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14 Mar 2011   ·   35
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

Pick-Me-Up Fruit Smoothie (recipe coming Thursday)

Breakfasts:

Pick-Me-Up Fruit Smoothies (recipe coming on Thursday)
Toast, Scrambled Eggs, Fruit
Cold Cereal, Juice x 2
Baked Oatmeal, Fruit
Overnight French Toast Casserole, Fruit

Lunches:

Leftovers x 2
Tuna sandwiches, frozen veggies, oranges
Macaroni & Cheese, carrots, apple slices
Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches, fruit
Cheese Quesadillas, frozen veggies, apple slices
Turkey sandwiches, fruit, veggies

Dinners:

Marinated Chicken, Toast, Frozen Veggies, Fruit
Haystacks (build-your-own Mexican dinner), Green Rice Casserole (from the freezer — I promise I’ll share the recipe next week!), Fruit
Steak, Baked Potatoes, Frozen veggies, Toast
Lasagna Casserole, Broccoli, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls
Tilapia, Mashed Potatoes, Frozen Veggies, fruit salad
Dinner at Extended Family’s House
Dinner Out

Extras: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Have you tried any new recipes recently? Share the links in the comments as I’d love to consider adding them to my list of recipes to try!

14 Mar 2011   ·   93
Money Saving Mom

Reader Testimonial: Frugality Allowed Us to “Splurge” For Others

An anonymous reader emailed in the following testimonial which I thought many of you would find encouraging:

I was the tight-fisted frugal one when we got married, but my husband was so impressed by my freebie-grabbing, creative penny pinching and compulsive saving that he quickly got on board! Even though we’ve only had one income for our family of seven, and that one income has always come from the notoriously underpaid field of education, we’ve never had any debt except for our mortgage which we vowed to pay off in less than five years (which we did). Our vehicles, home renovations, computers and all other purchases have always been paid for with cash.

A few years ago we heard about an orphanage in Burundi that was in distress. Its 20 young occupants shared two 10 x 10-foot rooms and had no running water or electricity. A piece of property had been located that had roomier buildings, water, power and a little land (i.e. for gardening, or some animals to help feed the orphans). Burundian refugees in America who were supporting the orphanage had no idea how to raise the exorbitant (to them) sum of $15,000 to pay for this in full, as apparently there were no mortgages in this primitive country.

Hearing about it through an emailed prayer request, my husband investigated the need, prayed and fasted, and ended up writing a check for the whole amount of $15,000! He was able to visit the property a year later with our daughter. What a heart-stopping, choked-up moment that was for them!

He took the above picture of the orphans in front of their new home and would have packed one or two of them into his suitcase to live with our family if he’d been allowed to! I love that guy!

My seamstress daughter also designed simple dresses like the one below which her sewing ministry was able to make for the girls:

God’s ways are awesome and we’re so blessed to be a part of His will. My tightness paid off in that we were able to splurge for others far away when it was really needed!

-An anonymous reader

14 Mar 2011   ·   118
Money Saving Mom

5 Tips for a Birthday Party on a Budget

Guest post by Shannon

Birthday parties are great, but throwing one these days can almost break the bank. It is possible to throw a birthday party on a budget and make it a party that your child and their friends will long remember. Here are five tips to help:

1. Make your own cake.

Buying a birthday cake from a bakery can be a costly proposition. Instead, get a couple boxes of cake mix and frosting to make your own. Even better are cupcakes. Get a fancy star tip and decorating bag to put a neat swirl on top.

2. Use solid color party-ware.

Your child’s party can still be themed with their favorite character or activity, but instead of having all matching cups, plates, napkins, and more, pick up some solid color items to match. They are less expensive and are easy to match the themed items. You will save money by just getting the themed invitations, a centerpiece, and a mylar balloon.

3. Just serve cake and ice cream.

Much of the cost for a birthday party is in the food. Invite your guests over in between lunch and dinner. That way the only items on your menu can be cake and ice cream.

4. Go back to the basics for party games.

It is easy to host some party games with items found around your home — think three-legged races which only require something to tie ankles together, a spoon and egg race, musical chairs, and freeze tag. Serve cake and ice cream before the games so that the kids can burn off all the extra energy!

5. Cut back on party favors.

It can be so tempting to go overboard on party favors to send home with your guests. Instead bake some cookies, place them in a cellophane or sandwich bag, tie with some ribbon to match your party theme and place them in a basket by the door to hand out as people are leaving. This a great activity for your child to participate in if they love to bake.

Your child can still have a great birthday party even without spending a bunch of money. Follow one or all of these tips to help celebrate their special day and stay on budget.

Shannon Weidemann is best known as the Partyelf. Check out all the great party ideas on her website to help plan your next celebration

Do you have an idea for a guest post? I am always looking for high-quality,original (i.e. not published anywhere else online) content with tips and ideas Money Saving Mom® readers can use. If you would like to submit a guest post, please follow the Guest Posting Guidelines.

photo credit

12 Mar 2011   ·   73
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: The I-Forgot-To-Take-Pictures edition

So, um, this was one of those weeks when life just flew by and every day was full of hiccups and interruptions (many of them wonderful, but unexpected nonetheless). And also, truth be told, I just fell off the organization and discipline “bandwagon” this week. For no good reason at all.

I bought eggs from my brother, went to Walgreens, Dillon’s and Aldi one evening and Jesse bought milk today. But, I only managed to snap a picture of my Walgreens trip. With all that took place this week and the disorganization which ensued, I was doing good to make it to the store and get the groceries put away. Taking pictures of the groceries completely slipped my mind until much of them were already eaten.

At any rate, you’ll just have to picture the pineapple, strawberries and other things I bought at Aldi, as well as the cereal and other deals I snagged at Dillon’s. And I promise I’ll try to be more organized (and not running around like a chicken with my head cut off!) next week and actually take pictures of my groceries.

Oh and in the spirit of being completely honest here, I have to tell you that we didn’t do a good job of following our menu plan and Jesse brought home dinner two nights this week, instead of the usual one night that we go out. And remember how I said I was training for a 5K and how I usually get up between 5-6 a.m. or earlier? Well, I didn’t exercise one single time this past week and I got up after 7:30 a.m. almost every single day.

Yes, it was just “one of those weeks”. I stayed up too late, didn’t follow the schedule and just generally seemed to have zero “groove” and discipline.

But now that I’ve confessed all that to you all, I am determined (by the grace of God), to get back on the bandwagon this week. So if any of you see me posting or replying to comments after 9:30 p.m. at night or you stop by my house and I’m in pajamas and it’s noon, you have my full permission to thoroughly reprimand me. Because I need to get out of this funk I got myself into this past week!

And now, I’m off to tackle my laundry pile and messy bedroom because I’ve promised myself I can’t go to bed tonight until the laundry’s done and my bedroom’s clean. 🙂

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.

11 Mar 2011   ·   89
Money Saving Mom

Do-It-Yourself Experiment #3: Homemade Hamburger Buns

Those of you who have been following my blog for the past few months know that I’m challenging myself to do 12 Do-It-Yourself Experiments in 2011. So far, I’ve been loving this!

By the way, we’ve used the Homemade Dishwashing Detergent for a month now and it’s worked really well. There’s just something about scooping out dish detergent that I mixed up myself instead of buying in a package from the store which just gives you a real sense of satisfaction.

And I’m surprising myself at how much I’m liking it. I’m getting ready to do a cost-comparison to see if it’s worth continuing to do. I’m seriously considering it, but I want to break down the price per load versus what I pay for storebought detergent.

 

This month’s experiment was making Homemade Hamburger Buns. I decided to go with this recipe from Food.com that a reader left as a comment.

It was really simple to do — especially since I used the bread machine to mix up the dough. The only change I made to the recipe was to substitute turbinado for the sugar.

After the dough was finished in the bread machine, it took me a little less than ten minutes to roll these out and cut them into buns. And then I let them rise and I cooked them.

I still need to perfect my hamburger dough-shaping abilities, as these didn’t look like beautiful hamburger buns you’d see at the store. But they were decent and they tasted quite delicious.

The jury’s still out on whether I’ll continue to make these. Since Dollar Tree now often carries Nature’s Own hamburger buns for just $1 per package and I can also sometimes get organic hamburger buns at the health food store reduced to just $1 per package, I’m not completely convinced that this is a money-saving do-it-yourself idea for me — especially when you factor in the costs of heating the oven, running the bread machine and the time involved in making these (at least 15 to 20 minutes from start to finish).

We’ll see. One thing’s for sure: if we ever want to have hamburgers and I don’t have any hamburger buns on hand, I’ve got a back-up plan! 🙂

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

January: Make From-Scratch Chai Tea

February: Make Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

March: Make Homemade Hamburger Buns

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

May: Make Appliqued Flower Tee

June: Make Homemade Hummus

July: Make Freezer Jam

August: Make Homemade Soap

September: Sew a Rag Quilt

October: Make Homemade Apple Butter

November: Make Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

December: Make Homemade Marshmallows

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

11 Mar 2011   ·   35
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash: A Freezer

We paid cash!

A testimony from Mary at Junior *gluten-free* Chefs

Every time I went to the store and saw awesome sales on meat or veggies, I wished that I could buy a bunch to freeze, because I knew in the long run it would save us so much money on groceries. But we just never seemed to be able to come up with the $250 to buy a freezer.

Our children have a lot of allergies so there really weren’t many other things I could do to cut back on our food budget. Finally, I decided to start setting aside $4 a week to save for a freezer. I knew it would take a long time but it would be worth it.

After almost a year, I had $180. I felt happy knowing we were getting closer, but thought we were still at least six months away from our goal.

Then recently, there was an “Ask the Readers” question on freezers on MoneySavingMom.com. Someone commented and said Sears was having a 30% off sale.

The freezer I had been wanting was a 6.9 cu. ft. Kenmore, and it was on sale for $174! I did a little dance. Not only was it on a great sale, but since there is a Sears store near me, I could have it shipped there for free.

We picked it up last week and I am so excited! I will now be walking to the local store every morning to check for “price reduced” meat and veggies.

Mary is a mother to three gluten-free, dairy-free, additive-free, refined sugar-free and wholesome-eating kids. They have fun sharing their thoughts about life with allergies on their blog, Junior *gluten-free* Chefs.

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

11 Mar 2011   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

Reader Testimonial: How I Transitioned from Working Full-Time to Part-Time

Here’s an encouraging story that Carolyn emailed in:

My husband, Otis and I greeted our new son, Gabriel, in March 2008, when we were 43 and 41, respectively. I was working full-time in a career that I loved, and was happy and content to continue until retirement.

When it came time to go back to work after a 10-week maternity leave, my heart ached with regret and I felt the nudging from God that I needed to be home full-time with Gabriel. I blamed it on hormones and thought, “I am a professional and will be able to deal with leaving my baby at a sitters. I can’t quit my job, I love it!”

The first few weeks were hard, and to my surprise the following months did not get any easier. I began praying fervently for answers, and for the grieving to stop every time I left him to go to work.

In March 2009, when Gabriel was a year old, I knew the Lord was leading me to quit my current job and work part-time. But, before anything else, we had to pay off a couple of loans in order to pay our household bills each month with Otis’ salary.

I had already started using coupons, and regularly read MoneySavingMom.com, plus we have utilized a budget for years. It was time to shave it down, and strictly follow it.

We sat down, made a plan of action to pay off a vehicle and home equity loan, as these were our only loans other than our mortgage. We figured up what we thought I would make part-time and used that for our household expenses, then we applied the rest of my full-time salary to the two bills which totaled $12,000.

In November 2009, we were on track with our payments, but again, God was telling me to set a date to leave my job. After much praying, March 31, 2010 was decided upon.

In early February 2010, both loans were paid off, so I began applying for part-time jobs. By the middle of February nothing was happening, and I was beginning to panic. I finally realized I needed to give it to the Lord because He was the One telling me to take this leap, and by the end of February a part-time job came open (100 hours a month)! It offered health insurance benefits, and mostly night shifts (so my husband could be home with Gabe).

I applied, interviewed, and was hired before my March 31, 2010 deadline. God had provided the job He wanted me to have with reduced hours, nightly shifts, and gave me a paycheck along with health insurance. Boy, He blessed us! God is so wonderful and mighty! Plus, more time with my child is more valuable than any material thing I could ever want want to buy.

Carolyn and Otis have been married for 11 years (this week) and live on 18 acres in Western Kentucky. Carolyn has Weston (20), Otis has James (24) and together they have Gabriel (2 1/2). Otis is a Deputy Sheriff, and since April 1, 2010, Carolyn has worked part-time for the Administrative Office of the Courts as a Pretrial Officer.

Do you have a story to share about your financial journey which would encourage other readers and give them hope? Email it to me and I’ll consider posting it.

11 Mar 2011   ·   71
Money Saving Mom

Living a Zero Waste Life

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

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

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

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

10 Mar 2011   ·   106

Lasagna Casserole Recipe

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

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

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

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

10 Mar 2011   ·   99
Money Saving Mom

From My Inbox: Philadelphia Cooking Creme House Party Pack

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

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

10 Mar 2011   ·   38
Money Saving Mom

Secrets of a Former Credit Card Thief

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

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

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

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

Read the full article.

photo credit

9 Mar 2011   ·   99
Money Saving Mom

Changing My Outlook

Guest Post by Sarah from Clover Lane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8 Mar 2011   ·   119
Money Saving Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) Allow Some Breathing Room in Your Budget

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

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

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

3) Reward Yourself For Achieving Goals

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

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

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

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

8 Mar 2011   ·   43
Money Saving Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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