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7 Jul 2010   ·   51
Money Saving Mom

I guess we’ll chalk this up to “Moving Brain” — if there is such a thing!

You’ve heard of “Baby Brain” before, but I think we need to coin a new term called “Moving Brain.” Because seriously? I have no idea where my brain cells are this week.

I came across quite a few outdated spices and other baking items which needed to be pitched while packing up the kitchen, so I had this “brilliant” idea to let the girls play they were “making muffins” with these baking items.

I sat them down on the kitchen floor with some plastic cups and spoons and let them have at it. It occupied them for a good hour or so and I was patting myself on the back for coming up with such a great form of frugal entertainment.

Then, I got busy with some unpacking somewhere and someone else got Silas up from his nap. Apparently, he wanted to help “make muffins,” too.

Unfortunately, my “brilliant” idea which kept the girls busy for an hour playing, also ended up taking me over an hour to fully clean up. While doing so, I quickly discovered that tile floors don’t mop up as easily as laminate. And I also became very familiar with all of our grout. 🙂

Next time, I think we’ll try experiments like this in the backyard!

6 Jul 2010   ·   77
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: How Do You Calculate Your Savings?

I’ve been receiving your emails for a few months and was wondering how you calculate your savings? I went to Publix today and spent $37.07. The bottom of the receipt said I had Store Coupons of $6.81, Vendor Coupons of $7.70 and Special Price Savings of $18.94 = Savings Summary of $34.45. So, did I save over 40% on my groceries or do I only count the savings from the coupons I used? Thanks! -April

Guess what, April? In my opinion, there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to calculate savings and everyone has a bit of a different method to doing so.

I find it fun to see my total percentage of savings based upon retail, pre-coupon price vs. post-coupon, sales price. Of course, most of the prices are much higher than I’d ever pay (I mean, come on, we all know better than to pay retail, right?!), so it’s not exactly an accurate representation of true savings. But, it’s still rewarding and fun to see an 85% or 99% savings shown at the bottom of the receipt! 🙂

However, how much you spend matters so much more than how much you save. So I’d encourage you to set a grocery budget and focus more on sticking with that grocery budget, rather than getting overly focused on how much you save.

In the long run, consistently sticking with a grocery budget is likely going to save you a significant more amount of money than just concentrating on having large percentages of savings on your receipts.

Just for fun: How do you calculate your savings?

2 Jul 2010   ·   173
Money Saving Mom

Three cheers for used cars!

In the process of buying our home, one of the questions which came up was about the garage door openers. The owners said they didn’t have any garage door openers because it was just programmed into their car.

My husband and I were scratching our heads over this. Programmed into their car? Their realtor looked at us like we were possibly from the Dark Ages and said, “Yes, my car has three buttons — one for each garage door — you just program it to each garage door and then push the button to open your garage door.”

Um, seriously? They make cars with onboard garage door openers now?

Apparently, yes. And as is also apparent, we know nothing about newer cars.

As we were chuckling over this while driving around town yesterday in Old Blue Van — our beloved van that has been miraculously hanging on by a thread for over two years! — we got to talking about how much money we’ve saved over the years by buying used vehicles and keeping them running until they’ve lost all life.

You know what the best thing about used and paid-for cars is? They might not be beautiful and luxurious, but they don’t come with a big car payment you have to lug around and pay every month.

How Much We’ve Saved By Not Having a Car Payment

Just for fun, I added up an approximate amount of money we’ve saved over the course of our marriage as a result of driving used cars.

We’ve been married 7.5 years and have never had a car payment. If we had, instead, always had one $400-per-month car payment, we would have spent $36,000 in car payments over the course of the last 7.5 years. And if we had two vehicles with car payments, we would have spent something like $72,000 in car payments.

$72,000! And that’s not even factoring in the interest you could earn if you invested that money.

Of course, these numbers are just a hypothetical and obviously, they would be inflated for many people. However, no matter the case, I would argue that you’re always going to save a fair amount by driving used and paid-for cars.

Not only does driving used vehicles mean you don’t have a car payment, it also means you usually have some funny vehicle stories to share as a result of driving clunkers! Like the time we were on our way home and Old Blue Van started smoking pretty significantly out the hood. We pulled over and my Mama Bear instinct kicked into gear and I got my babies out quicker than I knew was possible because all I could imagine was that it was going to blow up.

It didn’t. And somehow we resurrected it, yet again, and it’s driven for another two years — without another smoking incident.

Another great reason to buy used cars? They hardly depreciate at all! For instance, Old Blue Van has probably only gone down in value a few hundred dollars in the last two years. By contrast, a brand-spankin’-new minivan would likely have gone down in value by thousands of dollars in the last two years.

Yes, there are lots of great reasons to drive used and paid-for cars. Which is why I loved Amy’s post today:

When our 2001 mini-van recently rolled over 130,000 miles, I decided to ask my Facebook Fans if I was the only “weirdo” happy to drive an older, high-mileage, paid for vehicle.  Turns out… I’ve got company! ;) A few commenters {ahem} even insinuated that my van was “practically new.”  Ha!

I’m fully convinced that one easy way to save big money is to purchase used vehicles (with cash) and drive them as long as possible.

Read Amy’s full post here.

And yes, I was one of the commentors who had to rib her about a 2001 van being “new.” Because seriously? Only 130,000 miles? That baby’s got a long life left — at least according to our car standards. 🙂

photo by GManViz

Please note: I’m not advocating that everyone drive unsafe, gas-guzzling, money pit cars whose doors are falling off. If you can afford it, I’m all for getting good quality used cars — something we’re hoping to save up for in the not-too-distant future. In the mean time, though, my husband’s still driving Old Blue Van.

2 Jul 2010   ·   3
Money Saving Mom

Weekend break and server move

Not only is our family in the process of moving, but this website is moving, too. Oh it’s not moving anyplace you won’t be able to find it (let’s hope!), it’s just moving to a bigger and better server — one that hopefully will allow it to stop crashing unexpectedly due to the traffic load. We’re out of possible fixes, so our only option left is to just up and move it over something much more powerful.

But in order for the big move to happen, I have to let the tech people at the hosting company and my wonderful tech support, Joy from FiveJs, take the reins for the weekend to get all the files and who-knows-what-else transferred over.

So I have one more post to go up and then I won’t be updating the site again until Monday morning — provided all goes as planned. Have a great Fourth of July weekend and I can’t wait to get back to sharing more deals and the conclusion of our house story next week, along with some other fun posts (and a few pictures of our new house!).

I will be posting lots of deals on the Money Saving Mom® Facebook Page while the server transfer is taking place. So hop on over there if you don’t want to miss out!

Speaking of our new house, I gotta go pack some more boxes…

1 Jul 2010   ·   74
Money Saving Mom

House-Hunting: Could this be THE house?

Last week, I left you hanging after we’d been house-hunting for six months and were getting kind of tired of hearing the question “Have you found a house yet?” We were also becoming a little lax in our finances because we didn’t have a big goal to work for. So, we sat down and had a Money Meeting to make new financial goals for the following year.

One of the things we talked about seriously at that Money Meeting was “How long are we willing to wait to buy a house?” Meaning, is there some point in looking for a home when we’d feel like it was time to lower our standards and just go ahead and get the best house we could find in our price range at that time instead of waiting it out for something better?

Our reason for contemplating this was because we’d looked at two different houses that week which were both in our price range and in an area we liked. But both of the houses were far from ideal. There were so many issues with both of them that we didn’t like and they’d both need some pretty extensive work before we moved in. We wondered if this was going to be as good as it got. They were adequate and we could make them work, but we certainly didn’t like either of them.

Maybe we were being too particular? Maybe we just weren’t going to find what we were looking for in the price range we’d set?  We really wanted to get a house we both loved, but were we being unrealistic? Perhaps we should just settle for something less-than-ideal, even if both of us really didn’t like it. After all, we’ve rented plenty of less-than-ideal places before and been perfectly content!

At the same time, we both didn’t want to fork over pretty much our entire savings account for something neither of us really liked. Something just didn’t seem right about that!

So we both agreed that we’d wait it out another six months and then re-evaluate how things were going. We also prayed together — for the umpteenth time! — that God would give us specific and clear wisdom and direction in this process.

Less than two days later, a house went on the market which met a lot of our criteria. It was in our price range and in an area we really liked, it had three bedrooms on the main floor and a master bathroom.

The bizarre thing was that there were no pictures posted online. We’d never looked at a house that hadn’t had pictures posted online, but for some reason this one caught our eye. And in a very uncharacteristic mode, we went and drove to the house to check it out. And as soon as we saw it, we both almost squealed: it was beautiful.

Surely there’d been some mistake. A house this beautiful couldn’t actually be in our price range.

So we figured there must be a reason there were no pictures online. It must have been gutted on the inside or something. But we still both just had to wonder if maybe this was THE house? However, we had no idea what the inside looked like nor did we have a clue whether the kitchen was anything decent so we tried our best not to get our hopes up until we’d actually seen it.

They weren’t allowing showings for a whole entire week because they were painting the inside. So what else was there to do but wait?

Never before in the house-hunting process had I felt like I was on pins-and-needles, but that whole week, I couldn’t seem to focus on anything else. I was terribly anxious to get to go inside the house, or see pictures or something. It was an excruciatingly long week.

Finally, the day arrived. I tried hard to prepare myself for the worst as I didn’t want to have my hopes dashed.

However, I could have hardly prepared myself for what the inside of the house looked like. In fact, I almost felt like crying: it was utterly gorgeous.

And then I walked into the kitchen. And I, who am usually terribly composed and rarely get dramatic about anything, had to suppress a squeal. The kitchen was amazing, just amazing.

The whole house was absolutely perfect. Everything we’d said were essentials, everything we’d hoped it might possibly have, all the little things that we’d always thought would really nice to have, but never expected we’d actually find in a house in our price range — this house had it all.

It felt like a dream and I was about ready to burst with excitement.

But of course, we had a few more hurdles to cross… so I tried my best to contain my excitement before it was really real.

To be continued next week… (I was hoping I could finish the story in one post, but alas, there’s too much to write!)

30 Jun 2010   ·   134
Money Saving Mom

What do I do with all these bottles of shampoo??

Could you please write a post on what we can do with all of these extra bottles of shampoo, etc., that we get? It’s more than my husband and I can use. Can you please offer suggestions for what you do with all the excess? Thank you. -Leigh Ann

First off, I’m not a big proponent of buying stuff you don’t need — especially if you don’t have a plan for what you’re going to do with it or can’t afford it. I’m all about buying extras of things we’ll need and use when they are at their lowest prices, but I also think you need to determine when enough is enough and stick with that.

Being a wise steward of your resources is not just about clipping coupons and getting the best deal, it’s also about using your time and money in a way that you get the best return on your investment.

I’m not sure where your excess is coming from, but if you’re just buying stuff because it’s cheap and you already have more than you need, I’d suggest you scale back on your bargain-shopping for awhile. Really, it’s perfectly okay to take a break every now and then. In fact, I usually take at least 4-6 weeks each year when I don’t clip a single coupon from the newspaper inserts.

However, let me be clear that I’m not saying it’s wrong to have extra shampoo bottles on hand. You need to evaluate what works for your family.

Maybe for you, being strategic about shopping involves buying stuff you don’t need or won’t use so that you can reduce the expenses of things you do need and use. Or, maybe you have the time and energy to buy extra things which are free or almost-free in order to share with others.

If that’s the case, or if you just have a bunch of extra toiletries accumulated which you’d like to find a home for, here are some ideas:

::Make Gift Baskets

Ever thought about using some of your stockpile for birthday, Christmas and shower gifts? For the right kind of person, it’s a perfect gift!

Basic Cleaning Essentials Basket

You could put together a Basic Cleaning Essentials Basket with cleaners and sponges for a new bride. Stick it all in a bucket from the Dollar Store and add some rubber gloves and you have a very inexpensive and practical gift.

Laundry Basket

What new bride wouldn’t love a laundry basket filled with laundry detergent and stain removers?

New Baby Gift Basket

Put some diapers, wipes and baby lotions or soaps in a cute basket with a baby blanket and you’ve got a great gift for an upcoming baby shower.

Really and truly, the possibilities are practically endless when it comes to gift baskets. And if you use mostly items from your stockpile and purchase any additional items needed at the Dollar Store, you’ll likely be able to put together some really nice gift baskets for under $5! For more gift basket ideas, check out Idea Queen.

::Share With the Needy

There are so many different needs you can meet right in your local community when you have extra food and toiletries to give away. Homeless shelters, nursing homes, church food pantries and local food drives, are great places to consider.

In addition, look for people you personally know who are going through a tough time and consider sharing from your abundance with them. If you think they might be embarrassed for you to physically drop by a sack of groceries, then consider doing it anonymously.

::Send a Package to a Soldier

Check out AnySoldier for a list of what soldiers on the field need and want. You can click through the names and choose who you’d like to send a care package to based upon items you may already have in your stockpile. This is a great way to support those who are putting themselves in harm’s way for our protection and freedom.

Those are just a few of my ideas. I’d love to hear from the rest of you: what creative ideas do you have for using your stockpile to bless others?

30 Jun 2010   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

Coupon Terms and Abbreviations

When you’re first learning the ropes of using coupons, it can seem like you’re learning a foreign language. Here are some of the most-used terms and abbreviations used by seasoned couponers on blogs, in forums and elsewhere:

$1/1, etc. :: Indicates the value of a coupon, $1 off 1 item in this instance but could be any value, $4/2 ($4 off 2 items), $0.25/1 ($0.25 off 1) etc.
AC :: After coupon
AR :: After rebate
Blinkie :: Coupon dispensed from a box attached to a store shelf. The term “blinkie” comes from the box which sometimes has a blinking light.
BOGO, B1G1, B1G1F :: Buy One Get One free
BTFE :: Box Tops for Education
B&M :: Refers to a “brick & mortar” store (as opposed to an online store)
CAT, Catalina :: Coupons which print at the register after your purchase is made. These can usually be used like cash on your next purchase. However, if the say “manufacturer’s coupon” on them, you should be able to use them at any store although YMMV (see below). 😉
CPN :: Coupon
CRT :: Cash register tape — often referring to coupons at the bottom of your receipt.
DND :: Do Not Double
Double Coupon :: A coupon which can be doubled in value
ECB :: Extra Care Bucks (CVS, prints on receipt)
ETA :: Edited to Add
ETS :: Excludes Trial Size
FAR :: Free After Rebate
Filler :: An item or items you buy in order to get your total up to a certain amount in order to use a percentage off coupon
FS :: Free shipping
GC :: Gift card/gift certificate
GDA :: Good Deal Alert
GM :: General Mills
HTH :: Hope That Helps
In-Ad :: Coupons that come in the weekly store ad, most likely found by the entrance of that particular store.
IVC :: Instant Value Coupon (Walgreens, found in the monthy EasySaver booklet)
IPQ, IP :: Internet Printable coupon
MFG, MFR :: Manufacturer
MQ :: Manufacturer’s Coupon
MIR :: Mail-In Rebate
NED :: No expiration date
OOP :: Out of Pocket
OOS :: Out of Stock
OYNO :: On Your Next Order
P&G :: Proctor & Gamble coupon insert found in the Sunday newspaper
Peelie :: Coupon attached to an item’s packaging which can be peeled off
PSA :: Prices Starting At
Q :: Coupon
Regional :: A coupon or deal available in only a specific area
RP :: Red Plum coupon insert found in the Sunday newspaper
RMN :: Retail Me Not coupon insert found in the Sunday newspaper (RP rebranded to this in early 2018)
RR :: Register Rewards (Walgreens, which print with receipt)
SCR :: Single Check Rebate (Rite Aid)
SS :: Smart Source coupon insert found in the Sunday newspaper
Stacking :: Using a manufacturer’s coupon in addition to a store coupon for an even lower price
Tear pad :: A pad of rebate forms or coupons attached to a store shelf
TMF :: Try Me Free
Triple Coupon :: A coupon which can be tripled in value
UPC :: Universal Product Code (a.k.a. bar code)
UPR :: Up Rewards, a coupon you can earn on your register receipt at Rite Aid
WSL :: While Supplies Last
WT, Winetag :: A coupon hanging on the package of a product
WYB :: When You Buy
V :: Valassis coupon insert found in Sunday newspaper (same as RP or Red Plum insert)
YMMV :: Your Mileage May Vary (in other words, you may or may not be successful with a particular deal at your store)

Did I miss any abbreviations or terms? Share them in the comments or ask for clarification if there’s a term you don’t understand what it means.

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29 Jun 2010   ·   91
Money Saving Mom

It Pays to Email Companies

Is there a product your family really loves? Have you written to the company and let them know how much you like their product and letting them know you’d gladly accept any coupons they could send? Companies really enjoy hearing from satisfied customers and often are very happy to send coupons.

Here’s what Kelsi emailed me yesterday:

Last week I emailed the manufacturer’s of Luna bars asking for coupons and telling them about my Luna-A-Day habit while rocking my newborn with my foot and pumping breastmilk at the kitchen counter. Today I received six coupons for a FREE Luna Bar or Luna Protein Bar and a 100% organic cotton baby blanket! -Kelsi

Have you emailed any companies before? I’d love to hear about your experience!

28 Jun 2010   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds – Part 4

Missed the first parts of this series? Read Part 1 of Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds, Part 2 of Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds, and Part 3 of Fifteen Favorite Children’s Read-Alouds.

And remember to check out my post on Five Ways to Get Books for Free for ideas of how to pick up copies of these and other books frugally.

13. Curious George Books — No book list of our favorites would be anywhere near complete without mentioning the Curious George books. I first introduced the girls to them when I was pregnant with Silas and very sick with morning-noon-and-night sickness. I stayed mostly in bed for a weeks because I was feeling so sick and the girls piled in bed with me and we read and looked at books for hours on end.

The girls would ask me to re-read the Curious George books again and again. And to this day, it’s not changed! Anytime I ask them to go pick out books to read, you can be sure there will be at least one Curious George title in the mix.

14. Little House on the Prairie — We’re currently reading through the The Complete Little House Nine-Book Set, but we also love the My First Little House books, as well. We’ve had so many great discussions on how blessed we are to live with so many modern conveniences and how important it is to have a strong work ethic, thanks to the Little House books.

15. Little Jewel Books — I highly recommend the Little Jewel books, especially for younger children. They are fun to read and full of great character lessons that even very small children can understand and apply. We’ve accumulated most of ours by requesting them for birthday and Christmas gifts for the girls.

A few more Honorable Mentions

I had trouble narrowing our list of favorite books down to 15, so here are a few more we really enjoy: The Little Animal books by Judy Dunn; Farming with Father; God’s World and Johnny; Blueberries for Sal; The Courage of Sarah Noble; Make Way for Ducklings; and A is for Adam.

One resource I’ve used extensively to find quality books to read-aloud to my children is the Hand That Rocks the Cradle: 400 Classic Books for Children. It has excellent reviews and book summaries, as well as dividing up all the books by three different reading levels.

What are some of your favorite children’s read-alouds?

This post is brought to you in part by HarperCollins and the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program. Kids 12 and under can join the Borders Double Dog Dare You Reading program and earn a free book when they read 10 books. Just fill out this form and bring it in to any Borders, Waldenbooks, or Borders express store by August 26, 2010 to participate in this program. Find more Summer Reading Programs here.

28 Jun 2010   ·   37
Money Saving Mom

How to Start Your Own Produce Co-op

After reading the post and comments about Bountiful Baskets, Deja wrote and asked if she could share how they set up their own produce co-op very similar to Bountiful Baskets. Her article is packed with great information if you’re looking for a way to save money on produce. -Crystal

Guest post by Deja Armstrong

Several years ago, a friend of mine came up with the realization that we were spending lots of money buying fresh produce for our families. We live in Texas and don’t have Aldi.

My friend decided to see if we could save money by buying fruits and veggies by the case and splitting them among several families. Our co-op was born out of this idea and it’s been 3 ½ years of great savings.

Here’s how you can start your own co-op:

1. Contact the Produce Manager (in person) at your favorite grocery store.

Tell him or her that you know 15 to 20 families who are are interested in regularly purchasing about $300 to $450 of produce each week. Say that you’d like to work with him or her to come up with a volume discount for making a consistent large purchase.

Like the rest of us, Produce Managers are responsible for their productivity and sales, so knowing that they can boost their weekly numbers by several hundred dollars should be appealing to them.

Now, you can’t go in and ask for a unilateral 20% discount, but you can try to get a good deal for you and your friends. Generally, my store gives me a 15-20% discount on my entire purchase. Sometimes, though, the savings are much more.

2. Come up with a cost per family to participate and spread the word.

In our co-op, we have “Shares.” Single Shares are $15 and Double Shares are $28. I give a Double Share a discount because they often are easier to sort. I tell people that a veggie-loving family of four to six will eat through a double share in less than a week. Smaller families or those trying out our co-op opt for the Single Shares.

Once you have your cost, then you start telling everyone you know about what you’re trying to do and get their commitment to try it. For our group, we do not place an order with less than 18 shares. In my experience, my Produce Manager is more generous with the discounts when I’m spending over $350.

The last time I calculated, a $15 Single Share at market value was about $23. (I checked the price of produce at the store I bought my cases and Walmart.) That savings is bigger with a Double Share. In that instance, you’re getting about $46 worth of produce for $28.

3. Find out what fruits and veggies your friends like and loathe.

People won’t order each week if you buy strange things. At first, we got cauliflower every week and quickly found out that people didn’t like it that much. Now I get it every few months. If you’re a spreadsheet person, make one. I just write it down in my notebook.

We tend to get the basics. Each week I order romaine, loose carrots, bananas and apples. These generally are well below market value prices, so I always get them.

Then, we add items like broccoli crowns, green beans, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, corn, tomatoes, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, asparagus, avocados, celery, oranges, pears, peaches, nectarines, kiwi, mangoes, strawberries and grapes — “normal” foods. While I may like artichokes, I don’t assume everyone else does, so I try to stick with mainstream fruits and veggies.

I also buy seasonal fruit and vegetables because the prices are even lower.

4. Research case quantities and weights.

Ask your Produce Manager how many items or pounds are in cases of the things you are considering. For me, romaine comes in cases of 18, carrots are 25-pound bags, strawberries in flats of eight and apples are in 40-pound cases. These are important things to know, so that you know how many cases you’ll need to purchase in order to meet the needs of your group.

5. Prepare an order based on how much money you have.

When I’m ready to place my order I have written down how many Single and Double Shares I have and how much money I have to spend. I come up with the list of items I’d like to buy and write down the pre-arranged prices for certain items and my “hopeful” prices.

I call my Produce Manager and we work through my list. Sometimes we negotiate. Other times I’m told “This is the best price I can give you.” I take it or leave it, based on what I have to spend. I try to buy five to six different fruits and five to six different vegetables.

I also keep track of each week’s order, so I don’t order the same items consecutively. I keep all my co-op information in a notebook. You can come up with a spreadsheet or print out a chart if you’d like. Notebook paper works for me.

What does a Produce Day look like?

On Produce Day, I go to the grocery store and pick up my produce. My husband takes the back seat out of our minivan so I can get it all in there. I meet up with the manager and we go over the order. It usually is sitting in the cooler on a cart for me. Once we double-check everything, I go to the check out to pay while a member of the produce department loads my van.

We unload and begin to sort into laundry baskets. (Each co-op member is responsible to have two laundry baskets marked with their name to use for their co-op purchases. They pick up their full basket each week and drop off their empty basket from the previous week.) We determine how many items go in each basket based on how many shares we have. Many items have the actual case count printed on the end of the case, or the Produce Manager has told me how many items are in the case.

Often, I end up with leftovers after evenly dividing everything. If I have 18 Single Shares and six Double Shares, and nine apples, the Double Shares get the first six, and the rest go into an “extra basket.” The extra basket gets the random carrots or whatever that doesn’t evenly divide. It’s first come, first served for people to take whatever they want from the extra basket. Also, my cantaloupe or asparagus-loathing folks can put theirs in the basket, and take a handful of whatever they want to make up for it.

I have a 30-minute window for people to pick up their baskets. When they come, they bring their empty basket and sit it on my front porch, and then pick up their full basket. Often, they will also pay for the next week, so they only make one trip to my house.

My total time investment is about two to four hours each week. The bulk of that is on produce pick-up day. It might take a bit more time upfront getting things organized, but once it’s running, your time investment is much less.

What do I get out of running this co-op?

First, I take a free Single Share of produce for every 10 Shares sold. I do purchase Shares to help us meet our 18-Share minimum, if necessary. However, usually two to four hours of work gets me $40-$50 in free produce for my family. Since I do all the work, folks in my co-op don’t mind me taking free produce.

When calculating how many shares I have, I add my shares to the total, but don’t add the money. So I’m buying 30 shares of produce, with 28 shares of money.

The co-op also gives my children a chance to practice their math skills while sorting. And it gives them a excellent opportunity to serve others by lugging cases of produce into the dining room, sorting hundreds of apples, opening the doors, playing with littles while mom visits and carrying baskets out to vehicles. While we know many people in our co-op, there are many others who have joined by word-of-mouth. That has given us a tremendous opportunity to minster to others.

Deja Armstrong has been married for 16 years and is a homeschooling mom to 5. She spends about $400 per month on groceries. She’s values family and is about to launch a Titus 2 blog for women in her church.

Photo credits: ValsPhotos; Colin; tifotter

26 Jun 2010   ·   28
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday

Here were my purchases for this week:

Target Trip: Spent $11.26 — Read the full details on this trip here.

Walmart Trip: Spent $4.14 — Read the full details on this trip here.

Dillons Trip: Spent $9.44 — Read the full details on this trip here.

My husband also picked up a gallon of milk earlier in the week, as well.

We’ve been eating mostly from the pantry and freezer the past few weeks in an effort to use up all of our perishables before our move. But we’ve pretty much eaten almost every last bit of them, so I’m not sure what we’re going to be eating in the coming two weeks while we’re in the midst of packing and moving to our new house.

I’m thinking we’ll subsist on cereal, fruit/veggies, burritos, sandwiches and probably a little fast food, too. And I’m not going to feel guilty if we spend a little more on groceries and food than usual over the next few weeks. In my view, there are seasons when it’s totally okay to loosen the reins a little bit when it comes the budget and just do what you have to do to get through a busy time.


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 Jun 2010   ·   59
Money Saving Mom

House-Hunting: Patience Pays Off!

We purposefully waited to look at houses until we had saved 100% of our goal for our house-fund. Because we were committed to staying out of debt and paying cash for a house, we didn’t want to put ourselves in a situation where we looked at houses, fell in love with one and then were tempted to go borrow money in order to buy it (yes, we’re unabashedly weird like that!).

So we waited until we were completely ready and our house fund was fully-funded. And when we finally hit our goal at the beginning of the year, we’d been renting for seven years. Most people expected us to go right out and buy something almost immediately since we were finally ready to do so.

But we weren’t in any big rush. Sure, it would be nice to move to something a little better suited to our needs than our current rental, but we wanted to wait and find something we really liked and knew without a doubt was THE house for us.

We were initially thinking we’d find a house within a few months — if not sooner — but we quickly learned that when you’re paying 100% down on a house, you’re not in a big hurry to part with that money until you know you’ve found a house which you love.

So we waited, we prayed and we continued to look at houses.

After about five months of looking, I was getting a little tired of people asking “Have you found a house yet?” In fact, sometimes I felt like that mother who is pregnant and past her due date and people keep coming up and saying “When are you going to have that baby??”

I also was finding that we’d worked so hard for this big goal and now it felt like we were in a holding pattern. Going nowhere, getting no traction and without purpose. It wasn’t that we weren’t still saving money, it was just that we’d put a lot of our financial goals on hold until we found a house — since we wanted to have extra padding in our house budget to account for the additional expenses which might present themselves (necessary costs, moving expenses, work which would need to be done to the house, etc.)

When I talked to Jesse about this, we decided to sit down and map out a specific future game plan for our finances — even if we hadn’t found a house yet. We needed purpose and drive and goals. Without them, we were feeling a little aimless and slacking in sticking with the budget.

So we laid out specific dates for other financial goals and started working towards those. And almost immediately, the momentum was back and my frugal zeal returned!

And would you believe it? Within days of our “money meeting”, THE house went up for sale. And we signed a contract on it within 48 hours!

I guess you could say that we weren’t in a hurry until we found THE house — and then we certainly didn’t dawdle. How it all came to be is a bit of a wild story and still has us shaking our heads and pinching ourselves. But I’ll save all those details to share with you next week.

24 Jun 2010   ·   86
Money Saving Mom

Was your Medco order canceled??

I posted about some incredible deals on health and beauty products at Medco Health last night. A lot of you were able to get in on this deal before it expired and I had full faith that Medco would ship out the orders — like they had done with their past promotions.

However, sadly, it appears like they are canceling some, if not all, of the orders placed last night. And it seems like they aren’t sending out emails to let you know that your order was canceled, they are just canceling it. 🙁

At any rate, I’d suggest you log into your account and check on the status of your order. And let us know whether yours is canceled or not.

I’m so sorry that it turned out like this. I do my best to vet the deals before I post them and based upon the past track record with Medco, I felt pretty confident they’d honor the deals they posted on their site. But apparently, they didn’t expect the massive stampede of orders they received last night!

24 Jun 2010   ·   46
Money Saving Mom

Today’s Walmart Trip

I made a quick trip to Walmart today while Grandma was over playing with the children. Here’s what I picked up:

8 tubs of Pampers wipes — $1.97 each, used 8 $2/1 coupons from the June P&G insert — free after coupons

2 Nivea Cool body wash — $3 each, used 2 $3/1 coupons — free after coupons

2 Skinny Cow ice cream cups — $1.22 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons — $0.22 each after coupons

2 Nexcare bandages — $1.50 each, used 2 $1/1 coupons — $0.50 each after coupons

5 pounds of bananas — priced matched to $0.18 per pound (a local store has them for $0.18 per pound on Thursdays)

2 packages of Taco Bell taco seasoning — $0.50 each, used $1/2 coupon — free after coupon

After coupons, my total was $4.14. I thought that seemed high but I was in a hurry and didn’t double-check my receipt until I got home. Then I realized that one of the $1/1 hadn’t come off. Oh well, I’m not going to complain seeing as I got some great deals. However, it reminds me of the need to be more vigilant about watching the screen as the coupons come off and checking my receipt before I walk out of the store!

See more Walmart deals here.

23 Jun 2010   ·   70
Money Saving Mom

How to Unplug Your Kids in One Day

Guest Post by Morgan at The Diet Coke Diet

I absolutely must start this with a clarification: You do not have to ban TV and DVDs forever if you choose to “unplug.” You can use the following tips to eliminate or cut back on TV watching and video games. Only you know what your children need.

We all know that kids need fresh air, fun projects, free play time and lots of time reading books. But personally, I have found (and maybe you have too) that if I am not very careful about how and when I use television or DVDs, it becomes my go-to — my cure-all for rough days, for busy days, for lazy days, for sick days. It’s just quick and easy.

In my case, there was no cable needed. Good old PBS kids + a TIVO was just enough for an unfortunate television addiction. So, I decided to undo what I had done. I unplugged my kids, and I did it in one day. Cold turkey.

Before you do it:

Make sure your spouse (and all caregivers) are on board.

First and foremost, your spouse must be on board and willing to uphold the new regime. If the kids know as soon as you walk out the door that Daddy will turn on the television, you will not be successful long-term. If you and your partner can have plans together on how to handle tough moments, you’ll be stronger and more prepared for road bumps. You have to be a united front; it’s vital.

Plan ahead.

You need to know when you as the parent are at your weakest and more likely to turn on the tube. You also need to identify when your kids get whiny and start asking for the television. That way you’ll be prepared to confront those moments. For example, if you always use TV while you shower and get ready for the day, try showering at night, or getting up before the kids. You can enlist your partner in this too.

Part of planning ahead is carefully deciding when to end the TV habit. If you choose to turn off the TV on a rainy, freezing cold day, you’ll have a much more difficult time of it than if you choose a warm, beautiful day. You’re going to need to use the outdoors to your advantage.

Young children thrive on routine, and they recognize and depend on TV time just as much as you do. To be successful, you’re going to need to have alternative activities planned and scheduled for the times when you usually use television. Fun and engaging activities keep little ones occupied so they don’t miss the TV.

8 Tips:

1. If the TV always goes on first thing in the morning, try to get plenty of sleep the night before so you can get up and get going rather than turn on cartoons and go back to bed.

Start your day with breakfast instead of TV. If that isn’t an option, provide your kids with a basket of toys and books for the morning time so you don’t have to get up before you’re ready. Carefully select toys and books that won’t be destructive or noisy.

2. If your weakness is to turn on the TV for your preschooler during the baby’s nap, then get play dough, crayons, pipe cleaners and other simple craft supplies and set up special “Quiet Time” play opportunities. That way, your preschooler will be so excited to do “new” things with you that the loss of his movie time won’t bug him as much.

3. If you tend to turn the TV on to beat the afternoon blahs, turn to the outdoors (this is where a nice day is key to unplugging). Children need fresh air almost as much as they need food.

Kids who spend all day in school (even when recess is included) need the freedom to run and jump and twirl without structure. Preschoolers need to learn motor skills. Childhood obesity is reaching epidemic proportions. I completely believe that media is a key component to that.

Fresh air is vital. If you’re home all day with preschool children, the minute you start to feel your fingers itch for the remote, hit the playground or the back yard. Get up, get out! GO!

4. If you just want to check your email and write a blog post, and your kids bug you unless they are plugged in, carve out time once the wee ones are in bed to be on the computer for an hour. If that’s not an option, provide them with fun activities right next to you, such as drawing or puzzles, so they aren’t feeling like they need to be obnoxious just for attention. Keep computer time to a minimum to avoid disasters.

5. If your hard time is when you’re trying to prepare dinner, have a family pow-wow in the kitchen. Have the older kids do their homework and tell you about their day, and the younger ones “help” you with dinner.

Tupperware and spoons with some dry rice or noodles can seriously entertain a toddler for quite a while. You can also enlist older kids to read stories to younger ones. Anytime you can replace TV-watching with book-reading, you’re doing a good job. Visit the library one afternoon a week to keep the literature new and interesting.

6. If your children are old enough, use the late afternoon to help children enhance talents or hobbies. Art, music, photography, dance, scrapbooking, and writing are all great things to do instead of television-watching. This is also an excellent time for school-aged kids to practice those instruments or whatever skills they are working on. If you can stand to listen to violin practice and provide feedback while the pork chops broil, then you’re in a great place!

7. If you use TV at the end of the day for a treat or to unwind, replace it with family game night. Games like Apples to Apples or Cranium are fun for all ages. Toddlers who are too small to play are usually content to hold a game piece and feel like they are participating. Books before bed are always a nice,  quiet way to end the day as well.

8. If you are used to having the TV on all day as background — or to watch shows you like — you can replace the noise with music from an Mp3 player or CDs.

By the end of a no-TV day, you will be so tired, and yet you will feel so gratified! You did it! You actually did not turn on the TV for your children even once. If you feel like it, do it again tomorrow. It gets easier every single day.

But let’s get real here: Kids who have been raised on a steady diet of lots of television or DVDs are not going to give it up easily. Older kids, especially, are going to notice the lack of television.  They are going to complain, they might even weep and wail and gnash their teeth.

Decide what’s right for you and your family

You can decide what works for you, but I suggest having them earn their media time (I say media because you can apply all the above to computer time as well). They want a half hour of media? Then they have to practice piano for 30 minutes.

Use chores or homework to earn their time. This teaches them that media is a privilege, not a right. If you really want to undo media entirely, then have open discussions about your feelings and why you’ve made this choice for them. Since families are not democracies, they do not have to agree, or like it. They’ll adjust. Really, they will.

Don’t cave. It’s just one day at a time. Be strong.

Children absorb media, even if they aren’t specifically paying attention. Bad language and violence affects them, even if they are not directly watching. If you find that the TV habit is yours to break, then apply similar tactics for yourself.

I’ll repeat this point: Unplugging does not mean sledge-hammering your television. I still turn on the TV probably three days out of a week. However, there are days (or a string of days) when the kids don’t watch anything. Those tend to be the best days.

Morgan writes real, do-able how-tos for life with zero money and zero time at She mothers three boys, a dog and wifes a really nice guy. She lives south of Salt Lake City, UT and looks forward to the day when her husband finishes school. She is a doula in her spare time.

photo credit: Mike Baird; DebCll; D14BLO