Gardening Fun

I love Gardening!

It’s one thing I look forward to all year. Weird I know.

Anyways, I started my garden back in May and have already started getting fresh veggies. It’s so exciting.

Vegetable seedling

This year I planted a wide variety of stuff. Tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green peppers, banana peppers, radishes, onions, peas and green beans.  My 12 year old even planted some sunflower seeds (pics to come soon).

I’ve already gotten all my radishes, lots of tomatoes and a bunch of cucumbers. It’s nice not to have to spend $2 and up on tomatoes or $1 per cucumber.

I just want to encourage you to start small or go big, but start a garden. It’s not too late!

Visit your local store and pick up a pack of seeds or a seedling or two. Plant them in the ground or in a container in a nice sunny location. Make sure to water it everyday (preferably in the evening). Weed it regularly and watch them grow.

It’s not really complicated. Seeds, soil, water and sun.

Fresh Veggies

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Stocking Your Pantry on a Budget

Almost everyone can agree that times are getting tough financially. The cost of almost everything is rising – gas, groceries, clothing, etc.

Today I’m going to talk about how to stock your pantry while sticking to a tight budget.

First let’s discuss what you will need in your pantry. Preferably you will want a couple months worth of food and necessities, however, not everyone has the money or space to store that much stuff.

To start let’s begin with a building up a week’s worth of groceries.

For only $5 a week you can buy all the things listed below. Prices used are current from Aldi’s.

$1.40 2 cans of tuna fish $ .70 each
$1.00 1 box of spaghetti or other pasta
$2.60 4 canned veggies (corn, peas or green beans) $.65 each
$5.00 Total

or

$2.50 1 pkg toilet paper
$2.29 24 bottles of PurAqua Bottled Water
$4.79 Total

or

$0.78 2 boxes of macaroni and cheese
$2.29 1 jar creamy peanut butter
$1.49 1 box pancake mix
$4.56 Total

Each week get a couple products. Store them up and in a closet, a storage tote, under the bed in a box. In a short period of time you will have a week’s worth of groceries saved.

Now this is assuming you can afford $5 a week to start stocking your pantry. You may have more or less money to invest. If you have less consider using a couple coupons or store discounts, if you haven’t already started using them. If you have no wiggle room in your budget search for free after coupon deals online to start building a small stash of supplies. That is how I started.

By the way, I am not an extreme couponer (by any stretch), but I have gotten a couple things really reduced or at no cost to me. I am also not one of those couponers who have 20 bottles of shampoo and 100′s of deodorants hidden away somewhere. I do believe you should strive to keep some essentials on hand – just in case – so you’re not running to the store the moment the weather man mentions snow. LOL

Starting small is much better than not starting at all.

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Low Cost Family Fun

While as a family we strive to save money (and not waste it) we still want to have fun and learn new things. Recently, we decided to let our son sign up for karate to help him build positive self esteem, learn to defend himself and to get him playing with more kids his own age.

We researched various karate businesses in our area and found them to be out of our price range. Most places wanted $150 a month for two 45 minute sessions a week.

On a fluke, I found a Parks and Recreation flyer at our local public library. They were offering a karate class for $48 an 8 week period for one 2 hour session each week. It’s a little farther distance to drive, but not terribly out of the way (30 min. drive in traffic).

So if you or your kids want to sign up for a sport or activity check into your local government’s Parks and Recreation office. It’s not just for inner city – like so many people think. They offer lots and lots of programs such as: sports of all types, exercise classes, crafts, hobbies, computer class, senior programs, classes just for babies, and much more. Don’t forget to also do a search online for alternative places in your area that offer what you are looking for.

Till next time – thanks for reading  :-)

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Weekly Grocery Shop and Money Saving Updates

Well, we’re still doing our best to stick close to our $100 grocery budget. Normally between $100 and $125. It runs a little higher when we need more meats or dog food. Not to terribly bad for our family of 5 including 3 growing kids and 2 dogs, 2 cats and 2 fish.

This week though we had to stick exactly to the $100, so I withdrew the cash from the bank and went shopping with my calculator in hand. I managed to spend $90 by sticking to my list even while going to Walmart, Aldi’s and Weis. I will spend the last $10 on something that Weis was sold out of at Walmart tomorrow. No problem. Right on target with the $100 budget.

Just a little update we have managed to pay off all our medical bills (all that we’ve received to date), paid off all our credit cards and have built up our savings a little. All by cutting out our wasteful spending (a big problem for us). We actually have a savings account for the first time ever. Yippee!

Don’t get me wrong we slip up and over spend by going out to eat to many time in a week, but we hold each other accountable and close the purse strings the next week or so till we get back on track. This week was one of those weeks. We went out to dinner 2 times this week ($80 and $60) and I did a little too much recreational shopping.

One thing that has really helped is every week my hubby and I sit down and go over the expenses for the coming week (bills, school expenses, kids needs, gas expenses, etc.). This lets us plan for fun things and future purchases. We managed to purchase an above ground pool for our family to enjoy for years to come – something we’ve wanted for over 2 years. Just the simple act of writing all the bills/expenses down on a calendar we can see what needs to be paid each week. This also cuts out late fees – saving us loads.

I’d love to hear your money saving tips. Please feel free to comment.

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Grocery Budget Getting Tougher

As I mentioned in my previous post, we are sticking to a budget of $100 a week for groceries and household supplies. Well, we are steadily using up our stash of food and pantry items.

Sausage, Onion and Potatoes

Sausage, Onion and Potatoes

In the past, we had built up a nice supply of meats in our freezer. We had the basics like ground beef and chicken breast that could be used for a variety of meals. We use them pretty much every week making stuff like spaghetti, sloppy joes, fried chicken or orange chicken. Well my stash of meats are almost all gone and now I need to start adding more meats to my weekly shopping list. The cost of chicken breast at our local Aldi’s is $5 to $6.50 a package. Ground beef costs $4 to $6 a package. That adds up quickly.

We are going to start eating more meatless meals and meals that include meats we can find on sale whenever possible. One example is sausage, onion and potatoes. It’s really yummy, filling and makes a lot.

I also need to buy things like laundry detergent and cleaning supplies. Unfortunately we have to purchase dye-free, fragrance-free laundry detergent – we all break out in rashes otherwise. I’ve found a store or cheap brand at Weis for $2.99, but would love to know if anyone knows of a cheap brand that still works good.

So you see I finally have to add some common household items and more meats into my weekly budget. I would love to hear any advice you can offer and I will keep you updated on our progress.

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Our 2011 Grocery Budget

Let me start this out by saying please don’t assume that just because we can get by on the figure I’m going to list that you can also. Each family has different needs. Different parts of the country have varying costs of living. This is what is working for us – you will need set your budget at levels your family can live with.

Our 2011 grocery budget is $100 a week.

We cut out all eating out until further notice because we were spending a couple hundred each week. I used to eat out every weekday for lunch. We used to eat out as a family once a week before we went to the grocery store for a total of up to $70 (including tip). Yeah it really added up.

Now that I’m sticking to our $100 a week budget for our family of 5 (plus 2 dogs and 2 cats) – I’m doing most of our shopping at Aldi’s. First of all, I plan out our meals for the entire week paying special attention to what I have on hand and what’s on sale. I include breakfasts, lunches, dinner and snacks.  Second, I stopped using my debit card to make sure I stay under the $100 limit. Last but not least, I bring along a calculator. I make sure I deduct the exact amount of each item as I go throughout the store. That way there are no surprises at the checkout.

We’ve been using this $100 budget for about 4 weeks now. It’s been tough at first, but it’s getting easier. At first we felt really deprived, but it has forced me to get creative with our meals and snacks. Now we are focusing on eating low cost meals that are actually healthy. It’s easy to eat low cost meals that aren’t very healthy for ex. $1 menu at most fast food restaurants.

I finish this post off with this week’s menu as an example:

Wednesday:
Hamburgers with french fries

Thursday:
Chicken nuggets (kids)
Cheese Quesadilla (me)
Leftover pizza (hubby)

Friday:
Chicken Fajitas with green peppers and onions
Nachos

Saturday:
Mama Cozzi’s pizzas (Big Girl’s Bday party)
pretzels
cake and ice cream

Sunday:
Chili
corn bread

Monday:
Chicken w/French Fried Onions
croissant rolls
greens

Tuesday:
Leftovers

Breakfasts:
Generic toaster pastries, cereal, mini-bagels, and yogurt

Lunches:
Sandwiches, cheese quesadillas, soups, leftovers

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Our Story

I felt this post was important, so you know where I’m coming from with my posts. I wanted to share my family’s story.

My hubby and I have been happily married since 1997. We live in a little town in Maryland not too far from Baltimore and Washington, DC.  We have 3 beautiful kids ages 10, 9 and 6 years of age. Plus we have 2 dogs, 2 cats and 2 fish.

We live a pretty traditional lifestyle. My hubby is the main income earner, while I do most of the home and childcare tasks for our family. Thank God, he has a wonderful job in the construction industry with a local union. He also works part-time in the evenings teaching math to apprentices learning his trade. I am able to work part-time while our kids are in school. It allows me to be home for snow days and summer vacation, so we don’t need to pay for any type of childcare.

We live a frugal life. We don’t go on fancy vacations, or buy new cars every 2 years. Actually we drive a 10 year old car and my hubby drives a 6 year old truck. We shop the sales at the grocery store each week and use coupons as much as we can.

We have a great life, but it isn’t perfect. We were having a rough time paying our bills every month just like so many Americans these days. We’re tired of getting calls from bill collectors at all hours of the day and night, tired of the mounting medical bills and really tired of not having money for the things we want and need in life. This blog is a journey of our quest to be debt free and financial fit. Follow along on our adventure and feel free to offer any support or advice.

 

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Save Big on Groceries

Let’s face it–we all need to eat to live, but we shouldn’t have to pay an arm and a leg to buy groceries each month.  The cost of groceries are continually on the rise, and unfortunately most people’s food budget stays the same. Here are a few simple ways to cut your grocery bill down to size.

Menu Planning
Don’t get nervous! This doesn’t have to be complicated. All menu planning means is to write down enough meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) to cover the amount of time between shopping trips. If you shop every week then you will need to think of 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 7 dinners and some snacks/dessert, beverages, etc.

There are plenty of ways you can plan out your meals.  You can find loads of meal planning printables online. With these you simply fill in each day with the meal of your choosing. If assigning a meal to each day seems too rigid or permanent there is another way.  Using a notebook or piece of paper you can create of list of 7 dinners, 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches and 7 snacks/desserts, etc. Either way you choose is fine as long as you stick to it.

Another tip to saving big is to plan your meals based on what’s in your cabinets and what is in the weekly sales circulars. If your kids love mac and cheese and it’s only $.75/box (normally $1.29) make sure you pick some up and add it to a meal or two throughout the week.

Aldi’s
Aldi’s is a grocery store that is located all around the world. They offer very (and I mean very) low prices. They offer wonderful produce and canned goods. They do not sell name brand items regularly, but don’t worry. If for any reason you don’t like anything they sell. They will give you double your money back. What other store does that?

Coupons
Coupons are free money given to you from the big name manufacturers.  It only takes a couple minutes each week to go through, print and cut coupons. This task could save you anywhere from a couple dollars to a boat load of cash each week.  Coupons.com has a huge list of f*r*e*e printable coupons. There are even sites that will match up your favorite grocery store sales ads with coupons that are available.  My favorite sites are DealSeekingMom.com and CouponMom.com .

Bartering

This one takes a little creativity. Bartering means to trade one thing for something else of equal value. Think of what you can offer someone else, create a list of some things you need and seek out people who have what you want and offer them your product/service in exchange. Maybe you can trade babysitting time for coupons, completing home repair projects for a gift card to a grocery store/restaurant, garden produce for baked goods.  This is really only limited by your imagination.

A couple minutes a week is all it takes and the benefits to your checkbook will be evident. By using some or all these tips you can save your family a significant amount of cash each month.

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Welcome to Frugal-Family.com!

Welcome to Frugal-Family.com! Have a sneak peek into our family life. My name is Kim Shavatt and I’m a wife to one awesome guy, and mom to 3 great kids (10, 8 and 5 yrs.)

On this blog I’ll discuss the creative ways I’ve learned to live on a limited budget, staying within our budget, getting the things we need, and having a little extra to enjoy life. I’ll share what I’ve learned along the way and feel free to add your comments and ideas. I’d love to hear them!

Kim ShavattPic of Kim Shavatt

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