MoneySavingMom.com
FREEBIE LIBRARY!
Join my email list and get FREE ACCESS to the MSM Freebie Library, including my top printables & eBooks.
Classic View
Grid View
2 May 2011   ·   91
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

(My usual menu-planning set up: coffee, recipe clippings, grocery list, home management binder and laptop.)

It’s been five weeks since I’ve planned a real menu. While I finished the book manuscript, we just subsisted on super simple meals and mostly ate from our pantry and freezer. I didn’t even bake at all for four weeks — except for a few batches of waffles — and I’ve sorely missed tinkering around in the kitchen.

So I’m thrilled to be back to menu-planning and cooking and baking again. Here’s what’s on tap for this week:

Breakfasts
Waffles with Strawberries
Egg-in-a-Hole
Energizing Smoothie (new recipe — I’ll post it if it turns out well.)
Steel Cut Oats with raw sugar and milk
French Toast
Scrambled Eggs and Fruit
Mango Lassi

Lunches
Leftovers x 3
Peanut Butter & Jelly, Carrot sticks
Tuna Salad, broccoli
Mac & Cheese, peas
Cheese Quesadillas, Apples

Snacks
Brownies
Popcorn
Fruit/Veggies
Fruit smoothies

Dinners
Southwest Roll-ups, corn, fruit salad
Barbecue Meatballs, mashed potatoes, frozen veggies, fruit salad
Strawberry Spinach Salad, Cinnamon Sugar Muffins (recipe coming soon!)
Steak on the grill, Sliced Baked Potatoes (recipe coming soon!), frozen veggies
Church Mother’s Day Banquet (We’re doing a build-your-own salad buffet, so I’m bringing four different salad toppings for this. The boys are fending for themselves and getting takeout.)
Fettuccine Alfredo, Marinated Chicken, steam broccoli, fruit salad
Bread Machine Pizza (new recipe — I’ll share it if it turns out well.), tossed salad

Have you made any fabulous new recipes recently that you think I’d like to try?

2 May 2011   ·   107
Money Saving Mom

Paying Down Our Principal

Guest post by Brandy at Team Chandler

Thanks to Crystal’s post about paying 100% down on their home I was encouraged to participate in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. The idea of owning my own home in my 30’s seemed like a foreign idea — something that just couldn’t be done.

At the same time, I began reading couponing blogs at night while I stayed up with our newborn to learn about how to save money. And, it all made sense to me! I was literally wasting money on things that had a temporary value rather than investing long term in my home and in the lives of my children. Quickly that “value meal” or that nice outfit didn’t hold as much value as assigning those dollars to the principal on my home.

You see my goal is to pay off my home so that I can work less and spend more time with my children. The idea of being able to focus solely on the role of a true “stay-at-home” mom is exciting, but to do this we have to set our mind right and be good stewards of the money the Lord has given us.

Around June of 2010, we started to make some drastic changes. We had already started Financial Peace University, and it was time for change! We began implementing some strategies:

1. Search for a better deal on home mortgages.

At the time we had a 30 year mortgage at 5.875%. I had been casually watching the rates, but as they dipped, I started calling around. I was able to get a 15-year mortgage at 3.875%. This change alone saved us $30-40,000 in interest from decreasing the years.

2. Make changes in our spending habits.

We really wanted to scale back our spending and throw any extra money at the end of the month at our mortgage. Once our cable/landline contract was up, we cut that expense completely. This saved us about $100/month at the time not including the increase we were fixing to have once the promotion ended.

3. Increase our coupon strategies.

I was already seeing good savings from my couponing and tried to be disciplined in this area. My savings at first were $500-1,000 a month. Once I had my stockpile in place, I was able to drastically reduce our grocery bill.

4. Keep records of our budget.

I used a spreadsheet to track every penny that comes in and out of our house. At the end of the month, I literally total them up and we make an extra “principal” payment toward our house.

5. Change from credit cards to cash.

I had been sold on the idea of using my card to earn points to pay down my mortgage. After listening to FPU, I realized that I was probably spending more as I was earning those points than if I would just set aside $20-25 a month to send in as an extra payment to principal.

It has been about six months since we started to actively make additional payments towards principal. And, I am amazed at the results! In the 8 years of our 30-year loan, we had only paid off 14% of the principal. Only 14%!

In the last 6 months, we have been blessed to pay off 6% of the original mortgage amount. It may not sound like a lot, but compared to only paying off 14% in 8 years, I am ecstatic!

Brandy is a working mom of two. She enjoys spending time with her family, couponing, running, writing, and homeschooling. She also enjoys documenting their life’s adventures at Team Chandler.

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality, original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

30 Apr 2011   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

It’s finished (well, sort of!) + some favorite posts

Did you hear that huge sigh of relief coming from Kansas today?

I finished my manuscript and it’s now ready to head to the editor at my publishing house. There’s still plenty more work to be done before the book is actually published, but this was a huge step in the whole book-writing process. And I’m so excited about the book and can’t wait to tell you more about it soon!

For now, I’m just thankful to have it done and submitted and am looking forward to getting back to a more normal schedule after a few weeks of having to focus all of my extra time and energy on completing the manuscript.

Thank you so much for your patience while I stepped back from my usual blogging in April. I’ve missed interacting and writing here and can’t wait to get back to our scheduled series and topics. Plus, I’ve got some fun new ideas brewing for series and features that I hope to be unveiling soon!

In the mean time, here are a few posts I read recently that I really enjoyed or was challenged by. Some of these are off-topic, but I’m sharing them because I thought they might bless or encourage some of you. Enjoy — and have a restful Sunday!

Somebody Else’s Passion Can’t Fuel Your Dream — “One of the greatest ways you’re guaranteed to fail eventually is to chase someone else’s dream instead of your own.”

Own It — “Often I’m so busy worrying about what people think of a particular choice that I don’t really put everything I have into what I chose. I spend too much time apologizing rather than just saying ‘This is me.  This is my calling.’ I don’t own it.”

You Choose When You Refuse — “If you have debt and you refuse to change your lifestyle to get out of it, you are in essence choosing debt.”

How Hurting Women Can Help Each Other Heal — “…No one tells you that the shields you carry to keep you safe, become the the steel cages that keep you alone.”

photo credit

29 Apr 2011   ·   111
Money Saving Mom

3 Ways to Cut the Meat Without Decreasing Nutrition

Guest Post by Katie Kimball from Kitchen Stewardship

When you check your receipts, I can almost guarantee that animal products make up the category that requires the largest funding from your food budget. Meat, milk and cheese are staples in most families’ meals, yet coupons are few and far between, and even great sales will rarely net you a pound of beef for mere pennies like you can accomplish on the inside aisles and pharmacy section.

Families with young children in particular need to include protein in their diets, and many meals feel incomplete without meat or cheese involved. How to cut the budget without lowering your family’s health?

1. Use homemade meat stocks.

Nothing is more frugal than making something out of nothing. I can turn virtual garbage into a pot of steaming, nutrient-dense, immunity-boosting homemade chicken stock for about a dollar.

I always buy chicken with bones, and those bones go in the stock pot with a few carrots, celery stalks and onions. (That’s where the dollar comes in, plus stove energy.) After simmering for 4-24 hours, I’ve got gorgeously rich chicken stock that can not only save me over $30 a batch versus buying cans of chicken broth, but it also serves to stretch the protein in meat.

Eating homemade chicken stock with just a little bit of meat allows the body to better assimilate the protein and vitamins in the meat, which means I can get away with using less and not feel like I’m short-changing my family’s health.

2. Cut the meat in half and pair with beans.

Although the protein in beans is not used as easily in the body as animal proteins, as little as 2% meat in a meal helps the body assimilate the vegetable protein in the beans completely. I always use half of the meat called for in chili and bean soups, often freezing the already-cooked other half for a quick spaghetti meal.

I’ve also learned to use a 1:1 ratio of meat to lentils when we have tacos, and once it’s all seasoned and wrapped up, no one knows I’ve fiddled with anything (unless they look closely, but you can’t taste them at all).

3. Try a meatless meal with legumes instead.

In spite of the fact that beans aren’t quite as quality protein as meat, they’re still a very good and nutritious source of protein, iron and fiber. Particularly if you start with bulk dry beans, they’re incredibly frugal.

I make it a point to include a bean-based meatless meal at least once a week in my meal planning, ranging from soups to veggie bean burritos to black bean burgers and even a pasta white sauce that uses blended beans as a base. That one is great for the bean haters of the world who can’t stand the texture of beans, because it tastes like a lovely cheesy Alfredo (see below).

Download a free sneak preview of my ebook which includes a recipe for the above-pictured Pasta With White Bean Sauce.

My eBook, The Everything Beans Book, includes 30 recipes to help you easily incorporate the goodness of beans in your weekly menus, plus 20 pages of tips so you can effortlessly cook with dry beans. You’ll trim your budget and maybe even your waist at the same time. Enter to win a free copy of my ebook for the next 48 hours here.

Katie Kimball is a mom of two who spends a ton of time in the kitchen making real food with whole ingredients and then blogs about her successes and failures at Kitchen Stewardship.

28 Apr 2011   ·   126
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: We save $200 per year by making our own yogurt


Here’s a great tip submitted by Robyn:

I save at least $200 per year by making my own yogurt rather than buying it from the store. A couple of years ago I spent about $30 on a yogurt maker (I have the Euro Cuisine YM-80, that can be found at Amazon.com), so there was some initial investment but it has more than paid for itself.

To make a batch of yogurt, I use 42 oz. of milk and 6 oz. of yogurt (usually saved from the previous batch). It “cooks” for 8 to 10 hours in the yogurt maker, requiring no attention during that time. When it’s done, I have seven 6-oz. jars of yogurt ready to go in the fridge! One jar goes to start the next batch, so from 42 oz. of milk I get 36 oz. of yogurt that we’ll eat.

I buy milk at Sam’s Club for $2.88 (whole) or $2.78 (2%) per gallon, so my cost per jar of yogurt is about $0.28. I used to pay $0.08 per ounce for the yogurt my husband liked, and about $0.11 per oz. for plain whole milk yogurt for the baby. This week, I saw a package of 6-oz. yogurt cups at Sam’s Club for $.07 per ounce, and my $200 calculation is based on that number and the assumption that I make an average of two batches of yogurt per week.

As an added bonus, my family is now eating plain yogurt with no added colors, preservatives, artificial flavors or sweeteners. Everyone loves it plain, or sometimes we add our own flavorings like honey and mashed banana, applesauce and cinnamon, berries, or whatever else we have around. Also, I haven’t tried these myself but the manual mentions that it’s possible to make flavored yogurt and to make yogurt from a number of milk substitutes. -Robyn

How do you save at least $100 per year? Submit your tip here and possibly be featured on my blog or in my upcoming book.

26 Apr 2011   ·   15
Money Saving Mom

Meeting a dear online friend in real-life

I had the privilege of meeting Lindsey recently. She and I have known each other through blogging for four years, so we were excited when we found out that their family was going to be in our area so we could finally meet in person!

Lindsey has long been such a blessing and encouragement to me and I was thrilled to have to opportunity to get to chat with her over coffee at Starbucks for two hours. What an amazingly authentic, genuine, generous and sweet-hearted person she is!

Always a giver, Lindsey put together a gift sack of some of my very favorite-in-all-the-world foods (she knows me well!) plus other fun things — like these beautiful homemade cards.

I had to write her and ask her who made the fabulous cards. She told me that her friend, Amanda, made them. I like them all, but I especially loved the “Find Joy in the Little Things” card. Is that not the most creative idea for re-using a juice can lid ever?

(By the way, I found out that Amanda does occasionally make cards for other people. She’s a stay-at-home mom of four and this is a little side business she has. If anyone is interested in buying cards from her or inquiring about her prices, you can email Amanda at stamplady123@yahoo.com.)

Lindsey’s precious daughter. How cute is she?

Silas and me — photo taken by Lindsey. Love this photo even if Silas was being a little stinker and refusing to smile. 🙂

I feel so blessed that blogging has given me the opportunity to meet Lindsey and so many other wonderful people. Isn’t technology amazing?

26 Apr 2011   ·   42
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: How I saved $156 per year by asking for introductory rates

Here’s a great tip that Rochelle emailed in:

I have been an AT&T customer for 10 years now. I have a bundle package with them, which includes home phone, cell phone and DSL. Every year the bill seems to go up, so I look it over and then give them a call. I contact their Retention Department and tell them I have been a long-time customer and then ask them if I can have their introductory rates (like the rates you see on TV for new customers).

Recently, I was able to reduce my bill by $13 per month ($156/year), plus they increased my DSL speed to a faster connection, just by making a phone call to their Rentention Dept. The new lower rates will be in effect for one year, then I will have to give them a call after my one year is up to ask for a discount again. -Rochelle

How do you save at least $100 per year? Submit your tip here and possibly be featured on my blog or in my upcoming book.

23 Apr 2011   ·   15
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

My book manuscript is almost done (yay!), so I’m enjoying jumping back into using coupons again after taking a break for a few weeks to focus on writing. I’ve missed it!

Here’s what I bought this week:

Target Shopping Trip: Spent $6.47, saved $14.29 — see the full list of what I bought and coupons I used here.

Dillon’s Shopping Trip: Spend $7.89, saved $22.95 — see the full list of what I bought and coupons I used here.

Walgreens Shopping Trip: Spent $0.49 — see the full list of what I bought and coupons I used here.

I also bought three dozen farm-fresh eggs from my brother. We’ve been going through so many eggs recently and I’m thankful to have a source for such high-quality, delicious eggs.

I still need to go to Aldi to pick up some fruit and vegetables since we’re almost out and they have $0.99 strawberries and pineapple again this week!

Would you like to know what the best deals and coupon match-ups are for your local stores? Be sure to check out the Store Deals section of our site where we post the best deals and coupon match-ups each week for over 100 different stores across the country. You can sign up to receive the top deals in your email inbox each week as soon as they are posted!

Find

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.

22 Apr 2011   ·   76
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash :: Crock Pot

We paid cash!

Note from Crystal: I think that this story illustrates how we all save for things in different ways and have different mentalities towards saving — and that’s completely okay! If Debi had asked me how to save to pay cash for a crock pot, I would have told her to skip eating out a few times over a one or two-week period and use the money saved to buy a crock pot at the thrift store or garage sale.

However, she has a very busy life so she chose to continue eating out and save up her Swagbucks to pay for the crock pot instead. In the end, it worked well for her!

A testimony from Debi at Bluegrass Savers

It dawned on me one day that having a crock pot might make my life a whole lot easier. Since I started blogging in addition to my full-time job, I had less time to devote to making dinner so we were eating out at least six times each week including lunches.

For a while it was fine because I was spending so little on our groceries and supplies using coupons. Over time, the cost was beginning to adding up, though. Frozen dinners were also becoming frighteningly popular — and my husband hates frozen dinners.

I love to cook and was really distraught over this situation at home. The weirdest thing is that we always have so much food in the pantry and freezer but it was rarely cooked.

I realized it would really help to get a programmable crock pot so that I could make dinner in the morning and it would be ready when I got home from work. The only problem was that a crock pot was not in our budget.

When I saw the $20 Amazon.com gift card for $10 through Living Social, a plan began to take root in my mind for how to get one with cash. I had also been seeing so many people talking about getting an $5 Amazon.com gift cards using Swagbucks, so I joined toward the end of January, 2011. I quickly started winning points and got my husband to sign on as well. Within a few weeks of doing that, both accounts were mysteriously canceled for violating the rules.

I contacted their customer service, only to find that it was against the rules to have more than one account per household! I had only redeemed one $5 gift card and was waiting for two more to be posted. Needless to say I lost those and over 1000 Swagbucks. (If I would have seen the series on Swagbucks sooner, I may have avoided this costly experience.)

I then created a new account and saw several daily deals that I could use, so I purchased them through Swagbucks, allowing me to earn points faster and I continued to search as usual using the tool bar. I redeemed $20 more worth of Amazon.com gift cards and added this to my Living Social deal to purchase the slow cooker for $2.21 to cover the taxes! The Amazon.com list price for the slow cooker was $59.99; they had it on sale for $44.54. I ended up only paying $12.21, including the cost of the Living Social deal.

I’m so excited to be able to come home and have dinner ready instead of having to eat out so often!

Debi Smith is 24 and has been married for two years. She lives in Kentucky where she works full-time in the medical research industry, and also writes Bluegrass Savers.

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

21 Apr 2011   ·   52
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Target Shopping Trip: Spent $6.47, Saved $14.29

After stopping at Dillon’s today, we headed to Target. Here’s what we bought:

2 Reach floss — $0.97 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons, free after coupons

1 Up & Up Detangler — $1.34, used $0.50/1 Target Baby item coupon (no longer available), $0.84 after coupon

1 Up & Up Lotion — $1.37, used $0.50/1 Target Baby item coupon (no longer available), $0.87 after coupon

1 A&D Ointment — $3.34, used $1/1 manufacturer’s coupon, stacked with $2/1 Target coupon (no longer available), $0.34 after coupon

2 Circo socks — $1 each, used $1/1 Target Circo coupons (no longer available), free after coupon

1 Up & Up Foil — $1.22, used $0.50/1 coupon, $0.72 after coupon

1 Up & Up Eye Drops — $2.19, used $0.50/1 coupon, $1.69 after coupon

2 Tide travel packets — $1.07 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons, $0.07 each after coupon

1 Up & Up Nail Polish Remover — $1.02, used $0.50/1 coupon, $0.52 after coupon

2 Wish-Bone salad dressings — $1.60 each, used $0.75/1 manufacturer’s coupon, stacked with $1.50/2 Target coupon (no longer available), $0.48 each after coupons

Before coupons and clearance prices, my total would have been $20.76. After coupons, I paid $6.47.

I also picked up three clearance t-shirts and jeans, all priced at just $3.15 each!

I’ve been printing the good Target coupons as they’ve come available the past few weeks and then I finally had enough to make it worth making a trip today. This is typically how I roll with Target and Walmart — I just collect coupons to use there in their designated coupon envelope in my coupon box and then I make a trip every few weeks.

21 Apr 2011   ·   27
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Dillon’s Shopping Trip: Spent $7.98, Saved $22.95

We stopped by Dillon’s today and here’s what we bought:

1 Clairol Nice ‘N Easy — used free product coupon

1 package King’s Hawaiian Rolls (My husband loves these rolls, so I bought them as a special treat for dinner tonight!) — marked down to $1.29

1 bag of popcorn (Buying kernels and popping corn in our air popper is so much cheaper than buying microwave popcorn!) — $1.99

1 Renuzit Air Freshener — $1, used $1/1 coupon, free after coupon

1 Heinz ketchup — $1.99, used $2/1 coupon (no longer available), free after coupon

1 Luna bar — $1, used $0.50/1 coupon (doubled), free after coupon

3 Mars Easter Eggs (not pictured, these were my children’s rewards for good behavior at the store. They are long gone as candy is a rarity at our house!) — $1 each, used $2/2 coupon from All You magazine — $0.33 each after coupon

2 bags Lay’s Kettle Chips — $1.99 each, used 2 $0.55/1 Lay’s Kettle chips coupon from the 3/13 SmartSource insert (“doubles” to $1/1), $0.99 each after coupon

My total, after coupons with tax, was $7.89. My receipt says my total savings was $22.95.

See the full list of Dillon’s match-ups for this week here.