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30 May 2011   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

Green Smoothies

I’ve finally got everything unpacked, the house and van back in order and the laundry almost done after our road trip last week. It was fun to be away as a family but it’s good to be home!

We have another full week with lots of fun things in store — like spending all day tomorrow at Amy’s house with Laura from Heavenly Homemakers (they say we’re doing a joint video blog; that should be interesting!) and then our two-day homeschool convention this Friday and Saturday (any readers going to be there? I’d love meet up, if so!).

Here’s our planned menu:

Breakfasts
Cereal, Pick-Me-Up Smoothies
French Toast Casserole (from the freezer), Fruit
Steel Cut Oats with raw sugar and milk
Breakfast Burritos, Fruit
Strawberry-Banana Smoothies, toast
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (recipe coming Thursday), scrambled eggs
Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes (recipe coming Thursday), scrambled eggs

Lunches
Leftovers
Lunch at Amy’s house (she’s kindly providing lunch for us!)
Apple Peanut Butter sandwiches, carrot sticks
Beans & Rice with cheese, peas, fruit
Lunch at Spangles with Stacie (using our Groupons!)
Cheese Quesadillas, fruit

Snacks
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Popcorn
Fruit/Veggies

Dinners
Barbecue at extended family’s house
Meatballs, corn on the cob, fruit salad
Burritos, brown rice, steamed veggies, fruit salad
Steak on the grill, frozen veggies, toast
Tilapia, rice, steamed broccoli, fruit salad
Dinner out
Marinated chicken, frozen veggies, fruit, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Freezer-Cooking-In-An-Hour Plan (I’ll share pictures/details on how this goes on Thursday!)
Whole-Wheat Chocolate Pancakes
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Brown Rice/Wild Rice

What’s on your menu this week?

30 May 2011   ·   57
Money Saving Mom

How To Pay Cash for a Vacation

1. Set A Goal and Break It Down Into Bite-Sized Pieces

A lot of people want to go on paid-for vacations, but few actually sit down and make a plan to make it happen without debt. Do you want to go on a three-day road trip in six months from now or a week-long cruise in three years from now?

Either way, you need to sit down and figure out how much it is approximately going to cost (I recommend rounding up the amount you think it will cost in order to give you some wiggle room in case it ends up costing more than you’ve planned on.). Once you have a set figure for how much you plan to spend on your vacation, break that down into monthly and weekly savings goals.

Let’s say you want to go on a three-day road trip as a family in December. If you calculate that it will cost you $500 ($250 for hotel, $100 for gas, $150 for food + attractions) and you have around six months to save, than you’ll need to come up with an extra $84 each month or $21 each week.

2. Make a Plan of Action

Once you’ve figured out where you want to go, how much it is going to cost and how much you need to save each week, you can devise a plan of action. What specific actions are you going to take to save the money for your vacation?

If you don’t have extra money in your budget to divert to a special vacation savings, think of things you could cut from your budget to free up the necessary money. To take our previous example, if you have a goal to save $21 each week for your three-day December road trip, that could mean giving up dinner out each week or shaving that money off your grocery budget by using coupons or playing the Drugstore Game.

3. Put On Your Thinking Cap

If you feel like there’s no way you can squeeze any extra out of your budget or lower an of your expenses, there are still ways to save money for a vacation, if it’s something that’s really important to you. You could have a garage sale, sell some items you no longer need on Craigslist or eBay, mow lawns, babysit, take on a small cleaning job, start a side freelance business, teach classes… the possibilities are endless. Think about things you are good at or love to do and consider how you could earn extra income by investing a few hours each week into them.

When you set a goal, work hard and finally reach it, it’s very rewarding and fulfilling. And you can enjoy your vacation without having to feel guilty or worry about how you are going to afford to pay for it later!

30 May 2011   ·   127
Money Saving Mom

What Do I Do With This Stockpile?

Guest post by Alison

As much as I love getting free to cheap products, there comes a point when I’ve just simply got too much stuff. When I open my cabinets and closets, and toothpaste falls on my head or a shampoo bottle hits my foot, it’s probably a good sign that I might be going overboard.

Sure, I can give my mom the tenth bottle of laundry detergent I’ve given her in a month or give a friend the seventh bar of soap I’ve passed onto her in a week, but at some point, they start to question my sanity. So the question is, what do I do with some of this stuff?

Donate to a local organization.

More than ever, local charities are hurting and in desperate need of a myriad of items, many of which we’ve been able to stockpile. Check out their websites or give them a call to see what items they’re most in need of. Homeless shelters, rescue missions, women and children’s shelters and pet rescues are all great places to check.

While it takes a little more time, I like to thoroughly sort out which organizations need which items. I could throw everything in a box and bring it to the nearest charity or shelter, but I prefer to sort through the items. The homeless shelter probably doesn’t have a high demand for Pediasure, but the local Shade Tree definitely does. The rescue mission isn’t in dire need of cat food, but the cat rescue can definitely benefit.

Set aside items to pack shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.

Last year was the first year I participated in Operation Christmas Child, and I bought items right before Christmas. This meant not only did I pay full price for most items, I wasn’t able to pack as many boxes as I would have liked.

This year, I’ve learned to plan ahead and stock up during Target clearance and other coupon deals. It’s not even the middle of the year and I’ve got an entire box full of toys, school supplies and hygiene items set aside just for this purpose.

Reach out to those in your church, neighborhood or community.

You might be surprised of the needs that go unmet even in our own communities. You can either donate these items to individuals and families or even arrange a swap.

I may not need any more baby wipes, but there might be someone who does that has some extra Excedrin that I need. I would always rather items go to someone who can use them than have them sitting in my closet collecting dust.

Keep a supply of hygiene kits in your car to pass out.

This may not be the right route for everyone, but it’s one that I personally love. Get together hygiene kits with the basics and keep a case of bottled water in your car. Pass them out when you see individuals in need.

It’s amazing how much of a blessing such a small gesture can be. The things we often take for granted are some of the basic necessities in life that not everyone has access to.

Those are just a few ideas of what I do to clear some space in my house, as well as help fulfill the needs of others. I’d love to hear your ideas, too!

Alison Rutledge is a work-at-home wife, student and mother to two crazy cats. She loves the Lord, serving others, volunteering, reading, staying active and, of course, shopping for the best deals she can find.

photo credit

30 May 2011   ·   5
Money Saving Mom

Reader Testimonial: Teaching Others Helps Me Stay Accountable

Testimonial by Heather from Family Friendly Frugality:

I started using coupons and living a frugal lifestyle out of necessity. I was sick of going over budget and knew I needed to drastically change the way that I looked at our finances.

With the support of my husband, I learned how to stretch our budget by picking up tips and techniques from blogs MoneySavingMom.com. Once I finally got the hang of shopping strategically, it was absolutely thrilling to see how much money we were able to save every week. I was determined to keep up this frugal lifestyle for the rest of my life, how could I not?

The best comparison I can think of is starting a new diet. You begin losing weight and investing in your health and you feel great! You know that you will maintain this lifestyle for the rest of your life. Until you stumble upon a brownie and you quickly backslide back into your old ways.

Next time you try to hop back onto the healthy eating train, you know it will be harder. You will already have that negative self talk going on in your brain saying, “Well you failed last time, what makes you think this time is going to be any different?”. This same cycle can repeat itself over and over again, and each time you end up with a few extra pounds more then you started off with.

The same goes for living a frugal lifestyle. It was too easy to get complacent. After awhile I began to realize that I was leaving my coupons at home more often then I was taking them with me. I began to realize that I hadn’t been to the drugstore in months and I was starting to shell out full price for the items I knew I could easily get for free.

I was backsliding.

I knew that’s not what I wanted for myself, and it definitely wasn’t what I wanted for my family. At the moment I realized where we were headed, I made the choice that not only was I not going to allow us to become complacent, but that I also needed accountability.

Have you ever noticed that people who have lost a lot of weight and kept it off often end up in some kind of support role? The act of teaching others to lose weight is what helps them stay accountable.

So, I decided to teach — to share what I had learned about saving money and living within my means! I knew that by sharing my enthusiasm for saving money, it would ignite the passion in others to go for their goals!

I also knew that I could never be a hypocrite. I knew I needed to practice what I preached.

Teaching others to save money and to live frugally holds me accountable. I can’t backslide. There are too many who need to learn that there is a more fulfilling way to live then hopping from paycheck to paycheck, and I’m ready to teach.

Heather Shaw is a wife and mom of two living in the great state of Texas! She teachers others to live a frugal lifestyle on her newly redesigned blog, Family Friendly Frugality.

28 May 2011   ·   20
Money Saving Mom

More Ways to Help the Joplin Tornado Victims

So many of you continue to ask for specific ways you can help those devastated by the tornado in Joplin. Here are some more needs I found out about today:

Supplies Urgently Needed

If you will be heading to Joplin in the next 24 hours, The Bridge is urgently needing: Neosporin, hydrogen peroxide, pillows, cleaning supplies, bandages, pain medicine, sunscreen, razors and tarp. They will be opening up tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. They are located at 3405 S. Hammons Blvd (right off of I-44), Joplin, MO 64804. Their phone number is: 417-206-6886. They also would gladly accept any volunteer help.

Homeschooling/Educational Materials Needed

There were a number of homeschooling families who lost everything (including all their homeschool curriculum and supplies) in the tornado. Light of Faith (a book company based in Joplin, MO whose owners are personal friends of our family) is working with a local homeschool mom to collect homeschool donations for these families. If you have homeschool or educational materials (new or used) that you would like to donate, please contact homeschooltornadorelief @ gmail.com (remove spaces) for details on where to send your items.

Other Donations Needed

Convoy of Hope is working in conjunction with a team from Central Bible College to go door-to-door to help supply residents in Joplin with whatever they need.

I talked with Denise today, who is working on the ground with Convoy of Hope in Joplin, and she said they would welcome mailed material donations and are especially needing:

::Box tape
::Plastic totes
::Knee pads and work gloves
::New socks and underwear
::Tylenol and pain medication
::Canned foods
::Things for children: sidewalk chalk, bubbles, bouncy balls, crayons and coloring books, etc.

You can send donations to:

Convoy of Hope
330 South Patterson
Springfield, Missouri 65802

To read more about Convoy of Hope and how they are helping those in Joplin, visit their Facebook Page.

Thank you for all you are doing to help these needy folks. They continue to express their humble and overwhelming gratitude for how complete strangers are reaching out and helping them get back up on their feet.

28 May 2011   ·   48
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: The Road Trip edition

I didn’t go shopping this week. Instead, we took a family road trip to Oklahoma City and Tulsa. We had a specific budget we’d set ahead of time for our trip and we had fun creatively sticking with it — while enjoying some fun and memorable experiences, too.

(I think my driving “skills” freaked the guy out who was manning the segway booth. He would not let go of it for the life of him!)

We had some fun firsts on the trip. We rode segways, fed turtles and touched a shrimp, sea cucumber, shark, starfish and sting ray.

Feeding turtles

And there were some not so fun firsts. Like our first time of being straight in the path of a tornado and thinking we were going to experience a direct hit.

We hid out in the hotel’s storm shelter and guess who was there with us? The executive producer for Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers show.

Needless to say, the fact that he and his team believed we were also going to sustain a direct hit was not too comforting! Eight minutes before the tornado reached us, it changed directions and then petered out. We all breathed a huge collective sigh of relief, but were so sad for the many others who were in the path of the storm. 🙁

Next week, I’ll be sharing posts on how to pay cash for a vacation, how to get a great deal on a hotel and how to stay organized and save when traveling with young children — along with more pictures from our trip. Stay tuned!

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.

27 May 2011   ·   16
Money Saving Mom

Updated List of How You Can Help the Tornado Victims

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all of you who have donated supplies to The Bridge. They are currently well supplied right now and ask that no additional material supplies be shipped while they work on setting up organizational systems for what is already coming in.

If you are heading to Joplin, you can check their Facebook Page for specific items they do still need. The needs are changing on a daily basis, so it’s best to check in on their page to see what specific items they need that day.

If you want to ship supplies, Frugal Fritzie (who lives in Joplin) is putting together an online donation drive:

Here’s a list of items that are currently needed:

* Non-Perishable Food
* First-Aid Supplies
* Trash-Bags
* Over-the-counter Medications (especially pain relievers)
* Baby Supplies such as Diapers, Wipes, Baby Food, etc.
* Dog Food
* Cat Food
* Toothpaste
* Toothbrushes
* Shampoo
* Conditioner
* Soap
* Body Wash
* Laundry Detergent
* Cleaning Supplies
* Sunscreen
* Insect Repellent
* Paper Plates
* Work Gloves
* Note: Clothing is not needed at this time.

Connie’s Antiques in Joplin has moved to a new location that has a nice big storage in the back and Blake with Connie’s was more than happy to help & has agreed to have all items mailed there:

Mail to:

Disaster Relief/Frugal Fritzie
c/o Connie’s Antiques
5171 N. Main St.
Joplin, MO 64801

You can also use your Swagbucks to purchase items on Amazon for the MOPs Group in Joplin. Check out this wishlist of needed items here.

If you would like to give money, there are a number of relief organizations you can donate to listed here.

If you live in the local area and want to volunteer, or are looking for a donation drop-off point in a nearby city or state, check out the Joplin, MO Tornado Relief Facebook Page. There are numerous opportunities being listed there for volunteer help, as well as physical and monetary donations.

If you have found other specific ways to help, please leave them in the comments.

26 May 2011   ·   154
Love frappuccinos but hate the cost at the coffee shop? Try this delicious homemade copycat recipe!

Homemade Frappuccino Recipe

Love frappuccinos but hate the cost at the coffee shop? Try this delicious homemade copycat recipe that will save you over $300 a year!

Guest post by Sabrina at Kitchen Cheat Sheet

I used to work at a coffee shop, and I not only witnessed people coming in several times a day for an almost $5 coffee, I often purchased that expensive blended coffee drink as well!

A few months ago I made the decision to leave my job and stay home with my two kids. Needless to say, I needed to cut my budget to make this possible. One of the first money saving ideas that most people will tell you is to cut out your daily fancy coffee drink. Although I don’t need a fancy coffee drink daily — or even weekly — I am a hard-working mom of an infant and a toddler and it’s nice to have a little bit of luxury in my day!

How Much I Save By Making My Own Frappuccinos

Using a Magic Bullet, I am able to save over $300 a year (assuming I replace two Grande Frappuccinos a week) and still enjoy my fancy blended coffee drinks. Here’s a cost breakdown:

The Yearly Cost of Purchasing Two Grande Starbucks Frappuccinos a Week (at $4.15 each): $431.16

The Yearly Cost of Making Two Homemade Frappuccinos Each Week ($52 for Magic Bullet + $0.50 each per drink): $104

Total Savings the first year: $327.16 (including the purchase of a Magic Bullet)!

Using the above directions, I usually get a very smooth, thick but drinkable-through-a-straw texture. With all the money you’ve saved, you can afford to splurge on a reusable Starbucks cold cup, if it feels a little more luxurious to drink out of an actual Starbucks cup!

Sabrina Hartman is a new stay at home mom to a 2 1/2 year old and a 9-month-old. She loves to find new ways to save money to compensate for leaving the workplace, and is finding her inner homemaker in the process. She tracks her homemaking life and tips at The Unlikely Homemaker and offers a kitchen tip/guide site at Kitchen Cheat Sheet.

Want more make-it-from-scratch ideas? I highly recommend Easy Homemade by Mandi Ehman. This ebook contains more than 60 recipes for homemade kitchen staples and it’s beautifully laid out, well-illustrated, and packed with great ideas and recipes.


25 May 2011   ·   125
Money Saving Mom

Ask the Readers: Is it worth it to participate in a CSA?


Today’s question is from Emily:

I have been doing some research on local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and I was wondering if anyone has participated in this. I would love to purchase local fruits and veggies (and possibly eggs and meats) in bulk, but it seems a little expensive considering that most of the CSAs in my area only run for 15-20 weeks (in the midwest) and cost around $500 and up for a full share. Any additional information including pluses and minuses from your readers would be great! Thanks!

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

24 May 2011   ·   100
Money Saving Mom

How You Can Help the Tornado Victims: Donate From Your Stockpile (+ more)

As most of you know, Joplin, Missouri was hit with a devastating tornado on Sunday evening. The pictures of the destruction are heart-breaking. People have lost everything — their homes, their belongings and their loved ones.

While not everyone is close enough to be able to go personally help with the relief efforts and many of you are on very tight budgets, so donating money might be out of the question, but there are things you can do to help — no matter your budget. Most of us have stockpiles of toiletry items we’ve gotten for free or almost-free. Here’s an opportunity to put them to good use!

***See my updated list of ways to help here.***

Melissa, a MoneySavingMom.com reader who lives very near the destruction, is helping with the relief efforts and she and I communicated yesterday about specific ways you all can help those in great in need in the Joplin area. Her husband’s ministry (Mustard Seed Global Fellowship) has teamed up with The Bridge (another local ministry) to form a shelter and supply distribution hub.

They can use all of the extra supplies you can send. Needs include:

::Non-perishable Food (most are without electricity and gas, so sending food that doesn’t need to be cooked is especially helpful)

::Toiletries (deodorant, shampoo, soap, body wash, razors, shaving cream, toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.)

::Diapers, wipes, formula

::Towels

Please send the items to:

The Bridge
3405 S. Hammons Blvd
Joplin, MO 64804

They will distribute them to those who need them most.

Be sure to package your items securely. Wrap any bottles or items that might leak in plastic, to prevent spills in the box. If you are sending towels or clothing, please send items that are in good condition.

If you would like to give money, there are a number of relief organizations you can donate to listed here.

If you live in the local area and want to volunteer, or are looking for a donation drop-off point in a nearby city or state, check out the Joplin, MO Tornado Relief Facebook Page. There are numerous opportunities being listed there for volunteer help, as well as physical and monetary donations.

If you have other suggestions or specific ways to help, please leave them in the comments.

24 May 2011   ·   103
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu Plan: The Road Trip Edition (and where I’ve been the past few days!)

Children’s clothes all packed and ready to go

We survived the whirlwind weekend that included us running a table at our local homeschool used book sale (we sold almost all our stuff and made over $120 to use to buy next year’s homeschool curriculum!), two special missionary services at our church, Jesse’s sister’s graduation, time with Jesse’s other sister and her family who were in from out of town for the graduation and a Josh Groban concert (my husband shocked me big time by surprising me with tickets to this!).

Sunday afternoon, we started packing for our family road trip. Our first stop was to be Joplin, Missouri. Then, Sunday evening, we heard the heart-breaking news of the devastating tornado there. I spent much of this morning researching out ways our family could personally help and specific ways you all could help by donating extra stockpile items. I’ll have a post up tomorrow with more details on that.

In the mean time, thank you for your patience with me today as I was focusing most of my time and energy on Joplin and figuring out Plan B for our road trip. We decided to still go ahead with our planned family road trip, but we headed to Oklahoma City today instead.

Silas getting ready for a dip in the hotel pool tonight

I didn’t get a video done for the 31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget series today. I’d hoped to do it from the hotel room tonight, but it just didn’t happen as we were having too much fun playing in the pool and just enjoying life away from all the usual distractions of life.

I am planning a number of road trip-themed posts over the next few days along with the usual blogging fare, provided I have time and internet connection while we’re traveling. We’ll see. If they don’t get done this week, I’ll be sure and post them next week.

For starters, here’s our menu for the road trip:

Breakfasts
Continental breakfast at the hotel (we always try to stay somewhere that serves breakfast as this saves a nice chunk of money — especially when we get a great deal on the hotel in the first place!)

Lunches
Ham sandwiches, chips, juice
Peanut butter & Jelly sandwiches, carrot sticks, bananas
Tuna sandwiches, chips, veggies
Egg salad sandwiches, veggies, fruit
Peanut butter & Jelly sandwiches, carrot sticks, apples
Snack-y lunch (cheese & crackers, pretzels, carrots, apples, etc.)
Cereal, fruit

Snacks
Apples
Carrot sticks
Pretzels
Crackers and peanut butter
Cheese and crackers
Chips
Granola bars

Dinners
We’re planning to eat dinner out every night as this is something we budget for on vacations. We keep it pretty economical, though, and usually spend around $25 to $35 maximum for dinners for the five of us. We did Cracker Barrel tonight and will likely do Chick-fil-A tomorrow night.