Thursday, February 28, 2008

Frugal Fridays: When Half is More

Yes, sometimes half can equal more. More savings that is!

An old friend of mine, that worked for a uniform cleaning company, let me in on a little secret that all the uniform companies know. You can use half of the amount of laundry detergent and fabric softener and still keep your clothes just as clean and static free. Yep, just half is all you need.

What I do, when using store bought laundry detergent, is to fill the measuring cup only up to the first line, eventhough I always do a large load. I mark a line on the inside ring with a marker so that everyone else remembers to do this also. Since getting my front loader, I use even less than this.

With my fabric softener, I save the current bottle i'm using. I pour half of my new fabric softener into the old bottle. I then top off both bottles with water. Voila, you've just saved money! If you use fabric softener sheets, just tear them in half. I've been doing this for many years now, and my clothes are just as clean as before.

As a side note: If you really want to be frugal, you could just make your own detergent and use vinegar instead of fabric softener. Yes, i'm serious!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Baked oatmeal...mmm mmm good!

In our quest to save money, I have been on the lookout for inexpensive, nutritious breakfasts to feed my gang. It is also a goal of mine to feed the little bottomless pits, (aka...the kids) food that will not have them crying for more food an hour later.

Well, I am happy to share that I have found a great breakfast, that is also relatively inexpensive to make, thanks to Crystal at money saving mom. Baked Oatmeal!

Ok, so I know most people either love oatmeal or hate it. I've always been in the camp of, "I don't really like it, but I'll eat it because it's food." Boy was I surprised when I took that first bite. It was really, really good. Of course my children loved it too. They've never been a hard bunch to please.

Most families I know could use this for 2 meals since it makes such a big batch. It heats up just as well as the first day it comes out of the oven. Since finding this recipe I have seen many different versions out there. If this one doesn't suit your tastes, you can always try another. Don't forget to top it with butter, brown sugar, and a splash of milk!

Baked Oatmeal:
1 cup oil (can substitute butter or applesauce)
1 ½ cups sugar (can reduce)
4 eggs
6 cups oats
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups milk

Combine all ingredients in order listed. Pour into greased 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 375° for 30-40 minutes until lightly browned. Serve topped with butter, brown sugar, and milk.

A Heart for Home - Part 1

Home Sweet Home by T. C. Chiu
Home Sweet Home

I have so many women who look at me and ask, "How in the world do you do it all?" I almost have to chuckle, because secretly I am thinking the same thing of them. The best piece of advice I can give them is to stay home!

If I did everything that most women expect themselves to do, I wouldn't be able to do it all. I mean, how in the world would I be able to volunteer in every area that needs help, take the kids to every activity known to man, plus be expected to keep up with the responsibilities of running a home. Oh, don't forget to add work in there for lots of women. It becomes nearly impossible to do everything well.

Oh, you can do it all, but can you do it well? How long can you keep it up? When you are running around here and there, think about it, what is the first thing that gets pushed aside? Usually it is your home. I have seen so many women fall into a deep depression after being run ragged. They are trying to do everything, for everybody. They end up depressed, then bitter at their husbands and children for not doing more to help. The problem is not with their husbands or their children. The fault lies with them.

While trying to be best wife, mother, and woman we can, we end up not being our best at all. Our marriages are falling apart, our kids are no closer to us than we were to our own parents, and we get burnt out helping others.

Our first priority, as mothers, is to take care of our family and our homes. The rest comes way after the first is taken care of. Look at what the Bible has to say about this.

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."Titus 2: 3-5, NIV

I learned something interesting while studying this scripture. The word "train" here means to "give a thirst for." Why I may not be considered an older woman, I do want to give you, as fellow women, encouragement to have a thirst for home. To know the overwhelming feeling of peace and contentment that comes from having a heart for home.

I will finish up with part 2 as I have time. Remember, I am a busy mother to 6 children.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chemical-Free Household Cleaners

Being a stay at home mom to 6 children, who are all homeschooled, I use alot of cleaning supplies. There is always a spill that needs cleaned up, dishes or laundry to do, bathrooms to clean. It is never ending!

If you know me at all, I am always looking for ways to make my job at home easier and cheaper too. I also happen to be pretty health conscious. After reading a study on the rates of cancer being higher in women who stay home, due to the use of chemicals in the cleaners they use. I decided to research chemical free cleaners. I found some wonderful products out there, but they are pretty expensive to buy. Now, I wouldn't mind paying the hefty price if I hadn't found something cheaper out there, that works just as well! In my opinion, I stumbled on a gold mine!

You can actually use things that you already have in your house to clean with! What?! You mean i've been paying for cleaners all these years that are toxic for myself and my children, when I could have just used a few key things I already have, and save money too?! What I found is that they work just as well or even better than what I was using. If they can clean my house, they can clean anybody's!

So, here ya go. Try a few of the ideas and see how you like them.

Chemical-Free Household Cleaner List:
1. Vinegar
*Just plain old white vinegar. It is a wonderful disinfectant. You can put 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water in a spray bottle and use it just like you normally would to clean your kitchen and bathroom.
Note: You can add a bit of orange, tea tree oil, or lemon juice to make it smell better. It also gives an added boost to the cleaning power.

*You can also use vinegar as a rinse aid for your laundry. For all those towels you're not supposed to be using fabric softener on, vinegar works great to keep them soft. Just use 1/2 cup in the rinse aid compartment.

*Use vinegar to mop your floors. You can mix it water and a little orange essential oil or lemon juice to get a better smell. Just so you know, as soon as it dries the smell is gone.

*Use vinegar to clean your toilets. Pout 1 cup of vinegar in the toilet, let sit overnight. Flush in the morning and then clean as you normally would.

*Use the same 1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water solution to spray your windows and mirrors. Use an old newspaper to wipe clean. Works better than windex.

*Vinegar also works well as a weed killer.
Weed or Grass Killer:
1 gallon of boiling water
1 cup salt
Simmer till dissolved. Add 8 drops of dawn to mixture. Put in container you normally would to spray your weeds.

You can also check out this site for a ton of more uses on vinegar.

2.Baking Soda
*You can use baking soda in place of your typical abrasive or scouring cleaner. Use it to scrub your bathtub, or hard water stains.

*Use it to scrub your toilets

*Also use baking soda to clean your stove. Do you have cooked on particles on your stove that won't come up? Add a few drops of vinegar to the baking soda. It helps eat through the stubborn mess!

*Also, baking soda is a great deodorizer. I know most of us keep it in our frig already. You can also put it in the bottom of your trash can. Or, if you cloth diaper, you can put it in the bottom of your diaper pail.

3.Hydrogen Peroxide
*For a fruit and vegetable cleaner, use a spray of vinegar, rinse. Then use a spray of hydrogen peroxide, rinse. This will remove all the harmful pesticides and wax that are on the fruits and vegetables.

*You can also use a seperate bottle of hydrogen peroxide to spray after your clean with your vinegar spray. I like to use the peroxide on my counters after cooking for an added disinfectant. Please don't mix the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together in same bottle.

*Soak your toothbrushes in peroxide to kill all the gerns and bacteria.

That's it! You can clean your entire house with just these 3 things. All of them are super cheap too!

If you have any other tips, recipes, or if you know of any other chemical-free cleaners, please share.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A taste of My menu

Menu Planning is near and dear to my heart. It is essential that I plan what we will be eating if I am to stay on my budget. My goal is to still eat a well balanced diet, while saving money. Menu planning helps me do that. It also saves me time, for those of you who think that it might take too much time to do. Time is the one thing I covet the most, being a busy mother of six children.

With that being said, here is a taste of what a typical weekly menu looks like in our house. If you are reading my new series on How I feed my family of 8 for $300 a month, menu planning is one thing I will be covering. So stay tuned!

Cheesy chicken vermicelli
Sauteed squash
Fresh herb bread

3 bean chili

Homemade garlic bread

Homemade chicken pot pie

Homemade pizza--->the kids love to make these!
Homemade breadsticks

Mini meatloaf patties
Braised radishes
Cheesy cauliflower casserole

Baked chicken
Potatoes baked in foil, topped with butter, onions, and bell peppers

Suzy Homemeaker Bakes Bread

Now, everyone calls me "Suzy homemaker," since I love to cook and sew. People just seem amazed when I tell them that I love to bake bread. If you too are amazed, then this post is for you. Here I will show all my secrets to making a wonderful loaf of honey wheat bread.

The first secret, is to start out with a good recipe. I love this one from Tammy's recipes . It really is a great tasting bread. Especially right out of the oven with a big pat of butter on top. Oh so yummy!

Next secret is to gather all the ingredients you'll need. This will take about 1 minute of your time.

The next secret, after you have gotten all of your ingredients out, is to put them into a wonderful invention called a bread machine! Now, if you are really ambitious you can knead it by hand. But watch how easy my way is. To further convince you, I have asked my 12 yo daughter, Little Bit, to bake the bread today. Now mind you, she has never done this before. I think it took her right at about 2 minutes to dump the ingredients in.

Next, put the loaf pan into the bread machine.

And push the start button.

After the bread machine is done, voila, you have a healthier, lower cost, and better tasting bread than you will find in the store.

After all that hard work, sit down and grab a big glass of iced tea. You deserve it, right?!

Ok, with this post I was kind of being funny, but a little serious too. I know most people do not bake their own bread at home, except for some of my momys friends, you know who you are. It is seen as something of the past. I really just wanted to show how easy it can be. Oh, and little bit asked me if she could do this more often. Cost of making a loaf of bread $.42, spending time with your daughter, priceless!

[Confession alert: I just do my dough in the bread machine. I don't use it for the whole cooking process. I like the shape the bread comes out in the loaf pan, it stretches enough to feed my brood. I let it rise in a loaf pan for 20 minutes and bake it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. It is perfectly fine to do the whole thing in the bread machine though.]

Sunday, February 24, 2008

How I feed my family of 8 on $300 a month - Part 1

Since I have recently lowered my monthly grocery budget to just $300 a month, there has been alot of buzz. People want to know how in the world I do it. They want to know if it takes alot of time and effort? Do they have to feed their family processed, boxed food with little to no nutritional value? And lastly, how can they do the same thing for their family?

On the contrary, my current system takes less time and effort than my old way of doing things. My family eats more nutritious meals, no boxed meals here! And yes, you can do the same thing for your family too!

It does take a little time and effort in the beginning. You have to be willing to learn a new way of doing things. We live in a world where people expect to see immediate results without putting in much effort. I can tell you that although I had to put in a little time to learn how to save money, I am now seeing the fruit of my labor.

You do have an advantage over me though. I didn't have anyone show me all the secrets. I have since found amazing websites with lots of great advice, like Money Saving Mom, but in the beginning I had to figure it all out on my own.

Over the next few weeks, I will show you how I feed my family for only $300 a month. I will show you how you too can feed your family well, while still saving money. I will show you how to budget. How to plan a menu and make a grocery list from your menu. How to shop the weekly sales and further plan your menu from that. How to stock up your pantry with all the great deals you find. Lastly, how to get free, or even get paid to buy toiletries and medicines at the drugstores.

Coming Next: I will be talking about how to set up a reasonable budget.

Help for mamas!

Now, everywhere I go I have people stopping me, asking me questions about how to do such-and-such. Everything from how to raise children, how to run their homes more efficiently, to homeschooling, to questions on how to save money.

Now, when I am asked these questions, it is fully expected that I give a detailed response. I love to offer whatever knowledge I have to help somebody, but there seems to be a few questions that repeat themselves quite frequently. So, I figured that sharing what I do on a blog might be a great way for me to help more women. To answer some of my more frequently asked questions.

God has given me a desire for my family and my home. It wasn't always so, but God has changed me into a new person. It is because of this new-found passion, that I hope to help other women see the blessings of a life at home.

So, as I journey along with this blog I hope to be able to share what God has taught me so far. How to save money. How to stay organized. How in the world I homeschool all of my children, and most of all how my heart was turned towards a life at home.