You CAN Cook!

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When my husband and I first got married almost 13 years ago I did not know a thing about budgeting or meal planning. This lead to us spending an exorbitant amount of money on groceries every week and put us deeply into debt. It took hitting rock bottom for me to realize that I needed to change the way we were doing things and this is when I began my education into home management. I realized that I needed to reduce our grocery budget and I had two options stop eating all together or make food from scratch. I enjoy food too much to give it up all together so I decided to start making as much as possible from scratch. It didn’t take long to see the benefit of making meals instead of buying processed food.

Over the years I have had people ask me how I am able to save so much money on groceries and when I explain how, I get the same token excuse, “I wish I could do that but I just can’t cook”. I have talked with moms who are spending $250 a week on microwaveable food because it is quick and easy but unwilling to try a different approach because they don’t think they can cook or simply don’t want to try. The truth is anyone can cook it just takes a little confidence, patience and motivation. The motivation part is easy if your trying to save money but I understand that confidence and patience can take a little time to acquire.

My advice is to start small don’t attempt to cook everything in your cookbook instead find a few simple recipes and practice those. Once you have them down you will feel more confident and with confidence comes patience. Soon you will be confident enough to tackle a variety of recipes. You may even find that you enjoy cooking because not only are you saving money but your feeding your family food that is actually good for them. Even if you don’t find enjoyment in cooking for your family you should still do it because like all chores it is necessary. Processed foods aren’t meant to be consumed at every meal despite what advertisers may tell us because they are too high in sodium, sugar, fat and too many chemicals to list.

Processed Food=Disease + Debt

If your grocery budget is out of control and your freezer is packed with frozen meals than this message is for you. In order to get control of your budget you need to scrounge up a few recipes and get into your kitchen. I know that it’s scary but in this wonderful world of technology you can find YouTube videos, blog post and Pinterest boards to help you navigate your kitchen. YOU CAN COOK! Your family will appreciate it, your health will appreciate it and you will appreciate the extra money in your pocket book. Start the New Year off with a plan to live better and feed your family better food.

 

 

 

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Christmas Shopping on a Budget

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This time of year can be stressful for families as Christmas alone can create a bit of a financial burden. Even families like my own who keep things simple and work with a tight budget can feel that pinch. Every year my husband receives a bonus the second week of December and we use this bonus to not only help with Christmas expenditures but also to catch up on bills. This year the bonus has been delayed and at this point in time we are unsure if the bonus will be given out at all. This situation has definitely made things more difficult but I refuse to allow this bump in the road to derail my Christmas spirit.

I had to adjust my Christmas list a bit and I added a few more homespun gifts into the mix to help make our budget stretch. I hit my local Once Upon a Child ( children’s resale shop) where I found quite a few gifts for my little ones which has helped with my budget. If you are feeling the pinch this Christmas and you are worrying about how to make gifts happen for your kids I encourage you to check out your local resale shops. It is amazing what you can find when you dig a little, for instance, I found a beautiful doll chair for my daughter. This chair is  made from solid wood and after a quick swipe of furniture polish this second hand piece is like new and I know my daughter will enjoy it for many years to come. I found this chair on the back of a shelf covered in dust with a $10 price tag. I found similar chairs online priced for $90 so this was a great deal. I also found unopened packages of Shopkin sets for $2.00 which again is an amazing price.

I think that a lot of people overlook the value in secondhand stores for Christmas presents but you can find a lot of gently used items at great prices. Over the years my kids have received these items and they have loved them just as much as the brand new store items. Another great way to keep your Christmas budget on track is to make some of your gifts by hand. This year I am crocheting hats and scarves for my kids and I know they are going to love them. Over they years I have crocheted, sewed and put together gift baskets of baked goods and they have always been appreciated. In fact these gifts tend to be my favorite to give because so much love goes into making them just right.

Don’t let financial stress steal your Christmas spirit. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend or what fancy new toy is under the tree. In the end what matters most is sharing the true meaning of Christmas with the ones we love the most. It’s the memories we make with our friends and family that are the greatest gifts of all and the ones that will be the most treasured.

 

 

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How do you handle financial stress around the holidays?

Bookstore Adventures

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So you may or may not have realized it yet but I am a major bibliophile (I know that sounds dirty but it just means that I love books and I hoard them). Next to my husband and kids my two greatest loves are coffee and books. When I find a place that combines both it just sends me over the top. Lately, I have been feeling pretty blue and I really needed a pick me up so I headed over to one of my favorite places in the whole world, Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble might just be a bookstore to some but for me, it is a sanctuary. There is just something so soothing about the smell of books and coffee and I can’t help but sniff the air whenever I walk into this store. I am sure I look a bit odd sniffing the air the way a dog might sniff the air but I don’t care it is my therapy.

As I walked around the store dreaming about moving into Barnes & Noble on a permanent basis I stumbled across their clearance section. I took a moment to peruse the items that had been placed under a sign that said “All items $2”.  I found two books for my personal library so I was already feeling like a winner when I stepped to the back of the clearance shelf and saw a variety of toy items that had been clearanced as well. I couldn’t believe it I found a YoKai watch, a collectors album for YoKai with coins, and a stack of YoKai collector cards. I did a happy dance right there in the middle of Barnes & Noble but then I collected myself realizing that this might be a mistake.

I gathered the items clutching them to me in case anyone else saw my deals and attempted an intercept and rushed to the checkout. I presented the items to the cashier explaining that they were on the clearance shelf but I wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be there. After a few quick motions with his scanner, the cashier confirmed that they were part of the sale. Not only were they on sale but they took an additional 20% off with my Educators discount.  I may or may not have embarrassed myself by doing another happy dance but I will never tell. The reason for my happiness was that my youngest son is obsessed with YoKai and really wanted a watch for Christmas. I just got him 2 of his Christmas gifts and a stocking stuffer for under $6. If I would have paid full price for each of these items I would have spent over $40 so I basically won the lotto.

I keep a tight budget for Christmas and I love finding great deals that allow me to stay on track financially. Whenever you are out and about check clearance shelves because you can find great gift ideas at crazy low prices. I have found toys discounted at bookstores, hardware stores, and even a few truck stops so the deals are out there if you look for them. I know Thanksgiving hasn’t happened yet and it is a tad early to be talking about Christmas shopping but I just had to share my bookstore adventure.

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?

***This post is in no way sponsored by Barnes & Noble, in fact, they only know me as the crazy woman who sniffs the air as she walks around browsing books and sipping coffee in their midwest stores***

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

I know that there are a lot of people out there who do not like the flavor of cranberry sauce but I am not one of them. Thanksgiving dinner in my house is not complete without the cranberry sauce. Not only do we enjoy it with the main meal but I like to keep it on hand for leftover turkey sandwiches. I like to spread a little cranberry sauce on my bread and then layer on lettuce, leftover turkey and a slice of Havarti cheese. It might sound a bit strange but the flavors really do compliment one another making this a gourmet sandwich. This is my recipe for homemade cranberry sauce and it is very simple and can be made for under $4.00. You’ll have plenty of cranberry sauce for your turkey dinner and enough to use on sandwiches throughout the week following Thanksgiving.

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Maple Dinner Rolls

Hello everyone I am back to share another holiday recipe that would make a perfect accompaniment for this year’s Thanksgiving Dinner. One way you can keep your budget on track for Thanksgiving dinner is to make your rolls from scratch. I know that the grocery store offers a ton of ready to go options but it is definitely worth it to make your own. Not only will you save money but you will be rewarded with warm, fluffy rolls that will fill your home with the comforting scent of fresh baked bread. This recipe was tested by my kitchen elves and they gave this recipe two thumbs up so I hope your family will enjoy this as well.

Maple Dinner Rolls

Hashbrown Casserole Recipe

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I wanted to share some of my favorite holiday recipes. This particular recipe is one of my favorites because not only does it taste great but it is also very affordable and so simple to make. Sometimes I will make this the night before Thanksgiving and reheat it in my slow cooker on Thanksgiving so I can free up oven space. I am not sure where the original recipe came from but everyone in my family makes a version of this recipe and I know that it is pretty popular throughout the Midwest. I can make an entire 13×9 casserole for under $7 using ingredients that are on sale or generic whenever possible. Tomorrow I will share another one of my favorite holiday recipes so I hope you will stop by to check that out.

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Let me know if your family has a Hashbrown Casserole that finds its way to the table every holiday!

 

$40 Thanksgiving Dinner

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The countdown to Thanksgiving has officially begun and there are only 8 days left! I love the holidays and I enjoy spending time with friends and family but it can get pretty stressful too. Let’s face it Thanksgiving dinner can be a headache especially if you are the one hosting the event. If your finances are already tight this time of year can be more than just a little stressful. According to Fortune, the average family spends approximately $100 on Thanksgiving dinner which is a hefty price tag for most families watching their budget. This year I want to share a few ideas to help you keep Thanksgiving fun and your budget on track.

The first thing I recommend is to sit down a week prior to Thanksgiving and plan your menu. Knowing what your menu is in advance will allow you to price shop and get the best deals. Snag as many grocery store ads as you can so you can compare prices and see who has the best deals. This year my local Kroger store has the best prices so that is where I will be shopping. Once you have your menu planned write down your list but before you hit the store take a look in your pantry first. You may be surprised to discover that you already have some of your ingredients on hand. If you do cross those off your list, grab your favorite cup of coffee and tackle the grocery store. Only buy the things that are on the list because even a few small add-ons can blow your budget.

I am able to keep my budget for turkey day under $40 by making things from scratch. It might be tempting to buy assembled dishes from the grocery store but you’re going to compromise on budget and quality. Keep your menu simple and enlist the help of your family to whip up affordable dishes. Sure you will have more dishes and flour will cover every surface of your kitchen but you will be making beautiful memories and this alone can reduce the stress of preparing a holiday meal. If you are interested in getting recipes for this menu stay tuned because I will be sharing recipes as well as additional holiday tips!

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My Love Affair With the Instant Pot

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I am seriously in love with my Instant Pot. I have been wanting one for the longest time but as a frugal mama, on a budget, the cost has kept me from running out and grabbing one. That is until a few weeks ago when I had enough money left in my grocery budget to finally make the jump and purchase the famed pressure cooker. This turned out to be the best investment I have made in a long time and I am kicking myself for not getting one sooner. If you are sitting on the fence and wondering if it is worth it to throw down $80 for this product then let me assure you that it absolutely is especially if you are wrangling a busy family that is always on the run.

You can find millions of recipes on Pinterest and the Instant Pot comes with a small recipe guide to get you going. They also have a whole line of cookbooks featuring a variety of different styles of cooking as well as recipes geared towards those with dietary restrictions. It truly is a miracle machine you can whip up tender fluffy rice, cook a soup or a roast and you can even bake a cake. Today I made Sesame Chicken and the chicken was so tender it practically melted in my mouth. That Sesame Chicken took me less than 15 mins to make from start to finish which is faster than ordering pizza or grabbing something in the drive-thru. We haven’t grabbed takeout or ordered a pizza since I bought the Instant Pot and that used to be a once a week occurrence. This means that not only has it saved me time but it will save me money.

Yes, I am a nerd and I know how weird I sound but I love things that make my life a little less chaotic. This is my honest review of the Instant Pot and I am not being paid or sponsored to write this post. Seriously though if you are looking for something that will help you cook meals faster without compromising on that home cooked quality than an Instant Pot is what you need. Now that I have poured out my heart and confessed my love affair with my Instant Pot I am going head off to bed and dream of the many recipes I can whip up for my family in the near future.

Saving Time & Money with Grocery Service

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I decided today that I was going to handle my grocery shopping a little bit different. Normally I head to the store armed with my list and ready to battle the hundreds of shoppers in the store for the best deals. For the most part, I enjoy the challenge of grocery shopping and I love to see how low I can keep my bill but it is inevitable that I see things that I want or think that I need.

Our local Walmart just began to offer grocery pickup and I decided to give it a shot especially because they were offering first-time users $10 off their grocery bill.  So a couple of days ago I logged in and created my list and what I really liked was that I could come back and edit the list as needed. Then last night I was ready to finally submit my order and select my pick up time.

Around noon today, I received notification that my order was ready so I headed out to retrieve my order. I have to admit I was a bit anxious because I am a bit of a control freak and I just let strangers do my grocery shopping. When I finally arrived at the store I was surprised with how painless the whole process was. Within minutes of me arriving two employees pushed my order out to my car and they loaded my trunk.

I have to say this was a great experience. It will be a bit of an experiment over the next few weeks to see if I can slash my grocery budget, even more, using this service. Today’s trip was $55 and I have enough groceries for my family of five for the week. I was able to keep my bill low because I only selected the items that I absolutely needed and there weren’t any extraneous expenditures. If I can keep my bill low consistently using this service I may have just found a great way to save money and time.

 

Have you used a grocery pickup service? What was your experience?

How Trial Sized Shampoo Bottles Can Save You Money!

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When you have a large family that is comprised mostly of little ones you learn very quickly that some things like toilet paper and shampoo disappear very quickly. I still haven’t figured out a way to stop the hemorrhage of toilet paper in our home but I did discover a neat trick for making the shampoo last a little big longer.  Little kids have a very hard time measuring out the correct amount of shampoo to use on their hair and this leads to a waste of shampoo and excessive soap buildup in their hair.

I will never forget the one time my daughter came downstairs after her shower and I could see her hair was slick with shampoo. I discovered that she had used a half a bottle of shampoo on her hair and struggled to get it all out it took me almost 20 minutes to rinse it all out.

It didn’t seem to matter how many times I showed them the correct amount to use because they always used way more than necessary. My daughter complained that it was because the bottles were too big and it was hard to squeeze a small amount and that it came out of the bottle too quickly.  One day while walking around our grocery store I happened to pass the trial size section in the health and beauty department and noticed that the little shampoo bottles were the perfect size for little hands.  I purchased several, one for each child, and filled them halfway with shampoo and gave them to the kids. I was surprised to find that it really did work because the bottles are smaller they have more control over how much shampoo comes out and it saves me money because we are no longer throwing shampoo down the drain.

This little trick may not save you hundreds of dollars a year but it will save you money because it will reduce the amount of shampoo being washed down the drain and it will shorten shower time. It can take a long time to rinse half a bottle of shampoo from your hair but just a few minutes to rinse away the correct amount. This means that alongside your savings in shampoo you can save a little money on your water bill as well. Every little bit does count in the long run, now, I just need to figure out away to stop the waste of toilet paper in our house.

 

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