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17 Jul 2009   ·   19
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: The “I-Cut-Myself-Some-Slack” Edition

I had a hard week this past week, for a variety of reasons, so I cut myself some slack in the area of grocery shopping and just made a quick trip with the children to the health food store and Aldi–mostly to replenish our produce stock.

Here's what we bought:

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Health Food Store (I had to run in there to get some supplements, so I checked the mark downs):
1/4 organic watermelon–marked down to $0.99
1 tub Brown Cow organic yogurt–marked down to $0.99 (too bad I didn't know about the printable coupons yet!)
Total: $2.10

Aldi:
A dozen nectarines/peaches/plums–$0.29 each
1 bunch of bananas–$1.06
1 bag baby carrots–$0.99
5 lb. bag of sugar–$2.34
5 cartons of strawberries–$0.99 each
2 cantaloupe–$0.99 each
2 8 oz. packages of cheese–$1.29 each
1 bag chocolate chips–$1.69
1 jar natural peanut butter–$1.79
Total: $22.17

So all totaled, we spent $24.27 on groceries this week and we continue to be well below our $40/week grocery budget and our cupboards and refrigerator/freezers continue to be full. In fact, I'm thinking on doing an Eating From the Pantry/Freezer week in the next few weeks to challenge myself to clear some of it out before it goes bad!

One of the great benefits of stocking up on sales and good deals for the future is that when unexpected things arise and you just don't have the energy or time to do much shopping, you don't have to starve or eat fast food. In a sense, it's just like our Emergency Fund only it's edible!

——————————–
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.

14 Jul 2009   ·   65
Money Saving Mom

Monthly Financial Check-up

It’s July and guess what that means? It’s time for our monthly financial check-up. How did you do in June?

We began June at 48.5% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 50%!

I cannot even begin to tell you how exciting it is for us to have reached the half-way point in our house savings. We had set the bar a little high in our savings goal so we’re getting very close to the point where we can actually start looking at houses.

We’re going to begin our house search by doing more research into what our options are, what areas we’d like to live in, and what features we’re looking for in a home. Once we’ve done that, enough time will likely have elapsed that we’ll be able to begin looking at homes–for real!–which are in the price range of what we have saved up.

It is amazing for us to look back over the last few years and realize how far we’ve come. What once seemed like a “big, hairy, audacious goal” is starting to become reality. The beans-and-rice budget is paying off and it feels weird to realize how close we are. Yet, just because we’re inching closer and closer to our goal, we don’t want to let our resolve slide or our frugality slip–something we’re having to guard against.

I’d really like to be at 55% of our goal by the end of July so that we will have saved over 20% towards our house savings goal this year so far. But we’ll see how the month goes!

Thanks so much for encouraging and cheering us along. It’s a huge help to have so much accountability in this! If you have recommendations for us when it comes to buying a home (books we should read, things we should consider, or any advice you’d like to give), please do pass it along. I feel like I have so much to learn and I want to be as well-researched as I possibly can be.

(By
the way, if you’re new here, you can read more about our financial
goals for this year and our progress so far by scrolling down on this
page here. And if you’re wondering why we’re attempting to save to pay 100% down for a house, be sure to read this post.)

——————————————–
How did you do in June? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in June and, if you’d like, the areas
you hope to improve in July. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don’t have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let’s all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

14 Jul 2009   ·   3
Money Saving Mom

Worth Reading: Food Waste and Market Research Opportunities

::Over at Small Notebook, Rachel has an excellent post up with 20 Tips to Waste Less Food. Definitely worth a read!

::Looking for a few things you can do to earn some extra income? Be sure to check out my regularly-updated page here and then visit Carrie over at MoneySavingMethods for a listing of the latest paid Market Research opportunities available. I've not had great success with these (I signed up for one years ago, did all the work, and was never paid my $75, in spite of their confirmation that I did complete all the necessary requirements to earn my check. Oh well!) but I know that many folks do make some great side income off of these so check out Carrie's post if you're interested.

13 Jul 2009   ·   94
Money Saving Mom

Do you price-match?

As most of you know, Wal-Mart has a policy to "price-match" any competitor's store prices. I'm hearing reports that Target ads had a notice in them yesterday (see pages 2 and 3) saying that Target will now also be price-matching (we don't get the Sunday paper so I haven't been able to double-check on this myself yet). Hooray for more options!

I personally do not price-match at Wal-Mart for a variety of reasons–the biggest of
which is that I find my local grocery stores usually have much better markdowns than Wal-Mart does. In addition, they also double coupons and run catalina offers, neither of which Wal-Mart does.

Do you find price-matching at Wal-Mart (and now Target) to be beneficial or money-saving? Why or why not?

11 Jul 2009   ·   33
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: Stock-up shopping trip

I had planned for this week to be a stock-up week, since we had spent less than $20 on groceries each of the previous two weeks and, as a result, I had accumulated over $80 in grocery money to spend. So stock up we did!

Here's what we bought:

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The above is the combination of what we purchased in a trip to Target, Dillons, the local health food store, and Whole Foods Market (which we stopped by when we were in Kansas City).

033

At Whole Foods we bought: 8 ears of corn (on sale 4 for $1), fresh green beans (on sale for $0.99/lb.), a little fresh-ground peanut butter (not pictured since we ate it on sandwiches before the picture was snapped!), and close to 5 lbs. of organic spring wheat kernels (priced at $0.69/lb.). All totaled, we spent $6.75.

032

At the local health food store, we bought Newman's Own Fig Newtons (reduced to $0.99), Health Valley Graham crackers (reduced to $1.29), organic spinach (reduced to $0.99), tortilla chips (reduced to $0.99), and 4 half-gallons of organic milk (reduced to $1.59 and I had 4 $1/1 coupons so they were only $0.59/half gallon!). So I spent $7.04 there.

We stopped by Dillons (our Kroger affiliate) and purchased: spinach (reduced to $0.99), 2 cartons of Breyer's ice cream ($1.99 each after coupons), Digiorno Flatbread Melts (free after coupon), 2 cartons of strawberries ($1.88 each, 2 boxes of Wheat Thins ($0.97 each after coupon), BBQ sauce (free after coupon), sandwich bags ($1.85), butter ($0.85 after reduction and coupon), baking powder ($1.25), mozzarella cheese ($1.15 after sale and coupon), 2 cantaloupe ($1.67 each), one Asian salad mix ($0.79 after reduced price and coupon), one gallon milk ($2.50), Purex laundry detergent ($2.30 after sale and coupon), 2 pounds of turkey sausage (reduced to $1.49 each), chocolate chips ($1.40), yogurt 4-pack ($1 after coupon), 2 Reach toothbrushes ($0.37 after sale and coupon), and cottage cheese (reduced to $0.79). I spent a total of $35.61 at Dillons.

030

And then we stopped by Target and did this transaction which I outlined here spending just shy of $6.

I wasn't planning to do anymore shopping the rest of the week, but I had to run out and get a few things at Target later on in the week, so I decided I might as well get a few more grocery bargains while I was there. So here was my second Target trip of the week:

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After coupons, I spent $3.65 on everything shown above. You can read more about these deals here.

So, after coupons and sales, I spent $58.99 on groceries this week. Considering I had a little over $80 I could have spent (and still kept within our $40/week grocery budget since we've been underbudget the past two weeks), I was thrilled. I am beginning to hope more and more that we just might be able to consistently stick with our $40/week budget again for awhile even with our growing family. We'll see. But as of right now, our freezers, pantry, and refrigerators are quite full and we are over $20 under budget for the month!

——————————–
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.

9 Jul 2009   ·   55
Money Saving Mom

A fun Target trip

I did a big grocery shopping trip earlier this week as I'd practically skipped shopping altogether last week since we were out of town for a few days. I'll share more about my great deals and bargains for Super Savings Saturday, but I wanted to go ahead and share my Target bargains in case it might help you in planning a Target trip.

Here's what we bought:

028

4 boxes of Eggo BakeShop products priced at $1.50 each, used $1/1 coupons = $0.50 each after coupons
6 small cups of Edy's ice cream priced at $1.19 each, used $1/1 coupons = $0.19 each after coupons
2 boxes of Kashi cereal priced at $2.66 each, used 2 $1.50 coupons, $0.50/1 coupon, and B1G1 coupon = free plus $0.94 overage after coupons!
2 boxes Kashi cereal bars priced at $2.66 each, used 2 $1.50/1 coupons plus $1/2 coupon = $0.66 each after coupons
2 boxes Nexcare band-aids price-reduced to $1.77, used $1/1 coupons = $0.77 each after coupons
1 small bottle Renu contact solution priced at $1.54, used $1/1 coupon = $0.54 after coupon

All totaled, I paid just shy of $6 for everything pictured above.

I was especially happy to get 4 boxes of Kashi products plus all those other items for what you'd normally spend just for two boxes of Kashi products on sale. Hooray for coupons!

You can see the full list of all the deals currently available at Target right now here.

8 Jul 2009   ·   39
Money Saving Mom

Romance on a Budget: Is it possible?

Couple Mulsanne
photo by Mulsanne

Danelle Ice from Homemaker Barbi emailed me with a few thoughts on romance on a budget:

One of the most common topics in arguments between couples is money. Worrying about having enough money to care for your family’s needs can put a huge burden on your shoulders, and that financial burden leads to enormous stress.

Focusing on the stress of finances can oftentimes knock relationship priorities off the top of the list. We have to remember that our marriages are the cornerstone of our frugal families. If we fail to take care of our relationships, then all the frugalness in the world won’t matter anymore.

It makes sense then that frugal couples need to be mindful of the state of their marriages and the quality of their time together. Always make sure that time for romance and your relationship are a top priority, no matter what is going on in your budget!

You have the power to foster love and rekindle the romance in your marriage right now, and it doesn’t take a lot of money to make that happen. I believe that husband and wife date nights are a great way to stay connected. You can keep romance alive on a small budget, or even no budget, when you focus on the things that really make your spouse feel loved, valued, and appreciated.

Plan fun things to do together such as an indoor picnic or an at-home romantic dinner for two. Or what about taking an evening stroll holding hands and talking about your day?

If you have little ones and you can't seem to find the time to really talk but you also can't afford a babysitter, you might consider going on a romantic nighttime drive. This is a date even the kids will like (before they fall asleep, that is)! Have the kids get dressed in their jammies and bring their pillows and blankies into the car. Go for a nighttime drive (the kids will fall asleep) together to talk about non-kid topics. Load up your favorite romantic music or even “your song”, and drive to a scenic lookout point where you can see the city and stare out at the stars together.

You don’t need to have a special occasion to make plans for a romantic date with your husband or wife. Keeping regular free and cheap dates on your weekly schedule serves to strengthen your relationship and keep your intimacy strong in a fun way. Spending time together doesn't have to cost a lot, just use your imagination and you can keep your romance alive on a budget!

–Problogger Danelle Barbi Ice is the editor of Homemaker Barbi an online Home and How-To magazine specializing in homemaking, frugal living, printable checklists, and more.

What are your ideas for keeping romance alive on a limited budget? I'd love to hear!

7 Jul 2009   ·   72
Money Saving Mom

Making short-term sacrifices in order to achieve long-term goals

Jennifer recently left the following comment on my blog:

I have
been following for about 10 months now and have managed to make a huge
dent in our "old" grocery budget. However, I am also an experimental
cook who loves to try new things, especially fish and ethnic dishes. We
eat fish at least three meals a week (including lunches i.e. tuna) and
fresh fish is rarely on "good" sale, and never free. We also love
Indian, Thai, and Chinese, all of which I cook from scratch. I've always
admired your honesty, as well as the fact that you repeatedly (and
sincerely) say "what we do doesn't work for everyone" – so I am also
wondering, do you "miss" variety in your menus?

Do I miss variety? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that there are many things I often see at the store which I'd love to buy but which I know would totally bust our grocery budget. No, because I truly believe that making temporary short-term sacrifices (like, for us, eating simple meals made with inexpensive ingredients–see some of our normal menus here) is worth it to achieve long-term goals.

Before my husband and I got married, we sat down and did a lot of calculating to see how little we could survive on. Our goal was to make it through Jesse's six remaining months of undergrad and the following three years of law year without going into debt.

We had the money saved up and set aside to pay for school, but we didn't have much more beyond that. We figured that if he worked part-time and I worked part-time, we could manage to make close to $1000 per month. So that was the dollar amount we had to work with in making our budget. Considering that our rent ate up over half of that amount, we had around $125/week leftover to work with.

It seemed rather daunting to be able to pay for our utilities, transportation, food, and living expenses with that amount but we were determined to make it work. We knew we would have much more freedom if we weren't making payments on law school loans for years to come. And we knew if Jesse were to begin his legal career without the bondage of debt, it would give us much more of a foundation for achieving our long-term goals of owning a home debt-free, owning real estate debt-free, and being able to share abundantly with those in need.

Yes, we had some pretty big long-term goals from the get-go, and the only way to achieve those was by making short-term sacrifices. It would mean going without, saying "no", and exercising lots of self-discipline. In short, it would mean experiencing some temporary discomforts in order to reap lifelong rewards.

The temporary discomforts during the law school years weren't always easy, believe me. Both of us had moments when we just wanted to throw in the towel and throw our arms up in defeat. There were many times when we wished we could spend money on this or that or enjoy some of the little luxuries in life it seemed everyone else was. But we plodded on and on and on–wearing the same clothes over and over, driving an old car, brown-bagging it, clipping coupons, forgoing dinners out, living in a cramped little basement apartment, and so on–constantly reminding ourselves that it would someday be worth it.

And it has been every bit worth it. The little luxuries in life that we gave up–like eating out, making fancy meals, buying new clothes or things, driving a nicer car–pale in comparison to the freedom we now have living a life without payments.

Many people expected that as soon as my husband got out of law school and our income quadrupled, we'd stop being so frugal and start "really living". Shouldn't we reward ourselves for those sacrifices by loosening up on our tightwad ways? It was easy to justify, for sure, but we'd lived on such a beans-and-rice budget for so long that neither of us felt comfortable with all of a sudden becoming more extravagant. Plus, we have more audacious long-term goals–like paying cash for a house–and we know the only way we'll be able to achieve those in a timely fashion is by making more short-term sacrifices.

We have given ourselves quite a bit more budget breathing room than we had during law school and we have mutually decided to allow ourselves to "splurge" every now and then (like our dinner at The Cheesecake Factory last Friday night!), but we still adhere to a strict written budget and we do our best to constantly be looking for ways to keep our expenses and expenditures to a minimum. This enables us to live on much less than we make so we put a large part of what we earn towards saving to pay cash for a house. In addition, it allows us to have much more to share with others.

None of this would be possible if we were buried in debt. Not only would we have all the stress of trying to make ends meet while paying all our payments, we'd not have the freedom to give generously or the ability to make good traction in our savings goals.

So yes, there are days when I wish I could go to the store and just buy whatever I want without worrying about staying within our grocery budget. And yes, there are times when I wish I could make more elaborate meals with more expensive ingredients instead of planning our menus based upon the sales and what coupons I have. But then I quickly realize that sticking with a small grocery budget and eating simple meals is one of the reasons we're living a life without payments and one of the reasons we're able to save more and give more. When thinking of it in that light, it is so worth it!

And honestly? I really enjoy the challenge of working with a small grocery budget. In fact, while our menus might seem dull to some, we really rarely notice the fact that we spend so little at the grocery store. Through years of practice, I've learned a number of tricks (like the Buy Ahead Principle) which, coupled with a large dose of creativity and ingenuity, allow us to enjoy a rather varied and healthful fare without breaking the bank to do so.

Note: I wanted to make it clear that I am not advocating everyone need to have a grocery budget like ours or that you need to forgo eating fancy dinners. These are choices we have made based upon our family's goals and what works best for us right now. Your family's goals and needs are different than ours so please do not feel the need to do similar to us. I just share what we've done and are doing in hopes it might be an inspiration to you to find ways you can live on less in order to save more and give more.

4 Jul 2009   ·   52
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday (or should it be Super Splurging Saturday?!?)

We're in Kansas City this weekend enjoying a refreshing mini-vacation so I'm skipping my usual Super Savings Saturday post today. Instead, I thought I'd share a few pictures from our dinner tonight at one of our most favorite restaurants in the whole wide world–The Cheesecake Factory!
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While our bill for dinner and dessert ended up being just shy of what we usually spend on groceries for a week, it was worth every penny of it. Besides, who says you can't splurge sometimes, especially when you do it with
cash?

——————————–
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.

2 Jul 2009   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

Guest Post: Once-a-Week Frugal Food Night

Guest Post by Amy Ellen from Health Begins With Mom


Eating healthful foods can sometimes put a strain on a family's grocery
budget. Buying food in bulk, joining food co-ops, and shopping
strategically all help, for sure. In addition, our family has found
another strategy for bringing down our weekly budget: our family has committed to have a Frugal Food Night every Wednesday.

Of course, we try to be frugal all week. But, we see our Frugal Food Wednesdays
as an opportunity to save big! I try to prepare a meal for my family of
six for about $1.50. Our goal with
this extra budget-cruncher is to free up some money for the more
pricey, nutrient-dense foods we want to include in our diet the rest of the week.

Here's what we've been making for our Frugal Food Wednesdays recently:

Take a two-pound bag of pinto beans and sort the beans for any stones or bad beans. (These around $2 at the grocery store and less than $1 per pound if you buy it in bulk.)

Soak
the beans overnight in a crock pot turned off by covering the beans
with plenty of water and stirring in about 2 tablespoons of plain
yogurt. The yogurt will begin to break down some of the amino acids
that cause our digestive systems some difficulty. This process will
also make the beans' nutrients more bioavailable (ready for our body to
use).

The
next morning, rinse the beans and refill the crock pot with fresh, pure
water. Let the beans cook on low for most of the day. I start mine
first thing in the morning. In the early afternoon, add 2 cups of brown
rice ($0.50), 2 Tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, and salt and
pepper to taste. (Since I purchase my seasonings in bulk these
spices only add up to costing about 5 cents.)

Let this cook on high until supper time. Voila! You have a dinner that
serves about 12 for less than $3.

At first glance, this meal may not
look like magazine cover-food. However, the seasonings make this dish
surprisingly tasty.

Here is the cost breakdown: $2 of beans, $0.50 of
rice, and let's say $0.10 of spices. That is a total of $2.60. This
meal will serve 12, so divide that figure in half for my family of six,
and we have a complete meal for $1.30. (It will even be less if you buy your beans and
rice in bulk.)

Here are some variation ideas:
  • Adding a can or two of petite diced tomatoes gives this meal a fuller flavor. Two cans will add about $0.50 per meal.
  • At times, we will often omit the rice and serve plain chili beans
    with corn muffins. My children really enjoy this variation. Simple corn
    muffins are very frugal!
  • Our favorite variation is Black Bean soup. Start with just one
    pound of black beans instead of two pounds of pinto beans. Still fill
    the crock pot up with water and cook as normal, adding the rice,
    seasonings and 2 cans of tomato paste. Black Beans sell here for $1.15,
    plus the two cans of tomato paste for $1.10 and rice for $0.50. Since
    this soup will also serve two complete meals, the cost is still less
    than $1.50 per meal. 
A few additional thoughts on this meal:
  • Leftovers freeze well for the next Wednesday. Or they are great
    layered with whole wheat tortillas, salsa and cheese for a quick
    Saturday night supper–which makes for another very frugal meal.
  • When reheating the rice and beans, spread a thin layer of salsa over the top to prevent drying out in the oven.
  • If your children are new to this type of food, cheese sprinkled on the top might make the meal more exciting.
  • Our family eats an enormous amount of fresh foods throughout the
    week. We feel one night with all cooked food is not tremendously
    harmful to our health. If you can't skip vegetables once a week, you
    can always steam broccoli or another sale-priced vegetable. This would
    increase the cost of the meal by at least $1.

Amy Ellen is a homeschooling mother of a third-grader, a
first-grader, a preschooler, and a nineteen-month-old-tagalong. She has
a vision to help moms who want to be healthy but don't know where to
start… and moms who know where to start but need some encouragement
along the way. She blogs at HealthBeginsWithMom.com and is a Wellness Consultant in her "free time".

1 Jul 2009   ·   91
Money Saving Mom

What To Do When You’re Tired of Couponing

Do you ever get tired of couponing? I mean, I love, love, love getting
a great deal, but I get tired of comparing sale ads, rounding up
coupons, and going to the stores. I'm probably trying to do too much
at once. Just wondering if you ever take a break except for when you
had the baby. -Lorie

Yes! I've found there's usually at least a few times per year where I just don't have time or desire to mess with using coupons. Here are a few ideas which work for me to help prevent or reduce "coupon-shopping burn-out":

1) Share the load. If possible, don't do all the work
yourself. If you have children, let them help you clip and file
coupons. Older children can even learn to scour the ad for deals and
match up the coupons with the deals. I know many moms who pay their
children a small percentage of the savings their family reaps from their help or they
pay their young children a small amount for the number of coupons they
clip and file. 

My mom had me do much of the menu planning, coupon clipping, and grocery shopping
for our family of nine when I was in my teens. Not only did I greatly
enjoy the experience and learn so much from it, it also allowed my mom
to have a break from having to try and do it all herself.

If you don't have children or teens who can help, consider finding
some friends who love coupon-shopping and get together with them on
occasion to clip and file coupons and share deals. Just having other
people to share it with is a huge inspiration. Plus, I've found that by
sharing deals with one another, everyone discovers a lot more bargains than they would on their own and it's a lot more fun, too!

2) Simplify your system. If you're trying to go to five stores three times a week, you're going to burn out in nothing flat. I recommend keeping it simple. I stick with going to one to two stores once a week. On occasion, when I have time and energy (and maybe a babysitter!), I'll do more than that, but that would be the exception rather than the norm.

Consider what your schedule is like and what you can reasonably commit to when it comes to couponing and then plan accordingly. If you only have two hours per week to devote to coupon-clipping and grocery shopping, then you're probably not going to be able to regularly shop at four stores or keep up with clipping and filing 10 newspaper inserts every week. (you could consider the no-clip method but I personally have tried it and found it to be a disaster for me. Read more why here. I know plenty of others whom it works beautifully for, though, so it might just be me!)

Remember that you don't have to hit every good deal. In fact, you don't even have to hit 50% of the good deals and you can still save a lot of money and keep your grocery budget low. 

It's easy for me to read other blogs and see these great shopping trips other bloggers are pulling off and to feel like I'm not spending enough time coupon-shopping. But then I remember that I'm at a season of my life (homeschooling and having three little ones) where it's just not feasible for me to be spending hours a week planning shopping trips or going to multiple stores. I need to be home teaching and meeting the needs of my young children. They are only little once. The good deals will always be there.

Find what works best for your family and situation right now and stick with that. So long as you are eating well and staying within a grocery budget that works for your family, don't worry about potentially good deals you might be missing. Just be thankful for bargains you're able to find with the time and energy you have at your disposal.

3) Set your coupons aside for a season. Sometimes, simplifying your system isn't enough. Perhaps you're just completely burned out on coupon-shopping altogether. Or perhaps you're going through a difficult or stressful time in your life. Or maybe your life is just crazily busy at the moment and you don't have time to mess with coupons but you feel guilty if you don't use them.

Whatever the case, I'm here to tell you that it really and truly is okay to take a break. In fact, sometimes I think it's a good thing to take a few weeks off from coupon-shopping–especially if you've been at it for six months or more. Not only will it allow you to come back to it refreshed and excited about bargain-shopping again, but it will also give you a chance to creatively use up some of your extra food in your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry.

Even if you set your coupons aside for a few weeks, you can still save a bundle just by planning your grocery list based upon the store sales and what you already have on hand. Or, if you have an Aldi nearby, you could buy most of your groceries there.

For more ideas on how to save on your grocery bill without clipping coupons, see this article.

What do you do when you get tired of couponing and bargain shopping? I'd love to hear your ideas and input.

29 Jun 2009   ·   81
Money Saving Mom

This week’s menu plan (and simple and inexpensive vacation food ideas wanted!)

Mpmpencil

I'm excited that this week is the Fourth of July! We're heading to Kansas City for a few days for a family vacation and very much looking forward to that.

Since our family is still small and eating out is still fairly economical, we usually "splurge" on vacations and bring very little of our own food. Instead, we eat out or get quick-fix foods at the grocery store while we're gone. It makes it much more relaxing for me to not have to worry about planning, packing, and fixing food for a few days and it truly makes it more of a vacation for me!

Because of this, I'm only planning four days' worth of meals for this week:

Breakfasts
Strawberry smoothies, toast
Waffles, cantaloupe, yogurt
Banana bread, scrambled eggs, fresh carrot/apple juice
Oatmeal, fruit

Lunches
Homemade pigs in a blanket, cucumber slices, apple slices
Homemade Pita Pockets with melted cheese, peas, fruit
PB&J, carrots
Tossed salad with hard-boiled eggs, crackers and cheese

Dinners
French Toast with fresh-whipped cream and homemade strawberry syrup, cantaloupe
Chicken Tetrazinni, homemade bread, green beans, grapefruit
Meatballs, homemade bread, sliced cucumbers, baked potatoes, green beans
Homemade BBQ Chicken Pizza, fruit

Snacks
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
Blueberry Streusel Muffins
Crackers and cheese
Apples
Carrot sticks
Granola bars

For those who may have missed it, you can see what we purchased at the store this past week here. However, do remember that that is not all we're using to make the above food and meals since we shop using the "Buy-Ahead Principle".

Do you bring your own food when you go on vacation or do you splurge and eat out/buy quick-fix foods or a little of both? If you bring your own food, I'd love to hear what you bring and how you pull it off. It seems like a lot of work to me, but I'm guessing that as our children grow older, eating out is going to be much less feasible and much more expensive so I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions!

26 Jun 2009   ·   37
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: This week’s $13.56 shopping trip

Okay, so I’m pretty sure that this week’s shopping trip would win the award for the most-percentage-of-processed-food-and-packaged-items-I’ve-ever-purchased-in-one-trip, but I’m going to post the picture anyway. I promise that we’re not eating a diet of Eggos and Pringles and Mac and Cheese this week. Really, I promise. 🙂

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The truth is, that after scouring our pantry and freezer and refrigerator, we just really didn’t need to buy anything. So I decided to just hit some of the best deals and do a bigger stock-up trip next week.

Most of the items pictured were from my shopping trip on Friday to a local store which was having Double Dollar Coupon Days. I was actually planning to buy quite a few more items, but after scouting out the sales, piling my cart high with great deals, and getting ready to check out, I found out that they no longer accept internet coupons for the Double Dollar Days. Apparently, I missed that bright orange bold note at the top of the ad in my excitement of planning my shopping trip. Oh well!

On the bright side, I still came out spending $6.66 and saving $43!

And then my husband dropped by Target and picked up the Kashi GoLean Waffles (These were priced $2.50 at our Target so after the $1.50/1 coupon, they were $1/box) and 6 boxes of the Eggo BakeShop products ($0.50/box after coupons–see details here.). All totaled, he spent $6.90.

I’ll post our menu for this coming week on Monday to validate my statement above that we are eating something besides food straight from a box this week! 🙂

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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.

25 Jun 2009   ·   1,291
Money Saving Mom

Smoothies

At our house, we love to have homemade smoothies in the Summertime. Not only are they yummy and refreshing–especially on a hot Summer day!–but they can also be quite frugal. Yes, really, smoothies can be frugal!

Almost any kind of fruit can be used in a smoothie, but berries are especially good. During the Summer months when berries are in season and plentiful, the sales on them are usually abundant. Buy a little extra each week and wash, chop, and freeze them to have for later and you’ll save a bundle and stock your freezer with a nice variety of berries to use in smoothies for a few months to come.

I like to spread the berries on baking sheets after I’ve washed and chopped them and then stick them in the freezer until they are frozen. Once frozen, I transfer them from the baking sheets to freezer bags. This method prevents all of your berries forming into one big clump in the freezer bag and makes it much easier for you to get out a cup or two at a time to add to your blender for a smoothie.

Bananas

Another fruit which is a must-have in smoothies is bananas. Our stores sell bananas which are past their prime for a very reduced price. I buy these up and we eat what we can the first day and then chop and freeze the rest to use in smoothies and banana bread. This is a much more cost-effective way to add bananas to your smoothies and you can’t tell that a banana was a bit overripe if it is in a smoothie!

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Since I love experimenting in the kitchen, I find smoothies to be a great way to use up some of those odds and ends of produce from the refrigerator and freezer. From that little bit of leftover juice or yogurt which wasn’t used for breakfast the day before to the spinach from the garden which you have in abundance, almost anything can go into a smoothie so long as you put enough other things in it to “hide” it!

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The other day, I used the items pictured above to whip up some strawberry smoothies: some of the YoBaby yogurt, frozen strawberries, milk, and some Santa Cruiz juice.

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I always begin by adding in the frozen fruit and any fresh fruit, then yogurt or milk, and then liquids (either milk or juice). I add more liquid if needed and sweeten it with honey or sugar if it needs it (most of the time, we don’t add sweetener as the fruit is plenty enough!).

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And the girls just gobble it up!

We love strawberry smoothies, but another family favorite is our Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie recipe which is posted here. I made it up on a whim one day and we all decided it was a keeper! If you’re a little more adventuresome, you might also try Green Smoothies. We’ve made these before and no one seemed to even notice the spinach in them!

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Would you like to try your hand at making smoothies? Just for fun, I’m giving away a Smoothie Kit on my blog today complete with yummy smoothie recipes, a small Hamilton-Beach blender (shown above), and Bone Health t-shirts.

May was National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month and the Milk Bone Health Program was going to give away this kit then, but since I had a baby in May, I’m a little behind here. But I thought it’d be fun to still give away this kit–especially since it’s a wonderful time of year to be making smoothies.

To enter to win this Smoothie Kit, just leave a comment on this post in the next 24 hours. I’ll randomly choose a winner once this giveaway is closed.

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The girls, enjoying their smoothies and sporting their “I {love} strong bones” t-shirts.

23 Jun 2009   ·   34
Money Saving Mom

Baking Day Round-Up

Done… finally! I'm so glad I started the Baking Day list yesterday afternoon because I only ended up having two hours this afternoon to finish up and those were with a fussy baby in the front carrier.

I'm definitely still figuring out how to do this caring for three little ones and trying to get anything else done thing. There are days when those two things seem mutually exclusive, but I'm slowly learning how to be more creative, more flexible, and to sometimes just chuck the whole to-do list and sit on the floor and play with my babies. 🙂 After all, they won't be little for long!

At any rate, today was a bit exhausting and I'm quite confident I managed to bite off a bit more than I could really chew in attempting a longer list of baking projects at this season of my life, but we survived and we actually enjoyed it. And believe it or not, the house is almost all cleaned (thanks to my husband's help tonight) and I'm heading to bed early!

But not before posting the final fruits of the Baking Day labors!

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Here's what we ended up making:

2 dozen Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 loaf Banana Bread
1 1/2 dozen Blueberry Streusel Muffins
1 loaf Homemade Bread
A double batch of Waffles
A double batch of Homemade Pita Pockets

By the way, the Blueberry Streusel Muffins are incredibly yummy, which is to be expected seeing as they came from Tammy's Recipes

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Did you have a chance to do any baking this week? If so, post about it
on your blog and leave your link below to your direct blog post. I'd
love it especially if you could share pictures and recipes so I can get
more ideas for my next Baking Day projects! And I'm guessing many
others would be inspired as well.