Feeding a Family, Freebies!, Shopping

Money Saving Mom’s New Budget Book

I have mentioned Crystal Paine several times, because her blog was my first introduction to effective couponing. So I am pleased to recommend her new book,

The Money Saving Mom’s Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year

It’s available in Kindle or Softcover formats, but it would be most helpful in print,  because it has useful worksheets in it.


Although it’s not a comprehensive book like the one above,  you can also read her grocery shopping series on her blog:
31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget


Or “like” her Facebook page for more helpful advice.

She’s smart.


Empty Nest Meals, Feeding a Family

Speedy Dinner

Chicken Fajita Soup

I can make this from scratch, but to tell you the truth, it’s just as good from cans.

The fresh ingredients:

Chicken breast – cut bite-sized pieces and cook in a pan with just a little butter, until they are done.

The convenience foods:

Canned diced tomatoes with peppers
Canned black beans
Canned or frozen corn
Canned chicken broth
Diced garlic (I use the stuff in jars)
Cumin, chili powder or a pre-made Mexican spice mix


Tortilla Chips

Dump it all in a pot. Use scissors to mince up the cilantro.  I use a lot of cilantro. I usually put it in a crockpot so I can serve it when it’s convenient, but it can be made at the last minute if necessary.

Serve the chips separately so each person can crumble them into the soup like crackers. 🙂
You don’t need to add salsa unless you want to. I like it spicy.

Feeding a Family

Pumpkin Pancakes


I made these for breakfast this morning. I tripled the batch, thinking I would freeze leftovers, but I don’t know if there will be any left to freeze. They were very good!!

I made mine with regular pumpkin. I cooked up a big one yesterday and froze most of the puree, but I left out one package to try this recipe.

I used sour milk instead of fresh (because I had it!) and I eliminated the salt because it already had so much sodium from the baking powder. I used white sugar and 1/2 WW flour and 1/2 white flour.

One thing – they are pretty sweet, so if you like to put syrup on your pancakes, you might want to eliminate the sugar from the batter. I had one pancake without syrup and it was perfect.

I was afraid that they wouldn’t be fluffy, but they were! They tasted a little like pumpkin pie, of course, with all that spice in them.  YUMMY!

Feeding a Family

Feeding People

On the Living Like Noone Else forum, a woman posted that her teenage son was eating so much that she didn’t know how she could afford to feed her family. She gave the example that he had just eaten an entire bag of Aldi Chex Mix and was still hungry. I thought my response to her might be helpful to others and am posting it here.


DH and I raised three sons to adulthood and also had an 18 yo girl living with us for a year. It is expensive, especially if you feed them junk food that contributes nothing but empty calories to their growth.

Protein is going to be much more filling. Make sure everything that goes into their mouth has real food value. Carbs with fiber (fruit, starchy vegetables, 100% whole wheat bread or brown rice) will keep them filled up longer, too, and be less detrimental to their health.

I shop at Aldi, too, so I know that for the price of a bag of Aldi Chex Mix, you can buy an 8 oz package of cheese. Or some produce. Or natural peanut butter. Or even a chicken breast or two. Depending on where you live, maybe even a gallon of milk or a carton of cottage cheese. 2 dozen eggs! Two pounds of carrots. Three pounds of bananas. A stalk of celery. A loaf of 100% whole wheat bread (at least at Aldi or Walmart)

If you are okay with snacking, make good snacks available. Boil up some eggs. Devilled eggs are cheap to make (just add a small amount of mayo and mustard). Cut up celery and fill it with peanut butter. Have the carrots cut up so they can snack quickly. As someone else mentioned, teach them to spread apples with peanut butter. If they are little, slice up the cheese for them. Let them make peanut butter sandwiches.

I love to feed the boys’ guests. A crowdful of noisy young adult males is so fun. But that is when I break out the carbs – homemade cookies, popcorn, muffins, brownies, gingerbread… and even cheap pizzas. The other night, we fed 4 of them with 4 frozen pizzas. They are nice guys and usually have a few bucks they can contribute, but this time we paid for it – Red Baron pizzas were 3/$10, so we paid $13.50. They drank about $1 worth of milk and also water. I felt like that was pretty reasonable for a “party”.

BTW – I was at Walmart last night and got a box of their generic Triscuits. They were about $1.50, and they contain 100% whole wheat (not just the flour), oil, and salt. So it cost about the same as a bag of Chex Mix, but it’s much more wholesome and can be a base for the peanut butter, cheese, or other good toppings and they don’t eat the whole box at once.

Feeding a Family, Freebies!, Shopping

Being Diligent

It’s very easy for me to not shop.  I am a homebody, and I often go from one Sunday to the next without leaving home. I like it. I have a husband who is glad to have me at home, so I don’t have to work outside of my home.  But by putting in an hour or two each week, clipping and organizing coupons and doing some online research, I can “make money” by reducing our grocery and household expenses.

No, I don’t buy things we don’t use, except when they are free or nearly free and I pick them up for the food bank or shelter. We are flexible in our tastes, however, and don’t have “brand loyalty” to more than one or two items. We will eat any cereal except for the sugary childrens varieties, and we don’t care about the brand of our soap, toothbrushes or toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, pain relievers, cough syrup, dish soap, shavers, cleaners, etc.    If they are free, I will even give cat treats to my dog.  He doesn’t seem to mind.

But I have to do it, and I have to leave the house and GO TO THE STORE.

I did that today – after coupons at KMart, I spent $5 at the register. I bought:

Secret Deodorant

Kotex Liners

Dental Floss Picks



Starbucks Espresso drink

2 packages of Playtex rubber gloves

Dawn Dishsoap

Pert Plus for Men

Everything was full size – no trial sizes. As soon as I got home, I filled out the mail-in rebate for the Pert Plus ($3.49). I also got two coupons from Kmart – one was for $5 off my next $25 purchase (total before coupons, and I will probably use that tonight or tomorrow) and the other was $5 off my next $50 purchase. I probably won’t use that one — I don’t buy that much!

So after the rebate and the $5 coupon, I came out about $3 ahead. And I will be going back soon.

I did very well at the grocery store, too. I had a number of coupons for free items, and I cherry-picked their sale items.

The coupons for free coupons are usually found on the company’s websites (Kraft often has some), and some come in the weekly paper. My favorite website for finding these is Money Saving Mom and if you are a forum junkie like me, you will also enjoy Coupon Mom Forums.

Feeding a Family, Shopping

Shopping Day

I did a major grocery trip today. I still have some meat shopping to do, but otherwise we are stocked up for a while. I did super at Walgreens:

Groceries for March 21

5 boxes of cereal (Glucerna is good for avoiding the sugar-crash issues that often happen when you eat carbs for breakfast!) ,1 box of snack bars, Sambucol (homeopathic cold/flu meds), 2 bottles of Listerine mouth wash, 1 tube of Colgate Total toothpaste (with freebie travel sized tube), 2 Reach toothbrushes, 1 package of Trident gum, Dried apricots, Dried fruit and nut mix, 4 rolls toilet paper (it’s the kind we like).  The gum isn’t in the picture because I opened it already and put it in my purse. After I paid for it, of course.

Subtotal – $61.44

After coupons – $13.11

And then I got $13 back in Register Rewards!

So today’s Walgreen trip (all of the above) cost me 11 cents!!

After that, I went to Aldi. Our Aldi is GREAT. I did some checking today, and virtually every single item I bought was considerably cheaper than the comparable thing at Walmart. I did go to Walmart, too, though. Some things I had really good coupons for, so in that case it was cheaper to get them at Walmart. Aldi doesn’t take coupons. There are also a few things we have brand loyalty to – Dannon makes a natural plain yogurt, for example, that we like. We have tried others and don’t like them at all.  I like Celestial Seasonings tea to serve at Bible study. We like the Arnold all natural 100% whole wheat bread at Walmart, too, and that is remarkably inexpensive. And in some cases, I like the Great Value brand better than the Aldi alternatives (cottage cheese, sour cream, canned fruit in juice, popcorn…)

At Walmart, my subtotal was $131.94, and I paid $105.92 after coupons.

I am shopping very differently lately. Matthew is eating a rather odd diet – vegetables, fruits, several kinds of  nuts, plain wheat crackers, cottage cheese, yogurt, smoothies, meats, etc.  It’s not exactly a low-carb diet, but he avoids most things with “flour” in them.  He has given up diet soda (and regular soda, of course) and junk food. He has always avoided HFCS. It’s a little more expensive to shop for him now, but he is doing so well that I want to encourage him. He has lost over 50# so far!

Feeding a Family


Many people will suggest that meatless meals are a frugal choice. While I agree that this can sometimes be true, I would not assume that all meatless meals will be more economical. Most of our meatless recipes call for cheese. In our town, Walmart brand cheese at Walmart is about $4 per pound. Other brands – and even the store brands at the regular grocery store – can cost up to $7 per pound. I can buy chicken breasts for $1.99 per pound, beef roasts for under $3 per pound, and sometimes various pork cuts for under $2 per pound. Whole chickens and other cuts are even cheaper.  A $3 chicken, some rice and some frozen beans may cost less than some meatless alternatives. And you can boil up the carcass for soup the next day!

When shredded cheese is on sale (Aldi had it for about $2.60 per pound last month), it’s a good idea to stock up on it. It freezes well. Block cheese for slicing is better unfrozen, and theoretically it will last a while in the refrigerator, but in our house it will be immediately eaten. Meat, at least, seldom disappears as a “snack.” 

Add up the cost of all the ingredients in your meal. Some ingredients add significantly to the total cost: fresh herbs, special oils or vinegars, out-of-season fresh produce (red bell peppers, for example – OUCH!), cheese, or anything for which you have to run out at the last minute.

Some meals cost more at home than they do in a restaurant or from the grocery store. Homemade pizza is a good example. By they time you have made or bought a crust, made or purchased the sauce, collected meat and vegetables and mushrooms and mozzeralla cheese, you have spent as much as a Domino’s pizza or a couple frozen pizzas.  The advantages to making it at home are the control you have over the ingredients and the fun of creating it (especially as a family or group of friends.)  Depending on what you like to put in granola, that can be cheaper to buy than to make, too. I thought I could save money on tortillas by making them at home, but it wasn’t true. They take a lot of flour (and they are a pain to make, too!) Again, you are taking control of the ingredients and processing.

Processed foods can make us nervous, in this age of e coli and other food hazards, so we have to make our own choices. Don’t make them exclusively based on cost or convenience or safety. Consider all the factors and make sensible decisions about your own food choices. Menu planning is  very helpful in this matter. By mapping out your meals in advance, you can reasonably balance nutrition, convenience and other factors.