Sunday, October 31, 2010

Packing a lunch?

Packing a lunch is a well known way to save money. Although, there are ways to even cut back on the packed lunch costs too. We've been doing this for years and it's made a big difference in our grocery budget. Here are some of the ways we cut out extra spending when it comes to our lunches.

-Don't buy individually packaged items. This includes things likes the yogurts (unless you have coupons), jellos, puddings, chips, snack packs, sliced cheese bags, sliced apple bags, carrot and ranch get the idea. That packaging is costing YOU money. I know it's really handy to have those things ready for you, but if you cut even some of them out, you'll save a lot at the grocery store. Buy the large bags, packages or unprepared version of them and prepare it yourself. You can get some small tupperwares for $1-2 at the store to use for your "snacks" in your lunch. I'll give you an example of the savings: A box of Jello mix-$0.50, 4+ servings (depends on how much you eat). Packaged jellos, the cheapest are $1 for 4 servings and then go up over $2 for 6. So, your homemade jello will cost you $0.12/serving, compared to $0.50 for the packaged ones. (Which is also adding plastic to the landfill!) Baggies work just as well for a few handful of chips too and is it really THAT hard to put some chips in a bag?

-Make snacks, like your own trail mix, you'll get a lot more putting it together yourself from bulk stores.

-Take leftovers, it's already made, it's already paid for.

-Skip the frozen dinners. A lot of them are really small and cost quite a bit. You could make a much nicer meal out of left overs and packaged snacks, fruit and veggies from home and it'll probably taste better too.

-Get reusable bags, containers and utensils to keep as your "lunch ware".

-Pre-package a week's worth of snacks ahead of time and keep them in the fridge for easier lunch packing during the week. Take a half hour on Sunday afternoon to cube some cheese, cut carrots and store them in a bowl of water, fill containers with condiments or snacks (yogurts, jello, puddings).  Take fruit that is easy to eat on the go like apples. Otherwise, pre-cut that too, like a pineapple, watermelon or cantaloupe can all be cut and stored in small containers and ready to go.

Another $1,000 Done!

That's right! :) Another reason to celebrate. We've hit the $2,000 mark (actually it's over that, but I have yet to figure out the exact amount). Either way, it's a fantastic accomplishment.

Part of what makes these milestones so exciting for us is that we have been scrapping up every extra penny we can find in our budget to make these payments. We haven't had a large surplus each month and these milestones are happening, one small payment at a time.

We will get out from under this! I hope you are doing the same in your lives!

Saturday, October 30, 2010


I love those three words. They are magical to me right now! ;) We made our final payment on my student loan from my bachelor's degree about a month ago. Today, though, I got the lovely letter that makes it official that I owe them NOTHING! That I have no debts with them, that I'm free from their bills, that I'm free from the stress and interest that so quickly accumulated by that "number" they held over me. I'm pretty sure I should frame those letters and hang them next to my degree because it feels like even more of an accomplishment then the degree sometimes!

It's a freedom day, friends! Not a complete freedom, but it's one of them along the way and it feels awesome!

I hope some of you are experiencing a freedom day or one is in your near future, I wish this for all of you!

Challenge #3-Space, Part 2

Now lets tackle the issue of a small pantry or limited space for canned/boxed goods. Trust me, I know this problem too. I've lived in a one bedroom apartment with no pantry, other apartments with very small or no pantry and our current home has a very small pantry too. So, understand that all that I'm giving as suggestions and things I've done have all been done with limited space, to this day I do NOT have a large walk in pantry or huge closet full of food. Hopefully that helps give you a feel for the perspective I'm coming from.

So, lets get started. First of all, lets work on some of the alternative solutions to find places to store your "stock up". Here are some ideas:

-An extra storage unit in the garage, basement, on a porch/deck/patio. Be sure to get something with doors and potentially a lock if necessary! ;) We do have a cabinet in our garage which is currently our 'second' pantry and holds paper products, canned goods, cereals, snacks and other items we use frequently.

-Linen closets, coat closets, laundry rooms, other cabinets in the kitchen are all areas that could be used for extra storage.

Just to give you more ideas of how we've made it work in small spaces in our house: We don't have a laundry room (it's more of a closet that covers our laundry machines), so my husband put in industrial like shelving all the way across, above the machines to provide a lot of extra storage for us. Then we put other shelves and other storage drawers on top of it. We use that area to store extra cleaning supplies, paper towels, and toilet paper. Along with other items. We don't have a coat closet and our linen closet is full, but we do keep extra toilet paper in there.

Those are just some ideas to get you thinking creatively, because it CAN be done, we are proof of that.

So lets take on the small pantry, shall we?

First of all, if you're going to get a lot of stuff into small spaces, you need to be organized. The worst thing you can do in a small space is be disorderly. It's another area where you might need to think outside the box too. For example, we have plastic drawer units on nearly every shelf in our panty. They keep more then a shelf can, it's organized, it's easy access, and things can go on top of the drawers.

Here's a list of some things we keep in the drawers:
-Jellos/pudding mixes
-baking mixes that are small or in bags
-dry drink mixes (flavored coffees, sugar packets, teas, hot chocolates, etc).
-Kid's packaged snacks (taken out of the boxes, so they can help themselves)
-baking supplies (muffin cups, chocolate chips, sprinkles, toppings)

I like to keep those smaller/miscellaneous items in drawers because they can be "thrown" in there an not cause a mess. They are also a pain to keep on shelves because they are small, awkward packaging, and difficult to stack or reach when you need them. A drawer is the perfect solution for them.

For further proof that I live this in my real life, and so you see that everything isn't in perfect order, here's a picture of our pantry:

Small, right? 

A view of the inside to give you an idea of how the drawers work and help for extra storage. 

I also use the door for extra storage by hanging shoe holders from the door. 
(Side note: These are also great for things like mittens, scarfs, umbrellas, etc in a coat closet). 

Now, after you've explored all those options to expand your space, here are some things to work think about to work with what you've got.

The first two are just like the freezer situation.
-Prioritize and smart storage solutions. What is your goal? If it's to save money then my suggestion is to have the things you use in a lot of recipes on hand and get them while they are on sale. Keep things that make your life simpler when it comes to time too. If you frequently have last minute guests or you need to have things to take to events regularly, then keep things that will work well for those occasions on hand. For example cake mixes and frosting tubs, crackers and dips, canned items you use in a lot of meals. If that's not your lifestyle, then don't buy a lot of those items and focus mostly on things you use for your family's meals.

We eat a lot of pasta, because it's cheap, quick, easy, and very versatile. Instead of getting a bunch of small boxes to keep in my pantry though, I'll get an extra large bag of noodles at Sam's club (this can be done with a bunch of boxes too, I just have the Sam's option) and pour them all into a large upright tupperware that fits nicely on my pantry shelf. It holds more, it's more organized and it's easy to access. They hold A LOT of lose spaghetti type noodles too. I do the same with the extra large bags of cereal. Bottom line, find ways to stock up on commonly used items and make the room for those things. If you have space for "extra" stuff then add it, but fit the important stuff in there first. If you aren't a huge "from-scratch-baker" you may not need a lot of flour, sugar, etc. on hand and just get the mixes and small amounts of the other items.

-Think of several meals you eat a lot of and your family really enjoys and be sure to have 2-3 of all the items needed for those meals on hand. Chances are those same ingredients are things you'll end up using in a lot of other recipes too.

-Re package your items. If you have a lot of boxed goods that can go into large ziplock bags and lay them flat, then do that. It'll save you space. If you can get rid of some of the packaging to make it a smaller unit, then try that. Find cans, jars, or other ways to package things in order to get them to fit your space. There is no rule that says you need to keep things in the package they come in! :)

-Go through your pantry regularly to make sure you're using what's in there and you're not over buying things you already have plenty of.

-Occasionally do a "use what I have weekly menu" and make every meal on the menu use up several items in your pantry that you have a significant amount of to make room for new items. That'll save you a trip or two to the store too! :) Bonus!

Final thoughts, we've been doing the stocking up method for a long time and in all amounts of space. It really is doable. It may not be to the extent that others are able to, but if you base your choices on your priorities, are realistic to your lifestyle and your space, you can have a lot on hand. Remember, the goal is to avoid the store in order to save money, so just like the freezer, a pantry full of stuff you don't use isn't doing you any good! Be wise about your purchases and make the most of every penny and square inch! ;)

Now get busy re-organizing your pantry, stocking up, saving money and making fabulous meals for your family! You can do this!

Friday, October 29, 2010

A new food processor

The other day while I was putting my food processor to work, it broke! :( I was thoroughly disappointed, because as you can tell from my posts on here I use it a lot. The worse part was that it was fairly old, no parts sold any more and beyond repair. It had seen it's last day. So sad. Being on our cash budget and not for seeing a broken food processor in our future, I was certain I wouldn't be replacing it any time soon, even bigger bummer!

Then, much to my surprise I was browsing the area at Walmart to get a feel for the cost to replace one and I found one for $29.88! That's it! Granted, I don't know if it's the best, nicest, coolest food processor out there--can guarantee it's not--but for $30, it fit the needs I have and best of all it fit the budget. Woo hoo!

New food processor will need to be broken in soon! :)

Thought I'd share my deal find, in case others are looking to get one too. That price makes it a lot more feasible for most of us. :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Challenge #3: Small Spaces-Part 1

I've heard from a few people that they lack extra space for some of their stocking up desires, so I'm going to do some posts on small space solutions that we've tried or that I've learned from others. We'll start with the freezer, either a lack of a second one or a small one with limited extra space.

Until about a month ago we've never had a large freezer for extra food storage, but we had a lot crammed in the one we had!! :) Here's some thoughts.

-Prioritize. When you're thinking about your family's food needs, what is that you like to have on hand the most? Is it meats that you can pull out and make a meal from or is convenience foods that are ready to serve because of your schedule? Is your main goal to save money? or time? or a combination of both?
* To save money: use your freezer to store more expensive items that you find on sale or buy in bulk to avoid needing to buy it regularly, like meats. We've always stored a large amount of meats in our freezer, usually hamburger, chicken, lunch meats, and occasionally roasts or other cuts that we've found on a great sale. We've also frozen milk and bread because they are frequently used items and going to the store less often, helps save money.
*To save time:  buy large portions of the meats and ingredients you'll need for several meals that you've found on sale or for a really great price. Do a bulk cooking day or two and then store your meals in the freezer. If it's a soup or something more "mobile" that can be stored in a freezer bag, do so and lay it flat, it'll save you a lot of space. You could also buy a couple whole chickens and roast them, peel the meat from the bone and store them in freezer bags ready to add to meals in a hurry. It's even helpful to have parts of your meal prepared in the freezer, for example all the onions chopped already or grilling, seasoning and cutting large amounts of chicken breast and having them frozen on hand. (Sidenote: freeze things on cooking sheets first so you can easily take out only the amount you need from the bag).
*Both: all of these suggestions will help with a little bit of both, so if you need a little bit of each, then do smaller amounts of each suggestion and have a balance of both the convenience of having something ready to eat and going to the store less often. Keep in mind that having a freezer full of food isn't always saving you money. If you aren't using the food or if you didn't watch the prices you've paid for things you bought, it's not helping you, so be sure to be mindful of what you put in there!

-Packaging. The way you package your food is going to help save A LOT of space if you do it well. So here are some ideas for common items I've bought and kept frozen in a small space.
*Hamburger: I usually bought 10-20 lbs of hamburger at a time, usually when I found it on a really great sale or simply because usually the larger items are cheaper then the smaller packages. I have a small food scale (they are not expensive) and I'd store my hamburger in 1/2 lb.** freezer bags. Which meant I'd have about 20-40 bags of hamburger to then store in my freezer. So we would lay them flat and smash the hamburger down as flat as we could, so the bags easily stacked on top of each other and saved a huge amount of space. It's also quicker to thaw that way too. Be sure to get all the air out of your bags to avoid freezer burn and to make more space!
**I use 1/2 lb portions in most of our recipes to save money and use less meat. Most meals are fine with less hamburger and it helps stretch the amount you have. If you do have a recipe that calls for more, it's just as easy to thaw two or three bags.
*Chicken: I've always bought the family size or extra large chicken packages. This spring we actually bought 40lbs of chicken to store without an extra freezer! (See it can be done!) I put one to two chicken breasts or thighs in each freezer bag for easy portion control and so I can lay them out as flat as possible in the bags just like I did with the hamburger.
*Lunch meat: Again, I buy the largest bag or get a lot of it when it's on sale and then freeze it in smaller bags, flat again! ;)
*Milk: When you're freezing milk the best thing to remember is that you need to empty some of the container to allow for it to expand. Then when you're thawing it, it has to be fully thawed before using it.  If you have limited space, usually the full gallons are cheaper, but try to round up some 1/2 gallon sized bottles to pour your milk into to freeze. Sometimes I'd get some 1/2 gallons when they were on sale for the freezer.
*Cheese: block cheese isn't good to freeze, but shredded cheese is fine. Want to save even more money? Buying shredded cheese is significantly more expensive then blocked cheese. Buy the largest blocks of cheese and take it home and shred it yourself in a food processor and store it flat, again, in the freezer.
*Bread: I only freeze bagels, english muffins, tortillas and loaf breads. Usually buns don't thaw very well.
-->Anything that can be laid flat should be frozen that way, it's the best way to freeze food!

When it comes to limited freezer space it's all about priorities and packaging! Once you've figured out those two things you'll be able to stock up the best way that will work for your family. Don't let a lack of space keep you from saving money for you family!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Challenge #2: Giving in!

Yikes, can I relate to the challenge of giving into your splurges while trying to meet a financial goal. For years we've had the same struggle of trying to save or really be careful about our spending and then at some point you break and give in on something you've been wanting. I've heard some great advice on this issue and we've tried some things to help with it too. Here are some thoughts:

-Allow for some rewards. If you don't ever cut yourself some slack in your budget then one of you will bend the rules and make a bigger problem then the slack would've. Set a goal and when you meet it celebrate it. We are doing this with our debt diet. Ever $1,000 we pay off, we are celebrating, because we've sacrificed to make that goal and so we'll give in on an "extra" we haven't been able to enjoy during that time period.

-Plan for splurges and entertainment. If you say you'll never eat out until you've reach "such and such" goal, then you'll go crazy and suddenly crave eating out every night! So, find a way to add those things you enjoy into your budget. Include an entertainment allowance and then be reasonable and live within that budget. If you're able to set aside an extra $5-10 per paycheck into a "fun" account on top of your entertainment budget, do that and when you have the amount you want in there go blow it on something you don't usually get to do.

-Have a "no rules/no questions/no limits" account. This is the money each of us have (my husband and I) that we take out each month that is ours to do with however we please. If I want to save mine up for something big down the line, then that's my choice. If I want to spend it on small treats every few days, that's my choice. Same goes for him. We each have the freedom to not feel guilty about how we chose to use that money, it gives us some space, some breathing room on a tight budget.

-Be realistic and make changes that fit your lifestyle. It's like any diet, if you eliminate everything you enjoy and only allow yourself to eat nuts and drink water, you'll cave EVERY TIME! It never works because you can't live like that for long term. Make changes that you can live with, cut out things that won't make you feel the need to cave in a month. Keep in mind how your schedule and life style look too. If you're a working mom, don't make a plan to cook 10 meals one weekend for the freezer. You'll be way to exhausted to do it, and you'll want to enjoy your family. Then you'll be disappointment by your lack of accomplishment.

-Eliminate the options. If you don't have it, you can't get it. If you fall back on credit cards to get something you can't afford then cut them up, close the accounts and don't give yourself that choice. I know it sounds harsh, but really, if there is no back up plan, then there is no splurging when you can't afford it.

Hope those make sense and that it gives you some ideas of ways to make your goals attainable.

Challenge #1: Meeting Time

One of the recommendations Dave Ramsey gives is to have a weekly meeting with your spouse regarding your financial situation and review your budget. The point of the meeting is to keep both people involved, informed and actively working together on the family finances.

This does present a challenge for a lot of people with a limited amount of time with their spouse. For us, it has been true too. With two small kids, active lives, jobs and church commitments to juggle, there is little time for money meetings! This was the first challenge that came up on my challenge post, so we'll tackle it first.

I'm familiar with this problem and honestly, we haven't had a consistent weekly meeting either. Although, we do understand the purpose and see the value in the communication between spouses, so we've done some "tweeking" of the rules that work for us. Here are some of the ways we've kept each other involved in the decision making process.

-Both of us have access to all our accounts (it's always been that way)
-Both of us have email updates from all of our accounts (for example: alerts of overdrafts, fees, changes being made, transfers taking place, etc.)
-Purchases are communicated. Since I'm the one that handles most of the budget and sorting our categories, my husband is good about letting me know if he uses the debit card for any purchase so I'm aware of the amount being withdrawn from the account. Usually, he has the cash he needs for things, but in the event he needs more gas or is buying something online, he'll use his debit card. We've also given ourselves a buffer in our account for these types of things and to allow for miscalculations and not have an overdraft. If either of us is purchasing something online, we'll forward the email on to each other. It's not about "keeping track" of each other, but because we are following something so closely, we have to make sure the other one knows what's being spent to avoid potential problems.
-Every two weeks after I figure out the budget for the two weeks, I let him know what we had to cut or what amounts are in each category for that time frame. I'll let him know how much we have extra to pay toward debt and usually allow the chance for him to make any changes he'd like to if it's needed. Occasionally when we have the time or a month that has extra 'changes' needing to be discussed we try to sit down and do it together. For example this month, we are calculating some of our Christmas expenses and also needing to save for some large purchases, so we wanted to be on the same page as far as our priorities and how much was a realistic figure for each of those added expenses. So we did our two week budget together.
-We text! We'll text each other updates on bills, accounts, etc. if we aren't able to talk about them in person or if we'd like to ask about a purchase before making it.
-We NEVER make a big purchase without talking to each other. Just this week we had a large financial decision to make regarding some of our retirement accounts. It's something we've been talking about for a while. Since it involved some large amounts of money and significant pros and cons, we weighed them carefully and didn't make a decision on the spot. We talked to a number of trusted people, financial counselors and did some research on all the information we could. Those types of decisions require space to process and for each person to really feel comfortable moving forward in order to prevent future problems of possible blaming or resentment. These talks were never a scheduled meeting time each week, but we were intentional about bringing the topics up and discussing them as long as necessary for each of us to feel our points and opinions were heard, and then we came to a mutual decision.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas of ways to have your money talks even if it's not always on a weekly basis at a scheduled time. To sum it all up, it's about making sure neither person is more in control or more informed then the other. It's about making sure everything is out on the table and both perspectives are being heard. I also think that when you both are on the same page, you're a force working together tackling the same problem and that gives you both the strength you need to move forward in our goals.

Keep on working together!!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What's your Challenge?

I'd like to hear what your challenges are with saving money. What do you have trouble with? What holds you back from being able to save money either at the grocery store or in other areas of your life? Is your complication a lack of space? or time?

Call me crazy, but I think it would be fun to tackle some of the challenges out there. So, bring it on! ;) Leave a comment with your money saving dilemmas and I'll post any solutions I can come up with to help you out. Others are welcome to come up with ideas too! :) If I can't solve it, I'll admit it, but I'd like to see if we really could come up with some great solutions to common challenges people face.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stuffed Shells

Like I mentioned in the previous post, I was making lasagna to freeze and decided since stuffed shells have such a similar list of ingredients, I'd might as well make a pan or two of them too.

Let me tell you a few reasons why I like stuffed shells:
-Cheap, but looks classier then lasagna
-Can be vegetarian and no one will wonder where the meat went! :)
-Easy to make
-Great for company

Here's what I did:
-I took the left over ricotta/egg/seasonings mixture from the lasagna (about 1/2 of the container) and scooped it into the cooked shells.
-Put them in a pan that has a thin layer of marinara on the bottom
-Pour some marinara over the shells and sprinkle with cheese.
-Bake or freeze

That's it! So easy, so cheap, so yummy. It probably cost under $5 for me to make two pans worth. About $2 for the pasta, $1.50 for the ricotta mixture, less then $1 for the marinara and cheese combined.

Helpful tip: Do you ever have a random amount of leftover lasagna noodles that didn't fit in the pan? Here's a tip I learned and LOVE! Cut them into smaller strips, add the ricotta mixture in the middle, roll it up and use them the way you would a manicotti noodle or stuffed shell! I think that's a great idea, plus it's easier then stuffing manicotti! ;)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fillin' the Freezer

I read some where that a full freezer is a more efficient freezer, so I'm doing my part to be green and fillin' 'er up! ;) Our friend is going hunting this weekend and offered to get us a deer! So it's possible that in the next couple weeks we'll have a whole deer in there! Can't wait for all that meat for a seriously low price!!

Until then, I've been loading it with all sorts of "easy" meals that I can grab and make in a moment's notice and to also save us trips to the store when we are tight on our cash budget. Whenever I think 'frozen dinner' I always think- lasagna. It's a really inexpensive meal if you play it right and it's not any more effort to make 2 then it is to make one.

Lets talk price:
-A box of lasagna noodles is about $1.35 here and they usually make one large pan, so for 2 you're talking about $2.70 for noodles.
-The cheapest red sauce we've found is Hunts and it's $0.88/can, again, you'd probably want 2 if you're making large pans, $1.76
-Ricotta or cottage cheese, depends on what you buy. If you need it to be cheaper, cottage cheese is about $1.89 for the large container and ricotta is around $3.
-Cheese, I buy on sale for around $1.50-1.60/lb and shred it myself. I'd use about 1/2 lb per pan.
-Onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach and any other vegetable you may add will probably run about $1.00-$2.00 depending on the amounts and which you add.
-Meat will be the most expensive item, but it's also an item you can do with less of it your budget doesn't allow for it. I used 1 lb. of hamburger (around $1.60/lb) for 2 pans of lasagna and some stuffed shells. I also added about 1/3 ($0.83) of a link of polish sausage that I cut in really small pieces for a little extra meat and flavor. 

The grand total: $13.39 (if you go with the higher price on the veggies & ricotta) for two large pans of lasagna that will likely get you at least 16 servings (8 servings per pan). Add some garlic bread, salad or veggies and you have two dinners for under $15 and that's if you go with the high end! The reality is that you can make even less expensive then that too. You can use even less meat, cut out the pricier veggies like spinach and mushrooms, use cottage cheese and you could be under $10 easily.

Now if you're like our family, we don't eat a large pan each meal and by the time we get to the second half of the pan we're feeling sick of lasagna, so I went to the dollar store and bought 3 disposable pans for $1 and made half size lasagnas for the freezer, so we could thaw the portion we'd actually eat for a meal. Since that's what I did, I actually only made the equivalent of ONE large pan, in two smaller pans, so my total cost was half of the 2 pan total for two meals.

What other meals are easy to freeze? Bring on the ideas!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Slightly miscalculated...

I knew that we had to have been close to our first $1,000 mark on our debt pay off plan, but I didn't actually know the exact amount. So, when I posted about making it that far, I knew we had and was excited to reach that milestone. Well a few days later when my payment had gone through, I decided to actually do the math and get the exact number figured out. I had actually failed to keep in mind that our payments, even the ones that aren't extra, are still paying down the principal some too. So to my surprise we had not just barely paid the first thousand, we had actually paid off over $1,600! YAY! Progress-sometimes it feels slow, but either way, it's happening and that's exciting.

Leftover Makeover

Even the least picky of us get sick of eating leftovers, but you also know I'm not one to deal with waste well! I hate throwing things away when they aren't bad. I had a few things that we just weren't feeling like eating the same ol' way again, so I had to get creative. Thankfully it's soup season and that seems to be one of the easiest things to make with leftovers. It could actually be referred to as the "all-random-things-in-the fridge" dinner. :) Maybe not that extreme, but there is something to that, I think! ;)

Anyway, I had cabbage rolls from the ginormous cabbage we got at the farm and I also had a lot of chopped cabbage to still use too. The other left over I had was a pot roast and some of the potatoes and carrots. I looked online (of course!) to see if I could find some recipes that called for some of those same ingredients and found two soup recipes that would work perfectly with what I needed to use. The first was perfect for the cabbage rolls and the left over carrots in the pot roast. I had to add some broth, onions and seasonings and that was about it! :) It had a bit of a sweeter flavor to it.

The second was great for the pot roast. It actually called for a roast and potatoes. So, I chopped it all up into bite size pieces, added the broth, onions, cabbage, a sweet potato and other ingredients it called for too. That soup had a more savory, mustardy flavor. I made both in under 30 minutes since most of the cooking had already been done! Both were good and at least added variation to our leftovers and used ingredients I was needing to use. We had our choice of soup for dinner that night and then I froze the leftover soup for future days, since we'd already been getting tired of cabbage! ;)

What leftover makeovers have you done? I'm always looking for ways to make old things new! :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Halloween for $5 or less!

This year we are doing all we can to keep Halloween within the budget, which is really small! Ever since last year I've known what I want the kids to be this year. (I only knew then, b/c I didn't pull it together in time for it to be their costumes last year, so it was postponed! ;)). Anyway, my daughter is going to be a cowgirl (super easy and cheap!) and my son is going to be a cow (because it's cute for them to "go together").

I found the cow costume on Craigslist for $5, in great shape and all I'll have to do is add the socks/shoes and maybe mittens or socks on his hands to round out the outfit. I think I'll skip the facial makeup since I know that'll just end up all over my clothes at his age!

My mom actually found my daughter's outfit at a thrift store and put all the pieces together for about $4.75! Great part is that it's a cute little skirt, jean jacket and solid colored shirt that she'll be able to wear throughout the winter too. She'll be wearing my brother's cowboy boots from when he was kid and she already had a cowgirl hat she got for free at the fair. Add some braids, a bandana (which we had), maybe a little makeup on her cheeks and she'll be set to go.

I can't wait to see them all dressed up together. Best part is that neither outfit broke the bank! :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Baking Cookies

Isn't that one of the simplest pleasures in life? It was especially enjoyable yesterday as I got to spend some one-on-one time with my daughter. Having the pre-measured bags in the pantry that I had prepared on my bulk baking day was really helpful! It made for a much simpler baking time and less messy too! It was great to have things in bags that a toddler could just dump into the bowl and keep the process moving along much quicker too. So we could get to the really important part--of eating them--sooner! :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

15 Minute Dinner

The other night we were busy running around just before dinner time and everyone was starting the usual hungry meltdowns. I needed to get dinner on the table quick, not just because I didn't want to hear any more whining or crying, but also because I wanted two little ones to get to bed soon too! :)

I had planned on making potato leek soup and biscuits for dinner, which fit the day perfectly! :) It was a rainy, chilly day--a perfect soup night. Anyway, I got home from the store and got food from the freezer to the table in 15 minutes! :) Amazing!! It was extra nice because it was a wonderful homemade dinner and not a frozen pizza or precooked meal from the store.

Here's how it worked:
-Put frozen biscuits in the oven at 375
-Chopped onions and leeks from the freezer into the pan with a little butter
-Diced potatoes into the pan with 2 cans of chicken broth
-Smash some of the potatoes and add cream
-Let it simmer while getting bowls and spoons out and the table set
-Take biscuits out of the oven
-Dinner served!

-Hardly any dishes! :)
-2 gallon freezer bags worth stored in the freezer for future meals

Monday, October 11, 2010

First $1,000 done!

Woo Hoo!! A super exciting milestone was hit this week with a $235 extra payment made on a student loan. We've officially paid $1,000 worth of debt off since the beginning of August. That's awesome. Hopefully we'll keep the momentum going and be able to pay at least that much, if not more, on that loan again with the next paycheck. I'm keeping my fingers crossed! ;)

Side note: HUGE blessing, our car ended up being about $300 less then we had anticipated. God is good!

Rosemary Potatoes

I was asked to share my rosemary potato recipe, so here it is:

Diced potatoes (I usually use red and leave the skin on, but it can be however you like them). I boil them for a little bit to help speed up the cooking time, usually to just before they are done.

I then pour them onto a baking sheet and drizzle them with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or you can use whatever variety you have or like). I then sprinkle them with salt and pepper, garlic powder and rosemary (either fresh, finely chopped or dry).

I bake them at 375 for about 8-10 minutes, flipping them at least once. I've also broiled them on low, but you have to really watch them closely that way.

It's that simple and they taste great. You can always adapt it for mashed potatoes if you prefer too.


With some of the last bag of potatoes I have from the farm I'm going to be making some hash browns to freeze. I know hash browns can be one of those "picky" potato recipes, so I've been looking into ways to make sure they work well. I've made them before and haven't had much trouble, but since I'd be freezing a lot this time, I wanted to make sure I made them so they'd freeze well too.

Here are some tricks I've learned:
*Older potatoes work better
*Partially cooking the potatoes before shredding them works best
*Drain the moisture out of the shredded, cooked potatoes (either by laying them on paper towels and patting them dry or by using a salad spinner)
*Thinner patties work best for cooking them to the right "doneness"
*It works best to have a hot pan, med-high heat works better to

So the basic process will look like this:
*Wash and peel the potatoes
*Boil them for a few minutes (don't let them get to the falling apart stage!)
*Shred them in the food processor or with a manual grater
*Freeze or make a thin layer to cook on a hot pan

Hope they turn out great!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tomatoes turned to Marinara

With all the tomatoes we got we made a large pot of marinara and then canned it. My husband has a wonderful recipe from being a cook at an italian restaurant back in high school. What a great job for a husband to have had, huh?!?! ;) It certainly comes in handy. Back to the marinara...

We had about 15 pounds of blanched, peeled and cored tomatoes and decided to make it all. There are a lot of recipes on the internet, but like we do, you can also can a favorite family recipe. We leave meat out of ours because the canning is less complicated and less likely to have spoiling issues. Although, if that is something you'd like to do, it is possible, just be sure to look into the requirements before doing so. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you do your own recipe when canning you need to balance the acidity levels (which basically means you have to add vinegar or lemon juice to some recipes). For marinara we found that we need to add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice per jar, so we simply pour it into the jar as we pour the marinara in to make sure to get the measurements right.

I can't guarantee that this will be a cheaper then buying cans or jars at the store, a lot depends on your recipe. For us, it's probably comparable because we are okay with buying the $0.88/can kind. Although, I can guarantee that yours will be much tastier! :) To save money we buy the cheaper one, but our canned version far surpasses it in flavor and quality for about the same price or maybe even a little more. It's worth it though! :)

The end result--yummy!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Grocery Budget

During the last two weeks I hardly used any of our grocery budget! Super exciting, since we did have other expenses that were a little unexpected, it helps to not have used much from that category. It also means that I can set more away to help with our bulk meat. We have a friend who is a hunter and has offered to hunt us some meat! :) We'll just have to cover the butcher fees, but it'll give us a lot of meat for a while. We're looking forward to that. Yay to savings! :)

Pondering the 'Convenience' Items

One of the main things I've been thinking about in the last few days is that a lot of the things I've been doing to save us money, especially with the groceries, is that it's NOT hard. I guess it's easy to think that the convenience things are so much easier, which they are easy-er, but not because making them is hard, it just takes time. I guess the bottom line is that with a little effort and time you can make your own convenience items to have on hand for the rushed meal moments.

One of the main things I think of is the roasted peppers. I was expecting it to be complicated or even thinking of taking the peppers to have them roasted at a local shop that does them (which if you need a time saver it's worth finding one in your area and it's not very expensive, here they would do a bushel for $3), but then realized it's just grilling them. 'Really? That's it!' Was basically my response. I was irritated that I'd spent so much money on a jar when all I had to do was char some peppers to get the same thing for much cheaper!

With all the prep work that I did with the farm vegetables I was realizing the same thing. It's really not HARD to do these things. It's time consuming up front, but then it's just as easy as grabbing things out of the freezer later. What it comes down to is that at the grocery store we are paying someone to put their time into making it easy for us. Not bad at all, don't get me wrong, there are times when it's SO worth the money to get something easy, as long as we realize that we essentially paid someone to help us out! :)

I'm thinking after all of this I might not be as quick to get the convenience items at the store. I know now that I am capable of doing a lot of this myself and I'll hopefully try that option first.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roasted Peppers

The last big project was to make roasted red peppers. I actually chopped some of them up to keep frozen for other recipes, but roasted the rest.

I've often enjoyed the roasted red peppers in dishes, but they've always been such a pricey item to buy at the store that I've rarely used them. I was excited to find out that roasting peppers isn't that hard at all! You can do them on the grill or in the oven whichever fits your needs best. Since the weather hasn't gotten too cold yet here, I decided to use the grill.

It's as simple as washing them and placing them on the grill for several minutes, flipping them to get both sides charred. Once you have let them cool in a brown paper bag then peel the skin, empty the seeds and cut them into the pieces you want. Store them in a freezer bag or container.

There are a few tricks I learned:
-DON'T take the gloves off! Even if it's hard to work with them, some of the peppers we got were cayenne and my hands felt like they were literally burnt from peeling them.
-It's much easier to use large peppers for roasting. The smaller peppers aren't really worth the effort.
-It's a bit time consuming to deal with the peel (depending on how many you have--we had A LOT!)
-There is NO reason to pay BIG bucks on roasted peppers at the store. It's really not hard to do them at home, and you could even make just the amount you needed for a recipe if you don't have the storage space, for less then paying for the jar at the store.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More frozen veggies

Well that took care of two of the items we had, now for the rest of them. Since we didn't have the abundance of the other vegetables, I was able to finish nearly all of it the next day. The other time saver was that I was only blanching these vegetables and not fully cooking them like I had to do with the potatoes.

We had a significant amount of carrots and I wanted variety like I did with the potatoes. I ended up dicing some for salads and soups.
 I chopped some and kept them round for similar recipes, but to also just steam for a side dish.

 The last variety was large chunked carrots and roughly cut for roasts and stews. 

I froze them the same way I did the potatoes, again, to have more control over how much I wanted to thaw at a given time. 

I'm not a huge celery fan, but they come in recipes every once in a while, especially soups, roasts and such, and that's the season I'm preparing for. I figured since I'm not likely to have them fresh on hand, this would be a nice way to have some of those occasional dishes that call for them. I also froze leeks (not pictured) for making potato leek soup. 

We made cabbage rolls with a large portion of the cabbage we picked and then I chopped the rest for coleslaw and an asian coleslaw (also known as ramen salad) I make. We ended up with some steamed cabbage left over too, which is now in the freezer to be added to a stew or something. (I'm still open to ideas on what to use that for--anyone?)

Finally, I wrapped it up with the beans. Plain and simple just blanched them and froze them just like the rest before putting them in the bag to keep in the freezer. 

The corn is still waiting to be eaten in the fridge and the peppers are for another post! This is why I NEEDED a freezer!! We had so much great food and I'm so thankful we'll have this to get us through the winter months with such limited produce options and higher prices. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Washing, chopping, cooking, storing

...and repeat! That's what two days consisted of around here. I'm so thankful for all that wonderful produce we got at the farm, but it was a lot to deal with all at once! The funny thing is that during it all I was really loving it and enjoying it, so I guess it wasn't bad, it's just tiring to remember! ;)

So here are a few things I learned and I'm happy to be passing these tips on to you now:
-Take care of the large amount of vegetables on days when you do not have to see any other people. Unless you really could use some attention and a lot of people asking you questions like, "Is everything okay?" or "Are you alright?" because you look like you've been crying (which you have over the onions), not because you're having an emotional meltdown (well you  might be having that too, so you could use the onions as your excuse). Or unless orange hands are the next big fashion statement you're looking to debut! :) Yes, my hands turned a slight orange color from all the carrots I peeled!
-A food processor comes in really handy, if you have one.
-Get a good audio book/podcast to listen to while you chop--it helps to have something to listen to.
-Feed your kids a lot of snacks so they don't constantly ask you if you're making them their next meal--all day--just the sight of the food makes them hungry!
-Have a lot of freezer space available
-Stock up on freezer bags to get the job done

The first day I tackled the potatoes and the onions, since we had so much of each of them, I wanted to get the bulk down right away. This explains the reason for my puffy red eyes:

I forgot to get a picture of the end result, but it was amazing! By the way, the food processor was a life saver with all of these onions. All I did was cut them into quarters and let the machine do all the chopping. They turned out great too. After all was done I ended up with over 30 bags of chopped onions, 2 large bags of onion/peppers/potatoes seasoned and ready for grilling, another 6 or so bags of onions cut for fajitas/stir fry, and 2 large bags of onions for onion rings. These alone are taking up about 1/2 a shelf in the new freezer. We're pretty sure we won't be needing any onions for a while. :)

While I took a break from the runny nose and tears caused by the onions, I got to peeling potatoes and then I peeled so more. The potatoes were actually really fun because there were ways to be creative and make a variety of choices. I did most of them into diced potatoes (cooked to about the tenderness needed for a potato salad--a little firm), lightly salted. The idea with these is that they are ready to be mixed up as a salad right away, or they can be cooked a little longer and made into mashed potatoes in about 5 minutes. They can easily be seasoned and thrown on the grill or baked too. The other great thing about having them diced is that they can be added to a soup/stew towards the end of the cooking time and/or added to a potato casserole dish. There are so many options and it makes the prep time next to nothing with these potatoes. I loved thinking up all the things I could do with them! In order to make it possible to get just the amount I needed for the meal I was making, I froze them on a baking sheet first so they'd freeze individually and then added them to the freezer bag for storing. 

This way you don't have to thaw the whole bag if you only need a few. 

Mmmm....then I decided to make some seasoned and ready to just broil for an extra easy meal. We really enjoy these garlic and rosemary seasoned red potatoes and it gave me a break from peeling too! :) I did the same thing I did with the diced, but I added the seasonings to them before freezing them on the baking sheet.
French fries, my husbands favorite and probably one my daughter's too. I'm not much of a french fries maker, but I thought this would be a fun treat to have for days that we grill up burgers or other meals that fries just seem to go well with. Again, same process, just cut lengthwise for fries and salted. I didn't cook them very long because I wanted to have a little bit of crisp to them when I bake them for dinner.
And that's not even the end of it! I have a whole lot of potatoes in the freezer and I still have a 10+ lb bag waiting to be finished. I decided to put off the rest since they'll keep just fine for a week or two and it'll give me a chance to have a little break from making potatoes! ;) My plan for the rest of them is to make more diced, since those seem to be the most versatile and some shredded hash browns. 

Last night we enjoyed an incredibly quick dinner from all this hard work and it was lovely! We enjoyed grilled chicken (from the food delivery service that didn't work out, but we still got free food!), rosemary potatoes (from the freezer), steamed brocolli (from the farmer's market) and a salad (from all the veggies we've got!). I think from start to finish it was only about 20 minutes and it was so easy and hassle free. Very little dishes too, since most of it was already cooked before hand. It was very convenient, without the price tag! :) 

Monday, October 4, 2010


Ugh! There is nothing like them to set you back on your financial goals. Thankfully we have an emergency fund for such things, but seriously?! Could've gone a few more months without having to use it already, especially on a car. Seems that around here that's what the emergency fund usually goes to--ugh! :-/

**These such moments are apparently one of the biggest set backs on people getting out of debt. They use their credit cards to bail them out of the pinch and it perpetuates the problem, according to Dave Ramsey, that is! ;) Let our car troubles serve as a nudge to get an emergency fund in place for your family! D.R. recommends having $1,000 set aside for such occasions as this...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Freezer Hunt--Success

Today we found a great deal on a newer upright freezer for extra food storage. We've already filled a large portion of it between the two refrigerator freezers we had. The transferring into the new freezer also gave me a great "inventory check" to see what things we can or should use soon. More bulk cooking days ahead, I'm sure! A regular clean out/sort through kind of day is helpful and I'm sure we'll benefit in our meals this week from having a better idea of what we currently have on hand. Yay!

Farmer for a Day

We try to have a family day once a week and just enjoy each other. It's been a wonderful tradition and helped us spend a lot of quality time together. It's not a day for running errands, house work, projects pertaining to any job or obligation. It's just about family and fun. Some of our fondest memories come from those days, such a treasure, and probably a whole blog post of how it's the essence of simplicity, avoiding-- or at least trying to keep from--running the rat race.

This week we thought it would be fun to go spend the day at a local farm that we had heard about. We looked into several that have all kinds of fun harvest festivals and fall activities, but decided on one that on top of all the farm-fun, allows you to pick your own vegetables with the price of admission. Remember the deal-seeking think I have going! ;) I thought, what better way to get some produce then to include it in our family day and make it a learning and enjoyable experience as well! Brilliant, I know! ;)

Wow! I had NO idea how great it would turn out. First of all, we had an absolutely wonderful day together. The kids LOVED the farm activities which included a petting zoo, jumping balloon, hay bale towers and slides, tractor trains, and all sorts of great things. We packed a picnic and the kids hardly stopped playing long enough to eat even a half of a sandwich.

Then, we went on a hay ride, pulled by a tractor, into the fields to pick our vegetables. Each person was entitled to six 10-lb produce bags for the $15 adult admission price. Our kids were still free. As we were observing the group before us get off we noticed a lot squash, pumpkins, onions and corn. Not super thrilled by the choices we were seeing, we hoping for better results then they had, but were intending to make the best of it.

We get going and our first stop was at the tomato patch. Most of them had obviously seen better days and it was starting to look like slim "good" pickings, but there were a lot of them! Since our main goal was to use them for canning, they didn't need to be pretty and a few bumps/bruises wouldn't hurt. We tried to find as nice of ones as we could without being terribly picky and came back to the tractor with 2 1/2 bags worth! We were off to a great start and we were getting excited! The kids really enjoyed it as well. Our oldest was busy picking as quickly as she could and very proud of each one she found to put in her bag. Next stop onions. These babies were HUGE and every where. Three 10 lb bags were filled in no time. Then, potatoes. Our driver dropped us off in what seemed like an empty field until he came around with another tractor that suddenly made all kinds of potatoes come popping out of the ground. We all scrambled to gather them up and fill another 3 bags worth. We were loving this, what a great way to teach our kids about where food comes from and for them to be part of the picking it. Such a great experience. The next field had a whole variety of vegetables ranging from beans to celery, leaks, eggplant and cabbage. There were other things too and we gathered up all that we wanted again. We gained a new appreciation for bean pickers, that is a time consuming and tiring job. I'm certain we'll enjoy our bag of beans a little more this year, knowing how much effort went into gathering them. Back on the tractor again and we had a lot to show for our work! We couldn't believe they would let us take this much produce for $30 and it wasn't even over!! :) We came to the carrot patch, 2 more bags. Corn, we went light on knowing that processing it wasn't necessary worth our time and we had already gathered plenty to work on! Then we got just one little pumpkin that our oldest chose for herself. Finally we stopped at the pepper patch and again, 2 more bags were filled with some peppers that were also nearing their final days, but will be perfect for roasting and canning. This picture was taken before we were finished:

 Here it is all loaded up in our car:
This is why I've been busy in my kitchen this week! :) 

Can you tell how excited we were?!?! It was a great day. We spent about 1 1/2-2 hours picking a crazy amount of vegetables after spending a wonderful time playing and enjoying the fall on a farm. It was a wonderful family day. It was extra great because not only did we get to have a bunch of fun, but we got to stock our pantry and freezer in the meantime. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Food Update Begins

After all that, you're probably getting anxious to hear about my week. Well, maybe not, but you're back to read some more, so I'll share with you while you're here! ;)

It all started on Sunday afternoon when we went to one of our local farmer's markets which I had been planning on doing for a while and it finally fit our schedule. I knew there was a farmer there that sold large bags of produce for $10 and I had intentionally planned on getting the ingredients we'd need for canning salsa for that price. I was a little disappointed to find that they didn't really have all the things I'd need, but I still took advantage of the offer to get as much as I could and also get a large amount of higher priced produce items. Around here, bell peppers aren't very affordable, but they seem to go in so many recipes. I loaded up a bunch of peppers to begin with (some of them would be used for the salsa too), then I got some onions, tomatoes, more bell peppers, green beans, lettuce, poblano peppers (for the salsa), more tomatoes, more peppers, and broccoli until the bag was full. When we got home and unloaded my bag this is what we ended up with:

I think we counted up 15 bell peppers (I found one more after I took this picture). Those alone around here would have cost me more then $10 at the grocery store and I got all the rest of it too! Just thinking about it gets me excited again. I love a good deal, it's like my "drug"! ;) 

I instantly got busy getting these things ready to be stocked up and ready to be used later in the year. I chopped some of the bell peppers up to be used for the salsa and other recipes, then I cut a bunch of them lengthwise to keep for fajitas. I blanched and peeled all the tomatoes, cored and chopped them for salsa or other canning recipes, chopped the onions either for the fajitas or diced and ended up with: 

Each of these items was in smaller freezer bags, stored in 1 Cup measurements for easy use for future recipes.

The "fajita packs" have two different kinds of peppers and onions chopped and ready to be added to the meat we chose on fajita night. All I'll need to do is add it to the pan after the meat is cooked, add the seasonings and dinner is ready. I could easily use it for a stir fry or other meal too if I wanted to. It's so convenient for the dinner-in-a-hurry-nights. 

This got me started on what would turn out to be a deal-seeking, convenience-making week that hopefully will help me beat even more odds at the grocery store this winter! 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Beating the Odds

I mentioned in a post about the grocery delivery program not actually being honest about their products and therefore needing to cancel the service. It was a bummer, for sure, but thankfully we discovered some of their hidden tactics and poor selling schemes before it was too late. The bonus is that part of their tactic is to get you to schedule a meeting with them and if you do, you get a bunch of free meat, just for listening. So, that was a nice perk and helped relieve some of our frustration of wasted time dealing with them.

THEN, the dreaded "we are canceling" phone call had to happen. We sent in the "cancel my order" paperwork as required by law to get our refund, and tried to go about it the passive way. No such luck though. Of course, since it was dealing with food/groceries they had MY phone number. They called me to welcome me to the program the next day and I had to say, "thank you, but we're actually canceling." Which was followed by a series of reasons for why canceling was a bad idea. (Remember I told you earlier, I don't have a problem saying no to high pressured people when I don't really want what they are offering...this conversation will give you some insight into how these things go for me!) So, I kept saying, "NO!" in a very nice, polite, politically correct way. She (the sales representative) was not giving up so easily and thought she could convince me to see the "light" if she discredited what I was spending for our family grocery budget. Uhm...she didn't have a leg to stand on! She just got me that much more riled up and determined to get my money back and say no to their program. It went something like this...first she's telling me that I'm probably not actually sticking to the budget amount I was telling her. Oh yes I am! She challenged me again, telling me that if I added up my receipts it would probably be more then what I thought. Try again, girlfriend, cash budget doesn't lie--I can tell you to the penny how much I spend each month just by looking in my envelope. (Can you tell I'm getting riled?) So then she tried to tell me that statically it's practically impossible for me to be feeding my family on that budget--and here's the stinger--unless I'm only feeding them rice and beans. Uhmm...I'm really getting ticked now. So, I as politely as I could, explained to her that as a matter of fact we are actually eating extremely well these days. We're eating hormone free, antibiotic meats fresh from the local farmers, all local and fresh produce straight from our garden or area farmers, our dairy is also coming from a local farmer who has raised their cows free of hormones and antibiotics as well and our eggs are from free range, local farms too. Does that sound like a junk food or rice and beans diet to you? (I didn't ask her that...I was polite, remember?) As a matter of fact, the only meal we've had with beans in the last two months was the chili I made a couple weeks ago and was DELICIOUS! Yes, I was extremely irritated and insulted. Then her next question goes like this, "so you mean to tell me that you're feeding a family of four for about $2/day per person?" "Yes, ma'am, that's what I'm telling you." (I hadn't done the math, but it sounded good to me, so I just went with that) "Well, that's statistically impossible, we have been researching for years how families can eat of less and we've developed a program that saves people money. I'm not sure how you're able to do this and still eat high quality food." Apparently she wasn't listening to the great foods I just listed off to her. Anyway, yep, that part of the conversation is where today's title comes from. After taking a moment to calm myself down from this completely irritating and insulting conversation, I saw it from a whole different perspective. Rather than being offended by her obvious insults on my ability to do math, my ability to feed my family anything other then rice and beans on a tight budget and my inability to see the savings in their program (which wasn't going to be so for us, since we don't fit the "norm" & I've gotten a handle on how much I'm spending on everything thanks to the cash budget), I chose to see the compliments.

I know this might sound a bit proud and I don't mean for it to be so. I'm really just looking at it from a different angle and it's exciting. Here is how I'm choosing to see it: She was so taken back by my ability to consistently stick to the small budget we have set and be able to buy fresh, local and great quality food that she had no choice but to try to make it sound impossible. Quite frankly, a lot of people don't do what we're doing so I'm sure it was out of the norm for her. My favorite part was when she tried to tell me it was statistically impossible. That just makes me all the more proud, knowing that we are doing it and apparently beating all the odds too! :) How cool is that, to be working so hard at something and doing so well that you're even surpassing all the "norms", "averages" and "stats"! I was also glad to know that I'm only spending about $2/day per person on food...thanks to her quick math skills she figured it out for me! ;) Since then I did figure it out and it comes to $2.20 per person per day. That's awesome!! :) All of this just makes me more motivated to see how far I can push that limit. Can I lower my budget by $15/month and still do it?!?! or maybe I should try $30 less per month?

As you can gather, her methods did nothing to help her cause, but rather got me more motivated to see how many more odds I can beat.

Are you beating the odds in your life? What are you doing that to others appears to be ridiculous and impossible to make your goals happen? Stretch your limits today and see how far you can excel above "average"!


Status: URGENT!

Dear Craigslist,

We have been great friends for many years and I've introduced you to a lot of wonderful people. As a thank you for my loyalty, I'd really appreciate a favor--maybe two, actually. First, could you please sell the things I have listed so I can get them out of my garage! :) Thanks so much.

Second of all--this one is extremely urgent--could you please have an amazing deal on a great upright or chest freezer today? Again, thanks so much. My refrigerator also thanks you since it is currently overflowing due to the gigantic amount of vegetables we are freezing this week.

Please keep me in mind for any and all great freezer deals you find!!

A loyal customer
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