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10 Nov 2010   ·   25
Money Saving Mom

Christmas Gift Guide: My six favorite kitchen items (and you can win them, too!)

A number of months ago, Federated Media (my ad network) contacted me about possibly doing a Gift Guide for Christmas. I’ve never done a Gift Guide before because I’m a minimalist and all and didn’t think I could come up with enough items I could wholeheartedly encourage you to considering buying to actually put together a gift guide!

But the more I discussed the possibility with Federated Media and thought about it, the more I realized this could be a great win-win! So, I’m excited to tell you that Pier 1 is underwriting my first-ever Christmas Gift Guide and for the next six weeks, I’ll be sharing about one of my favorite kitchen items every Wednesday. This will be an item which has been given as a gift to me and which I’ve used over and over and over in my own kitchen.

Not only will I be telling you about my six favorite kitchen items, but I’ll be giving one (or more!) of each of them away to a reader here each week!

First up, Marie Madeline Aprons. Head over to see some adorable pictures of my girls and to enter to win a Marie Madeline Apron of your choosing (to keep for yourself, or give away to someone!).

9 Nov 2010   ·   183
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: How can I be organized when I have a nursing baby and toddler?


Bridget left the following comment on my recent time management post:

The thought of getting up before my children seems impossible right now as my 6-month-old is still waking up in the night and I feel like I never get enough sleep. He has a feeding around 5 a.m. and then my 2-year-old is up and ready between 6:30-7 am… and I constantly feel like I’m run over by a train. I would love to be more organized but it’s just hard when you never get a set amount of sleep. Any tips would be appreciated! -Bridget

I realized after I wrote my last post on time management that it’s possible some people might think I was saying you needed to adopt a morning routine similar to mine. Or that you need to get up before your children do.

Please know that this is just what is working for me right now. And while it is really helpful, I certainly don’t think it’s for everyone. Nor would I be getting up when I do right now if I were up multiple times in the night with a baby or toddler!

I’m at an easier season of life right now. I’m not pregnant, Kathrynne is old enough to help me with quite a few different things, Kaitlynn is learning how to to help and can do a number of things by herself, Silas is almost weaned and all three of my children are sleeping through the night most every night. So, what works for me won’t work for you because you’re at a very different — and much more difficult! — season of life right now.

However, I can very much relate to where you’re at because Silas did not sleep through the night for the first entire year of his life. In fact, for 12 months, the longest stretch of sleep I got was six hours — twice. It was hard, especially because Kaitlynn wasn’t even two when he was born and she was still waking up at night on occasion for that first year of his life.

Here are some things which helped me (They may or may not be helpful to you. Take what helps you and leave the rest!):

Give Up the Expectation of a Good Night’s Sleep

Instead of getting frustrated over how little sleep I was getting or how often my sleep was being interrupted, I gave up my expectation of being able to get a good night’s sleep and asked the Lord to please give me grace and bless and supernaturally multiply whatever sleep I was able to get. This was hugely helpful to me to realize that God knows how much sleep I need, He’s not confined by a clock and I can trust Him to provide what I need.

Make Sleep Your Priority

At the same time, I think it’s vitally important to do everything you can to make sleep a priority. Let the dishes sit in the sink, turn off the computer and go to bed as soon as you can at night.

I know the temptation is great to use that quiet, uninterrupted time to tackle your list of 997 things you haven’t gotten to in the last six months, but your body needs sleep. If you can squeeze in a nap in the afternoon or on the weekends when your husband is home, snatch the opportunity. Sometimes even a 10 or 15-minute catnap can do wonders!

Lower Your Expectations

This is not the time for tackling big projects, volunteering for ministry opportunities or doing detailed, in-depth cleaning. Stick with the basics and lower your expectations. If your family has clean laundry and food in their bellies, most of the other stuff can wait.

Develop a Simple Routine

Don’t worry about specific times, just make a basic list of 10-12 things you want to accomplish every day in the same (or similar order). Such as:

1. Get up, read Bible

2. Breakfast

3. Start a load of laundry and load the dishwasher

4. Take the children out on a walk.

5. Morning naptime for baby, toddler play with a special toy box or basket in the playpen — put the laundry in the dryer, do one cleaning project*, thaw something for dinner

6. Lunchtime

7. Read picture books and play with the children.

8. 2-year-old watch DVD, baby in swing while you fold and put away laundry

9. Afternoon naptime (everyone naps, including mom!)

10. Quick pick up of the house, finish dinner prep

11. Dinner

12. Bedtime

I’ve found that just having a basic routine mapped out is so helpful. It keeps things calm and more structured and everyone knows what to expect next. Plus, it ensures that the most important tasks get done every day.

*Consider coming up with five homemaking tasks — one for each day of the week — and tackle one per day. Something like:

Monday: Vacuuming

Tuesday: Bathrooms

Wednesday: Mop Floors

Thursday: Dusting

Friday: General Straightening and Clutter Removal

Give Yourself Grace

Don’t beat yourself up over what you’re not doing. Don’t compare yourself to other seeming “supermoms.” Don’t stress over what’s being left undone.

It’s just a short season. Now’s the time to just love your little ones, take care of your health and keep your marriage strong. The dust bunnies will still be there waiting for you whenever you’re ready to attack them! 🙂

Laugh Often

Learn to laugh instead of cry and things will be much better all round. Find the humor in every situation that you can. Surround yourself with positive people and encouraging messages to help build you up.

Don’t Neglect Your Health

Make sure that the foods you are putting in your body are nourishing you — especially as a nursing mother. It’s worth it to spend a little more at the grocery store to stock your refrigerator with healthful foods you can grab for snacks — such as fresh fruits and veggies. In addition, make sure you are drinking plenty of water, eating plenty of good protein and whole grains and taking a good multi-vitamin.

I’ve found that I feel so much better when I eat a big salad at least once a day, drink 8-10 glasses of water, take my vitamins and get fresh air and exercise.

Enjoy Your Family

Your babies are only little once. Take time to just enjoy them. To stare into their faces. To soak up their cuddles and smiles and giggles and firsts. Stop and listen to them, talk with them, love on them. Cherish them.

And don’t neglect your husband, either. You might not have a lot of energy left at the end of the day, but at least meet him at the door with a kiss and a smile. Ask him how he’s doing. Make time for him.

This stuff is so much more important than a clean house or an organized kitchen. And if you’ve got to choose between cleaning or cuddling, always choose the cuddling. I promise you won’t regret it at the end of your life!

What advice or tips do the rest of you have to add for Bridget? Share them in the comments.

9 Nov 2010   ·   107
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Make a Personalized Plan

Up until now, we’ve mostly talked about theories. We’ve discussed streamlining your life, determining your priorities and creating a time budget. It’s now time to turn those theories into real-life applications.

I know. This is the hard part. But I promise that if you’ll stick with it, it will pay off in incredible ways!

You Need a Plan

Just like you’re never going to get control of your finances until you make a detailed budget and stick with it, so you’re never going to be a good manager of your time unless you have a plan and stick with it. Without a plan, you’ll just aimlessly wonder through life, not knowing where you’re going or what your final destination is.

personalize your time plan
A plan allows you to rise above the tyranny of the urgent and focus your efforts and energies on what is truly important. A plan gives you purpose, vision and momentum.

When it comes to our daily plan and homemaking plan, I’ve found that a plan gives me freedom, saves me a great deal of time and brings peace and order into our home. I can focus on the task at hand because I know the other tasks will get taken care of during their designated time in the day.

For instance, I can walk past the pile of laundry on my bed at noon because I know that I have a time slot at 4 p.m. to fold and put away laundry. I don’t have to find myself stressing over “What’s for dinner?” at 5 p.m. because I put together the main dish after breakfast and it’s just waiting in the refrigerator for me to stick in the oven. I can enjoy reading a book or spending time online during the designated time slots for it because I know that my family’s need are met and my house is in order.

What Would a Perfect Day Look Like?

Find a quiet room sometime in the next few days and take a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and jot down a rough draft of what a perfect day would look like for you. This exercise is not meant to discourage you, but to get your creative juices flowing and to help you start to formulate a plan to improve the order and efficiency of your home and life.

Start With a Routine

After you’ve written out what a perfect day would look like, take your list of priorities and your time budget and start mapping out a realistic plan for your day. If you’re new to the whole concept of routines, don’t try to create this massively-regimented schedule.

In fact, I’d discourage you from making a strict schedule to begin with and would instead suggest you create a routine. This way, you’re not setting yourself up for failure from the get-go. Once you become a adept at a routine, then you can get a little more detailed, but don’t bite off more than you can chew when you’re first starting out.

I love many of the concepts from FlyLady and one of the things she encourages is to have a morning routine, an afternoon routine and an evening routine. If you have no structure in your life right now, I’d encourage you to begin by writing down five things you want to do in the same order every morning and commit to getting up and doing these first thing every morning for three weeks.

My current morning routine:

::Get up, read Bible, journal, pray

::Check email, clean out email inbox, blogging work

::Exercise, recovery drink, start a load of laundry

::Get children up (if they aren’t already up!), oversee their before-breakfast chores

::Shower, dressed, make bed, clean up room

I’ve had a morning routine for a number of years, so mine is a little more than five things. But it’s sort of meshed together so that I view each line as one “thing” and lump them together like that!

Don’t try to add anything else new for the next three weeks, just stick with faithfully implementing a morning routine. Once you’ve consistently stuck with your morning routine for three weeks, then add in an afternoon routine for three weeks and then an evening routine for three weeks. At the end of nine weeks, you should start to feel some significant order in your life just by these simple routines!

Be Flexible; Life Happens!

Remember that your routines are not a slavemaster; they are a guideline to help you. If your children or husband need help or something else important comes up, take a detour from them and then come back to the next thing as soon as you are able.

The whole purpose of a routine or schedule is to benefit you and your family, not to be an excuse to bull-doze everyone over! If it isn’t serving your family, it needs to be tweaked or changed.

In the next post, I’ll be sharing more about creating a Daily Plan, as well finding time to plan and what to do when things don’t go according to the plan. Later on in the week, we’ll be talking about creating a plan for homemaking, laundry and other areas of life.

9 Nov 2010   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

Do-It-Yourself: Draft Stop

Rachel over at Frugal and Simple shows you how to make a draft stop to cut down on heating costs this winter. I couldn’t get her picture to load on my blog for some odd reason, so I snagged one from Door Sixteen who also posted a similar tutorial.

Do you have a fun and frugal DIY idea to share? I’d love to hear about it! Read the submission guidelines and submit it here.

8 Nov 2010   ·   111
Money Saving Mom

Make Christmas Clutter-Free with Consumable Gifts

A guest post by JessieLeigh from Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles

Last Christmas, I was bound and determined to not bring more clutter into my home. Having just recently pared down the playroom, the last thing I wanted was more, well, junk filling our house.

I decided to chose a couple of needed articles of clothing and then only gave consumable gifts. Consumable gifts are a great way to have something to put under the tree to rip open on Christmas morning, without cluttering your home or the homes of others.

Here are five of my favorite consumable gifts to give or receive:

1. Favorite treats/snacks

Think about some of the purchased treats your kids love and ask for all the time, but don’t usually make the “budget cut.” Think about those cookies your sister makes that are your son’s absolute favorite in the world! These are great things to ask for as gifts! Your kids will be delighted to have those special treats tucked in a lunch bag or for a fun afternoon snack.

Truthfully, my husband and I do this for each other, too. He adores Monster energy drinks and I love pizza-flavored Combos, but we don’t purchase them ordinarily. Christmas is a fun time to indulge each other. Even better? Once the treats are eaten, there’s nothing left cluttering up our home!

2. Fun bath/shower products

My sister-in-law once gave my children a three-pack of those “fizzy bath bomb” balls that you drop in the bath tub. My kids thought they were amazing and I was thrilled that, after three joyful, giggling baths, they were gone.

My sister and her family gave my kids little Disney soaps one time too… they brought many smiles while they lasted! Aim for small, specialty items in this category, rather than ultra-jumbo bottles of bubble bath.

3. Coloring Books/Puzzle Books/Stickers

When people ask for ideas for my children, these top the list. They are all readily available, inexpensive and cheap to ship for those out-of-staters. My children love sitting at their art table, coloring or solving fun puzzles and decorating with stickers.

What I love? When it’s done, it’s done. I’ve never had a child miss a completed coloring book that I’ve tossed.

4. Cooking Kits

My kids, like most children, love to cook. Pre-measured cookie, quick bread or muffin kits make wonderful gifts! These can be mixes you put together on your own or even mixes you just buy in the store — children will be delighted either way.

We also happen to have a hand-me-down EasyBake oven. If you, or someone you know, does too, you could also make up some fun little mixes to be baked in there. I’ve had great success with the recipes at this site!

5. Craft Kits

By this, I mean craft kits designed to make gifts for others. My kids love to make bracelets, bookmarks and magnets for their grandmas and aunties. The “gift” for them is in the fun they have doing the crafting!

Craft kits keep them happy (and entertained) for many hours and, when they’re done, the results are happily passed on to others with much pride and joy. Win-win!

Do you have any tips for cooking back on the clutter at Christmastime? Share it in the comments!

JessieLeigh is the mother of a former 24-week micropreemie and two full-term blessings as well. She is a determined advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn, and a firm believer in faith and miracles. She shares about raising such a precious, tiny baby over at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles.

photo by craftapalooza

7 Nov 2010   ·   18
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: A quick trip to Aldi

My husband and I attended Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership Simulcast most of the day yesterday (I’ll have to share more on that later!), so I didn’t get the shopping done that I was hoping to this weekend. Dillon’s is having some great sales right now, so I did get my coupons printed today and am hoping to make a trip there on Monday night.

However, we made a stop at Aldi to pick up some basics (not everything is pictured because half the bread and cheese got eaten for a snack as soon as we came home from the store. I figured it was more important to feed the hungry masses than to get a perfect picture of my groceries!). We also bought three dozen eggs from my brother and my mom gave us a big bag of pears from their pear tree.

All told, we spent around $42 on groceries for the week.

__________

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.

5 Nov 2010   ·   32
Money Saving Mom

We Paid Cash! :: A Car Engine (with a twist)

We paid cash!

A testimony from Meagan

The Background

My husband and I got married young, while we were both still in college. Our first year together married, we lived in a tiny basement apartment that didn’t even have heat, much less a washer or dryer. I began to loathe going to the laundromat, and started daydreaming about being able to someday own my own washer and dryer.

After that first year, we found a new apartment that had hook-ups, and my husband agreed that we could use the summer to save up for a pair of energy-efficient washer and dryers.

How We Did It

My husband got a fantastic internship in a city 1500 miles away from where we went to school, so we spent the summer there, saving money for my dream washer and dryer. We even picked them out and scheduled them to be delivered a week after we were to arrive back at school.

However, on the way back to school, in the middle of a New Mexico highway, our car totally broke down. After spending a night sleeping by the road, my husband and his brother managed to tow our car to a repair shop, where it was determined that the engine was un-fixable and we’d either need to replace it or give up on our car.

We Paid Cash Car Engine

We decided that our best option would be to replace the engine with a refurbished engine. It turned out that the new engine cost only $200 more than the washer and dryer we had been saving for, and we had enough left over from our summer moving budget to make the difference.

This all happened the day before we were to have the washer and dryer delivered, so I canceled the delivery and cried because I was so sad.

The Best Part

I was so bummed about not getting my washer and dryer that my husband suggested looking on Craigslist for something cheaper to use while we saved up for nicer ones.

I found a washer and dryer set for free! The owners didn’t know if they’d work, and they were in pieces, but when we put them together (using a generous amount of duct tape and other odds and ends), they both worked. And it’s been three years and they have still kept going!

We paid cash Care engine with a twist

They are not even close to as nice as what I was hoping for, but they get the job done, even with two kids and cloth diapering. We consider every day our washer keeps running a miracle.

Meagan and her husband Tyler currently live in Little Rock, AR while Tyler attends medical school. Meagan stays home with their two daughters and is having a blast learning how to be a mom.

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

4 Nov 2010   ·   84
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Create a Time Budget (Part 2)

For years, we’ve used a cash envelope system for much of our budgeting. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it basically works like this: We have different envelopes for each area of spending (for instance food, clothing, gifts and so forth) and we have a budgeted amount of cash that we put in them every month. That’s the allotted money we have to spend on clothes and food and gifts and so forth.

Because we have a budget, we know where our money is going, we know how much money we have to spend in each category and we’re able to make sure that we’re spending our money on what matters to us — instead of just letting it pass through our fingers like sand. Having a plan for our money and sticking to the plan gives us peace, allows us to make financial traction and frees us from a lot of worry and stress.

Budgeting our money is a no-brainer for us. But truth be told, I’d never considered how this concept could be applied to my time. To me, time management had always meant trying to find a way to be as productive as possible every day.

I equated busyness with productivity. So I’d have these big, lofty plans and make these detailed schedules, but I’d always crash and burn quickly because I was trying to cram in about 32 hours’ worth of projects into a 24-hour day.
busyness does not equal productivity

When Amy shared the concept of creating a Time Budget with me, it completely revolutionized my life.

I’d never thought to approach my time like I approached my money. Instead of starting with everything I wanted to do in a day and then trying to find a way to fit it all in (it never did because my list was way too long to begin with!), for the first time, I started with the time I had and then divvied up my responsibilities and priorities into time brackets which equaled less than 24 hours.

My Daily Time Budget

30 minutes Bible reading/journaling
1 hour with Jesse
4 hours of homeschooling, reading and playing with the children
1 hour of exercise
30 minutes shower/dress
2 hours cleaning/home management
7 hours sleeping
2 hours meals/meal preparation
4 hours blogging/computer work
2 hours of extra/”margin” time

It probably goes without saying, but I’m going to repeat it anyway: Please remember that this is my time budget which currently works for me in this season of my life. Yours will likely look much different. Do what works for you. Do not pattern your time budget after mine because it won’t work for you. I only share mine as an example, not to encourage you in anyway to emulate it — unless you want to try and get as much (or more!) sleep than I do, okay?

Keys to Success When Making a Time Budget

1. Make Sleep One of Your Highest Priorities

I used to think that burning the midnight oil would make me more productive, but I’ve actually found that I’m much more productive if I get at least seven hours of sleep almost every single night. I’ve found I’m most productive in the mornings so I make it my goal to go to bed by 10 p.m. and get up between 5 and 6 a.m.

You might be the other way around. Do what works best for you, but whatever you do, put getting enough rest high up on your priority list.

You’ll feel better and more energetic and I’d wager to guess that you’ll also find an extra hour or two of sleep at night helps you to be more productive than if you spent that time trying to pry your eyeballs open with toothpicks and get more work done!

2. Deduct at Least Two Hours for “Margin Time”

I know that there is a great temptation to fill up every single waking moment with something, but may I heartily encourage you to include at least two hours of margin time in your budget? It’s sort of like our “blow” category for our cash envelope system; we can use it for those little incidental expenses which come up that we weren’t expecting. Or, we can choose to “blow” it on something fun.

If you have margin built into your time budget, when you have someone knock at the door, or the phone rings, or the baby has a diaper blowout or the washer overflows and there’s water all over the laundry room floor, your whole day didn’t just go down the toilet. Instead, you can just stop what you were doing, deal with the unexpected interruption and then go back to what you were doing — and you know that you still have plenty of time to get everything done you needed to get done!

You know what else I love about including margin in my time budget? It means I have time to stop and really enjoy my children and seize teachable moments with them.

For instance, the other day I discovered a four-foot long black snake in our backyard. If I didn’t know that I had a time cushion in my day, being the Type A person I am, I likely would have just run on to the next task. But instead, I called the girls outside and we spend 45 minutes observing and taking pictures of the snake.

We emailed the pictures to Jesse and he looked up what kind of snake it was and researched more about it so that when he came home from work, he was prepared to give the girls an impromptu “lesson” on our backyard visitor — which they just lapped up and then enjoyed sharing with me and anyone who would listen for the next few days.

If our lives were so packed full that we didn’t have any margin in them, we would daily miss out on fun opportunities like this. Planning margin into our day gives us the freedom to be spontaneous.

3. Be Ruthless About Eliminating the Unnecessary

As Americans, I think we are sometimes addicted to busyness. We always have to be on the go-go-go. And I sometimes think we find fulfillment and self-worth in piling our plates too high. As if, the more busy we are, the more important it makes us feel.

In reality, I think our culture, by and large, is exhausted, overworked and overwhelmed.

What’s the solution? It’s really very simple: just say “no”.

Stop doing things just because you feel obligated to do them by something or someone else. Stop doing things just because you’re afraid of what people might think of you if you don’t do them.

Stop over-committing yourself. Stop letting people manipulate you into a miserable existence. Just say “no”.

Want more step-by-step help in creating a time budget and becoming a better time manager? Be sure to get a copy of Amy’s ebook.

She’s offering it for almost 50% off through midnight tonight (Friday, November 5, 2010) when you use coupon code MoneySavingMom. What she shares in this ebook has revolutionized my life — and brought so much more peace and order to our home!

Beginning Monday, I’ll be sharing more about our daily routine, my homemaking/cleaning systems and, if there’s time, some time management tips for bloggers.

If you have created a time budget, I’d love for you to share yours in the comments section so that we can all be inspired and glean ideas!

3 Nov 2010   ·   53
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Create a Time Budget

Guest Post by Amy Andrews who helps with much of the behind-the-scenes work at Money Saving Mom® and blogs at BloggingWithAmy.com

Hey there Money Saving Mom® readers! I’ve communicated with many of you behind the scenes via email, so it’s fun to have the opportunity to talk to you on this side of things. Crystal asked me to introduce myself and tell you more about time budgeting as part of her Time Management 101 series. So here’s a little bit about me…

My name is Amy Andrews (not to be confused with the very classy Amy McGuire of Amy’s Finer Things — the advertising/giveaway guru here at Money Saving Mom®). My husband Brian and I have been married for 13 1/2 years and we have 4 children.

Amy Andrews and Family

Online, I blog at BloggingWithAmy.com which is aimed at teaching others how to start a money-making blog from scratch. I also do some blog consulting and I just released an ebook about time management called Tell Your Time which, incidentally, came to be after helping Crystal with her schedule.

Time Budgeting

If you’ve read Money Saving Mom® for any length of time, it’s likely you have heard Crystal talk about the envelope system for money management. The goal of the envelope system is to pre-determine where you will spend your money so as not to overextend yourself financially.

Earlier this year when Crystal and I discussed how to make her schedule more workable, I told her about a similar concept which I refer to as “envelopes of time.” They work the same way in that you pre-determine where you will spend your time so as not to overextend yourself commitmentally (is that a word?).
time budget

This is how the concept works (excerpt from Tell Your Time):

  1. Total up the hours in a day (or week). That’s easy, 24 (or 168).
  2. Make a list of the activities you want to accomplish in that time (i.e. your envelopes).
  3. Divvy up your activities between your allotted time envelopes.
  4. If there isn’t enough time in the day to cover one of your activities, you have four choices:
    • “Steal” time from one of your other activities.
    • Figure out a way to streamline so it takes less time.
    • Get someone else to do it for you.
    • Drop it completely.

In the ebook I move on to talk about how to determine your priorities/life goals and how to accomplish them by incorporating them into your daily schedule, but here I’ll expand on the four choices we have when we don’t seem to have enough time in the day.

1. Steal time

When the total hours of our daily activities exceed the number of hours we have in a day, it often results in us stealing time from other activities in our schedule.

For example, too much time on the computer might steal from my personal time, too much time studying for an exam might steal from my sleep or too much time shopping might steal from one-on-one time with my kids.

Often we steal time from other areas without even realizing it, or, we realize it only after it leaves a gaping hole. Life happens of course, and occasionally we have no choice but to steal time from other time envelopes. Stealing will happen, we just need to proactively make room for the deficit elsewhere.

Also, we need to remember that stealing time has a domino effect. Whenever we steal time from one area, another will always be affected.

2. Streamline

I am a streamliner. Whether I’m contemplating how to get from my house to the grocery store or thinking about a new giveaway entry system on Money Saving Mom®, I’m constantly thinking, “There must be a more efficient way to do this.”

I’m on a neverending quest to figure out how to do things quicker and cheaper. Streamlining is, no doubt, very handy when it comes to shaving off precious minutes in my schedule, but it can cause its own trouble too.

Streamlining itself takes time — time which must be accounted for. If I’m determined to find a faster route to the grocery store but I end up getting lost every time, streamlining doesn’t really work in my favor at that point.

Another downside to streamlining is paring down your schedule just so you can pack more in. It’s great to be productive, but if you’re so productive that you end up cramming your day with things that do not help you accomplish your life goals, it’s not benefiting you in the long run.

Streamlining is great when it reduces stress, however, if you’re streamlining but your stress level remains the same, you might have to consider another option.

3. Get help from someone else

Another way to combat a too-full schedule is to figure out how to get others to do things for you. In our house, my husband and I take care of various responsibilities and our children are expected to help as well. We all work together to share the load.

I’m also in favor of looking to others outside our home for help. I loved what Crystal said the other day about focusing on the things you’re good at. I am guilty of trying to do everything because I’m either too cheap to pay someone else or too prideful to ask for help.

Granted, we are on a limited budget so paying someone for help is not always an option, but I am 100% in favor of this idea. I see it as a win-win — I am relieved of something I don’t like to do or don’t know how to do, and someone else gets to make a little money doing something they’re skilled at.

But lack of money doesn’t have to be prohibitive when it comes to getting outside help. Be creative! Bartering, swapping babysitting with another mom so you can go to the grocery store alone or making a few homemade pizzas to feed a group of friends willing to pitch in and paint your house are all great ways to get help, without spending money.

And there are plenty of people who are more than willing to respond to a humble, un-reciprocated request for help. All you need to do is ask.

4. Drop It

You are only one person working within a limited amount of time. You can only do so much. If you’re like me, you might simply need to let some of your commitments go. Gone. Finished. Done. Outta here.

Now, I’m the first to say this is not always easy, nor is it pleasant, but if you constantly feel overwhelmed and stressed out, it’s likely you simply have too much on your plate.

For a long time, I kept looking for things to cut out of my schedule. The problem was, I couldn’t find anything to cut! It took me a while to figure out that I was looking for the “bad” stuff to eliminate, but all the activities on my calendar were “good” things (church ministry, building my business, excellent learning opportunities for my children, etc.). It was freeing to realize that I could choose to let go of “good” stuff in order to make room for the “best” stuff.

This is how I said it in Tell Your Time:

Are your daily activities really helping you achieve your life goals, or have you gotten swept up in the tumult of your to-dos? Whether it’s an inability to say “No,” the fear of missing something, the need to keep up with the Joneses or just careless planning, many of us are masters at committing to things that sound like great ideas, but do nothing to get us closer to [reaching our life goals]. Frankly, if they’re not getting us closer to [reaching our life goals], they’re a waste of time…no matter how amazing they are.

Amy Lynn Andrews shows step by step how to make money blogging at BloggingWithAmy.com and is the author of the time management ebook, Tell Your Time.

Note from Crystal: Use the code MoneySavingMom if you want to get a copy of Amy’s ebook (and I highly recommend that you do!) for only $7! The code MoneySavingMom is good through Friday at midnight only. Tomorrow, I’ll share more about how I’ve implemented a Time Budget in my own life and how it’s revolutionized my life.

3 Nov 2010   ·   77
Money Saving Mom

Thanksgiving Tip: Wash your potatoes in the dishwasher!

From The Happy Housewife:

If you have 20 pounds of potatoes to wash for your Thanksgiving meal throw them in the top shelf of the dishwasher. Set on the quick rinse cycle and let your dishwasher clean the potatoes. Not something I would do every day, but definitely a space and time saver during the holidays.

Thanks to Habits for a Happy Home for the post link and picture!

2 Nov 2010   ·   92
Money Saving Mom

Time Management 101: Determine What Your Priorities Are

Yesterday, I encouraged you all to stop trying to do it all. You only have 24 hours in your day and when you let go of trying to be superwoman and just be content with being who God has made you to be, you’ll find your life is so much more peaceful and calm.

In addition, if you want to be a better manager of your time, you need to determine what your priorities are.

I promised you I’d share my list of priorities and what I don’t do. However, I want to remind everyone that this is just my own personal list for this current season of my life. Your list will likely look much different — and it should!

Everyone’s list of priorities is going to look different because we’re all different with different family situations, different needs, different commitments, different struggles and different strengths and weaknesses. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. And what works in one season of our life might not work at all in another season.

determine your priorities

My Current List of Priorities:

1. Having a strong and vibrant relationship with the Lord. I make it a goal to spend around 30 minutes first thing in the morning reading God’s Word and praying. In addition, I seek to continually be nurturing my relationship with the Lord by reading spiritually uplifting books, spending time with other Christians and being involved in our local church.

2. Having a wonderful, open, no-holds-barred relationship with my husband. My goal is to flirt with my husband at least once every day. I know it might seem trivial, but it’s the little things which keep the spark going in a marriage. We try to never let anything come between us. So when we have disagreements or misunderstandings, we take the time to discuss these and talk things through until we reach a point of unity — even if it takes a long time! We try to set aside at least an hour to spend together one-on-one every day and then have at least one at-home date night each week and a monthly date where we leave our children and go out to dinner or on a fun outing.

3. Teaching and loving and enjoying my children. Next to the Lord and my husband, my children are my top priorities. In addition to homeschooling, reading, teaching, discipling and playing with them, I try to spend at least 15 minutes with each child one-on-one every day. I also try to take one child with me on an outing every week and we rotate whose child’s turn it is each week.

4. Staying healthy and energetic and constantly seeking to improve my mind. I’ve found that if I’m exhausted and burnt out, I’m not a good wife and mom. So I make my own health a big priority. I try to exercise at least four hours each week, get at least seven hours of sleep every night and eat healthfully. It’s also important to me that I constantly seek to be improving my mind through reading, thinking through issues and learning new things; I don’t want my brain to turn to “mush”. My husband also encourages me to go somewhere by myself (to the coffee shop, grocery shopping, an evening with friends, etc.) for a few hours once a week as this refreshes me and energizes me as a wife and mom.

5. Keeping a fairly clean and orderly home. Our home is never perfect — and often far from perfect! — but I aim to have it completely picked up at least once a day, to stick with my cleaning and laundry schedule (I’ll be sharing more about this next week) and to always keep it 45 minutes to “Company Ready” or less. We don’t have a lot of clutter, so this helps tremendously in keeping things more organized.

6. Running a blog. I really enjoy blogging — especially when I’m able to have my other priorities in order! — and it’s also a way I can minister and help people from a laptop in my living room. So my husband and I feel it’s something God has called me to do right now. That may change as my children grow older; we’ll see how God leads! For now, I am blessed to have a team of six people working for me to help shoulder this load so that it’s not overly-burdensome to me.

7. Sticking to a cash budget. This involves, among other things, setting financial goals, looking for the best deals on items we’re planning to buy, waiting until we have saved up enough to pay cash for something and making sure we stay within the cash budgeted in our cash envelopes.

8. Ministering to people in our community. In this increasingly virtual world of social media, real-life relationships are very important to us. We try to open our home for hospitality at least once a month and then I aim to minister in specific, practical ways to people in our church and community at least a few times each week. Usually this is something simple like having my children write notes to someone or put together a care package, getting together with a friend who’s struggling, jotting a quick email to let someone know I’m praying for them, bringing a batch of rolls or a frozen casserole to church to give to someone who just had a baby or something of this nature.

Things Which Aren’t On My Priority List Right Now:

::Crafts

::Gourmet Meals

::Gardening

::Sewing

::Watching TV

::Decorating (My sister is helping me decorate our house as I already told you this is an area I have absolutely zero giftings in!)

::Ironing (We try to buy mostly wrinkle-free items and my husband takes his work clothes to the dry cleaners.)

::Frequent Shopping Trips (I don’t do that much shopping and I prefer to shop online whenever I can.)

::Elaborate Freezer Cooking

::Lots of Extra Curricular Activities for My Children

::Making Homemade Gifts & Cards

::Playing the Drugstore Game

::And much, much more!

I also don’t take care of any of the bill-paying/book-keeping (my husband does this as he’s excellent at it and loves it). We don’t have pets to care for. I’m not in any regular playgroups or Bible Studies. I’m not on any committees. I don’t pack lunches for my husband to take to work. And I only make dinner four to five nights per week (we eat out once a week and we often go to extended family’s homes for one to two dinners each week).

So yes, there’s so much I don’t do right now. And I believe this is one of my biggest keys to efficiency: I say “no” often and I try to carefully choose my activities and commitments so that I don’t overload my plate.

Stay tuned tomorrow when we’ll talk more about streamlining, prioritizing and finding breathing room in your life by creating a Time Budget.

2 Nov 2010   ·   99
Money Saving Mom

Q&A Tuesday: Help! What meals can I cook without an oven?

We are in the middle of a kitchen renovation, which, when finished will result in a fantastic update of a 60-year-old tiny city-apartment-sized kitchen. This project, however, has been subject to the inevitable delays and we’ve been without a working kitchen for a month and a half now and we’re expecting to be without one for another month and a half.

My creativity is running out and my food bill rising dramatically with eating out too often. What meals can you brainstorm that can be cooked using just a microwave & stove top? The oven does not work and dishes must be *very* minimal as the sink does not drain properly: we have to use the tiny bathroom sink (or the tub) instead. The disposal is also broken.

One pot/pan dishes are ideal. We do not own a crockpot. -Karyn

Back when I was 11 years old, we lived without a stove for seven months while we were living in a construction trailer and building our house. We only had a microwave, crock pot and electric skillet and we learned to make all sorts of pretty delicious meals sans an oven. So I just wanted to encourage you that it is totally possible to survive without an oven and eat at home.

Do you have a grill? This would be the time to pull it out. You can grill chicken, steak, hamburgers — and even pizza!

Do you have a waffle iron? If so, waffles are a simple dinner. Just fry up some bacon or sausage on the stove and add some fruit and you’ve got a delicious dinner.

There are multitudes of meals which can be made on the stove top. Check out this huge list of Skillet Meals.

If you’re still feeling like you need more ideas, I would heartily suggest you consider investing in a crock pot. You can find one at Walmart for under $30 and it will pay for itself over and over again. Check out the Crock Pot 365 Blog for more crock pot ideas than you could use in, well, a year!

You might also check out a post from a few months ago on Meals You Can Make in a Hotel Room. There are lots of ideas there which you might find inspirational and helpful.

What suggestions do the rest of you have for meals Karyn can make without an oven?