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31 Jul 2008   ·   22
Money Saving Mom

Review: Social Suppers


Recently, I had the opportunity to do a complimentary session at Social Suppers, a company with locations in Missouri and Kansas that offers meal assembly options for the busy family. I’ve always wanted to try out one of these stores and so I jumped on the opportunity to do a review in exchange for two weeks’ worth of meals in my freezer.

I very much enjoyed my experience and was impressed overall with the concept of this business idea. While I am not convinced it would save a number of us (myself included) money, I definitely saw how it could be a great option for those of you who are extremely busy and have more money than time right now. It might also be something to consider splurging on for stressful and chaotic seasons of life (such as before or after a move, during pregnancy, or right after having a baby).


–The convenience is incredible. Walking in and having all of
the recipes picked out for you, the groceries shopped for, the portions
divided up, the chopping done, and everything ready to go is, well, quite
an amazing thing. You just make your meals, package them up,
and leave the dishes for someone else to wash! We made the equivalent
of two weeks’ worth of meals in about an hour and a half total. When
else will that ever happen?


Social Suppers is very child-friendly. The day I was scheduled for my session, I called and asked if my daughter could come with me. I fully expected that a place dealing with meal-prep and assembly would not be thrilled with me bringing along my three-year-old, even if I promised she’d behave. Contrary to what I expected, I was enthusiastically encouraged to bring my daughter with me.

The staff at Social Suppers was very helpful and inclusive of Kathrynne. They went out of their way to make sure she enjoyed herself and was able to participate in the meal assembly. Kathrynne and I made a very special memory during our mother-daughter meal preparation session and she’s enjoyed eating the food more knowing that she helped to prepare it.


–Social Suppers offers a wide variety of fairly nutritional meals. I noticed very few meals with ingredients containing MSGs, corn syrup, or food coloring. Many of the meals had vegetables as part of the dish and the beef they use is higher quality. Another great thing about making up the meals yourself is that you can choose to omit ingredients according to your family’s health needs and preferences. 


–The prices are rather high. While they claim to have meals which cost only $2.50 per serving, from my calculations, many of them are more like $4-$6/serving and that price does not include side dishes. Since I try to have our entire dinner be $2/person or less, the prices at Social Suppers are definitely higher than I am used to paying and seemed quite exorbitant to me. Granted, it is less expensive than eating out, but it’s quite a bit more than I would normally feel comfortable paying.

–The menus are not out-of-this-world.
We’ve now eaten the majority of the meals we made and while most of them were fairly good, we thought some of the dinners were rather bland and the servings were on the small side. Maybe it’s because we eat a lot and maybe it’s because I am forever tweaking recipes in order to get them "just right"? No matter the case, we weren’t incredibly impressed with the taste factor for most of the meals.

Note: If any of you are interested in trying out Social Suppers, you can get free assembly on your meals from now through August 31, 2008 by using promo code MSM08. You can call ahead with your requests and then just stop by and pick them up.

29 Jul 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Interested in earning a little money from blogging?

I’m doing a huge, huge three day sale starting tomorrow. If you have a blog and would be interested in promoting the sale to your readership and earning 66% of all sales you generate, email me for details. (moneysavingmom @ gmail . com –remove space, of course!)

And the rest of ya’ll stay tuned for the details on the sale. I’ll be posting them at midnight tonight. It’s the biggest, screaming sale I’ve ever had and I think you’ll want to make sure you show up early for it. 🙂

29 Jul 2008   ·   112
Money Saving Mom

Ask the readers: Long distance plans?

We had a busy and eventful last few days and I’m taking half a day off from blogging to take care of some things on the home front here. I’ll back this afternoon to share some more great deals. In the mean time, would anyone like to share some input on Amy’s question?

I wondered if you’ve got any good tips/advice/comparisons on long distance calling
plans. Currently, we have unlimited long distance with our home phone
but are considering canceling all of that. Have you researched
whether it’s cheaper to have a cell phone only and use it for
everything, have a calling card and keep a land line with no long
distance, or have you discovered something else? – Amy

What does your family do for long distance calls? What have you found to be the least expensive option? What works best for your family? Tell us in the comments section.

28 Jul 2008   ·   70
Money Saving Mom

Lower your grocery bill without clipping coupons

I’ve received numerous emails from people recently asking how you can
lower your grocery bill if you don’t live nearby stores which have good
coupon deals or if you don’t have time to clip coupons. While
I’m a big proponent of coupons, I understand that they don’t work for
everyone in every season of life in every area of the country. Here would be a few of my top recommendations for ways to lower your grocery
bill without clipping coupons:

1) Plan a menu and stick to it. Seriously. If this is the only thing you ever do, you’ll greatly reduce your grocery budget.

2) Shop once per week or less. The less you shop invariably means the less you spend. I recommend you have a grocery budget, plan your menu and list with your grocery budget in mind, use a calculator to tally up your running total as you shop, and only bring the allotted amount of grocery money with you in cash.

3) Stick with simple, inexpensive meals. I’m a big believer in simplicity. There’s an occasional time and place for the elaborate, six-course dinners, but for the everyday, keep it simple. We like to have a main dish, homemade bread of some sort, and then fruit or veggies of some sort to round things out. I plan our main dishes around what we already have on hand and what meats and other mainstay ingredients are on sale.

4) If you live nearby a store which does run sales, plan your menu based upon the store sales. The simple step of taking a few extra minutes each week to browse the store fliers and create your menu based upon what is on sale there will greatly enhance your savings. If you have more than one store which runs weekly sales, check both fliers and decide which store to do your shopping at based upon which store has the best sales. 

5) Shop at Aldi. I know every area doesn’t have Aldi stores, but if you do, you should be shopping there. I don’t recommend buying everything at Aldi, but there are many things there which are very comparable to name brands at the store, but which are routinely quite a bit less. Our Aldi standbys include: fruit (especially bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit, and frozen fruit), tortillas, some veggies, frozen veggies, and staple ingredients. You have to be a bit flexible since Aldi doesn’t always have everything in stock and the produce is sometimes hit and miss, but we’ve saved hundreds of dollars each year by buying 25% or so of our groceries at Aldi.

8) Cook from scratch, as much as possible. It’s a no-brainer, but cooking from scratch with simple, inexpensive ingredients is likely one of the greatest ways to save money on your grocery budget while also eating more healthfully. We enjoy some processed foods as a treat, but I attempt to have the bulk of our diet made up of fresh fruits and veggies and homemade items. With some planning ahead and cooking in bulk and freezing, you can eliminate the need for many processed foods without spending a great deal of time and thought.

One of my best tips to help one be more efficient when it comes to cooking from scratch is just to look for ways you can make extra. If you’re making waffles, make a double batch or triple batch and freeze the leftovers for breakfast later in the week. If you’re making cookies, double the recipe, bake what you’ll eat right away, and freeze the rest of the cookie dough in balls and then pull out how many you’ll need and bake them later.

Another thing which has worked well for me is to try and bake for a few hours one day per week or to take 20 minutes everyday and bake up a triple batch of something and freeze most of it. This guarantees I almost always have a few different things on hand for quick breakfasts or snacks or bread to go along with dinner.

What are your best recommendations for saving money on groceries without clipping coupons?

25 Jul 2008   ·   58
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: You gotta see this to believe this!

I think this shopping trip takes the cake for my best shopping trip of the year…

(Click on picture to enlarge for the full effect–the entire table was stuffed with food and household products! Please especially take note of the BOX of Pampers–100 diapers in all!)

Total spent out of pocket?


$2 under the $51 budget I had (We budget $40 per week, but I usually don’t spend all of it and "roll over" the extras to the next week.)

After almost three weeks of little-to-no shopping–thanks to a well-stocked pantry, fairly-dismal sales, and my attentions and energies being focused elsewhere–I guess I made up for it this week.

Since the deals usually linger at Target and Wal-Mart for a month or more and they are a bit more of a drive, I save my coupons and just hit both stores once every 4-6 weeks. This was the week to hit both of them and hit them I did!

At Target, my total before coupons was $83. After coupons, it was $38. And then I paid with gift cards I’d earned free from referring a few folks to eBates. So I spent $0.00 out of pocket!

Best deals at Target: $0.89 Natural Skippy peanut butter (on price cut to $1.89, used $1/1 Target coupon), almost-free Electrasol (combined Target mailer coupon with $2.25 manufacturer’s coupons), free Joint Juice and Powerade, Physician’s Formula Organic blush for $0.67 (on clearance for $2.67, had $2/1 peelie on it!), very cheap crayons and school supplies, Pantene Beautiful Lengths for $0.79 each (used $2/2 coupon from Target mailer and 2 $2/1 manufacturer’s coupons) and a HUGE 100-pack of Pampers on clearance (clearance price: $23, used $4/1 Pampers mailer coupon plus $5/2 Pampers Target coupon).

Between the clearanced box of diapers, another pack of diapers I bought, and the 2 mega packs of refill wipes, we should have enough diapers and wipes to last us for six weeks!

At Wal-Mart, I spent $8.61–I got free Schick razors (used $2/1 coupon from recent insert making them free), bought more Muir Glen tomatoes, used my three last $3/1 Planter’s coupons to get free Kettle roasted peanuts by buying Kool-Aid (anyone want some? We don’t get near Kool-Aid!), bought Luvs diapers for $2.47 (used $5/1 coupon), got one package of Yo-Plus yogurt for $1.08 after coupon, and 2 packages of Kotex for free (used $1/1 coupons).

I spent $11.02 at Hen House and I got three bottles Old Orchard juice for $0.68/bottle (on sale for $1.68, used $1/1 coupons), three boxes of Curves bars for $0.98 each (on sale $1.98, used $1/1 coupons), Farm Fresh whole milk from a local farm, a dozen eggs, and English muffins.

Next stop was Hy-Vee where I spent around $13.56 and got lots of peaches and pears, frozen veggies, cottage cheese, orange juice, free Huggies CleanTeam wipes (the small packs are priced at $0.97, used $3/2 coupon and got the overage!), and 3 packages of chicken (two packages were manager’s special SmartChicken thighs on special for $2 each!).

Our last stop, Aldi, we spent $16.41 and got odds and ends: Sugar, 2 packages cheese, cucumbers, kiwi, carrots, tortillas, butter, toilet paper, and 3 loaves of bread reduced to $0.59 each, 2 packages of hot dog buns reduced to $0.39, and 2 packages of hamburger buns reduced to $0.25! The buns are all going straight into the freezer to save for later–I couldn’t resist such a great deal!

We are now well-stocked for the next two weeks and I’ll probably only have to make a small trip to the store for more produce and milk and the best deals next week. Yay!

What is so exciting to me about getting all of these great deals is that these were in direct answer to prayer. I prayed specifically before going into each store and I also prayed for God to give the girls grace to be cheerful and obedient. I never expected to make it to all of those stores with the girls by myself in one afternoon (I was planning to split it up over two days and stop when they started getting tired–but they never reached that point so we just kept going!). Nor did I expect to get such great deals.

God is always faithful to do "exceeding abundantly above all that I could ask or think": the girls ended up having a blast with me (there was almost no complaining at all!) and we snagged quite a few more deals than I had planned on. God is good.

How’d you do this week? Post
about the deals and bargains you were able to snag this week on your
blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and leave
your link below.

25 Jul 2008   ·   22
Money Saving Mom

Frugal Friday: Alyssa vlogs her coupon binder

It’s Frugal Friday over on my other blog and all of you frugal zealots will want to go check out the money-saving goodness overflowing from the links left there. I shared a new recipe we tried this week for a yummy breakfast.

Alyssa’s vlog on her coupon binder takes the cake. In light of our recent discussion on coupon organization methods, I thought many of you would find it especially helpful. Check it out here.

And while I’m sharing links, here are a few more:

Did anyone else get a little chuckle out of MSN’s article on a family of four attempting to eat on $100 a week? I found it quite hilarious that we are feeding our family for less than half the amount allotted on food stamps! (Food stamps allow you $117/week for a family of four, we get by quite nicely on $40 for a family of 4. We do go out to eat once or twice a week, but we’re still well under that $117 budget.)

BabyCheapskate did a great series this week on all things related to cloth diapering. If the subject is remotely interesting to you, you’ll definitely want to take a peek.

25 Jul 2008   ·   9
Money Saving Mom

It’s about time…

I know, I know, I’ve been blogging on for over nine months and I still don’t have one of those handy-dandy email subscription buttons.

Or, I didn’t, until today. My friend Jessica talked me into adding one and she even walked me through how to do it. So, for everyone who has asked, here you go:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Add your email above and click subscribe. You’ll have to check your inbox for a confirmation link and once you’ve received and verified that, within 24 hours, you’ll start receiving all posts I write each day in a snazzy daily email newsletter–or so I’m told you will. 🙂

In other techie news, have joined the MSM Facebook Group yet? There are over 1300 MSM readers on there and it’s a great way to connect with other money-saving aficionados.

And one last techie thing: I’m twittering. Well, sort of. I’m still not even sure what it’s all about, but I’m having fun writing little tweets every few days. I’ve especially found it to be a great motivation to tackle projects and share my progress. Amy has a great explanation of Twitter here, in case you’re not familiar with it.

24 Jul 2008   ·   31
Money Saving Mom

Blessed to be a blessing

I just had to share this beautiful email I received from Mandi with you:

I’ve been reading Money Saving Mom® for about 3 months
now, and it has made a huge difference in our lives. I used to dread buying
laundry detergent, toilet paper and other toiletries, but now I find that those
that used to be the biggest expenses are all close to free. I’m nowhere
as good at it or “the grocery game” as you are, but I’m
getting there!

Recently, as I looked at an admittedly large stack of
Johnson’s Buddies soaps and wondered what I was going to do with them, I
realized that they would make a great addition to an Operation Christmas Child
shoe box. We’re living on a very tight budget right now because my husband’s
business is not providing any income due to rising gas prices and the downturn
in the economy, but giving at Christmas is very, very important to me.

I’ve found that the shoe boxes can be pretty expensive
to pack, especially by the time you include the processing fee, which has
always kept me from participating in the past, but with all of these amazing
freebies and deals (now is a great time to stock up on crafts and school
supplies too, as you know), I’ve set my goal at putting together 12 shoe
boxes this year. While we might feel like we’re struggling,
we still live in abundance, you know?

Thank you for sharing, Mandi! Your email encouraged me so very much. I praise the Lord if anything you find here is helpful and beneficial. God has blessed me in innumerable ways and I want very much desire to be a conduit of that blessing to others. We all have been given much more than we deserve, let’s pass on that blessing to others and light candles in this dark world!

Note: If any of you are interested in participating in Operation Christmas Child, Mandi has a link here with more details on how to utilize recent deals and freebies to help out needy children.

23 Jul 2008   ·   105
Money Saving Mom

Help me out here! Should I switch my coupon organization system?


Anyone who has read my blog for more than a few months knows that I’m a big fan of clipping and filing every coupon you think you might use. I got into this habit because I used to shop almost exclusively at Kroger where the deals and mark-downs were plentiful and I was often able to snag unadvertised specials for free or almost free every week thanks to having all my coupons clipped, organized, and handy.

However, as most of you know, our Kroger stores were bought out a few months ago (I’m still agonizing over the loss!) and while I’ve continued on with my clip-and-file-every-coupon system, I’ve noticed I rarely have come upon any unadvertised deals or mark-downs. And I do mean rarely, as in non-existent. Well, I did find one mark-down one time, but I didn’t even have a coupon for it.

In seeking to streamline and be more efficient, I’m seriously considering keeping my inserts whole and just clipping out the coupons I need each week as I plan my shopping trip. This would save me the hassle of having to spend a lot of time clipping and filing; it would also save me the trouble of going through my coupon box for expired coupons every month, too.

But I’m really tossing and turning over breaking tradition and completely revamping my whole coupon organization system as I know it. It’s become so ingrained in me to clip and file all my coupons in my coupon box as I’ve done it this way for going on eight years.

Does it really work to just file the inserts and clip out the coupons you need? Do you find yourself having to pass over a lot of the deals when you’re at the store because you don’t have the needed coupon with you? Can anyone reassure me that I really will not end up spending twice as much at the grocery store if I don’t clip all the coupons? Do you think I’m up to the challenge of a complete revamping of my system? 

Any feedback or thoughts would be much-appreciated.

Note: For those of you who may need a point of reference, here’s my current system and here’s the system I’m considering switching to.

22 Jul 2008   ·   50
Money Saving Mom

Reader Tips: Harvesting and putting up food


Carrie wrote:

I just thought I’d write and remind your readers to look into picking their own berries. I just paid $0.80/pound for 75 pounds of strawberries. At the store, they would have cost $1.80/pound for frozen berries, so I just saved $75!

You can pick the fresh berries, use what you are able to use in the first few weeks and then freeze the rest to use in fruit smoothies, fruit salads, muffins, and more!  I put up about 500 pounds of fruit each
summer! (We have a family of 9 so it’s not really that much!). When the fruit is expensive all winter, we still can enjoy
an abundance of it!

If you don’t know where to find a local place to pick berries, check out (Thanks, Lori!)

And, if you are interested in learning more about canning, freezing, drying, and root-cellaring fruits, vegetables and herbs, be sure to check out the new Carnival of Home Preserving. Maybe someday I’ll actually learn how to can–it’s on my long list of things I want to learn how to do!

Do you harvest fruit and veggies and "put them up" in some way or shape for the Winter? If so, tell us what works for you. How would someone like me who knows nothing about canning get started doing this? I’d love to hear your ideas and advice!

Graphic from

21 Jul 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Simple beauty, simply beautiful


Today I challenged myself to create and enjoy beauty in the simple things in my everyday life–things like fresh cut flowers from our garden in my grandmother’s china (re-purposed as a vase).

See more pictures and simple beauty here and be inspired to "stop and smell the roses" in your own life!

18 Jul 2008   ·   10
Money Saving Mom

Super Savings Saturday: The I-Took-A-Break-From-Bargain-Shopping Edition

If you read this post, you likely clued in to the fact that I didn’t do any shopping of any kind this week. In fact, it’s been almost 14 days since I’ve done any shopping of any kind!

Jesse did make a quick stop to buy milk, bread, and a few other essentials, but I didn’t step foot in any store all of this week and almost all of last week, too. To tell you the truth, it felt really nice.

However, after only one quick shopping trip in two weeks, we’re running quite low on some essentials so I’ll certainly be making a fairly large grocery run this next week and I definitely refreshed and ready and ready to do some more deal-scoring! (If only I had all my coupons in order, though! Anybody want to come over for a coupon organization party?! It’s amazing how quickly they can get out of hand when I let them be for a week or two!)

How’d you do this week? Post about the deals and bargains you were able to snag this week on your blog (with pictures, if possible!) and then come back here and leave your link below.

18 Jul 2008   ·   48
Money Saving Mom

Extreme Frugality: What would you give up?

Over at the wonderful blog, Days to Come, Jeana is doing an incredible series of posts on Extreme Frugality this week. You must run, not walk, over there and read them here, here, and here. Good stuff.

Jeana recently gave up couponing in order to simplify her life and I applaud her decision. While I doubt I would ever completely give up coupons, I’ve found that I’ve greatly simplified things in the past two years–especially since having two children. I’ve cut back considerably on the deals I’ll do, the time I spend planning and shopping, and I have learned that it’s okay to take a break from bargain-shopping.

Many people often wonder why, if I’m such a minimalist, do I have a website which encourages people to buy stuff? It might seem like a contradiction on the surface, except you forgot one important point: by and large the deals I post here are for food and household products–stuff that 99% of most Americans buy at least a few times per year.

One of my goals in blogging here is to not only help everyday, average Americans find ways they can save money on items they would already be buying anyway, but I also aim to alter your mindset. (You mean you hadn’t figured that out? Maybe I shouldn’t have told you!)

You see, I would wager that the majority of Americans would never consider buying the bulk of their groceries on sale with a coupon or stocking up on a good deal to last them until the next good deal. Most people might buy a few items on sale, clip a few coupons, and save a few quarters each week, but the thought of buying almost everything on sale with a coupon is very foreign to a large percentage of the population. When people start grasping these sorts of concepts and applying them to shopping at the grocery store, it often not only saves them a few hundred dollars or more each month, it also often begins to completely change the way they think about life in general.

So while I’m glad to share deals and encourage you to save money at the grocery store, my hope is that what you glean here will not stop with the clipping of coupons. Instead, I hope the things shared here will cause you to consider making other much more substantial life changes: beginning to live below your means, getting on a budget, developing self-discipline, putting a financial plan in place, thinking long-term, and be willing to go against the flow to make sacrifices now to benefit you long-term.

Speaking of thinking and planning for the long-term, Jeana asked a really great question to kick off her series which I thought we would all do well to consider. She wrote:

Lately I’ve been thinking about how over the past few years we have
found new ways to save money as paycuts and higher costs have squeezed
on our budget. I’ve been asking myself, "What is the next thing I would give up or do differently if I had to lower costs?" and then trying to do that next thing now
to put us one step ahead of the next big squeeze. I’ll be writing about
some of the new things I’ve been trying soon. For now, why don’t you
tell me: What’s the next thing you would do to create some wiggle room
in your budget, if you had to?

What would you give up or do differently if you had to lower costs? Is this something you could go ahead and cut from your budget now in order to give you more wiggle room for later? In addition, I’d love to hear how using coupons at the grocery store may have affected your thinking on other areas of life. Tell us about it in the comments section.

18 Jul 2008   ·   0
Money Saving Mom

Keeping it simple!


It’s Frugal Friday over on my other blog today. If you’ve not had a chance to stop

by there yet, you’ll want to check out all the wonderful links and inspiration posted by fellow frugal zealots. I’m talking about taking a break from bargain shopping today. If you’ve ever felt burned out when it comes to coupon-clipping and deal-scoring, you’ll want to read what I wrote.

By the way, have you picked up on the fact that I like to keep things simple? If you really want proof that I’m an all-out minimalist, check out my recently-reorganized closets. Sometimes I wish I weren’t so ruthless when it comes to clutter, but most of the time I’m thankful for the time and energy it saves to keep it simple!

Graphic from

17 Jul 2008   ·   82
Money Saving Mom

Donating items for a good cause: Share how you’ve blessed others recently!


Have extra brand-new toothbrushes lurking at your home that you’d like to donate to a good cause? Go here to read about an opportunity to donate them to a dental outreach for children in Honduras.

And while we’re on the the topic of giving, I’d love to hear what opportunities you’ve had recently to bless others with your free and almost-free coupon bargains. Tell us about your random acts of kindness and generosity in the comments section and let’s all encourage each other to take time to help out those in need!