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11 Mar 2011   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

Living a Zero Waste Life

A reader sent me a link to the Zero Waste Home blog yesterday. I was inspired! Here’s a video which Yahoo! did on this family that shares how they are seeking to live a Zero Waste Life:

Now, most of us probably won’t ever achieve zero waste in our homes. However, I’m motivated to think of small steps I can take to reuse, reduce and recycle.

They have a list of tips here which you’ll find interesting.

What simple ways are you seeking to reduce waste in your home? I’d love to hear!

10 Mar 2011   ·   106

Lasagna Casserole Recipe

We love lasagna at our house. But I rarely buy lasagna noodles to make it because there aren’t as many sales and coupons available for lasagna noodles as there are for spiral and rotini noodles do.

So, a number of years ago, I re-did our regular lasagna recipe substituting spiral/rotini noodles for lasagna noodles and dubbed it “Lasagna Casserole”. It’s become a staple recipe at our home and it’s one of the first things I consider making when I find marked-down cottage cheese at Dillon’s.

Back when we were first married, we just left the meat out of this recipe, since it wasn’t in our budget. We like it better with meat these days, but it’s still hearty as a meatless casserole.

And do you want to know a secret? I never make this recipe exactly the same. It really depends upon what I have on hand.

10 Mar 2011   ·   99
Money Saving Mom

From My Inbox: Philadelphia Cooking Creme House Party Pack

I post a lot of free House Party opportunities and some of you are still not convinced whether you should sign up or not. So I thought you’d enjoy seeing this email from Kim:

I just wanted to thank you for posting about the Philadelphia Cooking Creme House Party.  I was chosen to host a party this March and received a great party pack full of fun freebies! I’ve attached a picture. -Kim

10 Mar 2011   ·   38
Money Saving Mom

Secrets of a Former Credit Card Thief

Secrets of a Former Credit Card Thief is a fascinating article and one which everyone who uses debit and/or credit cards needs to read in order to protect themselves:

We’ve all heard the standard tips about preventing identity theft and credit card fraud. But what would a real identity thief tell you if he had the chance? Dan DeFelippi, who was convicted of credit card fraud and ID theft in 2004, says simply this: You can’t be too careful.

DeFelippi, 29, mostly made fake credit cards with real credit card information he bought online. “I would make fake IDs to go with them, and then I’d buy laptops or other expensive items in the store and sell them on eBay,” he says. DeFelippi was also involved in several other kinds of scams, including phishing schemes that exploited AOL and PayPal customers. Committing credit card fraud is still “ridiculously easy to do,” he says. “Anyone with a computer and $100 could start making money tomorrow.”

After his conviction, DeFelippi faced eight years in prison, but under a plea deal he agreed to community service and to pay back more than $200,000 in restitution. He also worked for the U.S. Secret Service, helping to infiltrate the online underground and training agents in the latest fraud techniques. His help led to the arrests of five to 15 people over two years. Today, he’s a Web developer at a graphic design company in Rochester, N.Y. He agreed to take an hour with CreditCards.com to share his story and his top tips on how to protect yourself.

Read the full article.

photo credit

9 Mar 2011   ·   99
Money Saving Mom

Changing My Outlook

Guest Post by Sarah from Clover Lane

So much of what we read, see and hear today are problems. Things to be solved, discussed and debated. Many of these are trivial things, but it’s hard to not get sucked in by it all. The busy-ness of being a mother and all the duties that it entails sometimes means that days fly by with me never thinking of all the things I take for granted.

I catch myself sometimes complaining about the chore of grocery shopping all the while I’m pushing my cart in a clean store with money in my pocket, throwing food in my cart for my children’s stomachs. What is there to complain about? How can this be one bit of an inconvenience to me? How many mothers in this world would give anything to be able to pick and choose what to feed their family?

I hear myself sighing loudly about the laundry, yet we are warm and clothed and have cozy beds to sleep in! I hear myself looking at my little chores with dread, but I have a house to clean, indoor plumbing and fresh water!

The last couple of years I’ve really tried to make an effort to stop myself when I hear those complaints creeping in, and thinking, “What is the other side of this?”

  • When cleaning the bathroom is on the agenda, I think, “What if I only had a muddy unsanitary river to bathe my babies and children in?”
  • When I’m tired of fixing meal after meal, I ask myself, “What if my children were crying at my feet and I had nothing to fix them?”
  • When I’m exasperated at picking up school shoes strewn across the floor, packing lunches, checking book bags, I ponder, “What if I had to send my child miles and miles away, barefoot, with no lunch, to a tiny dirt floored schoolhouse?”

Instead of complaining, I try to change my outlook to one of happiness and total gratitude for how blessed I am.

Sarah is a mother of five who blogs at Clover Lane. She coined the terms “Vintage Parenting” to describe how she strives to raise her children, using old-fashioned values to bring a different perspective to the pressures we all face today. She strives for the simpler, slower, family-based life.

8 Mar 2011   ·   119
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: What do you do when you don’t feel like being frugal anymore?

Frugal fatigue hits me at least once a month. I get tired of making food from scratch and think about how much easier it would be to just go to the store and purchase it. If I have to go to the mall, it really hits me as I love fashion (until I get sticker shock from the prices that is!)

What do you do when you don’t feel like being frugal anymore? -Michelle

1) Focus on the Best Return On Your Investment Of Time

Don’t try to implement every money-saving idea you run across. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure and burn out.

It’s really and truly okay if you don’t make everything from scratch, or don’t plant a huge garden and preserve 200 pounds of vegetables or don’t save 85% off all your grocery bills. You can’t do it all.

Concentrate your efforts on where you’ll get the biggest savings and skip the smaller money-saving ideas if they don’t work for your family or aren’t something you enjoy.

2) Allow Some Breathing Room in Your Budget

This goes hand-in-hand with point number one. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not pinching every single penny you possibly can. The purpose of frugality is not to be a miser; it’s to be a wise steward.

If you can, include at least $10 to $20 in your budget each week for something fun: a treat at the coffee shop or ice cream shop, dinner out, pizza and a movie or whatever else you or your family especially enjoys. If it’s budgeted, you can guiltlessly enjoy it and look forward to it.

Want to make this budgeted money go farther? Sign up for the Groupon emails in your area and purchase a few deeply discounted vouchers to local restaurants or attractions.

3) Reward Yourself For Achieving Goals

I’m all about setting financial goals and working hard towards accomplishing them, but don’t forget to celebrate milestones along the way. Plan a party or go on a special family date every time you pay off a credit card. Put $5 in a special “Family Vacation” fund jar every time you save another $50 dollars in your savings account. Or, maybe make a commitment as a family that if you all stick to the budget for an entire month, everyone gets $10 in “blow money” to spend on whatever they want (be sure to budget this in, of course!).

Knowing there’s a reward at the finish line can give you much greater motivation to keep pressing forward.

Related: After I had written this post last week, my friend, Heather, sent me a link to her post on How To Combat Frugal Fatigue. She had quite a few other additional ideas.

How do you combat frugal fatigue? Tell us your strategies in the comments.

8 Mar 2011   ·   43
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tip: How I Save Time, Money and Energy in the Kitchen

Sabrina emailed in the following simple tips for saving time, money and energy in the kitchen:

::Buy extra veggies when they are at their lowest price, then chop and freeze them. I have found this is usually near the end of their season.

If I find bell peppers for an awesome price, I will buy maybe 8-10, take them home, slice half of them and chop the other half. They then get thrown into a freezer bag and into the freezer. I do this with onions also and it’s perfect for stir-fry.

This will save you lots of money! For example, I bought peaches for $o.49/lb in season, and my store usually has them for $2.99/lb out of season. Great deal!

::Buy discounted meat, and freeze or cook immediately. The stores will not sell outdated meat, so they are trying to get rid of it before it expires. The grocery store near my house marks the meat down two days before the “sell by” date.

I can get a five-pound pork roast for $2.00! I actually have two pork roasts, two Angus beef roasts and two packages of boneless skinless chicken strips in my freezer now, and I purchased these all for under $10 total.

::Keep inventory. I keep a pantry, freezer and refrigerator inventory list in my household notebook. It consists of a list of items, and boxes to check as I use up the items. I put one slash in each box to show quantity, and as I use the items, I put a slash in the opposite direction, turning it into an “x”. This helps you know what you don’t have to buy, and it helps you put meals together because you know what you have.

I don’t have any calculations as to how much money is saved doing any of these, but I will say that I have been following MoneySavingMom.com for about a year now, and the above tips along with the things I’ve learned at this site helped me keep my grocery budget under $40/week (and I live in California, not a cheap place to live!).

photo credit

7 Mar 2011   ·   86
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan

Lasagna Casserole — recipe coming on Thursday

We have a really busy week this week (I try not to plan more than one or two extra things each week outside of our normal routine and schedule, but somehow I totally didn’t follow that rule of thumb this week!), so I’m sticking to super simple meals for our menu. You know, the kind which can be whipped together in 15 minutes or less.

Breakfasts:

Homemade Granola, Fruit
Toast, Scrambled Eggs, Fruit
Cold Cereal, Juice x 2
Orange Cream Smoothies, English Muffins
Baked Oatmeal, Fruit
Overnight French Toast Casserole, Fruit

Lunches:

Leftovers x 3
Macaroni & Cheese, carrots, apple slices
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, fruit
Cheese Quesadillas, frozen veggies, apple slices
SmartOnes meals, frozen veggies, oranges

Dinners:

Marinated Chicken, Toast, Frozen Veggies, Fruit
Sausage Potatoes Onions & Carrots in the Crockpot, English Muffins, Fruit
Brown Bag Burritos (from the freezer), Green Rice Casserole (from the freezer), Fruit
Lasagna Casserole, Broccoli, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls
Dinner with Friends (we’re bringing a veggie tray and dessert)
Dinner at Extended Family’s House
Dinner Out

What are your favorite 15-minute meals?

6 Mar 2011   ·   36
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Dave Ramsey Live Event + lots of great bargains this week

We spent all day driving up to Kansas City and back and attending the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover Live Event. It was our third time to attend and we always learn something new each time. We took Jesse’s brother with us which made it even more exciting since it was his first time to attend this event.

Jon Acuff was there (of Stuff Christians Like fame) and we enjoyed chatting with him for a few minutes about blogging and how he juggles everything he does. If you’ve not read his blog, you’ll definitely want to check it out. He’s an amazingly gifted and funny writer. I’m halfway through his book Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me Debt. It’s hilarious and so poignantly true.

As far as my shopping trips this week, here’s what all we ended up buying:

Dillon’s Shopping Trip #1: spent $13.98 — see the full details and coupon match-ups here

Health Food Store Shopping Trip: spent $5.32 — see the full details here

Target Shopping Trip: spent $0 (used a gift card) — see the full details and coupon match-ups here

Dillon’s Shopping Trip #2: spent $8.05 — see the full details and coupon match-ups here

Aldi Shopping Trip: spend $30.34 — see the full details here.

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.

4 Mar 2011   ·   44
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: Cruise to Mexico

We paid cash!

A testimony from DeAnna

My husband and I only take one vacation a year and usually try to plan it around October 4th in order to celebrate our wedding anniversary as well.

He is a truck driver and I am a nanny and full-time student (recent graduate, actually!), so money and vacation time are both pretty tight. However, we managed to save up enough money to not only go on a five day cruise to Cozumel, Mexico but to also take his mother and my grandmother along for the ride — all expenses paid! They’ve never been on a “real” vacation before, and his father died just six months ago, so we felt that it’d be a lovely gift to share with them. Both women live on disability/social security, so we knew that we’d be covering the whole bill.

How we saved for our trip over three months :

  • We used $1500 from our tax returns to pay all but $150 of the cruise. This included two staterooms, tips and insurances. The additional $150 was taken from my savings account.
  • I worked extra hours at work and dropped our grocery budget down to $25 a week (from $40ish) to come up with the $300 it would take to board our four dogs for a week.
  • My husband made an additional $3000 by staying on the road for six-week stretches instead of coming home every four weeks.

Saving for more than just the cruise

We used the $3000 to pay for gasoline from Kentucky to Miami, Florida (roughly $200 roundtrip; my car gets 40mpg, thankfully!), two hotel rooms for two nights, food for the trips down and up, spending money for everyone on the ship and ports of call and $250 for the overpriced but beautiful on-ship photos.

My husband also set aside $400 of that money to cover bills for that week, since he does not get paid vacation. We did not end up spending all of the money set aside (had $800 left!) so when we returned and learned that one of our dogs caused $66 dollars of damage, we were able to pay without blinking an eye.

Already thinking about another cruise for next year

We Paid Cash CruiseA cruise worked well for our family because it was an all-inclusive vacation and provided many activities for everyone to do at all hours of the day.

Additionally, by booking and paying ahead, we saved a great deal of money. We saved $200 per stateroom just by booking three months in advance!

I think that my husband’s favorite part of the whole vacation would have to be the amazing food and 24-hour room service, since he never gets waited on at home and we’re too busy to cook elaborate meals.

For me, a week of pampering and getting dressed up for dinner was worth the small sacrifices made along the way and not having to work, study and keep house definitely has me saving money already for next year’s trip!

DeAnna is a recent graduate of Austin Peay State University and a full-time nanny who is currently applying to law schools and hoping to keep her family’s debt as low as possible. She and her husband of two years, Brandon, are parents to six special needs “furchildren” and are striving to be debt-free and career-secure before having children some day.

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

4 Mar 2011   ·   45
Money Saving Mom

Monthly Financial Update

While there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to report this month, we were able to bump our retirement up to 10% of our income and we’ve also been working on slowly funding our children’s educational savings accounts with the amount we’ve decided to put in them. So here’s the rundown:

1. Significantly increase our giving to needs in our community and around the world. This is an ongoing goal, so we’re keeping it uncrossed off from the list.

2. Pay cash for a replacement washer and dryer for our very used set.

3. Pay cash for a replacement for Old Blue Van.

4. Pay cash for a couch for our basement family room.

5. Pay cash for bunk beds for the girls.

6. Fully fund our IRAs.

7. Bump up our retirement savings to 10% of our income.

8. Fund our children’s educational savings.

9. Double our Emergency Fund Savings (Instead of having around six month’s worth of expenses set aside, we’re planning to set aside a year’s worth of expenses.)

10. Save for our next BHAG.

We’d love to hear about your recent financial goals and successes! You can post about it on your blog and leave your link in the comments. Or, just share about your progress/goals in the comments. Let’s all keep each other accountable to be better stewards of our resources!

4 Mar 2011   ·   28
Money Saving Mom

Last Night’s Dillon’s Shopping Trip

In addition to Aldi and Target, we also made a quick stop at Dillon’s last night. Here’s what we purchased:

3 boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios — on sale for $2.18, used 3 $0.55/1 coupons (these “doubled” to $1 off), $1.18 per box after coupons

2 Green Giant Steamers — on sale for $1.29, used 2 $0.50/1 coupons (doubled), $0.29 per bag after coupons

2 bunches of red-taped ripe bananas — $0.29 per pound, $1.28 total

1 package of Brats — marked down to $2.29

1 tub Cool Whip — used my last free coupon they sent with the gift basket

My total after coupons with tax was $8.05

I also noticed they had Mom’s Best Cereal on sale for $1.50. I didn’t have the $0.75/1 coupons with me, but those will make the cereal only $0.50 per box after the coupon “doubles” to $1 off.

3 Mar 2011   ·   159
Money Saving Mom

Tonight’s Aldi Shopping Trip

I stopped by Aldi expressly to stock up on fruit and a few other staples. I was sad that they were completely out of the $0.99 pineapple and $1.49 strawberries, but happy for the great deals on apples and oranges. I might have to make another trip to get the strawberries and pineapple as they told me they’d be getting in another shipment tomorrow.

Here’s what I ended up getting:

Chicken Breasts — $5.49
Milk — $2.80
Three bags of apples — $1.29 per bag
Paper Plates — $1.29
Tortillas — $0.99
Kidney beans — $0.55
Cream of Chicken soup — $0.59
Applesauce — $1.19
Two bags of oranges — $1.49 per bag
Oil — $2.29
Butter — $2.38 (Yikes! This is much more than I usually pay. Must. look. for. a. sale. on. butter. stat! Or, buy a milk cow. :))
Carrots — $0.99
Two cans of refried beans — $0.69 each
Raisins — $1.49

My total was $30.34 including tax.

And no one flip out that I bought plastic plates, okay? We’re going to be hosting some folks for meals over the next few weeks and I just decided to make it easy on myself and stick with plastic so we didn’t have to mess with dishes when we had company.

Also, those of you who are observant will notice I bought oil. It’s been months since I’ve bought oil, but I’ve been hankering for some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and they just really taste better with oil instead of butter or applesauce or coconut oil. So I caved. Yes, I did.

3 Mar 2011   ·   8
Money Saving Mom

Tonight’s Target Shopping Trip

Coffeemate Creamer – $1.46
Used $0.75/1 printable
$0.71 after coupon

Reach Floss — $0.97
Used 2 $1/1 printable coupons
Free after coupons

Rimmel Mascara — $2.99
Used $2/1 coupon
$0.99 after coupon

Cool Whip — used one of the free coupons they sent with my gift basket

Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cereal — $2.50
Used $1/1 coupon from the 1/23 RedPlum insert (expires 3/6)
$1.50 per box

Kashi TLC Bars — $2.65
Used $2/1 coupon printed from RecycleBank
$0.65 after coupon

My total was $4.79 after coupons. I used some of my gift cards I earned last week to pay for my total, so I paid $0.00 out of pocket.