Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Grocery Gathering- Albertson's DFW 4/30 - 5/6

It's time once again for my Grocery Gathering post. I am covering the Dallas/Ft.Worth region for Albertson's. I wish I could say that I am excited about this weeks ad, but i'm not. I detest their BOGO sales. Many of the prices at my Albertson's are inflated for the sale. You still can find a deal if you look hard and have coupons. Just remember, on a BOGO sale you can use 2 coupons in most places! Deals that could be free will be in red.

Let me start with the 4 day sale. It starts Thur. 5/1 - Sun. 5/4:
Albertson's large dozen eggs $.99- limit 1!

Albertson's white, wheat or roundtop bread 2/$1.00- limit 2!

Pepsi products 2 Liters $.89- limit 6!

Blue Bell ice cream 2/$7.50
-$1.00/1 IP here

Ground beef $.99/lb (in a 5 lb chub)- limit 1! You have to purchase an additional $10.00 to get this sale price

Other deals I see are:
Roma tomatoes $.99/lb

Old El Paso Products 10/$10--->My Albie's doesn't double, but if yours does this could be free!
-$.55/1 IP Q here, here, and here

General Mills Cereal BOGO
$1/00/2 from 4/06 Smartsource insert

Green Giant frozen boxed vegetables BOGO
$1.00/2 from 3/16 Smartsource

Strawberries 1 lb BOGO

There is also a $10.00/$100.00 purchase on the bottom right hand corner of the front page. This is applied after all coupons and store discounts.

As always, if you see anything I might have missed, please let me know. For more great grocery deals be sure to visit the Grocery Gathering, hosted by BeCentsAble.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How do you afford all those children? - Part 2

When I am asked how we afford all of the children we have, I always point out how important it is to build up a great relationship with your children rather than buying them everything. I know that sounds like an answer you give when you are struggling to provide for your family. But before you think that my poor children are deprived of anything that would enrich their lives, that's not true. We do selectively let them participate in activities that we feel will be good for them.

Just as I covered the value of relationship within the family last time, I will try to cover a few of the actual logistics of how we can afford a big family on one income. You can read part 1 here. By all means, you do not have to do everything that we do. We try to make living a frugal life fun for our family, not a burden we must carry. We never want to feel as if we are missing out on anything. That is no example to anyone just how wonderful a large family can be.

Lately I have written a few posts on some of the frugal things we do as a family. The first thing I do is to plan a food budget, menu plan, and cook from scratch as often as possible. I have a $300 a month grocery budget but I have coming under that lately. Here are some of the posts that I have written about how we make that $300 work for us. You can also read my grocery budget series here.

1.We have a vegetable garden that we get many seasonal vegetables out of. We do a summer and fall garden. This is a great family project that the children love to help plan and do. You can read my post about our garden here.

2.From the excess in our garden we preserve what we can. We preserve by freezing and canning. It's much easier than you think. Of course I have lots of willing helping hands that make the work lighter. Sometimes I have too many helping hands, if you know what I mean. You can read my post about preserving food here.

3.We have our own chickens that give us eggs and meat. We do not get enough meat to last us the year though although we plan to do more next year. They are so much better tasting than store bought chicken, and way cheaper than what you'd pay for free range, hormone free at the store. This is another great family project. Even the little one loves to go and get eggs for Mommy. You can read my post about our girls here. This was a post that generated alot of response. Have fun reading it.

4. We make our own laundry detergent. Now I was getting my Tide He at CVS for nothing, but my youngest daughter has very sensitive skin and reacts to many different detergents. I found out that people actually made their own detergent so I had to try it. I was pleased that it worked so well and was easy to do. I have tried both the liquid and the powder version. You can read my post for my tutorial on the powdered kind here. I have also had quite a people ask me to post my recipe for my liquid version as well, so I did that.

The next thing we have done is started paying down bills. When I was working it wasn't really necessary to pay down anything. Now that I am home we have made it a goal to have all our extra debt paid off by the end of the year. We are well on our way to doing that. It is much easier to live with less debt. Once we pay off the debt, we will start saving for a house with more land.

Scott has been taking small side jobs painting since I have quit. It was to pay for all the extras and to pay down debt. Now he has actually become quite busy with it. God has blessed him so much, he now has a waiting list. Maybe one day this will become his full time profession, although he does have a great job right now.

There are some good resources out there for paying down debt. Dave Ramsey is the first one that comes to mind. Debt is a ball and chain for many people. With the economy the way it is, it is even more important to get out of debt.

I want to mention here that we live within our means. People are always buying more and more things, or bigger houses, or new cars. Yes, we could go and buy that big country house now, or we could get my husband the truck he's like to have, but would it make us happier? No, because we would have the extra debt that comes with it. Extra debt adds stress. Even if we could manage higher payments now, doesn't mean that we always will be able to. We might have to wait a few years, but those things will come. We are content with what we have right now. Contentment is a good lesson for anyone to learn.

Now, next on the list is clothing. Many people don't see how I can afford clothing for all of my children. Well, to be honest I really don't have to spend much here. We are given clothes from people on it seems a regular basis. Sometimes it is too much, so I pass the blessing on to other people who need it. I think we are first on people's minds when it comes to giving away clothes since we have a large family. People figure that someone in the house will fit in the clothes.

Usually I just have to fill in the gaps seasonally with what we're missing. For my older girls it helps to have young aunts that pass on nice clothes. For my younger girls I sew lots of their clothes and they are given quite a bit. I do sew some of the older girls skirts too. Even my younger son gets clothes passed on to him, thanks Carlie! It's usually my 10 yo son that I have to buy for the most. It seems as if most 10 yo boys are pretty hard on their clothes so nothing is really worth passing on after they're done with them.

Next thing that comes to mind is staying home. We stay home more than the average family. That means I save on gas, I save on food, I save because we're not involved in everything under the sun. Our home is the center of everything. Yes, we go out, but like I said we are home much more than anyone else I know. We manage to stay pretty busy here. Being home most of the time is something foreign to many people. It is a simpler life than most are used to, but it is a full life.

Last thing i'd like to talk about is activities. Our children do participate in a few select activities. They are involved in 4-H, which they all love. We participate in our local homeschool group by going on field trips, playdates, and PE. They are on their puppet team at church. They also participate in Awana. The two oldest girls will also be starting piano lessons in the fall. They are trading out babysitting two hours a week for free lessons. It works out wonderfully. All of these activities are low in cost and either teach the children or give them a chance to serve. The best thing is that it's not overwhelming.
At times it takes a different way of thinking and doing things to make it work in a large family. I can't always explain it well. We are a team. We need everyone on our team. Without one member we just wouldn't function as well. Even the youngest has her part. She is learning to work along side of us in our family. She is only two now, but in a few years even she will participate much more in our daily family life.

One last thought. I have spoken once before on the provision of God in our lives. Sometimes there is no other explanation except that God provides for us and meets all of our needs. While we work hard to make our family run well, we know that He gave us these children to raise so He will meet all of our needs according to His riches and glory.
Graphics courtesy of

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Menu Planning Monday: $55.00 week

My total spent this week was only $55.00. I don't have to cook 2 nights this week, but I have to pay for Friday night's meal. I am just using the extra I saved and paying for Friday night's meal out of my grocery budget since I still have some left.

My monthly food totals have been dropping for awhile now while the food prices have gone up. How is that? Stockpiling! I have taken a bit each week out of my food budget for the weekly deals and started getting multiples when I can. It is starting to pay off because I am spending less for my food now.

Take for example, just this week I got 6 bags of salad, 8 bags of tortillas, and 3 bags of frozen veggies for $1.50. The tortillas will be going in the freezer for future use. Now I can take that money I usually spend on these and use it to stockpile on the next deal. While i'm really not trying to drop my budget any lower, it is nice to know that I could if I had to.

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

Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Hot dogs, mac & cheese, and a veggie
Wednesday: Homemade chicken noodle soup
Thursday: sandwiches and fruit
Friday: Pizza rolls and green beans
Sat and Sun: We either eat leftovers, or a salad, or sandwiches

Monday: Carrots dipped in ranch
Tuesday: Fruit
Wednesday: Banana Bread or homemade bread drizzled with butter and honey
Thursday: celery dipped in ranch or peanut butter
Friday: Tortilla wraps---> Filled with peanut butter, banana, and/or honey

Monday:--->this is one of our favorite meals!
Mini meatloaf patties
Braised radishes
Cheesy cauliflower casserole

Chili cheese enchiladas
Mexican rice

Sloppy joes
French fries

Chicken cacciatore

4-H barnyard bash--->I don't have to cook!

Crawfish boil!!--->We do this every year

Eggplant parmesan
Yeast rolls

Mini Meatloaf Patties:
EVOO in pan
2 lbs. ground beef
1 tsp. sage
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
Onions- minced
Parmesan cheese- for breading

Place meat in a bowl. Place egg and parmesan cheese in bowl. Place sage in bowl. Place Worcestershire sauce in bowl. Cut up and place onion in bowl. Place Dijon mustard in bowl. Place salt and pepper in bowl. Mix with hands well. Form in to patties or loaves. Score meat to do this. Place in pan over medium heat. Cook 6 minutes each side.

Braised Radishes:
2 bags of radishes
Onions- diced
2 T. butter
1 T. red wine vinegar
2 T. sugar
1-1½ cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Cut ends off of radishes. Put butter and radishes in pan (cold). Place red wine vinegar in pan. Put splenda in pan. Pour chicken broth in pan; then add salt and pepper. Place onion in pan. Cook over medium heat to reduce liquid. After liquid starts to reduce, uncover and turn heat up to high to finish reducing liquid. Garnish with chives

Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole:

Salt- as much as needed
2 bags of cauliflower
2 cups of heavy cream
4 ounces cream cheese
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup of cheddar cheese for topping
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with salt. Cook cauliflower in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain and pat well with paper towels. Transfer cauliflower into dish. Pour heavy cream in large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk in cream cheese and mustard until smooth. Stir in 2 cups of cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and garlic and whisk until cheese melts. Remove from heat and pour over the top of the cauliflower. Stir to combine. Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese. Bake until cheese is browned and bubbly hot, about 15 minutes.

For more great menus, head over to Menu Planning Monday's, hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Grocery Gathering- Albertson's 4/23 - 4/29

I have been asked to host the Albertson's deals for the Thursday grocery gathering, hosted by BeCentsAble. I am excited since I love the great deals that Albertson's has! Every Wednesday I will be posting all the good deals along with their coupon matchups. Now, of course if you see any that I missed please feel free to comment and let me know. Oh, and make sure you visit the grocery gathering for deals at other stores you may shop at. It makes saving money so easy!

I am in the Dallas/Ft. Worth region for Albertson's, eventhough I live in Louisiana. They do have other regions that will have different sales. My local Albertson's does NOT double or triple coupons eventhough many do. If yours does then there will be deals that are good for you that I may not notice.

This week is another great week for the 10/$10. They have many different items at 10/$10. Just know that you do not have to buy 10 of any specific item to get the special. They ring up as $1.00. Matchup with any coupons you may have to make it an even better deal. Deals that could be free will be in red.

The big sale this week is the Nestle deal. You buy $20 worth of participating Nestle products and get $5 off at the register. The best coupons to get the lowest OOP that I see are:

Nestle Pure Life Water 12-pack .5 liter are 4/$10
-$1/1 coupon from 3/9 Redplum insert
-$1/1 rolling IP coupon here

Nestle Treasures Gold Candy 3 oz. are 6/$10
-$1/1 coupon from 3/9 Smartsource insert

Nestle Ready to bake cookies are 4/$10
-$1.00 off IP here

Stouffer's Panini's are 4/$10
-$1/1 coupon from 4/13 Smartsource insert

Mix and match these to get a low OOP. For example, buy 3 cases of water, 3 panini's, and 3 candies. After Q's and the $5 taken off at the register your OOP would $6.00!

Other deals I see are:
Fresh Express salad 10/$10 - Can be free after Q's!
-1.00/1 Q's were found by the salad mixes here. If you still have some that means free salad! or
-$.50/1 Q's from the 3/09 Redplum insert

Mission tortillas 10/$10 - Can be free after Q's!
-$1.00/1 from 1/06 Smartsource insert or
-$1.00/2 from 1/06 Smartsource insert

Allen's or Veg-All frozen vegetables - Can be free after Q's if your store triples!
-$.35/1 from 4/06 Redplum insert
-$.55/1 from 2/24 Redplum insert

Softsoap hand soap- Can be free after Q's if your store triples!
-$.35/1 from 3/30 Smartsource insert or
-$1.00/3 from 3/30 Smartsource insert

We are also having a 3 day sale from Friday 4/25 - Sunday 4/27. Notable deals here are:
Albertson's brand dozen eggs $.99! - limit 1

4 lb packages of strawberries $4.99 ea.

Fresh La. crawfish $7.99/lb

Oreo cookies 15-18 oz $1.99 - Free if you got the home mailer coupon!
-$2.00 home mailer sent out

Kingsford Charcoal 17 lb Hickory or Mesquite or 18 lb regular $5.99
-$1.50 Glad, KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce or Hidden Valley wyb Kingsford Charcoal coupon here

One last thing. There is a coupon in the ad for $5 off a $50 or more purchase. Make sure you read the fine print. It says that it is applied after all manufacturer and store coupons.

Hope you get some great deals this week! If you see anything else please let me know and don't forget to visit the grocery gathering to find more great deals.

Making your food last by preserving it

Last time I posted I talked about our garden and how it really was worth the time involved. You can read about it here. Now i'd like to talk about preserving food.

So you plant a garden and it does well. It does REALLY well. What do you do with the abundance of vegetables out of your garden that you get? The quick answer is to preserve them so that you can enjoy your garden all year long!

Preserving food is a lost art. It sounds so old-fashioned. I remember my watching my grandmother canning food as a young girl. It brings back fond memories of staying the summer with her. Eventhough I loved to help her, I still never learned to do it myself until recently. It was one of those things that I tucked away in my mind that I loved about Grandma's house, but never ever would do myself. Why should I, when I could go and pick it up already canned for me?

While it may be rather old-fashioned, it really is a great skill to learn for the here and now. We, as homemakers in the 21st century, in the age of rising grocery prices, faced with looming recession, and tainted food are having to look long and hard at the way we are doing things. Maybe our grandmothers and great grandmothers had it right. They faced many ups and downs, but they still fed their families affordable nutritious meals. We like to think that we've been freed from the chains of homemaking, but we've just traded it for a new set of chains.

There are a few different ways you can preserve your food. You can freeze, dry, pickle, or can your extras. Freezing is the cheapest way to preserve food and many times the healthiest, since it doesn't destroy any of the nutrients. With freezing you just blanch your vegetables first and then put them in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer. To learn how to blanch your vegetables, read here. This is super easy and doesn't take much time at all. It is well worth it though.

I will not get into drying or pickling here since I don't do them. I do plan on making my own pickles one day, so i'll let you know how it goes.

The last way is canning. Initially, canning can get a bit costly if you let it. You need jars, a water bather, and pressure canner for many vegetables. You can find inexpensive jars at goodwill, garage sales, or off of your local freecycle. Since I do not have a pressure canner I stick to more acidic foods that are sufficent in a water bath. I will tell you though, I have canned many jars of preserves without any of these things, except the jars of course. You just have to make sure that you submerge your jars entirely as you give them a water bath.
This is a picture of a canning water bath.
If you would like to learn how to can there are many resoures out there. You can start with the Ball website. I also recommend the Ball Book of Preserving . I thought about giving a step by step tutorial on the canning process but there are so many online resources that you can look up that will get you started.

Of course, if any of you live near me, we could have a get together after we harvest a bit. We do this every year with my friend, Carlie. We pick our figs and then get together to start the process of canning strawberry fig preserves. I do enough to last us a whole year. Both of our familes look forward to this every year. I'm sure our children will remember this for a long time to come.

Since I do not have my own fruit orchard, I am limited to either buying or fruit or picking it locally. Many times you can find fruit to pick locally cheaper or even free. See my post here for more information on how to find free produce. To find local places to pick I always start with looking at this website. It lists places to pick according to state and it has information on canning, including recipes. I just love this site, but I have found other u pick farms around me that are not listed here, so always be on the lookout.

While preserving food seems like alot of work, it is beneficial to learn. I found it makes it nicer to include my children and my friends. Good company makes the work seem lighter. If you've read anything i've written, you will know that I love to do things that will make great and lasting memories. I love my simple life.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gardening: Is it worth it?

We had a pretty cold weekend a few weeks ago so I waited a bit to get my garden planted. After we got everything planted we headed in and canned a few jars of strawberry preserves. They are so good! I make them lower sugar than what you get in the store, so they are better for us to eat. There's nothing like opening a jar a preserves that you've made with your own hands.

That brings me to my next frugal things we do post. Gardening and preserving. It sounds like alot of work, doesn't it? It does involve some effort, but the reward is great. I just read a great post by Kate, at A Simple Walk, called Spending time to save money.

Many times we feel that it's just not worth the effort we have to put in to save a little bit of money. "Time is money," as they say. It's so much easier to pick up that jar of preserves already canned for me, or to pay extra for the many vegetables I can grow and put up for my family. I do still have to buy some vegetables, but I long for the day where I do not.

I would have said that it was cheaper to buy your vegetables rather than grow them a year ago. With the price of fresh produce skyrocketing, it has once again become cheaper to do it yourself. We are coming to a time where we need to step back and reevaluate how we are doing things.

You can save your family quite a bit of money by gardening. Not to mention it provides food that is healthier too. I keep reading over and over of all of the produce recalls due to ecoli and salmonella. It's a little scary.

One of the best things about gardening is that it can also create precious family memories in the process. My children love to help plant and harvest the garden. The older ones are involved in picking out the plants we buy, they help with the placement of the vegetables and the upkeep of the garden. Even the littlest ones get in on the fun. Although it is usually just to dig in the dirt. It is a team effort.

That being said, even though my garden takes a little more work than going to the grocery store, I am always on the lookout to make my job a little easier.

This was our very first little garden. It is the way we used to garden. We worked hard to get that garden in. This was about 4 years ago. It took us the whole weekend to finish it. We had to till up the ground. Buy dirt to make the mounds and then plant. We had an ok harvest, but it cost us more to build it than it would have to buy the vegetables ourselves. It was great fun though. We did learn one thing that year, don't plant your garden next to a pine tree. One, the limbs fall off frequently and sap will get all over your plants.

After gardening the traditional way for 2 years we decided to try raised bed gardening. More specifically, Square Foot Gardening. While I don't follow exactly what he does, I do come pretty close. Here are some of the pros we have found by using this method.

  • We can raise many more vegetables in a smaller area.
    This is great since we have a city sized lot. You can even make a small box on a balcony or patio.

  • It is also cheaper to do after the initial investment.
    Now that we have our beds built, we just add a little compost before we plant and that's it.

  • It is easier to get going.
    This equals not as much work.

  • One last pro, barely any weeds!

It takes us a few hours of work to get the garden ready for the planting. Then we spend maybe an hour or two a week watering, weeding, and harvesting the vegetables. That's it!

Here's a few tips to make gardening more frugal.
1. Make your own compost.
You can put a small bin in a corner of your backyard in which you put your raked up leaves, grass clippings, food scraps(no protein), tea and coffee grounds, shredded newspaper, and a little manure to heat it up. Your garden will love you for it.

You can also find free compost at your local compost facility. Most areas have one. Look in the blue pages of your phonebook. You might have to let it break down a bit more before you use it though.

2. If you want raised beds, be on the lookout for cheap lumber.
To build our beds we used 2 x 8's. I would suggest asking friends for lumber, going to your local habitat restore, even going to construction sites and asking for leftover lumber.

3. Grow from seed if you can
You can start most seeds indoors and then transplant them. It's a cool science experiment for the kids to do if you'd like. They learn all about the germination process. One packet of seeds usually equals the price for one plant to transplant.

Gardening can be frugal and a wonderful thing to do. Go ahead and try it! Of course, if you have questions just ask.

I'll finish up with preserving tomorrow. This post is already long enough.

Graphics courtesy of

Sunday, April 20, 2008

$65.00 menu this week

Since I have been doing so well on my budget, I plan on taking this week and making a few extra meals to freeze. I am almost 31 weeks pregnant now, so it is the time to start preparing since I always go a little early. It is a relief to have meals done for the first few weeks after a baby comes.

My freezers are pretty full, but I plan to use a bit out of them to make these meals. I still have a little leftover from my last budget so i'll add that into what I can spend this week. I also will be making a meal for my church to help with the meal ministry. I still won't go over budget since I have most of what I need already.

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

Monday: Sandwiches and a side veggie--->either raw or cooked
Tuesday: Hot dogs, mac & cheese, and a veggie
Wednesday: Homemade tomato soup and half cheese sandwich
Thursday: Tunafish sandwiches and fruit
Friday: Leftovers or quesidillas if we have no leftovers
Sat and Sun: We either eat leftovers, or a salad, or sandwiches

Monday: Pizza rolls
Tuesday: Fruit
Wednesday: Banana Bread or homemade bread drizzled with butter and honey
Thursday: carrots and celery dipped in ranch
Friday: Tortilla wraps---> Filled with peanut butter, banana, and/or honey

Baked Chicken
Baked squash and zucchini
Yeast rolls

Tuesday: New Recipe!
Slow cooker salisbury steak
Homemade mashed potatoes
Green beans

Mexican night

Chicken tetrazinni

Mock shepherd's pie

Out to eat with family!

Sunday:---->supposed to have last week, but we got busy painting
Italian sausage and peppers
Green beans
Garlic bread

Chicken Tetrazinni:
3 chicken breasts cooked, into pieces
1 stick butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic
3 T flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 qt warm chicken broth
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1 bay leaf
8 oz thin spaghetti
2/3 cups parmesan cheese

In large frying pan place butter and melt over medium heat. Add mushrooms, green peppers, and garlic. Saute about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Slowly add in 1-1/2 cups of warm chicken broth and the heavy whipping cream. Stir until thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth to beaten egg yolks. Add several tsp of the hot white sauce from frying pan to egg mixture then pour into frying pan, continuing to stir. Add chicken pieces, stirring until heated. While making sauce have spaghetti cooking, add bay leaf to noodles while cooking. Drain noodles after done and pour into 9 x 13 dish. Spoon sauce over spaghetti. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake at 325 F for 30 minutes.
*What I do is use a whole chicken and boil it till it is falling off of the bone. I take about 2 cups of the cooked chicken and then freeze the rest. I then use the chicken broth from the chicken for the recipe and then boil the noodles in the remaining broth.*

For more great menus head over to Menu Planning Monday's, hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Finally got in on a few of the deals

I haven't been able to get around much this week, so my deals have been rather sparce. Thank goodness we are well stocked. I was finally able to get out yesterday and take advantage of the Walgreen's and Albertson's deals. We still have to go out one more time today to finish up, but that will be later.


We were able to get 10 boxes of YO Yoplait yogurt for $3.00 OOP. I will be doing this 2 more times today for another $4.00 OOP. So 20 boxes of yogurt, which equals 80 packs, for $7.00.

I so wish I could have gotten out earlier than just yesterday for this one. I could have rolled my RR for more. I bought 4 shampoos at a time for $3.00 OOP for each deal, which I put on my giftcard. I now have $12.00 in RR to use for the Aveeno deal next week. I also still have $20.00 in RR from the last Aveeno deal that I have to spend this week. I will do all my monthly rebate deals with those.

I still think I might do this one more time. I don't know yet. A few of my family members have asked for a bottle or two, so I might get them a few bottles as well. Oh, if you're wondering what to do with the extra bottles, Sauve works great in your hand soap dispenser. No one would ever know it's not hand soap!

I didn't do much here this week. Of course I had to take advantage of the Contour deal since I had a coupon that took the whole $14.99 off. I also needed more toilet paper. We always need more toilet paper here so I try to work it in any chance I get. I also bought a gallon of milk, which of course has been drank already. I paid $.41 OOP, which I put on my giftcard. I had to use my $5.98 ECB which was expiring, but I made back $14.99 in ECB's.

I did not get a picture of my clean team wipe deal. My hubby stopped while he was out and about at work for me. They only had 4 left at the store he went to, but we have to go shopping tomorrow so we will pick up more. We paid $.60 OOP for the 4 packs we got.

Total before all of my coupons and ECB's was $70.63. Total OOP was $3.60.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Five Budget Busters: and ways to combat them

5 Budget Busters
I was tagged by Carlie at Why Ask Why for a new meme challenge-The Budget Busters Challenge. I am supposed to list the 5 things that can keep me from staying on budget.

I figured I would tie this meme into my Frugal Friday post, since I have wanted to write on how we have managed to keep on budget for those things that can normally make us overspend.

5 potential budget busters at my house:
1. Buying books and magazines
I am avid reader, so I love buying books. I also have a love for homeschooling and homemaking magazines. The problem is, most of the books and magazines I read are not ones found in regular bookstores. That means I have to order them online and then adding a shipping fee on top of it.

Some of the ways I have found to not overspend here is to give myself an "allowance" of sorts. Scott and I pay ourselves a little bit out of each check to spend for things we want. Now I tell you, this is not a huge amount since we have a goal to pay off all our debt this year. It is the one way we have found to not overspend though. When I get my money I am free to buy a book or magazine I love so if I want to.

There was a time where we just didn't have any extra at all, so I would check at my library for any books they had. I also used the interlibrary loan option. Another thing I did was to sell extra books that I wouldn't read again on ebay and then I would use the money to buy new ones. I still do this! I keep the money I earn in my paypal account so I always know what I can spend. I also ask for gift certificates for my birthday and Christmas. I love amazon or ebay gift certificates.

2. Hobbies/Crafts
I am the type that always has to have some kind of project going on. I get bored easily, so I am always learning something new. I never took the time to learn any crafts while growing up, so now I want to learn them all! I have taken up cross stitching, sewing, crocheting, knitting, and far.

As i'm sure you already know, these can all be a big budget buster if I let them! What I have done to keep within my budget is to once again use that allowance, if I have any left. I also have picked up craft items on my local freecycle, at yard sales, and on clearance.

This is another good thing to ask for gift cards for! Hobby Lobby, Joann's and even Walmart carry giftcards. Use them when they have a great clearance to make your buck stretch even more.

For my sewing, I fit that into our monthly clothing budget. I love sewing sweet little dresses for the girls. I still get to practice a hobby I love, as long as I stay within that preset budget. Who knows, maybe i'll start selling some of the little dresses I make to pay for some of my hobbies.

3. Eating out
This can be a big budget buster for us. Just bringing all of my family to McDonald's costs around $35.00. This is why we don't do it very often at all. If we do, we order pizza.

I make a menu and I stick to that faithfully. I prepare in advance now for dinner so that i'm not left at 6:00 with nothing cooked. A little time and planning on my part helps in the eating out department. We used to have to pick up food at least 2-3 x's a week, now I don't have to do that anymore.

Not wanting to totally deprive ourselves of ever having a nice night out to dinner, my hubby and I always go out for our birthdays and anniversary. We also take the whole family out when we get a nice sized check. this is usually income tax time or when Scott finishes a nice sized side job.

4. Gasoline!
Have you seen the prices lately? Gas just went up here again yesterday. I think I saw it at $3.45 for regular unleaded. I know that may not be as much as some of you are paying, but it's the most i've ever seen it here.

You can read my recent post here on what we're trying to do to keep as close to our set budget as we can.

5. Home improvement projects
Our house is always a work in progress. It seems as though the list of things we need to do or want to do grows continually. When we finish one project, we add two more.

While we have no set budget for this, we just put aside money until we have enough to do our project.

We have gotten things we need for our projects from freecycle and the Habitat restore to save money. We have also learned to do everything ourselves. We are even building a set of bunkbeds this weekend. This saves a ton of money! Although we are ever greatful that people hire painters. It helps provide for our livelihood.

The biggest thing that helps, is being content with what we have. Many people overspend here because they want everything beautiful all at one time. While it's nice to dream, we are content with things the way they are. God has blessed us and continues to do so.

There you have it. While we may occasionally go over board and bust our budget, we do much better than we used to. It helps when you have a goal in mind.

Take a minute to think about your own budget busters. What can you do to help bring the cost down to where you can stay within your budget?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Inexpensive and healthier eggs! Great fun too!

I said that that this week would be devoted to some of the frugal things we do as a family. A few of the things we do will seem quite different than what the norm is, but I figured it would be fun to share regardless.

I thought I would introduce one of the things that has saved our family a good bit of money for my Works for me Wednesday post. What works for me is chickens!

Yes, you read right. I did say chickens. Most people think "No way, not me, we live in the city," or they think that chickens are dirty animals. Well, we have had 2 laying hens now for about a year and I can tell you that they are great pets! They are docile and very peaceful to watch.

The 2 girls we have now give us right at about 1 dozen eggs a week. That would be plenty for the average size family. They only need housing about the same size as an average doghouse.

Many people that have chickens have what's called a chicken tractor. It is basically a portable chicken coop. You move it around your yard every couple of days so that it doesn't kill your grass and gives your chickens access to fertile feeding grounds.

When you have a tractor, the chickens eat the bugs in your yard, fertilize your grass, and give you free range eggs. With the cost of eggs at $2.50-$3.00 a dozen now it is more affordable to have your own chickens and healthier too! We pay right at about $10.00 every 3 months or so for feed. That is for about 12 dozen eggs!This year we have added on to our small flock another 8 baby girls. By the end of the summer we will be getting, on average, 8-10 eggs a day. With our larger than average sized family we will use a good bit of this for ourselves, but we do have a waiting list of people that want to buy the rest. This will pay for any feed we have to buy so it will make our eggs free!

If you live in the city you may still be able to have a couple of chickens. We live right in the middle of town and are able to have as many birds as we want as long as they are penned up. You need to check your local ordinances or call your local animal control to see if your city allows them.

Our girls are really easy to care for. I'd say they are much easier than a dog or cat because they don't need as much attention. No grooming fees, no walking, no chewing up your shoes, no jumping up on your children. Just keep their area clean and give them fresh food and water.

If you're interested in learning more, The City Chicken or The Backyard Chicken are two great places to start looking.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Menu Planning Monday: $60 week!

I have noticed that my trend of spending $60.00 has stayed for awhile now. I have no intentions of dropping my budget though. I will just continue to stock up as I can. It is nice to know that I could drop it even further if I had to.

This is my kick off post for a glimpse into my frugal lifestyle. This week I plan to focus on how we, as a family, practice frugality. It will give you a peek into our life, and how we make things work here with less money than many people live on with a much smaller family. Stay tuned, as it should be an interesting week!

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

Monday: Sandwiches and a side veggie--->either raw or cooked
Tuesday: Ham, mac & cheese, and a veggie
Wednesday: Homemade tomato soup
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

Monday: Strawberry Shortcake--->yum!
Tuesday: Fruit
Wednesday: Banana Bread or homemade bread drizzled with butter and honey
Thursday: celery and ranch or peanut butter
Friday: Tortilla wraps---> I usually fill them with pizza sauce and cheese, which the kids call "mini pizzas", or peanut butter, banana, and honey


Broiled Tilapia
Grilled vegetables
Yeast rolls

Wednesday:--->This was supposed to be last week!
Homemade mashed potatoes
Green beans

Chicken and Stuffing

Pizza night

Meat and Potatoes
Yeast rolls

Green beans
Garlic bread

For more great menus head over to Menu Planning Monday's, hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, April 11, 2008

CVS and Walgreen's were good to me this week!

It is always so nice to have a great week. It seems like the last few weeks have been kind of slow for the deals here, but they finally made up for it. I have paid nothing OOP for any of the deals I did this week, so I have made out really great.

I hit up my local CVS twice this week and then just today I made two trips to Walgreen's. I still need to go to Albertson's for my free bag's of salad. They are on sale 10/$10 and I have $1.00 coupons. I love free salad!

This is what I have gotten so far:

3 packs Huggies Supreme
6 Degree deodorants
1 Cascade
3 Excedrin's
2 CVS brand Tylenol
1 Hefty trashbags
9 Essence of Beauty products

Total before coupons and ECB's was $66.52. Total OOP was $0.00. If I had not had my giftcard I would have paid $2.00 OOP. I made $41.00 in ECB's, which means I broke even. That was great for me since i'm not trying to build up, just roll them over now!

8 Naturemade Rx Essentials
4 Aveeno lotions
4 Aveeno baby products
4 Reynold's Aluminum foil
2 gallons of milk
1 fabric softener
2 packs of styrofoam plates
2 packs of styrofoam cups
1 pack of plastic silverware--->These last 3 things are for Baby B's birthday party tomorrow

Total before coupons was $106.87. I paid $0.00 OOP for all of this. Had I not had my giftcard I would have paid $5.00 OOP. I also now have $20.00 in Register Rewards to spend!

All I can say is, "Thankyou CVS and Walgreen's!"

Saving money by bartering

I am always trying to find new and creative ways to save money, but this week for my Frugal Friday post I want to talk about an idea of saving money that goes way back. Bartering!!

Bartering is a great way to save money for items or services that you need. It goes back as long as there have been people. It has almost become non-existent, but there are people who are trying to revive it. With the cost of just about everything sky-rocketing, bartering can be an invaluable tool to saving money.

Currently my family is receiving haircuts free for an entire year because we bartered with someone. She needed a paint job and we always need haircuts. It has been a win-win situation. Thanks, Carol!

I know of a lady who bakes bread for someone who sells free-range eggs. It's an even trade off for them. They get bread and she gets eggs. There are so many different things you can barter for. You do not have to have a professional skill to be able to do it. You could even trade off babysitting. The are many unique possibilities when it comes to bartering.

Here in our area we have a bartering ring. It is actually called a business exchange. You can look in your area to see if they have one set up. Ours is called Lafayette Business Exchange. If your area has one it may called something similar.

If you don't have any professional services to trade or your area doesn't have anything set up then ask people you know. It never hurts to ask someone to see if they would be interested in trading services or goods. A good place to start is the people you go to church with. Even neighbors or friends.

Bartering is fun and definitely frugal. The best part is, not only are you blessed, but someone else is too. For more frugal tips, visit Crystal's blog for Frugal Friday's.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rising gas prices!

I don't even know why I am writing this, but hours after putting gas in my truck I am still thinking about how much it cost. It cost me $95.00 to fill up my truck today!! Now I only fill up every 2-1/2 to 3 weeks or so, so it's been awhile since I put gas in my truck. It's actually been even longer than that since i've been to the gas station, because my husband has been filling up for me.

I've driven by the gas stations and i've seen the prices rising, but I guess it really hit me when I was the one actually pumping the gas. As the price kept climbing higher and higher I started having a few heart palpitations and feeling a little light-headed. My husband actually found it quite humerous to see me a little worked up. While he does hate paying that much for gas I guess he is a bit more used to it than I am.

Now of course I didn't really have any heart palpitations or dizziness, but being the frugal type that I am, it was pretty painful to pay that much to fill up the truck.

So, what am I going to do about it? We have a certain budget that we follow every month for gas. Do I raise that budget, or do I find ways to save and stay within our current budget?

The few tips I know of are:
*Stay home more
*Keep a list of all errands and run them all at one time
*Keep engine tuned up
*Keep tires properly inflated
*Don't speed
*Switch to a smaller car--->Now really, I won't be doing this. We'd have to drive two cars just to go anywhere.

I do all of these things already, except for the last. I prefer to think out of the box though. I am always up for a challenge, so maybe I will see what ways I can come up with to save a bit. If I find anything that hasn't been said a million times already, I will share it. But I may have to raise my budget a bit. Oh the horror!

Of course, if you have any tips that you've learned, please share. I'm sure we could all use a little help.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Works for me Wednesday: Getting blood and ketchup stains out of clothing

I know some of you may already know this tip, but I know others may benefit from it. An old tip I learned from working at the hospital for so long is that peroxide takes blood stains out of clothes.

It also will take out ketchup stains. For those of us with little ones, this is a wonderful thing to know since they tend to spill ketchup on themselves as often as possible.

What you do is pour some peroxide on the stain, let it bubble for awhile, and then blot off. Repeat until there is no more bubbling and the stain is faded enough. You can then treat it as you would any other stain and wash as normal.

I always treat with a little spray and wash, then take a bit of my liquid laundry detergent, and put it directly on the stain. I then take my laundry scrubbing brush to get it in really good. It works every time. I do have a recipe I shared, here, that tells how to get out stains that just won't come out any other way. Hope this helps someone because it has worked for me many times over!

For more Works for me Wednesday tips, visit Rocks in my Dryer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How do you afford all those children? - Part 1

The first thing i'd like to say is that I will be writing this in two parts. The first part will be a background of sorts that has nothing to do with the financial side of raising children, but is just as important to say. The second part will cover the practical how to's that we apply in our family to be able to afford raising our children. So let me get started.

How in the world do you afford to feed and clothe all those children? Your husband must make really good money. I hear it all the time. I will say this, that while we are not living below the poverty line, we are by no means rich either.

I was just reading an article today that quoted the latest Dept of Agriculture's figures on how much money it takes to raise a child. They say that each American child costs an average of $204,060 to house, clothe, educate and entertain until the age of 18. I'm sure that does not include the cost of college either. That means it take $11,337.00 per year to raise one child.

If that were always true, then that means I would be spending $68,022.00 a year on my six children. I can definitely tell you that I am not spending that much. Does that mean I am depriving them? I think not.

The questions I get on how we actually make it work are legitimate concerns for most people. They just don't see how in the world I can really give all my children what they need. While this is not a post telling you to have a big family, I do want to show people that raising children can be done for less than what you think. Without making your children feel deprived, of course.

What do your children really need? Of course a home to live in that keeps the cold and the heat out, good food to eat, clean clothes that fit. That about covers the basic material needs for survival. Anything else we give them materially just adds comfort. Then, most importantly, they need need love, nurture, safety, support, guidance, relationship, training, and discipline. These are not written in any particular order, of course.

So then, why is it so expensive to have children? Is it really the rising costs of living? Let me share with you something I looked up. In 2006 the median family income was $48,201.00. By comparison, in 1955 the median family earned $4,919 (worth about $35,857 in 2006 dollars). That is less than what we make now, on average. Also, the average family size back then was 3.7 children. I think it is hovering right over 2 now.

Yes, things do cost more. I really think though, what has changed the most is our perception of what is needed. There is a difference between what we need to raise our children and what we want to give them.

It's completely natural to want to provide for, and give things to your children. It's what a loving parent wants to do, but don't let the things you give them be how you show them love. That's where it gets confusing for most of us.

I know that when I became pregnant with my first baby I told my husband that I wanted to give her everything that I didn't have. Now mind you, I wasn't neglected, but at a younger age I wasn't able to be involved in many things nor did I receive many of the things I asked for. I resented that.

As we added more children to our family we had to step back and evaluate how we were doing things. I felt that if I didn't let them be involved in more activities or give them more things, that my children would resent me too, like I did my own mother. I think it was at that moment that I realized that it wasn't the lack of involvement or the lack of things that I resented. It was the lack of relationship.

After that my priorities became clearer. I understood what my responsibilities as a parent were. Yes, I still give my children things. Yes, they are still involved in some extracurricular activities, but it is the relationship that I have with them that matters more than anything.

One thing I want to share with you is that we set goals for our children. A few of these goals are to:
*Raise our children to love the Lord
*Raise our children to become productive citizens. We want them to know how to run a household, how to have a good work ethic, etc..There are obviously more goals that we have for them, but I just wanted to share a quick glimpse with you.

So, what do we have to do as parents to help our children reach these goals? This is how we approach things when making decisions about what we give them or what they're involved in. It makes it much easier.

The responsibilities that we, as parents, have are those I listed at the beginning of this post. Besides the basics of providing them with food, clothing, and shelter. We are to give them love, nurture, safety, support, guidance, relationship, training, and discipline. When we apply these things, it's puts perspective on what's important and maybe not so important for our children.

Like I said, what I have written tonight isn't exactly the practical how to's that i'm known for, but this was just as important to say. It gives value to things that aren't material and encourages family relationships.

Monday, April 7, 2008

How I Feed my Family of 8 for $300 a month Q&A- Part 1

I have gotten asked quite a few questions since beginning my grocery budgeting series. I thought that it would be beneficial to others to share some of the questions I was asked, and my answers. So here we go!

I wanted to ask you, you only spend $70 a week on food. Is it just on fill in what you are missing?

The short answer to this question is, yes. I do try to only fill in what I am missing.

This is one of the goals you should have when trying to save money on groceries. If you're having to buy every ingredient for every meal, it will get expensive.

This is why I put aside at least $10.00 every two weeks out of my budget money. It is to stock up on the great deals. I am starting to get a nice stockpile going so over the last few weeks the money I have spent has gotten even lower. I have been spending right at about $60.00 a week for the last month or so. This has given me even more money to stock up on the loss leaders.

I do still have things that I will have to buy no matter what. Like fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, and meat. Those things will never change.

I have 9 to feed... but we haven't quite got it to $300. How do you convince the kids they don't need milk ? :) I buy whole milk, pour out about 1/3 and fill it up with cold water... no one complains and when it goes down, I add the other 1/3 plus more water! Any other tips?

You wouldn't believe how many people think it's impossible to keep a grocery budget low because they buy so much milk. It is very possible! We go through quite a few gallons every week. What I do is budget for 1 gallon a week out of my money. I then will work a few more gallons into my CVS deals or into a grocery deal that i'm paying nothing for. It works out.

About adding water to the milk to drink. We don't do that, but sometimes I will add a little water to a recipe when it calls for milk. I buy only whole milk, so adding a bit of water doesn't hurt anything when cooking. It's a great money saving tip!

I was just wondering when you say you feed your family of 8 for 300 a month, is that just for food or does that include other things such as paper products, feminine care, cleaning detergents, etc? If it doesn't include those how much do you budget for those other things?

This is the biggest question I get asked by people. The $300 does include everything! If you've read my whole series then you know that I use CVS and Walgreen's to buy all paper products, feminine care, cleaning products, diapers, and more. I will say that my budget before learning to shop at CVS and Walgreen's was about $100.00 a month.

The past several weeks (about a month) we have been spending around $70 a week. It's my husband and I and 3 kids-ages 6,almost 4, and almost 1. I feel like I have to be doing something wrong considering what you spend on your size family. I have been menu planning and I feel like that has already made a difference. I use organic soaps, shampoos etc. I know that cost's more, but I wondered if you have any advice. If I can find a coupon online I will use it, but I don't get a paper. I do a lot of scratch cooking. I don't buy many box foods at all. I don't buy snacks very often either. We do homemade crackers or cereal, or some chocolate chips etc. I'm just wondering if you could give me any helpful advice to get my bill down even more! I don't do the cvs thing b/c I don't use many of those products.

I wanted to put this question in here because I wanted to show how no two families budgets will be alike. If you feel it important to buy all organic, then do so unless of course you just don't have the money. I will buy organic when I can, and we garden as much as possible, but I am not all organic. If I was, then I would need to increase my budget.

For this lady, I would say, get the paper! You never know what coupons you may find. I also say to shop at CVS and get things even if you don't use them so you can get the items you do use free. You can always bless someone else by giving them the items you don't use. Look online, there are printable organic coupons. Plant a garden, raise chickens for eggs and meat, ask your local freecyclers for produce, make your own soaps and cleaners. Even with an all organic diet, you can still save money, you just have to get creative.

Please don't look at my budget and think that you're doing something wrong because you're spending more than I am. There are alot of variables at play when planning a grocery budget. The goal is to save what you can, to make changes in areas where you can save, and to think outside of the box. All of us can lower our budgets by some if we have to, but it may not be the same as what other's are spending.

I think that I will wait and post all of the CVS and Walgreen's questions in another Q&A session. I love questions, so if you have any please leave a comment, or you can email to me at

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Menu Planning Monday: Spent $60.00 again!

This is a great week because we are able to splurge on a shrimp dish, since we were able to get the shrimp for a steal. We also have a birthday party for Baby B this Saturday, so we are grilling out on Saturday.

I just wanted to show you all that you can eat great, splurge sometimes, and still come under budget. My current weekly budget is $75.00 a week. I now have $15.00 this week to spend on any great deals I see. I'm able to keep my budget lower since I stockpile with my leftover money.

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

Monday: Sandwiches and a side veggie--->either raw or cooked
Tuesday: Ham, mac & cheese, and a veggie
Wednesday: Homemade tomato soup
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

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

Carrots and broccoli
Yeast rolls

Shrimp fettucinni

Mashed potatoes
Green beans

Baked squash and zucchini
Garlic bread

Pizza night

Saturday: Baby B's 2nd birthday!
Grilled burgers and hot dogs
Banana pudding

Eggplant parmesan

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Getting stains out of baby clothes

Have you ever been to a garage sale and found a cute outfit for baby but passed on it because it was stained? Or have you ever thrown away an outfit after you tried treating it or bleaching but the stain was still there?

I used to do the same thing, but not anymore. I found a great way for getting even the toughest stains out of my baby clothes. Now of course this works on any clothes that are stained. I just wanted to address baby clothes because spitup stains and little poopy stains ruin so many cute clothes. With having a larger than average family, it's important that I keep these clothes looking good so that I can pass them on to the next baby.

When I take down baby clothes out of the attic and I find some that stained, or when someone gives me clothes that have stains on them I will mix a batch of this up. I have yet to ruin an outfit with it, but if I did, it was already ruined before so I have nothing to lose. Oh, this will also brighten dingy or yellowed whites too!

Here's the recipe:
1 cup of Cascade
1 cup of Borax
Enough hot water to fill a 5 gallon bucket 2/3 of the way full

Put stained clothes in bucket overnight. Take the clothes out in morning and wash like normal. You can also put the mixture and clothes in the tub if it's easier for you, but with little ones in the house I use a bucket with a lid.

Hope this saves someone from tossing clothes out like I used to. Clothes can be so expensive!

For more frugal tips, visit Biblicalwomanhood!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Is there anything more beautiful?

The frugal life, is it just for hard times?

I was reading Carlie's post on how more and more people are jumping on the frugal bandwagon. While that is exciting to me, being the frugal woman I am, I think that some people are doing it because of the recent hype. I hope with all that is happening in our economy maybe a few people will make some changes.

At the end of the post, though, she asked how others are preparing ahead for any bad times ahead. Well, I thought that I would address what we are doing here since my comment was already way too long over there.

This is the comment I left at her blog.

I am not one to listen to all the media hype. Before you boo me, i'm not saying that people aren't feeling a pinch from the jump in the cost of living. We all are! Just remember, the economy has its ups and downs all the time. It's an election year so everything that could be a possible platform for the candidates to discuss is hyped up. It's what draws the ratings up. I am glad that people are starting to take a look at spending habits though. Now, I will step down off of my soapbox.

We have been living frugally for quite awhile. I chose this out of necessity at first, but I live it now because it is a fulfilling way to live. Some of our frugal goals this year are to pay off all debt except for the house, cut back on grocery spending--->done, reduce energy costs, and cut down on our monthly gas spending--->we have cut down on the amount we use, but we are still paying the same amount as before since the prices have shot up. It's always great to be prepared, but don't panic. Use this time to reduce spending and pay off that debt! :-)

As I mentioned earlier in my comment, yes we are coming into some lean times, but don't panic. It is always a wise thing to be prepared for anything that may come our way.

Before I talk about what we're doing as a family, i'd like to share a few traps that people fall into.

The first trap I see is that we, as a society, have become used to a high standard of living. Instead of working and saving for something, we all want to get it now. Why not, when you can make a small payment every month? "Oh, don't worry," some say, "We'll have this paid off in no time. We're due for a raise, or we'll pay it off with our taxes or our bonus." How many of us have said some of these things, but when it came down to it we didn't pay it off? This has increased the panic in many people because they can barely make ends meet now due to the heavy debt burden they carry.

Another trap I see is people spending way too much money in general. I know that for the longest time Scott and I thought we were entitled to spend our extra money. We worked long and hard for that money, so why not! Does that sound familiar? Yes, it's true that we do work for what we have and we do need a little recreational time every now and then. Does this entitle us to spend so much? No.

I know this is not a popular answer, but if you are in debt and living paycheck to paycheck, then instead of spending your extra money, you need to be saving it and paying off that debt. Then you can budget in a little more for recreational spending down the road.

Lastly, people just haven't been taught how to manage a household budget. When I was first married I had no concept of budgeting. At the end of the month I couldn't figure out where all my money went. Frequently we couldn't finish paying the bills eventhough we brought in more than we had to pay out. Many times we were either late on the bills or we used our credit card to pay a bill or buy food. We are still paying for those times 15 years later. Ouch!

So, what can you do to make it through the tough times, or to at least prepare yourself? I'll share with you some of the things we have done and are doing.

1. Put some money into savings, and do it now!
One of the best things we have done is to start a savings account. I don't know many times we would get ahead only to have something else happen that would set us back. How frustrating is that! Now that we have some in savings, if the car breaks down, or the a/c goes out in the house we can pay for it without having to use a credit card! We just start putting back into savings again the next month.

2. Pay off those credit cards
Like I mentioned earlier, we are still paying for mistakes made almost 15 years ago because of credit cards.
Debt is a huge ball and chain. It kept me working when I wanted to come home for many years. We just didn't feel like we could make it on just Scott's income. Between a huge mortgage, two car notes, student loans, credit card debt, most people are drowning just like we were.
Scott and I have a goal to owe on only our house by the end of the year. He is working alot right now so that we can do this. I do everything I can at home to help stretch that money. After we have that paid off we will start putting aside money for a bigger house. I have no desire to have a bigger mortgage, so it means we will be saving for awhile. I'd love to buy a house debt free, but we'll see.

3. Start a budget
This is important. You've got to know where your money is going. It is so easy to spend a little here and there and then before you know it, it's all gone.
While i'm talking about it. Start paying cash for things that you can. I get $150.00 every two weeks for groceries in cash. When it's gone, it's gone. You will spend less if you have just cash, so leave all those cards, including your debit card, at home.

4. Cut back
Where can I save money? Can I cut back on food? What will I need to do to cut back in this area? Maybe you need to learn to cook from scratch more, or how to use coupons, or even start a vegetable garden in the backyard.

To cut back on gas, maybe you need to stay home more or get rid of one of the vehicles.

There are many places in our budgets that can be cut back without making us feel like we are deprived.

If you have to cut back on cable, what can you do that's fun to replace it? Rent movies from the library or redbox. Read a book together as a family. Go outside more. It's not about what you don't have. You might actually be surprised that some of these changes can make your life better.

5. Cut back on energy costs
Change your lightbulbs to CFL's. Turn your thermostat up. Wash clothes in cold water as much as possible. Make sure you have adequate insulation. Put weather stripping around doors, caulk leaky windows. Hang up curtains that are darker so they keep the heat out in the summer and the cold out in the winter. There are many ways you can cut costs here, these were just a few off the top of my head that we have done.

This is just some of the things we have done or are currently doing. while it will still be awhile before we reach our goal, were something to happen we would be able to weather it.

To live a truly frugal lifestyle requires a different way of looking at things than you have in the past. Frugalness is not just for hard times. It is a very fulfilling way to live. One last thing i'd like to leave with you. Eventhough a storm comes our way, just remember that God provides for us. this has proved to be true over and over for us. I just recently wrote on God's provision. Prepare, cut back, pray....but don't fret.