How I Saved This Week



Spring is one of my favorite seasons. It's been so exciting to see the snow disappear and to see the green grass again! The daffodils and irises have come up and we noticed that the garlic I planted in the garden last fall has started to grow.



It's also time to start getting ready for planting. I have some peppers growing in an old produce container that I saved last year.

The May/June issue of Eating Well magazine came in the mail this week. I was able to get this subscription for free by using points I earned from Recyclebank.

I bought a copy of The Maker's Diet for $.50 from a local second hand store (similar to Goodwill).

I bought Mini Easter notebooks and 12-packs of Easter pencils that were on clearance at Walmart for $.49 each. I will put them in the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that we do this year.

I cooked a chicken and made broth in the crockpot with the whole chicken that I got on sale for $.88/lb.

We borrowed two movies and several books from the library.

How did you save this week?

How We Saved on a Family Vacation



At the end of March, our family spent a week in St. Augustine, Florida. I never dreamed that a big vacation like this would be possible for us and I was hesitant to agree to the trip, knowing how much money we would be spending. After many weeks of discussion, my husband convinced me that this was an amazing opportunity for our family that we should take advantage of while we had the chance.

One of the reasons I was able to agree to this trip was because I knew that we were in a good financial situation:
  • We were able to pay cash.
  • We have no debt, except for our mortgage.
  • Our emergency fund is well funded and can cover several months of expenses, if needed.

After we decided to go on the trip, my husband searched the internet to find the best deal on a place to stay. He found a nice 2-bedroom condo in a community with free access to the beach, a pool, a patio area for barbecuing, a tennis court and the kids' favorite - shuffle board. Our condo wasn't fancy, but we had more than the necessities, including wi-fi and a washer and dryer, for less than the cost of a hotel room here in our area.



It was a little surprising to discover that almost nothing was free, but considering the part of Florida that we were in, we should have expected that. Here at home, you can visit the Portland Lighthouse and many forts for free, so it was disappointing that there was a charge to visit the lighthouse and fort, and the cost was very high. The agency that we rented the condo from did give us a free adult ticket to one attraction of our choice, so we did use that along with a AAA discount to visit one attraction.


Instead of paying to visit the attractions, we spent a lot of time at the beach and we used the pool. We used the patio area and enjoyed a barbecue one night with family who had gone on the trip with us.



My husband and I spent an afternoon walking around beautiful downtown St. Augustine.



Our family went on a mini site-seeing tour of our own and saw some beautiful views.

Here are some of the other ways were were able to save on our vacation:
  • We drove instead of flying. 
  • We didn't stop on the way to stay in a hotel. (I would not recommend this. Sometimes it is better to spend the extra money. 😃)
  • We brought snacks and drinks with us so that we didn't have to buy them at convenience stores along the way.
  • We heard that meat was expensive, so we brought some with us.
  • I made homemade instant oatmeal packets for breakfasts.
  • We were told that the Publix there was the best place to get groceries, so I checked the website for sales and checked blogs for coupon matchups before we left.
  • We ate most of our meals at the condo.
  • We were pleasantly surprised to find coupon booklets for local restaurants in the condo. We used a coupon to buy dessert at a frozen yogurt bar. 
We did splurge on a trip to Disney while we were there. We were only about 2 hours from Orlando, so we spent a day at Magic Kingdom. I'll admit we spent a lot of money to do this, but it was something we really wanted to do with the kids and we were prepared for the cost.

I am so glad that our family was able to share this experience. I absolutely loved St. Augustine and didn't want to leave at the end of the week! It was a trip that I will remember forever and, hopefully, will be able to experience again someday.

Meal Plan Monday - April 17




I spent a total of $88.25 on groceries for this week.


Hannaford had a great sale on produce last week. I bought the big bags of onions and carrots that were on sale, even though I wasn't planning on buying them for this week.




We are very excited that school is on break this week. Since I will have more time in the morning, I'll be making more homemade breakfasts and I've also added our lunch menu.


Breakfast

Cereal
Banana Blueberry Flax Smoothies
Blueberry Pancakes
Breakfast Sandwiches
Homemade Instant Oatmeal with frozen blueberries
Homemade granola with bananas

Lunch

Tuna salad with veggies (lettuce, baby spinach, cucumbers)
Chicken sandwiches with veggies, apple slices
Chicken Fried Rice, salad
Yogurt, Triscuits, carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus
Whole Wheat Apple Oatmeal Muffins, hard boiled eggs, carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus
Dinner leftovers x2

Dinner

Beef Stew
Mexican Chopped Tuna Salad
Spaghetti and meatballs with Heart Healthy Pasta Sauce, green beans, homemade garlic bread
Vegetable Barley Soup, cornbread muffins
Chicken Cornbread Casserole
Meatloaf Veggie Muffins, seasoned brown rice, green beans
Leftover night and/or salad


Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Meal Plan Monday - April 10



We spent last week recovering from our trip and taking care of something that came up unexpectedly, but I'm glad to be back to posting here this week.

I spent $74.43 on groceries for this week.




I price matched the cereal from the Dollar General ad and paid just $1.53 per box. I also price matched the Mrs. Dash seasoning for $2 and the butter for $3. I thought the butter was a good deal until I saw an even better deal in this week's Hannaford flyer. I think I will be buying more butter this week, since it is fairly expensive here. I found some discounted Italian bread that I will use to make garlic bread.


I also bought 4 loaves of bread at the discount bread store for $.50 each.


Here's my meal plan for this week:

Breakfast

Cereal
Homemade granola
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets with blueberries

Dinner

Baked Ravioli, broccoli
Zippy Shepherd's Pie, garlic bread
Chicken Noodle Soup
Beef Stew, Yogurt Biscuits
Sweet Potato Chili, leftover yogurt biscuits
Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole, garlic bread, peas


Meal Plan for this Week




I spent $83.30 for this week's groceries. Some of the things that I bought for this week are for our vacation next week.


The Cheerios were $1.50 each after the sale and coupon at Hannaford. Whole chicken was on sale for $.77/lb. I bought an extra chicken that I will cook in the crockpot, take the meat off the bone and take with us on our vacation. We've heard that meat is expensive there, so we will take some meat with us in order to save a little bit of money.



One of my children used their "choose a cereal" Christmas coupon and chose the Krave cereal. I used a $1.00 off 1 coupon that I purchased with reward points at kelloggsfamilyrewards.com. Since we have a busy week, I bought spaghetti sauce and macaroni and cheese. The boys were especially happy to have macaroni and cheese since it is a rare treat. I also bought the applesauce cups for our trip.



This cereal was on sale at Food City for $2.50 and with a $.75 coupon (that was doubled) I paid just $1.00 each!

I also bought 3 loaves of bread for $3.09 at the bread store.

Since we will be leaving for our vacation on Friday, this week's menu plan is a short one. I will be planning our meals and grocery shopping while we are away and I'm hoping to share how we did with meal planning and grocery shopping when we return. I am really excited to see how prices compare in a different part of the country.

Here's our meal plan for this week:


Breakfast

Cereal
Homemade Instant Oatmeal with frozen blueberries
Homemade Granola


Dinner

Monday: Dinner out with my mom
Skillet Cheeseburger Macaroni
Sweet Potato Chili, broccoli
Pizza with Overnight Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (from the freezer)
Friday: Dinner on the road!


Check back in two weeks to find out more about our trip and how we were able to save money.

How I Saved This Week




A friend shared a turkey with us last week. I made turkey broth and used the leftover turkey and the broth in many of the meals I made this week. The Leftover Turkey Shepherd's Pie recipe that we tried this week is a new family favorite! You can see more of our family's favorite recipes on my Pinterest board.

The boys borrowed some books from the library and I found some coupons I could use in the coupon exchange box.

We got mail from the Disney Movie Club that included Disney stickers. I saved the stickers for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

I found a baby dress crochet pattern online at Annie's Craft Store that I would like to make for a baby shower that I am going to next month. I usually like to look for free patterns, but I couldn't find anything that I liked. I signed up for a free 7-day trial of the Half-Price Club and I was able to get the pattern for half price and I got $10 in ebucks to spend on a digital download.

I downloaded a free kindle book to the Kindle reading app on my laptop.

There was a festival in a nearby town and we were able to see The Batman Lego Movie at the movie theater for free.


How did you save this week?

What I'm Reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo



I was excited to find Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up at the library since I had read great things about this book.

It's a tiny book full of wonderful tips and information about decluttering and organizing your home. While I found her references to treating items as living things a little disconcerting at first, I thought that the different perspective that the author gives on this subject was interesting and thought-provoking.

I have read lots and lots of books, magazine articles and blog posts about organizing and decluttering. Every year, right after Christmas, you can find me going through each room in our home and trying to organize and declutter the same things I organized and decluttered the year before. I thought this would be just another book that would give me the same information in a different way. But that was definitely not the case. Right from the first page, the author throws all the accepted organizing rules right out the window. Her advice on organizing by category, instead of by room, what to throw away and even how to fold clothing was different from anything I had read before.

One of the most eye-opening things I read was the advice the author gave about the greetings cards we can't bear to part with. She writes:
"This means that each card has fulfilled its purpose the moment the receiver finishes reading it."
This advice freed me of the guilt I feel when thinking about throwing away a card or letter. I realized that I don't need to feel guilty because I have received the message that the sender wanted me to have. She goes on to say that we should keep cards that "spark joy" in our hearts, a recurring theme in her book.

For me, organizing and decluttering has always been a tug of war between my frugal self and my minimalist self. I hate to let anything go that might be used in the future and might save us money months from now. This quote from the book was especially thought-provoking:
"Of course, I am not saying that my clients have never regretted discarding something. Far from it. You should expect this to happen at least three times during the tidying process, but don't let it worry you. Even though my clients have regretted parting with something, they never complain. They have already learned through experience that any problem caused by lack of something can be solved through action."
I don't need to let the fear of regret stop me from letting go of something. If I do find myself in that situation, I can take action and challenge myself to find something else that I could use or find some other way to solve the problem.

Two other quotes from the book that challenged me:
"But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can't let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future."
"...we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of."
I really enjoyed the new ideas and insight into organizing and decluttering that I learned from this book. Now the hard part begins: putting the ideas into practice.

Meal Plan Monday - March 13





We spent $66.57 on groceries for this week.





I didn't buy any meat for this week since a friend shared a turkey with us. I will be using the leftovers with the turkey broth that I made in some of our meals this week. I will also use some meat that we have in the freezer and some of the tuna that I bought for $.88 a few weeks ago.

Here's my menu plan for this week:


Breakfast

Cereal
Blueberry Cottage Cheese Pancakes
Toast or bagel and bananas
Homemade Instant Oatmeal with frozen blueberries

Dinner

Turkey Bisque Soup
Skillet Lasagna, salad
Taco Salad, cucumber and carrot sticks
Mexican Chopped Tuna Salad Wrap, carrot sticks
Leftover Turkey and Swiss Grilled Sandwiches, carrot sticks
Spaghetti with Heart Healthy Pasta Sauce
Leftover Turkey Shepherd's Pie


Get more meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Meal Plan Monday - March 6




I spent $71.16 on groceries for this week.



I bought extra bananas since they were on sale for $.39/lb. Chicken thighs were also on sale for $.77/lb. and the bag of potatoes was $1.49.



At Walmart I was able to price match the yogurt for $.50 each, but I used a coupon and paid $.40 each. I also price matched the Jiffy mix for $.44 and the Goldfish for $.99. I bought the Goldfish for a vacation trip that we are taking at the end of this month. I would like to take a lot of snacks and drinks with us so that we won't need to buy as much as we are traveling.



Cottage cheese was on sale for $1.50 at Food City. I used coupons and paid just $.95 each.


Here's my meal plan for this week:

Breakfast

Cereal
Bagels, bananas


Dinner

One-Pot Cabbage Casserole (using leftover cabbage from last week), peas and carrots
Baked Chicken Thighs, green beans, cucumber sticks
Leftover night
Saturday: Turkey Dinner, Honey Yeast Rolls, Apple Pie


Get more meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Meal Plan Monday - February 27




I spent $78.71 on groceries for this week.


At Hannaford, broccoli was on sale for $.99/lb., grapes were $1.49/lb. and cabbage was $.49/lb.



At Walmart, I price-matched the tuna for $.88 each, the granola bars for $2.50 and paid $2.00 each with a coupon and the yogurt was $.50 and I paid $.43 each after a coupon. The Nutella was on sale and I had a coupon, so I bought it for a special treat for the boys.



Split chicken breasts were on sale at Food City for $.99/lb. and the Mini Wheats cereal was $1.99 with the sale price and coupon.

I also bought bread at the bread store.


We'll be trying a couple of new dinner recipes this week. Here's my meal plan for this week:


Breakfast

Cereal
Bagels and bananas
Homemade Instant Oatmeal with frozen blueberries


Dinner

Cheese Steak Quesadillas, carrot sticks
Tuna Casserole, leftover yogurt biscuits


Get more meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

How I Saved This Week




I cooked a whole chicken in the crockpot and made overnight chicken stock. I used the chicken and the stock in several of the meals that I made this week.

I had a chance to shop at Goodwill this week during one of their Dollar Days and found a name brand pair of jeans and a pair of pants for $1 each.

I ordered two magazines with points I earned from Recyclebank.

The cost of our satellite tv service increased again for the second year in a row. When I called to cancel, they offered a promotional rate for 6 months with no new contract. The new rate will save us a little over $15 a month and is about the same amount that we were paying when we switched to satellite tv five years ago.


How did you save this week?

Meal Plan Monday - February 20



It has been a very busy weekend and I haven't been able to do all the grocery shopping for this week. So far I have spent $46.06 on groceries. 



The chicken was on sale for $.99/lb. I cooked the whole chicken in the crock pot yesterday and made overnight chicken stock in the crock pot. I will be using the chicken and stock in many of our meals.

This week I am adding a lunch menu, since our schools are on February break. Here's our meal plan for this week:

Breakfast

Cereal
Homemade granola
Homemade Instant Oatmeal  with frozen raspberries and blueberries
Plain yogurt with frozen raspberries (leftover from our Valentine's Day dessert), blueberries and granola
Blueberry Pancakes
Bagels and bananas

*The raspberries that we are using this week are the frozen raspberries that weren't used in our Valentine's Day dessert. The boys have enjoyed having them in their oatmeal and our younger son decided he wanted to try them with some of the plain yogurt that I use to make yogurt biscuits.

Lunch

Chicken salad sandwiches
English Muffin Pizzas
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Mac & Cheese
Dinner leftovers

*All lunches served with veggies and/or fruit


Dinner

Super Sloppy Joes, carrot sticks
Chicken Noodle Soup, leftover biscuits
Chicken Corn Chowder

Saturday: Community Dinner


Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

14 Days of Valentines: Part 2



For Valentine's Day this year, I am giving my husband a note and/or small gift each day starting February 1. I've tried to do find things that are meaningful to him to let him know how much I appreciate everything that he does for our family.

I've had a lot of fun with this project and intend to continue surprising my husband with little notes and gifts throughout the whole year!

If you missed part 1, you can read it here.


Day 8: Soap note on mirror

I used a bathtub soap crayon to write a note to my husband on the bathroom mirror where he would see it in the morning.



Day 9: Origami Hearts

My husband likes to tell us jokes and riddles, so for day 9 I made origami hearts and wrote Valentine's jokes on them. The hearts also have a little pocket for little treats or a note. I found the tutorial for the hearts here.



Day 10: Carrot Hearts

My husband takes carrot sticks to work everyday in his lunch. On day 10, I made carrots into the shape of hearts following this tutorial.



Day 11: Heart Pancakes

I made pancakes shaped like hearts using metal cookie cutters on an electric griddle.



Day 12: "I heart you" tag with candy hearts

I filled a treat bag with candy hearts and attached the free printable tag.



Day 13: Scratch off valentine card

I printed the card for free from from marthastewart.com. I applied scratch off paint using the directions from this site.

Day 14: Sticky note love notes

Instead of a traditional Valentine's Day card, I stuck 14 sticky notes with handwritten notes on them on the wall in the entryway where he will see them when he gets home from work.

Meal Plan Monday - February 13




Last week we bought 60 pounds of beef from a local farmer. We haven't had beef for several months, and it will be nice to add some variety to our menu. My husband chose hamburgers, one of his favorite foods, for our Valentine's Day dinner.







I spent $61.27 on groceries for this week including ingredients to make Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Pie for our Valentine's Day dessert.


Here's my meal plan for this week:

Million Dollar Spaghetti, broccoli
Hamburgers, veggies, Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Pie
Chicken Fried Rice, broccoli, cornmeal muffins
Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas, carrot sticks
Corn Chowder
Leftover spaghetti, peas
Pizza made with overnight whole wheat pizza dough


Get other meal plan ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

How I Saved This Week



Snow storms caused us to have some time off from school, and I was able to spend some extra time earning Swagbucks. I earned 230 Swagbucks this week.



Starting February 1, I've been giving my husband a small gift or note to let him know how much I appreciate him. This week, I wrote about the first 7 days here.



All orange clearance stickers are 50% off at Dollar General this weekend. The big 28 oz. bottles of conditioner were $2.25 after the 50% off and I used a $3.00 off 2 coupon and paid just $.75 each! I bought the paddle balls and the glow jewelry kits for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. They were $.37 each.

I gave one son a hair cut.

We were given a bag of apples.

I took a quick survey for Christian Book Insiders and was given two free ebook downloads.


How did you save this week?

14 Days of Valentines: Part 1 + a free printable!



I found the "14 Day of Valentines" idea while I was browsing on Pinterest. I wanted to do something special for my husband for Valentine's Day this year and I thought this would be a fun way to show him how much I appreciate him.

These small gifts are simple and inexpensive, but hopefully it will let him know that I am thinking about him.

Here are the first 7 days of valentines:


Day 1: Chocolate Chip Cookies

I started the 14 Days of Valentines with my husband's favorite food!



Day 2: "You are the apple of my eye"

My husband takes a fruit with him to work everyday, so for day 2 I hid this tag in his lunchbox with an apple. It was designed by Paper & Pigtails for Craftaholics Anonymous.



Day 3: "Thank you for working Extra hard for us"

I designed the tag in Photoshop Elements, attached it to a pack of gum and hid it in his lunchbox.



Day 4: "I'm nuts about you"

I made a trail mix with peanuts, raisins and chocolate chips, put it in a glass jelly jar that I saved and made a gift tag. I've made a printable .pdf of the gift tag. Just click on the image below to download and print.




Day 5: "I'm bananas for you"

My husband has a banana with his breakfast every morning, so I wrote this note on a banana where I knew he would see it before he left for work.



Day 6: "So glad you're my stud muffin"

This was a cute little note to put with the Whole Wheat Banana Nut Muffins I made this week. The tag is a free printable from Eighteen25.



Day 7: Valentine's Airplane

I thought this airplane valentine with space to write a note to my husband was a really cute idea! The airplane was designed by Cathe Holden for Country Living Magazine. You can find the link to the free printable on her blog Just Something I Made.