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 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!!!
I am addicted to decorating, interior design magazines, decor websites, and Pinterest. When the Scientist and I bought our home, I was ecstatic that I could finally decorate and craft my home into awesomeness. Yet when I looked into our wallets we didn’t have the money for my major overhaul. I put my mind to work: “How can I decorate my home the way I envisioned?” The Scientist and I sat down and discussed what was necessary to update and what could wait. My heart was broken, but I made it through by being creative and started to look in unusual places to get the look we wanted. I am going to share with you my 8 tips on how to craft and decorate your home for less.
What are some ways that you like save when decorating? Leave us a comment!! Make sure you check out our giveaway post featuring Etsy shop My Little Felt Friends! The giveaway closes Wednesday!