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26 Sep 2011   ·   80
Money Saving Mom

10 Goals for This Week

I found many nuggets of truth as I read Tribes by Seth Godin last week. Here’s one quote I was especially inspired by:

“There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of ideas. Ordinary folks can dream up remarkable stuff fairly easily. What’s missing is the will to make the ideas happen. -Seth Godin, Tribes, page 42

Written, specific goals put feet to your dreams. And for me personally, when I have a list of realistic written goals for each week, I’m much more motivated–and I get a lot more done. Plus, it’s so encouraging to look back on the week and see that chipping away at my goals each day resulted in many completed projects at the end of a week!

Here’s last week’s goal list:

Mothering Goals

1. Finish reading The Courage of Sarah Noble aloud to the children. (In case you’re attentive and noticed I changed our read aloud goal from last week: I got mixed up on our assigned reading for homeschooling and thought it was Sarah: Plain and Tall when, in looking over the school plan last Monday, I realized it was supposed to be The Courage of Sarah Noble.)

2. Take children on a field trip.

Personal Goals

3. Run 12 miles (total).

4. Finish reading All the Money in the World and Tribes.

5. Finish embroidering quilt block for my sister’s baby quilt.

6. Work on Rag Quilt.

Home Management Goals

7. Spend 10 minutes picking up/cleaning our bedroom/bathroom every day

Business Goals

8. Shoot video for 31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget series.

9. Finish putting together talk for a speaking engagement next week. (I worked on it, but it’s not finished yet.)

10. Put together a list of speaking topics and speaking page. (In case you’re interested, the finished Speaking Schedule Page is here.)

And here are my goals for this week:

Family/Mothering Goals

1. Finish reading The Imagination Station: Problems in Plymouth aloud to the children.

2. Go to see Courageous (Note: we were planning to take the whole family, but thanks to some commentor’s input, it may just be my husband and I going.)

3. Work on our current habit training project.

Personal Goals

4. Run 12 miles (total).

5. Finish reading EntreLeadership, Eat Mor Chikin, and Womanly Dominion.

6. Listen to Poke the Box audiobook.

7. Finish Rag Quilt.

Home Management Goals

8. Spend 10 minutes picking up/cleaning our bedroom/bathroom every day (I’ve really been working with the children on keeping their room/bathroom cleaned and I realized that I’ve not been setting the best example for them!).

Business Goals

9. Shoot video for 31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget series.

10. Finish putting together talk + handouts for a speaking engagement this week.

How did you do on last week’s goals? What are your goals for this week? If you feel comfortable doing so, I’d love to have you share your progress on last week’s goals and your goals for this coming week in the comments. Let’s cheer each other on to live purposeful and productive lives!

You can download a free customizable weekly goal-planning sheet here.

photo credit

24 Sep 2011   ·   50
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: 25 pounds of wheat!

Some friends were heading to the bulk foods stores and graciously picked up 25 pounds of wheat for me while they were there. I’m so thankful to have wheat to grind again. I bought one bag of whole-wheat flour recently and we noticed that none of our baked goods tasted as good with it. Freshly-ground whole-wheat flour just can’t be beat!

The wheat was a little over $19 for 25 pounds. It’s less expensive from Azure Standard, but they were all out of wheat when the truck came last month. I’m planning to order a 50-pound bag from Azure soon. In the mean time, I’m just happy to have wheat to grind again!

My mom also gave me some Lundberg Brown Rice that she got clearanced and we bought some basics at Aldi again this week: bread, peanut butter, fruit, vegetables, and cheese. Plus, we also bought some farm-fresh eggs from my brother.

Would you like to know what the best deals and coupon match-ups are for your local stores? Be sure to check out the Store Deals section of our site where we post the best deals and coupon match-ups each week for over 100 different stores across the country. You can sign up to receive the top deals in your email inbox each week as soon as they are posted!

Find

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.

24 Sep 2011   ·   82
Money Saving Mom

Freezer Cooking in an Hour: Baked Chicken, Pumpkin Pancakes, Honey Rolls (+ Bread Machine Pitas)

Since I’m taking this week off from my usual Freezer Cooking in an Hour session, I’m going to post my session from two weeks ago that I never got to post because I ran out of time since we were preparing for our trip to Texas.

4:30 p.m. — I stick the chicken in the oven and then promptly get distracted cleaning the kitchen up from the mess that was leftover from lunch and our school lessons for the day (yes, I know, I should have cleaned it up earlier, but you know how some days go!).

4:40 — I determine not to get sidetracked again and get online to look up the pumpkin pancake recipe. I start mixing up the pancake batter only to realize I forgot to set out the buttermilk earlier. And of course, our microwave is still incapacitated (it’s been out of order for almost two months and, most of the time, we’ve barely noticed it. But there are a few times–like today–when it would be really nice for it to be working!).

I stick the buttermilk in a hot water bath and finish mixing up the pancake batter.

5:00 — The pancake batter is finally ready to start cooking, so I pour the first pancake on the griddle and go downstairs to lug my KitchenAid up from the basement pantry in order to start making the Honey Rolls.

5:15 — Silas is up from his nap, Kaitlynn and Kathrynne are finished with their quiet time and craziness ensues. They “help” me put the roll ingredients into the mixer (and spill quite a bit of salt in the process–oops!).

Note to self: If there are 15 things going on in the kitchen at once, set the timer when cooking pancakes–if you want to be able to eat any of them, that is.

Gratefully, only a few of the pancakes end up rather burned. The rest can be salvaged.

5:20 — While the roll dough is mixing, I chop up the chicken and bag it for the freezer.

It’s so easy to bake and chop chicken for the freezer and it’s so nice to have on hand for making homemade pizza.

5:25 —  I sit Kaitlynn and Silas down at the kitchen table to eat a pancake to tide them over until dinner. I get this “brilliant” idea to have them sprinkle powdered sugar on top instead of syrup. Um, you’d think I’d know better than to let them help put the powdered sugar on. Oh well, I scrape most of it off and they enjoy their pancakes while I hurriedly try to finish up the Honey Rolls.

5:35 — The roll dough is rising and I quickly clean up the kitchen and get dinner finished. After dinner is done, I bake the rolls–and they turn out really well. The recipe is definitely a keeper!

And just for fun, here’s a picture of my Bread Machine Pitas that I made the day before. I didn’t love them as much as we liked our non-bread-machine pitas, but they still turned out alright and were a piece of cake to me. Anyone have another bread machine pita recipe that you’d recommend?

Have you done any cooking or baking ahead recently? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

23 Sep 2011   ·   73
Money Saving Mom

Extending My Time As Stay-At-Home Mom

Sharon from Mom on Dealz sent in the following testimonial that I thought would be a real encouragement to some of you:

When we found out I was pregnant with our first son Will, I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. At that time, our incomes were not enough to make that happen–or so I thought.

My husband and I sat down and really evaluated our budget. After careful consideration and a lot of prayer, we began eliminating monthly expenses and really stripped everything to the bare minimum. We cut out gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, going out to eat, and many extracurricular activities such as my husband’s golfing and my pedicures.

It was a bit painful, but our goal was to make it so I could stay home for one year with our baby. After all of the cuts, we found we had a very difficult choice to make–we were four months shy of having enough money to stay home for a year. We had to choose whether I would return to work when Will was 12 weeks old and finish the school year, or not return and only have February through September with him.

We decided I would finish out the year since that would give us a bit more money and would then give me more time home with Will. After making this tough decision, I returned to work and finished the school year.

In June, I celebrated even more because I knew I could be home with my son. It did not take very long before I realized I wanted to be home much longer than the originally planned year. But how? My husband’s income was minimal and the savings we had put aside would only last a year.

That’s how my couponing journey began! Couponing has been our number one way of saving money. By matching up store deals with coupons, we have cut our grocery bill drastically.

My husband and I have also left no stone unturned for bringing in extra income. I have taught and tutored part-time as well as started a blog about frugal living that brings in a very small amount.

My husband has also done some side jobs and recently has turned a pergola home project into a money-maker! Small side jobs do add up and have contributed to me now being home three years. We still “do without” a lot of extras but our needs are met and we know we are doing what is best for our family.

We have followed Dave Ramsey’s financial plan and although we haven’t paid off any major debt, we have managed to not create any new bills. In this economy I would say that’s a success story! I do plan on returning to teaching when the boys enter traditional school but until then we are treasuring this precious time together. -Sharon

22 Sep 2011   ·   98
Money Saving Mom

31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: How to Price-match at Walmart

In this video, I talk about price-matching at Walmart–a great way to save money and time! You can find the Walmart Coupon Policy here.

As an aside, I found it really funny that, when I met up with some readers in Indy, they told me they were so surprised I was as animated in real-life as I am. They said that I come across as very quiet and reserved on my videos.

It cracked me up, because I’m pretty sure the last thing my real-life friends would dub me as would be “quiet and reserved”. However, it’s apparent I still have a long way to go in getting over my camera-shyness! 🙂

21 Sep 2011   ·   22
Money Saving Mom

How to Significantly Increase Your Income Without Working Harder (Part 4)

If you missed it, read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

After last week’s post on how to find more time in your day to devote to focusing on making traction on your goals, some of you might be feeling discouraged as you’re already using your time wisely, you don’t have any big time wasters in your life, you don’t get enough sleep as it is, and you can’t afford to bring on any help.

Don’t panic; there are still ways you can inch toward your goal. In fact, I’m going to teach you a principle that could revolutionize your life. This principle can be applied to any project you want to accomplish or goal you want to achieve. It’s so simple, but it really works!

The 15-Minutes-A-Day Principle

Set aside 15 minutes of each day to work on your goals. No matter how busy your schedule, there is likely something you could give up somewhere to carve out 15 minutes each day.

Make a prioritized list for the things you want to accomplish in the order you hope to accomplish, set the timer for 15 minutes every morning, and begin chipping away at this list until the timer goes off. If possible, do this early in the morning–before breakfast and before your day has gotten off the ground.

While it might seem like 15 minutes isn’t much, investing this time every day on a consistent basis can really start to add up to significant traction made and ground accomplished. 15 minutes a day adds up to 105 minutes (or 1 hour and 45 minutes) each week. 15 minutes a day adds up to almost a full day’s worth of work (7.5 hours) put in over a month’s time. And, if you consistently devote 15 minutes every day to working on your priorities list for a year, you’ll have put in 90 hours!

90 hours of focused work on your goals list will certainly get you somewhere, don’t you think?

Focused Intensity is the Key

If you only have 15 minutes each day to devote to working on your goals list, you need to make sure that you are giving 150% during that short timeframe. I’d recommend setting up an area in your home with all of your needed materials at your fingertips so that you can set the timer and dive in (if you don’t have space to set up a small work area, then at least put together a box or bin with all supplies you’ll need–pen, paper, research materials, etc.).

Turn off all distractions and don’t let anything deter you from your purpose during that 15-minute timeframe. Stick with your 15-minute-per-day commitment and I promise, slowly but surely, you’ll start to see results.

In fact, you might just be amazed at how much work you can accomplish when you work with focused intensity in short amounts each day. Not only does such a short window of time discourage you from dawdling, but you also won’t struggle with running out of steam because your time will be up before you know it!

Recommended Reading on Time Management

How to Have a 48-Hour Day — Lots of practical advice and inspiration for making the most of each day.

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think — Laura helps you rethink your “I don’t have enough time” excuses and shows you how you just may have quite a bit more time than you realized!

Time Management 101 — My series sharing time management lessons I’ve learned and principles that have increased my own productivity and efficiency. You can download the entire series in a free ebook here.

photo credit

21 Sep 2011   ·   61
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Advice for buying a used car?

Today’s question is from Kourtney:

Do your readers have any suggestions on how to privately purchase a reliable used car on Craigslist or from a private seller. I’d love to know what common issues to check for, how to get a deal, and any other advice your readers might have for me.

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

21 Sep 2011   ·   17
Money Saving Mom

48-Hour Giveaway: My City Mommy Coupon Binder (5 winners)

The My City Mommy Coupon Binder is the most comprehensive, customizable way to organize and store your coupons with the lowest coupon binder price on the web.

The My City Mommy Coupon Binder includes:

  • 1 Mead 3-Ring Binder
  • 5 double-sided Shopping Organizer pages. Use these to plan out your shopping trips with every detail you could need.
  • 5 double-sided Menu Planner pages. Use these to plan your menus for each week.
  • 2 double-sided Price Tracker sheets. Use these to determine what are good, great, and stock up prices for the items that your family uses according to your location and specific stores.
  • A sheet of adhesive labels. Use these for your pocket dividers and coupon category pages with over 40 preprinted labels and more blank ones for you to customize for a total of 80.
  • 5 sturdy poly material double pocket, tabbed store dividers. Use one for each of your favorite stores to keep your store ads, coupon booklets and more all together. Each has (1) 3-slot coupon organizer page behind it to keep that store’s coupons
  • 15 more pages to organize your clipped coupons. You have the choice of 3-slot pages, 9-slot pages or a combination of both. All are clear, highest quality, top loading BCW pages
  • 1 sturdy plastic 3-ring pocket. It velcros closed to keep unfiled or unclipped coupons secure.
  • Plus, how to pages on setting up your binder and how to use the pages included with it.

What others are saying about the My City Mommy Coupon Binder:

“I love my binder! And I never thought I’d feel so confident while shopping. Having the ads and coupons organized, knowing what I’m there (at the store) for specifically, and having a distinct plan have been a huge help to me.”

“I love my binder! I’m afraid to say that I would have been too overwhelmed and unmotivated to venture into the couponing world without the amazing binder. It’s like my 4th child…I never leave home without it!”

The My City Mommy Coupon Binder is $29.99. For more information, pictures, and a video detailing the contents of the binder, visit My City Mommy.

To enter to win one of five My City Mommy Coupon Binder, just click on the graphic below and type in your name and email address. Five winners will be chosen and posted on Monday. This giveaway ends Friday, September 23, at 11:59 pm, CST. Enter the Giveaway

21 Sep 2011   ·   68
Money Saving Mom

Q&A: How do you choose what books you read?

Nicole asked on my 10 Weekly Goals Post:

Crystal, how do you decide which books to read next? I love your book choices, and am wondering how you make your selections? Is there a webpage you visit, is it through friends’ recommendations, or do you have a book list you follow? -Nicole

Well, truth be told, there’s no scientific reason behind the books I choose to read and the order I read them. I did make a booklist at the beginning of 2011 with 24 books I planned to read this year. I planned this list from books I already owned and had been wanting to read for some time.

The two books per month I’m supposed to read from this booklist are my first reading priorities each month and I try to not allow myself to read much else until I’ve finished (or almost finished!) these. However, since I often read at least five or six books per month, I specifically only planned two books per month so that I could have room to read quite a few other books throughout the year.

Always Be On the Lookout For Good Book Recommendations

Most of the rest of the books I chose based upon suggestions from friends (I’m constantly asking my local friends, “What are you reading right now?” I get lots of great ideas this way!) and from the blogs I read (Catherine from A Spirited Mind posts many great reviews and I’ve found quite a few excellent books based upon her suggestions.) I also occasionally find books I’m interested in on Pinterest or from an email or comment from a reader. Since I love to read, I’ve learned that just keeping my eyes and ears open for good book recommendations pretty much guarantees I have an endless supply of good book ideas.

Keep a Running List

As soon as I find a book I’m interested in reading, I write it down. And, at the next available opportunity (usually that same day), I’ll check out the reviews on Amazon. While these are not always unbiased (some authors get a bunch of their friends to write glowing book reviews for them), you can get a good sense in skimming the reviews as to whether the book is worth reading.

If I’m still interested after reading the reviews and description on Amazon, I check to see if our library has the book. Most of the time, it does, so I go ahead and place a hold on it. Since I recently spent $25 to get a Gold Card membership, I can request unlimited holds–something that comes in very handy at the rate we check out books at our house.

The thing I love about checking out books from the library is that I don’t feel any sort of obligation to have to read the book. If I get it and start skimming through it and realize it’s not what I thought it was, I can just return it to the library, without any guilt. I’d rather spend my time reading high-quality books that I’m going to enjoy and benefit from, instead of feeling obligated to read a mediocre book because I paid for it.

In the cases where our library doesn’t have the book, I’ll check PaperBackSwap to see if it’s available there. If not, and it’s a book I really want, I add it to my Amazon wishlist and then wait for when we have some extra credit from Swagbucks to use toward buying the book.

As books come in from PaperbackSwap, from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, someone sends me a book (companies often send me books in hopes I’ll read and recommend them on my blog), I keep them on a bookshelf in our schoolroom that is just for books I’ve yet to read. As I finish one book, I choose another from this bookshelf to read. When library books I’ve put on hold come in, I make those higher priority since I have to return them in a timely manner (it’s not saving money to check books out from the library if you end up having to pay late fines repeatedly!).

(Pages of notes I took from Organized Simplicity)

The 3-Books-At-A-Time Rule

I try to always have three books going: one that is an easy, highly-interesting read; one that is somewhat business related (about marketing, blogging, writing, growing a business, being a leader, personal finance, etc.); and one that is encouraging and building me up spiritually. I don’t always follow this formula exactly, but that’s what I aim for when choosing what book I’ll read next.

Another thing I’ve implemented this year is to be consistent in finishing books before starting new ones. I used to be the queen of starting books, but was really, really awful about actually finishing a book. I found this to be quite unproductive, since it starts becoming overwhelming and crazy to try to process what you’re reading if you’re reading snippets of 20 different books.

So in 2011, I’ve made it a point to only have three books going at once–in addition to my current devotional book and my current “running” book (I have a spiritually-deep book by the treadmill that I read a few pages out of while I’m doing my pre-run walking warm-up. I’ve been reading really thought-provoking books during this time as I’ve found it then gives me a lot to think about and mull over while running.) Setting a specific boundary on my book-reading has helped me to actually finish many, many more books than I usually do–and I feel like I’ve gleaned a lot more by concentrating and focusing on reading fewer books at a time.

For those who are interested, you can see the books I’ve read so far in 2011 here. You can also read reviews of many of them here. (I’m behind on writing book reviews, but I am hoping to get caught up sometime in the next week!)

photo credit

21 Sep 2011   ·   36
Money Saving Mom

Free Customizable Menu Planner Pack

By request, we now have the downloadable menu planners available in a customizable format. This allows you to type into the planners and then print them and/or save them to your computer. For those of who like to create menu plans to use more than once, this should save you some time and effort!

How to use the Customizable Menu Planner Pack

  1. Download the 14-page menu planner pack (14 pages, 668K pdf)
  2. Open the file in a PDF reader such as Adobe Reader, which you can download for free.
  3. Use your TAB key to tab through the customizable fields.
  4. Type in your text.
  5. Print out the document when you’re done typing in your text.
  6. Save your document if you’d like to save your changes. You’ll be able to open the document again to add different text at any time.

New here? Make sure to check out all the free customizable planning pages we offer.

20 Sep 2011   ·   99

Homemade Oxiclean Recipe

I found a recipe for Homemade Oxiclean on Pinterest not too long ago. And right then and there I decided I wanted to try it myself.

We go through Shout like crazy. Something about three, busy, active, on-the-go children who seem to think it’s their God-given duty to find new and creative ways to get stains on their clothing each hour of the day. 🙂

I invested in a big bulk box of Shout almost two years ago using my Amazon giftcards from Swagbucks to pay for it. We’re nearing the end of that bulk purchase and I’ve been surveying my options.

So this Homemade Oxiclean jumped off the page at me. Maybe this would be the answer to my stain-fighting problems?

I had all the ingredients on hand already so I knew I at least had to try it and find out. The worst thing that could happen would be for it to flop and not work.

The jury’s still out on whether or not this will replace my incessant use of Shout, but I’m really hopeful that I’m going to be duly impressed with it over the next few weeks as it was very simple and inexpensive to make.

*Many recipes online call for baking soda instead of washing soda. While this might work, from the research I did supposedly the chemical properties of washing soda are more accurately suited to getting stains out. Or something.

Don’t ask me to try and explain chemistry stuff because I’m pretty much clueless about all the formulas and anything that has words I can’t pronounce. 🙂 But I’m hoping maybe some of the chemists here could better explain why you should use washing soda instead of baking soda.


19 Sep 2011   ·   55
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan

Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins + the beautiful flowers my husband bought for me

We have plans on both Wednesday and Thursday afternoon of this week, so instead of doing my usual Freezer Cooking in an Hour session, I’m splitting it up over three days and just doing one 20-minute freezer cooking project each day. It might not be quite as efficient as my usual Freezer Cooking session, but I think it will work out alright. At least I’m hopeful it will!

Here’s our menu plan for this week:

Breakfasts

Popcorn Cereal, apples
Steel Cut Oatmeal in the crockpot, Pick Me Up Smoothies
Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins, fried eggs
Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, fruit, scrambled eggs
Waffles, fruit, scrambled eggs
Oatmeal, fruit
French Toast, fruit

Lunches

Snack-y lunch
Salad with shredded turkey and hard-boiled eggs, apples
Cheese Ravioli, frozen peas, nectarines
Salad with hard-boiled eggs, feta cheese, dried cranberries, toasted rolls
Macaroni & Cheese, frozen veggies, fruit
Homemade Pizza Pockets
Leftovers x 2

Snacks

Granola bars
Fruit/Veggies
Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Easy Morning Glory Muffins

Dinners

Steaks, Twice Baked Potatoes, salad, fruit
Turkey and Cheese on Hoagies (my family had these leftovers from an event and shared them with us), leftover Twice Baked Potatoes, frozen veggies
Macaroni & Cheese With Beef (from the freezer), Easy Morning Glory Muffins, frozen veggies
Homemade Pizza Pockets, fruit, veggies
Dinner with extended family
Dinner out

Freezer Cooking Projects

Homemade Pizza Pockets
Easy Morning Glory Muffins
Whole-Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

What’s on your menu this week? Share details and/or your link to your menu plan in the comments.