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28 Apr 2010   ·   8
Money Saving Mom

Chocolate Butterhorns… does life get much better?

Oh me, oh my! My mouth is watering over here.

Did you see the Chocolate Butterhorn recipe that FishMama concocted from my original Butterhorn recipe? She made a good thing so much better because she cut the prep and effort down and she added chocolate.

Now the question is: do I have the self-control to make them and only eat a few? Because I’m afraid I just could eat the whole entire batch of them all by myself. Nevermind all those pregnancy pounds I just finished losing!

28 Apr 2010   ·   224
Money Saving Mom

Apparently, not all food processors are created equal

I think this frugal failure is about at the level of our suitcase disaster. Maybe not quite, but it’s really close! (Only this time, at least we can get our money back!) Whatever the case, I got a good laugh over it once I realized my stupidity. 🙂

After last Freezer Cooking Day and all your rave reviews of how a food processor has changed your life, I started considering whether maybe this was a tool I should invest in.

I spend a lot of time grating cheese and the processor could shave off at least 30 minutes of time each Freezer Cooking Day. I figured I’d recoup the investment pretty quickly just in that time savings alone. Plus, I could use it for chopping veggies and onions. And, based upon what you all said, I could also use it for a myriad of other tasks.

After some thought, I decided to take the plunge. I looked online, compared prices, looked at reviews and finally decided to go with the Cuisinart pictured above.

I was looking forward to the time and effort it was going to save me and I was especially happy that it was going to arrive before my next Freezer Cooking Day.

The box showed up on Tuesday and I tore into it excitedly and pulled it out. My mother’s helper comes on Tuesdays and she was standing nearby while I was telling her how I’d decided to buy one to replace our rusted little cheese grater. She looked over the box and then asked, “Um, how does it grate cheese.”

Um, good question. I don’t know. But it’s a food processor. Don’t all food processors grate cheese?

Well, apparently not all food processors grate cheese and the one I purchased certainly doesn’t. It grinds and chops, but doesn’t have a grating attachment.

Oops.

Needless to say, I felt like a complete doofus for buying something which doesn’t even do what I was specifically buying it for. And I felt even dumber that I didn’t even check the description to make sure the food processor actually grated cheese. That was, after all, kind of the whole idea behind buying it!

I’m planning to return the food processor–unless someone can tell me how I can grate cheese with it (it didn’t appear there was any sort of extra attachment you could buy, but let me know if there is!).

And since I’m obviously not very capable of ordering the right kind of food processor on my own, could you help me out? What brand and model do you recommend? Anything else I need to know before I royally screw up another purchase?!

27 Apr 2010   ·   330
Money Saving Mom

House-Hunting: It’s Hard Work!

We spent years talking about owning a home and 21 months earnestly saving for one, but I guess I didn’t ever realize the work involved in actually buying a home. In fact, after the very first week of house-hunting, I asked my husband sarcastically, “Can you just find us a house and then surprise me?”

It’s not that I didn’t care, I was just beginning to realize the magnitude of time and effort house-hunting involves. My life is already quite full as it is, how was I supposed to carve out a number of extra hours each week for poring over online house listings and Google maps, driving around looking at homes, discussing the pros and cons of potential homes with my husband, scheduling viewings (and babysitters for those viewings!), and then actually going and walking through different homes?

It felt like I was practically taking on another full-time job!

(As a side note, I now have tremendous respect for those of you who are somehow managing to look for a new home and sell your current home at the same time — wow!)

We slowly have found our “groove” when it comes to house-hunting. And we’ve found that it’s helped tremendously for us to stop trying to look at every possibility out there and narrow down the search field. Here’s some criteria we’ve decided to use:

1) Location — We picked three locations we’re interested in. If a home is not in one of those three areas, we’re not even looking at it at this point.

2) Features — We picked three features which were most important to us: a good-sized kitchen, three bedrooms on one floor and a Master bathroom. When we look at a listing online, we first look to see if the home has these three things. If not, we don’t even bother looking further. (Our “most important features” might seem silly to some, but we’ve live in enough different rentals to know what works best for us!)

3) Pictures — A picture speaks a thousand words–especially when it comes to a potential home to buy. If the online pictures don’t “wow” us, we don’t pursue the house. I mean, if it looks ugly and ill-suited for our family online, I can’t imagine that it’s going to look ten times better in person.

If a house meets the above criteria and is in our price-range, than we’ll look at it. Otherwise, we pass it up. By following this method, we’re looking at fewer homes, for sure. But we’re saving a lot of time since we’re only looking at homes which are really good possibilities.

Just for fun: If you were to choose three non-negotiables you must have in a home you’d buy, what would they be? I’d love to hear!

Coming next time: A Good Realtor is Priceless

27 Apr 2010   ·   37
Money Saving Mom

Simple Toy Storage Strategies and Solutions

Last week, we talked about how to cut down on toy overload. Once you feel like you’ve pared your toys down to an amount which works for your family, here are some ideas for storing them so you’re not constantly tripping over them:

1. Have a Designated Place for Toys

If you wonder why there are constantly toys all over your home, it just might be because you’ve never created a home for the toys. If you and your children don’t know where the toys are supposed to be put away in the first place, it’s hard to put them away. So not only does it help to pare down the number of toys you have, but it also is very helpful to designate places for the toys you own.

At our house, toys stay in the girls’ room and the basement. If toys are brought into the living room or kitchen, we encourage the girls to promptly return them to their places once they are finished being played with. We have a few shelves in the basement for books and toy tubs and then a section of their closet to put dolls and doll things. We store arts and crafts along with the rotating toy bins (see more on this below) in the school room closet.

Need help getting started designating a place for your toys? Check out Five Steps for a Pared Down Playroom.

If You Have More Than One Child

If you have more than one child, it might be helpful to have assigned areas for each individual child’s toys and then a place for toys that everyone shares. You might consider having a tub or shelf labeled with each child’s name. Perhaps this could also be a way to deal with toy overload as well: when the shelf or tub is full, you can’t get any new toys until you get rid of some that you already have.

See how Kate implemented this in her home.

2. Pick Up What You Get Out

Train your children from an early age to pick up their own toys and messes. It takes work, effort and consistency to teach children to be assets to the home rather than liabilities, but it does pay off.

Training is practicing doing something again and again and again in order to get it right. Don’t expect your children to be able to pick up all the toys and put them away perfectly the first time you ask them to. It’s going to take showing them what’s expected, helping them do it correctly, gentle encouragement and lots of practice. But, with time and practice (and patience!), your children can learn to pick up after themselves.

Set a Good Example!

Observe your own actions over the course of a week: are you often leaving things out instead of putting them away in their designated places? Do you pick up what you got out? If not, I encourage you to start working on the person you see in the mirror first. You can’t expect your children to pick up after themselves if you’re not setting an example of doing the same.

{Ouch! I’m preaching to myself here!}

Once you’ve pared down your toys, have a designated place for toys and are training your children to pick up what they get out, likely the majority of your toy organization problems may be solved. But here are a few ideas if you’re still looking for some practical suggestions:

::The Rotational System

If you feel like you have too many toys, but you don’t want to part with what you have, consider a rotational toy system. Put away half the toys for a month. After a month, put away the toys you currently have and get out the toys which were put away. You could even do this on a quarterly basis.

This method can help you to see what toys your children really like and use. It also might help encourage more contentment with you already have since your children will probably feel like they are getting “new” toys quite often–when really it’s just the same old toys they’ve always had being presented in a new way!

::Days-of-the-Week Tubs

This idea has so many variations, but the basic gist is to divide most of the toys in your home into seven groups and put them in seven different tubs labeled with the days of the week. Your children can then play with the appropriate tub each day. It keeps things rotated and fresh, while creating less mess. We’ve done variations of this in our home with great success.

See how Stephanie implemented this in her home.

::Friend Toy Swap

This idea came from The Bargain Shopper Lady:

My boys started a “friend toy swap” which is their idea of giving to their friends. Anytime they have a friend over to play, they let their friend choose one toy to take home. I approve all toys before the friend leaves just in case they are trying to give something away, such as “their brothers favorite toy” or something that they just got and is still pretty new. This method is great for us! We have friends over often and it really helps with the clutter!  My children are also learning that they really enjoy giving toys they don’t play with as often to their friends!

Always Remember: “The Best Things in Life Aren’t Things”

Amy from Amy’s Finer Things often says this, and it’s so true. I loved the example Kendra gave of making a cardboard laptop for her daughter. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to keep a child contented, happy and busy!

What strategies and solutions do you use in your home to keep the toys from taking over your life? Tell us in the comments.

photo credit: hownowdesign

27 Apr 2010   ·   61
Money Saving Mom

Saving 100% Down for A Home: Part 5

Moving Back Home

After we moved back to our hometown and Jesse started his law firm, things were a little shaky for the first few months. We’d already started a few businesses in the past, so we knew somewhat of what we were up against in opening the law firm. But in another respect, this was a completely new ballpark.

We had experience in online marketing, but developing a local business — especially when there are strict rules and regulations regarding how you can market yourself as an attorney — was a huge learning curve.

But Jesse was motivated, focused and driven, in spite of the many different obstacles and setbacks which came his way. And it was so wonderfully incredible to see my husband throw himself into building his business from the ground up. He spent hours researching, reading and listening to audiobooks on entrepreneurialism, marketing and starting a business. He tried many out-of-the-box ideas and slowly his business started to take off.

And then, God had a big surprise waiting for us.

Only a few months after Jesse started his practice, the attorney he was office-sharing with approached him about an opportunity. Another local attorney, who’d had his own practice for many years, was getting ready to close up shop and was looking for someone to take over his phone lines, phone book ads and client base.

It seemed too good to be true and we were definitely interested! The only catch was that we had to be willing to take over the payments on the phone book ads. As a brand-new business owner committed to staying out debt, the costs of these phone book ads were pretty significant. Once again, we prayed about it, crunched a lot of numbers and finally decided that the costs involved with this were worth it.

So Jesse accepted the offer and assumed the phone book ads and phone lines of this well-established attorney. Within a few weeks, we began to discover just how huge of a break this was for Jesse: the phones were ringing, the clients and appointments were lining up and Jesse was starting to have more work than he could handle on his own.

I began helping him out for an hour or two each day from home (typing up letters, handling administrative details, etc.), but it was quickly becoming too much for me to keep up with. It was a little daunting to consider hiring an assistant so soon after beginning the law firm, but we realized that there was no other way he was going to be able to keep up with things at the rate it was growing. So we were very thankful when he found and hired a full-time assistant soon thereafter.

It’s been amazing to look back and see how God has blessed the law firm from the get-go, far beyond our wildest dreams. In fact, from the first month, it has turned a profit. We’re humbled by God’s goodness.

It’s also been so thrilling to see Jesse succeeding in his work and loving what he does. Having your husband find great fulfillment in his career is wonderful to witness. I feel like God taught Jesse much through those first few years of job difficulty, all of which prepared and equipped him for his business now.

In addition to God blessing Jesse’s business abundantly, God also continued to bless MoneySavingMom.com. The traffic steadily increased, and along with that, the income from the site increased.

Because we didn’t have any debt and were able to keep our expenses low, the good income which was coming in from our businesses allowed us to be able to save a significant percent each month towards our house fund goal.

We’d set a big, hairy, audacious goal of saving our 100% down goal by the end of 2009, but truthfully, we didn’t ever expect we’d actually hit that goal. And as fall rolled around, we were still quite a ways off from it. That was okay; we were happy with the traction we’d made and excited about the direction things were moving.

But then, November and December came and our earnings ended up being much, much higher than usual because of a couple of unexpected business opportunities which arose due to the Christmas season. We were absolutely floored and thrilled to actually hit our 100% down goal by the end of 2009.

We started looking for houses in earnest at the beginning of 2010 and continued saving while we did so. Five months later, we found the “perfect” house. It was much nicer than we were expecting to purchase, but the price was exactly within our budget and it had every single feature we were looking for, plus a number of other things we had always thought would be really nice to have in a house.

We prayed about it, researched everything we possibly could, got a second and third opinion and felt like this was “the” house. So we put in an offer, the owners accepted our offer, and six weeks later we brought a cashier’s check into the realtor’s office, signed the contract and paid 100% down for our house.

It was the most amazing feeling — and it still is. We know that there is no way we could ever be debt-free, house and all, were it not for so many factors: the wise financial foundation our parents laid for us early on; Jesse’s dad investing the money from his mom’s death so we could pay cash for law school; discovering Dave Ramsey, a man who motivated us to dream big dreams and set big goals; our commitment to stay out of debt during law school which fueled our creativity and entreprenuerialism, which then resulted in two businesses which provided good income to allow us to save.

And ultimately, we give all the glory to God. For some reason, He chose to give us the parents He did, the financial upbringing He did, and to put us in the financial position He has. We don’t deserve any of it, and He could take everything we own away from us tomorrow. It’s His money and His house and we want to be wise stewards of what He has entrusted to us, for as long as He chooses to entrust us with it.

I write all this not to bring glory to ourselves, but to inspire you. We’ve made many mistakes along the way. There have been many struggles. But we have seen so clearly in our own lives that making short-term sacrifices in order to accomplish long-term goals can be so rewarding. And I’ve shared the details of our story in the hopes that it will encourage you — in whatever financial situation you’re in — to set goals, stay focused, think outside the box, be creative, and reap the fruits of your efforts and diligence.

27 Apr 2010   ·   186
Money Saving Mom

Saving 100% Down for A Home: Part 4

A New Beginning

After three months of unemployment (which felt more like three years!), Jesse was offered a contract position at a large law firm in Kansas City. It was by no means an ideal job: the work was monotonous, the commute was long and there was no guarantee how long the position would last. But it was a job nonetheless, and we were very, very grateful and relieved.

As soon as his first paycheck came, we immediately began saving again — this time with the goal of having a six-month Emergency Fund in place. We were highly motivated after Jesse’s unexpected job loss to get this financial goal done as soon as we could!

Since we knew Jesse’s contract position was short-term (likely two years or less), we began praying about what God wanted us to do long-term. Both of us had been hoping since Jesse graduated from law school, that we could eventually move back to where we grew up and both of our families lived. It was hard to be a number of hours away — especially now that we had two young children.

The more we prayed about moving back, the more we felt that’s what we were supposed to do. How it would work out, we had no idea.

We continued scrimping and saving and working hard. By combining the extras we could squeeze out of Jesse’s budget and the increasing side income from MoneySavingMom.com, we were able to fully fund our Emergency Fund in March of 2008.

Reaching this financial goal in a fairly short amount of time gave us serious momentum, and after running a lot of numbers, we felt there was a good possibility we could actually save up enough to pay cash for a modest starter home in three to five years. We decided to go for it full-force!

Instead of focusing on this audacious goal though, we broke it down into baby-steps and set specific savings goals for each month. Jesse, being the numbers “nerd” he is, created a detailed spreadsheet outlining where we were and where we needed to go. We’d updated this spreadsheet every month and it was so encouraging to see our progress.

In the Summer of 2008, an attorney who owned his own law firm back in our hometown, offered Jesse the opportunity to office-share with him. Jesse had always wanted to start his own law firm, but we’d anticipated it would be a long time down the road, if ever.

Now that this door opened up though, we started seriously considering it, running numbers and praying about it. We knew Jesse’s contract job would likely be ending in the not-too-distant future and the more we prayed about it, opening our own law firm seemed like a very viable option for us.

We had enough in savings to live on for almost a year now, MoneySavingMom.com was bringing in a good income, and by office-sharing, Jesse could set up and run his law firm very inexpensively. Plus we were overjoyed at the thought of moving back home where most of our extended families and many lifelong friends lived.

At the same time though, it was a big jump. What if the law firm completely flopped? What if this turned out to be a big setback to us financially? What if we had to give up our big goal of paying cash for a house because we were just trying to put food on the table?

There were many, many unknowns, but we both felt a peace about moving forward. So we packed up our house (while I was in the middle of morning sickness with our third child. Morning sickness and moving seem to coincide frequently around here!), found a rental back home, moved back and Jesse opened his firm the beginning of October 2008.

We could have never guessed the miraculous surprise which would be right around the corner, allowing us to gain more financial traction in the next year than we could have ever imagined.

24 Apr 2010   ·  
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Dillon’s, Aldi and the health food store

I was really excited about the grocery deals we were able to get this week:

Deals from the health food store: Free Happy Baby Melts (used free coupon), organic kefir marked down to $0.99, a big bag of green beans marked down to $0.99, and 2 dozen organic eggs for free (they were marked down to $0.99 and I had coupons for $2 off any 2 Organic Valley products. Total spent: $2.58

Deals from Dillon’s: Yoplait yogurt for $0.09 each after coupon, peanut butter for $1, Let’s Grow product for free (used free product coupon), frozen veggies for $0.50 per box, Softsoap for free after coupon, and yes, I actually paid $1 for toothpaste. (Somehow, I managed to completely overlook the fact that we were almost out. I usually never pay for toothpaste, but I didn’t have another choice, so I just suck it up and pay. But I’m going to be on a keen lookout for a great toothpaste deal so I don’t have to pay for it again!) Total spent: $5.15

Deals at Aldi: Bread, English Muffins, carrots for $0.45, oranges for $1.99, tomatoes for $1.49, 3 blocks of cheese, 6 packages of strawberries for $0.99 each, chips, avocados, and more carrots. Total spent: $23.75

My husband also bought two gallons of milk (not pictured) so altogether, we spent around $38 on groceries this week.

______________________

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.

23 Apr 2010   ·   37
Money Saving Mom

Clear Out the Clutter Challenge: Do Something With Your Clutter!

Clear Out the Clutter Assignment #5: Get Rid of Your Clutter!

Now that you’ve purged your closets, drawers, shelves and home of unnecessary, unloved and unused things, it’s time to do something with your clutter. Don’t just pile it up somewhere or stuff it into boxes, get rid of it!

Here are some ideas for what to do with your unwanted clutter:

1. Donate

If you don’t want to hassle with selling stuff and you itemize your taxes, than donating your clutter to charity is a great option. Not only are you helping others out, but you can might be able to get a tax break for doing so.

2. Recycle

Instead of just dumping things in the garbage, consider recycling it. If RecycleBank operates in your area, you can earn free coupons and more for your recycling efforts.

3. Sell

There are a multitude of opportunities to sell your unwanted clutter including: eBay, Craigslist, garage sales, consignment sales, Cash4Books, and more.

4. Trade

Did you know you could trade in old electronics and gadgets for cash or store gift cards? Erin from CouponCravings recently wrote an extensive piece on many of the programs available.

What are you doing with your clutter? What other ideas do you have for getting rid of your clutter or making money from your clutter? Tell us in the comments.

21 Apr 2010   ·   82
Money Saving Mom

An update on The Company Store offer

If you were one of the thousands of people who got in the great deal from The Company Store yesterday, I just wanted to post a quick update and encourage everyone to double-check how much were charged. Unfortunately, it appears a number of folks were over-charged and have had to call in to get the extra charges taken off their account.

I’m so sorry about this and hope you are able to get any issues resolved in a quick and easy manner.

20 Apr 2010   ·  
Money Saving Mom

Take Our One-Minute Reader Survey & You Could Win $500!

****SURVEY & GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED ****

In an effort to better serve you through this blog, could you take a minute and fill out our simple Reader Survey? I promise it’s simple and painless–and the results will enable us to, hopefully, make this blog more user-friendly with content and features you are most interested in.

Feel free to use the Additional Comments section to share any great ideas you have, suggestions, or constructive criticism. The more honest and forthright you want to be, the better. I won’t get my feelings hurt; I promise! I want to hear specifics on how you think this blog can be improved. I can’t promise to act on everyone’s suggestions, but I can promise that I will listen and consider it!

As a way of saying thank you, I’m giving away a $500 Visa card to one randomly-drawn reader who fills out the survey. The survey will be open through Monday, April 26, 2010 and a winner will be chosen and posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2010.


20 Apr 2010   ·   76
Money Saving Mom

Dealing With Toy Overload – Part 2

Who needs toys when you can play with stuff underneath the sink??

Yesterday, I shared about how we’ve found that our children are perfectly happy with a few toys. We’ve purposefully chosen to limit toys in our home because we want to train and raise children who are content and don’t feel like they have to have all the latest and greatest of everything.

Now granted, my children are only 5, 2 and 11 months. I don’t have dozens of years of parenting under my belt and I don’t profess to have even a small percent of the answers. Keeping that in mind, here are a few things which have helped us avoid an overload of toys:

1. Stick with Quality, Versatile Toys

We love quality, versatile toys in our home: things like Legos, blocks, Melissa & Doug toys, dolls, tool sets, educational toys and arts and crafts. We try to have toys which encourage creativity rather than solely entertain.

2. If It’s Not Regularly Played With, Don’t Keep It

As I’ve said many times in the Clear Out the Clutter Challenge, there’s no point in keeping something around if no one likes it or uses it on a regular basis. Is it sitting around untouched for weeks on end? Is it broken? Does it have parts which can’t be replaced? Get rid of it!

3. Focus on Contentment vs. Consumerism

We live in a consumer-driven society where people spend much of their life working to climb some type of corporate ladder and get ahead. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to succeed in your job and do the best you can do, but we don’t have to buy into consumerism and stuffitis.

Children need love and nurturing more than things. This point cannot be reiterated enough. Money can’t buy love. All the stuff in the world will never replace a relationship with your child.

If we want our children to grow up with a generous heart and a selfless lifestyle that values what’s most important–people and relationships–the younger we can teach them these principles, the better.

Purposefully keeping toys simple at our house and focusing on spending quality time with our children is one way we are seeking to instill contentment in our children–a quality we hope impacts and benefits them for the rest of their lives.

Now, while all this might sound good and well, for many of you, the toy overload in your home is not of your own making. It’s thanks to relatives who love to buy things for your children. If that’s the case at your house, here are a few ideas:

How to Deal With Well-Meaning Relatives Who Are Overloading Your Home With Toys

::Openly Communicate — Don’t harbor frustration towards well-meaning relatives. Instead, communicate your preferences to them. Perhaps they don’t know you are short on space or really would love it if they spent less money. Maybe they feel obligated for some reason. Whatever it is, come up with a plan to talk about the issues in a calm and loving manner.

::Express Appreciation — Always remember that the relatives are likely buying things for your children because they love them. In most cases, they aren’t purposefully seeking to annoy or irritate you.

::Present An Alternative — Don’t just go to Grandma and say, “Sorry, we don’t have room for your toys. Please don’t ever buy another toy again.” Give your relatives some options. Encourage them to pay for experiences and make memories with your children. Ask for consumable gifts, books, educational toys, clothes or other things your children need. Perhaps they could donate money to your child’s college fund. Or, request outside toys or even discuss them buying toys which stay at the relative’s house for your children to play with when they come over.

::Be Willing to Compromise — Just as you would like to see change on their part, be willing to meet them halfway–or more!

It’s never going to be perfect, but by openly communicating in a loving manner and presenting some options and being willing to listen and show appreciation to them, you just might be able to come to a happy medium.

Later on this week, I’ll be sharing some ideas for toy storage and organization–especially for those who are short on space and want to keep things streamlined.

Kaitlynn checking out a real-life fire engine during a recent family outing. Memories last much longer than toys!

20 Apr 2010   ·   69
Money Saving Mom

Clear Out the Clutter: The Children’s Rooms

While some of you found your kitchens the hardest to clean out, I found my children’s bedroom the hardest to clean out. Not necessarily because it was overloaded with stuff–though it definitely needed some serious purging!–but because it seems naptime or bedtime is my only time to get much cleaning done. So it took me a week to find an opportunity to work on it when they weren’t sleeping.

Now, I have to tell you something: I was really hesitant to share these pictures with you as I’m afraid I’m going to majorly disappoint pretty much all of you.

I am the farthest thing from an interior decorator that the world has ever seen. And these pictures will give complete credence to that. We don’t have a cutesy children’s room. It’s bare, it’s basic, and it’s well-worn. The walls need to be painted, the blinds are broken, and there’s quite a bit of my children’s “artwork” adorning the walls.

I was feeling embarrassed and wondering what everyone was going to think of me if I posted these pictures when I all of a sudden realized: What am I doing? Who cares what people think? Isn’t that my mantra? I don’t need to please people with my wardrobe or my house–or my children’s bare-bones bedroom. The girls are happy with it, Jesse and I are happy with it and that’s all that matters, right.

So, here are the pictures–as real and as authentic and as homely as they may be…

BEFORE

AFTER

(I love these closet organizers! I put the girls’ clothes away in them by outfit and it saves so much time and effort in picking out clothes in the morning. Plus, they learned the days of the week from them!)

Wall Art — might not win a prize for the Best Drawing, but I love letting the girls display their creativity on the wall–complete with the massive amounts of tape they use to get the picture to stay on the wall. Priceless!

Clear Out the Clutter Assignment #4

::Go through your children’s rooms (including the closet and dressers) and toys and ruthlessly clear out any and all clutter and unnecessary items you find. Consider passing on extra clothing and toys to friends or donate it to someone in need. Or, add it to your garage sale or consignment sale pile!

::Tally up the approximate amount of items you’re getting rid of and input it into the Items Decluttered Tally Form in order to be entered to win some fun prizes!

Are you blogging about your Clear Out the Clutter accomplishments and progress? If so, leave your direct link to your blog post below (with pictures, if possible!) so we can visit your blog, cheer you on and be inspired!

20 Apr 2010   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

New Stores We’re Covering: Kroger (Central and Mid-South Regions), Hannaford, Wegmans, Times Supermarkets

Have you checked out our Store Deals Page yet?

Thanks to my sister’s diligent efforts and the help of bloggers from all over the country, we have deal lists and coupon match-ups available for just about every regional store in the country.

Best of all? You can sign up to have the deal match-ups for your area stores emailed to you every week as soon as they are posted! And it’s FREE!

We just added five new stores:

Hannaford :: subscribe via RSS or Email

Kroger (Central Region) :: subscribe via RSS or Email

Kroger (Mid-South Region) :: subscribe via RSS or Email

Times Supermarkets :: subscribe via RSS or Email

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Not sure what Kroger region you’re in? Check out the map here.

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19 Apr 2010   ·   135
Money Saving Mom

Dealing With Toy Overload – Part 1

When you come to our home, you might notice one thing right off: it’s bare. We don’t have many knick-knacks, we don’t have piles, and we have white walls.

It might seem utilitarian to some and extremely bland to others, but it’s the way we prefer to live. It saves us time because we don’t have to spend a lot of time looking for misplaced items under heaps of clutter. It saves us energy because we don’t have a lot of extra things to pick up or dust. And it saves us money because we’re content with keeping it simple.

Even though we have three young children, you won’t see many toys at our house. This is not because they are all stuffed in some closet or strewn about in a toy room. It’s because we just plain don’t have very many toys.

You see, when we got married and had our first child, we were living in a tiny basement apartment. Space was scarce so we had no choice but to stick to the basics. If it wasn’t essential, we couldn’t keep it because there wasn’t any room.

We grew to love living the minimalistic life and found that it made things so much easier to keep picked up and clean that we opted to continue living like this–even when we moved to a larger home. We figured at some point, our children would want to have more toys but we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.

Well, so far, we’ve found that our girls really don’t need many toys. In fact, they are perfectly happy with a few quality, versatile toys. They’d much rather play with cardboard boxes or build tents with old sheets, folding chairs and couch pillows than have the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos. The few bells-and-whistle toys we’ve had in the last couple of years served to entertain for a short while and then were abandoned for Legos, puzzles and creative play.

Tomorrow I’ll share some ways we’ve found to keep toys simple, organized and pared down at our house–including ideas for dealing with well-meaning relatives who are adding to the toy overload at your house.

19 Apr 2010   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

I’ve been lax in posting our menus recently so I thought it was high time I shared again–lest you wonder if we’re actually eating here!

Cooking ahead on the Freezer Cooking Days makes menu-planning such a snap. And meal preparation is even easier. In fact, I rarely spend more than 15 minutes total getting our meals together–and that often includes making homemade rolls!

So here’s what’s planned in the way of meals at our house this week:

BREAKFASTS

English Muffins, Yogurt, Fruit
Cereal x 3
Pancakes, Yogurt, Fruit
Orange/Apple/Carrot Juice, Toast

LUNCHES

Spinach Casserole, Fruit
Steamed Veggies over Noodles, Apple Slices
PB&J, Peas, Oranges
Leftovers x 2
Annie’s Mac & Cheese, Applesauce, Peas
Mixed Green Salad with Hard-Boiled Eggs, Chicken Strips, Tomatoes, & Avacados

SNACKS

Fruit
Ice Cream
Cereal
Yogurt

DINNERS

Deer Roast (from my brother-in-law), Sweet Potatoes, Homemade Rolls, Fruit
Southwest Roll-Ups (from the freezer), Rice, Peas and Carrots, Salad
Chicken Spaghetti (from the freezer), Homemade Rolls, Grapefruit, Broccoli
Grilled & Ready Chicken, Brown Rice, Salad, Fruit
Waffles, Eggs, Bacon, Hashbrowns, Juice
Dinner with Family
Dinner Out