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3 Jan 2011   ·   47
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

Thank you for all the Crockpot Oatmeal tips and recipes; I can’t wait to try some of them! Now I just have to figure out where to procure steel cut oats. (Yes, believe it or not, I’ve never bought them before!)

Here’s this week’s menu plan. You’ll notice some repeats from last week since we ended up eating soup more than one night, so we didn’t make it through our list of planned dinners.

Cold Cereal
Cranberry Scones
Orange Poppyseed Cake
Cold Cereal
Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins from the freezer
Amish Baked Oatmeal

Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Egg Roll Burritos
Macaroni & Cheese
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
Vegetarian Lentil Chili
Cheese Quesadillas

The Pioneer Woman’s Beans, Pico de Gallo and The Best Cornbread Ever (I’ve been searching high and low for a fabulous cornbread recipe and I think I’ve finally found it. I’ll share it later this month!)
Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, Sweet Potatoes, Cooked Veggies, Flat Apple Pie
Dinner Out
Potatoes and Turkey Sausage, Green Salad, Bread Machine Buttery Rolls
Hamburgers, Cheesy Broccoli and Rice Casserole, Fruit Salad
Birthday Party
Dinner at In-Law’s House

3 Jan 2011   ·   90
Money Saving Mom

My Goals for 2011 (plus some blogging changes)

I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions; I think they only set one up for failure and discouragement. However, I’m a huge fan of creating realistic goals and breaking them down into bite-sized pieces. So, at the beginning of every year, my husband and I sit down and come up with a list of goals for each facet of our lives.

Normally, being an optimistic over-achiever, I come up with many more goals than I could ever actual accomplish in a year. This year, though, I decided to make a new policy for all goals on my list: they could only be on my list if there was a time slot for them on my schedule.

Taking the things I learned from Amy Andrews’ ebook, Tell Your Time, I tweaked our daily schedule and created a slightly different schedule for each day of the week for 2011. This allowed me include time slots for everything on my 2011 goal list — from reading to sleeping to once-a-week lunch dates with my husband to time with my children to ministering to others to blogging.

This was incredibly helpful to me in streamlining and just picking goals which are actually doable. Instead of being a bit overwhelmed by an ambitious list, I’m excited this year as I feel like — barring some major catastrophe or unexpected upheaval in our lives — most of these goals will, Lord-willing, become reality.

My Goals for 2011

Read through the Bible in a year (I’m using the chronological plan here.)
Read at least 25 inspiring books (I’ll share the books I’m planning to read in 2011 on Wednesday.)
Continue to eat well, exercise faithfully and drink enough water (I’ve finished P90X and am taking a break at least for a few months to do my own and slightly less intense workout regimen. I’ve been tracking my exercising, eating and drinking through SparkPeople and it’s been very helpful in keeping me accountable and on track with my personal health/fitness goals.)
Continue to make getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night a priority
Tackle 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects

Once-a-month evening dates with my husband
Once-a-week lunch dates with my husband
Twice-a-year Marriage Retreat
Flirt with my husband every day 🙂
Read four books together
Go on a cruise! (Something we both decided we’d do if we paid cash for a house before I turned 30!)

Once-a-month dates/outings with both of the girls individually
Play with the children at least three times each week (games, Wii, etc.)
Finish reading through the Little House on the Prairie series together
Memorize Psalms 1 and Psalms 23 together
Finish first grade, begin second grade with Kathrynne
Finish preschool, begin kindergarten with Kaitlynn
Go on at least one field trip every month
Have a weekly Family Night

Ministry/Friendships/Extended Family:
Have at least one family over for a meal each month
Write one encouraging handwritten card or letter at least every other week
Be involved in ministry opportunities in our local church
Continue with weekly get-togethers with both sides of our extended family

Continue to practice media-free Sundays
Continue working towards keeping strict Office Hours for the business/blogging time each day
Follow a weekly blogging plan (see below)
Plan blog posts out a month in advance
Write blog posts at least a week in advance

Continue to tithe 10% of our income
Give generously to needs in our community and around the world, as God prompts us (We’ve been looking for 1-2 specific needs to give to each month and find so much joy in giving as God leads us!)
Complete all items on our current Financial Goals List
Save at least 40% towards our Commercial Real Estate Investing Goal

One major change I’ll be making is in the area of blogging. Thanks to the help from my team, I’ve gotten much more organized and efficient this past year (and also really good at saying “no” to stuff — one of the most freeing things ever!). Instead of feeling constantly overwhelmed and behind, I’m actually keeping up with things most day.

But, there is much room for improvement — especially when it comes to the actual writing of posts. While I’ve actually been planning my blogging out a week in advance, I’m still writing most of the posts the day they are supposed to be posted.

Amy Andrews has helped me to re-prioritize things enough in my life and blogging work, that I’m finally to a point to be able to blog ahead — something I’ve always wished I could find a way to do! During the last month, I’ve been working behind-the-scenes to come up with a way to have my blog posts, features and series planned out at least a month in advance and written at least a week ahead.

One thing which is going to help me carry out this plan is to actually have set days for posting set things. I know that I’ve been a source of frustration to many of you all many times because you just never know what is going to be posted when. I’m sorry and I hope you will find much more consistency here in 2011.

In fact, for the sake of accountability — and so you’ll know pretty much exactly what to expect! — here’s my blogging plan for the first half of 2011 (I’ll be re-evaluating and changing things up somewhat halfway through the year):

Monday: A guest post, our weekly menu plan, Giveaways Galore and a new 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget video blog series (starting next week)

Tuesday: Ask Jesse feature, a DIY idea and possibly a Shopping Trip post with pictures and price breakdowns

Wednesday: The next post in whatever series I’m working through (During the first half of 2011, I’ll be finishing up the How We Paid Cash for a House series, then the 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series then re-writing and re-posting my Blogging for Profit series.), and an Ask the Readers question

Thursday: A recipe, a DIY idea and possibly a Shopping Trip post with pictures and price breakdowns

Friday: We Paid Cash feature and a weekly rotating feature (Week One: Financial Update, Week Two: My DIY Experiment, Week Three: Book Review, Week Four: Frugal Family Fun post)

Saturday: Super Savings Saturday

Most of these items will start this week, though a few aren’t starting up until next week. Of course, there’ll be the usual fare of hot deals, coupons, freebies and the occasional giveaway, as well. And I’m sure I’ll throw in some unexpected, written-on-the-fly posts here and there, too, when inspiration strikes and I can’t keep silent. 🙂

Thank you to each and everyone of you for reading here, for leaving comments, for sending in deal ideas and frugal tips, for your encouraging letters and many suggestions for how I can improve this blog. My hope is that you will find better content and consistency in posting in 2011, which will, in turn, allow you to glean more ideas to save money, spend less than you make and give generously!

photos by Paul Worthington; jek in the box

3 Jan 2011   ·   11
Money Saving Mom

Turning emergencies into inconveniences

Being intentional with our money turns emergencies into inconveniences.

It’s not enough to pull in the reins and spend “only” what we make. Being intentional with our finances means spending less than we make and stashing the rest for the inevitable. It means sacrificing cable, lattes, and home fashions now in order to stay warm and be mobile when things go wrong.

It’s not always fun being so disciplined with our income. Saying no (or not now) to things we want and opportunities that come our way does bring satisfaction, though, when we’re able to pay cash for inconveniences.

-Read the full post over at Amy’s Finer Things

photo by onwheelz2

3 Jan 2011   ·   13
Money Saving Mom

Four Free Budgeting Resources

Hoping to get your finances in order in 2011? Here are four free resources to help you: Set up a free online account to track your income and outgo and stick with your budget.

Eastern Shore Mom’s Free Budget Spreadsheet: Download a free Excel Spreadsheet from Eastern Shore Mom to keep a record of your monthly expenditures.

Free Savings Tracker: Would you like to know how much you’re really saving by using coupons? You can download the free 2011 Savings Tracker (available in both Excel and Google Docs format) and do just that and more!

Free Zero-Based Budgeting Worksheet: Saving With Pam is offering a free downloadable budgeting worksheet to help you stick with a zero-based budget.

1 Jan 2011   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve hosted a Super Savings Saturday link-up. I gave myself a break for December without telling you all. 🙂

At any rate, these are back and will now be posted every Saturday afternoon; I’d love to have you participate!

Dillon’s Shopping Trip: Spent $9.25, Saved $31.97 — read details and price break-downs of this shopping trip here

Health Food Store: spent $11.71

Another Dillon’s Shopping Trip: spent $13.66

Walmart Shopping Trip: Spent $8.94, Saved $32.38 — read details and price breakdowns of this shopping trip here

Aldi Shopping Trip: Spent $28.31

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!

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.

1 Jan 2011   ·   12
Money Saving Mom

Deals and Freebies to Help You Get Organized in 2011

Tell Your Time: How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Fulfilled — As I’ve shared before, the tips and tricks in this ebook have revolutionized my life and our home. I cannot recommend this ebook enough. It’s simple, concise and packs a powerful punch. It has helped me streamline my life so that I’m not rushing through my days like a chicken with its head cut off. You’ll learn how to plan margin into your day, make long-term goals and strategies and focus your time and energies on what really matters. Through January 7, 2011, you can use coupon code CLEANSLATE to get this ebook for only $7.

Organizing Your Life as Mom — This 125-page ebook is written by my friend Jessica over at Life As Mom — a mom of six who knows more than a thing or two about organization! It walks you through how to create a personalized household notebook to keep your home and life running more smoothly. This ebook includes worksheets to help you think through your jobs at home as well as daily, weekly, monthly and yearly calendars. There are also holiday, budget and meal-planning sheets. Plus, some of the worksheets are customizable. Download a free 15-page sample here. You can get this ebook for only $7 when you use coupon code NEWYEAR.

The Project Girl’s Customizable Weekly Planner — This downloadable planner is fully customizable and includes Daily Chores, Weekly Chores, a Shopping List and Week-At-A-Glance for each page, plus quite a few other downloads. It’s on sale for $9.09 right now, plus you can use coupon code JAPLANNER11 to get an additional 15% off, making it only $7.73.

Motivated Moms Chore Planners — I have used this in the past and really liked it as it tells you exactly what you need to do each day to keep your home organized and running smoothly. If you struggle with coming up with a plan for home organization, I’d definitely recommend this. There are sample pages to check out at the bottom of the products page. Use coupon code LLNOE to get $1 off your order.


Download a free printable Goals Sheet from Get Buttoned Up.

Click on the “Like” button on the Get Organized Wizard Facebook Page and you’ll get a special coupon code to download a free 2011 Goals and Priorities Diary with printable pages to help you prioritize and get organized in 2011.

And don’t forget to check out my recent Time Management 101 series and free customizable Daily Docket and other free household organizational downloads.

30 Dec 2010   ·   21
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Dillon’s Shopping Trip: Spent $9.25, Saved $31.97

1 box of Quaker Instant Oatmeal — $1.99, used $2/1 coupon (no longer available) = free

1 bottle Xtra Laundry Detergent — $1.99, used $1/1 printable coupon = $0.99

1 jug Minute Maid Orange Juice — used free catalina coupon which printed from our last shopping trip (Don’t ask me why, but every time we use my husband’s Dillon’s Shopper Card, we get great catalina coupons!)

2 cartons of Silk — reduced to $0.99 each

2 cartons of Almond Breeze Almond Milk — $1.50, used $0.55/1 printable coupon (which doubled to $1 off) = $0.50 each

1 International Coffee Creamer — $1, used $0.55/1 printable coupon (which doubled to $1 off) = free

1 Horizon Organic Milk — $1, used $1/1 printable coupon = free

1 Marie Callender’s Bakes – used free product coupon they sent to me

1 Excedrin — used free product coupon

1 Roast — reduced to $5.03

2 Jalepenos — $0.28

Total spent: $9.25
Total saved (according to my receipt): $31.97

I couldn’t figure out why my total was as low as it was, until I realized later that they ended up taking off the full product value on the free Excedrin and Marie Callender’s coupons, which gave me overage on my order since these were on sale.

You can see a complete list of Dillon’s deals here.

29 Dec 2010   ·   90
Money Saving Mom

This Week’s Menu

Cinnamon Scones — I’ll post the recipe next week. We had these for our Christmas Eve Brunch and they were delicious!

I’ve had numerous requests to bring back the weekly menu plan feature and I’m excited that this is one thing I’m making a priority in 2011 — along with a number of other new and revived features!

(Stay tuned next week when I share more about goals for 2011 and my blogging plans and new weekly blogging schedule. I hope it will not only mean that you find more quality content on, but that you’ll also have a better idea of what will be posted each week — instead of my typical blogging-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, always-behind style.)

I have a plan for executing this new blogging schedule, and I’m actually pretty optimistic that it’s going to work out fairly smoothly and well. We’ll see, though. Sticking with stuff is not always my strong point, as you all well know. 😉

Menus will be posted weekly on Mondays, starting next Monday. Since it’s my “vacation” week this week, I’m giving myself the freedom to post this on Wednesday!

This Week’s Menu Plan

Crockpot Oatmeal (This royally flopped! Anyone have a reliable Crockpot Oatmeal recipe? All the ones I have tried so far have turned to mushy, icky goop overnight!)
Cold Cereal
Orange Poppyseed Cake
Cold Cereal
Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins

Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Stirfry over Brown Rice
Hamburger Vegetable Soup (recipe coming in January!)
Middle Eastern Lentil Soup
Macaroni & Cheese
Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches

Hamburger Vegetable Soup — I’ll be posting the recipe in January.

The Pioneer Woman’s Beans, Pico de Gallo and The Best Cornbread Ever (I’ve been searching high and low for a fabulous cornbread recipe and I think I’ve finally found it. I’ll share it in January!)
Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, Sweet Potatoes, Cooked Veggies, Flat Apple Pie
Hamburger Vegetable Soup, Whole-Wheat Popovers, Raw Veggies and Fruit
Beef Hot Dogs, Cooked Peas, Baked Potatoes
Marinated Chicken over Lettuce with Pico de Gallo and Cheese
Finger Foods for New Year’s Eve (We’re celebrating with friends and family and bringing finger foods and goodies to share!)
Dinner Out

29 Dec 2010   ·   110
Money Saving Mom

Contentment is a Choice

My husband was going through old financial statements a few days ago and we were aghast to read the numbers. During the first year Jesse was in law school, there were six months when we made less than $900 — and some months it was as low as $650. I recall that season of our lives fairly vividly, but seeing those numbers on paper again after a number of years have past was a shock to our systems.

Our rent alone during those months was over $500. I’m still not sure how we made it on so little! No wonder we rarely ate meat and did so many other pretty “extreme” things. (Yes, we had money in the bank to cover most of law school, but that money was locked up in CDs and we’d both decided that it would be untouchable to us except in the case of a dire, life-threatening emergency.)

Our commitment to live within our means and stay out of debt was hard. There’s no doubt about that.

I remember we’d pay our tithe money, our rent check and our basic utility bills and then we prayed that somehow the rest of the money would stretch until the next check would come in. How we were going to afford basic necessities was constantly looming over our heads.

And yet, those months were some of the most precious and memorable in our lives. We saw God provide for us in amazing and unexpected ways. We learned to be wildly creative. We were forced to be incredibly entrepreneurial.

Most of all, we discovered that contentment is a state of the heart, unaffected by outward circumstances.

Contentment is a choice. So choose today to bloom where you’re planted. Choose to make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. Choose to stop focusing on what you don’t have and start being thankful for the many blessings you do have.

And remember, no matter what difficulties you might be dealing with today, somebody else would love to be in your shoes.

photo by tanakawho

28 Dec 2010   ·   64
Money Saving Mom

Yesterday’s Shopping Trips: Aldi, Dillon’s and the health food store

Health Food Store (purchased only the mark-downs): spent $11.71

I gave myself the last four weeks “off” from bargain shopping and using coupons because I was feeling uninspired and motivated to bargain shop and use coupons and because I wanted to spend that time focusing on other Christmas-related things and activities.

It was so nice to have an almost complete break where I didn’t clip a coupon, look at a sales flier or open my coupon box up. We just shopped mostly at Aldi, used up stuff from our pantry and freezer and ate lots of super simple meals.

Dillon’s trip (most purchased mark-downs, including a 10-pound bag of potatoes marked down to $1.59!): spent $13.66

The break very much re-energized me and brought back my bargain-shopping motivation and my cooking and baking inspiration. In fact, I’ve been whipping up a lot of new recipes and stepping outside my comfort zone in the kitchen.

I even bought fresh cilantro yesterday (something I’ve never purchased before!) in order to make fresh Pico de Gallo. For those who know me well, you’ll know that this is very out-of-character from the way I’ve been the last year or so. Hmm, maybe I’ll even start making my own homemade tortillas at this rate? 🙂

I’m so excited to have rediscovered my long lost love of cooking and baking and how cathartic it can be to putter around in the kitchen and make delicious food for my family! Expect quite a few new recipe posts here in the near future.

In the mean time, I’m going to go eat some of the delicious Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal I made for breakfast! I’ll share this week’s menu this evening.

Aldi Shopping Trip: spent $28.31

23 Dec 2010   ·   45
Money Saving Mom

Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Snowflake Tortillas

Okay, so Snowflake Tortillas aren’t exactly a Christmas activity, but we included it with our planned fun family activities for this week anyway.

The girls had so much fun cutting the tortillas into different snowflake shapes.

Kaitlynn pretended hers was a mask (nevermind the un-matching clothes, she’s still learning that just because a top and bottom have pink in them doesn’t mean that they match!)

They thought the sprinkling with cinnamon/sugar mixture was the coolest thing ever.

Ready to go into the oven.

 Fresh-from-the-oven Snowflake Tortillas. Yum!

Snowflake Tortillas

Recipe adapted from Mob Mom

6 tortillas
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Fold tortillas in half and then in half again (like you would make a paper snowflake). Use clean scissors to cut out shapes. Open up and brush with melted butter. Mix cinnamon and sugar together and sprinkle over the tortillas.

Bake at 375 degrees for around five minutes. Let cool slightly and then enjoy eating your creation!

22 Dec 2010   ·   69

15-Minute Oreo Pie Recipe


Looking for a super simple recipe to take to a Christmas gathering this weekend? How about some Oreo Pie?

Cool Whip sent me a basket of ingredients and encouraged me to try a new recipe using Cool Whip. Truth be told, we prefer making our own whipped cream with real cream. But I had fun looking through Cool Whip recipes and choosing one to try. I finally decided to go with the Oreo Pie recipe, considering everyone in our family loves Oreos.

Did I mention we love Oreos? Just to prove this statement, I’ll confess that it took me three tries to actually get the pie made, because the first two packages of Oreos I bought were consumed before I could so much as attempt to make the pie. And it wasn’t just the children who were responsible for the disappearing Oreos.


My husband declared this pie “delicious!” despite the lack of real whipped cream. However, his first question after telling me it was good was, “Do you think you can make it with real whipping cream?”

Yes, we’re real whipping cream “snobs” like that. 😉

22 Dec 2010   ·   110
This Christmas Candy is SO simple, deliciously addictive, and super inexpensive! Make a BIG batch for frugal gift ideas!

World’s Easiest Christmas Candy Recipe

This Christmas Candy is SO simple, deliciously addictive, and super inexpensive! Make a BIG batch for frugal gift ideas!

We have a yearly tradition of making this Christmas Candy. It’s the easiest stuff ever to make, it is inexpensive and it’s addicting!

I originally found the recipe in the book Queen of the Castle: 52 Weeks of Encouragement for the Uninspired, Domestically Challenged or Just Plain Tired Homemaker. It was called “Crookies” in there, but we’ve re-named it “World’s Easiest Christmas Candy.”

All you need is brown sugar, saltines, butter and chocolate chips.

Lay one sleeve of Saltines out on a cookie sheet (you might want to spray or grease the pan first, though I’ve not had trouble with it sticking, but some mentioned in the comments they’d recommend this).

Melt one cup brown sugar and one stick of butter in a saucepan on the stove over medium heat until a gooey mixture forms. Pour this mixture over the saltines and spread around with a spatula to generously coat them.

Stick the pan in the oven on 350 degrees for around five minutes until the brown sugar mixture is bubbling on the crackers.

Pull out of the oven and pour two cups of chocolate chips over the crackers and let them sit for a few minutes until they are starting to melt.

Spread the melted chocolate chips evenly over the crackers and then stick in the freezer for around an hour (until chocolate hardens).

Once chocolate is hardened, lift off the cookie sheet with a metal spatula and break into pieces.

Put into gift baggies and store in the freezer until ready to give as gifts.

21 Dec 2010   ·   69
Money Saving Mom

Celebrating A Simple Christmas: Teaching Our Children to be Givers

One of the things we try to emphasize a great deal in our home is giving. We want to train our children to not only understand how to be wise in handling money, but we want to instill in them what we believe is one of the greatest purposes for wisely stewarding money: so that we have more to give to others.

In our everyday lives, we are seeking to encourage them to be givers. One of the ways we are doing this is by sponsoring children through Compassion International.

We read the letters from our sponsored children to them, we walk about the living conditions in other countries, we talk about how much a small amount of money we give can be used for so much good in countries where they have next to nothing and we involve our children in making cards and pictures to send back to our sponsored children.

Yesterday, we made Christmas cards together to send to our sponsored children (yes, I know, they won’t get there until after Christmas, but I figured that the sentiment would still be meaningful!).

After our cards were finished and addressed, it was dark and Jesse was home, so we all loaded up into the van and went to look at Christmas lights. The light displays didn’t seem as plentiful this year, but we still had fun together — and that’s what was most important!

How are you encouraging your children to be givers this Christmas season? I’d love to hear your ideas!