Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A note from my sisters...

What can I say, we get our frugal-ness honestly.  My relatives jokingly called my Mom, "Mary Burkett" for years.  (after the late, Larry Burkett, Christian financial radio speaker and author)  My sisters have both recently messaged me a few "hints" and good ideas...and thought I'd pass them along.

My sister, Krista, is married and just had her 3rd baby.  She makes me look like a spend-thrift, the way she shops 2nd hand stores, makes her own-everything, and saves $$$.  She's stretched dollars while her hubby has been in medical school, and now residency. 

In the past, she structured her meals around what she could buy at ALDI.  If she couldn't get the ingredient there, she didn't make it.  (simple, eh?!)

I also love the story of George and Krista "enlightening" their friends about the bargins they get at ALDI...only paying .99 for a jar of spaghetti sauce.  The guy (who also had just cooked them a gourmet dinner) was amazed and said that he pays "like 8 bucks for spaghetti sauce at Whole Foods."  (and maybe he was exaggerating, but it makes for a funny story)  He said he'd have to check it out. ;)

Here's a few tips from my sister, on baby items:
Baby Wipes Idea #1:
"I have made wipes...super easy out of flannel (double the flannel and zig-zag around the edge)or you could just use baby washcloths. I have a small bottle of water that I use to wet them before I use them. They work better than regular wipes and you're less likely to get anything on your hands :) Someone we know has also made their own wipes out of paper towels soaked in some solution."

[Note: I've tried the recipe for homemade baby wipes, and even used *Bounty* paper towels...I didn't care for how they turned out (too thin), I made a mess, and felt that it was easier just to buy them.  Do what works for you.  I'd definitely try the homemade ones, though, if I sewed.  I prefer to use my hot glue gun, or send it over to Grandma Bobbie, if it really needs sewing. LOL!]

Baby Wipes Idea #2:  For infants:  cut them in half!  Their bums are so tiny to begin with.  A whole wipe is too much! (saves double!!)

1. Buy generic...although I usually "splurge" for a few weeks and buy the "Pampers Newborn Snugglers"--they're just SO cozy ;)
2. Go cloth:  it's the "in" thing to do now, and they're much nicer than they were 30 years ago!  My sister found the cheapest place to order online:
I considered it for about 1.5 minutes w/ my 4th baby, and decided, "Nah, I have other things to worry about than washing diapers and my laundry is already mountainous" :)  I definitely would've done it w/ my 1st, if I knew more about it back then.  I have lots of friends that use them and love them.

Baby Food:
1. Breastfeed-as long as possible!  I made it 1 year with my last 2 babies.  It's the healthiest and the cheapest:  Organic for free!! 
2. Make your own baby food.  It's really not that hard.  Thankfully, I had a cheap-o mini food processor. I just pureed a little of our supper veggies.  Either refrigerate for a few days, or freeze in ice cube containers.  My kids ate a lot of sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, and avocados.  They loved it!  (and do your own research, but from what I've read, it's better to wait to feed grains till at least 1 year, maybe 2...veggies, meat, & some fruits are best)

Special "Baby" Detergent for clothes:
~I just used my regular homemade laundry soap instead of Dreft.  None of my babies had issues...but some do.  You can make the laundry soap with a different bar soap than Fels Naptha.  Try Ivory, or even Castille bar soap.

The best baby/baby gear advice I got, were actually from several piano students' moms.  (seasoned, wise ones :)
*You don't need ALL the stuff that's advertized.  Stick with the minimums.  (I'm kinda bent this way, anyway)  For example: if your house is small, you don't need a baby monitor.  ("Ah!  Never thought of that!")
*Another mom said, "Our first baby was born in the summer, had a few onesies and slept in a medium sized tupperware tub"  (kinda shocked me, but, hey, we don't really need all the stuff we think we do, right?!
*Another one said, "If the baby comes before the nursery is done, don't sweat it.  They're never going to know or care, if the room gets painted before or after." (thank you, fellow-type-A-mom!)
She also suggested keeping the nursery a neutral color, or at least one that could be paired with either blue or pink, that way decorating is not a complete overhaul, when another baby comes along, and it's not the same gender.

On another note: Healthy eating vs. "Cheap eating"
(as explained by my sister on a recent Facebook message, Leah)
"I love your blog post! I didn't want to write it on the comment, but I get so frustrated when people talk about or write on Facebook how expensive it is to eat healthy. If we ever need to, (like we want some new electronic item, haha, and want to save all extra money), Nathan and I can eat for a week on $30-50. Bulk rice and beans, meat from the freezer, spaghetti, PB&J, left-overs for lunch, oatmeal for breakfast, tuna, a big bag of carrots and a big broccoli or whatever other vegetable. Anyway, that's my soapbox! Hot dogs and mac & cheese are not cheaper!"
And I wrote back:
"Amen, sister! Preach it!!
I had an epiphany, when I realized that "junk" food is just as expensive as healthy food. So, just re-arrange priorities, right?! :)"

    Sunday, April 28, 2013

    A Few Cleaning Recipes:

    Frugal Household Recipes:

    Laundry Soap:

    1 bar Fels Naptha Soap, grated                            1 c. washing soda

    1 c. borax                                                             1 c. baking soda

    4 gallons of water

    ~Mix grated soap into 1 gallon hot water. Simmer mixture on stove till soap is dissolved.  Take off heat and stir in washing soda, borax, and baking soda. (In that order!!!)  Stir.  Pour into 5 gallon bucket, and add 3 gallons of water and stir.  Let stand 24 hours to thicken.  Pour through a funnel into used liquid detergent bottles, or leave in 5 gallon bucket.  Use 1 cup per load…more for bigger, dirtier loads, less for smaller loads.

    **Optional: For extra greasy, muddy, dirty clothes, I sometimes add 4-5 cups of Tide liquid detergent to the bucket and stir.  Borax, washing soda, and baking soda are all laundry boosters, so for extra-soiled laundry, add ½ cup of either of them in place of Tide.  **Vinegar- in the fabric softener dispenser works just as well, but cheaper and healthier!

    Household Cleaner Solution:

    Spray Bottle: 3 pts. Vinegar + 1 pt water  (use on sinks, toilets, mirrors and glass)

    Scouring Powder:

    1.     Baking soda (a few shakes) + vinegar (a few splashes) for sinks and toilets (scrub away)

    2.     1 c. baking soda

    1 c. borax (dangerous if ingested)

    ¾ c. table salt

    Mix together and store in a well-labeled shaker. 


    Homemade Spray N’ Wash:

    1 c. distilled water

    1 c. rubbing alcohol

    2 t. Dawn dishsoap

    Mix together and store in well-labeled spray bottle
    P.S.  I just discovered that this works GREAT on windows, appliances, bathroom fixtures, etc...


    Shower Scrub:

    Mix 1 c. baking soda in disposable bowl; add Dawn dishsoap till paste forms.  Using a scrubby or scrub-brush, scrub tub and shower down.  Rinse with water.  **For an organic alternative, use the baking soda + castile soap**

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    17 Ways To Cut Down On Your Weekly Grocery Bill...

    Grocery Shopping:

    Saving money on grocery shopping is an art form!  What works for one person, may not work for another.  They key is finding out what works for you and your family.  I am slowly learning what works best for us, and how to fit it into our weekly budget for groceries.  I have 2 main goals: Eat nutrient-dense foods and do it as cheap as possible!  It seems like an oxy-moron, right?! J Here’s what I’m learning:

    1.       I have a plan.  Saving money starts with a plan.   I never go to the store without a written plan.  I usually J don’t stray from my list.

     After I had my 2nd baby, I thought to myself, “Ok, I’ve got to get this figured out!  I need to be organized.”  With 1 baby, I could kinda float through my day, still keep an impeccable house, serve gourmet meals, and keep my peace through the whole process.   Well, things around my house have changed.  I’ve realized, that I cannot afford NOT to be organized and have a plan.  Yes, my house is no longer immaculate, a lot of times it’s more “crazy” than “peaceful”, and some nights are a lot less than gourmet, but I do have a plan, and work hard to stick with it.  Whether it’s my menu planning, grocery store list, or my daily routine, I’ve found that the key is being INTENTIONAL and having a plan!

    2.       Make a Menu! I have a weekly menu list.  Before I make my grocery store run, I go through my list and make sure I have all the ingredients to the meals I plan to make for the week.  This includes looking at the calendar to for-see “unusual” meal-events coming up: company on the weekend, my contribution to a Sunday Dinner,  a cookout or potluck, or FPU meal night!  It takes me maybe 5 minutes to make.  I actually made a list in my “Brain In A Binder” Organizer of “Fast Meals” and “Goff Family Favorite” Often, just looking through the list of meals, gives me inspiration for the particular week.  It also helps me not make the same old, same old every week.  I don’t like to be boxed in too much, so I just make a list of meal options.  I don’t assign a particular meal to a particular day, unless we’re having company (and I make a “company-style/sized” meal) or we have a very busy day and I don’t have time to make a meal.   I plan ahead for either a crockpot meal or a freezer meal, in that case. 

    3.       I take $150 in cash for weekly groceries and that includes food, paper products, and any household products that I may need.  I’m being transparent here, but when we first started FPU, I kinda wanted to see what our allotment for food looked like compared to other families.  When we first got married, we spent $80/week…4 kids later, it’s doubled. J  We like to eat, and all of us, even down to the 2 year old, eat a lot!  We also have near-weekly company or “potluck” with another family…so, food is pretty central to how we live ‘round here.  I’ve had to come to grips with the “nerd” in me that naturally wants to be appalled at the amount of $$$ I spend at the grocery store.  I’m sure we could spend WAY less on groceries, if we only had 1 kid and never invited people over.   However, I’ve learned, food means mealtimes, fellowship & relationships, and to us, it’s worth it!

    4.       Make a priority list: distinguish between wants and needs.  “Junk food” is just as expensive as “healthy food”  Should we cut out pop, chips, crackers, and kid-snacks, so we can afford more fresh fruits and veggies, and maybe treats like wild salmon, every once-in-a-while?  I quit buying most junk foods (pre-packaged crackers, granola bars, cookies, pop) a while ago, and it has freed up more $$ to spend on nutrient-rich food.  (I DO still buy chips sometimes—it’s a treat in my hubby’s lunch…what can I say…it’s one of his love languages!  J)

    5.       Shop the perimeter of the store: that’s where the “healthier” foods are located.  Milk, eggs, cheese, fruits and veggies, and meat are along the perimeter.  That’s where 90% of what we buy should come from. 

    6.       Shopping for health and cooking with more “whole” foods is my goal.  I’m trying to get away from buying foods with a long shelf life—there are no enzymes in those foods!  Pre-packaged crackers, cookies, candy, juice, etc.  If it won’t mold…don’t eat it!! J

    7.       Cook from scratch: buying raw ingredients is ALWAYS cheaper!  (that’s why couponing hasn’t worked for me)  Think: bags of dried beans or rice vs. canned beans and rice-a-roni, or boxed plain pasta vs. macaroni & cheese or hamburger helper.  Do we really cook from scratch?  No, we DO buy boxed pasta, spaghetti sauce, bread, condiments, and some canned fruit.  But, I’ve found that it’s tons cheaper AND healthier to cook/bake from scratch.  Crackers, cookies, broth, beans,tortillas, cream of _______soup, seasoning mixes (taco, onion soup mix, etc), etc…I make from scratch.  I will do a separate post with recipes for these things.  And yes, sometimes convenience wins, when I am short on time during a particularly busy week.  But, it’s a conscious choice I make, not just a default mode, to buy prepared food.

    8.       Speaking of prepared food, I make my own!  I do “freezer cooking.”  I’m not regimented about doing this once-a-month, or anything. But, when I cook hamburger I’ll cook 10 lbs instead of just 2 lbs. Since I already have the pots dirty, I might as well cook ahead!  It saves me time for other meals, to already have the meat cooked.  The same goes for when I’m making a chicken casserole, spaghetti pie, pie crusts, tortillas, bread dough, biscuits, lasagna, or even cookies!  (Many times, I’ll double the recipe and freeze a roll of cookie dough, wrap it in wax paper, and voila!  I have my own healthy-version of “slice and bake cookies”  It saves time, when the kids and I have an inconvenient craving for freshly baked cookies! 

    When I make bread, I mix it up in my Bosch mixer (my favorite appliance, btw)—it makes bread-making a snap!  I just dump all the ingredients in, and it does ALL the work.  I take the dough out, divide it 6 ways, bake 2 loaves and freeze the rest of the dough.  Fresh bread available whenever!!

    9.       Buy in bulk!  I buy my dry-goods about 2 x’s a year.  We buy a hog and ½  of a beef once or twice a year.  My hubby hunts, so we have venison in the freezer.  We also started [a “homeschool-project” w/ the kids] raising our own chickens in the summer, so we usually have a freezer full of whole chickens, as well.  It helps the weekly budget IMMENSELY, not to have to buy meat every week.  It also helps my brain space, to not have to think, “Do I have Oatmeal? Rice? Beans? Meat?”  I know that I have those!  Menu planning is a snap, when I already have the meat in the freezer!  Store meat, makes me too nervous…I suppose I’ve read too much, to eat it all the time. (ha,ha J)  [The meat I DO sometimes buy at the store includes: lunchmeat (the natural, nitrate-free kind), canned tuna and salmon, and frozen fish)]

    Also, I do the same thing with paper goods.  When my preferred brand of paper towels go on sale, I stock up.  Same w/ paper plates & cups, zipper bags (freezer, sandwich and storage),diapers, female products, etc.  I have some friends that go to Sam’s 1x a year and buy a year’s supply of paper towels, toilet paper, and etc.  I like that idea.  I do the same for cleaning ingredient supplies. (I make my own, and will post my recipes.)

    The Key:  *Reduce my weekly grocery shopping to food, as much as possible*

    Note: To afford the “bulk shopping”, I use “extra budget” cash.  I DO NOT try to scrimp and save up grocery money each week, to buy my blueberry splurge in the summer, or the ½ hog we purchase, or the dry-good’s shopping trip.  Money that comes in a chunk, like a tax return, a bonus, or money that I’ve earned usually goes to fund these expenditures. 

    10.   Saving $$$ at the store takes an investment in t-i-m-e.  It’s taken me awhile to figure out what my priorities are.  There are seasons where I’ve been able to go to more than 1 store and/or price match.  Since I don’t live 5 minutes from a big grocery store, I really do have to plan and prepare beforehand.  I know people who have good success with super-couponing, but I’ve found that it’s cheaper to buy the generic brand, the buy-1-get 1-free deals at Meijer, shop at a discount store or buy dry-goods in bulk.  The more time I invest in my shopping (looking online at the ads to price match, going to more than 1 store, etc…), the more money I save.  I’m in a very busy season raising and homeschooling 4 kids, so I often don’t spend a whole lot of time doing that right now.

    11.   Utilize a pantry.  It’s a smart thing to do.  Even the Federal Government recommends having 3-6 months supply of food on hand, in case of a national emergency.  I’ve been hearing this from more and more sources.   I love this idea more for convenience purposes.  For me, it’s very handy to have a “stockpile” of ingredients on hand, since we live about 30 minutes to an hour away from big grocery stores.  I always keep ingredients for tacos, spaghetti, and breakfast on hand.  Those are meals I can always fall back on.

    12.   Keep tabs on where the cheapest place is, to buy your favorite brands.  I live in the middle of 3 towns that have grocery stores/farms that I buy food from.  For example: I buy Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter—at Meijer, it’s more expensive, so when I’m at Walmart, I instinctively know to grab a few extra jars of P.B., when I’m there. 

    13.   Grow a garden!  Fresh and cheap…and organic too!  You can freeze the extra for winter-time soups and sides!

    14.   Take a sack lunch!  I started making Justin’s lunches right after we got married…I’m sure it has saved us lots of cash, by him not eating out ALL the time.  I try to be creative, fun, budget-conscious and healthy. (more of these ideas in another post)

    15.   Eat less meat and more beans.  (more on this in another post)  Look for other ways to add protein: eggs, beans, etc…
    16.  I am simple in my meal-plans...and my kids are learning to like "kid-unfriendly" foods: beans, all veggies, fish, yogurt... I've also switched them over from carbo/sugary ($$) snacks, to fruit and veggies.
    17. Teach yourself how to cook from scratch, if you don't know how.  We have the Internet, so there are NO excuses!  I have looked up recipe tutorials, on SO many things.  And, for visual-learners like me, there are pictures and/or videos, to SHOW you!  Or, find an "older" lady in your church who loves to cooks, and knows all the "tricks of the trade"...who is willing to teach you.  My Mom taught me how to cook, but she didn't teach me everything.  I've taught myself how to make fool-proof, delicious yogurt (even Greek Yogurt), tortillas, bread, etc!  Those "intimidating" foods...that seem SO hard to do.  I've found, all it takes is a willingness to learn and experiment.  Practice makes perfect!
    And: do you know HOW cheap it is to make a gallon of yummy yogurt for your family?  Basically the cost of a gallon of milk + a few Tbsp of yogurt starter= cheap!! and healthy!  (and for a quart of yogurt from the store, is $3.79, for the good kind: Stonyfield Organic)
    On Health and Budgets:
    ~Now, I know it’s tricky to be shopping for health and staying within the budget.  I was in a conversation at one of the FPU classes, where people were expressing frustration over the cost of “healthy” food verses “cheap” food. (I hear ya!!)  The McDonald’s menu, is “cheaper” (in all respects) for their daily “Dollar Menu” But, to me, it’s pay now or pay later.  It’s worth it, in my opinion, to buy healthy food and make my hubby’s lunch here at home.  I’m sure I could make it cheaper by buying “fake” cheese, bologna, and white bread, or sending him to McDonald’s, but my goal is cheap AND healthy.  And, sometimes that means spending a bit more now…otherwise, you’ll probably end up spending it at the Dr.’s office down the road.
    Ok, well, I'm out of time for now.  On the next post, I will share specific recipes and also the "just so you know" ideas from my limited experience shopping and cooking.  Feel free to post your comments and questions. 

    (ps. sorry about the typo's--I know there are some...but now I can't find them...oh,well.)

    Wednesday, April 17, 2013

    FPU Helpful Household Hints: Part 1

    How We Make it Work on 1 Income x 4 Children (and counting) 
    (This may seem a little technical, for what I normally post on my blog, but my hubby,Justin, is leading another Financial Peace University Class at our church.  Since I am not much of a public speaker, I thought I'd post how I'm learning to be frugal, my own grocery shopping strategies, and the specific ways we've learned to make FPU work, here on my blog.  Sometimes it's helpful to hear the "nuts and bolts"/practical side of living out FPU!  We have learned so much from what Dave Ramsey teaches.  Our finances are much better off, after going through his course. And, amazingly, FPU has tremendously helped our marriage!  Setting goals, making changes, planning, communicating and being on the "home team" together, has been extremely beneficial for us as a couple!  If you've never taken an FPU class, get signed up!!  They're offered all around the USA...check out your local churches for future FPU courses!  Yes, it's THAT good!)

    We’ve been doing the Dave Ramsey Financial Plan for almost 6 years now.  We’re still learning, but we’ve amazed ourselves, even, with the progress we’ve made.   It has been 2 steps forward, and 1 step backward, at times.  But, it’s been worth it!  I’m sharing this to be helpful, not to “toot my/our own horn” 

    In a short list, here’s a few ways we’ve been successful in achieving our goals and working through Dave’s “Baby Steps”:

    1.       Delay gratification-  there has been seasons (like when we were paying off the debts that we owed), where we only spent money on the basics.  “Horrors!!!”  This was a HUGE lesson for me to learn.  Us girls, we like our shopping, eh?!!  For some months on end there just wasn’t enough money for “extra” stuff: clothes, makeup, hair, etc.  And, WE SURVIVED!   We chose to do that.  I wasn't "deprived"  It was just for a season!  I actually stayed out of stores, besides the grocery store, because there just wasn’t extra room in the budget for those “wants”.  It actually helped me be content!  We did this, because our goal was to use all of our extra money to do the “Debt Snowball”   That was “gazelle intensity” (from a girl’s perspective) J

    2.       “Buy used and save the difference!”  (that’s a quote from the Dugger Familiy!)  It works.   We’ve done this: everything from vehicles to baby gear.  It’s easy to spend extra thousands, by buying brand new.  It pays to shop around.  Thankfully, there’s more and more resale shops around selling maternity, kid and baby gear!  Babies and children CAN cost a lot, but with the opportunity to shop at resale shops or garage sales, it’s VERY affordable.  I know people who sell all their baby strollers, furniture, and clothing and then go out and buy all new stuff for the next one.  Then, they’re amazed that we purchased our surburban with cash or fully stock our Emergency Fun.  It’s just a matter of priority.  I KNOW we were able to save a large chunk of money during what could’ve been a very expensive time in our lives by hardly spending any money on baby gear and kids clothes.   [And, just to clarify, it’s not “wrong” to get all new stuff between kids, that’s just the example that popped into my head.  It’s those peoples' garage sales that I like to attend!!! J]

    3.       Learn to shop differently: coupons, add matching(Walmart does this), discount stores(Aldi, Save-A-Lot, The Country Salvage), price checking online, Ebay and Amazon (buy used!!), and have a plan for grocery shopping!  Yes, at first, you may feel "lower class" by going to Aldi or Save-A-Lot, but who cares!  You will save a TON on your grocery bill!  Taking the extra time to pre-shop online to find the best deals, is like paying yourself the extra money you saved!

    4.       Learn from everyone you can.  Glean ideas, tips, hints, and recipes!  It may just save you $$$ and time!

    I will be sharing my specific ways I've changed how I cook and shop to better fit the needs of our growing family AND save money, in future blog posts. 

    Tuesday, April 2, 2013

    Easter Party

    Here are some pictures our our Easter Party last week.   I threw it together at the last minute, but it turned out to be so fun!