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This is part two in a two-part series.  If you missed part one, check it out here!

6.  Eat Real Foods!

Ok, so this is a tip that can cause your budget to shrink or grow.  If you are not worried about consuming organic foods then this doesn’t necessary cause your budget to grow.  Real foods are simple foods in the more natural state.  Potatoes instead of potato chips…boneless, skinless chicken breasts rather than chicken nuggets…quick cooking oats rather than prepackaged sweetened oatmeal…

The basic idea here is that if you are buying processed or highly packaged foods, you are not only paying for the food, but the packaging, the workers at the factories, the physical building where the item is processed and the taxes the corporation must pay!  It all adds up and you end up paying way more than what the food is actually valued at! 

This tip also includes cutting out (or at least cutting back) things like soda and drink mixes.  Mark and I have stopped drinking soda (although he still gets one at work now and again) and this has definitely helped cut back our budget.

7.  Skip the meat!

We love meat and it is good for you too, but it can help your budget if you commit to just one or two meatless meals a week.  Typically, the meat in a dish is the most expensive item. 

We try to eat something like pasta with marinara sauce  or beans and rice at least once a week….it is simple and filling and you won’t even miss the meat if you use some yummy cheese or delicious vegetables!

 There are plenty of yummy vegetarian dishes out there!  I have a few on my recipes page like Black and White Bean ChiliSpinach, Brown Rice and Cheese CasseroleTortilla Casserole, and even my Beef and Veggie Soup with Lentils (just cut the beef)!  Have fun going vegetarian every once in a while!

8.  Stock up!

This is a really big budget saver!  There are so many things that can be easily frozen and stored for later that you really must take advantage of great deals!  Things like meat, tortillas and berries are things that I always stock up on and freeze when I see a great sale!  Thinks like canned goods and bottled beverages can always be stored in the garage or pantry for later use too!

I will use the example of seasonal berries…here in Oregon, you can pick no-spray blueberries for a buck a pound during the late summer months.  So last year, we picked close to 40 pounds of blueberries for a mere $40.  We use them in breads and, of course, Green Smoothies.  If I had bought the equivalent in blueberries at Costco (the best on-going price for frozen blueberries around here), I would have paid $10 for a 5 pound bag…that means I would have paid $80 for my blueberries rather than $40…that’s a savings of $40 just on blueberries for a year!

Also, when meat goes on sale, I clear out a shelf on the freezer and stock up big.  Recently New Seasons was having a sale on meat…they had Boneless Skinless Chicken for $4/pound, Ground Lean Sirloin for $3/lb and Ground Turkey for $3/lb.  I know that those sound like outrageous prices to pay for meat, but since switching to free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic free meats we normally pay $6-$7/lb for chicken and $5/lb for beef and turkey.  Anyway, since meat was so cheap (relatively speaking), I bought up about 40 pounds of chicken breasts and 10 pounds each of sirloin and turkey.  In order to have everything stay nice and fresh, I called the meat department and had them wrap it all in meal sized portions (1.5 lbs of chicken breasts/package and 1 pound of ground meat/package)!  If you aren’t particular about your meat, this might mean stocking up when chicken breasts are on sale at $1.90/pound or ground beef is at $1/pound (my old “stock up” prices).

When things like tomatoes are on sale, you can buy them up and make marinara sauce or salsa and can it to keep for the rest of the year!  If you don’t can (one of my goals for the year is to learn how to), you can easily freeze marinara sauce too (and someone once told me it is easy to freeze tomatoes whole!)!  Or make up a few lasagnas and freeze the whole lasagna for a hassle free meal on night!

9.  Make it Homemade!

You would be amazed at how much money you can save if you make your foods yourself!  Things like bread, tortillas, rolls, muffins, and waffles are SO easy to make yourself (and most freeze beautifully)!  If you want to challenge yourself, try making your own kefir, yogurt, or even cheese.

We make our own pizza dough for pizza night as well as our own “chicken tenders” from bread crumbs and boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

If you are the type of person who buys lots of frozen meals (lasagna, enchiladas, macaroni and cheese, etc.), try making those dishes homemade and freezing them for later use.  I tend to make a double batch of anything freezable.  Before cooking, I put anything that will not be eating that night into the freezer with instructions for how to cook and leave it for another night.  This allows me to save money by buying bulk ingredients when on sale as well as using homemade ingredients AND it saves me time later on!

Check out my Soaked Granola Recipe as well as my Basic Whole Wheat Bread Recipe for a few homemade recipes to help cut your budget!

10.  Never throw it out!

Ok…if it is rotten you can go ahead and thow it out…

However, if you have a jar of spaghetti sauce sitting in the fridge with a mere 1/4 of sauce left, don’t trash it-dump it into a container and stick it in the freezer.  Everytime you have some leftover tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, or tomato paste-add those to the container.  Next time you are making up some yummy marinara sauce (or a lasagna), just thaw your tomato “extras” and dump them into the pan with the rest of the sauce. 

If you have just a tiny amount of meat or beans left after dinner, save them and make up a quesadilla the next day!…Leftover cooked veggies??  Save them and add to your morning eggs!…You get the idea here right?

If you try a new product and don’t like it, first find out if your store will take it back…stores like Costco and Trader Joes (and I believe New Seasons) will gladly take a product back and let you find something different!  If your store doesn’t accept returns, try repurposing the product!  For example….I bought some BBQ sauce awhile back that wasn’t my cup of tea for baking chicken in, so I mixed it with a little tomato sauce and added a few spices and herbs and used it as my sauce on a BBQ chicken pizza….once there was some pineapple, chicken, and pepper on the pizza, the sauce was hardly noticed and the flavor was enjoyable!

Sometimes it simply isn’t possible to return OR repurpose a product.  In this case, I encourage you to see if any close friends or family would like it…if you can’t cut your budget back, might as well help a friends!

 *******

Aside from couponing (which can help ANY budget) and growing your own produce/raising your own meat & eggs, these are some simple steps to shrink your grocery budget!  I hope that they were helpful!

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As most of you know, I love love love Passionatehomemaking.com!  It is by far my favorite blog and it is a wealth of information about biblical womanhood, simple and natural living, and whole food eating! 

Quite awhile back, she posted about her family’s diet and did a review of the book “Real Food”.  In a separate post, she outlined 12 Steps to Nutritious Eating.  This is basically the “plan” we have followed to start making the switch to a traditional, whole food diet.  Go here to check out the original post!

Even if this article doesn’t interest you, you should definitely head over to her site and check out all that she has to offer!

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This is Part One of a Two Part series.  Come back next Friday for Part Two!

Lately, I have been thinking about all of the ways that we have started saving money and cutting corners with regard to our food budget.  I thought I would share a few with you…keep in mind that some are really basic and might not be new news to you!

1.  Menu Plan!

This has been HUGE for me!  I can’t tell you how much easier it is to spend money when you are buying foods with no concrete idea of what you are going to do with them.  This is especially true with produce!  I can’t tell you how many peppers, bags of broccoli, or heads of lettuce were tossed after perishing because I thought that they sounded good, but never had a meal in mind for them! 

Menu planning also helps because it allows you to combine needs and shop once.  For example, if you are making three recipes that need slightly less than one onion each you might just buy three onions, BUT you could have bought two and used slightly less onion in each recipe (and even supplemented with dried onion or onion powder).

If you don’t menu plan- I encourage you to give it a try….just try for a few weeks (a month is best)!  For me, it has taken the stress off of “what’s for dinner” and allowed me no room for excuses to eat out or stop at Burgerville! 

2.  Limit Grocery Shopping to once (at most twice) a week

I wanted to leave the “at most twice” part off of this, but lately I have been doing a mid-week trip to get any great deals before stock runs out AND many people find it easier to split their week into two.  Who am I to judge!  The point here is to watch the everyday “I just need to pick up a few things for dinner” routine….it is dangerous….and a slippery slope!  Often that “quick stop” is after work and on the way home…which tends to be a time when you are HUNGRY!  Shopping while hungry is a BIG NO NO-watch yourself….before you know if your cart is full of snacks galore and three times what you planned to spend.  Even the very disciplined tend to pick up a candy bar or a soda pop from the cooler…..it adds up!

This also helps me when it comes to cravings!  There have been times when I watched Giada De Laurentiis make some heavenly pasta dish and JUST HAD TO HAVE IT…..so I made a trip to the store, bought all the special ingredients, grabbed a loaf of bread (who eats pasta without bread, really?), oops….don’t for get a bottle of wine and some veggies…we need a bag of salad and just the right dressing too…!  Bottom line-it gets out of hand quickly and it might just be better to make a note of the recipe for next week and hold off until the next shopping trip….

3.  Follow the sales!

This is a little trickier if you like to try lots of specific new recipes all the time, but for those who are flexible with what you are going to eat, try to plan your meals around the sales.  If chicken is on sale this week, make up three or four chicken dishes and just eat beef or fish once or twice.  If potatoes are on sale, try making twice baked potatoes or homemade fries to supplement a meal.  When freezable items are on sale, buy them and freeze them (more on this in Part Two).  I have general guidelines for grocery prices…If a particular item is much higher than my “good price”, then I will skip it that week and try again later.  This is true for things like apples, oranges, and avocados.  If organic apples are more than $1.50/pound, I will skip them that week and stick with another fruit…if avacados are more than approximately $1.50 each (depending on size)I will probably skip them and try again another week!

4.  Get creative with your pantry!

Leave the cookbook on the shelf for a week!  See what you can make without going to the store for a week.  Ok, you might need to pick up some milk, yogurt, fruits and veggies….but just that and nothing else!  We have had several “eat from the pantry” weeks…trust me, we didn’t starve and the world didn’t end!  Almost everyone has a few boxes of pasta, some rice, a few bags of frozen veggies, some frozen meat, and a few cans of soup or sauce.  It may not be a week full of the most exciting meals one could find, but they will be meals nonetheless! 

If this seems like a big undertaking to you OR you have a super small pantry and don’t really have much stocked up, maybe try just 2 or 3 days of “pantry eating”…it can be challenging at first, but really isn’t too tough once you get some ideas going! 

This is also a GREAT way to clear out your freezer or pantry…every once in a while, you should really get rid of all the random bags of veggies and cans of beans…this is a good way to make that happen!

Also, try to use up your partial bottles of sauces, dressings, marinades by getting creative!   For example, I made something that needed chili sauce awhile back, but chili sauce isn’t really something I use that often.  I used it for my recipe, then went onto allrecipes.com and used the ingredient search to find some more recipes to use it in.  When I still had about 3/4 C. left (after using it in three recipes), I decided to use it as the sauce for our pizza just to use it up and try something new-it was DELICIOUS! 

5.  Keep it simple!

I admit that it can be really fun to cooks a super special meal from a recipe that needs 20 specialty items….it just doesn’t have to happen everyday!  Try to make substitutions to use what you have OR try to find recipes that need some of the same items.  Keep the majority of your meals (75% or so) pretty simple…say less than 10 ingredients (preferably only 1-2 ingredients that you don’t use on a regular basis).

Also, try keeping your fridge cleared out of all the zillions of varieties of dressings…pick two or three that you like and only keep those.  Don’t go out and buy a new marinade every time you are grilling steak, instead pick a good one and supplement it with seasonings and spices from the spice cabinet!

Well, that’s all for now, but come back next week for the second part in the post!

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I was inspired by Passionate Homemaking to think about my morning routine in her post here.

Last fall, I began finding myself repeatedly waking at about 5:30 AM each morning, a good 30-45 min. before my alarm was set to go off.  At first, I found it to be incredibly irritating and would try and try (in vain) to fall back asleep for a few more unnecessary minutes of sleep.  After a week or so, I decided that it was time to quit fighting it and just start getting up. 

I began rising between 5:15 and 5:30 faithfully each morning and found that I was able to work on my bible study and/or spend time in prayer and the Word for nearly 45 min. to an hour each morning AS WELL AS get all of my morning chores accomplished and head out the door at a reasonable time!  It was a wonderful feeling.  I felt like I had already accomplished so much each morning-before I had even left for work and my day was ALWAYS better after spending time at the Lord’s feet each morning! 

Well, I have found myself unusually sleepy lately and have been sleeping in until about 6:30 lately and I am not liking it one bit!  I definitely don’t need to sleep that long, but I can’t seem to convince myself to just get up and go downstairs!  As a result of this slow-to-rise change, I feel like I am always running a few minutes behind and my mornings are much more stressful because they are missing the quiet peace and purpose that comes with prayer and God’s word in the mornings. 

So, I have decided that no matter how tired I am, I am going to get back into my old morning routine!  I have been thinking about my old schedule and I have made a few changes, but I am excited to get back in the swing of things!

5:20- Wake Up & Make Tea

5:25- Morning Bible & Prayer Time

6:25- Morning Walk with Monty

6:45-Pack Lunches & Make Breakfast

7:00- Breakfast with Mark

7:15- Shower

7:30-Hair, Make-Up, Dressed

7:45- Leave for Work

There are a few things that I have set myself to do in the evenings that will help my mornings run more smoothly.  Here are the things that I will (and won’t) do to maximize my mornings! 

Will Do:

  • Get all Lunch items together each evening before bed
  • Have all school stuff packed up and at the top of the stairs
  • Have purse and keys at the top of the stairs

Won’t Do:

  • Leave Dishes in the sink over night
  • Use computer in the mornings (it just ends up becoming a distraction)
  • Household chores (laundry, vacuuming, etc. etc.)

I had to list some things on my won’t do category (like household chores) that might seem silly to NOT do when you are in a productive mood, BUT I have found that dishes, laundry, a dirty floor, and the such have a snowball effect for me.  WHen I decide that I am “just going to throw a load of laundry in”, all the sudden it is time to go and I have not packed lunches, made breakfast, OR (most importantly) spent time with the Lord.  Yes, I might have folded a load of laundry, have a load in the washer and dryer, picked up all the dog toys, cleaned the counters, AND vacuumed the floor, but my day is not out of balance…I have, in essence, said that my house and responsibilities in it are more important than the Lord….I have been a Martha, when I have been called to be a Mary.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

~Luke 10:38-42

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Countdown to Christmas!

Christmas is upon us!  Can you believe it has come so quickly?!?! Anyway, I need to get in gear and get myself (and home) together….and quickly!  Mark and I fly back to Maryland the day after Christmas and the house simply cannot be left as it is or our cats will go to town on destroying everything (they get into anything and everything that is left out when we leave). 

So, I need a game plan…there is lots to do and I need to get it all sorted out in my head so I can be sure to get it all finished in time!  I probably can’t be counted on to post all that regularly, because this list is rather large, but I will try my best and will hopefully be back at it in January!

12/15: Christmas Cookies for Mark’s work party, Order Mark’s Christmas presents, Shopping for Christmas gifts for my kiddos and for co workers, Work

12/16: Work, Christmas Decorations (no, our tree isn’t decorated yet 😦  ), AWANA

12/17: Clean Office, Christmas Cards (assembly and writing Church cards), Work

12/18: Work, Christmas Cards, Car to Mechanic?

12/19: Work, Laundry, Christmas Cards

12/20: Church, Sunday School, Day with Mark :), Christmas Cards (why did I choose to do handmade again?)

12/21: Final Christmas Shopping, Mail Christmas Cards

12/22: Cookie Baking/Gift making Day

12/23: Gift Wrapping, Packing

12/24: Packing, Cleaning, Church, Christmas Movies and Chinese 🙂

12/25: Christmas Day!  Time with family!

12/26: Bright and Early departure for Maryland to spend time with family and friends….YIPPEE!

There is a lot on my list right now, but we are truly keeping this season simple!  The point is certainly not stressing over gifts and scrambling to get way too many things done!  I am hoping to give some homemade goodies away as gifts to family, but if this doesn’t happen then it doesn’t happen and that is OK.  Mark and I are keeping Christmas very simple this year and we are not giving much to each other and only one or two things to parents (and my sweet nephew Hayden, of course).  We are not giving gifts to extended family and friends.  This year we are trying to save ourselves the stress of buying and the stress of paying off those purchases into the next year.  We each have an envelope of cash to spend for Christmas…and that is it…it is a new thing for us, but becoming debt-free is a goal that Mark and I both are working towards and have agreed is well worth the sacrifice. 

I hope that each of you will find time this season to rest in the Lord and his Glory.  Put aside all that is consuming your time and energy and find comfort and peace in Christ.

He gave us life…lets not leave Him out of ours!

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My Prayers

I was talking with a friend today about some of the things that I have been praying about lately.  I have found myself praying more often than I used to and often catch myself in the morning just talking to the Lord as I sit in traffic. 

Awhile back, I listened to an audiobook called “The Power of a Praying Wife”, I remember hearing the author describe how her prayers for God to change her husband were answered instead by a change in her.  Well, that has happened (in a way) to me. 

A few months back I dealt with the fact that my husband simply wasn’t going to be ready to start a family when we had “planned” on starting.  I was pretty heartbroken, I won’t lie about that.  I did realize that pushing him into getting pregnant wasn’t going to create a healthy relationship for anyone, so I (eventually) backed off.  I stopped my CONSTANT comments about how much I wanted to get pregnant and started praying that God would make Mark want a baby….

That was late August….here we are and it is late October and am I still praying that same prayer? 

No

I realized a few weeks back that I no longer pray that God give me what I want…instead I find myself praying that God will give me what I NEED.  What do I need?  Well here are a few of the things that I am praying for…

1.  A heart that is pleasing to God….my prayers have opened time and time again with the plea that God would search my heart and cleanse it from all the sin within it.  I have prayed and prayed that God would use me and form me into a person that He will use for His divine purposes

2.  A husband who seeks the Lord above all else.  If anyone reading this is in one of my bible studies, you know that I have made this request time and time again.  I not only WANT a husband who strives to be a spiritual leader in my home and over me, but I NEED a husband who does those things. 

3.  The strength and wisdom to become a better wife.  Each time I pray, I ask the Lord to make me into a woman who brings honor to my husband and who serves him and our home in a way that is pleasing to God. 

Well, that is not all that I pray for, but those are some of my constant pleas.  Has anything changed since I started praying these things?  Well, actually, yes!

I am so happy to say that Mark has been faithful to keep his promise to me to give me time each night before bed when we read the Word together.  He choose 1 Samuel to begin with and we are about halfway through.  I have really enjoyed reading with him and he seems to be enjoying it as well.  I am still praying that the Lord will contine to draw Mark closer and closer to Him.  But, I have given it to the Lord and have made the conscious decision not to attempt to convince him to do anything that he doesn’t want to do. 

While I cannot attest to becoming a better wife (you would have to ask Mark about that one 🙂 ) I can say that things are changing in my heart.  I feel the love and wisdom and guidance of my Heavenly Father surrounding me constantly.  I find myself reciting scriptures throughout the day.  I find myself checking my attitude over and over again and realigning myself with the word of God.  I am happier….I am not only more content with what I have, but find myself overwhelmed with how blessed I am! 

I praise God for giving me the hope that is found only in Jesus Christ! 

Our God is truly good! 

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Cleaning Plan

Ok so I want to be reasonable with my goal for getting the house thoroughly cleaned…so I am hoping to have it finished by the end of next week (yes, I know my house is very small and that is a long time to finish it, but I don’t want to kill myself in the process…..)

If I finish before next friday then that would be awesome, but I am not setting deadline until Friday evening!

Today: Laundry (wow there is a lot to be done!)

Friday: Kitchen and Dining Room

Saturday: Office

Sunday: Living Room

Monday: Master Bedroom & Bathroom

Tuesday: Extra Bedroom and Bathroom (+ Steam Cleaning the upstairs)

Wednesday: Main Bathroom + Kitchen/Living Room Floors

Thursday: Entry, Deck, Garage

Friday: Stairs and Floors (touch-up)

Hopefully by next weekend, my house will be decently clean and I will be able to get back to my cleaning schedule which REALLY helped me keep the house in great shape last spring!

Time to switch a load of laundry and I need to get working on my bible study for tonight! 

By the way, I haven’t been posting a bible verse of the day, but there have been verses running through my head constantly!  Here is one that I have been concentrating on a lot lately!

Verse of the Day (verse 33 is the one that I have memorized, but it helps to read it in context if you are unfamiliar with the verse)

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

~Matthew 6:31-33

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