Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bare Bones October

We've decided to challenge ourselves and our budget for the month of October.  In an attempt to accurately determine how much we can actually do without, we are going bare bones this month.  We have drastically reduced the spending amounts for each flexible category in our budget, and completely eliminated a few for this month.  If we are able to maintain this budget, we will be on track to pay off the remainder of one student loan this month and sock away about $1200 into savings.

This will be a good test for us to see if we really, truly are ready for the lifestyle changes and sacrifices that will come with moving to one income.  If things go well, we're hoping to be on one income within 6-10 months.  In the meantime, we plan to stay on the pared down budget and put away some serious money into savings to cover the C-section birth of our next child.....hopefully, within the next 2 years.  We have insurance, but no maternity coverage.  From what I can tell, a C-section in this area costs about $15,000 on a cash pay plan.

I'll keep you updated during the month to let you know how we're doing.  I'd love to hear if anyone else has a budget goal they're working on this month!

Debt - Part 2 - Change Your Mind

Financial Friday

The first thing that we had to do, when we decided to start our debt repayment plan, was to change our minds about how we viewed debt. We knew we didn't like having the bills and monthly payments, but we really began to look at it as a burden and weight that was holding us back from some of our life goals.

We were newlyweds, and one of our main goals was to create a solid marriage relationship. This is still our goal. We strongly felt that being in so much debt could potentially strain our relationship in the future. We had a discussion a few days ago, and we both realized that neither of us can recall an argument about our finances. This isn't to say that we don't disagree from time to time about how our budget will be allocated, but it just isn't a heated issue.

Our second major life goal was to have children. There was no way we could afford kids with such a huge amount of our income going toward debt and interest each month . We just didn't have the extra money to pay for the doctor, hospital, furniture, clothes, diapers, etc. We both wanted to be very involved in raising our children by having a parent home most of the time. This goal seemed so far away for us, but it was also so important to us that we knew we would do what it took to make it a reality.

With our changed mindset and defined goals, we knew where we wanted to go. The question was, how to get there?

The #1 most important thing that we did was NOT CREATE ANY MORE DEBT. None whatsoever. For any reason.

We took the credit cards out of our wallet. We decided that we were not going to buy anything that we wanted to finance. No new cars, no new furniture, no expensive vacations. The amount of integrity that this simple principal adds to your life is utterly indescribable. For the first time in many years for both of us, we were completely paying our own way. We weren't relying on debt to make up the difference at the end of the month, or to pick up the tab when we felt we "needed" or "deserved" something that we didn't have the cash to pay for.

Rather than desiring possessions and luxuries, we began to desire freedom. Freedom from the limits imposed by our debt. Freedom to live a life of our own design. Our thinking changed. Our lifestyle changed. These weren't sacrifices, they were choices. Looking back, I think it's one of the best choices we have made for our relationship.

When I was in college, I never stopped to think all those times I was using my credit card to pay for new clothes, concert tickets, or pricey dinners out with friends, that it would impact my life for years. I didn't stop to think that it would impact my future husband's life. I essentially traded those temporary and trivial things for years of worry, stress and hard work. If we hadn't taken such an aggressive approach toward our debt, I might even be telling you that I had traded those things for my marriage or for time with my son.

If you have debt, I encourage you to take a look at your own life goals and how you view your debt.

More in the debt series next week. If you missed the first post, you can read it here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


It's the dreaded "D" word.


Why does no one tell college students about the dangers of debt? At least no one told me or my husband when we were in college, and I was even working on a business degree. I guess we just thought that the debt was inevitable or the only way to get by in college, and we would end up with wonderfully high paying jobs when we graduated and it would be no big deal to pay it back. I really don't remember what I was thinking. Then reality hit. All I know is, I woke up one morning with a degree in one hand and a pile of credit card bills and student loans in the other hand.

Very soon after we were married, I became passionate about reducing our debt. I had two main motivations. First, I had heard from numerous sources that financial issues were the main cause for divorce. Second, I reall
y wanted to have children and be able to stay at home with them.

So this started our journey toward debt payoff. I read books, attended workshops and seminars, made a budget and a debt repayment plan. We invested a lot of hard work and determination toward our goal. Within two and a half years, we had paid off a total of $38,ooo in debt consisting of credit cards and a vehicle loan. We had also stashed 6 months living expenses in our savings account.

Now, our work and family situations have changed, but we're still chipping away at those student loans, and next the mortgage. We use a budget, and pay off our credit card each month.

I'm telling you this, not to boast, but to encourage. It can be done, and we are proof! You don't need a business degree, expensive programs or high paying jobs. We use several "tools" to help us in our debt repayment. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be sharing these tools with you. In the meantime, I've posted links to some good reads to the left, under "Great Articles".

Monday, September 28, 2009

Homemade Teething Biscuits

My poor son has been teething for two solid weeks now. Each time he goes through a teething bout, it seems that we have to find something new to help. In the past we've used ice wrapped in a washcloth, a wet washcloth, teething rings, vibrating teethers, soft spoons, and a leather coin purse. This time around, the only thing that seems to help are those teething biscuits. I buy the natural, organic ones that are about $4 a box.

We ran out yesterday, so I decided to try making my own. I used a recipe from this book, and they turned out good, just not as pretty as the store bought ones. I love the idea of making my own, because I know exactly what's in them and I can make them into any shape I want (making sure to round any sharp edges). Not to mention that it's so much cheaper than $4 per box.

We're traveling this weekend, so I think I'll make up another batch to take on the road with us. The only question I have is how to store them. I don't think I want to store them in an airtight container, because they'll probably soften up. I'm guessing maybe wax paper or a brown paper bag? Please feel free to leave any suggestions in the comment area.

Visit We are THAT Family for other WFMW reading.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cheap Greeting Cards

Back when I had lots of time on my hands (pre-motherhood), I would make these beautiful handmade greeting cards. Okay, so that was one of the first things to go when I became a mommy. I just don't have time in my life right now for that, but I do still want to send cards to people. Have you bought a card at the store lately? Seriously, I think $3 or more each is ridiculous!! So I have come up with two tightwad solutions:

Solution #1:
Send an e-card. I've been doing this on a limited basis for years, but now I try to send one to almost anyone that regularly checks their e-mail and won't be offended by not receiving a card in the mail. There are a lot of great sites out there for sending free e-cards. One of my favorites is Dayspring.

Solution #2:
I know for some occasions or people, it's just not appropriate to send an e-card. When I'm shopping the local thrift stores, I always browse their card selection. Since they don't take up much room, a lot of the stores just throw them all into one box or basket and most shoppers just overlook them. I have found so many great cards in like-new condition for pennies. I prefer to stick to buying blank cards with nice pictures on the front, making sure that I get a selection for men, women, and children. This way, I can have them on hand to use for all different occasions. I have found that most people really appreciate a nice blank card that I've written something thoughtful in, rather than the typical store-bought card with a name signed to the bottom. No more last minute stops at the store for a $3 card on the way to a birthday party!

I usually pay $1 for 10-15 blank cards or small thank you cards. I have found one store that sells the typical store-type greeting cards for 50 cents......still a great deal. I will buy one of these, if I find one that is appropriate for a specific person/occasion and make sure that I also write something thoughtful along with the pre-printed sentiments.

Visit beingfrugal for more Tightwad Tuesday ideas.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Good-bye Microwave - Part 2

So it's been a few days since we retired our microwave. I kept a list on the refrigerator and wrote down each time that I missed having the microwave. After 5 days, this is what I have:

I Miss My Microwave When....
I warm up my cooling cup of coffee
I melt cheese on top of stuff

I heat lanolin to soak with wool diaper covers

I forgot to take something out of the freezer for dinner until 4:00 p.m.

I heat syrup for pancakes

I melt/soften butter for cooking

I warm up leftovers for lunch

So okay, none of these really seem to be pressing issues. Most of them are really just convenience uses. I'm finding that, of course, there is always an alternative way to heat/warm/defrost/melt something. Sometimes that way is more time consuming. I already have problems with patience. I don't have any. So this has been good for me to have to wait more than 60 seconds to heat up my lunch.

I'm not saying that I'm thrilled with the situation, but I've decided to give it some more time. Maybe this is just microwave withdrawals? Only time will tell.

On the bright side, I LOVE having all of this extra space on my kitchen counter top. My husband keeps putting things there to fill up the space, but I keep moving them. I like looking at the open space, and it's been great to be able to spread out a little more when cooking.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Making Our Home a Haven

This is my first time participating in the Making Your Home a Haven Monday that is hosted at Tammy's Recipes.

This week's topic is morning routines. The mornings in our home are a little hectic because it is the busiest time of day for me as a work from home mom. I am so blessed to have my husband home to help out most days. Since I am so busy, I do already have a routine down, but of course there is always room for improvement. Here's a list of 5 things that I'm going to try to get done EVERY morning:

1. Snuggle with hubby for 10 mins. after alarm before getting out of bed. This simple routine adds so much intimacy to our relationship, especially on those super busy days when we don't get to have a lot of face time.

2. Mommy time: 30 mins. for me before everyone else gets up to pray, read the bible, and drink coffee.

3. Take a break to eat breakfast with the family. I'm working at breakfast time, but I can usually schedule things to have a few minutes free to sit down at the table and eat with my husband and son. I love the flexibility of working from home!

4. Put clean dishes away. Work slows down for me around 10:00 a.m., and my wonderful husband has done the breakfast dishes, so I like to make sure that I put them away.

5. Wipe down the bathroom after showers, hair and makeup routines are done.

A lot of these things happen most of the time, but I am going to work on making sure they happen every morning. It's so great to have small goals to work toward the larger ideal of making our home a haven for our family!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

K-Mart Double Coupons

I made a trip to K-Mart today to take advantage of their double coupons up to $2 deal. This is what I came home with:

Rubbermaid Produce Saver - 2 c. size
Maybelline mascara 2pk
Sally Hansen nail polish
First Aid cloth tape
Wet Ones
Schick Xtreme 3 razors - 6pk
Satin Care shave gel

After coupons and tax the total was: $11.05. Not bad, considering several of the items were on my list, and I would have been buying them in the next week or two anyway. I always try to get things on my shopping list early, so I can hold off for a couple of weeks and watch the sales. This time that method paid off!

I know not all stores are participating, so call and check first if you're not sure. Good Luck!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

This week's menu planning was super easy. We're leaving town Friday morning to spend some time with my family, so I'm off the hook for the weekend. We also had some changes in our menu last week, so I had some meals that I carried over to this week.

Monday: Veggie Burgers & Fries

Tuesday: Meatloaf & Rice

Wednesday: Squash Soup & Homemade Bread

Thursday: Eat up all the leftovers before we leave town!

Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Out of town

Hoping you have a great Monday! For other yummy Menu Plan Monday ideas, visit Organizing Junkie.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Simplistic Saturday

We've been working diligently at adding more simplicity into our life. I've often found that adding simplicity means subtracting a lot of other "stuff" and making my priorities match my values.

This week was spring break for the schools here. While we don't have children in school yet, it does affect our lives because my husband's counseling practice consists mainly of children, teens, and families.

It was great to have him home with us more this week. In order to take advantage of this break, I decided to say no to a few play dates and mom's group activities. It's not always easy to say no to these things, especially when you feel like other mom's rely on you to be there. I also miss the socialization time with other mom, but there is definitely a time and place for these things. My marriage and family are my priorities.

Instead, we stayed home and spent time together. Yesterday afternoon my husband, who loves woodworking, had a chance to build a spice rack for me that he's been planning for a couple of weeks. While he worked, me and my son were in the yard with him, playing in the sand box and enjoying our dogs. It was so wonderfully simple!

Part of my simple living plan is to designate one day a week for a day of rest. This day is Sunday. So no post tomorrow, but check back on Monday for my meal plan posting and more.

What have you done this week to add more simplicity to your life?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Financial Friday

Welcome to Financial Friday!

Friday is the day that I sit down and pay bills, balance the checkbook, and update the budget. I just feel better if I can do it once a week. When I go longer, it seems too overwhelming, and I then will procrastinate......which makes it even more overwhelming. If you don't have a regular schedule for managing your finances, I really encourage you to start one. Even if you aren't thrilled about where your finances are at, it really makes things more manageable if you have a handle on where you stand financially.

As part of our simplifying this year, we've gone to paying cash for a lot of our expenses. But there are still some things that it's just so much easier to pay with a credit or debit card. When I have to fill the car up with gas, there is no way that I'm going to unstrap my son from the car seat, stand in line behind the lotto fanatics to put $20 on the pump, go back out and pump the gas, go back in and stand in line again for my change, go back out and strap my son back into his car seat. That's definitely NOT simple!

I use a coupon accordion file to keep track of our cash, just like you would with an envelope system. At the first of the month, I look at our budget and total up the amount of cash we'll need for the next two weeks. I write a check for cash, and make sure that I get the correct change to be able to break it down into the different categories in the accordion file. I do it again in the middle of the month. That way, if we overspent in the first half of the month, we can try to make up for it in the last half by adjusting in that category.

I am really liking the simplicity of the cash system. I don't have to save receipts and worry about getting them into the budget and/or check register. Once the transaction is over, that's it. I only take the money out of the file that I plan on spending and leave the rest at home. This way, I have to consciously plan to overspend before I use my debit card to make up the difference. I do have to be careful to make sure any leftover change gets put back in the file. If not, we tend to spend it on who knows what and then wonder what happened to it. I also find it easier to save a little here and there when I have the actual cash, rather than just a number in my budget and the money in the bank. If I save just $5 from each of the categories, this can really add up!

I keep track of our budget in an Excel spreadsheet. I wouldn't recommend this for everyone. I work in accounting, so I have a good knowledge of and am very comfortable in Excel. I say do what works best for you.....just make sure that you're doing it!

My husband hates the Excel spreadsheet. He would rather it be on old fashioned ledger paper. The problem is, he hates doing paperwork, so I do it. Since I do it, I am going to do it the way that is easiest and most efficient for me. I do printouts occasionally for him. As far as he's concerned, we're doing okay if there's still money in the accordion file.

Friday is a great day to sit down and manage your finances. It's good feedback for how your week went. I like knowing where we're at by Friday so when we're planning our weekend, I will know what we have in our budget for house projects, yard sales, entertainment, etc. It keeps it from hanging over my head all weekend, and frees me up for living a Simplistic Saturday.......tune in tomorrow for more on that.

Do you have a regular schedule that keeps you on top of your finances? What budget system works best for your family? I'd love to hear your comments!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Creatively Frugal

Today was a day for combining creativity and frugality. I really don't enjoy sewing, so I've been letting a couple of projects pile up. Today was a really slow work day for me, so I thought I would take the opportunity to work on that pile.

My son is quickly outgrowing his cloth diapers. We make our own pocket diapers. I had already cut them out and sent them off to my mom for piecing together -- she has so much more time and sewing ability than I do and loves helping out even when she's six hours away. I really needed some diaper covers for the new diapers. I prefer to use wool wraps during the daytime. After looking at them online and realizing it was going to cost a small fortune for us to stock up, I began looking for other ideas.

I went to the thrift stores earlier in the week and picked up some nice wool sweaters. All of the thrift stores here have their winter clothes at 50% off, so I ended up paying $1.50 - $2.00 per sweater. I had washed and felted them, so I was all ready to go with the sewing today. I ended up making three wraps, and one pull on for $4 total. This saved me over $50! I am not great at sewing, so it did take me a few hours, some seam ripping, reworking, and a little frustration......but I am thrilled that I saved $50.

I've been needing a bag for our clothespins. We just put up a new clothesline (using free steel posts that we received off of freecycle). Since I had all of my sewing supplies out, I decided to dig through the rag bag and find something to create a bag with.

I found some great canvas-type material with a pretty floral print (leftover from place mats that I made a couple of years ago). I cut out a design and pieced it together. At this point, I passed it on to my husband to scrounge up the piece of wood and hook from the shed. I can never find anything in that shed!

In less than 20 minutes, I had a brand new clothespin bag swinging in the breeze. It was so easy to make, used scraps that we had on hand, and saved me from having to buy one. Not to mention that I get the satisfaction of looking out the kitchen window and seeing my own creation hanging in the yard.

Hoping this inspires you to find creative uses for supplies you already have on hand!

For more great Frugal Friday tips, hop on over to Life as Mom.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good-bye Microwave

One of the things that I've really been working on since the beginning of the year is simplifying. Since the birth of my son, over a year ago, I feel like my life has been non-stop running. I am a work-from-home mom, help my husband with his business, and also have volunteer commitments. With this being my first child, I kept thinking it would just work itself out in a couple of months. After not much of a change 10 months later, I really decided that I needed to be more proactive and simplify......for my sanity. And also to make the things that are really important more of a priority.

I've read lots of books about the subject and cleaned out lots of closets, but that's not enough. I've reorganized my schedule, streamlined my work tasks, and re-ordered my housekeeping. All of this as my husband silently stood by just thinking that that was another phase. A couple of days ago, while we were on a walk through the neighborhood, he finally asked me about it......after almost 3 months. I guess I was so convincing, now he's in the mode too!

Tonight, as I was cooking dinner, he casually suggested that we get rid of the microwave. I had to stop and look at him to see if he was serious. He has always had this little weird suspicion that the microwave "radiates" our food to an unsafe for consumption state, so I thought this was going to be another talk about that.

"Why?" I asked. "Because we don't use it that much" he said. But what about when............
and I listed a few scenarios, and for each he had an answer. Pretty much use another one of the several other appliances that we have in the kitchen, or do it the "old fashioned" way.

At first, I was really against the idea. Everyone has a microwave. I mean everyone.....don't they? I don't think I've ever been to someone's house that didn't have a microwave. Even my 90-something-year-old blind great-grandma had a microwave. With newer houses they come built-in. This idea didn't sound like it's going to "simplify" anything in my life.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we really don't use it that much anymore. When my son started eating solids, we would warm them with warm water, on the stove top, or in the toaster oven......mainly because my husband was so freaked out about the whole "radiating the babies' food" thing. (I know, I can't even write it without smiling.) But in my tired and bleary state of newish motherhood, it was just easier to comply. It just sort of happened that we got out of the habit of using it. Even now that I'm cooking more, I'm using it less. Mainly because I'm cooking mostly homemade-from-scratch meals and relying less on prepackaged and prepared foods.

So, here it goes. I'm still not in a 100% (maybe like 90%), but I really want to support my husband's effort to join me in simplifying our lives. We took it out and put it in the office, as a trial. If after 3 days, we find that we really don't "need" it and miss it too much, I will find a new home for it. Who knows, maybe it will simplify our lives even more.

Any bets? Will it stay or will it go?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Free Storage Containers

Here's my Tightwad Tuesday tip:

Looking for some FREE sturdy storage containers for your bulk foods?

Try your local grocery store bakery. I called the local Fry's bakery, and they were more than happy to give me their empty frosting and glaze buckets. These are perfect for storing bulk foods like flour, sugar, oatmeal, rice and beans. They have a sturdy handle and good lid that snaps on tightly to keep out any moisture or bugs. Just be sure that you wash them out and let them dry very good before using them.

The ones that we've gotten that didn't have lids are used in the yard and garden.

For more great Tightwad Tuesday tips, visit

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pinto Bean Casserole

We had pinto beans leftover from a couple of days ago. Around my house, no one really likes to eat them plain after they've sat in the fridge and thickened up. This is a great recipe to use them up. I also like it because it's a whole meal in one. Maybe add a veggie or salad for the side, and you've got dinner. So easy!

Pinto Bean Casserole

1 lb. turkey sausage
2 c. pinto beans
2 T. minced onion
1 can of diced tomatoes with green chilis (or appropriate substitutes)
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 recipe of cornbread batter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook turkey sausage and minced onion. Drain well and crumble into a 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish. Next, layer pinto beans tomatoes, and cheese. Top with cornbread batter. The batter will run down throughout the casserole. Bake for 30 minutes, or until batter is cooked through.

The first time I made this, I used a whole recipe of cornbread batter and ended up with a huge mess and a very dirty oven. Not to mention it took a LOT longer than 30 mins to cook. Now, I still make the full cornbread recipe, but bake corn muffins with the other half.

You could easily stretch this one into a 9x13 dish, by adding more of your favorite ingredients from above and using the full cornbread recipe.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

March is the first month that I've done a menu plan for the whole month. I love the whole concept of the menu plan because it takes the daily stress out of it all. No more wondering "What in the world am I going to make for dinner?"
"Didn't we just have that two days ago, or was it last week?"
"What am I going to do with all of these leftovers?"
"Oh, forget it! We'll just go do takeout.....again."

On the downside, I like to try to plan meals in line with the weekly grocery sales and whatever we get in our twice monthly produce co-op basket. Not knowing these things in advance, this month I just started with the main dish basic ideas. At that beginning of the week I filled in the sides or switched things around a little depending on what was on sale or in the co-op basket. If anyone has a better suggestion on how to do this, I would love some suggestions. Please leave a comment!

So here's this week's menu:

Monday: Pinto Bean Casserole (leftover beans from last week) corn

Tuesday: Corned beef brisket, cabbage and carrots, Irish soda bread

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Veggie Burgers, homemade fries and salad

Friday: Squash soup and homemade bread

Saturday: Spaghetti and homemade meatballs, green salad, garlic bread sticks

Sunday: Leftovers

I know it looks like I plan a lot of leftovers, but when we cleaned out our fridge at the beginning of this month we realized there were a lot of leftovers that we let go bad. We've made it a goal for the month to try to use up or freeze all of our leftovers and produce. My freezer is really full right now from the great turkey breast sales a couple of weeks ago, so we're trying to eat up all of the leftovers. We also try to use them up for lunch. This works out great because my husband LOVES leftovers.

For other great meal plan menus, head on over to: $5 Dinners who is guest hosting for Organizing Junkie this week.

Have a great week!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

7 Grain Breakfast in the Crockpot!

I love to do breakfast in the crockpot! It is soooo easy, and I love not having to worry about cooking when we have a busy morning. We like oatmeal, but get tired of it occassionaly. Here's a recipe for what I made this morning. I make this ahead in large batches and store in an empty oatmeal container.

7 Grain Cereal

1 c. brown rice
1 c. barley
1 c. whole oat groats
1 c. kamut
1 c. rye berries
1 c. wheat
1 c. quinoa

To cook: For each serving, add 1/4 cup of grain mixture and 1 cup of water to crockpot. Cook on low overnight for 8-10 hours. Serve with milk or yogurt to make a complete protein.

We also like to add peanut butter, cinnamon, honey, raisins, prunes, or diced apples....not all at the same time. Experiment to see what your family likes. If you add the fruit and cook it with the grain, it gives it a great flavor and naturally sweetens it.

This makes 28 servings at 13.5 cents per serving. Of course, your cost will depend on what you pay for the different grains. I found all of these at our local natural foods store. Some of them were organic, so more expensive.

Some of the grains may sprout overnight. Don't freak out. The first time I did this, I was totally surprised in the morning when there were teeny, tiny little white things in the mixture. I thought at first it was worms. Upon closer inspection, I could see that the grains were starting to sprout. This is actually supposed to be really healthy for you. It's pretty tiny and once you realize what it is, it's not that not gross to eat.

I have two crockpots. One is the little one for dips and fondues. This would be great if you're making one or two servings. The other one is ginormous.....great for cooking a whole chicken or turkey breast, but not so great for cooking 4-6 servings of hot cereal. Crockpots are most efficient if they are at least 2/3 full. My solution is to use an oven safe glass bowl that fits inside my crockpot. Just put all of the ingredients in there and cook away.

Hope you enjoy this healthy, economical and time-saving alternative to traditional hot breakfast cereals!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Find out when your stores do markdowns

Last week I just happened to do some grocery early Saturday morning on my way home from picking up our co-op produce. In the past, I have tried to avoid the grocery stores on the weekends. They are always so crowded and usually understocked. I was pleasantly surprised to find that no one shops at 7am on a Saturday morning. I also found tons of markdowns on dairy, bakery, and meat items. I stocked up on organic milk for $1 for 1/2 gallon, lunch rolls for $1 doz., and various meat items for well below sale prices. These items were expiring within the next 1 or 2 days and the store cannot sell them after that date. I've found that if you use them up quickly or freeze the items, the expiration dates are fairly arbitrary. This is where our freezer comes in handy. I repacked the meat and bread into freezer bags and appropriate portions for our family and froze most of it, along with most of the milk. Milk freezes great, and thaws pretty quickly in a sink full of cold water.
I went again this Saturday morning, and found some similar deals, just not as much as last week. I will definitely be making a point of doing some early Saturday morning runs to the grocery stores to check the markdowns.
I encourage you to find out when your stores do their markdowns and shop them to get some great deals and stock up your freezer.

Good Luck!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Whole Grain Pumpkin Muffins

I was looking for a healthier muffin recipe and came up with this:

Whole Grain Pumpkin Muffins

3/4 c. milk (I used reconstituted powdered milk)
3/4 c. oat bran
1 egg
1/4 c. canola oil
1/4 c. molasses
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. rolled oats
2/3 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 t. salt

Combine milk and bran cereal in medium bowl. Add egg, oil, molasses, pumpkin, and brown sugar; mix well. Add remaining ingredients, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fill 18 medium size muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

They turned out great! My one year old ate 3. I think next time I will experiment with adding some wheat germ. This is a great basic recipe and you can substitute whatever you have on hand in place of the pumpkin. I'm thinking maybe diced apples?


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Coupons on Ebay

In searching for online printable coupons, I came across people selling coupons on Ebay. While they technically don't sell the coupons themselves (doing so would be illegal), you are paying for their time and handling.

So, I gave it a try, twice so far.

My experience has been good and the shipping seems to be pretty quick. I have only searched for multiples of specific coupons that I was wanting, but I do see where you can buy a lot of say 100 grocery coupons. I don't think I will go that route, because there are just so many coupons out there. I would rather know exactly what I'm paying for and getting.

For example, I ordered a total of 20 coupons for items that are on sale this week. If you check your ads as soon as they come out and order the coupons right away, you will most likely get them before the sale is over. For the 20 coupons, I paid $2.00. Shipping was free. If I use all of them, which I'm planning to do, I will save $17.50. So my net savings will be $15.50, minus the less than 5 minutes of my time it took me to find and buy them on Ebay.

I know some stores have a limit on how many of one specific coupon they will take, so you might want to check on that before buying a lot of multiples.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Recipe sites

Here's 2 new recipe sites that I came across.

1. This one is awesome for giving recipe ideas for what you have on hand. Great for stretching the grocery budget to next week or next month

2. I know it's a little early, but this one has tons of Christmas recipes from candy and cookies, to good breakfast and party ideas.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cheap Kid's Clothes

Many stores are having their summer clothes clearance sales and this is the time to stock up for next summer at awesome prices!

In Prescott Valley:

Kohls has infant and toddler clothes up to 90% off. There's many items right now for $1-$2 and they're good brands.

K-Mart has their clearance racks for infants and toddlers and everything is marked $2.99. There's lots of 2 piece sets, so this is a good deal.

I'm sure there are similar deals at other stores, but these are the two that I've seen this week.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Universal Casserole Recipe

This universal casserole recipe is great for mixing and matching whichever ingredients are on sale each week. The creative possibilities are endless!

1 cup main ingredient
1 cup second ingredient
1-2 cups starchy ingredient
1 1/2 cup binder
1/4 cup "goodie"

Main ingredient suggestions : tuna, cubed chicken, turkey, ham, seafood
Second ingredient suggestions : thinly sliced celery, mushrooms, peas, chopped hard-cooked eggs
Starchy ingredient suggestions : thinly sliced potatoes, cooked noodles, cooked rice
Binder suggestions : cream sauce, sour cream, can of soup
"Goodie" suggestions : pimiento, olives, almonds, water chestnuts
Topping suggestions : potato chips, cheese, bread crumbs

Thoroughly mix your combination of the above ingredients. If it seems dry, add 1/2 cup milk or stock. Place in buttered casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Check your electric rates

I know that many people don't even know that there are
different rate plans for residential electricity. Our
house is electric only and our bill always spikes when
the weather turns colder. On the APS website
( can now get a rate comparison for
your account to make sure that you're on the best plan
for your specific usage. When you request the rate
comparison it analyzes your actual usage over the past
12 months, and forecasts which plan would be the most
cost effective for you in the future. There are
several different rate plans available, based on the
time of day that you use the most electricity. It
only takes a few seconds and it could end up saving a
lot of money.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Review your health insurance plan

e just reviewed our health insurance plan and decided on a different plan that would not only serve our needs better, but also save us over $30/month.
A lot of companies do their open enrollment around this time of year, when you are allowed to switch insurance plans.
It really is worth the time of going through your past bills and trying to estimate your health insurance costs for next year, in order to choose the best plan for your family.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Check your receipts!

fter checking out yesterday at the grocery store, I found an error on my receipt. When I took it to the customer service desk, the manager told me that it is the store's policy to refund the entire price of the item (which they do not advertise). I had bought two and used a coupon. The manager was not interested in dealing with the return of the coupon, so just gave me the full price refund. After it was all finished, the store actually ended up paying me to buy these items. Take a few seconds to review your receipt BEFORE you leave the store and it could save you some money.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pre-paid Cell Phones

I just wanted to share with you a way that we've recently managed to save another $40-$50 per month. Maybe this will help someone else save a little too.
Our contract was up for our cell phones and after investigating all of our options, we found that it would be significantly cheaper for us to go with prepaid cell phones. We could eliminate them entirely, but don't feel comfortable doing that for convenience, health and travel reasons.
If you're not familiar with prepaid cell phones, here's a brief explaination of how they work. You buy the cell phone and a phone card. You call an 800-number with all of the information about the phone and the phone card and the minutes from the phone card are loaded onto your phone. Most major retailers carry both the phones and cards in stock. We got ours from Wal-Mart. The phones are usually pretty inexpensive. You can buy the phone cards in different denominations, and for most companies, the cost per minute decreases with the more minutes that you purchase at one time. (One thing to note is that the phone cards also have an expiration date. For example, the card may be for 300 minutes, but it expires in 60 days.) Before it expires, you have to buy another card and recharge the phone with additional minutes. Some companies roll-over your unused minutes and adds to the recharged minutes, but with other companies you just loose them.
The lowest monthly plan that most traditional cell companies offer in our area starts around $40, or an emergency plan for $15 that gives you about 25 min/ month. With the prepaid company that we chose, the minimum is $12.50-$15.00/month with 125-150 minutes - depending on the quantity of minutes purchased at one time.
I was suprised to find that there are so many different companies that offer prepaid cell phone plans now. I think Wal-Mart has at least 6 different ones to choose from.
We ended up going with NET10. We liked the NET10 option, because there are no monthly/daily fees, all calls (including long distance and roaming) are 10 cents/min, and all unused minutes rollover when you re-charge and add more minutes. The phone was $40 and came with $30 worth of minutes. The prepaid phones work off of the same networks as traditional cell phones and we haven't had any problems with reception. In fact, this phone actually picks up in a few more places than the old one.
Another great thing about the prepaid phone is that it always displays how many minutes you have left. I think of it as budgeting our minutes. This really makes you think twice about using your phone when you're only two minutes from home or when the call can just wait until later. I love the fact that I always know exactly how much I'm spending on the cell phone each month, without waiting for the bill and realizing there were overages or other fees. (This might also be a good idea for teens.)
We were using our free night and weekend minutes on our old cell phones for our long distance, and now are using cheap phone cards (about 3 cents/min.) or PhoneHog (FREE - see their website) on our land line. With all of these changes, our net savings per month has been between $40 and $50, depending on our usage.
Of course the savings would be different for everyone and this probably would not be cost effective if you use your cell phone a lot, but it's just another idea to help cut a little more out of the monthly budget without sacrificing a lot.