Shop Smarter to Save

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.

Click here for the Printable HailMarry Thank You Chicken Recipe ©2017

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!!!

 

Kristi

Frugal Décor and Crafting: 8 Tips for Getting Started for Less

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.

  1. Simple and less is more. Having simple decorations will make your home look bigger. Not only will it look bigger, it will look clean all the time. Less stuff will give your life a peace that is amazing. We started by picking different colors that we knew that we could keep on our walls for a long time without going out of style.  We stuck with grays and a lot of neutrals. It’s easier when we switch our furniture. We know that it will match automatically. We looked for sales and discounts when we painted; we never paid full price for any of the paint. We also talked about a theme; we didn’t want a lot of different ideals on our walls.  We kept it simple and it looks homey and cozy. Just the feeling I like to have when I walk into my home.
  2. Map out your decor ideas and crafts before you start your project. I am obsessed with Pinterest. I like to map out what I want to do first, and then I start to price out the project. When you plan your project ahead of time, you will save the most money.  You will have the time to get all of your items for your project at the lowest price.
  3. There are many places I like to shop for home decor and crafting supplies. Thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, and online websites. You can find a great amount lamps, picture frames, dishes, casserole dishes, glasses, mirrors etc, for the lowest price ever.
  4. I love looking on Craigslist for furniture. We like to buy tables, night stands, chairs, and other furniture items to refresh to put in our homes. I also like to do this and resell these items on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. So not only am I buying at a low price, I am making money on the side.
  5. The other thing that I do that people might look at me weird is Dumpster Diving. Dumpster Diving is finding free things on side of the road. I take the things that I find and clean it up and resell or use.
  6. The one store that I can get into trouble going into is Dollar Tree. You can find awesome crafting supplies, decor signs, bags, wrapping paper, candle sticks, dishes, frames, dry flowers, etc. You can’t go wrong in there, it’s only a dollar. Just be careful. I have to go in with a budgeted amount of money so I don’t go crazy.
  7. Google how to make things or do things like home improvement. Learning new skills will help you in the long run. The more you can fix or make the more money you will save. A great place to look for supplies is at clearance warehouses in your city or clearance sites online.
  8. Watching You Tube, frugal videos, and other online tutorials help save money and inspire to save money and make money from your new skills.

Rach

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!

FIAT: Faith in All Things A Conversation with Pam Whitehead

Oh my goodness, we are so excited about today’s podcast! We’ve been teasing it since last Thursday because this is a FIAT first! We’ve got a special guest with us on the podcast today. Her name is Pam Whitehead and she works with And Then There Were None ministry. She’s going to be talking to us today about the Second Annual Pro-Life Women’s Conference.

We had a LOT to cover in this podcast, so it’s just a tad bit longer than usual. It runs at around 22 minutes, so grab a large cup of coffee and get comfy. Rachel had an engagement that she was unable to move, so Kristi is solo today.

 

If the player doesn’t load, please click this link to listen to Season 1, Episode 5: A Conversation with Pam Whitehead.

If you’re interested in more information about the Pro-Life Women’s Conference, be sure to check out the  website here. You can also follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. While you’re there on social media…don’t forget to follow Hail Marry, too! Check out the Alice Paul Group website and And Then There Were None website, too!

 

Happy Friday!

 

Kristi & Rachel

Seeking the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

This post contains affiliate links. In today’s instance, it means that we’re working with a great Catholic company to bring you savings on Catholic products. Hail Marry is not making money from today’s post.

February is usually a hustle-and-bustle time in the Catholic Church. More often than not, I remember Ash Wednesday happening sometime in February and then we’re into my favorite liturgical season, Lent. But not this year! 2017 has other plans. Ash Wednesday isn’t until March 1 this year, so we’ve got a little more ordinary time to spend.

For me and my domestic church, that’s the problem. We’ve got more ordinary time. I have traditions and activities and all kinds of ideas for the liturgical seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, the Triduum, and Easter. It’s this “down time,” if you will. This ordinary time leaves me scrambling for how to be Catholic at home in meaningful ways.

Friday, for example, is the feast day of St. Blaise, the patron saint of throats and throat sicknesses. This is when the annual blessing of the throat occurs in the church. With as much strep throat as we’ve recently had going around our houses, I kind of feel like we need to commit that blessing to memory! It might be a good day for soup on the meal plan. We have holy water at home and can bless one another’s throats after dinner. There. I planned one ordinary time activity! Mommy, 1!

ExtraOrdniary Time

All of the aforementioned seasons are leading up to something big or they are the big that we’ve just been leading up to. It stands to reason that we’d want to do these special seasons in special ways. It’s easy to puzzle over how to celebrate ordinary time since it isn’t really anything “special.” But wait. Our lives as Christians are called to shine each day. Daily, we are to reflect Christ Jesus to others. So my challenge to myself (and to you) in this unusual extended ordinary time is to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Our domestic church is comprised of the mundane. The in and out. The everyday routine. The minutiae. So let’s do it boldly!

Seek the extraordinary in the ordinary!

One way to do that is to attend daily Mass, but as I am a working mom and that’s just not going to happen, we can instead read the readings at a meal time and discuss how to apply the Gospel message to our lives. We can single out one or two saints per month and learn about them and celebrate their feast days. We can also be more liturgical in our play.

Check out our Pinterest board, Catholic Doll Play, for some excellent ideas for playing with your dolls more liturgically. To help you out with that part, we’ve teamed up with Adrianna over on Etsy at her adorable My Little Felt Friends shop to offer you a coupon code worth 10% off your purchase and a giveaway! Isn’t that great?!

My Little Felt Friends

Adrianna makes super adorable felt dolls suitable for all ages encompassing a wide array of saints, titles of Mary, and devotions from St. Gabriel the Archangel to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Divine Mercy of Jesus. She also makes bookmarks, DIY felt kits, Our Lady of Guadalupe peg dolls, and takes custom orders. You should definitely go check out her shop and support this awesome Catholic mama! Use the coupon code HMFELT at checkout to receive your 10% discount through the end of February!

 

In honor of another saintly feast day that I’m positive you celebrate, St. Valentine’s Day, we’re going to be giving away a felt St. Valentine: romantic, rule-breaker for the sake of matrimony, and martyr. He’s absolutely adorable! All you have to do to enter is leave us a comment with your name and email address (required to comment) and how you celebrate ordinary time with your family at home. We want to pick your brains for our own domestic churches! This giveaway opens today, February 1, and will close in one week, February 8, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. CST to ensure proper shipping time. We’ll contact the winner via email, but we’ll also share it on social media, so make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (links at the end of the page).

 

What are some ways that you make the ordinary extraordinary? How do you bring liturgy and religion into your play time with your kids? I can’t wait to hear your comments!

 

Kristi

 

UPDATED: We have a winner! Congratulations to Ashley Mitchell!

Organization, Part IV: Morning & Evening Routines

This post is Part IV and our final post in our January series on organizing your home. For Part I, entitled Food for Thought: Organization, click here. Part II, The War Zone, which deals with removing clutter, can be found here. For tips on organizing your kitchen and meal planning, Part III is available here. Today we’ll discuss setting up your mornings for success: the morning routine and ending your days peacefully.

Routines

I’m a list and routine kind of girl. While I enjoy occasional spontaneity, I think it’s a fair self-assessment to say that I prefer plans and routines. I never thought this was a bad thing. But then I brought Little Miss into the world. She is so much like me on this, but she takes it even further (though I’m told I was exactly like that at her age…sorry, baby girl!).

This sweet child, with a normally even temper, loses it when transitions are unexpected or if they differ from what’s been stated. She’s extremely bright, so she does well in school, but I think it’s also because she thrives on the consistent routine. That constant expectation and repetition which cycles from day to day soothes her. It’s comforting and dependable.

So, too, is our morning, because otherwise we’d be all over the place and my very limited patience (my poor family) would be gone. Therefore, Superman, Little Miss, and I have developed a wonderful morning routine that leaves us all refreshed in the morning.

My Morning

I wake up at 5:00 a.m. I chart and use the bathroom and get dressed, brush my teeth, and pray. I also make the coffee and bring it to a newly-awakened Superman in bed, where we watch the weather and catch up on headlines while just being in one another’s presence. Then, at 6:00, I wake Little Miss.

I turn on her light and speak softly, gently pull back her covers and sit next to her, kiss her on the head, and wake her up. Then we read from Jesus Calling for Kids by Sarah Young. Then we talk about how she slept, what dreams she had, and what all is coming up at school or after school that day. I help her lay out her clothes, kiss the top of her head, and leave her to order the next twenty minutes of her morning.

We use a Melissa and Doug responsibility chart that she’s had since she was three. She loves it. It’s magnetic, hangs on the wall, and has a dry-erase portion. She checks off her to-do list from making her bed, using the bathroom and brushing her teeth, and getting dressed. She comes into the kitchen to join me and Superman around 6:30.

He and I are packing lunches, getting breakfast wrapped up, making sure her folder was signed and everything is in her backpack, and refilling those coffee cups because coffee is delicious. Then we sit at the table, pray a blessing, and eat. Superman reads to us from the adult version of Jesus Calling (also by Sarah Young) and we discuss the differences. We say what we’re grateful for or offer a special prayer for someone we know, clear our dishes when done, and then we’re out the door, ready to embrace the day.

On the way to school, if Little Miss is riding with Superman, they sing hymns, praise and worship, and little Bible songs. When she rides with me, we listen to Sirius XM Kids Place Live, Sirius XM The Catholic Channel, or a Christian Contemporary CD after we say a prayer for our safety, Superman’s safety, the safety of all drivers on the road with us, thanksgiving for the beautiful day (regardless of the weather) and something positive about the morning. We also include a list of prayer intentions for family and friends.

It’s much better than the days before a routine when we inhaled breakfast in the car on the way and were all gripey and grumpy with hurt feelings and anger.

My Evening

All of us like to cook together. When we’re praying, before we eat, we go around and ask one another to share our favorite part of the day. Then we usually have some sort of game that we play at dinner while eating. We eat as a family (when work schedules allow) regardless of extracurricular activities. Then Little Miss bathes and brushes her teeth and we all change into pajamas.

All three of us then go into her room. I fluff her pillow and Superman tucks her and her bear into the covers. We have a conversation as a family with her stuffed Stitch doll (always hilarious!), and then we read one passage from a devotional. The one we use is God’s Little Princess Bedtime Devotional by Shelia Walsh and we love it because it has activities and a little prayer at the end of the passage.

We begin and end our day with God’s word and reflections, but we also manage to squeeze a lot of traditions and family time in there, too. What are your routines like? Please share—I’d love to tweak ours with your ideas!

Kristi