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19 May 2011   ·   60
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking in an Hour: Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Breakfast Burritos, Chicken and Southwest Rollups

I had another successful Freezer Cooking in an Hour session yesterday. I’m amazed at how much I can get done when I set the timer and just work for an hour without distraction (well, other than the typical interruptions you have when there are three children living at your house!).

Here’s how it went down:

3:30 — Stick the chicken breasts in the oven to bake. (I’ve found this is such a simple way to cook chicken and they end up much more tender and juicy than when I boil them.)

3:32 — Mix up the pancake batter and start cooking the pancakes.

3:45 — Chop the vegetables and saute them. Beat eggs and milk together and pour over vegetables. Roll up all the Breakfast Burritos. Continue cooking pancakes.

4:10 — Chicken is done. Chop and mix together Southwest Rollups. Get interrupted multiple times by children, phone calls… I finally let everyone have a snack of chocolate chip pancakes and that keeps them occupied for awhile.

4:30 — Almost done! Finish rolling up the Southwest Rollups and clean up the kitchen.

5:00 — Get dinner finished and feel completely satisfied at having made six meals in a little over an hour! {Then, as soon as the kitchen is clean, I go collapse on the couch and read aloud to the children. Whew!}

Results of my Freezer Cooking in an Hour session:

24 Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal pancakes

10 Southwest Rollups

1 bag of Southwest Rollup filling

1 bag of chopped cooked chicken

20 Breakfast Burritos

19 May 2011   ·   110

Freezer-Friendly Breakfast Burritos

Freezer-Friendly-Breakfast-Burritos

My husband loves McDonald’s Breakfast Burritos and I’ve been hoping I could create a homemade version he’d like, as well. These Freezer-Friendly Breakfast Burritos were my first attempt and Jesse absolutely loved them.

I’m not a huge breakfast burrito fan, but I have to say, I think this recipe is a winner. In fact, I can see myself sneaking these from the freezer for mid-morning snack. 🙂

They are perfect for breakfast-on-the-go, and they are probably loads healthier than the McDonald’s Breakfast Burritos. One thing is for sure, they are significantly less expensive. From my calculations, they would cost around $0.45 per burrito using regularly-priced ingredients from Aldi. If you were able to get some of the ingredients on sale, they could be quite a bit less than that.


19 May 2011   ·   61
Money Saving Mom

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pancakes

If you’ve not noticed, I sort of have a thing for chocolate chips. Throwing in whole wheat flour makes me feel a little less guilty for consuming them at the rate I like to. So, I knew I wanted to try Amy’s Lighter Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Pancakes as soon as I saw them.

Of course, in typical Crystal style, I re-did the recipe and also tripled it so there’d be some left over for the freezer. The end result was one our whole family loved!

These Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pancakes are delicious straight from the griddle or served cold as a snack (well, our family might be the only people who thinks they are yummy cold, because we’re weird like that!).

19 May 2011   ·   52
Money Saving Mom

Do-It-Yourself Experiment #5: Appliqued Flower Tee (+ free downloadable petal pattern!)

When I chose the 12 Do-It-Yourself projects to complete this year, I tried to put a few on the list that were a little outside my “comfort zone”. Meaning, they’d require skills I usually didn’t exercise or typically wouldn’t profess to have.

The Appliqued Flower Tee was one such project. It looked beautiful, but I wasn’t so sure if I could actually pull it off — especially because I didn’t have a pattern kit.

But I’m excited to say that I actually did it! Okay, so mine might not look as pretty as the original, but I’m still really encouraged that I did something crafty all on my own.

I was planning to do the big yo-yo in the center, but I didn’t have enough fabric scraps left to pull it off. So I just did three small ones. I don’t like it quite as much, but Kaitlynn was happy with it.

(If you’re a professional seamstress or naturally crafty person, you are more than welcome to laugh at my feeble attempts, bad stitchery and the fact that I forgot to put backing on the fabric. Me? I’m just thrilled you might be able to tell it’s a flower and that Kaitlynn could actually wear this in public… unlike most of my other failed crafty projects! There may yet be hope for people like me. :))

Free Petal Pattern + Instructions

Want to make your own appliqued flower tee? Joy from FiveJs.com put together a free downloadable pattern for the flower petals if you’re like me and can’t just draw something freehand like that. You can download the free petal pattern here. The instructions for completing this project are here.

And now I’m all inspired to try doing more applique because I really enjoyed this project, much to my surprise. Anyone have links to fun free patterns online? I’m thinking of trying this one next. But I’d welcome other suggestions.

In case you missed it, here’s the list of the 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects I Plan to Try in 2011:

January: Make From-Scratch Chai Tea

February: Make Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

March: Make Homemade Hamburger Buns

April: Make Homemade Laundry Soap

May: Make Appliqued Flower Tee

June: Make Homemade Hummus

July: Make Freezer Jam

August: Make Homemade Soap

September: Sew a Rag Quilt

October: Make Homemade Apple Butter

November: Make Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

December: Make Homemade Marshmallows

19 May 2011   ·   42
Money Saving Mom

Dillon’s and Dollar Tree Shopping Trips

In addition to stopping at Walgreens, I also made a quick trip into Dillon’s and the Dollar Tree today. Here’s what I bought:

Dollar Tree — Eight different kinds of Nature’s Own breads and buns for $1 per package.

Dillon’s — Organic plain yogurt marked down to $1.59, two packages of deli ham for $1.29 each and one box of Kashi cereal for $0.99 (on sale for $2.99, used $2/1 coupon from Recyclebank.)

19 May 2011   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

It’s the Simple Things

Guest post by Brandy Chandler at Team Chandler

It seems in this hurried world that we rush from this activity to that, making sure our children are “well rounded” and have the opportunity to have fun and to make new friends. Even if we don’t spend money on lessons or sports, we might still find ourselves spending gas money taking them to and from the park or spending buying lunches at McDonalds while they play in the playzone.

I’m guilty! Guilty of trying too hard to provide my child with various opportunities without just giving him time to be a kid. Time to just play.

Recently, we had a “family night”. Typically, this would involve a special (yet quick) meal, movies, games and maybe a special treat. While I pride myself on keeping this way under budget, it hit me: “Family night” isn’t about a well-planned time with one another; it’s about embracing the time to do something spontaneous (yet frugal).

When I asked my 5-year-old what he wanted to do for family night, his simple answer “Play hide and seek”, “watch Wild Kratts with me”, etc. I was given a gentle reminder that sometimes what we, as parents, value as important may not be all that important at all.

It’s about that undivided time with our children doing things they want to in the moment. It’s about saying “Yes” to that 10th game of tic-tac-toe when the dishes need to be done. It’s about saying “Yes” when asked to read that favorite story again when you are ready to drift to sleep. These are the memories that will last. The memories of a mom and dad who were there for the little things.

That is priceless.

Brandy is a work from home mom of two who spends her time homeschooling her oldest child, training for half marathons, couponing and blogging about her families adventures at Team Chandler.

Photo Credit

18 May 2011   ·   87
Money Saving Mom

How to Make Money Blogging: 5 Tips for Writing Top-Notch Content

photo credit

If you missed it, be sure to read: 5 Necessary Traits of Successful Bloggers (Part 1) and 5 Ways to Set Up Your Blog for Success (Part 2).

1. Be You

One of the greatest hindrances to successful blogging is trying to be someone else. You are not someone else. You will never be someone else. You are you!

You are unique and one-of-a-kind. You have amazing gifts and talents that many people don’t. You have a perspective on life that no one else in the whole wide world does, because no one else is you. Learn from other bloggers, but figure out who you are and be you.

2. Be Confident

It’s easy to become discouraged and to feel completely inadequate when you see other bloggers who seem to have more creativity, a cuter blog, a more-frequently-updated blog, more traffic, more comments, more Facebook followers and on and on it goes. You can spend so much time worrying about not measuring up that you completely lose sight of what you have to offer as a blogger.

As I used to tell a dear friend of mine who often felt incompetent as a blogger (and who has now gone on to create a wildly successful blog), “Don’t be mouse-y!” Any time spent sitting and sulking about your lack of ability or worrying about what people will think of you is time that is wasted.

3. Be Engaging

Interact with your readers and respond to their comments and emails as much as you can. Ask your readers for their advice and input and listen to what they have to say. Your readers want to know that you value them. And you should, because without them, you’d have no audience to write for!

Don’t be afraid to try new things — even if they fail. Don’t always post the same things in the same way. Throw in some off-topic posts, photos or videos every now and then. Occasional surprises and unexpected posts will help keep things exciting.

4. Be Real

Readers aren’t looking for perfectionism, they are looking for real-ness. We all make mistakes and we all have our areas we struggle with. Don’t try to pretend that you have all your ducks in an alphabetized row.

Be honest, be open and be vulnerable (when appropriate). People will connect with authenticity but they will run from hypocrisy.

5. Be a Perfectionist

This might seem to fly in the face of being real, but I’m not talking about being perfect as a person, but about being thorough and detailed as a blogger. Frequent typos and blatant grammar errors are irritating.

Sloppiness will never get you far. Always proof your posts at least twice before publishing them. Constantly seek to improve as a writer. Read books and blogs written by good writers. Critique your writing and ask others to do the same.

Please, please, please do not use massive paragraphs without paragraph breaks. This is one of the easiest ways to turn people off from reading your blog. Blog paragraphs should be no more than a few lines long so that people can read them easily on a computer screen.

Three more don’ts: Don’t center the text. Don’t use exclamation points, all caps or ellipses excessively. Don’t use multiple fonts.

Use paragraph headings or points in articles that are longer than a few paragraphs. Include graphics and/or photos on most posts. And did I mention how important it is to proof-read your posts before hitting publish? 🙂

Bonus Point: Be Careful

If you share something in a public forum like your blog, you can never completely take it back. Always assume everyone in the whole world may read what you write.

Don’t use names, photos or other identifying information without thinking carefully about the potential ramifications. It’s better to be safe, than sorry.

What about you? What are your best suggestions for creating top-notch content?

Next week we’ll talk about five ways to increase your blog’s readership.

18 May 2011   ·   67
Money Saving Mom

Save Money and Have Fun By Starting a Frugal Club

Guest post by Jennifer

In 2009 some friends and I found that we were like-minded and wanted to try new ways of saving money. We all especially enjoy using more natural products and thought we could make some of them inexpensively ourselves. So we started Frugal Club and have tried to meet most months and work on a variety of projects.

Recently one of our members was interviewed by our hometown magazine, Rochester Magazine. Now more people in our town have asked us about the club!

How to start your own Frugal Club:

*Find friends who are interested in a frugal lifestyle.
* Get together and talk about what everyone is already doing to save money.
* Brainstorm ideas of what you would like to do to save money/get ideas from Money Saving Mom.
* Have someone volunteer to lead or organize each project you decide to do.
* Have people bring what they already have for the project and divide the cost of what needs to be purchased.
* Get together and try some of the projects.
* Rotate homes for hosting and bringing treats.
* After finishing a project, evaluate if the project was beneficial and if it saved money.
* Have fun!

Projects we have done as part of our Frugal Club:

* Made and then exchanged seasoning/mixes (taco seasoning, chai tea, popcorn seasoning, oatmeal packets).
* Traded items we didn’t need or wanted to re-gift (see this post on a Stockpile Swap Party for more ideas).
* Made personal products (facials, shampoo, deodorant, cocoa lip balm).
* Made greeting cards from scrap paper and magazines.
* Had a holiday cookie exchange.
* Shared a CSA vegetable box together.
* Made window cleaner, laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent.
* Made dish scrubbers out of onion mesh bags.
* Went to garage sales together in the summer
* Discussed freezer meals/cooking in bulk/purchased meat in bulk and split it.
* Made homemade air fresheners.
* Discussed frugal baby things (cloth diapers, cloth wipes).
* Exchanged or lent books we already own.
* Made fire starters for camping.
* Rented an aerator and did multiple yards.
* Shared packets of seeds for our gardens.
* Hauled our own trash/recycling.
* Exchanged coupons.
* Picked strawberries.

Projects we plan to do in our Frugal Club:

* Try our hand at home haircuts and go to a cosmetology school for inexpensive hair cuts.
* Make candles and lotions.
* Wash each others’ windows.
* Help each other with time consuming yard work (trimming bushes)
* Plant herbs.
* Make “sandwich bags” out of cloth.
* Make soap when we visit a goat farm in May.

Jenny and her friends/current Frugal Club members: Jill, Beth, Carla, Kristy & Dana all live in Rochester, MN. In our group we have five nurses and one librarian. We enjoy learning from each other and of course talking! In the last year, three babies have joined the Frugal Club so our meetings are a little different than they used to be! 🙂

18 May 2011   ·   86
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Is it a better deal to buy disposable batteries or invest in rechargeable batteries?


Today’s question is from Heather:

I’m curious to know if anyone has done a cost comparison over time with buying batteries (using coupons, of course!) to using rechargeable batteries. We have three children and we go through a Costco-sized batch of batteries within a couple of months. I’m considering investing in rechargeable batteries but wondering if that would really save any money. Thoughts?

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Money Saving Mom® readers? Read the submission guidelines and submit it here.

17 May 2011   ·   175
Money Saving Mom

2011 Do-It-Yourself Experiment #4: Homemade Powdered Laundry Soap

A few years ago, I attempted making liquid laundry detergent. The entire recipe bombed and I ended up throwing it out.

Ever since then, I’ve been leery of trying homemade laundry detergent again. But, after all the rave reviews many of you have emailed in, I worked up my courage to try again. And I’m so glad I did because I had a much better experience this time!

I used the recipe I found from DIY Natural. It only takes three ingredients and seemed pretty fail-proof!

Homemade Powdered Laundry Soap

Shave or grate the bar of soap.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Thoroughly stir together for about five minutes.

Yields 32-64 loads, depending upon whether you use one or two Tablespoons per load. I’ll report back soon to let you know if I think this would work for our family long-term. It seems promising!

In case you missed it, here’s the list of the 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects I Plan to Try in 2011:

January: Make From-Scratch Chai Tea

February: Make Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

March: Make Homemade Hamburger Buns

April: Make Homemade Laundry Soap (I did attempt this one time before, but it was with a pre-made mix someone gave me. So I’m going to try again — this time completely from scratch!)

May: Make Appliqued Flower Tee

June: Make Homemade Hummus

July: Make Freezer Jam

August: Make Homemade Soap

September: Sew a Rag Quilt

October: Make Homemade Apple Butter

November: Make Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

December: Make Homemade Marshmallows

Have you attempted any new do-it-yourself projects recently? I’d love to hear how they went!

17 May 2011   ·  
Money Saving Mom

Ask Jesse: What financial aspects should I consider when becoming a stay-at-home mom?

I have been thinking about becoming a stay-at-home mom. I have a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. I am going to start my budget to see if we can afford to live off of one income. My parents informed me that I would not be able to contribute to an IRA since I would have no income. What other things should I take into consideration when making this decision? I know I will be saving on gas, work clothes, daycare, etc. What else am I missing? Thanks so much! -Lori

Staying home and devoting your life to nurturing and raising the next generation is a wonderful thing. That said, many who want to make the jump from working outside of the home full-time to working inside the home full-time are realistically not financially able to do so.

If you are thinking you may be able to do it, what I recommend you do is to first sit down with your husband and create a written budget based upon his income alone. You may need to cut back, eliminate or restructure some of your budget categories and expenses in order to accomplish this.

Then, continue working while you attempt to live only on your husband’s income and see if you can pay for all your necessary expenses. If not, go back through your budget and see if there are other areas you can cut or expenses you can reduce.

While you continue to work, bank everything you earn towards an Emergency Fund. This will not only provide a training session on how to make it on one income, it will also give you a good savings cushion for you to draw against if you need to once you quit working.

Now, pertaining to the IRA contributions you would supposedly miss out on, non-working spouses can still contribute to an IRA through the special spousal contribution allowance even though they do not have have an earned income. SmartMoney Magazine has a good piece explaining the contribution limits to IRAs for non-working spouses as well as the deductibility of the contributions to traditional IRAs. Here’s a snippet of the obviously-outdated article:

A nonworking spouse can make a deductible IRA contribution of up to $5,000 for 2010 ($6,000 if age 50 or older as of 12/31/10) as long as the couple files a joint return, and the working spouse has enough earned income to cover the contribution. However, the deductibility of the nonworking spouse’s contribution for 2010 is phased out for couples with adjusted gross income (AGI) between $167,000 and $177,000, provided that the working spouse is covered by a qualified retirement plan (via a job or self-employment). The working spouse’s ability to make a deductible contribution for 2010 is phased out between AGI of $89,000 and $109,000.

Contributions to ROTH IRAs are not deductible because they are made after tax; as such, you do not have to pay taxes on the back end when getting money out.

If you’ve transitioned from working outside the home to staying home full-time or part-time, I’d love to hear your story on how you did that.

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.

17 May 2011   ·   63

Reader Testimonial: Our Most Sucessful Garage Sale Ever

photo credit

Amy emailed in the following testimonial which I thought many of you would enjoy reading:

I just wanted to let you know that we just had our most successful garage sale ever after reading your Ten Tips for a Successful Garage Sale post. For starters, our philosophy was different because we realized we had already gotten our use out of each item and so were not holding onto the “but this is what we paid for it new” syndrome.

After the sale, we also realized that a clean and empty garage is definitely worth our efforts to have the sale. (The garage had been full after our move back to Texas two years ago. We began to realize if all that stuff had not been used in that long, we really do not need it.) I think this sale proved a successful teaching tool for all of us in the blessings of minimalism. We all love jumping around freely in the newly-emptied garage!

How We Did It

We started the sale on Friday, so Thursday night we listed the sale on Craigslist. My husband created a public map on Google Maps, with directions to our house from the nearest major cross-roads. In the description of the Destination (our house), he posted sale hours and a long list of items we had for sale. It was the same text that was in the Craigslist post, but including the link in the post made it very easy for folks to find us.

We also posted signs like we had in the past, but most people said they heard about us and found us because of Craigslist and the map we placed in the ad. Very effective, indeed.

The second day of our sale we updated our Craigslist and Google Maps postings and stapled smaller, brightly colored signs to the original signs that said, “50% off Sat. 7:30 a.m.” Wow! That worked!

We sold most the remaining big stuff within minutes of opening the garage door. All the little stuff was sold off in steady streams until about 10:30 a.m., at which time we had our children take turns holding up a sign at our street corner saying, “90% off — many items FREE!”

People came in droves after that! We got rid of just about everything very quickly. It was all said and done by about 12:30 p.m..

Lessons Learned

We included our children the sale and let them set up a table of their own. One of our sons was originally miffed because he sold some of his things for way less than he wanted to, but he quickly learned the art of strategic marketing! So, all was good in the end.

The children also sold donuts and bottled waters. Those were a huge hit — and a big profit-maker, earning a dollar per donut or bottled water. They made a good return for their efforts, and were very happy about it. They learned effective salesmanship and how to talk with a variety of people.

Afterward, we had a long talk about rejoicing and giving thanks for the 90% God lets us keep from our earnings and we were able to give a much larger than usual tithe on Easter Sunday morning which gave us all so much joy! -Amy