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Monday, October 29, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

I haven't quite figured out breakfasts and lunches for this week, although I did end up making waffles this afternoon, so we'll have those for breakfast tomorrow.  As for dinners, here's how this week looks:

Monday: Turkey Enchiladas
Tuesday/Wednesday: Navy Bean Soup, Cheesy Biscuits
Thursday: Dollar Dinner at the Beacon
Friday/Saturday: Cheesy Chicken Rice Casserole
Sunday: TBD

I only had the menu planned to the end of the month, but we've missed a few meals due to other switching around, so I just shifted everything back a few days.  So some of these might look familiar from last week. 

Tiny Prints Contest Winner!



Did you enter my Tiny Prints giveaway?  Congratulations to the winner...
Comment #6, Rachel!  I hope you enjoy your holiday cards!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Coupon Shopping at Home Depot, Lowe's, and CVS

My first freebie is actually from yesterday, but the offer is still good through today, so I thought I'd mention it.  Bath & Body Works is offering a free mini candle with no purchase necessary on their Facebook page.  I picked up a pumpkin one for fall.

Another Facebook offer: Home Depot has a Zombie Mulch game on their page, which you can play to earn coupons.  I had some extra time yesterday afternoon while the kids were sleeping, so I played (it took me 30-40 minutes to earn all the coupons).  You do have to use each coupon separately, so here's what I did:

Transaction #1:
  • Winter shovel: $13.98
  • 2 smallest pots: $0.70 and $0.78.
  • Used $15 coupon from game = should have paid $0.59.  I realized later that I got charged for one of my other pots twice, so this total was $1.84.
Transaction #2:
  • 4 biggest pots: $5.28, $2.98, $1.25, and $0.78.
  • Used $10 coupon from game = paid $0.31
Transaction #3:
  • Christmas lights: $5.48. 
  • Used $5 coupon from game = paid $0.52.
I paid for the extra charges with my Jingit card, which had $22.56 to start.  So no money out of pocket there! The pots and lights I am planning to use for a craft project, which will hopefully be a cool looking Christmas decoration.  Look for that sometime soon!

Next I went to Lowe's.  Earlier this month, they were offering a $10 coupon to new e-mail sign-ups.  I'm not sure if that is still valid, but it's worth a shot if you aren't an e-mail subscriber yet.  Here's what I bought there:
  • Pan organizer: $8.99.
  • 8 tiles (for a craft project): $0.16 each.
  • Used $10 coupon = paid $0.29 on my Jingit card


And finally, I went to CVS, because they were running one of my favorite "buy $30 of P&G products, get $10ECBs" deals.
  • 3 Pampers Jumbo Packs: $8.99 each.  Used one $2/1 (P&G 10/28/12) and one $1/2 (P&G 9/30/12) = paid $23.97/3.
  • Huggies Wipes: $3.49. Used $1/1 (September All You) = paid $2.49.
  • Crest Toothpaste: $2.99. Used $1/1 (P&G mailer) = paid $1.99.
  • Used $0.50ECBs and $5/$30 baby products (CVS coupon machine)
  • Total: $22.61.  Used remaining $19.60 off my Jingit card, meaning I spent $3.01 out of pocket and got $10ECBs!
I am super excited about shopping trips like this!  It takes a little bit of planning, but a chunk of time where I don't have the kids along makes it easier.  Yay for good deals!

What I'm Reading...

18 Signs That You Move Around A Lot.  I can relate to most of these. (Small Notebook)

Five Mindsets That Are Imperative For Frugal Living.  These are all important, but they are certainly all challenging as well. (Money Saving Mom)

Iron Craft Week 22.  The week of the unfinished objects.  I've been doing a terrible job of keeping up with these challenges, but I have at least two projects I can think of (no, 3, I just thought of another one) that fit with this theme.  Perhaps I will try to do at least one of them... (Just Crafty Enough)

A Bright + Organized Entry.  While I don't know that things will necessarily change in our entryway too much, I do have plans to create some sort of mail/bill paying station somewhere in our house, and I found this post inspiring for figuring out what you need, and finding solutions for that. (I Heart Organizing)

Decorating On A Dime: Keepsake Boxes.  I've had these as an idea for a long time, but I have yet to make any. (Money Saving Mom)

7 Tips For Hospitality On A Pastor's Wife's Budget.  For future reference... (Money Saving Mom)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How I Make Money While Staying At Home

I am a stay-at-home mom.  That means I don't get a paycheck to contribute to our family's finances.  However, I do have a few ways I add a little bit to our budget. 

I use Swagbucks to earn Amazon gift cards, which I use to buy diapers or baby wipes, plus occasional "fun" items, like House dvds or toy cars for birthdays.  Swagbucks is a search engine like Google, which rewards you randomly for your regular searching, plus offering additional opportunities to earn with various activities on the site (surveys, bonus codes, special offers, polls, etc.).  I make anywhere from $10-$25 a month in Amazon gift cards from this site.

Two easy sites to earn a few points on are MyPoints and RewardPort.  While both of these sites offer other ways to earn (which I don't do), the easiest way to get money from them is click-through e-mails.  Each e-mail offers you a few points just for clicking the link in it.  I usually get enough points per year from MyPoints to get two $10 gift cards to various stores or restaurants, and enough points from RewardPort for about $20 in Amazon codes.  These are slower to earn, but the e-mails are pretty consistent, and it doesn't take much time to click through the e-mails once a week or so.

Finally, my newest favorite way to earn is through Jingit.  This is a site that pays you for watching a few short ads and answering questions about them.  I check this site every day, which posts the links for the videos of the day.  For spending less than 5 minutes a day watching ads, I earn $20-$25 a month, which I can load onto my Jingit debit card and use to shop anywhere.

While all of these little bits of income are not going to make us rich, they do help supplement our grocery budget, or give us a little bit of fun money.  None of them takes much work, and I like knowing that I can contribute to our finances, even if it is just a little bit.

Some of the links in this post are my referral links.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Breakfasts:

Monday: Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins (leftover from last week)
Tuesday: Cereal
Wednesday: Oatmeal
Thursday/Friday: Whole Wheat Chocolate Pancakes
Saturday: Cereal
Sunday: French Toast

Lunches:
Dinners:

Monday: Eggs and English Muffin Bread
Tuesday: Pizzadillas
Wednesday: Cheesy Broccoli Chicken Rice Bake
Thursday: Dollar Dinner at the Beacon
Friday: Sour Cream Beef Casserole
Saturday: Beef Enchiladas
Sunday: Navy Bean Soup, Cheesy Biscuits

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What I'm Reading...

The $10 Of Toys That Replaces $15,000.  Apparently parents will spend $15,000 per child on toys.  I realize it's an average, but that seems so high!  While I wouldn't go with the $10 of toys alone, I would like to think we'll spend far less than $15,000. (The Minimalist Mom)

Be Informed: Grass Fed Vs. Candy Fed Beef.  Cows eat sprinkles.  Who knew? (Don't Waste The Crumbs)

Saving Money: Big And Little Wins.  I'm definitely a "little win" kind of person most of the time. (Simple Mom)

I May Be Boring But I'm Not Bored.  "Meal plans excite me. So does my son willingly brushing his teeth. I’m content with and fascinated by things I once thought mundane like having a family no-spend day once a week." (The Minimalist Mom)

Save Time In The Kitchen With A Little Prep Work.  This is what I do.  So I like to read about it when other people do it too. (Easy Homemade)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Target Coupon Shopping

I'm still sticking with my idea of not using coupons unless we needed the items right away anyway, but all of these items were needed.  I had $1 and change left in my grocery money before this trip.  But...I won a $100 Target gift card in a sweepstakes, and it came in the mail this week, so I was able to use that for this shopping.

  • 2 All Free & Clear Laundry Detergent: $3.99 each.  Used $3/2 printable and two $1/1 Target printables = paid $1.49 each!
  • 2 Up & Up Kleenex: $0.99 each.  Used two $0.50/1 Target printables = paid $0.49 each!
  • Mission Tortillas: $2.25. Which is actually about $0.25 cheaper than Walmart.  Who knew?
  • Total spent: $6.72.

Have You Started Your Christmas Cards Yet? And A Giveaway...

There are 68 days until Christmas.  Isn't that crazy?  I've been working on getting things ready behind-the-scenes at our house: working on my Advent Calendar, coming up with a gift list and plans for getting everything done with time to spare (no working on presents in the car on the way to someone's house this year!), and even thinking about our Christmas card picture.

Have you thought about yours yet?  I decided to do a little bit of looking around on one of my favorite photo and cards sites, Tiny Prints, for some inspiration.

For my Christmas cards, I do have a few requirements.  They have to include a Scripture passage - Christmas is all about Jesus' birth!  I like this one (Behold Joy) for the passage.


I also like lots of spaces for photos, usually one family shot and a bunch of the kids, plus pictures of big events from the year since we also include our yearly family newsletter with the cards.  This one (Seasonal Sprinkles) is fun and festive and has lots of photo spots.
And then, I found one I really like.  Bible passage? Check.  Several photo spots? Check.  I still have a little while to keep looking, but I think this one (Born This Day) might be the winner.
We still have to take a good picture, and we are probably going to be late on mailing out the cards this year, because, let's be honest, we're finding out if baby #3 is a boy or a girl about a week before Christmas, and we want to share.  But that doesn't mean I can't get my cards done ahead of time.

And so can you!  Tiny Prints has generously offered to give one of my readers a $50 credit off of their total order.  Now you can get to work on your cards too!  The code cannot be combined with other offers, and does not include tax and shipping.

To enter, just leave me a comment telling me what your requirements are for your Christmas cards. Please make sure to include your e-mail address when you comment so I can contact you if you are the winner.

The comments will close at 11:59pm (central time) on October 28, and the winner will have 24 hours to respond with their mailing information so I can get them their code.

While you're waiting to find out if you're the winner, be sure to check out the Tiny Prints Special Offers page for more good deals.

This is a sponsored post.  I received a Tiny Prints credit for writing it, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Breakfasts (I think I need to go back to assigning these to specific days, because I'm getting lazy and we keep eating cereal):
Lunches:
  • Ham Sandwiches x2
  • PB&J/Soups x2
  • Grilled Cheese
  • Quesadillas
  • Sem Wives at Old Country Buffet on Saturday
Dinners:

Monday: Sausage and Olive Pizza
Tuesday/Wednesday: Bean Soup, Homemade Bread
Thursday: Dollar Dinner at the Beacon
Friday: Dinner at Bethany (Jesse is helping judge a debate tournament, so we'll tag along for dinner)
Saturday/Sunday: Beef Stroganoff (one of my Grandma's recipes), Cheesy Biscuits (these biscuits are one of our new favorites, and they're super easy!)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What I'm Reading...

I didn't spend a ton of time reading the blogs this week, but here are a few posts I did find interesting...

Do You Hate Clothes Shopping As Much As I Do? In a perfect world, I would have time and money to go shopping for great clothes, but since that's not realistic, I think this idea is awesome. (Pocket Your Dollars)

Finding Out The Sex Of Your Baby: Pros And Cons.  We find out. The plan is to keep finding out, until we have both genders. And then if we have more kids after that, it can be a surprise. (Offbeat Mama)

Sour Flour And Grain Bugs: Eaten And Explained.  Kind of gross, but informative. (Don't Waste The Crumbs)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cub Foods Coupon Shopping

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may have noticed the discussion I was having yesterday about coupon shopping, and how I don't really plan on doing it very often any more.  I've come a long way from when I first started couponing and I bought EVERY "deal" I found, but even now, buying only things we'll for sure use eventually, I still spend more on stocking up and end up going over budget because I have things on my list that we need now.  

I'm still going to grab my free inserts when I come upon them, although I'm giving the big coupon box a rest, and switching to the file-by-insert method, so I can just clip the few coupons I know I'll use (diapers, wipes, and cereal), and find any others if I need them for freebie deals that are posted.  It's just not worth the time or money to me to sit and clip them all at this stage of my life.  And what used to be a fun thing to do with Jonah, where he would take the extra clippings and "beep" them like he was doing his own coupons, turned into Jonah and Matthew dumping bucketfuls of expired coupons all over the living room.  That pretty much cemented the fact that we were done.

That being said, the stars aligned for me today: Cub's daily deal was for cereal, which we ran out of this morning.  My pregnancy craving was for chips, which I had expired coupons for (so only good at Cub), and they had a deal on Powerades, which Jesse likes to drink.  Plus, we needed to get milk with one of our WIC vouchers since we were almost out of that too.  So I went.


Here's the breakdown:
  • Cap'n Crunch and Life Cereals: $1.49 each with $10 purchase.  Used $1/2 Quaker items (All You October) = paid $0.99 each (my target price for cereal).
  • 2 Lays chips: $4.29 each.  Used two $3/1 printables (from a Facebook promo last month) = $1.29 each. (The chips that were on sale for 2/$5 were too small of a size.  Disappointing!)
  • 10 Powerades: $0.69 each (booklet coupon)
  • Total spent: $11.97*
*I paid $14.97, but then checked my receipt in the car because that seemed off, and sure enough, only one of my $3 coupons had gone through.  So I hauled the kids back inside to get my $3.  A quarter or something I may have let slide, but not a few dollars!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Breakfasts:
Lunches:
  • Turkey Sandwiches x2
  • PB&J/Soups x2
  • Quesadillas
  • Grilled Cheese
  • Dinosaur Nuggets/Soups
Dinners:

Monday/Tuesday: Slow Cooker Jambalaya
Wednesday: Mashed Potato Soup, Easy Cheesy Biscuits (didn't make these last week)
Thursday: Dollar Dinner at the Beacon
Friday: Chicken and Black Bean Taco Salads
Saturday: Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas
Sunday: Sausage Spinach Penne Skillet

Extras:
  • Tomato Soup and Chicken Enchilada Chili (didn't make these last week)
  • Some kind of cookie or bar...perhaps I should check my Pinterest boards for inspiration?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What I'm Reading...

Final Lessons Learned From A Pantry Challenge.  These are all awesome lessons, but I think my favorite is "Don't buy things unless there is a specific purpose". And, to go along with that, How To Stock Up On Meat When You're Already Over Budget.  I recently found this blog, and I feel like I'm very similar to this person in terms of shopping and budgeting habits.  (Don't Waste The Crumbs)

The Invasion Of The Pokemon.  This is how I feel about trains in our house. (I'm An Organizing Junkie)

5 Healthy, Organic Items & Affordable Alternatives.  We don't do a lot of organic stuff. But, these are good ideas for making smart switches without going broke. (Green Your Way)

Day 2: Basic Hand Sewing.  This site is doing a 31-day walk-through of some basic sewing stuff.  Cool.  (Simple Homemade)

The Mom Stays In The Picture.  I so needed this reminder.  I am not photogenic at all. If I don't purposely make really big wide eyes, I look drugged in every. single. picture.  So I have a habit of not being in most photos.  But for my boys, I will make that exception.  (Huffington Post)

In Defense Of A Small Home Library.  I went through my book collection several months ago and purged quite a few.  I picked some I knew I would never read, and a lot that were available on my Kindle for free.  I don't miss them, and I still read.  (Home Your Way)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Advent Calendar Project

So quite a few weeks ago, I posted about The Advent Calendar Project, which is a weekly project to make an ornament to go in a pocket calendar, one for each day in December leading up to Christmas (so, 25 total).  They're on week 16 (I think?).  I haven't made any ornaments yet, although I have a whole bunch of ideas saved.

One of my monthly goals for this year (for November, but I started early) is to make an Advent calendar for our family to use.  I knew I wanted to make one with pockets, so we can have options for the month of December.  An ornament a day?  Sure.  A piece of paper with a special activity? Why not.  A little treat for the kiddos?  Maybe.  So I came up with this plan.



I promise, it makes sense to me.  I still haven't finalized the design for the background, although it is going to be mainly red.  But I have started working on the pockets.



I cut out lots and lots of pieces.  25 fronts, and 75 sides (left side, bottom, right side for each pocket).  I grabbed the number patterns from a pattern book I have for various kid learning toys, and I worked on those during naptime, so I could focus and make sure they're (mostly) centered.  That's the tricky part.  So now, while the kids are playing, I can pick up whatever number pocket I'm on, and fill in the white.  Because I'm just doing filler work, I can watch the kids and not mess up.  Yay progress!

I still have to figure out how to for sure finish the massive two-panel background, design and make the decorative top, finish and attach all the pockets, and figure out how to hang it (and stabilize the sides so it doesn't curve inward).  Good thing I still have a couple months...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Breakfast Bars


I forget exactly where I came upon this recipe, but we've tried many variations and it has always turned out delicious!  It's not exactly a granola bar, but it's a soft, chewy, filling bar that we normally eat for snacks or breakfast.

Breakfast Bars
(ingredients listed are for a full batch, but pictured above is a half batch):

Ingredients:
  • 4 1/2 cups oats
  • 1 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup add-ins (chocolate chips, craisins, chopped nuts, etc.)
Directions:

In microwave safe dish, melt butter and honey together.  Add vanilla extract.  Mix oats, flour, and baking soda in large bowl.  Add liquid ingredients and stir to combine.  The mixture may seem a little bit dry, but that's just fine.  Fold in mix-ins.  Press into 13x9 pan, and bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool completely before cutting.

You can substitute peanut butter for some of the butter or honey listed above.  Combined with chocolate chips and chopped almonds, that's another one of our family favorites!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

Now that our month-long breakfast challenge is over, I'm just going to stick with having a list of breakfast choices, and picking one the night before, rather than assigning them to specific days, as I currently do for lunches.  If that works out horribly, I'll go back to assigning them, but this way, if I'm feeling lazy and there's a "cereal" or "oatmeal" day remaining on my list, I can go to bed without making anything.

Breakfasts:
Lunches:
  • Ham/Turkey Sandwiches x2
  • PB&J/Soups x2
  • Quesadillas
  • Grilled Cheese
  • Egg Salad (me)/Muffin Tin (kids)/Soup (Jesse)
Dinners:
Monday/Tuesday: Cornbread Taco Bake
Wednesday: Breakfast Sandwiches on English Muffin Bread (because we never tried this last month and it still sounds good)
Thursday: Dollar Dinner
Friday: Crockpot Beef & Broccoli
Saturday/Sunday: Hobo Packets (in the oven), Easy Cheesy Biscuits

Extras:
  • Veggie Broth (I didn't make it last week because I didn't get any onions yet)
  • Creamy Tomato Soup and Chicken Enchilada Chili for lunches
  • Breakfast Bars (a not-quite granola, not-quite bar, kind of bar) for snacks

Think Outside The Box Challenge: Final Thoughts

We did it (pretty much)!  We went an entire month without eating cereal for breakfast!  You can see all that we had to eat here.  Sure, there were a few mornings when Jesse and the boys wanted cereal instead of what I had planned, and we had the trip to Michigan for my Grandma's funeral where we were limited to what our hotel offered, but otherwise, this month was a success!

I had a few goals for this challenge:
  • Spend less money on boxes of cereal.  I think I bought 4 boxes of cereal that were part of a deal, and spent only a couple dollars on them.  Success!
  • Make more REAL food.  I did a lot of baking.  We ate oatmeal.  We had eggs.  Overall, we ate a lot of items with ingredients I can pronounce.  Success!
  • Try new recipes.  (See list below) Success!
New Recipes That We Tried (in no particular order):
I found that we did best when breakfast was already set to go, even if that meant taking a few minutes the afternoon or evening beforehand to make it up.  The good news is that most of the breakfasts I picked were ones that I could make ahead of time.  The ones that weren't, especially the eggs, got substituted for something else a lot of the time.  I already kind of knew this about myself, but now I know for sure: if we are going to eat things besides cereal for breakfast, I need to make sure to have them ready to go before I go to bed.

So what now?  My goal is to continue to have non-cereal breakfasts at least 4-5 mornings a week.  Cereal can still be an option, but I'd rather have it be a once-in-awhile thing than an everyday occurrence.  Since I am continuing to add recipes to my Pinterest boards, and we've found some new favorites, this shouldn't be a problem, as long as I keep planning ahead.  Look for breakfast to continue to appear on the meal plans on Mondays!