Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! Baby Campbell #2 is still "baking" and only has 2 more weeks until his or her due date! We are so excited, and are keeping very busy preparing for both Christmas and our new arrival. So in the coming days/weeks, if you notice an brief absence of posting, you'll know why! I hope all my readers have a wonderful Christmas- many blessings your way!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Cloth Diapers!

In the past, we have simply used prefolds with covers for cloth diapering. It's worked out well for us, but we still found we preferred disposables, and we were reluctant to use them. With the cost of diapers quickly escalating, I knew we needed to invest in a few cloth diapers that functioned similar to disposables. But we didn't have a fortune to spend on them either.

Enter the pocket diaper! I was able to get 18 different one-size pocket diapers with inserts off e-bay for just under $60 total. I bought them all individually to save the most money. We got the Babyland diapers sold from China. True, they probably won't be as nice as a Bum Genius diaper, but they were so budget friendly I figured it didn't matter! I did some research before purchasing them, and most of the reviews of these diapers were satisfactory enough.

Now that we have had them for several weeks, I am kicking myself for not buying them sooner! They are so easy to use! I stuff all the diapers after washing and keep the snaps on the desired setting so it's as close as they come to using disposables! They are not the most absorbent at times, but we're dealing with cloth here, not chemical laden paper. Stuffing an extra insert in seems to help with that issue, but since cloth is typically changed more frequently than disposables, it's not that big of a deal.

We are also using flush-able liners in the diapers to help with poo clean up. I find it much easier to just shake it off into the toilet than wadding up a nasty disposable! These liners, if just used for a wet diaper and not a poopy one, can also be washed and reused a few times, which helps save even more money! This has been the biggest change in the way we cloth diaper. Since our daughter is prone to extremely messy diapers, the liners were like a miracle!

As soon as the new baby comes and is big enough, we will be using cloth on him/her as well! At that point I will probably buy more or just use the prefolds to tide us over.

If you are considering cloth diapering but don't want to pay an arm and a leg for a stash of the "nicer" diapers, I encourage you to look into these Babyland e-bay diapers! They get the job done nicely with the ease a pocket diaper provides.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Family Photos

This was the first Thanksgiving in many years where Daddy C and I did not have to travel! It was so nice getting ready for the day and preparing food, without the rush of driving 1.5 or 3 hours! It's truly amazing how much Peanut has grown from last Thanksgiving!

Here is a picture of the Campbell clan- I am 35.5 weeks pregnant in this photo:

She loved "playing" the piano while we were there! She even climbed up there on that stool and started playing all by herself! It was too cute!

Just happy to be with family, and showing off her pearly whites:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

17 Months!

My little peanut is growing everyday! It's truly amazing how fast the time has gone! She will be a big sister in just a few short weeks!

We took a little getaway to Amish Country here in Ohio a few weeks ago as a last hurrah before the new baby arrives. Peanut had lots of fun staying in our rental apartment!

We've also finished cleaning up the yard for winter. Luckily we didn't have too many leaves to rake, although we saved all the ones we did gather for use as organic material in our raised garden beds. Peanut had fun playing in the leaves!

Money-Saving Recipes

There are plenty of recipes for items that are more expensive to make than to buy pre-made. The trick is finding the ones that are cheaper to make at home. Pancake syrup is one of them. Pizza sauce and dough is another. Here are a few money-saving recipes our family enjoys:

Maple Syrup
Combine in saucepan:
  • 1 ¾ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
Bring to boil, cover, and cook 1 minute. Cool slightly. Add:
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon maple flavoring
Cover saucepan for a few minutes as syrup cooks to melt down crystals
Store in the refrigerator.

I made this today and was surprised how easy and better tasting it was compared to the cheap store-brand syrup. I was able to whip it up while my pancakes were cooking and have it ready in a jiffy! (note: if you don't normally keep maple flavoring on hand in your pantry, I highly suggest you start. It is a relatively inexpensive ingredient that can add lots of flavor and zing to many recipes like this one.)

Pizza Dough- No Rise, No Yeast
  • 2 C Flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 C water
  • 1/4 C + 2 TBSP olive Oil
  • Optional- Garlic Powder, Italian Seasoning, etc to taste
Pre heat to 425

Combine everything except for the 2 TBSP olive Oil (You can stop at this point and wrap the crust and freeze for later use)

Stretch to pizza pan, brush on the 2 TBSP olive oil (you may need more or less depending on how thick/thin you made your crust)

Bake about 5 min or so just to get a good crust going. Take out and top with your pizza toppings and continue baking from there for another 15 minutes.

This is a great recipe to have on hand for those quick, last-minute pizza nights. I'm just about full-term with this pregnancy, and don't always remember to get my dough started an hour and a half beforehand, so this was perfect! It makes a biscuit-like crust and would be perfect for calzones or pizza pockets too! I did not add the extra seasonings since we have so many in our homemade sauce as it is.

Pizza Sauce
  • 1 6oz. can tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 Tb. dried oregano
  • 1/2 Tb. dried basil
  • 1/2 ts. dried rosemary
Mix together water, paste and oil. Add seasonings, and mix well. Let stand 2-24 hours to let flavors blend. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.

This sauce blows the stuff from the store out of the water, and it is so simple and easy to make! It really adds that pizzeria taste to homemade pizza, and after using this sauce I now truly prefer homemade pizza over many delivery types. This batch makes enough for around 3 pizzas for us. It will thicken and intensify in flavor after being stored in the fridge.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekly Grocery Savings

Now that November has arrived, sales are in full swing for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Stores typically do some of their deepest discounts and promotions on basic baking items and meats like turkey and ham. This is the best time to stock up for the year on those items! If you can fit it into your budget, buying ahead during this time will save you money throughout the year.

Below is a picture of a recent shopping trip to my Kroger. They were running a great sale on several items:
Here's what I bought and how much I paid for each item:
  • 3 packages of Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa - $0.66 cents each after sale and coupon ($0.99 sale plus $1/3 coupon)
  • 15 cans of Del Monte Veggies- $0.49 after sale
  • 8 cans of Campbell's Cream of Chicken- $0.29 cents after sale and coupon ($0.49 sale plus 2 $0.40/1 coupons that doubled)
  • 2 jars of Heintz Turkey gravy- $0.75 each after sale
  • 2 4lb bags of Domino Sugar- $1.49 each after sale and coupon ($2.49 sale plus 2 $0.50/1 coupons that doubled)
  • 4 Packages of Whole Wheat Barilla Pasta- $0.79 cents each after coupon ($1.29 regular price plus 2 $1/2 coupons).
  • 1 Crest Kids toothpaste- FREE after sale and coupon ($1.00 sale plus a $0.50/1 coupon that doubled)
  • 1 Oral-B Kids toothpaste- FREE after sale and coupon ($1.00 sale plus a $0.50/1 coupon that doubled)
  • 1 package of Kandoo Flushable wipes- FREE after sale and coupon ($1.00 sale plus a $0.50/1 coupon that doubled)
Total before sales and coupons: $58.27

Total Spent after sales and coupons, including tax: $20.47

Total Saved: $37.80!

I was also able to snag two 21 pound turkeys at Giant Eagle while we were in Columbus visiting my sister and running some errands. I got each of them for just $0.59 a pound! I put both in the deep freezer for later.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November Meal Plan

This month, I am trying something a bit different with my meal planning. Instead of just planning out dinners (which has been working so well for us), I decided to go ahead and plan out lunches and breakfasts too! Although we rarely adhere strictly to the meal plan, having a plan of sorts really helps me on those days when I don't have any ideas! It also helps keep the grocery budget down since we don't buy more food than we need.

So far, this method has been working out great for us! I love that we are making old favorites we had forgotten about as well as trying new things, all without me having to brainstorm every single meal! The amount of stress this has taken off my shoulders is unbelievable.

Click here to view our November Meal plan, complete with breakfasts, lunches and dinners!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Canning Apple Butter

A little while ago, I blogged about canning grape jelly for the first time. Well, 2 days after successfully canning 12 half pints of jelly, I was ready to tackle homemade apple butter! I followed the recipe on Simply Canning, and it was just as easy as the jelly, if not easier!

I used about...
15 apples
1.5 cups of sugar
1 ts. cinnamon
1/4 ts. ground cloves
1/4 ts. salt

Step 1: Peel core and slice apples. I used my handy-dandy apple corer/peeler/slicer. It made this step super easy! I got mine at Meijer on sale for just $10!

Step 2: Fill crock-pot with apples. Top with sugar and spice mixture. Mine is 4 quarts, so you would need more apples and sugar if you have a larger crock.

Step 3: Cook on high for 1 hr just before you go to bed. I started mine at 8:30pm. Then, give it is a stir and turn it to low. Go to sleep. Wake up in the morning to this:

I did use my immersion blender to smooth out the chunks, but you could also just use a potato masher too! Next, get your canner going, then sterilize and heat jars and lids. Fill up the jars, wipe rims and screw on lids. I was able to fill 6 half pint jars with leftovers for the fridge.

Process in canner for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool for 24 hrs. Wala! Homemade canned apple butter!

This stuff is DIVINE. I am not a huge fan of apple butter normally, but that has all changed! We already went through the leftovers I stored in the fridge! Serve on warm bread or whatever you like really. Peanut particularly loves it when I make her an apple butter sandwich!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Structured Learning Activities with a Young Toddler

Recently, I've begun implementing structured learning activities into our day for Peanut. Although she is just over 16 months old, I can already see the benefit these early learning sessions will have! We plan on homeschooling, so getting into a routine of daily learning will also be really helpful when she starts more formal preschool studies.

When I first started researching homeschooling, I thought for sure that I would not have to worry about it until she was at least 3. But the more I learned about early learning and the more I watched her develop and grow, I decided to start doing structured activities with her, even if just for 15 or 30 minutes a day. The great thing is that she has fun and is learning without even realizing it!

I've been able to find quite a few free young toddler curriculum online, and so far we have been following Pam's House Young Toddler Curriculum. I love how flexible it is and how you can just pick and choose what you want to do. I also love the Christian teachings included. Since Peanut is still fairly young and not really talking, I can just repeat lessons a few times if I need to. This is going to come in handy when I am busy taking care of a newborn at the same time. These lessons are structured so that you can quickly start and stop different activities if needed. I borrow books for the week from the library, and am working on getting our "school" supplies stocked so I can more easily do projects that involve things like construction paper, glue sticks basic craft supplies or crayons.

If you're interested in teaching babies and toddlers, here are a few more links I found that were helpful:

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Little Cheeser

I remember as a child I loved to "cheese" for the camera. It seems my daughter does as well, and she preps for her shot before I even turn the camera on! She loves "cheesing"!!

Here she is sporting her sunglasses inside, with the famous paci and her favorite toys- a spoon and a bowl!

"mommy! I'm ready!"

The next day...

And again! (notice the little scab between her eyes- that was from falling and landing face first on a frisbee she was carrying off the step from the garage to the sidewalk!)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Canning Grape Jelly

This week, I completed my first canning project: grape jelly! It was so much fun, I did it again the next day! I'm pretty excited about this since not only will canning my own fruits, spreads and butters be so much more affordable than buying them at the store, they also taste better and I know what's going into them.

I got my super simple recipe from Hillbilly Housewife. All you need is a box of pectin, 3 cups of grape juice and 4 cups of sugar! So simple!

Here is my workstation ready to go: The grape juice and pectin are on the back left burner, the lids are on the front left and my canner is getting ready on the right.

This is what happens after you bring the juice and sugar to a boil! I thought it was going to boil over! Thankfully, it did not.

After the jelly was ready, I ladeled them into hot, sterilized jars.

Then I wiped the jars clean, put lids on them and placed them in the canner for 10 minutes.

Behold! Jelly!
Here's a price breakdown of how much it costs to make this jelly:

Juice- $2.19 for a bottle from Aldi. I used a little less than half, so we'll go with $1.
Sugar- $2.49 for a 4lb bag from Walgreens on sale. I used $1.10 worth.
Pectin- $2.29 for a box of 2. I used one box, so $1.15.

Total: $3.25 for 6 half-pint jars. Or just 54 cents each!

If you want to include the price of the jars, I paid $5.50 for a dozen half pint jars. So, $2.75 was spent on this batch. So with new jars, the total is just $1 each! Plus, you can reuse the jars over and over.

We love this jelly, and although I figured one jar would last us about a month based on our current consumption of jelly, it's probably only going to last a couple weeks since we are eating it so much!

My next canning project will be apple butter. I'll post pics and a recipe as soon as I finish it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vegetable Garden Update

For those interested in reading about how our vegetable garden fared over the summer, you can read the post I wrote on my natural and organic living blog:

All in all, I consider this past season a success, and I can't wait for the possibilities of next year!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Building a Children's Library on a Budget

One of the things Peanut simply loves is her books. She will sit down and go through the pages, intensely studying the pictures and interacting with the different elements on the page. We have made it a nightly ritual to begin reading 2 or 3 books to her before she goes to bed, and she loves walking over to her bookshelf and picking out which book to read. She tends to want to read the same books over and over, and although it does get a bit repetitive, it is so wonderful to watch her enjoyment over it that we continue to read them to her.

From the beginning, it has been important to us to have plenty of children's books on hand to provide opportunity for learning as well as to help cultivate the love of reading in our children. However, collecting a large assortment of children's books can be quite pricey. Have you ever gone inside a bookstore and looked for a cheap children's book? Unless you dig hard in the bargain bin, you likely won't find one for less than $5-8. Baby board books cost even more due to the durable construction.

The following places are wonderful sources of discounted or cheap children's books that we always take advantage of:

Library Book Sales
This is perhaps the best place to find children's books for next to nothing! While I was pregnant with Peanut, we went to a local library book sale. We were able to fill a grocery bag full of books for just $4. Although they might have some wear, a lot of them are still in great condition or can be mended with a little elbow grease. Some of Peanut's favorite books came from this sale, and I love that because we did not pay much for them there is no worry over the terrible abuse they have and will continue to experience in the hands of a busy toddler.

Garage Sales
This is the second best place to find children's books. During garage sale season, keep your eyes open for board books in particular, as they can be hard to find. Baby and toddler books are not as common either, so just be on the lookout and you will likely find some great deals. Collecting books for when children are older is a great thing to begin as well. Usually, books at garage sales run anywhere from 10 to 50 cents. I have never seen a children's book priced any higher than that!

Family and Friends
Another great source of children's books is family and friends. Ask around and there are bound to be plenty of people willing to pass on books no longer read or in use. For birthdays and holidays, consider asking for books instead of toys. This is a wonderful way to get quality new books for your child too.

Although we do enjoy building our own children's library, nothing beats the real library for fresh, new books when those you own have been read to death. Be warned, however, not to let them become overdue, or you will quickly defeat the purpose of reading for free. We try not to check out more than 3 children's books at a time so that they are not as likely to become lost and are easier to keep track of. Renewing favorite books online is a great way to get more use out of them as well. Do take care to ensure these books do not get damaged as well, since they do not belong to you and you will be charged if they become severely ripped or abused. I try to only get board books for playtime and then the paper-paged books are kept out of reach until I can read them with my daughter.

Do you have a favorite place to buy children's books? Share in the comments below!

Monday, September 26, 2011

October Menu Plan

It's that time of the month again! A new month means a new menu! The theme for this month is hearty soups, stews and roasts to keep us warm while we wait to turn on the heat. Oh, and all are budget friendly of course, with the average dinner providing leftovers for lunch! For breakfast, baked oatmeal, pumpkin and apple muffins will appear and for dessert, we'll have fresh pumpkin pie and other seasonal treats.
Click here to view our October Dinner Menu.
This is the 3rd month we have begun using monthly menu plans, and I am amazed at how well it is working for us! I would definitely not be able to keep our grocery budget as low as it is without a menu plan. Planning out meals for the entire month allows me to take advantage of sales I otherwise would have overlooked. Although we are still working out the kinks with our lowered grocery budget, I know that the number one way to succeed with it is by using monthly menu plans. I have tried weekly and biweekly menu-planning, but nothing has worked as well as monthly plans have.
This month I will also be working on continuing to freeze meals and foods in preparation for the new baby. I also would like to try my hand at canning some grape jelly since grapes are so cheap right now. 
What foods are you looking forward to cooking/baking in October? Share in the comments below!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekly CVS and Walgreens Savings

Today I went to Walgreens and CVS to pick up a few of their sale items and also to use my RR and rain-check. Below is what I got (apologies for the bad photo- I used my phone!):

1 Carefree Liner @ $1.00, -0.50/1 coupon
1 Skintimate Shave Gel @ $1.99, -1.50/1 coupon
1 Schick Razor w/ 16 AA batteries (clearance) $3.25
= $4.68
Earned $1.00 ECB

3 Nice Tomato Sauces @ $0.25 each
1 Domino Sugar @ $2.49 -0.50/1 coupon
1 Finish Gel Pack @ $3.99, -0.75/1 coupon
-$5 RR
=$1.76 (I forgot to use my domino sugar coupon- and no, I can't believe it!)
Earned $1.50 RR

I spent just over $6 for all those items, and I got $2.50 back to use for next week. I really didn't even know I had the $5 RR, so that was like free money to me! And the battery find was too good to pass up, especially since we are out of AAs.

Have you found any good deals lately?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monthly Menu Plans

Last month, I decided to start doing a monthly menu plan on the advice of The Grocery Shrink (By the way, f you haven't read her ebook or blog, I encourage you to check it out!). Not only has this been much easier than I originally thought, it has made my days and weeks less stressful and allowed us to save a bunch of money by avoiding eating out due to my not knowing what to make for dinner.

I was able to quickly fill in all the meals by assigning each day of the week a theme. Here are some of my themes:

  • Mondays: Soup Night
  • Tuesday: Big Meat Night
  • Wednesday: Group Meal Night
  • Thursday: Crock-Pot Night
  • Friday: Homemade Pizza Night
  • Saturday: Grilling Out Night (Until summer ends that is)
  • Sunday: Easy/Leftover/Freezer Meal Night
You can view our family's September Menu Plan here.

Monthly menu-planning makes it easier to take advantage of early sales for meals later in the month, and it actually reduces the time spent shopping. Less money is wasted on impulse buys and more money is saved or allocated for stockpiling the pantry.

I am loving this new method of menu planning! Of course, life often gets in the way of seeing this plan completely to fruition, but having an idea of what to do has helped so much!

How do you menu plan?

Friday, August 26, 2011

14 Months of Breastfeeding

Today marks the 14th month anniversary of breastfeeding my daughter. It's a wonderful day.

If you would have told me I would make it this far back when she was a wee little newborn, I probably would have laughed! I never thought I would be able to stick with something so challenging and so life-altering for so long. I never would have thought I had the strength to endure low-supply issues, growth spurts, bottle rejections and night nursing every 2 hours for 9 months straight. But God has seen me through it all, giving me the strength I didn't know I had, as well as blessing me with those little moments of pure bliss while nursing that encouraged me to stick with it even when it was hard.

Breastfeeding my baby is the most accomplished thing I have ever done. I am so proud of myself, because I know many other mothers struggle and are not able to make it nearly as long as I did. I count myself blessed to have had this experience. I feel more empowered as a woman, wife and momma. I was able to provide the sole nutrition for my baby for the first nine months, giving her the precious gift of mother's breastmilk that will continue to positively affect her entire life. And I'm thoroughly convinced, that I if I can do it, anyone can!

Although I have made it this far, this will probably be the last day I nurse my daughter. She is moving on, and my supply has vanished in order to properly provide for our new growing baby. I was able to continue to nurse the first 5 months of this pregnancy, something I never thought I would or could do as well. But now the time has come, and I will be enjoying this break before another baby comes along and changes my life in new, wonderful ways.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Summer Harvest

Today we worked on weeding our flower beds and tearing up the spent vegetable plants in the veggie garden. After some further research, we decided it would be ok to harvest what we could from it, as long as the veggie is thoroughly washed and cooked (our cat has used it as her litterbox). After harvesting a small roma tomato as well as a large yellow squash, we decided to go ahead and stake the poor tomatoes who were struggling to hold themselves up!

First harvest of August:

Successfully staked tomato plants: (note: we used existing pieces of wood laying around in the garage, so the cost of staking 8 plants was completely FREE)

Lovely La Roma tomatoes:

Nicely growing Better Boys:

Staked tomato patch from front:

Bell pepper who was previously suffocating under all the unstaked tomato vines:

Now, least you think our garden is all up and running, please take a moment and view the other side. A weedy mess indeed. The far right bed we actually completely ripped out, where the 2 squash plants previously resided. It was just not going well (lots of cat poo), and we need to restore that soil anyway. The middle bed is a project for another day, but you can see one lonely tomato plant staked in the middle. I'm not entirely sure that one will survive amongst all the grasses attempting to take over, but we'll see.

And here is our brush/compost pile after all the weeding today. You can see the remains of several ill-fated broccoli and lettuce plants:

Monday, August 8, 2011

Peanut Goes Camping

Recently, we took Peanut camping with her aunt and uncle who live far far away in Virginia. We decided to meet halfway in Pennsylvania, at Laurel Hill State Park (which was gorgeous BTW!).

Peanut walking along the beachy lake with Daddy C:

Peanut splashing in the water! This girl loves to swim!

She also went on her first bike ride with Daddy C and I! Here she is in her seat! She kept saying "weee!" all throughout the ride! So cute!

We went hiking to a dam and could not resist cooling off in the water below! Peanut practically dived right in, getting soaked in the process!

All 3 of us hiking! Peanut is busy look at the water in the background, haha.

We had a great trip spending time relaxing at the campsite and catching up with family. Peanut did not sleep the best the first night (we arrived at the site very late), and the second night it had started raining around dinnertime, turning our campsite into a mudsite, unsuitable for a walking toddler! So we got an emergency hotel room and let Peanut stay up late! It all turned out for the best, and next time, we'll know to take the weather seriously when it calls for a chance of rain (or at least have a backup plan arranged). Peanut thought the hotel room was so much fun though! Of course, this girl thinks everything is fun.

I can't wait for our next camping adventure, although next time it will likely be somewhere a bit closer so we don't arrive so late and also free of rain!

Do you enjoy camping? How often do you go?

Weekly Coupon Savings

On Sunday, I went shopping at Kroger and Rite Aid to pick up some free items and good deals. Below is what I got for absolutely FREE at Kroger after coupons:

I used 3 $0.50/1 coupons for the Crest, 2 $0.50/1 coupons for the Ivory soap, as well as a Free Kroger Soup, Free Pantene, Free Digiorno for One, Free Quaker Chewy Bars and Free Butter coupon! I love trips like this!

Total Cost: $0.45 (tax)
Total Saved: $23.63

Next, I headed to Rite Aid, where I actually spent some money. I have not shopped at Rite Aid in MONTHS, so I had no UPs to use. However, we needed several of these items so I went ahead and got them:

Total cost after coupons: $17.57
UPs earned for next trip: $2
Total Saved: $27.25

That was actually more than I had planned on spending, but we were out of dishwasher detergent and I needed to get some. I can never seem to find spectacular deals on it, so I figured 50% off with a coupon was pretty decent. I also needed Ziplock baggies and deodorant. The ziplock baggies admittedly are a splurge, but I have recently started reusing and washing them when possible, so they go much further than one use. This will probably be enough for at least 2-3 more months hopefully.

Have you gotten any good deals recently? What is your favorite drugstore or grocery to shop at?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Walgreens and CVS Savings!

This month I am working on building up a stockpile of toiletry items as well as shelf stable food. Rob is going to build me a storage shelving unit for our basement to help make it easier to store it all. After comparing sale prices of storage shelving with the cost of building one ourselves, we figured we would be saving approximately $20-25 building one. We plan on having the 6ft by 3ft structure (with 5 shelving units) built by the end of this month.

In the meantime, I have been back at couponing full force lately. Yesterday I scored big at Walgreens and CVS by using coupons as well as the various store promotions. Here is what I got and what I paid:

  • 4 12-packs of Cottonelle Toilet Paper
  • 1 Goody Hair Clip
  • 8-pk of Crayola Washable Markers
  • 12 oz bottle of Complete Multi-Purpose Solution
  • 1 box of Mac and Cheese
Total Spent after rewards and coupons: $12.50
Total Saved: $40+

  • 2 Skinny Cow candy bars
  • 1 Gillete Fusion Razor
  • 1 box of Kashi Cereal
Total Spent after rewards and coupons: $3
Total Saved: $16

We should be good to go on toilet paper until later this fall! This helps me to only pay the lowest possible price on such a frequently used item. We also have plenty of contact solution to keep our eyes in good health! I am so thankful for coupons and the items we can get for nearly free- it really helps stretch our tiny budget quite a bit.

Do you use coupons? Why or why not?

Monday, July 25, 2011

How to Save Money When You Think You've Maxed Out

I've talking before about our family's desire to pay off our student loans and get out of debt. After a year and a half of trekking along, we've managed to lower our balance by almost half as well as pay cash for the birth of Peanut (no maternity coverage). After some recent examination, we figured we could cut back even more. With the light at the end of the tunnel, it's makes us want to try and really see if we can do it by our goal date, July 2012! Here are some ways we are cutting back to save us an additional $4,000 throughout the next year:
  • Lower our grocery bill - I recently discovered The Grocery Shrink, and after reading a few of her posts, I decided to buy her eBook and see if I could glisten anything new from it. I am so glad I got that eBook, because not only did I learn a whole new approach to grocery shopping, but I can see that it is going to save us approximately $125 a month!! I thought I was a frugal person before, but Angela has shown me ways in which we can cut back even more to get to our goals without sacrificing healthy foods.
  • Cut back on phones - We have a house phone as well as 2 cell phones. I recently was gifted a blackberry, and so we also had a data plan and messaging on my phone. We hardly use our house phone, so cutting this out will be easy and save us $24 a month. By switching back to a basic phone, I will also save an additional $20 a month on our cell phone bill.
  • Eliminate Entertainment - Although we did not spend much on entertainment to begin with (only $25 a month), we realized that there are plenty of things we can do that are free and save this money instead.
  • Cut back on Babysitting- This is one area we really hadn't even implemented yet, so it will be easy to cut back on it. We had originally planned for 2 dates a month, but now we are going to shorten that to just 1. We will also do something free instead of using entertainment money to go out somewhere. Savings on this is $20 a month.
  • Eliminate Lawn Sprays - Last month we started getting our lawn regularly sprayed to help with the weed encroachment. If we hadn't done something there probably would not be any grass left in our backyard, and that would have been an expense to start over. However, our lawn looks fabulous now, and I doubt we need the rest of the season's sprays to keep it looking decent. We may still get it sprayed once in the fall, but will be canceling the rest. Monthly savings on this is $50.
  • Increase our Health Insurance Deductible - Since we moved, our premiums went up by about $60. By increasing our deductible, we can potentially save that $60 increase and more. Since we are saving all the money we will be using to pay off debt until after the baby is born, we will be able to meet the deductible if complications do occur. But since I am low risk and already had a complication free birth, the risk of that happening is slim.
  • Cut Back on Driving - Since Rob is a worship minister at a church 30 minutes away, we had been driving separately to church on Sundays. He has to be there early and stays late, so it made sense to do it this way. However, if I get up early and ride with him instead, we could save $40 a month on gas. Since that was the only time we really used our second car anyway, we will also be able to save on maintenance for the car - about $25 a month.
Total Yearly Savings: $4,620.00!

This plan will allow us to be able to pay off our student loans a whole 2 months earlier than anticipated, making the sacrifice just less than a year! We are so excited we finally added up all those expenses and saw just how much money we really did have to save to allow us to reach our goals. So, just when you think you can't cut back anymore, make every dollar count and re-examine every piece until you find that one thing that can be saved instead. It really makes a difference!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Peanut is a Walker!

For the 4th of July, we went on a family vacation to my aunt and uncle's cabin in northern Michigan. The cabin is so peaceful and quiet, situated on a small lake not to far from Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

This was the second time that we visited together, but the first time that Peanut joined us! We had such a good time relaxing, swimming, boating, exploring, hiking and spending time together! And to add to the memories, Peanut started full-time walking on this trip!

The drive there was 8 hours, the longest we have ever gone with Peanut in the car. We tried going through the night thinking she would sleep most of the way, but that did not go over well. She only likes to sleep about 2 hours at a time in her carseat! So on the way back, we drove throughout the day and took lots of walking breaks, and that went much much better. As long as she had plenty of books to look at and interesting new toys every so often, so was pretty content! She did really well sleeping in the pack n play in our room at the cabin, and we didn't have to fight naps with her either, which was really nice! I think all the new experiences tired her out fast!

It was so nice to have some quality time together as a family! Daddy C took off 3 days so we had 5 whole days to spend there, which is the longest vacation we have taken in some time! The best part was that it didn't cost us hardly any money since we stayed at the family cabin and ate almost all our meals there. Including gas, we spent less than $400 for this trip! That also included a day excursion to one of the nearby islands!

Enjoying our hike on top of Alligator Hill! She loves hiking and does really well in the backpack- this hike was 2 hrs so I was happy she was so content!

Playing with the rocks at Lake Michigan. She loved picking them up and banging them together!

We had a great time on our vacation and can't wait to go back next year!

Now that she is walking, we have to keep an extra eye on her to make sure she doesn't get into anything she isn't supposed to be in or run off unexpectedly. But it's so wonderful to watch her explore and find things! She is so fun!