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23 Jun 2008   ·   82
Money Saving Mom

Becoming a WAHM: It’s work – Part 1

One of the emails I receive time and again is from moms who want to
find a way to earn money from home. While I don’t consider myself to be
a WAHM (work-at-home-mom) expert, I have worked from home for five
years now and have learned a lot along the way. This series is for
those of you who are contemplating working from home, those of you who
think you’d really love to work from home, and those of you who just
wonder what working from home involves.

I’ve read a lot of books and articles over the years on the subject
of working from home and find that often they are somewhat unrealistic. This series will not
be about get-rich-quick schemes (I hope you know by now that there is
no such thing!), how to work for one hour a week and make $100,000 a
year (that’s also a fairy tale!), or how making money from home is a
simple, easy thing.

What I will aim to share with you is my personal journey in
becoming a WAHM,  what things have and haven’t worked for me, what I
wish someone had told me when I was first contemplating starting a
business from home, and how you, too, can become a WAHM.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m currently making a good income
from home–last year, I made the equivalent of a good part-time job and
this year, if things continue to go the way they are going, I will
likely double that figure. I’m doing the majority of my work in the
early morning hours and during my girls’ afternoon quiet time/naptime
and am thrilled to have the opportunity to bring in a good income while
not neglecting my most important priorities–that of being a wife and
mom.

I’m sure many moms could look at me and want what I have–the
ability to make a good income while staying at home, choosing my own
hours, and taking care of my husband, home, and family first. I can
take a day off (or even a few days off!) whenever I like and
the money continues to come in at the same rate because of the many
multiple streams of income I’ve set in place.

All this might sound really cool (and it is!) but what most people
often don’t add into this equation are the countless hours, days,
weeks, months, and even years that I spent building my online earnings up to the point they are at. I
do not care to recall all the failed income-earning things I’ve tried
nor the incredibly naive mistakes I’ve made. You don’t want to know
about the sleep I’ve missed or the outside opportunities I’ve had to
say “no” to in order to stay focused at keep at it–even when the going
got tough.

The effort has paid off and I’m now reaping the fruits of my labors
(though I’m still making lots of mistakes and I’m sure I’ll continue to
do so until the day I die!), but I won’t ever forget the struggles I
had to go through to get me where I’m at or the mountains I’ve had to
climb along the way.

I am a firm believer that, with God’s blessings and lots of hard work, anyone can successfully work from home. However, I will be the first to tell you that working from home is just that–work.
I’m by nature a positive person but I won’t sugar-coat the truth when
it comes to working from home: if you are not prepared to put in lots
and lots and lots of time and effort, working from home won’t work for you.

So, before you even consider working from home, I cannot stress how important it is that you are prepared for the long-haul. It often takes months or even years
to see results and steady, reliable income. If you stick with it,
though, it will eventually pay off–and likely it could pay off beyond
your wildest imaginations!

Just for fun: How many of you currently work from home? Tell us a little about what you do and what has and hasn’t worked for you.

20 Jun 2008   ·   35
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Our marathon shopping trip from last Friday/Saturday

I mentioned our marathon shopping trip last week, but didn’t get a chance to show you pictures. Before I show you pictures, though, I need to tell you that our van has been undergoing repairs recently, so I’d been without a vehicle for a number of days and the girls and I were feeling quite a bit of cabin fever.

What’s the perfect solution to cabin fever? Go grocery shopping! We don’t usually go to more than 3-4 stores per week but Friday night and Saturday, we were on a roll so we just went and went and went. And we had a blast! Well, at least we did until Kaitlynn starting throwing up–which quickly signified the end of our shopping spree!

Here’s what we got:

Since I just switched to shopping for two weeks at a time and was
actually a week ahead, I went ahead and used up almost all of my
allotted $80 to spend. There were such great deals and we were
motivated buyers, so I figured I might as well stock up while I had the
chance.

101_0158

FIRST STOP: CVS
1 box Fiber One Cereal – $3.00
2 bags Gold Emblem candy –

$0.88 each
2 Listerine SmartRinse – $3.49 each
1 Brut deodorant – $2.89
3 CVS cotton swabs – $3.19 each
Used $3/$15 CVS coupon
Used $3/$10 CVS coupon
Used $1/1 Fiber One coupon
Use $1/2 Gold Emblem coupons
Used $9 and $6.99 ECBs
Spent $0.21 out of pocket
Earned $6, $3, and $6.98 ECBs

101_0160

SECOND STOP: HEN HOUSE
3 bottles Juicy Juice – on sale $1.97, used $1/1 coupons
3 bags Chex Mix – on sale for $1.50, used $1/1 coupons
2 bags Texas Toast croutons – $1.65, used $1/1 coupons
2 boxes microwave popcorn, on closeout for $0.39 each
2 cans tuna, on sale for $0.58
1 container Farmland All Natural shaved turkey – on sale for $2.79, used $1/1 coupon
2 lbs fresh green beans – on sale for $0.99/lb 
8 ears of fresh corn – on sale 4 for $1
Bags of frozen peaches, raspberries, and blackberries – on sale for $1.77 each
1 bag frozen blueberries – on sale for $2.49
1/2 gallon organic whole milk from a local farm – $3.19
1 package English muffins – $0.85
Yoplait kids drinkable yogurt (6-pk) – on sale for $2.48, used $1/1 coupon
YoPlus yogurt (4-pk) – on sale for $2.17, used $1/1 coupon
Total: $35.48 (saved $29.06 with store sales and coupons)

101_0157

THIRD STOP: WAL-MART
2 boxes Kashi cereal – $2.78, used $2/1 coupon
1 box Kashi Vive cereal – $3.46, used FREE coupon
1 Kotex small pack – $1, used $1/1 coupon
1 box LiveActive cereal – $2.98, used $3/1 coupon
Edge shaving gel – $1.50, used $1/1 coupon
V8 Fusion – $2.98, used $2/1 coupon
5 cans Muir Glen tomatoes – $1.18 each, used 5 $1/1 coupons
Total after coupons: $5.71

101_0163

FOURTH STOP: HY-VEE
2 bags Corazonas chips – used 2 FREE coupons
1 Deli Creations – on sale for $2, used $1/1 coupon
1 cottage cheese (16 oz) – on sale for $1.38
3 lbs Braeburn apples – on sale for $0.99/lb
Total after coupons: $6.10

101_0164

FIFTH STOP: CVS #2
1 box Cheerios – $3
2 Gold Emblem candies at $0.88 each
1 Oral B toothbrush – $6.99
3 Huggies Bath and Body – $3.49
Used $3/15
Used $1/2 Gold Emblem
Used 3 $1/1 Huggies coupons
Used $3, $6, and $6.50 ECB–had them adjust this down
$0.01 out of pocket
Earned $6.99 and $6 ECBs

101_0162_3

SIXTH STOP: CVS #3
5 boxes Honey Nut Cheerios – $3 each
1 Oral B Toothbrush – $6.99
2 Gold Emblem candies – $0.88 each
Used $3/15
Used 2 $1/1 Cheerios coupons
Used 3 $0.60/1 Cheerios coupons
Used $1/2 Gold Emblem coupon
Used $3, $6 and $6.99 ECBs
Spent $3.47 out of pocket
Earned $10 and $6.99 ECBs

101_0165_2

SEVENTH STOP: PRICE CHOPPER
4 boxes of SmartStart cereal (our very favorite cereal!) on sale 4 for $10
Used 2 $3/2 coupons
Paid $4.75 out of pocket after coupons and sales (Saved $10.56)

101_0166_2

EIGHTH STOP: ALDI

Oil – $2.79
2 cans refried beans – $0.59 each
Cantaloupe – $0.99
Baby carrots – $0.99
Noodles – $0.99
Tortillas – $0.99
Corn chips – $0.99
2 bunches bananas – $2.96 total
3 blocks (8 oz.) cheese – $1.89 each
Lettuce – $0.99
Animal crackers – $1.19
Total: $21.21

101_0168

FINAL STOP: CVS #4

6 Gold Emblem candies – $0.88 each
3 CVS Aftershave – $2.59 each
1 CVS sharing lotion – $2.99
1 Brut Deodorant – $2.89
Used $3/$15 coupon
Used $10.00 ECB
Used $5.93 ECB– had them adjust it down
Spent $0.00 out of pocket
Earned $4 ECB, $3 ECB, and $5 ECB

GRAND TOTAL: $76.94–under budget and we got LOTS of food and household products for that! Yay!

Stay tuned for Monday’s post on the complete menu of what we’re eating with these groceries.

————————

How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and
bargains you were able to snag this week on your blog (with pictures,
if possible!) and then come back here and leave your link below.

20 Jun 2008   ·   21
Money Saving Mom

Frugal Family Fun: The Summer Edition

553732fb2boyswithsandbucketoverthei

It’s the first day of Summer and parents everywhere are in the market for creative and cost-effective ideas for frugal family fun. Here are a few of our family’s favorite ways to have fun without breaking the bank:

 –Go grocery shopping together. We often do this as a family and make an outing of it. If you have to do it, you might as well make it fun! We bring snacks and drinks along, the girls get to ride in those fancy carts most stores now sport, and we have a blast seeing how much we can get for how little. The best part of all is that grocery stores seem keep their thermostat set at almost-freezing temperatures so it’s a cheap way to beat the heat (well, provided that you stick to your list and your budget and don’t impulse buy!).

–Pack a picnic, a blanket, some books, and some toys for the girls and go hang out at a nearby lake for the afternoon. This is especially great for a leisurely Sunday afternoon: the girls get some fresh air and exercise and mom and dad can sit in the shade on a blanket and watch them play.

–Load up the girls in the wagon and walk to a nearby fast food joint
or ice cream shop for drinks or cones. (This is an especially great
thing to do if you have coupons or if there is a freebie offer going
on!)

—————–
Those are three really simple and frugal things we love to do in the Summer. What about your family? Post your frugal family fun ideas for Summer on your blog and leave your link below so we can all be inspired. Don’t have a blog? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section.

19 Jun 2008   ·   44
Money Saving Mom

What have you made yourself?

Simply Thrifty has a post up here (hat-tip to Lavonne!) with links to directions for 100 different things you can make yourself.

Just for fun, I’d love to know which of these items you’ve made yourself. Check out the list here and then tell us in the comments section!

Here’s what I’ve made from the list (not necessarily using the same directions, though):

Applesauce
Syrup
Jelly
Guacamole
Salsa
Gravy
Wedding Cake
Pancake Mix
Icecream
Pizza
Pickles
Playdough
Bubbles
Books
Laundry detergent
Baskets
Paper
Rubber Stamps
Jewelry
Candles
Skirt
Blouse
Bread
Pretzels
Doughnuts
Bagels
Tortillas

Now, not all of the items from the above list were great successes, but I have tried my hand at making them at least once. What about you? Oh and feel free to tell us if there are other things you’ve made which weren’t on this list, too!

I have a hunch that there’s probably at least a reader or two who has
made just about every single one of those 100 things. Some of you are
just amazing!

17 Jun 2008   ·   58
Money Saving Mom

Extended Warranties: Do you think they are worth the money?

My laptop broke last week for at least fifth time since I’ve had it.

Gratefully, I have an extended warranty on it, a backup laptop, and almost all of my business stuff is virtual (not computer-dependent). As you can tell, I’ve been around this track one too many a time to not have a back-up plan in place.

The fix just took one phone call and a short consultation with tech support and in minutes they promised to send a new adapter–all free of charge. Two days later, the adapter arrived on my doorstep and my computer was fixed… yet again.

When I bought the laptop, it was my first laptop to purchase and my first time to decide to fork over the extra money for an extended warranty. Knowing how often I use my computers and knowing my track record with breaking them, my husband and I felt it was a wise choice.

That extra $300 or so for the extended warranty felt like a lot at the time, but it’s paid for itself many times over in the last two years. I’ve had my keyboard replaced, my adapter replaced twice, the motherboard replaced (a tech came to our home to do that; I didn’t know anyone still made "house calls" these days!), and spent more than five hours put together on the phone with tech support.

If I had had to take my computer in and get it fixed each of these times, I do not doubt it would have been quite a bit more than that initial $300 for the extended warranty. And I would have also had to hassle with taking it in and picking it up, not to mention finding a reliable tech store in the first place.

When I bought my second laptop, I didn’t blink twice when the associate asked if I wanted to buy a warranty. He was all prepared to explain the different warranties to me when I blurted out confidently, "I’ll take the three-year extended warranty." And guess what? We’ve already made good use of it on the second laptop.

I’ve come to the conclusion that at least for us, buying an extended warranty on laptops is a no-brainer. It saves headache, it saves time, and it saves money.

Do you buy extended warranties or do you think they are a waste of money?

16 Jun 2008   ·   102
Kids eat FREE at ALL of these restaurants! This is a massive list!

The Master List of Kids Eat Free (and Almost-Free) Restaurant Deals

 Kids eat FREE at ALL of these restaurants! This is a massive list!

This list was last updated in February 2018. As always, these deals may vary by region/store. Check with your local stores ahead of time to see if they participate.

Kids Eat Free

Atlanta BreadAtlanta Bread: Tuesdays 4pm – close—One free kids meal per adult purchase.

backyardBackyard Burgers: Tuesdays—Buy one adult combo meal and get a kids meal free for kids 12 and under from 4 pm to close.

Baja FreshBaja Fresh: Sundays—Free kids meal with an entree and large drink purchase.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’sBeef ‘O’ Brady’s: Tuesdays from 4-8 p.m.— Kids ages 12 and under can get anything off the kids’ menu with the purchase of an adult entrée.

bennigansBennigan’s: Tuesdays after 4pm—Kids 12 and under eat free with the purchase of an adult entree.

blackBlack Eyed Pea: Tuesdays—Kids 12 and under eat free. One item from the kids menu is free with each purchased adult entrée from 5 pm to close.

bluemesaBlue Mesa Grill: Sundays—Kids 5 and under eat free with the purchase of adult brunch from 9 am to 3 pm. Check individual locations for participation.

bobevansBob Evans: Tuesdays—Free Kids’ Meal with every Adult meal purchased after 4pm.

brustersBruster’s Real Ice Cream: Daily—Kids under 40 inches receive a free baby cone.

Captain D’sCaptain D’s: On Tuesdays and Thursdays—Kids can eat for free. Limit of 2 free kids meals per adult entree purchased.

Chick-fil-AChick-fil-A: Tuesdays between 5:30-7:30 p.m.—Kids eat free with the purchase of an adult combo meal. NOTE: some locations charge $0.99 per kids meal.

ciciCici’s Pizza: Daily—Kids 3 and under eat free. Ask server for specific details.

culvers_logoCulver’s: Daily—Kids 12 and under receive a free custard with the purchase of a meal.

dennysDenny’s: Tuesdays—Kids eat free from 4-10 pm. Restrictions may apply. Ask your server for details.

DICKEY'S BARBECUE LOGODickey’s Barbecue Pit: Sundays—Kids 12 and under eat free. One free kids meal for every adult meal purchased.

doubleDouble Dave’s Pizza: Daily—Free kids buffet with purchase of an adult buffet. Qualifying age varies by locations, so call ahead or check with your server.

firehouseFirehouse Subs: Wednesdays—Kids eat free with the purchase of an adult combo. Participating restaurants only. Varies by location.

Freebirds World BurritoFreebirds World Burrito: Tuesdays from 10:30am – 9pm—Kids 11 and under get a free burrito or quesadilla meal with the purchase of an adult entrée.

Fricker’sFricker’s: Daily—Kids can eat free all day, every day – valid for dine in only.

gattitownGatti Town: Wednesdays—Kids 10 and under get free kid’s buffet with the purchase of adult buffet at regular price. Limit 1 child per adult.

Genghis GrillGenghis Grill: Tuesdays—Kids 12 and under can eat Free with the purchase of an adult full-price bowl.

Godfather’s PizzaGodfather’s Pizza: Tuesdays—Kids aged 10 and under can eat for free from 11am-2pm and 5pm-8pm at the buffet.

Golden Corral LogoGolden Corral: Mondays—Kids 10 and under eat free from 5-9 pm. Two kids per adult. Kids 3 and under are always free.

ihopIHOP: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday—Kids 12 and under eat free from 4-8 pm. One kids’ menu item per adult entree. Drinks not included.

ikeaIKEA: Tuesdays—Kids eat free at some locations. Check with local store for qualifying ages and participation. There are also specials throughout the year. Check the store page for your local store to see current specials.

Jason's DeliJason’s Deli: Wednesdays—Kids eat free all day. One free kids’ meal per paying adult.

Jose Pepper'sJose Pepper’s: Sundays—Kids eat free all day at Jose Pepper’s.

LoneStarSteakhouseLone Star Steakhouse: Tuesdays—Kids eat free all day. One child entree with each paid adult entree. Not valid in Orlando, FL.

lubysLuby’s Cafeteria: Wednesdays—Kids eat for free after 4 pm with every adult entree purchase.

maggianosMagganio’s: Saturdays—Kids 5 and under eat free. Check with your local restaurant for participation.

Margarita's Mexican RestaurantMargarita’s Mexican Restaurant: Saturdays and Sundays—Get two complimentary kids meals (12 and under) per adult entrée purchased.

marieMarie Callender’s: Tuesdays—One free Kid’s Meal with each adult entree purchased.

moeslogoMoe’s Southwestern Grill: Tuesdays—Kids eat free all day. One free kids’ meal for each adult meal purchased. Choose from Power Wagon (hard or soft taco), Mini Masterpiece (cheese quesadilla) or Moo Moo Mr. Cow (burrito). Each kids’ meal includes a cookie and beverage.

ontheborderlogoOn the Border: Daily Kids receive a free sundae with meal purchase. Participation may vary.

perkinsPerkins: Tuesday—Kids eat free all day. Kids eat free at Ohio and Pennsylvania locations on Wednesday and Saturday from 4pm-9pm.

PicadillyPicadilly: Fridays—Kids under 6 eat free all day.

pizzahutPizza Hut: Tuesdays—Some participating locations offer an unlimited pizza buffet for just $6.99. Kids 10 and under eat free with the purchase of an adult buffet.

Planet SubPlanet Sub: Sundays—Kids eat free with adult meal purchase.

ponderosaPonderosa Steakhouse: Tuesdays—Kids eat free from 4pm to close. You can get up to 2 free kids’ meals with each adult entree purchased. Ask server for specific details.

qdobaQdoba Mexican Grill: Sundays or Wednesday—Kids eat free on Sundays or Wednesdays. Participation and day of participation varies by location.

Red RobinRed Robin: Mondays—Kids 10 and under eat free.

Rock Bottom CafeRock Bottom Cafe: Mondays and Tuesdays—Children aged 12 and under can eat free from the kid’s menu.

Ruby TuesdayRuby Tuesday: Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to close—Ruby Tuesday offers free kids meals with the purchase of an adult entree.

Salsarita's Fresh CantinaSalsarita’s Fresh Cantina: Thursdays—Kids eat free all day with a paying adult.

Shoney'sShoney’s: Fridays—Kids under 4 eat free all day with paying adult.

skylineSkyline Chili: Mondays—Kids 4 and under eat free from 4-9 pm. Check ahead for specific participating locations.

Slim ChickensSlim Chickens: Sundays—Kids aged 10 and under eat free.

SmashburgerSmashburger: Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday—Get a free kids meal with the purchase of a regular burger or salad after 4 pm. (Day various by region.)

Souper! Salad!Souper! Salad!: Sundays—Kids ages 4 and under eat for free.

steakSteak ‘n Shake: Daily—Free kid’s entrée for every $9 purchased. Participation varies by location.

TGI Friday'sTGIFriday’s: Mondays & Tuesdays—Kids eat free, though offers vary by location. Call ahead or check with server for specific details.

tonyromasTony Roma’s: Sundays—Kids 12 and under eat free with a purchase of an adult entree.

Tropical Smoothie CafeTropical Smoothie Cafe: Sundays—Kids eat free all day.

unoUno Chicago Grill: Tuesdays—Kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal.

Kids Eat For Almost-Free

buffaloBuffalo Wild Wings: Wednesdays—Kids 12 and under can order from the Kids’ Menu for just $1.99 from 4-10 pm.

fazolisFazoli’s: Tuesdays—Get 2 kids’ meals for $0.99 each with the purchase of 1 adult entree. For children ages 12 and under. Offer valid from 5-8 pm each Tuesday at participating restaurants.

firemountainFire Mountain: Thursdays—Two kids’ buffets for $0.99 each with the purchase of an adult buffet. For children ages 11 and under. Participation varies by location.

fuddruckersFuddruckers: Mondays & Tuesdays—Kids 12 and under can order from the kids’ meal menu for $0.99 (drinks included) from 4-9 pm. Locations and participation may vary.

mcalistersMcAlister’s Deli: Daily—Kids’ meals for $0.99 all day at select locations. Call ahead for participation.

oldcountryOld Country Buffet: Thursdays—Two kids’ buffets for $1.99 each with the purchase of an adult buffet. For children ages 11 and under. Participation varies by location. Offer also available at participating HomeTown Buffet and Country Buffet locations.

ryansRyan’s: Thursdays—Two kids’ buffets for $1.99 each with the purchase of an adult buffet. For children ages 11 and under. Participation varies by location.

WhichWich-logoWhich Wich Superior Sandwiches: Mondays & Saturdays—Kidswich meals are $0.99 with the purchase of a 7″ small Wich. Kidswich meals include a Wich, treat, and drink. Valid for children ages 12 years and under at participating locations.

If you have any restaurants or details to add to this list, please leave a comment. Thanks!


14 Jun 2008   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: We Survived the Two-Week Grocery Experiment!

We made it to Saturday! Aside from a few trips to CVS, I did not darken the door of any supermarket for two weeks.

Two. whole. weeks.

It felt like an eternity. Well, almost! At any rate, we made it through two weeks of no-shopping and we learned a lot along the way:

1) It is hard to let good deals pass by, especially when I have the time to snag them, the right coupons, and the store is only a few blocks away. 

2) A half gallon of milk does not last two weeks. Um, yeah, I should have known that one; don’t ask me what I was thinking.

3) Even if it was painful to miss a few deals, it is rather nice to not have to even think about menu-planning or shopping-list-making for two whole weeks.

4) Finally, yes, it saved me time. Yes, it saved us money (well, in that we were able to buy more with $80 than we can with $40. Do not ask me how that works, though, because I’m still scratching my head over it!). And last of all, we made it through two weeks without running out of food (ahem, except the milk bit!) and we even had quite a bit to spare.

The consensus? I think I’m going to try doing my grocery shopping every two weeks. However, instead of only going once every two weeks and spending all $80, my current plan is to do a bigger stock-up shop (say $65 worth) every two weeks and then use the leftover money ($15 or so) to make a quick run to a store to buy milk and the rock-bottom deals the week I’m technically not shopping.

This plan seems like it would give me the best of both worlds as I would still save time and have more wiggle room for stocking up every other week, but I’d also not have to miss out on exceptional deals the week I take off nor would we have to worry about going without if we run out of something like milk. That said, while it seems like a good plan, I have to try it out for awhile to really know it’s effectiveness.

I’m curious to know: Does anyone else shop like this–a big trip one week, a small trip the next? Do you think it could work?

We just got back from a two-hour shopping trip to multiple stores and got some wonderful deals but I need to head for bed so I’ll try and share those tomorrow or Monday.

————————

How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and
bargains you were able to snag this week on your blog (with pictures,
if possible!) and then come back here and leave your link below.

12 Jun 2008   ·   340
Money Saving Mom

What’s your best Frugal Father’s Day idea?

Father’s Day is this Sunday and while I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing for my dad and my husband, I’m sure there are many others who are still looking for some great ideas.

My dad is very easy to please. He doesn’t like gifts, he likes handmade cards and letters so that’s what he normally gets and that’s what he’s getting again this year. It’s always so good to sit down and write out my thoughts of gratitude and appreciation to him for all he has done for me.

My husband is also easy to please. Up until this year, he always received a card and a special home-cooked dinner. This year, since we have more wiggle room in the budget, I’m actually buying him something. But it’s not anything fancy or extravagant. Instead, he’s getting dress clothes, thanks to Sears. And I know he’ll be happy as a lark since, unlike most men, he likes to shop and buy clothes!

What are you doing to bless and show appreciation for the special father(s) in your life? Tell us about it in the comments section in the next 24 hours and you’ll also be entered to win one of two $20 gift cards from Boston Market.
Bostonmarketgiftcards
Our family loves Boston Market; it’s like enjoying delicious home-cooking without the work and effort! I especially enjoy their rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes–Yum!

To enter to win one of these two $20 gift cards:

::Leave a comment telling us your best frugal idea for celebrating Father’s Day and blessing a special guy in your life.

::Tomorrow evening, I’ll randomly choose two winners and post them.

11 Jun 2008   ·   15
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: The Menu Edition

Whenever I post one of our weekly menus, I seem to get an onslaught of questions. Rather than try and answer all the questions left on this week’s menu post in the comments section of the post, I’m answering some of them here:

Do you ever have to mix up your menus? Like when you forget to take the
meat out of the freezer? Do you just substitute another meal that you
planned for later in the week? I guess what I am asking is: is this a
*plan* or a *guide* for your meals?

Do I ever mix up the menus? Um, actually, I don’t think I’ve ever followed a menu completely accurately. That would be boring, you know. Just as I rarely ever follow a recipe to a tee and cannot–for the life of me–stick on a strict schedule, I also love to mix things up when it comes to menus.

The menu serves as my guide, not a rigid, must-follow-exactly taskmaster. I know that I have a plan in place for the week and enough food to carry out this plan but if another idea strikes my fancy, I can always change course in the middle of the week and make substitutions where needed.

I know that this method would drive some people batty, but it works well for highly-distracted "creative" people like me.

Your menus sound really yummy and healthy- do your kids eat the same as
you and your husband? I don’t see very much meat at all- what else are
you counting as a protein besides eggs?

We pretty much all eat the same; I’m not into making four different kinds of dinners–too much work for a simple person like me! I cook to please my husband primarily so I’ve tried to encourage my girls to learn to "eat what’s set before them". They don’t always eat everything but I do have them try everything and most of the time, require them to eat at least a bite or two of those items they aren’t very fond of.

I know that our menu might look shockingly protein-bare to the average American who has been raised that protein is only found in meat and eggs. In actuality, there is protein in a wide variety of food groups–even in fruit, believe it or not!

Since meat is expensive and many of the types out there are not that healthy anyway (hormone-laden, MSG-laden, etc.), we’ve opted to derive our protein from a variety of sources including cheese and dairy products, eggs, legumes, and vegetables.

We have at least one meat-heavy meal per week: hamburgers, beef hot dogs, barbecue meatballs, etc. We normally have one or two meatless meals per week (often lasagna, spaghetti casserole, or a Mexican dish–we just omit the meat and no one notices!). The rest of our dinners have some meat in them but it’s usually not in large quantities.

When we were first married, we were living on so little (less than $1000/month many months!) that we couldn’t afford much meat at all. We bought a bag of chicken from Aldi for $6.99 and this had to last us for two weeks. We didn’t buy beef at all for two years unless I could get it on some incredible mark-down price. We were willing to make these sacrifices because we wanted to stay out of debt through law school.

Now that our income has increased, we’ve been able to afford more meat, but we still have limited it as this helps keep our grocery bill lower. However, we are planning to purchase a freezer and a fourth of a cow from a local farm whenever our tax stimulus check decides to mosey it’s way to our mailbox. Since we’ll have a freezer full of hormone-free, organic beef, I’m guessing meat might make its way into more of our meals. We’ll see!

I am curious, how do you afford to eat dinner out once per week on your budget??

Our eating out budget is separate from our grocery budget. I know this really throws some people off, but it’s just the way we roll.

We like to go out to eat and since we’re currently living on almost less than half of our income, it’s a splurge we’ve decided to allow ourselves.

That said, when we go out to eat, we do it the frugal way: we use coupons, we go to inexpensive restaurants, we hit the free birthday dinners and other free restaurant deals, we order water, we split entrees, and so forth.

For some, going out to eat is a $40 or more affair. For us, we can often get in and out for less than $20 (or less than $10 if it’s fast food).

We don’t always go out to eat once per week, but I would say that we usually go out at least once a week–sometimes for dinner, sometimes for lunch or breakfast on the weekends, or sometimes for dessert if our eating out budget is almost maxed out for the month!

Where is the meat from your menu plan coming from? (BBQ Beef Pizza,
hamburgers, taco salad, etc.). Are you pulling that from previous
stock-ups? How much of your 2-week menu plan is leveraged from stock
vs. this 2-week trip?

When there is a good deal on meat, I usually try to buy enough to last for at least two weeks (provided I can wing it in our $40/week budget). Since not every kind of meat is on sale every week, this ensures more variety and it usually means that we have at least some beef and some chicken to work with each week.

You can see what we bought at the store for this two-week trip here. I already had 2 pounds of ground beef in the freezer, taco salad meat made up and frozen, plus some lunch meat on hand. In addition, I bought two packages of chicken and a package of beef hot dogs. At the rate we’re going, we’ll still have some of this left to use for next week since we’ve ended up with more leftovers this week than I was counting on (better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, right?). 

10 Jun 2008   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Financial Shape in 2008: Monthly checkup

It’s already the second week of June and I’m behind on getting our monthly checkup posted. How did you do in May? Here’s our update:

Short Term Financial Goals for 2008

1) Have our fully-funded emergency fund in place (6 months’ worth of living expenses) by the end of April. As of March 11, 2008–DONE!
2) Switch health insurance plans and open an HSA. We
were approved for our new health insurance plans in April and have also
set up our HSA. Done!

3) Start up an IRA and invest at least 5-10% of Jesse’s income in this. Started in March. (We plan to increase this to 12-15% of Jesse’s income as soon as we purchase our home.)
4) Open up a mutual fund for each of our children and invest $50 per child per month in it. Started in March.

5) Save up and invest $30,000 this year towards paying cash (100% down) for a house in 3-5 years. Now
that Goals 1-4 are finished, we’re working super hard on Goal #5!

May brought a few unexpected expenses with health needs and vehicle issues, so we only put $2000 in our house savings, not $3000 like I’d hoped. However, considering the setbacks, I’m grateful we were able to put even $2000 into it.

It’s been two months since we first opened our house savings mutual fund and we now have saved $4500 towards our house. Yay! Our
short-term goal is to save $15,000 in our house savings by August 31,
2008. This is a rather ambitious goal, but we’re working hard towards
achieving it and are excited to see if we might actually make it! Who knows?

We spent some time in May putting some additional online income-earning ideas into place which we are hopeful will, Lord-willing, allow us to meet or exceed our goal of having $30,000 in our house savings by the end of the year.

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How did you do in May? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2008, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in April and the areas
you hope to improve in May. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don’t have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel free to leave your update in a comment. Let’s all keep each other accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

9 Jun 2008   ·   28
Money Saving Mom

The Two-Week Grocery Experiment: Menu

After determining to try a two-week shopping trip, planning a rough menu based upon the store sales and what I already had on hand, and then taking a few hours to make the big (or so it seemed to me!) $76 shopping trip, I then sat down and made out a detailed two-week menu. I decided to plan a little more than we usually would eat each week, just to be sure we had plenty since this whole two-week shopping thing is completely new territory for me.

Here’s the menu:

BREAKFASTS (I try to shoot for a combination of two servings of whole-grains, one serving of protein, and one to two servings of fruit for all of our breakfast menus.)

Cereal, fruit
Strawberry/banana/pineapple/flaxseed smoothie, toast
Blueberry cream muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit
Bagels, yogurt, fruit
Banana bread, yogurt, fruit
Blueberry/pineapple/flaxseed smoothies, toast
English muffins, scrambled eggs, fruit
Orange/carrot/pineapple juice (made in our juicer), toast, yogurt
Cereal, fruit
Whole-wheat waffles, yogurt, fruit
Banana bread, yogurt, fruit
French toast, scrambled eggs, fruit
Oatmeal in the crockpot, fruit
Strawberry/banana/flaxseed smoothie, whole wheat waffles

LUNCHES (I try to have a combination of a serving of protein, one to two servings of whole grain/complex carbohydrates, and two servings of veggies/fruit for our lunch menus.)

Chicken fingers, apple slices, peas, whole-wheat toast
Vegetable stirfry over brown rice with flaxseeds
Split peas, brown rice, fruit
PB&J, oranges, broccoli
Leftovers
Turkey/cheese sandwiches, mixed vegetables
Quesadillas, carrots
Salad, homemade bread
Split peas, brown rice, fruit salad
Leftovers
PB&J, apples, carrots
Turkey/cheese sandwiches, mixed veggies
Burritos, carrots, apples
Chicken fingers, bananas, mixed veggies, whole-wheat toast

DINNERS (Dinners are similar to lunches in that I try to have a combination of one to two servings of protein, one to two servings of whole grains/complex carbohydrates, and at least two servings of fruit/veggies.)

Build-your-own burritos, wild rice mix, southwest corn, fruit salad
French toast, scrambled eggs, strawberry/pineapple/banana smoothies
Taco salad, homemade bread, fruit
Beef hot dogs, corn on the cob, pasta salad, fruit
Homemade BBQ beef pizza, fruit, veggies
Hamburgers, wild rice mix, green beans, corn on the cob 
Dinner out
Homemade mac and cheese with veggies, peas, fruit salad
Baked potatoes with broccoli and cheese sauce, homemade bread, fruit
Homemade BBQ beef pizza, fruit, veggies
Haystacks (build-your-own Mexican platter: Mexican beans, lettuce, tomato, corn chips, cheese, sour cream, salsa), corn
Spaghetti casserole, Italian cheese bread, green beans, grapefruit,
Chicken broccoli rice casserole, homemade bread, fruit,
Dinner out

SNACKS (We usually have at least two snacks per day–the fact that I’m still nursing Kaitlynn means I’m often hungry and three meals per day just doesn’t cut it for me! I try to serve at least one healthy snack a day and then one snack is usually something less healthy like Chex Mix or cookies.)

Fruit (apples/bananas)
Raw veggies (carrot sticks)
Cheese slices
Popcorn
Chex Mix
Animal crackers
PB&J
Cereal
Blueberry muffins
Homemade bread
Banana bread
Cookies

See more menus for this week here.

7 Jun 2008   ·   17
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: My CVS trips

I stayed out of the grocery stores all week this week as part of my Two-Week Grocery Experiment, but I certainly didn’t completely avoid CVS.

In fact, I did four transactions split up into two trips–one on our way home from an outing last night and one at the CVS down the street.

Here’s what we got:

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And our total out of pocket was: $1.48! Yay!

Best of all, I started the week out with about $15 in ECBs and ended the week with around $21. I was thrilled to be able to do so well even if I did somehow miscalculate and buy too many of the Pampers wipes. Oh well, at least it was something we’ll use!

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How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and bargains you were able to snag this week on your blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and leave your link below.

6 Jun 2008   ·   3
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Saving money on groceries in Canada?

Jessica emailed and asked:

I live in eastern Canada and I love reading your site, but I find a lot of it is based on American stores…so I’m just wondering if you know of other sites that may include Canadian ideas for stores here?

I know we have at least a handful of Canadian readers here so I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions for Jessica. Are there any websites out there on grocery savings for Canadians? What are your best tips for saving money on groceries in Canada?

4 Jun 2008   ·   69
Money Saving Mom

Less is More: Lessons from our little basement apartment

100_0479

A lot of you know that my husband and I spent the first three and half years of our marriage with him in law school and us living on a part-time income. We never went hungry and we always had a roof over our head and clothes to wear, but it was a very lean time.

During those years, we lived in a little basement apartment that only had four windows on one side. I could plug the vacuum cleaner into one outlet and vacuum the entire apartment without ever switching outlets.

We only had one old vehicle almost the entire law school tenure and Jesse usually used it for transportation from work and school. We knew hardly anyone in town we lived in–in spite of many efforts to try and make friends–and there were really not any safe places I could walk to from our apartment.

It would have been easy to have been swallowed up in despair and I won’t pretend there weren’t moments when I felt sorry for myself or wished we could be living in a little better circumstances. However, I decided, with God’s help, to try and make the most of what might seem like a less-than-ideal situation.

Maybe we didn’t have money to go out, but I challenged myself to think up creative ways we could still have fun without spending money. We’d check out a movie from the
library and have homemade pizza. In the Winter, we’d brew some coffee, pop some popcorn, and play a board game. Sometimes, we’d go to the park with a picnic or we’d browse the book selection at Barnes and Noble.

We didn’t have money to spend on decorating our home, but I still found ways to make it homey and inviting. For starters, I tried to always keep it clean and
clutter-free–even if it wasn’t very pretty, at least it could smell nice and look clean! We tried to have music playing in the background and that always spruced up a rather bare home, too.

We couldn’t afford fancy foods or restaurant meals, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t eat well. I had fun trying new recipes, searching out good deals, and stretching our grocery budget as far as possible. I discovered AllRecipes.com and enjoyed using their ingredient search feature to come up with new recipes to use what I already had on hand.

Instead of going out and buying things, I’d go to the library and check out a stack of books. Sometimes we’d check out CD’s too, so we’d have new music to play in our home throughout the week.

It was also in this little basement apartment that I first began blogging and tinkering around with online entrepreneurial things. Had it not been for the free time and lack of friends, I would have never even considered pursuing blogging or had the time to learn about basic web design, online marketing, or producing an ebook or ecourse. Little did I dream that in a few years, those same skills would allow me to help supplement our family’s income by doing something I very much enjoy while keeping my priorities as a wife and mother first and foremost.

And guess what? It was holed up in this little basement apartment with sometimes only $20 to spare for groceries for the week that I was searching grocery deals online and came upon this store called CVS that everyone in a now-defunct savings forum was raving about. I could never have imagined what that simple search would uncover for me that day, nor how many thousands of other individuals I’d have the opportunity to introduce to CVS as well!

Yes, living in that little basement apartment in an unfamiliar town barely squeaking by financially would never have been something I would have chosen for myself, but I’ll always be grateful God allowed me those three and half years of learning to be content, learning to love simplicity, and learning to make the most of what I had.  And I hope I never forget those lessons.

A cheerful attitude can go a long way in less-than-ideal situations; you can either complain about the thorns or you can savor the roses which bloom in the
midst of those thorns. Choose to bloom where you’re planted–even if it seems like it’s among thorns!

4 Jun 2008   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

If it weren’t for Dave Ramsey and God’s provision, I’d likely be pulling my hair out just about now

I think this is the week for everything to break down…

::Our home air-conditioning quit last Thursday. I couldn’t figure out why I was sweating and roasting all day until I went over and felt warm air blowing out of the vents. No wonder! Gratefully, we are renting right now so a quick call to our landlords, two repairmen, and a few hours later, the A/C was good as new. And just in time for this hot June weather. (How did people ever live without A/C??)

::Two days later, the A/C in my husband’s vehicle went out. He couldn’t determine the problem and ended up taking it in. We thought it was fixed, but this morning it is still not working right and there appears to be some bigger issues than just the A/C.

::As if that wasn’t enough excitement, Sunday the A/C in our van went out. The plan was to take the van in last evening to get it worked on but then the van wouldn’t even start.

We have an out-of-town funeral to attend today so we ended up finding a great deal on a rental car since neither vehicles are up for eight hours of driving. And we’ll determine what to do next when we arrive home.

One thing is for sure, it’s times like these when I am so thankful for our emergency fund! Instead of worrying about how on earth we’re going to pay for these unexpected expenses, we can just dip into our emergency fund.

This is also one of those times when you realize just how much budgeting and penny-pinching really pays off!

Thank you, God, for your kind provision for us and thank you, Dave, for all your wise financial advice!