACK-size baggie and squeezed out the air.  I folded it over and secured it with tape.  After laying them down flat on a cookie sheet (shown is a mini bar pan), I put them in the freezer.

When they were frozen, I cut off the end with some scissors and my kids (and I) did a happy dance.

I made 22 “go-gurts” from the batch of yogurt and they came out to be about $.09/piece.

You can also make homemade popsicles with these ingredients, but in the baggies, they were basically spill-proof and easy to travel with—which is what I was hoping for!

Angie is a homeschooling mom of four, a lover of the Lord, coffee, books (including Quickbooks), and all things frugal and DIY.

24 Oct 2011   ·   62
Money Saving Mom

10 Weekly Goals

So, slowly but surely, I’m making progress in the right direction around here. I’m still far from where I want to be, but I’m encouraged that I’ve been getting more sleep, I’ve been spending more quality time just enjoying my husband and children (which is hard for a Type A chained-to-the-to-do-list gal like me to do!), the house is staying cleaner, the laundry pile is not a permanent fixture in our bedroom, and I’ve just been feeling more overall balance in my life.

Now if I could just be more consistent about running and not try to read five books in one week, I think I’d be doing really good. 🙂

Here are last week’s goals:

Family/Mothering Goals

1. Finish reading Paul Revere and The Imagination Station: Showdown With the Shepherd aloud to the children.

2. Take children to a soccer game.

3. Take at least 30 pictures of the children this week (I’ve been trying to train myself to take more pictures; I always seem to forget and then we miss having photos of some of our most special moments and memories!)

Personal Goals

4. Run 10 miles (total). {Um, should I confess that I ran a total of 3 miles last week? Yes, almost a complete fail, I know.}

5. Finish reading The Rose Conspiracy. Still working on EntreLeadership, The Rose Conspiracy, He Heard Hannah, Kisses from Katie, and In Search of Balance.

6. Finish Rag Quilt and knitted dishcloth. {I tried so hard to do the Rag Quilt on my own, but apparently it is way beyond my meager sewing abilities because I jammed my machine multiple times and basically made a big mess of things. So I’ve decided to bring in “professional help” (e.g. a friend with much more sewing experience!) to help me finish this long overdue project!}

7. Go to bed by 10:30 p.m. every night. {I did this 4 nights so that’s progress, right?!}

Home Management Goals

8. Follow this 15-minutes-a-day cleaning schedule {I almost followed it, but I didn’t completely complete two of the days, so I can’t cross it off.}

9. Do one load of laundry from start to finish every day. {Again, I did this all but two days.}

Business Goals

10. Finish writing and do a run-through of our workshop the Relevant conference with my husband.

This Week’s Goals:

Here are last week’s goals:

Family/Mothering Goals

1. Read Did You Carry the Flag Today, Charley? aloud to the children.

2. Make Johnny Cakes with the children.

3. Wrap some fun surprises for the children to open while I’m at Relevant.

Personal Goals

4. Finish reading EntreLeadership, He Heard Hannah, Kisses from Katie, Getting Things Done, and In Search of Balance.

5. Get 8 hours of sleep Sunday through Wednesday nights (in preparation for short nights at Relevant).

6. Take extra Vitamin C. (Last year, I came back from Relevant and was sick for almost a week, so I’m trying to make sure I’m well-rested and all “vitamined-up” this year so that I can hopefully avoid getting sick!)

Home Management Goals

7. Get all the laundry done and the house clean before I leave.

8. Make homemade ranch dressing (my friend made a mix up for me. I’ll share the recipe later this week.)

Business Goals

9. Attend/speak at the Relevant conference.

10. Host a reader meet-up in Harrisburg, PA for around 50 local readers.

photo credit

How did you do on last week’s goals? What are your goals for this week? I’d love to have you share your progress on last week’s goals and your goals for this coming week in the comments. Of, if you’ve blogged about it, leave your direct link below. Let’s cheer each other on to live purposeful and productive lives!

You can download a free customizable weekly goal-planning sheet here.