Friday, March 18, 2011

Ways to Save Money: Baby/Children

I am so pleased with the responses to my last post about saving money on groceries!! I was inspired to attempt to make my own laundry detergent as soon as my stash gets low.  A lot of you had some great ideas - and some of you had great ideas and didn't post them!! :o  I realize that my ideas are nothing new, and honestly, I had heard of all the ideas posted in the comments, BUT I believe what is gained from all these wonderful ideas is not some new found concept but rather MOTIVATION!! :) I plan to start implementing some of your ideas because YOU MOTIVATED ME! And perhaps some of my ways of saving money will likewise help others realize that YES, people really do that, and YES, we survive, and YES, we are content and as happy as ever without the "latest" and "greatest" cluttering our homes. :)

Saving Money with Babies and Children:
I stand in unbelief MOST of the time at the money people pay on items for their babies and children.  I understand that convenience plays a huge part in today's society, but I guess I am willing to be a little inconvenienced to save money!!  I do have twins and a toddler - 3 kids under 3 years -  and my days can get pretty crazy! So I am not as thrifty now as I was when I only had one child, but I still have a few ways to stretch my dollars.

1.  I nursed all three of our children.  I'm not going to delve into the nutritional benefits and the fact that none of my children have ever been sick... aside from those benefits, it's FREE! :)

2. I have cloth-diapered all three of our children.  Some use cloth diapers as a way to save the planet - I use them to save money.  I use velcro tab covers with standard pre-folds, and it's as easy as changing a disposable diaper.  I have not used them as much with the twins because of not being able to keep up with the laundry, but I do still use them periodically. With my first born, I even cut up my husbands old white t-shirts and used them for wipes.  I've also made my own wipes out of thick paper towels and baby soap. I've found Amazon to be the cheapest place to buy disposables if I have a coupon.  To get the best deal, I take advantage of the 30% discount for using "subscribe and save" and then just cancel my scheduled shipments when my first order arrives. I can almost always get my name brand diapers for .10¢ each or less.

3.  I make my own baby food.  I used to boil the fruits and vegetables, but now I prefer to steam or bake them as I believe they retain more nutritional value. I then use my blender to puree the food and add water and infant cereal to make it stretch even further.  My children have never spit out the homemade food, so I guess it tastes better too! :)

4.   I buy quality clothing over quantity clothing for CHEAP!! I can usually get an item new with tags in the store for cheaper than what it is going for at the local consignments or on ebay. After every wash, I hang the clothes to dry so that any stains I might have missed do not "set in" and so that the clothes do not fade and shrink.  By doing this, when I no longer need them, I can sell them for almost what I paid for them.  I've actually sold some things used for MORE than what I paid for it new and the buyer was still getting a great deal! Oh, and I make all my girl's hair accessories. :)

5. I spend money on CLASSIC books only, otherwise we go to the library. Same for movies and cartoons... I usually buy used for these type items.

6. I've found that with babies, less is more.  Especially with the twins, I just do not have room for all the latest gadgets invented for convenience.  I'm sure those with larger houses may be able to utilize more products than I, but I prefer simple!  I even found it easier to give baths just in the tub instead of having to drag the infant bath out every time and warm the bath twice. I decided before the girls were born what items I couldn't live without and then I bought them used at less than 20% of the retail price.  I've even borrowed items from friends who weren't using theirs at the time.  

7.  Along the same lines as less is more... children really don't have to have all the snacks and meals marketed to their age group.  Sure, if you have the money, go for it!! But if you are trying to save money, don't feel like you have to buy the made-for-toddler foods.  I usually make a big pot of pasta noodles and sauce and then divide it into containers and freeze for fast meals on the go or for when my husband and I are eating something that may be harder for my toddler to eat. 

Maybe you've heard these ideas before, but have just never taken the time to implement them.  You can do it!! Pick one area in which you can start saving more money and make it happen! Now, I want to know your biggest money savers for baby and children items... I need some motivation! :)  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

10 months!!

My baby girlies are 10 months old - WOW!! They are growing way too fast!! They are more active than ever - especially Kaelyn! I took them outside to try to snap a few pictures and she was just way too curious about everything around I didn't really get a good smile out of her even though she is usually my crazy girl! :) And of course, Kourtney was just as sweet as ever - she's such a doll!  I love them both sooo much!!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Homemade Fresh Salsa

I LOVE this stuff!!

Fresh Homemade Salsa

2 large cans diced tomatoes (I really like to use fresh when they are in season)
1/2 large Vidalia onion
1 Jalapeno (I prefer mine seeded)
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/2 lime
2 Tbs ground cumin
salt to taste

1. Chop tomatoes in food processor and transfer to a large bowl.
2. Chop onion, jalapeno, cilantro and add to tomatoes. *This is the tricky part because not all onions are of equal strength!! I usually add about 3/4 of the mixture and then taste it to see how much more I need.  Sometimes, I use it all and sometimes I don't.  This recipe leaves A LOT of room for personal taste! :) Remember too, that the flavors will be stronger after it is refrigerated for a few hours.
3.  Squeeze lime into mixture, add cumin, and add salt to taste!
4. Enjoy!!


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ways to Save Money OR "How in the World Can You Afford Not to Work??"

I've been asked several times recently about how my family of five can live on just my husband's full-time ministry salary. So I thought I'd post a few things we do to save money in hopes that you, my fellow shop-savvy friends, will comment with some of your best money-saving tips!! Obviously the best way to save money on things is to never spend it in the first place, so a lot of what we have done is just completely eliminate unnecessary spending.  I am going to limit this post to saving on groceries and will address baby items, entertainment, etc... in later posts. And while I appreciate a frugal homemaker, as of yet, I do not make my own laundry detergent, farm my own food (though the fresh kind is the best kind!!), or sew my own clothes (well, I have made the girls a few skirts...). So I think everything we do as a family is pretty practical - at least by our standards.  Also, let me say, that none of my "tips" are anything new and special, but hopefully some of them can be an inspiration to try to save even more money. And so, well,  here goes:

Saving Money on Groceries:
1.  I do not generally buy processed foods.  On occasion, I will take advantage of a great sale stacked with coupons, but we prefer homemade for taste and nutritional value as well as a way to save money.

2.  Our meat consumption consists of chicken and turkey.  I have started substituting ground turkey for ground beef as well.  I only splurge on ground beef for grilling hamburgers because who wants to eat a turkey burger??!! I do buy beef roast when it is on sale because it is a fast meal for Sunday afternoons.  However, chicken and turkey are healthier options anyway.

3.  I do use coupons when I can, but at this season in my life, it usually requires more time than I have. I follow a few coupon blogs and generally only take advantage of the sales and deals that are posted as I don't take the time to figure them out for myself.  I could definitely do better in this area, though, I have stocked up on LOTS of freebies by playing the drugstore game! :) And it really is fun! And I sign up for a TON of samples...I use a separate email address so that my primary account doesn't get an overload of spam. As a stay-at-home-mom, I especially enjoy getting those treats in the mail! :)

4. I shop sales, stock up, and FREEZE food if necessary.  I do this mostly with meat, fruits, and vegetables, as well as staple non-perishable items. Most of my grocery shopping is stocking up on whatever is on sale...I then use what I have available at home from previous weeks to plan my menu. I usually only have to buy a few items to complete my meal plan.  Guess I could add here that one night we eat breakfast for supper which is super cheap, and one night a week we eat leftovers.  Another night I scavenge my pantry and fridge and get creative!! That's usually the night before grocery shopping! So that's three meals I don't have to plan!

5. Honestly, we just eat very simply.  I do not fix elaborate recipes that call for expensive ingredients.  I use recipes as a guide and for ideas, but rarely fix it exactly as stated. One day, I might. But for now, to save money, we have simplified our tastes.  I have changed my thinking when it comes to grocery shopping...I am not purchasing food items to fill our bellies, but rather I am purchasing NUTRITIONAL VALUE.  I do not just want to stuff my family full of junk, but rather the nutrition they need to make it through the day feeling good and healthy.  Which leads to my final tip...

6. My #1 money saver - I do not buy snacks. On a very rare occasion, I will take advantage of an ice cream sale, but I do not spend my grocery money on cookies and chips etc...  Sure, there are times when we wish we had junk food in the house to munch on, but those are also the times we are glad we don't!! We do snack on tortilla chips and salsa because that is something I will NEVER give up!! :) Titus snacks on fruit, peanut butter and crackers, and popcorn. And he eats old-fashioned oatmeal (with a little cinnamon thrown in) for breakfast nearly every morning - by his choice!! ")

So this is what works for us right now at this time in our lives.  I'm sure there are those who have more to spend and those who have less.  Regardless of one's budget, though, we ALL like to save money!! :0 So now I want to hear some of the ways you save on groceries!! Or maybe even a great "steal" you recently took advantage of!! I'm excited to try some of your great ideas!!

(Please comment on this blog post rather than facebook, so we can keep all the great ideas in the same place.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

House Party

About a year ago, I joined a site called House Party. It is a company that connects consumers with manufacturers that are looking to introduce their product to the public and spread the word about their companies. I have applied for several parties and have been selected to host 3 different ones now. The first House Party I hosted was for Shutterfly and every guest received a free custom photo book and 12 free custom greetings cards. I also hosted a party for Gerber and was sent a TON of free goodies for myself and my guests. I did that party as a play date for infants and toddlers. The most recent party I hosted was last night for Johnsonville. I prepared a few yummy recipes for my family and some friends using free product sent by Johnsonville and then ended the evening with DUTCH BLITZ!! Super FUN!!! My guests received several coupons for free products as well. I highly recommend the House Party site. You can choose which parties to apply for as well.
My Johnsonville Party Pack

Sharon's favorite sausage! :0

Sarah's a fan of the Zuppa!

I ♥ my Crazy Husband!!

My Gerber Party Pack

Italian Sausage Rigatoni

I served this dish at the Johnsonville House Party I was selected to host (post on that to follow). It was delicious!!!

1 pkg. Johnsonville Mild Italian Sausage links, cooked and coin-sliced
1 pkg rigatoni pasta
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large red pepper, chunked and sautéed
1 jar (26 oz) of your favorite pasta sauce
*I think I would have preferred more sauce.
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

Cook sausage according to package directions. Keep warm.
Cook rigatoni according to package directions. Keep warm.
In a large pan, place olive oil and garlic; sauté lightly for 30 seconds.
Add peppers and cook until desired tenderness.
Combine cooked sausage and pasta sauce with peppers and heat until warm.
Mix with the pasta or serve separately.
Top with fresh parsley.
Serve warm.

My finished product! :) YUMMO!!!!

Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

Tim and I love to go to Olive Garden to get their unlimited Soup 'N Salad!! However, the closest one is 45 minutes from our house. :( I found a great copycat recipe online for Zuppa Toscana and tweaked it to perfection so we can have it whenever we please! Love this stuff!!

1 lb. ground Italian sausage
1 ts crushed red pepper
1/2 large white onion, diced
4 Tbsp. bacon pieces (real bacon)
2 ts. minced garlic
10 cups water
5 cubes chicken bouillon
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4-5 large potatoes, sliced
olive oil

1. Sauté Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pan. (I like to use my non-stick skillet for this, but if you don't want to dirty as many dishes, everything can be cooked in a large stock pot.) Drain and refrigerate.

2. In the same pan, sauté bacon, onions, and garlic for about 10 minutes or until the onions are tender. (There is usually not a lot of fat left from the sausage, so I like to add a little olive oil.)

3. Add water and bouillon cubes. Heat until boiling.

4. Add potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.

5. Add heavy cream and heat thoroughly.

6. Stir in sausage.

7. Add kale just before serving. ( Amounts of this are totally up to preference. I like just enough for color!)


Friday, March 11, 2011

Super Mom!!

Today I feel like a SUPER MOM!! A lot of days I don't, but today I DO!! :) I successfully ventured out BY MYSELF with ALL THREE kiddos under the age of 3 WITHOUT CATASTROPHE!! 

 Titus was a perfect angel and the girls just smiled and cooed at everyone who stared. I had to pick up some groceries for a party tonight, and there was no way my extremely busy husband could help this time. I had Titus in the front of the cart, Kaelyn in her car seat in the back, and Kourtney strapped to me in my Bjorn. It did take just as long to get in and out of the store as it did to actually get my groceries, but it was actually FUN!!! I was well prepared with snacks for the kids and my strategically mapped out list, and we just sailed through the supermarket. Of course, I rewarded myself afterward with a Sweet Tea from McD's (even though I had to drive 5 minutes out of the way to stop!). :) 

I would actually attempt this again. Not sure what I'll do when I can't put one girl in the back and one in the Bjorn....guess I'll have to shop only at the stores with "cars" in the front of the cart. It's soooo fun being a mom, and my children are at such a fun stage - especially the girls! I definitely have celebrity status with them in tow. :) I've had lengthy conversations with the most random people all because the girls are with me, and I've discovered that everyone and their brother is a twin (no pun intended) or knows twins or has siblings or parents that are twins - and yet they are still amazed at my adorable little girlies! :) 

Well, all rambling aside, now I need to go conquer the rest of the world - aka my house cleaning! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Christmas in March

The end of the year was so busy, I never got around to posting any Christmas pictures! Sooo here they are finally... in March! We ended up celebrating 4 different times!! We had to leave for Ohio a day early (Christmas Eve) to be sure we didn't get stuck in North Carolina with the "snow storm." So we celebrated on the day before Christmas Eve by opening all the presents we didn't want to travel with. Then on Christmas Eve we opened the traditional Christmas PJ's once we got to Dad and Mom's house. We celebrated Christmas there and then traveled to Tim's parents' house and celebrated again and then traveled back to Dad and Mom's to celebrate with my siblings...all in a week's time. Wow, that's all very confusing to read....anyhow, it was a wonderful, never-ending Christmas!! And our first as a family of 5!!

Yes, they wear bows with their pj's! :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

{10 Things to Never Say to a Stay at Home Mom}

A friend posted this and I just HAD to copy and post it here! Love this!! And I think I've probably heard all ten!
{10 Things to Never Say to a Stay at Home Mom}

1. When the kids are older, do you think you'll get a real job?
2. How June Cleaver of you!
3. Oh, so you don't work?
4. Since you have extra time on your hands, could you whip up a few dozen brownies for the bake sale tomorrow?
5. All day with your kids? I can't even imagine.
6. I'm jealous. I wish my husband were rich so I wouldn't have to work either.
7. What do you do all day, anyway?
8. I'm sure you're not the only one who's ever wasted money on a college degree.
9. That explains why your son is so clingy!
10. Weird. I assumed your house would be superclean.
I have never understood the need to differentiate between SAHM and WAHM - as if any mom just STAYS at home!! :)

Dino Wars

I love it that my son is 100% ALL BOY!! He loves to play outside and usually runs straight for the ickiest, muddiest spots in the yard - he knows exactly where they are!! This past Saturday, he was playing outside while Tim and I were bathing the girls. We came into the family room to find this:

I must admit I wasn't even really upset...I was planning to clean the floors anyway after the kids went to bed so it really just struck me as cute and funny. I just wish I knew what sort of thinking possessed his almost-3-yr-old mind that he thought the dirt needed to be INSIDE the house. We found dirt clumps in both his pockets as well. And well, I love it!! I love having a boy and all the dirty messes that come with it! I especially love it when he runs and hugs me for no apparent reason and says, "I love you, Mommy!" ♥♥

Monday, March 7, 2011

Well, I just spent the last 30 minutes or so reading through the old posts on my blog and looking at all the cute pictures - so fun! I must say though that I wish I had posted more this past year. Life was sooo busy with the addition of our adorable twin girlies and (as they should) my family consumed most of my time. But reading back over the posts of the last couple of years - yes, sadly, it only took 30 minutes - has made me want to keep up with this blog more. I don't have time to scrapbook these days, and the only journal I keep is my devotional journal to keep track of my Bible reading and daily blessings. I want to use this blog as a journal of EVERYTHING I want to remember. So, basically, I'm no longer posting for friends' and family's sake, but for my own. Someday, I will have time to scrapbook again and I know this blog will come in handy!! I love that I can organize our daily happenings and pictures in one spot and right now this is the fastest way!! So, in closing, here are a few of my favorite pictures from the last month.

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