Happy First Monday in November! We’re running a challenge from our Hail Marry Hangout Facebook group this month designed to help you struggle less with the trappings of money in advance of Advent.
If you’ve been a reader for awhile, you know that we did something similar this past Lent.
What Is It?
A No-Spend month is exactly as it sounds, with a caveat. It isn’t talking about shirking all responsibility to pay bills. It’s about freezing all unnecessary and discretionary spending.
Essentially, you will pay only your bills and what you decide is a line item for this month’s budget. I mentioned in Friday’s podcast that were moving, so we have some moving expenses as a line item. We’re already done Christmas shopping, so that isn’t on there for me, but it is for some of the ladies in the challenge group.
This looks different for everyone. We all have our reasons and shared them (as well as potential pitfalls) in our group.
We just started Week 2 today, so you can still join us if you’d like! We’d love to have you. You can join us here on Facebook.
If the timing is just terrible for you right now, being so close to the holidays, we get it. We anticipate running another No-Spend Lent challenge as well, if you want to plan ahead!
In the comments, let us know what your why for a spending freeze is or…head on over to the group and tell us there!
Summer. Recipes. Summer Recipes!
Rachel here! Summer is my second-favorite season in the year! Eating is my favorite hobby (#foodislife). I am always looking for new recipes and food hacks. It helps that I love to cook. All four of the summer recipes in this post are tried and true: I can vouch for their yummy flavor!!
Tips: We do shop at Aldi, and we do sales ads, grocery rebate apps, coupons, and the local farmers market. Also, I basically try to get all my meals under $5.00 a meal. Need help with groceries? We’ve got posts on that! Check out our Organization series (the first post can be found here).
Bacon Ranch Chicken (Serves 4)
6-8 slices of Bacon
8 oz Ranch Dressing (let’s be honest, use as much as you please)
4oz Cheddar Cheese (again…use as much as you please)
4 Chicken Breast or Whatever cut of chicken you have on hand
Chickpea Pasta (Serves 6) Meatless Meal
1 can of chickpeas
1 small diced onion
1 jar of pasta sauce (I like to get different ones, but our favorite is mushroom pasta sauce)
1 box of pasta you already have (low carb or gluten-free? Replace with spinach or broccoli)
Salted Caramel Snicker Doodles Cookies (Serves 8)
1 can of crescent rolls (tip: buy multiple when they are on sale and freeze them!)
1 small bag of soft caramel candy (found at Dollar Tree or on clearance after a holiday)
Cinnamon Sugar mixture (literally, mix cinnamon and sugar, to taste)
A sprinkle of Salt
4th of July fruit Salad (Serves 6)
1 package of sliced strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 package of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 package of blackberries (fresh or frozen)
1 small bag of marshmallows (mini or regular)
1.Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Enjoy!
Do you have any easy recipes that your family loves? Let us know—we are always looking for new and fun recipes to try out. Better yet? Hit us up on Instagram with pictures of your favorite foods! Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, too, and hang out with us in our closed Facebook group, The Hail Marry Hangout!
Today we’re talking about our experiences growing up being sans meat on Fridays in Lent and how we’ve made it our own now that we’re married.
The first thing that comes to mind when I hear Lent is Meatless Fridays. Growing up I had my share of tuna briquette, tuna casseroles, and if we were extremely good that week, fish fries!!! I adore my momma but something I didn’t want to eat as an adult was tuna. Tuna is great, cheap, and can feed a large family in a hurry.
I totally understand why she chose sometimes to feed her family with the chicken of the sea. She also fed us wonderful meals of catfish, salmon, and tons of veggie dinners. My mom was one to make things simple but a variety of meals so her little angels would eat. I still remember my favorite of all-time: grilled cheese and tomato soup.
I want to bring back those fond memories that I had growing up for my family, but of course, put a twist on them. I am a firm believer in Pinterest. There are thousands and thousands of recipes on that website, for all different food allergies and for a variety of meals. I have a ton of resources at my fingertips (more than my mother did) and I take advantage of that all the time. I still cook with her voice in the back of my mind though; I make it simple and make sure it looks at least a little appealing.
In my home during Lent, we always abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. We like to do both, even though the church doesn’t require Wednesdays. It tends to help with our budget and we put that money towards alms-giving during Lent.
We want to have firm traditions that are founded in our Faith. So while we are growing our family, I am trying some simple meatless meals that hardly include tuna. We like to go to at least one fish fry during lent to support our Knights of Columbus and also to have fellowship with our church community.
For us growing up, it was canned salmon in the forms of salmon stew and salmon patties. I didn’t even realize that salmon was sold out of the can. I’d eaten smoked salmon as a fourth grader at Epcot in Norway, but I didn’t connect the dots. I don’t think I realized what salmon looked like out of the can until…well…college, I’m pretty sure. We also greatly loved Tuna Helper. This was actually my middle school and high school specialty.
Sometimes, we’d go out for our seafood. When we lived in Georgia, we’d get some popcorn shrimp and salad from the buffet at Shoney’s. Back in Texas, we frequented Cracker Barrel to take advantage of their Friday Fish Fry catfish special. If on the road, traveling, we’d grab a Fish Fillet from McDonald’s.
When I “grew up,” I began incorporating foods from other cultures into the Lenten rotation with cheese quesadillas and enchiladas, meatless spaghetti or eggplant parmesan, tabouli and falafel…except now, I can’t eat any of that due to my allergies, so I find myself back in the realm of my momma—seafood!
At our parish, as Rachel mentioned, we have a very active Knights of Columbus who do weekly Lenten fish fries. Last year, they got experimental and had fish tacos as well! They also sell huge cookies and do kids meals. There’s talk this year of changing it up to include a soup bar one Friday, a fish fry on another, a potato bar on another…I think that the variety offered will be nice, but (like Rachel), I really love the community aspect of this.
In both our households, we’ve got go-to meatless meals that we love. They’re simple (which is kind of a great thing to have during the solemn time of Lent) and while they may be less filling than a typical meal, we find that they help us keep our heads in the right place for the attitude of Lent. Here’s how we do our top meals:
Kristi—this one is a nice choice for variety and my allergies alike! I love eggs, so I’m always excited for that. I like to put peas and savory seasonings in them to make them a little more nutrient dense, adding extra fiber and protein. We also enjoy grain-free (coconut flour, almond flour, or a combination of them) homemade pancakes. I put almond butter and syrup on mine and Little Miss prefers peanut butter. Superman likes to use apple butter.
Rachel—we love making pancakes, bread pudding, and cinnamon rolls. Who says it has to be a savory meal? We love making Eggs Benedict without the ham (we use spinach or asparagus instead, yummy!!). Use your imagination. The possibilities are endless. Anything that you usually have meat in like bacon can be replaced by veggies. We like to grill asparagus and drizzle them with balsamic vinegar.
2. Pretend You’re a Vegetarian
Rachel—we love to grill; our favorites are portabella mushrooms or eggplant burgers. We clean the mushrooms and cover them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. On the grill it only takes 5-10 minutes for each side. We usually place our buns (we like onion buns) and we brush them with olive oil or butter and place them on the grill. For the eggplant burgers, we usually use the onion buns also. I take the eggplant and I peel it, then slice it in thick slices. I poke holes in the slices with a fork and put them in olive oil with salt and pepper. Place them on the grill for 10-20 minutes on each side. We use all the regular burger toppings! We also make cheese and veggie pizza at home. We just use a basic recipe for the pizza crusts, add the sauce, cheese, veggies and bake!! This is really simple; I mean who doesn’t like pizza?! Yum!!
Kristi—I love pizza and burgers, but they’re on my no-food list, so I turn to soups. I’m working hard to find a recipe for AIP-friendly bread so we can have sandwiches or toast to accompany these soups, but until then, soups are standalone dishes in our home. I usually make all of my soups using my homemade broth as a base (no tomato or dairy for me) and adding a plethora of vegetables. I can’t eat beans, so if we’re eating chili, it tends to have a sweet potato/butternut squash/beet base for thickening. We eat a few bowls of soup on these days to fill us up, and we’re generally light on the protein with these meals. Salads also help these meals stretch out.
Kristi—we’re now back where we started with seafood. Sometimes we bake fish fillets (usually in aluminum foil packets and usually with lemon, garlic, and onion) and prepare some nice veggies with it. Sometimes we make salmon patties (Superman’s are far superior to my own). Sometimes, when I’m feeling super fancy, we make zucchini noodle pasta and shrimp with a garlic-butter wine sauce. That’s pretty delicious, too.
Rachel—our final tried and true dinner is either catfish or salmon with a salad and grilled veggies. We love to either grill or roast our veggies with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. The fish depending on how we want to eat it that night could be fried or grilled. Salmon we always grill or we put it in a foil pack with butter and lemon in the oven to bake.
We know that you’re probably like us—you have a favorite recipe but are always on the lookout for more meatless inspiration. Please share your recipe with us or leave us a comment about how you abstain from meat in Lent. Also, check out our Pinterest board Meals sans Meat for inspiration!
We’re going to use the hashtags #HowWeLent and #HowILent on social media the entire Lenten season to spread the word in a searchable way about everything that we’re doing to celebrate this season. We invite you to join us!
Kristi & Rachel
Today I’m going to be sharing with you some ways that we keep it frugal in our house by shopping to save. Shopping is going to happen. It just is. It’s a necessity of life. So if you’re smart about HOW you do it, you’ll be on your way to savings in no time. We do use coupons in this house, but everyone knows that savings trick, so I’m not going to mention it.
Little Miss and I were pretty frugal when it was just the two of us. She’s loved and spoiled by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins alike, so she hardly ever needs new…anything. She also is the lucky recipient of awesome pre-loved clothes from cousins. She’s got my toys from my childhood (which she thinks is super cool) and plenty of her own. We’ve got Netflix, Hulu, and enough books to stock a classroom library. We’re also near several parks. There really isn’t a lot that we spend on entertainment because of those factors. None of that changed when I married Superman.
Little Miss eats like a bird, and I have a lot of food allergies/intolerances due to an autoimmune disease (which I treat by following the autoimmune protocol on the Paleo diet), so our grocery budget was a bit high, but very manageable. We also had leftovers all the time. Enter Superman. He’s never met a meal (or a food, for that matter) that he didn’t like. He’s also got a very high metabolism. I’m still adjusting to cooking a meal large enough to have leftovers for our newly-expanded family. This is definitely one of our largest budget categories, so I’ve had to slightly tweak my strategies.
Here are a few tricks I keep up my sleeves to keep our budget intact.
Trick #1: Where to Shop
Aldi—I love Aldi. It’s great for staples. Superman goes through milk for protein shakes and I consume eggs like they’re candy—okay, maybe not so much, but I do eat a lot of them. Little Miss has limited diary in her diet and I only eat grass-fed butter (Kerrygold is my favorite brand). The milk at Aldi is hormone-free (yay!) and while their eggs aren’t “free-range” or “cage-free,” I kind of see those labels as little more than labels unless you’re buying them directly from the farmer, and the price cannot be beat. Whenever we’ve got friends coming over or simply want a glass of wine with dinner, Aldi is our go-to. They’ve got a brand called Winking Owl that’s $2.99 per bottle. Their “spicy” mustard is the only mustard I can find without paprika (an allergen for me). We also typically buy our chips, nuts, and olives for entertaining (tortilla, potato, and sweet potato). Produce-wise, I love to keep onions, sweet potatoes, and avocadoes on hand and I can buy them cheaply and in bulk at Aldi. I’ve even converted my in-laws!
Target—In true Millennial style, I also adore Target. So much. They’ve got a great line of store brands. Their Market Pantry frozen vegetables are always $0.99 per bag, which is hard to beat. I can almost always find a sale or “manager pricing” on their Simply Balanced grass-fed ground beef, too. I am brand-loyal to my coconut milk. I use Goya, because they have absolutely no gums or stabilizers (although, they’ve recently begun to distribute one that does, so read the label!) and Target has the best price on this product consistently. The best part about this? All of the foods I’ve mentioned, plus the Archer Farms brand of maple syrup are consistently on Target’s savings app, Cartwheel. Cartwheel is amazing (more on that later!). Target is also a store that price-matches, although you’ve got to have the ads on your person.
Kroger—I am saddened that not everyone has a Kroger, because I love mine. They also have a fabulous brand called Simple Truth (which also has an organic line). They make a large rotisserie chicken that is made with only chicken, sea salt, and water. It’s delicious and feeds us for two meals. We use the leftovers to make a meal we call “Thank You Chicken” (recipe below). Kroger runs pretty decent sales and consistently has Larabars for $1.00 each, which are the cheapest I can find around here. My favorite thing about Kroger, though, is the produce. I can always find manager’s specials on carrots, bagged salads, and mushrooms (sometimes as little as $0.25 per box!). They also have really good (and consistent) prices on cabbage (lower than Aldi!) and kale.
Trick #2: Apps to Save
Cartwheel—told you it was coming! I’m sure you’re aware of Cartwheel, but it. is. awesome. You’re given a small amount of deals that you can add. As you continue to use the app, add deals, and redeem them, you unlock more spaces for deals. We consistently save percentages—granted, they’re often small—on what we buy. Saving anything on something that you’re already going to buy is fantastic in my book. A lot of the times, they’ll have sale items on Cartwheel, too. It’s also a great way to save in general. Last week, Cartwheel featured a DC Superhero Girls Wonder Woman doll complete with the Invisible Jet. It was $39.99 but 60% off on Cartwheel. So what did we do? Bought Little Miss a birthday present and hid it away until the summer! That’s a win.
Kroger App—this is basically a digital Kroger Plus Card that works a lot like Cartwheel. It has digital coupons that you can add to your card. When you scan your actual card or enter your alternate ID number, the digital coupons are added in addition to the savings. The best part about this is that you can add extra fuel-boosting savings to your card through the app. This usually knocks off a small amount at the pump, but if you use it enough, you can increase that. Last summer I saved $0.35 per gallon at the pump. Yes, please.
Ibotta—okay, y’all. This one is new for me. I’ve heard about this one for at least a year and was skeptical. I reluctantly signed up for it and OMG! The catch is that you have to be willing to give away some personal data (surveys and polls are part of the unlocking process). For me, that’s okay. Facebook and Google are already mining my data, so at least I’m getting some money back this way! The way it works is that you unlock deals based on stores (through surveys, recipes, and videos). Then, you shop. You scan the barcode for the items you’ve unlocked and then scan your receipt to verify when, where, and that you purchased the item. You can also unlock bonuses each month, a welcome bonus, and referral bonuses to add to your savings total. It is a rebate app, though, and not a coupon app, so you’re making money back. To redeem it, you have to reach a total of $20.00. You can link a PayPal or Venmo account to the app and have the savings deposited into them or you can opt for the total to be loaded onto a giftcard (some require a $25 balance). You have about ten giftcard options (which would be perfect for our frugal dates…and make them even more frugal!). With two shopping trips and one welcome bonus, I’ve already gotten $18.25. Every little bit helps, right? You can also invite friends and start a team just for using the app. Here’s a link to sign up for Ibotta here (note: this is an affiliate link with a rewards code for my Ibotta account, where we’ll be teammates!).
Wal-Mart App—The Target-fan in me cringes a bit at the thought of going into a Wal-Mart, but I cannot deny that they price match and usually have lower prices on a lot. Therefore, if you shop at Wal-Mart, you should definitely get the app. Within the app you’ll find the ad, but also Savings Catcher. Savings Catcher has you scan your receipt into the app and then checks the ads of the stores in your area to see if there’s a lower advertised price on an item you purchased on that receipt. If so, Wal-Mart loads the difference in the advertised price and the price you paid onto a Wal-Mart giftcard. Another yes, please!
Trick #3: Clearance is Your Friend!
Sales are great, but clearance is even better. It’s pretty much how I buy for Christmas and birthdays. Target puts their toys on clearance twice a year (I’m pretty sure it’s in January or February and August). I find dolls, Lego sets, games, puzzles, cars, and even outdoor toys. Sometimes the prices are so low that I buy more and save them for our Toys for Tots donations at Christmas.
We also buy the “clearance” food. Kroger has unsightly, on-the-brink-of-going-bad produce bagged in red mesh bags for $0.99 each. If cooked or frozen very soon after purchase, there’s nothing wrong with this produce. They also have bins of nearing-expiration food (usually located near the health and beauty area). We’ve found protein shake powder for $10 and coconut flour for $3.50 before.
Trick #4: Resale and Consign
Whether it’s toy organization for Little Miss’s room, baby gear for godchildren (or future children) that may come along, shoes (especially shoes!), toys, or clothing, resale shops and consignment sales rock. This is the first place I go if I’m in need of any of the aforementioned items. I’ve gotten furniture like an art desk, a play vanity, and a toy organizer for under $20 each. I’ve gotten a travel system, a high chair, a baby swing, and a Pack and Play (for less than $35 each). I’ve also sold plenty of outgrown baby shoes, toys, and nearly all of what was originally purchased at the resale shops. We also have a lot of Half-Price Books stores around here and sell books that we’ve read and aren’t likely to read again. In both cases, it’s not a huge amount of cash in my pocket, but it is a nice way to add some money to a vacation fund or some other type of short-term savings. It’s also great because it’s eco-friendly.
Trick #5: Meal Plan, then Grocery Shop
I know that Rachel has already talked about this in her previous post on Organization and Saving Money, but planning our meals helps save my sanity and our money. How, you ask? I know exactly what we’re having for dinner each night and don’t have to worry about rushing to throw something together with enough time to get Little Miss ready for bed. It saves money because there are no last-minute runs to the store for a crucial ingredient that I need for that night’s dinner.
I plan based on what I have in my fridge and my pantry and based on what’s on sale. After planning, I make my grocery list and then go shopping. I stick to the list (because I’ve already taken the sales into account), use any and all applicable apps, loyalty cards, and/or manufacturer’s coupons. The shopping, feeding, cooking, and eating portion of my week is much more simplistic when I do this.
What are some ways that you keep things frugal in your house? We’d love to hear about it. Rachel and I are ALWAYS on the lookout for ways to shop, spend, and save smarter. Leave us a comment below with your tips and check out our Pinterest board on budget and finance for more inspiration.
Also, don’t forget to enter our giveaway with Catholic Etsy shop My Little Felt Friends (with a coupon code, too!) which ends tonight!!!
That’s a common question that I hear everyone ask, whether it’s online or in real life. As wives, we are always looking for a better way to accomplish this task. I definitely didn’t have the answer to that question back in 2014 when I got married. I was looking for the answer, but eventually I realized it was one that I had to come up with. Let’s go through the process together. WARNING: you may want to schedule out some time for it. It’s long the first time, but after the initial cleaning and organizing it will be worth it considering how much you can save and make.
I had a ton of wedding gifts plus things that we purchased from garage sales and thrift stores. I realized we had a hodgepodge of miscellaneous items strewn across our kitchen. So I pulled everything out of the drawers and the cabinets and put them on the counter. Then I started to place each item that belonged together in a pile. Within that group, I sorted based on what purpose they had. Then I put that group of items back into a newly designated place. Now when you come into my kitchen, you can open my drawers or cabinets and find exactly what you want.
When you finally are done organizing your cooking items, you can easily see what things that you don’t need and sell them. I always like to try to sell my things if I am not using them, because any extra money that I can bring in for my family helps with our grocery bill. I do give away to charities if my stuff isn’t selling or I don’t have time to keep up on advertising the items. This works for my family while we are trying to get out of debt. You may want to donate your items, which is great! There are a ton of charities that would love your donation.
I take all my food out of my pantry and bins and set them out on the counter. I start to sort again, putting all like foods together. While I am sorting, I write down what I have in a notebook. Once that is done I turn my efforts on both of my refrigerators.
At this time I pull my trash can over with a new bag as I’m sure there might be some things that are growing eyes. I also get out my spray bottle of vinegar and a rag. I like to take the time to clean the refrigerator while it’s empty and might change out my contact paper (which I keep in there to protect from spills). Once I clean the refrigerator, I start going through and throwing anything away that I can’t save. Then I start to sort, while I am sorting, once again I write down everything. I put all the sorted food items back into the refrigerator, in a designated spot.
In our household, we like to keep things simple. We do fancy gourmet dinners and desserts for holidays and special occasions.
Some initial tips:
Remember those lists that I wrote down? Now we get to put those to work!
The way I meal plan is by trying to use what’s in my kitchen first before I go grocery shopping. For example, if I have spaghetti sauce, ricotta cheese, sausage, and ground beef in my kitchen, I just need to buy mozzarella cheese and then I can make lasagna (remember: I make my own pasta). That meal can last our little family four meals. In this case, I’d cook it once and divide the lasagna into four equal parts. We’d use one and freeze the rest. I do that for all the food items in my kitchen until I have dinners for every night in the month.
Once my meal planning for the month is done, I make out my grocery list. I only write the items I need to finish a meal plus staples (if I need them). After I finish my list, I pull out my ads to see if there are any items that are on sale. At this point, I may change one or two meals so I can get the items to finish the meal on a sale. I try to buy all of our food on sale if I can. I also will cut any coupons (if I am using coupons) or circle the sales for price matching. I then put my list, coupons, ads, and reusable shopping bags together for my trip to the store and go.
By planning ahead, keeping your meals simple, cutting out snacks or get creative on making them from scratch, making what you can from scratch, cutting your servings down, and cooking for left over’s you will save money.
What do you do to save on groceries? Leave us a comment. We would love to hear from you! Don’t miss out on how to save on (frugal) Date Nights coming to you next week!!