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17 Oct 2011   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

Simple Things: Crayons, coloring pages, and letters to our Compassion child

I’m continuing to intentionally seek to slow down and relish the simple things.

Pictures printed out from the internet and carefully colored by little hands to send to a small girl who lives far away and has very little in the way of earthly possessions.

Have you taken time from the rat-race of life to soak up and enjoy some simple things? I loved this post by Gretchen on not looking at the clock.

17 Oct 2011   ·   108
Money Saving Mom

10 Goals for this week (+ a link-up!)

Well, last week I told you that I’d completely fallen off the bandwagon. This past week was much better. Not anywhere near where I’d like it to be, but sometimes I think I tend to have unrealistic expectations of myself.

I went to bed before midnight every night but Saturday night and I got up before 7 a.m. every morning but Sunday morning. That’s headway, at least.

And our homeschooling schedule went really well, we accomplished a lot fun projects and reading together, and I spent a lot more time playing with and just enjoying my children last week. That’s likely one thousand times more important than the other things that didn’t get crossed off the to-do list!

So I’m trying to just be thankful for the progress made and not be discouraged that I still have a very long way to go. Babysteps, babysteps, right? 🙂

Last week’s goals:

Family/Mothering Goals

1. Finish reading The Cabin Faced West and Sarah Witcher’s Story aloud to the children.

2. Take the children to the pumpkin patch and the corn maze (Yay for Groupons!).

Personal Goals

3. Run 10 miles (total).

4. Finish reading Angel in the Rubble and A New Kind of Normal. Still working on EntreLeadership, The Rose Conspiracy, He Heard Hannah,

5. Finish Rag Quilt and knitted dishcloth.

6. Go to bed by 10 p.m. every night. (If I follow through with this simple goal, my whole week should be incredibly improved!)

Home Management Goals

7. Spend 10 minutes picking up/cleaning our bedroom/bathroom every day (I’ve really been working with the children on keeping their room/bathroom cleaned and I realized that I’ve not been setting the best example for them!).

8. Do one load of laundry from start to finish every day.

Business Goals

9. Shoot video for 31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget series.

10. Outline our workshop for the Relevant conference with my husband.

The knitted dishcloth I’m working on this week

Here are this 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).

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

6. Finish Rag Quilt and knitted dishcloth.

7. Go to bed by 10:30 p.m. every night.

Home Management Goals

8. Follow this 15-minutes-a-day cleaning schedule (this is an experiment to see if this works any better than my current system!)

9. Do one load of laundry from start to finish every day.

Business Goals

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

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.

17 Oct 2011   ·   43
Money Saving Mom

25 Ways to Wear a Scarf (video)

As many of you know, I love scarves and think they are one of the best accessories for a minimalist wardrobe in the cooler months.

My friend, Angie, knows this and sent me this video with 25 ways to tie a scarf. I found at least 10 new scarf-tying ideas from it and thought I’d share it for those of you looking for new ways to creatively accessorize using scarves you already have!

14 Oct 2011   ·   73

Homemade Baked Apple Chips

After buying 18 pounds of apples two weeks ago and another 20 pounds this week, I was excited to see this recipe on Pinterest for Baked Apple Chips.

Since I don’t have an apple corer, I decided to cut the apples in half, cut out the core, and then slice them thinly.

And then I found out I didn’t have any cinnamon on hand (how did that happen?!), so I sprinkled one pan with nutmeg and cloves and left one pan unsprinkled. I stuck them in the oven at 275 degrees. After around an hour, I pulled the pans out and stirred them and then put them back in to bake for another hour.

They turned out a little on the chewy side. If you wanted them to be crispier, you could leave them to bake for another 20-30 minutes and then let them cool completely before eating or storing.

The final result was yummy apple chips that didn’t last longer than 24 hours. The whole family was impressed and enjoyed them.

I stored those that weren’t eaten right away in a ziptop bag in the refrigerator, I think these would also freeze nicely, but I didn’t get a chance to try that before they were all eaten up!

By the way, we preferred the unsprinkled chips to those sprinkled with spices.

(Today’s apple project was making homemade applesauce and apple butter. I’ll share pictures and more details on how that went on Monday! By the way, I cracked up that LEGOs ended up in this picture–they seem to be taking over our house!)

14 Oct 2011   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

Books Read This Week: A New Kind of Normal, Angel in the Rubble, The Cabin Faced West, Sarah Witcher’s Story

Many of you have asked me to share reviews of the books I read. I used to do this on a monthly basis, but I decided it might be simpler for me to start doing this on a weekly basis instead. So, each Friday, I’ll be sharing a little synopsis of the books I’ve read that week.

Personal Reading

A New Kind of Normal by Carol Kent — After reading When I Lay My Isaac Down, I wanted to read this follow-up book. It has some overlap from When I Law My Isaac Down, but also a lot of new material and tells more of the continuing story of her son’s imprisonment.

Carol’s testimony of trust in the Lord even in the midst of very traumatic circumstances was such an encouragement to me. After reading her story and the other stories in the book, I feel like I never have anything to complain about.

I appreciated the author’s raw honesty. She doesn’t act like she has it altogether, but shares very openly about the struggles and how God has been faithful. This book would especially be a great source of comfort to those who have had very difficult life-altering situations come into their life.

Angel in the Rubble — This was an interesting read of a woman who was the last survivor to be pulled out of the rubble 24 hours after the twin towers fell. The story is riveting and I made the mistake of starting this shortly before bedtime one night and then stayed until until 11:30 p.m. reading it (I know, I know, I really should read boring books before bed so that I fall right to sleep and stick with my goal of going to bed early!).

I would recommend the book as it’s a good read and it’s always helpful to consider if we’re living our lives in a way that we would want to live if we were to die today. However, I will mention that the last few chapters felt like they were just stuck in to make the book long enough to be a book. Or, maybe I was just tired at that point? At any rate, I ended up skimming those. I checked this out from the library so hopefully your library has it, too.


The Cabin Faced West — This is the story of Ann, a pioneer girl who is struggling to be content in her new home in the wilderness. The children and I really enjoyed this read-aloud and it provided opportunities to talk about being content and how blessed we are with our modern conveniences.

Sarah Witcher’s Story — The children were mesmerized by this story, even though we’ve already read it in the The Bear Who Heard Crying.

Currently reading: EntreLeadership, He Heard Hannah, The Rose Conspiracy, and listening to Purple Cow audiobook. You can see all of the books I’ve read in 2011 so far here. Read all of my book reviews here.

Have you read any good books recently?

(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

14 Oct 2011   ·  
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash: A new-to-us 4-wheeler

We paid cash!
A testimony from Lacey

I am Lacey, a fresh nursing graduate with about 10 cents in my pocket. Jason and I have three amazing kids: Abigaile (7), Jacob (2), and Chase (1). Throughout our years together we have suffered many setbacks–including both of us losing our jobs (our income being cut by 80%, thanks to this) and a setback with school, graduation from school, and an additional pregnancy.

Thanks to, I’m aiming to better our lives financially. This has meant using coupons at every turn, sticking to that wonderful grocery budget, shopping ahead (which my husband thought was crazy, until he saw it on your blog!) paying cash, and even doing without.

The concept of paying cash has always been foreign to me. It only took me a bankruptcy to realize that maybe my sanity was worth more than those material possessions. I’ve been trying to pass my new-found wisdom onto my daughter by setting her up with a savings jar so that she too can see what progress she has made towards her goal.

We recently took on a paper route to supplement our income. We set up a price per day for my daughter’s assistance and told her that paycheck is hers to do what she wants with. Plus, as an added incentive, we promised we would assist her in buying whatever she wanted. She chose to buy a 4-wheeler.

I’m proud to say that after three weeks of saving her paper route money, along with a successful yard sale, we were able to raise $500 that she could use towards the purchase of her 4-wheeler. We looked on and found a 4-wheeler that looked suitable for a 7-year-old. After a trip to see it and some haggling by Jason, we were able to purchase a new to us 4-wheeler for just $200!

This experience has left not only myself but my entire family much more excited about our financial future: not only do we have a paid-for 4-wheeler, we’ve got $300 and nothing left to pay!

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

13 Oct 2011   ·   69
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking in an Hour: Brown Rice, Pinto Beans, Frito Chili Pie, Apple Chips, and Mac & Cheese With Beef

It’s hard to say whether or not this was done in an hour because I broke it up over little snippets of time during the last two days.

Yesterday morning, before school started, I boiled a big pot of pinto beans, cooked a pot of brown rice, and browned some ground beef.

After school was finished for the day, I made quadruple batch up Frito Chili Pie. We had it for dinner (it was a hit!) and I saved the rest to freeze.

This afternoon, once school was finished, I boiled a pan of noodles, took the remaining ground beef, and made Macaroni & Beef With Cheese. We served one pan for dinner and I froze enough for another meal. I also made two pans of apple chips.

Tomorrow, my plan is to start the Apple Butter in the crock pot early in the day and also, if I’m ambitious, to make a batch of homemade applesauce on the stove. I’ll post pictures of that, if I end up completing it. Sometimes my great intentions don’t end up going very far! 🙂

I’ve found that even just doubling or tripling a recipe I’m already making for dinner and then sticking the extras in the freezer really doesn’t take much extra time. And having at least a few extra dinners on hand in the freezer to pull out and use on busy days can be such a lifesaver!

13 Oct 2011   ·   24
Money Saving Mom

Simple Things: LEGOs and Apples

As I mentioned in my cookie-baking post yesterday, sometimes it’s the simplest things that can bring the most pleasure.

LEGOs are so simple, but they bring our children hours and hours of fun right now.

I love the creativity that bubbles forth when they open up the tub of LEGOs and start building.

A bag of apples purchased for $0.59 turns into a beautiful tray of red.

And then a pan of apple chips (More details on how I made these and how they turned out coming tomorrow.)

Have you taken time from the rat-race of life to soak up and enjoy some simple things? Speaking of which, if you’re a mom, be sure to read this post on the little moments.

13 Oct 2011   ·   77
Money Saving Mom

How to Spend Less Money Eating Out

Guest post by Carmen from Life Blessons

For the past two years, my husband and I have kept our monthly budget tacked up on a wall in our kitchen. It may not be the most creative of wall art, but in spite of that, we don’t even bother to hide it when guests come over, because over these past two years, that little sheet has become something of a masterpiece in our house.

You see, the other day, I realized how much I actually enjoy looking at our budget now. One category on the sheet caught my eye: our eating out budget. It was a big, fat zero.

I remembered how when we were first married, that was the category that we struggled the most with; our first month of marriage alone, we spent $376 on eating out! That was one of the main reasons we started hanging our budget on the wall in the first place.

Obviously, we have come a long way since those first days of matrimony. Through it all, we’ve grown not only in our marriage but also our financial savvy. Learning how to be content without eating out was something that took some practice, and here are some of the lessons we learned along the way:

All those little meals add up. When I look back over the spending of that first month, we weren’t dropping wads of cash at every meal. In fact, almost all of our eating-out bills were around $11 each. The most expensive meal we had the entire month was when we took a friend out to pizza and it totaled $30!

Eat out for lunch instead of dinner.
Eating out for lunch can cost considerably less than when you eat out later in the evening. Plus, you’re usually not quite as hungry, so you eat less. That right there will cut down on your spending!

Instead of going out for entire meals, go out for treats.
One thing we’ve done to trim our spending is to go out for things like ice-cream or coffee, rather than full-fledged meals. Sure, you can have coffee or ice-cream at home, but when it scratches the eating-out itch at a fraction of the price, it can be well worth the splurge!

Indulge at home.
Find meals that indulge your taste buds and make you excited to eat at home. For instance, we have a cheesy casserole dish that I like to make, which has become a favorite dish my husband looks forward to, week after week. Even though it may not be super-healthy, I’m sure it’s much more healthy than most of what you’ll find on restaurant menus. But even more than that, it keeps us eating at home–and enjoying it, all the more!

Carmen lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, with whom she just celebrated two years of marriage! She writes about her life and faith on her blog, Life Blessons.

photo credit

13 Oct 2011   ·   41
Money Saving Mom

How to Significantly Increase Your Income Without Working Harder (Part 6)

If you missed them, read the first five parts of this series here.

Two weeks ago, we talked about setting up multiple streams of income. It’s a great concept, but until you can take it from a concept and turn it into real-life practice, it won’t do anything for you.

So, how do you set up multiple streams of income?

1. Think about what you’re good at.

There’s no point in spending enormous amounts of time trying to develop or hone skills you just don’t and won’t possess. Focus on the areas you already excel in.

For instance, while I’ve been attempting to improve my domestic skills (cooking, crafts, decorating, etc.), I would be crazy to try and set up a decorating business or craft-selling website. It’s not an area I’m talented in and it would only result in a lot of frustration for me–and any potential customers!

2. Use what you already have in place.

Look for ways to make additional income from things you already have set in place. For instance, if you mow lawns as a side job, could you also offer trimming services? Or teach a class on how to set up a successful lawn-mowing business on the side?

If you’ve already written an ebook that has sold well, could you produce and market other people’s ebooks for them since you already know how to do it yourself? Or offer ebook coaching or consulting services?

Sarah Mae proved herself as a skillful ebook marketer when her ebook, 31 Days to Clean, sold over $20,000 in revenue. So, she took that knowledge and experience and wrote an ebook on how to successfully market an ebook.

Dave Ramsey was teaching his staff and their friends a weekly class on how to run a successful business. He took this class and turned it into the EntreLeadership Live Event and, just recently, the EntreLeadership book.

3. Experiment, experiment, experiment.

I recently finished listening to Seth Godin’s audiobook, Poke the Box. He challenges people to stop spending so much time researching, planning, and goal-setting. Instead, he suggests you just go out and do something. Stop staying stuck in a box; go bust through walls and make things happen.

I believe wholeheartedly that you learn much more through hands-on experimentation than you can ever learn through reading about something or taking a class about it.

4. Always be looking for new income streams.

If you get a few income streams going, it’s easy to become complacent. Of course, if you land on things that really are working well, don’t jump ship. But don’t also get stuck in a rut. Constantly challenge yourself to look for new ways to improve and expand your current income streams so that you are maximizing the return on your investment of time.

5. Remember that failure is your friend.

The truth is, if you jump out and try anything you are bound to fail at least a few times, maybe even time and time again. If you stop looking at failure as a dead-end and start seeing it as a window of opportunity, you’re well on your way to success.

Don’t give up. It will be worth the 99 tries, when you finally hit on the hundredth amazing idea!

Next week, we’ll wrap up this series with some closing thoughts. If you have any specific questions I’ve not tackled in this series, feel free to comment and ask them (or shoot me an email) and I’ll try to answer them in next week’s post.

photo credit

12 Oct 2011   ·   23
Money Saving Mom

Cookie-Baking Fun

My sister came over today and made cookies and had a tea party with the children. They had so much fun and seeing their smiles and giggles over a simple peanut butter cookie recipe and chocolate chips reminded, yet again, that it’s often the little things that bring children so much joy.

I’ve been trying to intentionally focus more on soaking up the simple moments this week. Taking longer to snuggle and cuddle and look into their eyes. Laughing and loving these precious little ones who are quickly growing up. Rejoicing in their successes. Encouraging them in their difficulties. And most of all, just reminding myself that my to-do list can always wait until tomorrow.

By the way, thank you for your encouragement on Monday when I shared about falling off the bandwagon. It’s been a much better week and I’ve been amazed at what a difference it makes to go to bed an hour (or two!) earlier. Speaking of which, it’s past my bedtime, so I’d better scoot… 🙂

12 Oct 2011   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: How We Saved $800 on Flights

Here’s a great tip submitted by Bethany:

We have out-of-state family. While they take turns coming to see us, inevitably we need and want to go visit them. Our flights go from Seattle to Indianapolis and tickets usually come to $400 per person if we book early.

We found that Seattle-Minneapolis and Seattle-Atlanta fights are constantly overbooked. The airlines do this to insure a fully booked flight, because they expect some cancellations. When they do not receive cancellations as expected, they ask for passengers to give up their seat in exchange for ticket vouchers.

We took advantage of this not too long ago and found the travel time difference to our destination was only two hours. The $800 savings was well worth two hours of our time! Plus, on the rest of the trip, we enjoyed complementary first class.

While this worked out well for us, there are some considerations if you want to try this yourself:

1. Be quick to respond. With the economy as it is, there may be several ready for this option.

2. Ask when you will arrive at your destination and weigh the benefits. Are you going to miss a day of work? Do you have appointments that cannot wait?

3. When you travel during holidays and peak times you can expect to stay the night. You may get a free hotel stay, but you might be requried to stay in the terminal.

4. Traveling with a family is more difficult as well. If you have children, you’ll need to plan for an extra day of diapers, snacks, and formula for the little ones.

5. They may only have certain slots available. Could part of your family proceed as planned, and part wait for the next flight?

photo credit

12 Oct 2011   ·   58

How to Make Your Own Delicious Homemade Lattes Without an Espresso Machine


Guest post by Anne at The Modern Mrs. Darcy

I love a good latté; my husband’s a cappuccino guy. He works in the coffee industry and recently he went to a trade show in Seattle and enjoyed one coffee shop so much he felt guilty about leaving me at home, so he brought me a bag of their espresso. In our house, that spells l-o-v-e.

As much as we both love espresso drinks, I can’t afford $4 lattes everyday (even if he gets his at work). So we make it at home.

Believe it or not, we don’t own a traditional espresso machine, though (mostly because a good one costs at least $400). Instead, we found an altogether different type of espresso machine: the Aerobie Aeropress. This little machine has only been on the market since 2006, but it’s quickly gained a cult following. I totally get why: it’s simple, portable, it makes amazing coffee–and it’s only 24 dollars!

We own a coffeeshop’s worth of brewing equipment, but it’s the Aeropress that’s the real workhorse in our kitchen. I use it twice a day (more when my husband isn’t working). It only takes three minutes and it’s so easy I often do it with a baby on my hip.

Here’s how to make a latté at home that’s as good as going out.

Items Needed:

1. Finely ground coffee
2. Milk
3. Aerobie Aeropress (comes with the press, filters, coffee scoop, and stirrer)
4. Coffee mug
5. Small cup for brewing
6. Frothing tool (whisk or aerolatte)

How to make a latte using the Aeropress:

1. Set up the aeropress by putting a paper filter into the cap and screwing it on to the chamber, then stand the chamber on a sturdy mug.

2. Put two aeropress scoops of coffee into the chamber.

3. Heat 4 oz water to 175 degrees. (This takes 45 seconds in my microwave.)

4. Pour hot water over coffee and stir for 10 seconds.

5. Wet the seal on the plunger and place plunger in chamber. Press down gently, and continue to press steadily until plunger is fully depressed. (Don’t worry if the plunger doesn’t budge for the first 20 seconds. It will depress.)

6. Heat 10 ounces of milk to 150 degrees. (This takes 60 seconds in my microwave.)

7. Froth milk. I use an aerolatte ($10.42 at amazon). It’s a mini-immersion blender that creates generous foam in about 10 seconds. (You can froth your milk manually by holding a small whisk tightly between your palms and twirl back and forth for about 30 seconds.)

8. Gently pour your espresso into your frothed milk. Add syrup if desired.

Those two lattés I said I make every day–they cost me $0.69 each. If I paid $4 for each one it would cost me $2934 a year. Of course, I could never afford to spend that much on coffee, but I can enjoy top-notch lattés at home every single day and still only spend a fraction of that amount.

I really enjoy my coffee–and when I stop to think about it, I really enjoy saving $3000, too!

Anne blogs about all things feminine at The Modern Mrs. Darcy, a different kind of blog for women. As the mother of four, a part-time employee, and a voracious reader she’s working to redefine what success looks like for the modern woman.

12 Oct 2011   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Twist Tie Busy Bag

Guest post by Willa from Armstrong Family Fare

Recently there have been a lot of wonderful busy bag ideas shared here. A lot of them look like they would be something my two-year old son would enjoy, however I did not have many of the items needed to make them on hand.

I am very supportive of spending a little money on fun education activities, but we’re currently working on our very own BHAG and trying to cut as many corners as possible. I thought about an activity my son might enjoy and came up with my own, the Twist Tie Busy Bag!

You’ll need the following items:

  • A handful of twist ties (20 or so)
  • A small bottle

Have your child straighten the twist ties and then put them into the bottle one by one. My son loved it and thought it was a lot of fun!

He always wants to play with twist ties, so this activity allows him just that all while improving his finger dexterity and hand eye coordination! All of this fun was capable with items already available in my home.

Willa lives in Ohio with her husband, Eric and son, Graham (2 years) and daughter, Ellie (5 months). Willa shares her favorite recipes and passion for spending time in the kitchen on her new blog, Armstrong Family Fare.