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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Menu Planning Monday: Another $60 week

This is the second week I have come in under budget. I had $30 left over so I stocked up on a few great deals they had out there. I should be able to work those into next week's menu. The one thing I was able to get with my extra money this week was a flat of strawberries. I am buying another one when I get my money this week so I am hoping to make some nice desserts and can a few jars of preserves!

Breakfast:
Monday: Waffles and fruit
Tuesday: Baked Oatmeal
Wednesday: Eggs Florentine and fruit
Thursday: Muffins and Sausage
Friday: French Toast sticks
Saturday: Eggs, biscuits, and a meat
Sunday: Country ham and gravy over biscuits

Lunch:
Monday: Sandwiches and a side veggie--->either raw or cooked
Tuesday: A meat, mac & cheese, and a veggie
Wednesday: Chicken Salad
Thursday: Grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit
Friday: Leftovers or quesidillas if we have no leftovers
Sat and Sun: We either eat leftovers, or a salad, or sandwiches

Snacks:
Monday: Carrots and ranch dressing
Tuesday: Fruit
Wednesday: Banana Bread or homemade bread drizzled with butter and honey
Thursday: Baked pepperoni(we do this every so often since I don't buy chips, they crisp real well)--->The children want this again
Friday: Tortilla wraps---> I usually fill them with pizza sauce and cheese, which the kids call "mini pizzas", or peanut butter, banana, and honey

Dinner:
Monday:
Lasagna
Green beans
Pumpkin rolls

Tuesday:
Zesty chicken
Corn

Wednesday:
Mexican night

Thursday:
Black bean soup
Cornbread

Friday:
Pizza night
Cheesebread

Saturday:
Cheeseburger pie
Buttered peas
Salad

Sunday:
BBQ pork pull-apart sandwiches
Potatoes cooked in butter, onions and bell peppers
Green beans

Zesty Chicken:
4 chicken breasts
2 cans italian diced tomatoes
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 T butter
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp basil
salt and pepper to taste
Pasta--->I use vermicelli, but you can use whatever you like!

Directions:
First, put on water to boil for noodles. I like to use a bay leaf in my water but you don't have to. Put butter in pan to melt. Dice chicken breasts and brown in melted butter. Add garlic to chicken breasts. Next, add the italian diced tomatoes and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Measure out heavy whipping cream andpour into pot. Add basil, salt and pepper at this time. Cook on medium for 12 minutes. After done, season with more salt and basil if desired. It will thicken a bit after it sits, but this is not a super thick sauce. Serve over pasta.

Baked Pepperoni Chips:
6 ounces pepperoni, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lay the pepperoni slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and soak up the excess grease by pressing paper towels against the pepperoni chips. Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 2 to 4 minutes, until the pepperoni slices are very crispy, unless they already are crispy.

For more great menus, head over to Organizing Junkie for menu planning monday.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

How I Feed my Family of 8 for $300 a month - Part 6

I have to say that the most common question that people ask me, after they find out that I only spend $300 a month on groceries is, "Does that include everything, or is it just for food?" My answer is "Yes, the $300 does include everything. It includes all paper products, diapers, wipes, and toiletry items."

The secret is, that I don't pay for any of these things. I get them for free! I get them free by shopping at CVS and Walgreen's. Some of you already know all about how to work the deals at these stores, but other's don't. The best place for a beginner that I have found, is at Money Saving Mom's website. She has tutorials you can read called, CVS 101 and Walgreen's 101. They will explain everything in detail, but I will try to give a quick run down of how things work.

So, how do I get it all free? I buy the weekly and monthly deals that the drugstores offer. The first thing people usually think, is that they will pay more for items at the drugstores. I know that I used to only shop at the drugstores when it was a middle of the night emergency. Many of the items they sell are overpriced, but by working out their weekly and monthly deals you actually save money. Although I shop at both CVS and Walgreen's, I am just going to focus on talking about CVS today because Walgreen's is a little tougher to figure out.

How to make CVS work for you:

1. Get a CVS card

They are located at the cash registers. You just have to fill out the information, turn it into the cashier, and then it is ready to use instantly. All of the deals are tied into this card, so you need to have it with you every time you go in.

2. Look at the weekly ad that comes out

You either will get one in your local paper, which you should be getting at least on Sunday's for the coupon inserts, or you can get one at the store. CVS also puts out a monthly booklet that has a few free deals in it. You can only pick those up in the stores.

3. Start small

When you are just beginning, don't do any big deals, and only work the ones that are going to be free. You can work your way up to bigger, more complicated deals after you understand how everything really works, and you do a few deals.

Take for instance, this week they have Softsoap Spa bodywash on sale for $4.99. That is not a good deal for bodywash, but by buying this bodywash you will earn $4.99 back in extracare bucks. That means that the bodywash is "free!"

I know some of you are thinking, "What are extracare bucks?" Well, extracare bucks are coupons that CVS gives you for buying cetain items. They print at the bottom of your cash register receipt, so don't throw it away! You can then use that extracare buck just like cash on your next visit.

When you are just starting out you will pay for the first one to two deals. After that, though, you can use any ECB's that you have earned to help pay for your next deal. Your goal is to earn enough ECB's to cover the price of future deals so that you never pay any money out of pocket again (OOP.) This is what's called, "building your ECB's."

When I first started going to CVS I earned less than $10.00 in ECB's in the first few deals I did, but now I have over $50.00 that I can use to pay for my deals. You really do not need that many, but I would say that $20.00 is a good number to stay at to be able to keep from having to pay anything OOP.

4. Buy the items that are free

Or close to being free after you earn your ECB's. I know it is tempting to buy other things that will give you a few ECB's back at the beginning, but like I said before, you want to earn more ECB's. By sticking to the free items you can generally build your ECB's up.

So how do you build ECB's when they are only giving you back the same amount it costs? Wouldn't you just come out even? Not necessarily. You use any coupons you have to bring down the price of the item. Let's look at the softsoap again. The softsoap costs $4.99, but there are $1.00/1 printable coupons here. that would bring down the price to $3.99, but you would still earn back $4.99. If you're one of the lucky ones, in some coupon inserts there were $1.50/1 coupons, making it an even better deal. So, you are actually earning back more than you are paying for the bodywash. That's what's called building your ECB's.

There are a few websites that you can visit where people will post all of the free deals and actually put together deals for you that will earn you the most money back. You can visit Money Saving Mom or Hot Coupon World. These are my two favorite sites for deals. Now that I have been doing this for quite awhile I don't always follow the deals they offer, but for a beginner, they are great resources.

5. Buy even items you don't need and don't be brand loyal!

There are many items that CVS offers free every week that I will buy eventhough I will never use it. I will still pick up those items if they will "make me money" so that I can build up more ECB's or at least just roll them over. What I mean by rolling ECB's is that I buy things to keep the same amount of ECB's up. They expire after one month, so sometimes you have to go to the store and do a deal before they do expire. You want to do a deal that will not lose you money. I just give away or donate the things I will never use. You can read my post on what to do with your CVS stockpile here.

6. Stockpile the items you do get so that you never have to buy them again

Your goal is to be able to stockpile a few of the necessities. Things like toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, etc. You don't really want to run out and have to buy them in an emergency. These frequently go on special, but it's better to keep a few on hand.

I want to show you one quick deal that I did today.











As you can see, I bought 5 Softsoap bodywashes. My total, before taxes was $24.95. I ended up paying $.08 OOP. I spent $16.00 in ECB's I had and earned back another $24.95. So I guess you can say that they paid me $9.00 to buy this bodywash. Not too bad!

There is so much more infomation I could give you. Working the drugstore deals can stretch your grocery budget so much. By working the deals at the drugstores, I am now free to spend more on food since I don't have to pay for anything else.

As you have found out over the last few weeks, there are many things that I do to keep my grocery budget low. It is worth it to me put a little effort into stretching the money my husband makes and still be able to provide good food for my family. If I can do it, so can you!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Make your own restaurant recipes at home!

Sometimes there is that one special dish, or dessert, at a favorite restaurant that you really love. Instead of going out and spending way too much money on it, you can just make it at home! There are a few websites that I have found that copycat the recipe pretty closely. While they are not the exact recipe, they sure are close.



An example of what you can find is from one of my favorite restaurants, Olive Garden. I love their chicken marsala. So yummy! Well, I have found the recipe for this that I can make at home for about 1/4 of the cost. I cannot tell you how exciting it was to find this recipe.

Olive Garden Chicken Marsala:
Chicken half breasts - boneless, skinless
1/4 C. cake flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Oregano
4 Tbsp. Oil
4 Tbsp. Butter
1/2 tsp. Pepper
1 C. Fresh Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 C. Marsala

Combine flour, salt, pepper, and oregano and blend well. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet until bubbling lightly. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off the excess. Cook the chicken on medium heat for about 2 minutes on the first side, until lightly brown. As you turn the beasts to the second side to cook, add the mushrooms around the chicken pieces. Cook about 2 more minutes, until lightly browned on the second side. Stir the mushrooms. When the second side is lightly browned, add the wine around the pieces, cover the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes.

It's so easy to do and saves so much money! I even make it with roasted potatoes on the side. I can not tell you how good it is. Do you love their salad dressing as much as I do? Well, now you can make it at home.

Olive Garden Salad Dressing:
1/2 C. Mayonnaise
1/3 C. White Vinegar
1 tsp. Vegetable Oil
2 Tbsp. Corn Syrup
2 Tbsp. Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp. Romano Cheese
1/4 tsp. Garlic Salt - or one clove garlic minced
1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. Parsley Flakes
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

Mix all ingredients in a blender until well mixed. If this is a little to tart for your own personal tastes please add a little extra sugar.

Both of these recipes are from http://www.copykat.com/, my personal favorite. Another website I have used is http://www.recipesecrets.net/.

Who says that you can't have your cake and eat it too? You can still have those wonderful restaurant dishes, and save money at the same time! Of course there is no guarantee they'll have every recipe, but try typing in your favorites and see what you come up with.

For more frugal tips, head over to Crystal's blog at Biblicalwomanhood.

Calling for help on a blog design!


Maybe it's just because i'm so tired today, or because I have a million things running around in my head, (I feel another list coming), but I have given up on Photoshop CS3. I have been trying to figure out how to work the dumb program for a few weeks now, but I am waving my white flag. As painful for me as this is to say, I concede to defeat.

My goal from the beginning was to design my own blog. I am one who likes new projects, so I figured that after reading up on it, and doing a few tutorials that I would have a page to wow everyone with. As you can see though, I still have the basic boring blogger template.

So now I am calling for help. Can any of you can recommend a good designer? I need someone to at least design a new header and matching color theme for me. Or if you are a designer yourself, please leave a comment or email me. Now I am cheap, but I do realize this will cost money, unless of course someone needs a huge stash of stuff from CVS....just kidding!

Just so you know, I will eventually master CS3. I never give up, i'm just impatient.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Home Organizing Binder

Today is Wednesday and it's time for another, "Works for me Wednesday." One thing that really worked well for me is a home organizing binder.


One of the biggest questions I get asked is how I keep up with everything and stay so organized. Ok, those of you who really know me can stop laughing now...really!

Seriously though, I love my lists! I have a list for everything. I have a to do list that covers anything that I have outside of my normal schedule. I also have a grocery list, a list for all of the weekly sales, a daily, weekly and monthly chore list, etc. You get the picture.

I love the feeling of knowing how my day should run. I thrive on a schedule. I am so busy taking care of my household, that without my lists and my schedule I would be lost.

The problem I began to have over time though, because of my list obsession, is that they began to take over. I had lists at the computer stand, at the table, on my headboard. They were everywhere. Of course with 6 children they would get misplaced and then I would panic and start having heart palpitations.

One day, while complaining to my sweet husband, he suggested to me that I keep all my lists in a central location. In something I could carry around with me. He actually gave me a binder and told me to put everything in there. Can you hear the choir in the background as that lightbulb went off in my head? Wow, why didn't I think of that?! Yes folks, he is a genius.

So now I have everything I need in my binder. It is my lifeline. Our main schedule is in there. I write all of my lists in there. I keep tips and tricks i've learned, my grocery price book, our chore charts, and more in there. Basically everything I need to run my house is in that binder.

I have since found that other women do the same thing, imagine that! If you are interested in making one for yourself, you can do a quick online search to get an idea of how others are making theirs. A really good one is Keepers at Home's Organizer. If you look at her page, it will give you an idea of just what you can include in your binder. Just remember that everyone's will be different because every family is different. I have tweaked mine several times over the years to fit our changing family.

Another great thing about my binder is that I hope to be able to share it with my girls one day, when they are ready to run their own household. I am actually working on one that I am decorating beautifully. I plan on doing the same for them. It's a little bit of me that I can pass on to them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Win a Free Rosetta Stone Program!

Now I just found this and it ends tomorrow, but I thought this was too great of a giveaway to pass up. Even if you don't homeschool you can use the program. I have 1 highschool age and one soon to be highschool age that will be needing a few foreign language credits, so i'm crossing my fingers!

Rosetta Stone has been the #1 foreign language curriculum among homeschoolers for a while -- next week they are unleashing a brand new curriculum, and you can WIN the *all new* Rosetta Stone Homeschool Version 3… FOR FREE!

This is a $219 program (and believe me it's worth every penny!) and the winner gets to pick from any of these 14 languages: Spanish (Spain or Latin America), English (American or British), Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Hebrew, or Russian.

This will also include a headset with microphone, and students will participate in lifelike conversations and actually produce language to advance through the program. Rosetta Stone still incorporates listening, reading and writing as well, in addition to speaking. Many homeschoolers requested grammar and vocabulary exercises, and with Rosetta Stone Homeschool Version 3, they're included! For parents, the new Parent Administrative Tools are integrated into the program and allow parents to easily enroll students in any of 12 predetermined lesson plans, monitor student progress, and view and print reports.

To win this most excellent program -- in the language of your choice -- copy these (blue) paragraphs (highlight, then hit Ctrl C to copy) and post it in (or as) your next blog post (hit Ctrl V to paste) -- then to enter the contest, go to the original contest page HERE: and leave a comment with the link showing where you blogged about it. And please make sure the link works to get back to the original contest page when you post it. And good luck! The winner will be picked randomly on March 26, and will be notified thru the link they left to their blog pg. And if you have more than one blog, you can post them and enter those separately for more chances to win. Yay for free stuff!

How I Feed my Family of 8 for $300 a month - Part 5

With the holiday weekend i'm a little late in getting this up, so please accept my apologies.

Ok, now on to business. This week I will cover stockpiling. Stocking up on items when they are vey low priced or free is a key to helping stretch your grocery budget. You don't want to have a completely empty pantry each time you have to grocery shop.

The goal is to shop for "fillers" for your meals, not for the whole meal itself. Now, I am not saying that is all I shop for. There are things that I have to buy each time I grocery shop, like fresh fruits, vegetables, flour, sugar, and meat.

I have a bi-weekly budget of $150. I do my menu plan for two weeks and then shop according to that menu. I know I have mentioned the fact that out of that budget I try to save at least $10.00 for any great deals that come up. Now, this 2 weeks I have an extra $30.00 that i'm excited to be able to use to stockpile. It doesn't happen very often that I have this much money leftover, so I plan to use it to help cushion my future budgets.

Let's take for example a deal or two that I know i'll be doing this week. I am going to buy 10 boxes of Green Giant vegetables and 10 Muir Glen organic tomato products. At Target they have a printable coupon for $1.00 off of any 2 frozen Green Giant vegetables. I have manufacturer coupons that I can stack on top of this.

I also have Muir Glen coupons for $1.00 off. Before any coupons the total I would have to pay for all of this would be $28.00. After using my coupons that total would drop to $8.00, which is still a great deal, but I have a $5 off of any $25 grocery purchase. That means I will pay right around $3.00. We go through lots of vegetables here, but I should only have to buy my fresh vegetables on my next shopping trip.

Another example is at Walmart they have Dino Bites chicken nuggets 2/$2.00. You can get a $1.00 coupon from Money Saving Mom, which makes them free. I don't normally buy this kind of stuff, but since it's free it'll make a nice quicky lunch if I need. I'll probably save them for after the baby is born.

Now, I do want to say that even though something may be a good deal, does not mean you have to stock up on it. If it is something that you will never use, unless it is free, then don't buy it. I will only get things that I don't use, if they are free, so I can donate them.

It is by watching for these kinds of deals that I am able to stock up. By putting aside a little each time I get my grocery money, I can afford to work the deals without blowing my budget. Then, when I am planning my next menu, I make my meals according to things I have on hand.

This is just one more tool for you to use. It is getting increasingly important to find ways to save money on food, since the prices keep climbing. It takes a little time to learn it all, but it is so worth it in the end. Stockpiling is an art!

Coming up next week: How to get free or even get paid to buy all of your toiletries and paper products at the drugstores. You definately don't want to miss this!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Kids choice week, $60 spent on this menu!!

This week is kid's choice week in the house! The children all pick out a meal that they want mom to cook. Now, my 3 yo son's first choice was McDonald's, but that is out! Do you know how much it costs to feed a family of 8 there! We compromised though and will have chicken nuggets for lunch(they are a vegetarian version....shh, don't tell him!)


After they pick out their meal, they have to help me make a grocery list for their meal. I help the little ones with this, of course. Lastly, they get to help mom cook their meal and then serve it. This is all their favorite thing to do. My 12 yo daughter loves to decorate the table so she will go all out. It is a fun week for the kids and mom, and as you can see, they generally pick meals I would have made anyway!

Breakfast:
Monday: Waffles and fruit, mom will eat eggs since I bombed my glucose test at the doctor's
Tuesday: Baked Oatmeal
Wednesday: Eggs Florentine and fruit
Thursday: Muffins and Sausage
Friday: French Toast sticks
Saturday: Eggs, biscuits, and a meat
Sunday: Country ham and gravy over biscuits

Lunch:
Monday: Sandwiches and a side veggie--->either raw or cooked
Tuesday: Chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, and a veggie (3 yo son's choice)
Wednesday: Chicken Salad
Thursday: Grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit
Friday: Leftovers or quesidillas if we have no leftovers
Sat and Sun: We either eat leftovers, or a salad, or sandwiches

Snacks:
Monday: Carrots and ranch dressing
Tuesday: Fruit
Wednesday: Banana Bread or homemade bread drizzled with butter and honey
Thursday: Baked pepperoni(we do this every so often since I don't buy chips, they crisp real well)
Friday: Tortilla wraps---> I usually fill them with pizza sauce and cheese, which the kids call "mini pizzas", or peanut butter and honey

Dinner:
Monday:
Turkey noodle soup
We had turkey for Easter, so i'm gonna use the leftovers to make this

Salad
Hearty herb bread

Wednesday: (10 yo son's choice)
Spaghetti and meatballs
Garlic bread

Thursday:
Chicken and sausage jambalaya
Corn
Dinner rolls

Friday: (5 yo daughter's choice)
Mini Cheese pizza's
Homemade pepperoni pizza rolls

Saturday: (12 yo daughter's choice)
Chili cheese enchiladas
Mexican rice
Salad

Sunday: (14 yo daughter's choice)
Sticky chicken--->yum!
Carrots and brocolli

For more menu plans, stop over at Menu Planning Monday at Organizing Junkie.



Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!!

I just wanted to say Happy Easter! I hope you are enjoying the holiday with your family. We have had a great weekend of dying eggs with the children and will having lunch with extended family.

I, of course, will be continuing to take my blogging break this weekend, but I hope to get my next post in my series "How I feed my family for $300 a month," up by Tuesday. I will be covering stocking your pantry and then finally how to work the drugstore deals. Again, have a blessed holiday.

Friday, March 21, 2008

10 uses for your CVS and Walgreen's stash

Disclaimer: This post is meant to be a little lighthearted so take it as it is. Of course though, it is also frugal at the same time.

Lots of us know how to work the CVS and Walgreen's deals. After working the deals for awhile you start to get a pretty good stockpile going. [Note: If you don't know how to work the deals, I will be covering them in my series, "How I feed my family for $300 a month" ]

So, what do you do with that ever growing stash of fabulous freebies that you've gotten? Do you hoard it all, or do you find something creative and constructive to do with it? I vote to keep some on hand, but to find something else to do with the rest. After you have a year's worth saved up, you honestly don't need anymore! Oh, I know some people like to keep it to show off, but there are better uses for it.

So, without further ado, here's my list of things to do with that stash. Feel free to comment and add your own ideas!

1. Of course donate what you can to people that are in need. What a way to be a blessing to others. Our family doesn't always have alot of extra money to hand out, but helping people this way can bless others too.

2. For all those glucose monitors they kept begging us to buy for so many months, did you know that the batteries are a standard size watch battery that are used in many things. I found that my scale needs them, so now I have a few put aside. Also again, many people have found places to donate them.

3. For the 50 or so tubes of toothpaste. Did you know that toothpaste takes crayon, pencil, and ink marks off of your walls? So when your little picasso decides to draw a masterpiece on your freshly painted wall, just put a dab of toothpaste on your finger and rub it in. Wipe with a damp cloth, and voila, good as new! (Please, oh, please don't try this on cheap paint! It will rub right off.) With 6 children there is always a mark on the wall that I need to clean up!

4. Have a garage sale! All those unopened boxes of toiletry items would sell like hotcakes and you'll earn a little cash too.

5. Make a gift basket for a young lady with all the gobs of makeup and skin care items you have. I'm sure you can find a used or clearanced basket to put the stuff in. She will be so impressed with your gift, and you'll be secretly happy that you've found a way to make a little more room for guess what....more stuff!

6. During the summer, use all that extra dish soap to put on the kids slip n slide. A little goes a long way, you don't want them flying off the edge. Don't even ask me how I know that one!

7. All those extra toothbrushes that you have work really well for scrubbing in those small spaces. I always have a few that I save just for cleaning. They work!

8. When one of your friends or family members are sick, make a pot of chicken noodle soup and bring over a bag full of all those free medicines you have. They'll love you for it. Besides, I don't think I could use all the medicine I get free in a life-time!

9. Look up on the internet for other uses of things you have, like toothpaste, ziploc bags, fingernail polish, hairspray and then try a few! My friend, Carlie, found 39 uses for ziploc bags, 100 uses for toothpaste, and a ton of uses for nail polish. Some of them are a little wacky, but hey, it doesn't hurt to try them. Here is a link to the Reader's Digest website for extraordinary uses for ordinary things.

10. Last but not least, use your 30 bags of Dove chocolate that you got free, to invite your friends over for a chocolate fondue party! We love fundue here, it's so much fun!

There you have it, 10 ways to use your extra stash. There really are creative ways to use that stockpile. So, instead of hoarding it all for yourself, have fun with it. Be a blessing, clean your house, have a fun night with friends and family all without spending any money. Don't you just love CVS and Walgreen's?!

For more frugal tips, head over to Crystal's blog at Biblical Womanhood.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Quick tip on how to get free produce!

Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and Vegetables

I have been having multiple conversations with people lately about the rising costs of groceries. It seems as if some people are in a near panic about it, because it doesn't look like it's going to get better anytime soon.

So, I thought I would offer one tip on how we have gotten free produce that has been a blessing to our family at different times of the year.

Your local freecycle!

Most people just think of it as a way to give away and get old junk. Think about it though, there are lots of people that have an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit that will go to waste if someone doesn't take it. It's just not something most think of posting for.

In our experience, if you post in a friendly, and not desperate sounding way, most people will gladly give any excess they have. Don't think of it as begging. That's what freecycle is for, to give away something you don't need.

We have been offered free figs, pears, and even chickens. When we go, we pick for whomever it is that offered them. It is usually an older person that just doesn't have a need for it all. It is a blessing for them also. We have made preserves, canned, and frozen the produce we have received. We also offer to share what we have made. So far, everyone has invited our family to come back every year since they love the kids.

In this day and age, we have to be creative and think outside of the box. Go ahead and try it, freecycle is easy to join. It's what works for me!

Please share any other tips you have for saving on produce. It can be so expensive!

The Family Dinner Table: Making Memories

We all have memories of our childhood, whether good or bad, they are they engrained in our minds. As far as I can think back, I remember sitting on the couch eating dinner on tv trays in front of the tv. Mom was great at cooking dinner every night. As soon as it was done though, we all rushed to grab our food and eat in front of the tv. I can't even tell you what we were in such a hurry to watch.

Think about it. What are your memories of dinner time from when you were a child? I'm sure some of you have very fond memories and then others, not so fond.

Early in my marriage I continued the tradition my parents had started. Neither my husband or myself felt that it was necessary to eat at the table, so in front of the tv we ate. Eating dinner at the table was only for special occasions, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We continued to eat like this for many years until Scott and I started working opposite schedules. I worked nights and he worked days so we never saw eachother. We decided to start eating dinner at the table so that all of us could at least see eachother every day.

It was ok. We enjoyed it, but as I started cutting back hours at work I was home more. We slowly started reverting back to our old ways of doing things. It was the children who brought up eating together as a family again. We didn't realize it had made such an impact on them. They had never told us how much they loved it and how special it was to them.

At that point we talked it over together and decided to make it a point to eat together at least at dinner time. We did this initially for our children, but we have found that we love it as much as they do.

Is it always a wonderful experience where no one bickers and we have great, meaningful conversations? Not with 6 children! At first we had to train them, especially the littles ones, how to sit and wait for their food, to say grace, and then not to get up until they were given permission. I can guarantee that while it is not always picture perfect, most of the time things are great. It is actually quite humerous. We just enjoy being with eachother.

So you say, "What's the big deal about eating together at the table and not in the livingroom instead? Aren't we still eating together?" Yes, you are eating together, but you're missing the point. The point is to foster togetherness while building healthy relationships within the family. Your focus is on eachother and not the tv.



I have 5 great reasons why I think it's important to eat together as a family:






1. I've already mentioned this one earlier. It builds healthy relationships in the family. Are you to just sit at the table and eat in silence? No, of course not! Talk, laugh, be quiet at times. Just enjoy eachother.

2. It makes lasting memories that you and your children will be able to look back on with fondness. Hopefully, they will pass on this wonderful tradition to their familes too.

3. It forces you to slow down for just a bit. We all have such busy lives nowadays. This forces you to sit back and relax with your family for awhile.

4. It's a great time to have family devotions. It further opens the door for communication and gives spiritual training at the same time. Our children have felt more comfortable asking questions that they might be too embarrassed to ask in church. It's really wonderful to see a spiritual truth "click".

5. I had to throw this in, being frugal like I am. It usually means mom will have dinner planned, and cooked rather than eating out. Now it's not always the case, and even we order out at times. As a general rule though, you do plan meals and cook more.

Now, Scott works late at least a few days a week. God has blessed him with extra work, but it does make him late at times. On those days that I know he will be late, I serve snacks late and then we all eat together. I have little helpers that set the table and the olders are in charge, with mom's oversight of course, of making the table look pretty. After a hard day's work it sure is nice to sit down to a tastefully decorated table along with a hot cooked meal.

Can we always eat every meal together every day? No, sometimes we have something that comes up. We busy ourselves far too much at times. After seeing the benefits of eating together though, I have purposed in my heart to eat together at least once a day. We're making memories one meal at a time.


Tell me, do you find eating together as a family at the table important? Are there any special mealtime traditions that you do as a family?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Making your home a haven: Spring cleaning the master bedroom

Inspired by Crystal, at Biblicalwomanhood I am spring cleaning my master bedroom today. It's amazing what a few days of bedrest will do to your bedroom. This past weekend, up till yesterday I had to stay in bed since I started having more contractions than are what's allowed. So, needless to say, after living in my bedroom and not being allowed to clean it up, it has gotten messy! What's sad, is that it was perfectly clean before. It's embarrassing to have pictures of, but I just wanted to show a visual that sometimes things happen. You just have to pick back up when you can.

Now, I still have to kind of take it easy, but i've got to get my bedroom back in order! I figured I might break it up a bit so i'm not doing too much at one time.

Here are my before pictures:
Lovely picture of my latest run to CVS, but not so lovely that it's on my dresser!




My pileup of papers I accumulated while laying in bed, and the quilt that got way too hot for a pregnant mama!



This is not my fault! It was my hubby's. I can't blame him. I had a massive pile of books and papers on my bed to keep me occupied.


To Do List:
1. Wash bedding
2. Fold the clothes I just brought in there from the dryer.
(I figured it was a good way to make sure they get done!)
3. Clean bookshelf off
(How did I get so many books?)
4. Put my ever growing sewing pile away where it belongs
5. Fold and put away winter quilt
6. Clean off and organize headboard
7. Dust and wash down door
8. Pick spring flowers to put in room
9. Sweep and damp mop floor

Ok, off to take my after pictures, and then it's time for dinner. Then, hopefully after the little ones are in bed, I can curl up with a nice hot cup of tea and my new book, "Passionate Housewives: Desperate for God." Sounds heavenly, doesn't it?!

Here are my after pictures:
My sweet little ones picked these Azalea's for me. They are beautifully in bloom here right now!




Bookshelf all cleaned up, and sewing pile put away in drawers where it belongs. Boy does that feel good!


My bed all nice and tidy. I had to put on the quilt my grandma made me since my other is washing. Oh, and don't you love the heart pillow my dd's made me?

Now off to spend a little time with the family and then maybe i'll actually be able to read!
[Side note: One of the best things that has come from this post is that my dh told me, that after seeing my walls, he is ready to paint my room. You see, he paints on the side and we've already bought the paint months ago. I'm excited!]

Monday, March 17, 2008

How I feed my family of 8 on $300 a month - Part 4

You've put some thought into the value of budgeting and planning a menu, now what? It doesn't really help when you have a menu planned, but it's not affordable. The best savings come by not only planning a menu, but planning one around the sales, and also using any coupons you have to make the sales even better.

[Side note: You can find coupons in your Sunday paper, in the stores, online, or you can buy the really great ones off of ebay. I have some links in my sidebar that will show you lots of different coupons and deals for you to use.]

Every week, either in your Wednesday newspaper or in your mailbox, there are flyers that come out for the grocery stores. I suggest that you look at them. Either on the front or the back page of the ad are that store's really great deals. These great deals are what's called loss leaders, and they are used to draw you in to their store.

Most people will drive to that grocery store for the really great deal, but do not want to drive to more than one store to shop. So, while picking up that great deal, they will buy a few extra things. That's what the store is hoping for anyway.

Your goal is to go and get the loss leaders, if you need them, without buying any extra items. If you've planned your menu and then made a grocery list from that menu, then you shouldn't have to get anything else while there becasue you've already prepared.

If you'd like to make your family steak for one meal, you can do it, but you don't want to pay full price. Wait until the meat goes on sale, or is a manager's special. A manager's special is just meat that is reduced for a fast sale. Most stores mark down meats at certain times. Just ask someone in the meat department when that time is. When you do pick up a reduced meat, just get it in your freezer as soon as you get home and it'll still be good to eat for quite some time.

So, you've looked at the ads and see a great special for something you routinely buy, now what? Let's look at an example of what I am doing this week. In one of my local ads, they have boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale for $4.97 for 3 pounds. That equals about $1.66 lb. That is a good price here already, but I have a coupon for $.55 off that I will use on top of the sale. That will bring the price down to $1.43 lb. Remember how I told you to save a little out of your budget for sales? Well, I have a little put aside that I will go buy the chicken breasts with.

At another local store of mine they have Fresh Express salads 10/$10. I have $1.00 off coupons that make the salad free, so I will pick up a few on the last day of the sale so that I can use them in our next weeks menu.

So, now I have gotten a bag of chicken breasts and a few bags of salad for under $5.00. On next week's menu I plan to get at least 2 meals out of that bag of chicken and salad mix.

One of our weekend lunches will probably be chicken salad with some kind of fresh bread served on the side. For dinner, I will probably make what we call zesty chicken, using the rest of the chicken breasts, with a side salad and a fresh bread. This recipe also calls for italian, diced tomatoes which I already have on hand because I stocked up when I had a great coupon for them.

Just know that you don't have to buy every loss leader, every week, if you don't need it. The stores always run specials in cycles. Usually every 6-8 weeks. I could have gone crazy and bought up a ton of chicken breasts and salad mixes, but I know that one of the other stores will run a good special on these things soon. One, due to the usual 6-8 week cycle of specials, and two, due to competition. Since i'll still have more salad coupons, next time they're on sale i'll get them free again.

See how it works? I looked for the loss leaders the stores have, used coupons from my stash to make the deals even better, and then planned meals from what I got on sale. You can still get good deals without coupons, but they do help maximize your savings so use them when you have them. I could go on for quite some time on this topic, but I have no desire to write a book.

I know this can be a little difficult to wrap your head around, but it does get easier once you do it yourself rather than just reading it on paper. It's really a fun and challenging game to play.

Next week: Stocking up your pantry with the all those great deals you find

$70 menu for our family of 8...Wow, under budget by $5.00!


Well, this week I was able to come in a little under budget, but there is chicken breast on sale, so I will spend the rest I have on that. I have had people tell me that there is no way to feed a family good, healthy food on a low budget. Well I am here to say, that it can be done. It just takes a little time and creativity. Enjoy!

Breakfast:
Monday: Waffles and fruit
Tuesday: Baked Oatmeal
Wednesday: Eggs Florentine and fruit
Thursday: Muffins and Sausage
Friday: French Toast
Saturday: Eggs, biscuits, and a meat
Sunday: Country ham and gravy over biscuits

Lunch:
Monday: Sandwiches and a side veggie--->either raw or cooked
Tuesday: Ham, mac & cheese, and a veggie
Wednesday: Chicken Salad
Thursday: Grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit
Friday: Leftovers or quesidillas if we have no leftovers
Sat and Sun: We either eat leftovers, or a salad, or sandwiches

Snacks:
Monday: Carrots and ranch dressing
Tuesday: Fruit
Wednesday: Banana Bread or homemade bread drizzled with butter and honey
Thursday: Celery and peanut butter or ranch dressing
Friday: Tortilla wraps---> I usually fill them with pizza sauce and cheese, which the kids call "mini pizzas", or peanut butter and honey

Dinner:
Monday:
Chicken Tetrazinni
Corn
Garlic bread

Tuesday:
Chicken Teriyaki
Fried rice
Eggrolls

Wednesday:
Taco and Burrito Bar
Refried beans

Thursday:
3 bean chili
Rice
Cornbread

Friday:
Pepperoni pizza
Breadsticks

Saturday: (Hubby's been asking for this for awhile)
BBQ burgers and hotdogs
Potato salad
Coleslaw
Garlic bread

Sunday:
Easter meal with extended family

Next week is kid's choice week. All the kids get to pick their own meal and help mom plan the grocery list for their meal. Then they each get to help cook their meal. It should be fun!



Sunday, March 16, 2008

My Deals this Week: CVS, Albertson's, and Target


So, this week I got a few deals. I spent a total of $.83 OOP for around $85.00 worth of stuff.

Albertson's:
They have Fresh Express salads bags 10/$10. I picked up 6 of them and had coupons for $1.00, making my total OOP $0.00. It was great because I had a young college age guy checking me out. He was so surprised. He was telling everyone in the line behind me that my total was nothing.

Note to self: Try to find young men cashiers that will be impressed with my couponing skills.

Target:
I've been putting off getting the Morning Star meals, but had to go yesterday since the Target coupon expired. I'm glad I waited because a nice girl I met at our coupon class and then again at our homeschool playdate on Friday, gave me a $5/$25 coupon for Target. So, for the 12 meals, I paid $.83 OOP.
As I was walking off, I heard the lady behind me tell the cashier that she needed to take lessons from me, the cashier agreed that she did too. Too funny.

CVS:Well, we went there 2 x's this week. I got yet another Venus Embrace, 4 bags of Dove chocolate, 2 Oral B toothbrushes, and 2 gallons of milk for $0.00 OOP. I also earned back $23.97 in EBC's to use on this weeks deals. Notice we've already started on the milk and there are 2 bags of chocolate missing.

I know that Walgreen's had the Jane makeup deal this week, but I do not wear much makeup and I already have a whole drawer full of it. All in all, it was not a bad week for just $.83 OOP

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Reconstructing Clothes: Using what we have


While on my quest to save money, I came across the idea of using what you have. Since then, I have been trying to find creative ways to use what we have in our house. I have already talked about using what I have to make chemical-free cleaners, but I found something else I can reuse in our home. Old clothes!

I was given this link to a tutorial on how to remake a man's shirt into a little girls dress. It is such a cute little dress, and so easy and cheap to do. All you would need to buy is elastic and maybe some trim, if you don't have any extra fabric. I'm using eyelet for my trim. I am in the process of doing this right now for my sweet lil' mama, so hopefully tomorrow I will update this post with my pictures.

Another way we are reusing clothes is by making purses out of old jeans and then giving them as gifts for my daughter's friends.

We got the idea for my oldest daughter's 14th birthday. My 12 year old daughter wanted to give her sister a present, so she decided to make a purse out of jeans. She is as frugal as her mother, but way more creative!

We looked up a few sites online, got an idea of what to do, and an hour later we had a purse! All the little girls love her purse. Now that they are learning to embellish them with belts, charms, and flowers, the girls want to turn this into a little side job. They actually sell pretty well on ebay. I haven't checked Etsy yet.

Here is a picture of the first purse my daughter made. Not too bad!

Now, not only do I have a great, inexpensive way to make the younger girls dresses, but I have a great gift idea that I don't have to spend much on.

I know there are lots of ways to use olds clothes. In fact, my next big project is to make a denim quilt out of old jeans. I have been saving these for awhile in order to get enough. I can't wait to get started, but it'll have to keep for awhile yet.

Does anybody else have any ideas to reuse old clothes? Some of the ideas i've gotten so far is to use old t-shirts as rags. You can also use them to make a maternity band for the tops of your skirts or pants. Also, another great idea is to use old flannel shirts or blankets to make cloth babywipes.

I've been tagged:

Kara S., one of my brand new blogging friends at Ramblings and Writings, tagged me for this meme. Since my blog is still brand spankin` new, the answers will help you get to know me just a tad bit better. Enjoy!

What I was doing 10 years ago:
Let's see, I was still in college at the time. It was my junior year of clinicals in nursing school, what a bear of a year. The most important thing that happened that year though, was that God changed me. I call it my rebirth year. Everything I was, and what was important to me before that changed. We almost lost my son 3 times that year. Needless to say, family became a top priority and nursing school....well, not so important anymore.

5 Things on my To Do List today:
1) Finish school with the children.

2) Make a run to CVS, Target, and Albertson's to get all their great deals.

3) Finish sewing my apron.
I HAVE to do this because things just fly right at my shirt. I'm serious! While I was cooking last night, a little spaghetti sauce just flew right out of the pot and splattered my shirt. It happens all the time. My husband thinks I need to wear full body armor to protect myself. I think it's the pregnant belly!

4) Finish adding new coupons to my binder. I have a coupon class to go help with tonight and I want to actually bring my coupons this time.

5) Go to couponing class. Note to self: You have to start dinner early so you won't be late!

Snacks I Enjoy:
When I do snack, I like cookies and milk. I don't really like to drink milk at any other time, and it has to go into the freezer for about 10 minutes before I drink it. Mostly I just have a cup of hot tea.

Things I would do if I were a Billionaire:
First, I'd give away quite a bit of it. I'd also build a bigger home on alot of land, with all the rooms just the way I want them. We might travel a bit more. Let the kids see some of the world.

3 of my Bad Habits:
Starting a project and not finishing it before I start another. Staying up too late and then having to force myself to get up in the morning. Being late, but you try to be early with 6 kids in tow and being pregnant!

5 places I have lived:
Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama are the three states I've lived in. I have moved around some here in Louisiana, so that will bring me up to 5 places!

5 Jobs I have had:
I haven't switched jobs too much, but my first job in high school was at Domino's, then I worked at Montgomery Ward. I was a nurse aide while in nursing school. After school, I started as a Well-Baby nursery nurse for a year and then worked as neonatal intensive care nurse until I came home to be mommy full-time.

So, that's a little bit of who I am. :) Carlie and Jodie, you're next!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

God's Provision


I was having a conversation with my neighbor the other day on the topic of how my husband and I make ends meet. As I started telling her some of the things we do, God reminded me of the many times He has provided for us. What a blessing to be able to share that with her.

Just today a lady was asking how we were going to prepare for the upcoming grocery price increases. The news is out and people are starting to worry.

My first thought in how to answer her question was a step by step, detailed list of how we do things now, and how we plan to prepare. Again, as I started answering, that still small voice reminded me that we needed to trust in Him first. The scriptures that keep coming to my mind are:

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

Matthew 6:25-34 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own"

I am a list person. I think that I have our whole lives planned out on paper. It is a security blanket of sorts for me. God has been reminding me, that although all my lists and plans are good, that His provision is what will really see us through.

Just as I was able to give a testimony to my neighbor of the faithfulness of God, I will be able to continue to share with others in the upcoming times ahead on how God has taken care of us time and time again.

I know that in the last two years I have been home full-time, I have seen that to be true over and over. Whether it be from Scott getting extra work, people bringing over clothes, or God teaching me how to be frugal. We have always had enough. It is only by the grace of God that I can say we are better off financially now, than when I worked.

So, while we plan and while we learn to be better stewards of the money God had entrusted to us, let us not forget of God's provision. He cares enough for us that He will take care of us no matter what comes our way.

Graphics courtesy of All Posters

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Works for me Wednesday: Organizing Your Coupons

I am a coupon lady and I love it! Being a coupon lady means I have about a gazillion coupons.

When I first started couponing I had all my coupons in a little rubbermaid box in envelopes. Well, hubby works in a department that is an offshoot from the local paper, so that means lots of inserts are brought home every week!

Due to my husband's faithfulness in bringing massive amounts of coupons home, the envelopes started ripping open from the sheer amount stuffed in them. It was at that point that I figured it was time to give in and upgrade my system.


My dear friend, Carlie had the coupon organizer that I wanted from the beginning, but I was too cheap to buy it. I just can't help it, I am frugal to the core. Thanks, Carlie, for pushing me to finally spend a little money.

What I now store my coupons in is a zipper binder with baseball card protectors to hold the coupons. I have dividers that separate the coupons into different sections, ie..household, grocery, baby, medicines. I love that I can flip through and see all my coupons. I can see all expiration dates too, so I am constantly purging as needed. I also have a zipper pouch that I store my scissors and calculator in.

Storing my coupons this way has saved me so much time and money! Time, since I don't have to pull out every coupon in the envelopes. Money, since I don't know how many times I've been at a store with my lovely binder only to find an item on sale or clearanced out that I was able to pick up for nothing, or pennies.

For all you visual people out there, here are a few pics of my binder.

This is the outside:















This is inside the front cover:














This is a picture showing the baseball card holders:














Hope this tip helps out all you fellow coupon ladies, and men too. Hubby asked me to add that, since he is a self-proclaimed coupon man. For more tips and tricks, visit Works for me Wednesday at Rocks in my Dryer!


Book Review: Amazing Kitchen Cures




My husband actually gave me this nifty little book, Amazing Kitchen Cures by: Joey Green, for my wedding anniversary this year. He knows that i'm always on the lookout for ways to cure ourselves without medicine if at all possible. He also knows that i'm always looking for ways to save money. So, needless to say when he saw it on sale he picked it up for me. Along with a couple of my favorite Jane Austen novels, of course.

While I have not read the book from cover to cover, since there are 1,150 cures for common ailments, it has been quite interesting so far. Here are few of the cures that I found:

1. Heartburn:

One thing that I have been suffering from quite frequently this pregnancy, is heartburn. I am hesitant to take medicine while pregnant, so of course this is the first ailment I looked up. Did you know that you can relieve heartburn by taking 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar? It is not the best tasting, but it works like a charm. The book also suggests chewing a piece of spearmint gum or using mustard as a condiment.

2. Snoring:

My poor, sweet husband suffers from this. Although I think I am the one who truly suffers, if the truth be told. According to the book, you can just use a regular bandaid to put across your nose instead of buying expensive strips. There is also a remedy that I am trying to talk hubby into trying, but he won't budge. Supposedly you can spray Pam in the back of your throat and it will stop the snoring. I'll let you know if he caves and it if it works.

3. Diaper Rash:

A few of these I have tried before so I know they work. To soothe a diaper rash you can add 1 cup of baking soda to baby's bath water. You can use witch hazel on baby's bottom.
One that I will add here is that you can mix a little vaseline and liquid maalox or milk or magnesia and apply it to baby's bottom. It really works!

There are many, many other cures in the book. The book does list certain brand names, but don't think that you always have to use that specific brand. I love the fact that it uses things that most of us already have in our pantry. Most of these are good "old-fashioned" cures that people have used for many years. While I cannot guarantee that every cure will work, it is always nice to try some of the things mentioned in the book first instead of medicating. Just another way to save money by using what we already have!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Our $75 menu this week...for my family of 8


Here we go again. I thought I would post another menu plan since it is so near and dear to my heart. If you're interested, I just wrote part 3 of my series on how I feed my family of 8 for $300 a month. The last topic just happens to be on menu planning. Hope you enjoy!

Breakfast:
Monday: Waffles and fruit
Tuesday: Baked Oatmeal
Wednesday: Pancakes and fruit
Thursday: Muffins and Sausage
Friday: French Toast
Saturday: Eggs, biscuits, and a meat
Sunday: Country ham and gravy over biscuits


Lunch:
Monday: Sandwiches and a side veggie--->either raw or cooked
Tuesday: Ham, mac & cheese, and a veggie
Wednesday: Soup and crackers or 1/2 sandwich--->soup is usually leftover from night before
Thursday: Grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit
Friday: Leftovers or quesidillas if we have no leftovers
Sat and Sun: We either eat leftovers, or a salad, or sandwiches

Snacks:
Monday: Carrots and ranch dressing
Tuesday: Fruit
Wednesday: Banana Bread or homemade bread drizzled with butter and honey
Thursday: Celery and peanut butter or ranch dressing
Friday: Tortilla wraps---> I usually fill them with pizza sauce and cheese, which the kids call "mini pizzas", or peanut butter and honey

Dinner:
Monday:
Meat Lasagna
Green beans

Tuesday:
Baked Tilapia
Sauteed Squash

Wednesday:
Spaghetti
Homemade Garlic Bread

Thursday:
Italian Sausage and peppers over penne
Salad
Peas

Friday:
Homemde BBQ Chicken pizza

Saturday:
Chicken Tetrazinni
Corn
Garlic Bread

Sunday:
Ribs
Mashed potatoes
Green beans


For more great menu ideas, check out Menu Planning Monday hosted by Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

How I feed my family of 8 on $300 a month - Part 3

If you missed part 1 of the series you can read it here, and you can read part 2 here.

Now that everyone has sat down and set up a budget, it's time to make a menu. I will say this one more time. Cut back on the amount you are spending each month a bit at a time. In fact, practice doing a few weeks of menu planning first before cutting back on the amount of money you spend. This will allow for a learning curve. Most of us get so excited in the beginning and try to do too much. This leads to disappointment and failure. Once you learn how to do this you will be able to save your family lots of money.

So, what's the big deal about menu planning anyway? Well, menu planning saves you time and money! I am a busy woman, so I am always looking for a way to make my life easier and more efficient. Also, saving time and money are two of my favorite things.

When your plan your menu in advance there is no more standing in front of the refrigerator in a panic wondering what to cook for dinner at 5:00 in the afternoon. Only to realize that once you've decided on something, that you're out of a key ingredient, so now you have make a mad dash to the store. While you're there you see those cookies that look really good, and a nice cold coke sounds great. Before you know it, you've spent an extra $10.00.

Or you might be like me when when this happened. You know how it goes, you call your sweetie on the phone and say, "Hey honey, can you stop at so-and-so and pick up dinner?" Here at our house a run to McDonald's will cost us over $35.00. A typical dinner that I make at home will cost about a tenth of that. Like I said, planning your menu can save both time and money.

This is how menu planning goes at my house. First thing I will do is ask my husband if there is anything that he is hungry for that he wants me to cook. There is nothing worse than sitting down and planning everything out, only to have to have to change something because my husband really wanted to BBQ on Saturday when I had chicken tetrazinni planned instead.

So, after talking to him I will grab one of my older girls a few days before shopping day. We will go through and do a quick inventory of what's in the pantry. I don't know how many times I have bought something thinking I was low, only to get home and find out that I had way too many already. Or even worse, I would assume that I had enough only to find that I had to make that last minute mad dash to the store. So, now we do an inventory. If you really like to be extra organized, you can find master grocery lists online and print them out. They usually have a column for what you have on hand and a column for what you need.

To make things simple, you need to know what some of your favorite meals are. You can alternate those every week, every other week, or even monthly. For example, we usually will have a taco and burrito night one Wednesday and the next Wednesday we will have spaghetti and garlic bread. We also do pizza night on Friday nights at least every other week. The key is to simplify. Most families know what they like, and will tolerate some variety, but as a general rule like to stick to what they know. I am one who likes to try new things, so at least once a month I will try a new recipe. I have found some winners and some losers.

After I know what I have, my daughter and I sit down and write out our dinner menu. My weekly breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snack menu stay the same for at least a month, sometimes longer. I make a dinner menu for 2 weeks at a time. To start off with though, I would only do one week at a time. This includes the main dish and any sides and desserts. Here at my house we like to include lots of different fresh breads. They are inexpensive, I make them with whole grains, and they fill us up!

Once we are satisfied with how our menu looks, which usually only takes about 30 minutes, we start on the shopping list. Knowing what I already have on hand makes it easy for me to write out what I need. I then write out everything I need to make all my meals and snacks. Like i've said before, when I shop, I only carry cash and stick strictly to my list. I know I only have $150 on me and I need to buy everything with that money to feed my family for two weeks.

Try planning a menu for a week and then shopping according to that menu. In the beginning it may be a little difficult. It is well worth the effort put into it, in the end. Once you get the hang of it though, it really makes things so much easier.


Next week: Shopping the weekly sales and further planning your menu from that!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Free Cereal Week for Me!

Sorry i'm late in getting this up, but it was a nice day outside, and we roasted hot dogs and smores out on the fire pit this evening!

Albertson's:
This was definately the week to get free cereal if you wanted it! Albertson's was having a special for Post cereals 5/$10 and then $2.00 taken off at the register. That brought it down to 5/$8. Not too bad of a deal, but I had $2.00 off coupons for each of the boxes of cereal, so it brought the total for 10 boxes to -$4.00. That's why I got my gallon of milk free! Which, as you can see, we've already started on. I also got the pack of beef on sale. So, 10 boxes of cereal, 1 gallon of milk and 4 pounds of beef cost me right at $8.00 OOP!


Walgreen's:
This was the week for Olay and Zest. I ended up getting 6 packs of Olay and 2 packs of Zest for $2.00 OOP, but I earned back $16.00 in Register Rewards. So, today I went out and got 1 tube of Colgate, 1 Listerine Smart Sinse, 1 bottle of Vitamin C, 2 Viactiv Calcium, and 2 boxes of butter for $0.00 OOP. I'll also earn back $15.50 in rebates on my Walgreen's gift card.


CVS:
This week was a light week for me at CVS since I was contracting too much for a few days. I had to be a lady of leisure and plant it on the couch. {gasp}
Anyways, my sweet hubby so graciously went and did this one for me. I figured i'd keep it simple since we had a run-in with a coupon nazi employee the time before. So, we just got 2 Mach 3 razors, 1 Venus Embrace, and 1 Fusion razor. I paid with $16.47 in ECB's and $.53 OOP and made back another $22.00 in ECB's. Not a bad run.

So, all of this would have cost over $110.00 for right at $10.00 OOP, but I made back more in rebates, ECB's, and I still have another register reward to spend! So, I guess you could say it's almost like it was free!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Living on One Income...Creatively


Yesterday's Works for me Wednesday was inspired by a recent conversation on a board I pop in on every so often. There was a discussion by a mother who didn't understand how anyone could live on one income when they were barely making it on two.

This is a question that quite a few women have asked me. They want to come home, but just don't see how in the world it can be done. I'm here to say that it can be done, if you want it bad enough. It may not be today or tomorrow, but you can do it!

A fear of mothers who are contemplating coming home is that they will have to sacrifice everything to do it. That they will have to give up any comforts and eat beans and rice for the rest of their lives. They fear not being able to give their children what they need or that they won't be able to pay their bills. I could go on and on.

We all need to stop thinking of it in terms of how much we have to give up. For those who are afraid of take that step to come home, just know that you don't have to sacrifice everything. You can still have comforts. You just have to be creative about it!

Yes, there will be changes made in the beginning. It's a different life when you live on one income, but God has given us, as women, the ability to creatively make ends meet. It's all about making your dollar stretch. I like to think of it as a challenge. The challenge is, "How can I turn that dollar into two?"

Well, one easy way is to learn to bargain shop. By being careful and watching for great deals I can buy double what I normally would for the same price. It's actually fun, and becomes a game of sorts.

Another way I can stretch my dollar is to learn to do something from home to make a little extra money. There are so many different opportunities out there to earn a little cash that I couldn't even begin to touch on them. If you go Biblical Womanhood and look under home business or frugality, she has alot of great ideas on this.

Another way to stretch my dollar would be to learn how to budget and get out of debt. Debt is the biggest obstacle to women coming home. We, as a nation, have too much debt and it is keeping us chained to our current situations. By getting out of debt, you actually can live off what you make.

I received so many great comments from my post yesterday. Let me share a few that I really enjoyed. Many of the ladies shared that they plan a weekly menu. Now if you know me at all, you will know this is something that is near and dear to my heart. It really works! I am already training my oldest daughters how to do this, they're almost as good as I am.

Another one, was to budget, like I said earlier. A few more suggested finding free things to do as a family. There was one lady who consigned all her kids clothes to buy the next size up, what a great idea! One really neat suggestion was to barter. My husband did this last year with my friend's mother. He traded painting services for a year of free haircuts for the family. What a blessing it has been!

There are so many creative ways to stretch your dollar. How creative can you get? Stay at home moms have to be savvy and smart. The best example of a role model that I can think of would have to be the Proverbs 31 woman. Talk about creative! She supplemented her husband's income and worked hard for her family, but they were well taken care of because of it. She even had enough to give to those in need.

Because of her hard work and creativity, her husband praised her and her children rose up and called her blessed. What really puts this in perspective is to understand what the word blessed means here. The word blessed, as used in this passage, is translated from the the word, ashar. Ashar means happy, blessed, prosperous, successful, and contented. That doesn't sound like a woman who had to sacrifice everything. Yes, she had to work hard, but she was blessed by it. I don't know about you, but I strive to be blessed like the woman in Proverbs 31.
Please leave a comment telling me the creative ways you live on one income!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Works for me Wednesday: Ideas for making it work on one income?

This weeks WFMW is to rerun your greatest tip. Since I haven't been doing this long I thought I'd just go back to my first one. Making ends meet on just one income can be tough. I got alot of great responses the first time so i'm hoping to get even more creative ideas. It's so much easier when we all help eachother out. If this is an area you worry about yourself, look through the comments and see if there's anything you can try. Thanks so much!


This is my first time posting at Works for me Wednesday, but it sounds like alot of fun. It's also a backwards edition, where you ask questions to the readers. So, here we go!

My question for all of you is, can you give any tips for making it work on one income in a two income society? I am always looking for different things to do here that can make my life, as a stay-at-home-mom easier. It can also be discouraging to ladies who may be wanting to come home, but don't see how in the world they can make it work.

So any tips on saving money, making money from home, making our dollar stretch, etc...would be greatly appreciated. Any encouragement you can give women who are wanting to come home, but are afraid to, would be great too. Also, any input on why you think it is important to stay home is also welcome. Thanks so much!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Heart for Home - Part 2

Words to Live By: Home Sweet Home by Marilu Windvand
Words to Live By: Home Sweet Home


In my last post I had just started talking about how we, as wives and mothers, are told we need to have a thirst for being busy at home.

Now what does being busy at home mean? A few definitions of busy that I found are: engaged in action, full of activity, bustling. A few synonyms I found are: industrious, diligent, and my personal favorite, assiduous. For those of you who don't know what assiduous means, it means marked by careful, constant attention or persistent application

Are we giving careful, constant attention to our homes? Are we being diligent and persistent? If we find our home being put last, then maybe we aren't.

The only way to be able to do it all, is to follow what God tells us. Be busy at home first. Then all else falls into place. If you can do more, then do so. If not, then it isn't important. Remember, we all have seasons in our lives. There are seasons when we will be able to do more, and seasons when we need to about our homes more.

When I was working full-time as an RN, homeschooling my children, and pregnant, it wasn't the time to be involved in much else. If I would have, my family would have suffered. That was a season in my life when I was about my home more, since I was already gone so much working.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that your kids will hate you if they can't be involved in everything. Let your loving relationship with them replace the outside activities.

Don't believe for one minute that if you can't volunteer your time, that they won't be able to go on. They will go on. You will actually be making a way for God to use someone else. In fact, find something that your whole family can do. There are many families that serve together. They are generally some of the happiest families I know. They live together, work together, and serve together.

As women, are we to become recluse, never seeing the outside world? No! But we are to have that thirst for the things in our home. To be diligent, and give constant attention to our home and our families. Do you have a heart for home?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Sample of our $75 Weekly Menu...for a Family of 8


Here we go again. I thought I would post another menu plan for you guys who are wondering how we feed our family for so little. This time I will add breakfast, lunch and snacks for you to see. If I can do it, anyone can! Hope you enjoy!

Breakfast:
Monday: Waffles and fruit
Tuesday: Baked Oatmeal
Wednesday: Pancakes and fruit
Thursday: Muffins and Sausage
Friday: French Toast
Saturday: Eggs, biscuits, and a meat
Sunday: Country ham and gravy over biscuits

Lunch:
Monday: Sandwiches and a side veggie--->either raw or cooked
Tuesday: Ham, mac & cheese, and a veggie
Wednesday: Soup and crackers or 1/2 sandwich--->soup is usually leftover from night before
Thursday: Grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit
Friday: Leftovers or quesidillas if we have no leftovers
Sat and Sun: We either eat leftovers, or a salad, or sandwiches

Snacks:
Monday: Carrots and ranch dressing
Tuesday: Fruit
Wednesday: Banana Bread or homemade bread drizzled with butter and honey
Thursday: Celery and peanut butter or ranch dressing
Friday: Tortilla wraps---> I usually fill them with pizza sauce and cheese or peanut butter and honey

Dinner:
Monday:
Lasagna
Green beans

Tuesday:
Homemade Tomato soup

Wednesday:
Taco and Burrito bar
Refried beans
Mexican rice

Thursday:
Chicken and stuffing
Corn

Friday:
Chili cheese enchiladas
Mexican rice----> leftover from Wednesday

Saturday:
Mock shepherd's pie
Steamed broccoli

Sunday:
Crockpot chicken
Rice pilaf
Salad
Pumpkin rolls