Simply Saving Saturday

There were quite a few nice surprises in my mailbox this week!
  • Free Martha Stewart Living magazine.
  • 7-day Clear shampoo and conditioner samples.  There is a lot of product in these little packets!  I will be able to stretch this to last about 14 days.  This offer is still available on their Facebook page.
  • Lots of great samples from P&G: Pantene shampoo and conditioner, Tide Pods, Tide Boost, Downy Infusions, Downy Unstopables, Crest toothpaste.  I'm not sure if all of the samples are still available, but you can sign up for P&G samples here.
  • Free full-size Lysol Touch of Foam Soap and coupons from BzzAgent.
  • The free Behr paint sample that I won from the Valentine's Day promotion came in the mail this week.  The color turned out to be a very light pink.  It's really white paint with just a hint of pink.  I was hoping to get a red color for some projects in the boys' rooms, but I have some other ideas for using the paint.

**My husband took the children to visit a sugarhouse on Maine Maple Sunday and they were given free ice cream with maple syrup.

**Saved time and money by price matching at Walmart and staying away from the clearance aisles!  Something extra always makes it way into my cart if I browse the clearance aisles.

**I made a meal plan this week!  It has been almost a year since my last meal plan and I had forgotten how nice it is to go to the store with a plan.  Not only does it save money; it also saves time - no more pushing a cart up and down aisles trying to decide what I might need for the week!

**Baked Whole Wheat Apple Oatmeal Muffins this week. 

**One of our children received a free toothbrush and toothpaste from one of his teachers.

**Sent in the Lysol Try Me Free Rebate.

**Signed up for Tyndale Rewards and earned points for a free book.

**Received a $15 credit to Barefoot Books by taking their survey and ordered my older son a birthday gift.  The credit can be used towards shipping and there are several books that can be purchased for no out-of-pocket cost with the credit.  The offer is still available on their website.

**I used Amazon gift cards I earn from Swagbucks and super saver shipping to order two gifts from Amazon.  I am now finished birthday shopping for my older son - 5 months early!  I am very excited to have this done so early since birthdays and holidays seem to sneak up on me and I am always rushing at the last minute to get things done.

Our on-going savings:

**Keep thermostat at 67 during the day and 62 at night.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use cash to buy groceries.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.

**Buy less cereal and eat oatmeal several times a week.

**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Apple Oatmeal Muffins

Our family loves these moist, flavorful muffins.  Be sure to make a double batch; they never last long at our house!

Whole Wheat Apple Oatmeal Muffins

Makes: 6 muffins

2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. salt
Dash ground cloves
2/3 scant cup apple, grated (approx. 1/2 large apple)
1/2 cup milk
1 beaten egg
2 tbs. oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla

1.  Grease six 2 1/2-inch muffin cups or line them with paper bake cups.

2. In a medium bowl stir together flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cloves.

3.  In a small bowl combine the apple, milk, egg, oil and vanilla and add to the dry ingredients.  Mix just until moistened; batter should be lumpy.

4.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 17-20 minutes or until tops are golden.  Remove muffins from muffin cups and cool on wire rack.

Adapted from Cinnamon N Spice Oatmeal Muffins

Linking to these parties

Meal Plan Monday - March 25

It has been almost a year since I wrote my last meal plan.  Since I've started living a more frugal lifestyle over the last few months, I'm excited to hopefully save a little bit more at the grocery store by getting more organized in the kitchen.
Here's my plan for this week:
Pumpkin Pancakes from the freezer
Pasta, Veggies
Turkey Sandwich, Carrot Sticks, Pear Slices
Apple Oatmeal Whole Wheat Muffin, Pineapple, Carrot Sticks
English Muffin Pizzas, Carrot Sticks
Dinner Leftovers
Lemon Chicken, Mashed Potato, Veggies

      Beef Stew, Super Easy Whole Wheat Biscuits 
      White Bean Alfredo w/Penne pasta, Chicken and Peas, Leftover Biscuits
       Baked Chicken, Roasted Potatoes, Veggies

      Spaghetti & Meatballs, Garlic Bread
**My recipe tips:  Just 1/2 lb. of ground beef made plenty for our family of 4 and I adjusted the ingredients accordingly.  I have also made the meatballs without the parmesan cheese and they are still delicious.

      Leftover Night

      Ham Dinner

(*) New-to-us recipe

$5 Dinners has a wonderful grocery shopping list with meal plan form and a few other printable planners that you might find helpful in meal planning {not to mention some great money-saving recipes!}.

Get more meal inspiration at Menu Plan Monday

Simply Saving Saturday

Frugal living is a lifestyle--it's all the little things we do every day to save money.  Join me on my frugal living journey as I share ways we simply save each week.

This is our fourth year packing shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child.  Even though Collection Week isn't until the end of November, by starting at the beginning of the year I am able to look for gifts during seasonal and holiday sales and it gives me a chance to make handmade items for the shoe boxes. 

This week I was able to purchase a few things from a seasonal sale and also make a few items to put in this year's shoe boxes.

Here are some of the ways I was able to simply save this week:

**I started an Amazon shopping list for birthday and Christmas gifts so that I can order several things at once and take advantage of super saver shipping. With the free gift cards I earn from Swagbucks and the free shipping, I save quite a bit of money buying gifts this way.

**Made chicken broth with chicken bones and veggie scraps that I had saved in the freezer.

**I made chicken noodle soup with some of the chicken broth.  I didn't have egg noodles that the recipe called for, so I used spaghetti broken into small pieces instead.

**Made chicken salad sandwiches for lunch with the little bit of chicken leftovers from this week.

**Found an unadvertised sale on ground beef for $1.99/lb and made tacos with beans again this week.  I used the leftover meat mixture to make taco salad and burritos with rice and salsa for lunches.

**The boys found some dried out markers in their pencil box (an old baby wipes container!) and I saved the caps to make these jump ropes for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. 

**Made an online order through ebates to get a small amount of cash back.  When the box was delivered, it was in a large plastic bag that I saved to use as a trash bag.

**Saved a couple of small pineapple cans to make my own English muffins with this recipe.

**Made crocheted backpacks to put in Operation Christmas Child boxes with yarn that I had on hand.  This year I am determined to make projects with yarn from my yarn stash before I buy more.

**Found winter hats and mittens on sale at Walmart for $.25 and will add these to the Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes that we are working on this year.

**Bought a pair of dressy shoes that were on clearance for $5 and saved the shoe box for....yes, you guessed it....Operation Christmas Child. :)

Our on-going savings:

**Keep thermostat at 67 during the day and 62 at night.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use cash to buy groceries.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.

**Buy less cereal and eat oatmeal several times a week.

**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.

Operation Christmas Child: Winter Hats and Gloves on Sale - just $.25 each!

Spring has officially begun and it is time to be on the lookout for winter clearance items for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.

These hats and gloves (2 pk.) were on sale for just $.25 each at my local Walmart and will make a great gift to add to my shoe boxes.

Shoe Boxes for Boys: Crocheted Backpack (Free Pattern)

Welcome to the Shoe Boxes for Boys series. This year I am focusing on packing boxes for boys after reading a comment on this post about the need for more boxes for boys (especially 10-14 year olds). If you are packing Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes this year, I hope you will discover new ideas and also share your ideas!
Another gift I like to include in Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes is a bag for each child to carry their shoe box gifts in.  Small canvas bags and drawstring bags fit very well in a shoe box and thanks to Pinterest, it is very easy to find a free pattern for just about any style bag.

I just loved these small backpack and large backpack crochet patterns at CreativeMe! and adapted the pattern so that the seam would be almost completely invisible and with no-sew straps that are adjustable. 

Free pattern:  Crocheted Backpack Pattern

The small backpack is the perfect size for 2 - 4 year olds.  I think the large size will fit most 10 - 14 year old boys and with the straps adjusted a little bit to make them a little smaller, I think the large bag will also be the right size for the 5 - 9 year old boys.

Posts in this series:

For more free patterns and ideas, visit my OCC Pinterest Board.

Note: The information shared in this series will follow the OCC-US regulations. When packing shoe boxes from other countries, please refer to the rules and regulations from that country as they do vary from country to country. Thank you!
Operation Christmas Child Canada
Operation Christmas Child Australia
Operation Christmas Child UK
Operation Christmas Child Spain

Simply Saving Saturday

Frugal living is a lifestyle--it's all the little things we do every day to save money. Join me on my frugal living journey as I share ways we simply save each week.
Our sofa is currently blocking the baseboard in the living room.  While we have known that this was a problem, we weren't able to rearrange the furniture in order to fix it.
This week we ordered a smaller TV stand that will fit on the wall with the windows so that we will be able to move the sofa.  Buying a new piece of furniture might not sound very frugal, but we think that the future savings on our heating bill will make the money spent a good investment.
Sometimes money has to be spent in order to save!
Here are some simple savings I found this week:
**It was warm and sunny on Sunday, so we turned the heat off and opened the windows!  I'm trying not to get too excited about the warm weather since there is a good chance we may get more snow next week.
**I called our phone company about a phone/internet package promo I had heard about, and even though I didn't qualify for the discount they did take $8/month off our internet bill!  The representative on the phone said to call back next year as they may have an even better deal.  It never hurts to call the utility companies and ask if they have any promotions running.

**I made laundry soap for the first time this week.  I've been hesitant to use homemade laundry soap since I've read that it can cause problems with washing machines and can cause clothes to get dingy.  I used this recipe from The Prudent Homemaker who says she has been using it for years with no problems.  I reused the oxi-clean scoop for my new laundry soap scoop since it measures exactly 2 tablespoons.
I used the Olay bars that I got for free from the Dollar Tree, but they were a little bit smaller than regular-sized bars so I used 1 1/2 bars.  I also added about a capful of Purex Crystals that I bought with a coupon a few weeks ago.
**Received a vitamin sample and 2 magazines from free subscriptions.
**Earned $2 from Pinbooster.
**Saved stickers from a Disney movie offer that came in the mail for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.
**Cut both boys' hair.
**Found a piece of fabric at the thrift store for $.50 that will make a nice pillow (or two) for the sofa.  Now I've just got to find inexpensive pillow forms!
**Paid cash for a new roof thanks to our tax refund.  We were told a year ago that we would need a new roof this year, so we saved our tax refund specifically for this purpose.  We were very thankful that we didn't have to borrow money for this not-so-frugal project!
Our on-going savings:

**Keep thermostat at 67 during the day and 62 at night.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use cash to buy groceries.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.
**Buy less cereal and eating oatmeal several times a week.
**Reuse plastic and paper shopping bags for small trash and recycling.

Have you ever used homemade laundry detergent?  Did you have any problems with it?

Paper Leprechaun Hat

Our son's class is celebrating St. Patrick's Day with a "Green Day" this week.  We made this fun, festive leprechaun hat for the celebration.

You will need: green, black, yellow construction paper and glue runner or double sided tape (glue stick doesn't work well for this project).
Fold a piece of 9x12 paper or construction paper, short sides together.  Draw a hat template and cut it out.  Use the template to cut two hat shapes out of the green construction paper.  Keep two of the scrap pieces; these will be used for the sides of the hat. 
From the yellow construction paper cut a 2 1/8" x 2" square, fold it in half and cut out the middle.  Cut a 2" strip from the short side of the black construction paper.
Attach the black strip to the hat and trim the edges.  Attach the yellow square to the middle of the black strip.
With one of the leftover green pieces, cut off the pointed top (piece cut will be a triangle).  Make a fold along the long edges.  We made a 3/8" wide fold, but you can adjust the size of the hat by making a smaller or larger fold.  Attach one edge to the back of the hat.
Attach the other edge of the side piece to the back of the second hat piece.  Attach the second side piece as shown in the picture.  Glue or tape the last side edge to the hat piece to form the hat.
Linking to Thrifty Thursday and these parties.

Simply Saving Saturday

Frugal living is a lifestyle--it's all the little things we do every day to save money.  Join me on my frugal living journey as I share ways we simply save each week.

I spent this week at home due to a cold virus that found it's way into our home.  Our children seem to have weathered this virus much better than I have.

The one good thing about being ill was my husband did the grocery shopping for me this week.  Since I didn't go out to the stores, I wasn't tempted to buy extra things that we didn't need. 

My husband did, however, bring home a box of clearanced ice cream that was definitely not on the grocery list, but it was a nice treat after a very long week.

Here are a few ways I found to simply save this week:

**Made whole wheat banana muffins with overripe bananas.

**Added beans to our tacos which stretched the meat further and made them very filling.  I mashed the beans with a fork and the children didn't even realize they were eating beans!

**Made bread crumbs with bread ends from the freezer.

**Received a coupon for free juice in my mailbox this week.

**Saved some jars for the garden and for food storage.

**Tried a cinnamon and honey cold remedy.  According to what I read, It seems to work really well when taken at the first sign of a cold.  It didn't really work well for me, but it may be because I started taking it a few days after I suspected that I was coming down with a cold. 

**Earned $3 from Pinbooster this week.

**Earned $.30 from Jingit.  I earned $25 with this company between October and January and it seemed to be a very promising way to earn a little extra money, but there haven't been as many earning opportunities lately.  Smartphone owners can earn a little more by downloading their app and doing check-ins at Walmart.

**A note from our son's teacher mentioned that his class was running low on glue sticks.  Before going to the dollar store to purchase them, I checked our craft box and found two that hadn't been used that our son can take to school.

Our on-going savings:

**Keep thermostat at 67 during the day and 62 at night.

**Husband takes lunch to work everyday.

**Turn lights off when not being used.

**Use cash to buy groceries.

**Use scrap paper for notes and lists.

**Drive to town once a week for shopping and errands.

Did you find any simple ways to save this week?

How I Balance Healthy Eating with Frugal Living

I've recently started making changes to the way we eat.   After reading 100 Days of Real Food for the past several months, I realized that I wanted our family to have a healthier diet, but when I think of eating healthier I immediately associate it with a larger grocery bill.

I've asked myself many times if it really is possible to combine healthy eating with our frugal lifestyle. Do I have to sacrifice one at the expense of the other?

My answer is definitely not!  Here are a few ideas that have helped me balance healthy eating with our frugal lifestyle:

1.  One of the most important ways to keep the grocery bill from getting out of control is to have a budget and stick with it.  This is so, so important.  Before heading to the grocery store, I know how much I can afford to spend in order to make wise decisions about what to purchase (or not).

2.  A helpful way to keep spending within a budget is by leaving the debit card at home and taking cash to the grocery store.  I put the cash in an envelope and that is what I can spend on groceries for the whole week.  This sometimes takes extra time and planning, but is a great way to have accountability when it comes to grocery spending. 

3.  Once I knew how much I could spend each week I set priorities.  I knew that I couldn't afford to completely follow a real food diet, but I could make changes to our diet based on what I felt was most important while taking our budget into account.  For instance, I decided that it was very important that we eat real butter instead of margarine, but paying an extra $1 per gallon for milk that is labeled "no growth hormones" wasn't as much of a priority right now.  Fruits and vegetables are much healthier snacks than crackers; I buy more fruits and vegetables and only buy crackers when it fits into my budget.

4.  Instead of trying to make many changes all at once, I have made just a few small changes each month.  I have found that it is easy to make small changes as we use things up and replace them with healthier alternatives.  I have replaced bleached flour with unbleached, regular baking powder with aluminum free, regular ketchup for HFCS-free ketchup, etc.

5.  Instead of making elaborate dishes with many ingredients, I keep our meals very simple.  Many meals can be made throughout the week from one whole chicken that I buy when it is on sale.  Roasted chicken with veggies and potato or rice, chicken noodle soup (with homemade chicken broth) and chicken pot pie are a few of the simple chicken meals that are healthy and frugal.  Another way I am able to save is to eat pasta at least once a week.

6.  There are several things that can be made that are both healthy and frugal!  I have started making my own chicken and turkey broth. Oatmeal and granola cereal are much healthier and more frugal than buying cereal. Bread, yogurt, crackers, seasoning mixes, and sauces are just a few of the many foods that can be made inexpensively, but are also much healthier than buying them in the store.

Changing to a healthier diet (and especially a real food diet) can be very overwhelming.  Perhaps one of the most important things I have learned is to change my attitude.  Instead of focusing on all the things I can't do and getting discouraged, I focus on what I can do.  It also helps to remember what I am always telling my children, "just do your best!"

What is your favorite frugal meal?  Do you have any tips for healthy eating on a budget?

{photo credit1, photo credit2, photo credit3}

Recipe: Pistachio Pudding Cake with Whipped Pistachio Frosting

The pistachio nuts that we received at Christmas were a wonderful treat.  While searching for ways to use them, I found this Pistachio Pudding Cake recipe. 

The cake is moist with just a hint of pistachio.  And the frosting.  Oh my goodness.  It's light and fluffy with just the right amount of sweetness and really makes this cake extra special.

Pistachio Pudding Cake with Whipped Pistachio Frosting

1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) instant pistachio pudding mix
4 eggs
1 cup club soda
1/2 cup oil

1 cup heavy whipping cream*
3/4 cup 2% milk
1 pkg. (3.4 oz.) instant pistachio pudding mix
2 tsp. confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup chopped pistachios, skins removed

1.  In a large bowl combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, soda and oil.  Beat on low speed for 30 seconds and then on medium speed for 2 minutes.

2.  Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch pie pans.  Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes and remove from pan to wire rack.  Cool completely.

**While the cake is cooling, chill the mixing bowl and wisk attachment or beaters in the refrigerator.**

3.  To make frosting: In a small bowl mix pudding mix and milk.  Whisk together for 2 minutes or until smooth; set aside.

4.  Put whipping cream and confectioners' sugar in chilled bowl and beat on high until stiff peaks form.  Be careful not to over beat the cream.  It is ready when the cream can hold it's shape on a spoon like this:

5.  Gently fold pudding into whipped cream.  When cake is completely cool, spread frosting over cake and sprinkle with chopped nuts.
*Regular whipping cream can be used.
Adapted from Taste of Home
Sharing at these parties

Simply Saving Saturday

Frugal living is a lifestyle--it's all the little things we do every day to save money.   Join me on my frugal living journey as I share ways we simply save each week.

I had no idea that my frugal ways were rubbing off onto my children until this week.

We were in the car, hurrying to get home and my mind was in the kitchen trying to come up with a quick meal for dinner.  My 6-year old son asked me what to do with the bag that his snack was in and I told him he could throw it away when we get home. 

His little voice quickly piped up from the back seat, "Mom, we can reuse it, can't we?"

Out of the mouths of babes.

Here's how we were able to simply save this week:

**Put bread end-slices in freezer.

**Cooked a whole chicken that I bought on sale last week and put the bones in the freezer to make homemade broth at another time.

**Made hummus without Tahini

**Made White Bean Alfredo Sauce with noodles and leftover peas from another meal.  Children and husband loved it and they still don't know that it was made with beans!

**I won an 8 oz. sample of Behr Paint from a promotion that they did around Valentine's Day.  The paint color will be one of 7 pink or red colors and I am hoping for a red color since I have lots of projects I want to do in the boys' rooms. 

**Earned a free juice coupon from Old Orchard Juice rewards program.

** We borrowed several books and a DVD from the library.  Our 4-year old especially loves Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan.  We read it together and he has looked through the book several times on his own this week.

**We had a wonderful time at the potluck and talent show night at church.  For the cost of gas, we were able to get out of the house for a while and enjoy time with our church family.  I brought chocolate-dipped chocolate chip cookies since I had all the ingredients on hand. 

**I wasn't planning on buying meat this week, but I like to scan the meat department just in case I see a good deal.  I found some hamburger that was close to the expiration date with a $2.50 coupon.  The original price was $2.99/lb., but I paid a little over $2/lb. with the coupon.  I divided it up into 1/2 lb. sections and put it right in the freezer when we got home.

**Each week the children at my son's school are rewarded for good behavior by choosing something from the treasure box.  This week I was thrilled (and my son was too) when he brought home a silly straw--something that both of the boys have been asking for!