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3 Jun 2011   ·   65
Money Saving Mom

How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Bring Some Good Books & Audios

You likely well know this, but we love books at our house. And no trip is complete without them! I have fond memories of my mom reading to us on long car trips and I hope to create those same memories for my children.

Picture Books

These are great for reading aloud or letting the children read/look at themselves. I tried to pick books that corresponded with some of the places we were visiting and things we were doing to make them a little more relevant.

You can find our family’s 15 favorite read-alouds here if you need ideas for good books. We get most of our books from PaperBackSwap since, sadly, our library system here is nothing like the wonderful library system we had in Topeka and Kansas City (we were spoiled there — no late fees, very clean and modern facilities and lots of new books and new releases!).

Chapter Books

I always try to bring one chapter book along to read in the car and at night as we’re snuggled up in bed before going to sleep. The children beg for me to read every night and there’s nothing that beats a good chapter book while we’re all snuggled under the covers together!

We’re finishing the Little House series right now, but I brought All-Of-A-Kind Family for something different for this trip. The children loved it and I think I know what books we’re going to read once we finish the Little House series! (Thanks to a reader who recommended this book!)

Books On Tape/Audio Dramatizations

One of the ways we pass a lot of time in the car is by listening to great audio. One of our children’s current favorites is the Jonathan Park series. We also enjoy the Focus on the Family Radio Theater and the The girls also recently listened to Charlotte’s Web during their afternoon quiet time and were enthralled with it.

Books for Mom

Don’t forget to bring some books for yourself, too. Road trips almost always provide some time to enjoy longer stretches of reading than you might usually be able to enjoy at home. I brought The Happiness Project, The Wounded Spirit, Debt-Free U and Quitter. Reviews on these books will be posted in a few weeks when I share about the books I’ve read this month.

3 Jun 2011   ·   41

The Results of Wednesday’s Freezer Cooking In An Hour Session

I didn’t accomplish as much on Wednesday as I have on previous weeks’ Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour sessions. But it probably didn’t help that we ate up most of the Banana Chocolate Chip Bread and the Whole Wheat Chocolate Pancakes before they ever made it to the freezer — or in the picture I took!

Next week, I think I’ll try making something without chocolate and see if it lasts longer than a few hours. 🙂

At any rate, here’s what I made in a little over an hour on Wednesday:

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes (only half made it into the picture; they were that good!)

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread (again, almost half the loaf was gone by the time I got a picture taken!)

Two bags of cooked rice/wild rice

Three bags of cooked barley

3 Jun 2011   ·   26
Money Saving Mom

Patience pays off!

Living So Abundantly shares how by patiently holding onto her $2/1 and $3/1 Target Women’s Top coupons, she was able to get five shirts for just $5.46 total.

I kind of feel badly because I got a little impatient and used my coupons to buy shirts for $3.60 each. Oh well!

Note: These coupons are no longer available. Target clothing coupons go quickly and often result in great deals, so I recommend printing them as soon as they become available.

2 Jun 2011   ·   44

Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Bread Recipe

I’m sure you’ve probably figured out by now that we’re chocoholics around here. It seems almost every other recipe I post has chocolate as one of the main ingredients in it.

So it only was natural for me to modify our family’s favorite banana bread recipe to add chocolate. Because everything’s better with chocolate. 🙂

The result was scrumptious! This recipe is great for a quick and easy breakfast, snack or to stick in a brown bag lunch.

2 Jun 2011   ·   43

Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes Recipe

I made this recipe for the first time yesterday. Considering that there are only a few pancakes left and I doubled the recipe intending to freeze most of them, I’d say these were a hit!

2 Jun 2011   ·   89
Money Saving Mom

How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Pack an Emergency Box

When you have young children, you always have to think in worst case scenarios. A diaper blowout, accident or mess is bound to happen — maybe even multiple times. There will be sticky fingers, messy mouths, and probably some spills and boo-boos. Don’t get caught unprepared.

Pack an Emergency Box or Two!

Think of all the things that might go wrong and items you’d want to have on hand if there is a diaper blowout, accident, mess or someone gets sick. Pack these items into a tub to keep on hand — just in case. You might not end up using everything (let’s hope you don’t have to!), but you’ll likely end up very glad you thought ahead and brought at least some of these things.

For instance, we brought a thermometer and infant and children’s medicines. We were glad we did because all three children ended up getting fevers on our trip!

This time around, I actually packed two “Emergency Boxes” — one that I kept near the front seat and a medicine container I kept packed in the suitcase. Here are the items these boxes contained:

Travel Emergency Box

Plastic Bags (for trash or diapers)
Lysol Wipes
Tissues
Huggies Wipes
Ziploc Baggies
Hand Sanitizer
Lip Gloss
Lotion

Medicine/Hygiene Box

Bandages
Infant Pain Reliever
Children’s Advil
Benadryl
Travel sizes of Shampoo/Conditioner
Excedrin
Sunblock
Thermometer
Motrin PM
Body Wash
Neosporin
Fingernail Polish Remover
Multi-Vitamins

Make sure your diaper bag is also packed with an extra outfit(s), diapers, wipes, plastic bags and a diaper changing pad, in addition to the items you usually keep in the diaper bag.

How do you prepare for emergencies on trips? Share your ideas in the comments!

1 Jun 2011   ·   144
Money Saving Mom

How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Be Organized When Packing

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the Ziploc bag method of packing for a vacation and it’s revolutionized our organization on trips. It’s so simple that a picture is probably all you need to get how it works, but for those who like specific step-by-step details, here’s how it works for us:

1. Do all the laundry.

Since we only have 6-10 outfits total for each member of our family, if we’re going on a trip longer than a few days, we have to do all the laundry in order to have enough clothes to pack.

2. Lay out an outfit for each child for each day.

As I’m folding the laundry, I make piles of matching outfits for each child for every day that we’ll be gone. I also lay out an extra outfit for each child and a few extra shirts for our child who tends to be messy. 🙂 In addition, I set aside socks and underwear, as well as pajamas.

3. Roll the clothes for each day and put into a labeled bag.

I label a bag for each day of the week we’ll be gone, plus an extras bag, a socks & underwear bag and a PJ bag. If you have more than three children or your children are older, you may need to have individual bags for each child. Since we just have three young children, we can still fit their outfits into one ziptop bag per day.

4. When traveling, set out the bag of clothes for the next day the night before, along with shoes.

Instead of having to rummage through a suitcase for clothes each morning, just set out the appropriate bag, along with socks, shoes and underwear the night before. It makes getting everyone ready a snap in the mornings!

5. Stick the extras bag in the car or diaper bag to have on hand in case it’s needed.

If there’s a diaper blowout or a spill or other accident, you’re prepared with extra outfits for everyone!

6. Save your bags to re-use for the next trip.

We label the ziptop bags with tape so we can re-use them again and again. We store them in our suitcases to be at-the-ready for our next trip.

Coming tomorrow: How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Pack an Emergency Box

How do you stay organized when packing for a trip? I’d love to hear your ideas!

1 Jun 2011   ·  
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: Misspell Your Searches to Save on Ebay Purchases

Annie at The Bargain Junkie emailed in the following tip:

When I shop for things on eBay, I often deliberately misspell the item I’m searching for. There is always a seller who has inadvertently posted a typo. I wanted a Mexican silver bracelet, so I searched for “Mexican SLIVER bracelet.” I was the only bidder, so I got a $200 Taxco bracelet for 7 bucks.

31 May 2011   ·   26
Money Saving Mom

Yesterday’s Dillon’s Shopping Trip

I went to Dillon’s yesterday and picked up some great bargains:

3 packages of Sister Schubert’s rolls — $1.79 each when you buy 10 participating items, used $0.50/1 coupons (doubled) from the 4/17 SmartSource insert — $0.79 after coupons

4 jars of Santa Cruz Organic Lemonade — $1.25 each, used 4 $0.75/1 coupons (“doubled” to $1 off — there is a limit of one coupon per registration, but you can register multiple family members) — $0.25 per jar after coupons

5 boxes of Green Giant vegetables — $0.99 each when you buy 10 participating items

5 packages of Milano cookies — $1.99 each, used 5 $0.50/1 coupons — $0.99 each

2 Butterfinger bars — $0.50 each — used $1/2 coupon — free after coupon

StoveTop Stuffing — free with a coupon they sent me

Cottonelle — used free coupon

Suave Professionals — used free coupon

Two boxes of Tony’s pizza — used two free coupons they sent me

Total after coupons: $15.42

31 May 2011   ·   84
Money Saving Mom

How We Saved $900 By Fixing Our Washing Machine Instead of Replacing It

Guest post by Shannon from Mrs. Moneysaver

My washing machine hasn’t been working so well lately. When it runs through the spin cycle, it doesn’t spin fast enough and the clothes are still pretty wet when I take them out. This is especially true for loads of towels and jeans. It’s a good thing the weather here has been decent enough for me to use my clothesline or I would have worn out my dryer as well!

So, I contemplated buying a new washer. I’ve seen the front load washers and they look really nice. Plus, they can hold a larger load than what I can put in the machine I have now, which means less laundry time.

And then I found this deal at Surviving the Stores and would have made the purchase but the price was $450 each when I checked. And, when you buy a new washer, you’ve got to get a new dryer too if you’re getting a great deal, right? But, I missed out on the sale.

So, I started checking Craigslist. There were lots of front load washers in Denver which is about a 4-hour drive from here. But, driving all that way to pick it up? Nope, don’t want to do that.

Then there’s the dilemma of what to do with our old set when we buy the new set. The dryer still works fine and the washer does work — it’s just that spin cycle. It’s still worth something, isn’t it?

That got me wondering: If the washer is good enough to sell at a garage sale, isn’t it still good enough for me? We haven’t had any credit card debt for awhile, did I really want to start that again?

I started doing a little research online. I found out that the spin cycle problem could be one of a few things:

1. The pump isn’t working
2. The motor coupling is worn out (which is common because it works just like a belt)
3. The basket drive/clutch assembly has worn out

I knew the pump was working because it was draining the water out. The spin cycle just wasn’t spinning fast enough. I read that the basket drive/clutch assembly was expensive to replace and I would be better off buying a new washer. But since the motor coupling was only a $10 part, I decided to start with that.

I ordered the part online and it arrived yesterday. My husband (the great DIY’er that he is) replaced the motor coupling last night. It worked!

Just like new. Only $900 less.

Shannon is a wife and mother of six kids. She is also “Mrs Moneysaver” and has a blog sharing coupons, coupon match-ups, freebies, daily deals and money saving strategies.

30 May 2011   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

Green Smoothies

I’ve finally got everything unpacked, the house and van back in order and the laundry almost done after our road trip last week. It was fun to be away as a family but it’s good to be home!

We have another full week with lots of fun things in store — like spending all day tomorrow at Amy’s house with Laura from Heavenly Homemakers (they say we’re doing a joint video blog; that should be interesting!) and then our two-day homeschool convention this Friday and Saturday (any readers going to be there? I’d love meet up, if so!).

Here’s our planned menu:

Breakfasts
Cereal, Pick-Me-Up Smoothies
French Toast Casserole (from the freezer), Fruit
Steel Cut Oats with raw sugar and milk
Breakfast Burritos, Fruit
Strawberry-Banana Smoothies, toast
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (recipe coming Thursday), scrambled eggs
Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes (recipe coming Thursday), scrambled eggs

Lunches
Leftovers
Lunch at Amy’s house (she’s kindly providing lunch for us!)
Apple Peanut Butter sandwiches, carrot sticks
Beans & Rice with cheese, peas, fruit
Lunch at Spangles with Stacie (using our Groupons!)
Cheese Quesadillas, fruit

Snacks
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Popcorn
Fruit/Veggies

Dinners
Barbecue at extended family’s house
Meatballs, corn on the cob, fruit salad
Burritos, brown rice, steamed veggies, fruit salad
Steak on the grill, frozen veggies, toast
Tilapia, rice, steamed broccoli, fruit salad
Dinner out
Marinated chicken, frozen veggies, fruit, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour Plan (I’ll share pictures/details on how this goes on Thursday!)
Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Brown Rice/Wild Rice

What’s on your menu this week?

30 May 2011   ·   57
Money Saving Mom

How To Pay Cash for a Vacation

1. Set A Goal and Break It Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces

A lot of people want to go on paid-for vacations, but few actually sit down and make a plan to make it happen without debt. Do you want to go on a three-day road trip in six months from now or a week-long cruise in three years from now?

Either way, you need to sit down and figure out how much it is approximately going to cost (I recommend rounding up the amount you think it will cost in order to give you some wiggle room in case it ends up costing more than you’ve planned on.). Once you have a set figure for how much you plan to spend on your vacation, break that down into monthly and weekly savings goals.

Let’s say you want to go on a three-day road trip as a family in December. If you calculate that it will cost you $500 ($250 for hotel, $100 for gas, $150 for food + attractions) and you have around six months to save, than you’ll need to come up with an extra $84 each month or $21 each week.

2. Make a Plan of Action

Once you’ve figured out where you want to go, how much it is going to cost and how much you need to save each week, you can devise a plan of action. What specific actions are you going to take to save the money for your vacation?

If you don’t have extra money in your budget to divert to a special vacation savings, think of things you could cut from your budget to free up the necessary money. To take our previous example, if you have a goal to save $21 each week for your three-day December road trip, that could mean giving up dinner out each week or shaving that money off your grocery budget by using coupons or playing the Drugstore Game.

3. Put On Your Thinking Cap

If you feel like there’s no way you can squeeze any extra out of your budget or lower an of your expenses, there are still ways to save money for a vacation, if it’s something that’s really important to you. You could have a garage sale, sell some items you no longer need on Craigslist or eBay, mow lawns, babysit, take on a small cleaning job, start a side freelance business, teach classes… the possibilities are endless. Think about things you are good at or love to do and consider how you could earn extra income by investing a few hours each week into them.

When you set a goal, work hard and finally reach it, it’s very rewarding and fulfilling. And you can enjoy your vacation without having to feel guilty or worry about how you are going to afford to pay for it later!

30 May 2011   ·   127
Money Saving Mom

What Do I Do With This Stockpile?

Guest post by Alison

As much as I love getting free to cheap products, there comes a point when I’ve just simply got too much stuff. When I open my cabinets and closets, and toothpaste falls on my head or a shampoo bottle hits my foot, it’s probably a good sign that I might be going overboard.

Sure, I can give my mom the tenth bottle of laundry detergent I’ve given her in a month or give a friend the seventh bar of soap I’ve passed onto her in a week, but at some point, they start to question my sanity. So the question is, what do I do with some of this stuff?

Donate to a local organization.

More than ever, local charities are hurting and in desperate need of a myriad of items, many of which we’ve been able to stockpile. Check out their websites or give them a call to see what items they’re most in need of. Homeless shelters, rescue missions, women and children’s shelters and pet rescues are all great places to check.

While it takes a little more time, I like to thoroughly sort out which organizations need which items. I could throw everything in a box and bring it to the nearest charity or shelter, but I prefer to sort through the items. The homeless shelter probably doesn’t have a high demand for Pediasure, but the local Shade Tree definitely does. The rescue mission isn’t in dire need of cat food, but the cat rescue can definitely benefit.

Set aside items to pack shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Last year was the first year I participated in Operation Christmas Child, and I bought items right before Christmas. This meant not only did I pay full price for most items, I wasn’t able to pack as many boxes as I would have liked.

This year, I’ve learned to plan ahead and stock up during Target clearance and other coupon deals. It’s not even the middle of the year and I’ve got an entire box full of toys, school supplies and hygiene items set aside just for this purpose.

Reach out to those in your church, neighborhood or community.

You might be surprised of the needs that go unmet even in our own communities. You can either donate these items to individuals and families or even arrange a swap.

I may not need any more baby wipes, but there might be someone who does that has some extra Excedrin that I need. I would always rather items go to someone who can use them than have them sitting in my closet collecting dust.

Keep a supply of hygiene kits in your car to pass out.

This may not be the right route for everyone, but it’s one that I personally love. Get together hygiene kits with the basics and keep a case of bottled water in your car. Pass them out when you see individuals in need.

It’s amazing how much of a blessing such a small gesture can be. The things we often take for granted are some of the basic necessities in life that not everyone has access to.

Those are just a few ideas of what I do to clear some space in my house, as well as help fulfill the needs of others. I’d love to hear your ideas, too!

Alison Rutledge is a work-at-home wife, student and mother to two crazy cats. She loves the Lord, serving others, volunteering, reading, staying active and, of course, shopping for the best deals she can find.

photo credit