Spending Freeze The Final Week! (Day 26) Let’s Earn Some Dough

It’s the last week of the spending freeze.  I’m super excited!  I’ve had to buy a few things besides food, but I was able to do it without dipping into my envelopes that I was hoping to save aside for the “goal.”  I have just enough cash left in food to grab milk or something if we need it.


Even with all this scrimping, our wad of cash to put towards the goal is small.  It’s time to make as much momentum as possible by generating some extra cash quickly.  Then tomorrow we’ll talk about more long term solutions to tiny income woes.

1.  Sell Stuff–Do you have any clothes worth taking to consignment stores?  Anything to post to a facebook garage sale site, your general facebook page, or Craigslist.

2.  Offer a blitz class:  Can you bake bread, crochet, knit or sew, paint?  Offer a $5-10 group class or maybe more than one (if there’s enough interest.)  If it goes well, it might be the jumping point for a business :).

3.  Offer a one time service for cash.  Emergency cleaning, yard work, or the like.

garage sale signs new bench 008

4.  If the weather is good enough, grab some friends and have a garage sale.  (My last sale made $700 just for me!  That’s kind of embarrassing to admit…..I don’t want you to think I’m a hoarder…)  It’s an unseasonal 58 degrees here today….that’s good enough for a sale!

What are your fast cash money generating ideas?

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Spending Freeze Day 22: Prioritizing Your Spending


If you didn’t have enough money one month to pay all your bills, what would you do? (while you figured out how to make more money…)

You’d prioritize your spending.

If you could only afford 1 thing, what would it be?


1. Probably Food (Not lobster tails, right?  Just basic nutritious food.)

3.  Then if you could only do 1 more thing, it’d probably be Lights.

4.  Then fuel (so you can get to your job) or internet if you work from home,

5. Then your house payment/rent

etc…..You’d make a list of everything you’d want to do and order them in importance. As money came in, you would take care of each need in order of importance to you.

shopping cart

Your food budget is a mini replica of that. Having a CASH budget makes the reality of your limitations, well, REAL. Most of us don’t have enough in our food budget for everything we’d like to do.  I’d like to have fresh berries every week of the year. I’d like to buy steaks once a month.  But I don’t do either of those things.

I don’t usually write down my food priorities, but if I did they would be:

1.  In Season or frozen Produce

2.  Healthy Protein

3.  Basic whole grains/staples

4.  Basic Dairy

5.  Snack Foods

6. Condiments

7. Treats like juice, soda, or desserts

Buy the necessary food first.  Nourish your family.  Then if there is money left, have a treat :).

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Spending Freeze Day 21: Heidi’s 15th Birthday

I’m busy today getting ready for Heidi’s birthday. She’s all in on the spending freeze so we’re pulling out the storage decorations and having a fun family dinner with board games. I still have a lot of cleaning to do, but here’s where it is so far:







White plastic table cloth with plain dot stickers…. It was so thin, we stuck a real white table cloth underneath, but it will make clean up better.


I have 90 minutes to mop my floors, wash 100 dishes, assemble a cake and hang the balloons.  While I’m doing that, it’s time for your 3rd week reflection.  How is the spending freeze going for you so far?  Are you tempted to go for another month?


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Spending Freeze Day 20: I wish you…

Source: blog.freepeople.com


To add your unique self to all recipes! Substitute. Create new variations. Adapt it to your tastes. Adjust it to maximize your budget.  Fix it to fit your allergy or fitness plan guidelines.

Food prices change all the time.  Sometimes fresh mushrooms cost less than canned.  Sometimes they cost a lot more.  If a recipe calls for mushrooms that will end up cooked, don’t let food snobbery tell you that you can ONLY use one kind or the other.

Of course, I’m not just talking about mushrooms. It’s true for all foods.  Greek yogurt can stand in for sour cream and sometimes cream cheese in a recipe.  Sometimes Greek yogurt is the more expensive choice, sometimes it’s less.

Source: http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/build-your-writing-career/#more-4734


To Dream BIG.  (Yes you CAN be debt free!  Yes, my family CAN have the work situation it has always dreamed of.)

To make the best choices for your family without worrying what others will think.

To use canned cream soup….or make it from scratch. We love you the same either way.

To use canned crescent rolls or homemade.  We can all live in harmony :)

To eat wheat or be gluten free.  And to know how to do both, so if my gluten free friend comes over for dinner, fixing that meal will be no big deal.   (freedom to write poetry……ha ha)


To know stuff like a Tablespoon is 3 teaspoons and 2 Tablespoons make an ounce.

To know that sugar + Fat makes a cookie a cookie…..so using yogurt here is gross.  But xylitol chemically behaves like sugar so you could do that instead.

To know stuff like 4 cups of shredded cheese is a lb, so 2 cups is 8 oz. (Because 16 oz is a pound.)

And stuff like 4 cups of cut fruit or veggies, but 2 cups of hamburger, applesauce or yogurt also makes a pound.  (Think about air space…..hamburger and thick creamy stuff doesn’t have much room for air, but fruit, berries, and vegetables do.)

And to have your favorite recipes memorized.  So if you happen to be a place where food is needed, you can whip on an apron and save the day with nothing but your mind, and basic pantry staples.

AND Because knowing stuff makes Bravery a lot easier.


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Spending Freeze Day 19: Every Day Low Cost Foods

Image Source Better Homes and Gardens

Image Source Better Homes and Gardens

For the last 7 years I’ve been shrinking my grocery budget by using every day low cost foods as the basis for all our meals, and adding in surprise deals (foods that are normally not as affordable but I found a great deal) when I find them. By keeping these things on hand, I have the makings for almost any meal we could think of.

Here’s a starter list of every day low cost foods:

Fruits and Vegetables: (These vary by season, but year round I buy….)

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Seasonally I also use: strawberries, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, pomegranate, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, pears, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, sugar snap peas, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes

washing vegetables

Frozen Foods:

  • broccoli
  • peas
  • mixed vegetables
  • corn
  • carrot coins
  • pepper and onion blend (Dollar Tree)
  • Normandy blend (Costco)
  • Oriental Blend (Costco)
  • Whole Strawberries (Costco) for smoothies
  • Wild Blueberries (Costco) for THM and FYM recipes


  • canned tuna (Aldi)
  • canned mackerel (Walmart)
  • frozen chicken breasts (Costco)
  • whole chickens (Aldi)
  • ground turkey (Aldi)
  • ground beef (when we can get it from the farmer)
  • Beef roast (when on sale or from the farmer)
  • Turkey Burgers (Costco)
  • Pork roast (When on sale)
  • Boneless pork ribs for BBQ (When on sale)
  • turkey bacon (Aldi or Costco)
  • Costco or Aldi lunch meats (for the kids to make lunches for school)
  • Occasionally, hot dogs
  • Breakfast sausage (when on sale)
  • Salmon filets—these are higher priced $3.99lb at Aldi, but I keep them on hand for my weight loss plan
  • Sometimes Shrimp ($3.99 at Aldi), Turkey Kielbasa, and Italian flavored ground turkey
  • Pepperoni (for homemade pizza)

Almond milk 6


  • American Sliced Cheese (Is this food?  I choose to believe it is….lalala, I can’t hear you)
  • Shredded cheese (in 5lb bags from Costco) We buy a cheddar blend and Mozzarella
  • Milk
  • Almond Milk (for me because I have lactose issues)
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Eggs (lots and lots of eggs)
  • Cream Cheese (when on sale–I usualy buy Nefchatel)
  • Plain Greek Yogurt (I buy a bit for starter when I let my starter get too old, but normally make my own) Then we flavor it at home
  • String cheese—this use to be at staple for snacks for us but everyone got tired of them and I have quit buying them
  • Real Butter (I know it’s expensive, but I just can’t bear feeding my family fake butter)

whole wheat bread

  • 100% whole wheat sandwich bread (for the kids) I buy it at Aldi for $1.29 a loaf, but occasionally can find it at Dollar Tree or on sale for $.79
  • Tortillas–the kids use a LOT of tortillas.  (I buy special low carb ones for me and Heidi.)
  • Bagels (These are becoming more rare for us as prices rice, but Dollar Tree sometimes has name brand ones.)
  • Ezekiel bread–this is just for me and Heidi.  It’s $6.99 for 2 loaves at Costco
  • Bagel thins or Sandwich thins–I buy them when these are on the day old table at the discount bread store
  • Pasta–Especially lasagna noodles, macaroni, bow tie, spaghetti, egg noodles, spiral
  • Oat rounds, bran flakes, crisp rice, sometimes puffed brown rice, and Protein cereal (Millville brand)

The rest of our bread, I make.  Things like:  pancakes, waffles, cornbread, dinner rolls, pizza crust, cinnamon rolls, fat egg noodles, biscuits etc.


  • Green Beans (Usually home canned from the garden)
  • Salsa
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Rotel (aldi brand)
  • Green chilies
  • Pinto, Black, & Navy Beans
  • Tomato soup, some cream soups (rare), chicken noodle soup (for emergencies)
  • Apple sauce (Usually home canned from donated apples)

Snacks (In a perfect world we wouldn’t need these, but I’ll be honest and admit this junk food fits into our super low budget.)

  • Tortilla Chips (Costco)
  • Veggie Straws (Aldi or coupon at Costco)
  • Graham Crackers
  • Ritz type crackers
  • Cheese Crackers
  • Sometimes club crackers or animal crackers
  • Saltines and oyster crackers
  • Brown Rice Cakes
  • Ramen noodles (the kids are crazy about these, I cringe)
  • Peanuts (sometimes)



  • brown rice
  • oatmeal
  • quinoa
  • flax
  • salt & pepper
  • spices:  cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves
  • spices: chili pepper, garlic powder, cumin, garlic salt, paprika, seasoned salt, cayenne
  • Spices: basil, oregano, thyme, savory, rosemary,
  • Flour
  • Hard White Wheat Berries (for grinding into fresh flour)
  • Sugar (brown & white)
  • stevia, xylitol
  • baking powder, baking soda
  • cornstarch, glucomannan (for thickening sauces)
  • Plain gelatin
  • Oil (coconut, olive, and vegetable oil)
  • non-stick spray
  • honey (used sparingly)
  • Peanut butter–we use a lot of PB
  • Corn syrup (I sometimes use this instead of honey in cooked recipes, since honey looses it’s health benefits when heated) Not to be confused with High Fructose Corn syrup, regular corn syrup is lower in sugar than honey.
  • yeast
  • Almonds (I buy the 3 lb bags at Costco) and slivered or sliced ones from Aldi
  • Craisins and Raisins
  • Sunflower seeds (Aldi)
  • Condiments: Ketchup, mustard(s), salad dressings, pickles, BBQ sauce etc.


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Spending Freeze Day 15: Food Part 2


There’s no magic wand for saving money with food.  It’s like everything else that matters–it takes hard work, and a little bit of sacrifice to make it happen.

When I give tips such as shop the sales, garden, make more from scratch….The thing I hear a lot is, “I don’t have time for that.”  That’s a statement I relate to and get frustrated about at the same time.  I have 6 kids. They play violin and piano. They do sports and ballet class.  I work 4 part time jobs and have a toddler.  We volunteer at church.  I understand busy.

We all have the same number of hours in the day, and we each get to choose how we spend them.  When I hear “I don’t have time for that,”  I understand that person to mean, “That is not important to me.”

I usually buy bread instead of make it from scratch.  The savings of making over buying bread isn’t high on my priority list with everything else on my plate–even though I understand the health benefits. On the other hand, I do make my own Kombucha and Greek Yogurt.  It probably doesn’t make sense to anyone else.

Choose Your Hard

You don’t have to do EVERYTHING the hard way to whittle your budget down to a workable number, but you will have to choose some things.  Your hard, won’t be my hard.  I don’t do coupons, maybe you do.

The important thing is that you are willing to push up your sleeves and do something to change the direction of your finances. Do what YOU have to do.  Your family is counting on you.  And the people watching are about to be inspired.

If you had an envelope with $200 cash and knew you had to feed your family with that alone for the month, would they starve?  I bet you’d figure it out.  What are the first 5 things you’d buy?

(PS $200 is a ridiculously low amount–and I’m not in any way suggesting that is what your budget should be…. I think it’s interesting for arguments sake to think about what we’d do with it. When your survival depends on it, something changes in your brain.  Unfathomable things become fathomable.)

My first 5 things:  Salt, Dry Beans, Wheat flour, Eggs, & Yeast

My 2nd 5 things: Potatoes, carrots, onions, brown rice, Whole Chickens

Leave what you would buy in the comments :).

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Spending Freeze: Day 14


I’m guest posting over at The Modest Mom today. I first me Caroline when I was a freshman in college and she was Homeschooling with her Mom.  It was one of my first introductions to homeschooling and one of the reasons I homeschooled my own children for so long. She has had a lot of positive influence in my life both as a business woman and as a mother.  Come visit with me today.


Tomorrow, I’m going to start a mini series on shrinking those grocery bills step by step.  Today, it’s time to reflect over the last two weeks.  Can you believe it? We’ve been in our spending freeze for two whole weeks!

I have to admit that I messed up this week.  I was helping my mom shop online for some replacement filters for her vacuum.  We found such a great deal that I bought a set for myself too. I totally forgot for the moment that I was in a freeze. (I will use those filters though….)

It has gotten easier for me otherwise.  I’ve settled into a nice rhythm staying home and getting more done.  We’ve been eating from our pantry and using the lowest cost foods we have.  More on that tomorrow.

So tell me about you. Any success stories to tell?  Any mess ups?  Can you still remember your goal?

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Spending Freeze day 15: Food, part one

cruise ship

The largest adjustable budget category is food. Many families unknowingly overspend every month on food enough to buy a cruise ticket.

Here are my favorite tips to help you start shrinking your grocery bills.


1. Use cash. When the cash is gone you are done spending for the month.

2. Be familiar with using healthy low cost foods in different combinations to form your meals. This would include ingredients like carrots bananas apples oranges in season. frozen vegetables such as peas corn green beans carrot coins, broccoli. and meats like whole roasting chickens chicken breasts and canned tuna. If allowable on your diet whole-grain pasta 100% whole wheat bread brown rice and quinoa are also very affordable choices.

3. Some products are fairly easy and much less expensive to make it home. I’m thinking of products like Greek yogurtalmond milkbread, pizza crust, pancakes cornbread mix and seasonings.

4. Have a plan for when your schedule doesn’t go like you thought it would. this will save you from having to eat at a restaurant or grabbing fast food instead you can throw together one of the simple meals you already have the ingredients on hand for.

5. Reduce your budget gradually if you can so that you don’t feel the shock of it all in One month.

6. Know what regular prices on food items are. Then you will be able to recognize a really good sale when you see it and can stock up. Only stock up on nonperishable items that you use all the time and only buy enough that you won’t me to buy the item again until it goes on sale again.

7. Be gentle with yourself if your life is fairly stressful you may need to use more of mixes inconvenience and another person and that’s okay you won’t be able to stick with the budget that makes your life miserable.

There has to be more ways to save our there.  What is your tip?

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Spending Freeze Day 12: Figuring Your Hourly Wage



When you DIY to save money, you earn an hourly wage.  Sometimes that wage is amazing and proves the activity was definitely worth your time.  Sometimes the wage is so low it actually cost you more to DIY than it would have to buy it done.  It’s an easy formula to figure it out.

1. A = How much it would cost hire or buy it done

2. X=How much time it takes you to do it yourself

3. B=How much the supplies and tools cost you (I don’t count the tools that I already have on hand or would use again in the future.)

4. Y=How much you saved by doing it yourself.  A – B = Y

5. X/ Y= your hourly wage

Reader Example:


Rebecca’s husband’s truck needed repair.  The garage estimated $1500-1800 for the job.

He spent $226 and 2 hours to do the work himself, including necessary tools.

He saved $1274-1574 by doing the repair himself.

His hourly wage was $509.60-$629.60

If his hourly wage was less than that on his regular job, it was worth it do the repair himself…In this case it definitely was.

That was a pretty extreme (but real) example.

What about little things like making homemade tortillas?  You can read about that here.

Are any of you willing to share an hourly wage you earned recently by DIYing?

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Spending Freeze Day 8: Getting Creative

Having money to spend gives choices.  Sometimes having too many choices can make it harder to make a decision.  During our spending freeze, we have the ease of few choices :).  Example to follow:

We had to take down our Christmas decorations this month.  Sniff, sniff.  I didn’t get some of them up until December 23rd…..we were kind of slow.  So taking them down right away seemed too fast.  I wasn’t emotionally ready for Christmas to be over…..

…until I was.  Then I imagined red hearts everywhere and thought, “Why not take Christmas down and put some Valentine stuff up?”  Never mind that Valentine’s Day is 38 days away, or that we have never decorated for Valentine’s Day before.

Add that we are in a spending freeze and don’t have any decorations from previous years….because we don’t decorate for anything but Christmas.

I smelled a challenge.  Not to win a spot in Better Homes and Gardens….bwa ha ha ha….No.  What you are about to see definitely doesn’t rise to that level.  I just wanted to make the place feel festive for the kids.

I found a foam wreath form that used to have cotton balls hot glued to it.  It looked cute on pinterest, but it looked dumb when I did it.  So I pulled the cotton balls off and ended up a wreath form covered with hardened glue and fuzz.  It was too expensive to throw away and too ugly to sell at a garage sale so I put it in the pile that makes my office look really trashy.

I had a spool of pearl edged burlap ribbon left over from a wedding shower and wrapped the wreath.  My plan was to just wrap it up and hang it up…but I ran out of ribbon :(.  My first though was to run to the store and grab another spool.  At most it was going to be $2…..but spending freeze.


Not enough ribbon….so the remnants of glue and cotton balls still shows.

Aak.  So I looked around my office to see if I had anything red.  I found some long strips of polar fleece left over from a blanket project.


Without measuring I folded it over to be able to cut a semblance of a square


Rounded the edges


 Cut a spiral


And rolled it up (starting with the outside edge) to make roses.  At the end, the round part in the middle glued over the bottom to hold it all together.  Then I spent about 20 minutes making a bunch of them.  It went fast, because I didn’t measure anything. The un-uniformity of it all made a nice effect.



I love how it turned out!

 Valentine Entry Wreath

I hung it in my entry over a piece of fake Ikea fur and a couple of candles.  This pic doesn’t do it justice…


 We found small bits of Valentine candy and thought to make centerpieces out of some Dollar Tree candle glasses I had on hand.  But the tiny amount of candy looked stupid.  And then the boys ate all the candy.  So we tried something else.


Black eyed peas with a votive nestled in. A scrap of burlap ribbon and a hand stitched felt heart.  It isn’t what we’ve always dreamed about as far as decorations go but it was 100% from stash and is a little bit festive.


To add to the festive, we added some of the same hearts to our Ikea plants over the stove.



These are my favorite.

If I can find some red construction paper, I’d like to make these.

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Posted in Frugal Living, Spending Freeze, Tutorial, Valentine's Day | Tagged felt rose tutorial, Ikea, Spending Freeze, Valentine's Day, wreath | 6 Comments