Some Cool Things

Today is a busy day.  This week I’ve gone through all my fabric (roughly 12 big tubs worth) and am letting it all go.  Well, almost all of it.  I’ve kept back just enough to fill 3 Sterilite tubs.  The rest needs to be cleaned, straightened, measured and marked for the craft show this weekend.  It’s supposed to snow!!!! I hope we have a good turn out anyway.

The idea is selling my fabric will help me reclaim my office and get us a little closer to baby step #3 (again.) At the rate we are going it will take us 7 years, but I have a goal to be done by this time next year.

Painting classes 4 kids

There are going to be some amazing vendors at the craft show, including my cousin who is offering $10 art sessions for kids while you shop.  If you are local, this is a must.

Before I run off to my sea of fabric, I wanted to share a couple of things with you.

I’ve been a crazy Facebook posting monkey.  If you haven’t liked me on facebook, you are missing out.  You should click like>>over there.  Then check out all the great frugal gift ideas that you have missed. (Plus we’ve talked about the best way to do winter Light Therapy; how to store silicone baking mats; and whether Pinterest ideas really make us feel inadequate–they don’t.)

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This app. Food logging couldn’t be easier or more fun.  I’m only upset I didn’t find it sooner.

I’m healthy enough to exercise now!  I’ve been walking for a couple of weeks, and now that my baseline of fitness has come up a bit, I’m starting in with the beginner exercises in this series.

I’m still eating the FYM way, but I’m also adding some recipes from this. I have an amazing recipe for skinny chocolate, and yes, it’s as good as it sounds.  If you twist my arm, I might share it.

Have you discovered anything cool lately?

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Write Your Own Debt Free Story

Write your own debt free story

I posted a link on facebook that went viral.  It went to Kelly’s story of how they paid off their house in 5 years.   Reading her story again made me think about how I could write my own future “house” debt free story.  Then live it.

Following Dave’s baby steps, we still need to finish our emergency fund; direct 15% of our income to retirement, and invest for college.  Then we can start working on our house.

Here’s how to write this story before it happens:

1.  Decide on a time frame.  For example 2 years (or 24 months) to finish the emergency fund.

2.  Figure up how much $$$ you need. I need $7,0000 to finish  the emergency fund.

3.  Divide the amount of money you need by the number of months.  This will reveal how much money per month you need to find in your budget.  $7,000 / 24 = $291.66.

4.  Make a sample budget to see where you will need to cut spending to allocate this much money to your goal. Is it doable?  No?  Then extend the number of months you will need.  Start by adding 3 months at a time until you get to a manageable number for your budget.

Is it so doable that you can’t believe it?  Shorten your time frame.  Lets get this baby done! (If I only took 1 year to finish my emergency fund I would need $583.33 a month.)

5.  Tighten your belt for the shortest time frame you can manage.  No restaurants, vacations, extra stuff….eat tuna, beans, peanut butter and ramen noodles if you have to. (But maybe not together.)

3803 S Union After

Then onto the house

If it took me 1 year to fund my emergency fund, I would owe $122,291.82 on my mortgage when I was done.

I’d be used to not spending that $583.33 a month and could chuck it at the mortgage without noticing a change.

If I did, I would pay off my house 6 years and 3 months early and save $14,0000 in interest.

Then I would not only recoup $1,000 a month to our pocket, but I’d have that $583.33 too.

At the end of the first house payment free year, it would add up to $19,000.

 Invested in a good growth stock mutual fund (averaging 10% return) at the end of 15 years I would have $472,571.59

At the end of 20 years:  $745,938.20

After 25 years: $1,111,764.39

Stupid house payment.

 

 

 

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How to Get Christmas Cash…Fast

Get Christmas Cash Fast

There’s only a few areas of my life that I have together…and none of them come to mind right now.   So if you don’t have any money saved up for Christmas yet, don’t worry.  It’s going to be ok.

You have most of November and December to save as much from your normal income as possible.  When you make up your budget for these months, funnel as much cash to Christmas as you can.

If you’re like us….that won’t be enough.  How much cash do you need?  If you missed my post yesterday, there was a video to help you figure out how much cash you actually need.  Do that first and you’ll have a concrete goal.

Let’s pretend you need $600, and subtract the amount of money you can save from November and December’s income.  Just for an example, it’s $200.  That leaves us with $400 left to get.

Ideas to generate cash:

1.  Donate Plasma:  Most clinics pay $20 for the first visit and $40 for the second in the same week, for a monthly income of $240.  Do that two months and you’d have $80 extra :). (Health restrictions apply.) And a bonus….it saves lives.

Women cleaning a window 3

2.  Emergency clean houses:  Going rate  $1o-15 an hour.  Work 26-40 hours doing this over the next 2 months and voila.

3.  Cook two meals when you are cooking for your family and offer a delivery service for working Moms. Going rate:  $20-30 for the meal (of course this all depends on the number of servings and the cost of ingredients.)  Net profit about $15.  26 meals over 2 months and you’re done :)

4.  Sell some stuff on Craigslist, Fabric destashers, or consignment stores.

5.  Combine ideas.  You don’t have to work 40 hours cleaning, what if you only worked 10, sold some stuff, and donated a little plasma?  Figure out what works into your schedule.

When offering services on Facebook, be specific about what you are offering and what your terms are: “I’m cleaning houses to help busy families get ready for their holiday gatherings.  I charge $10 an hour and can clean an average house in 4 hours. Send me a message and we’ll schedule it.”  That makes others feel more comfortable to hire you than if you say, “I’m willing to work and need cash if anyone has anything that needs done.”

When you need cash fast, how do you earn it? I’m always looking for new ideas :)

 

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How I Make My Christmas Budget

Christmas Budget That Works

The number one cause of Christmas Spending Disasters is a failure to plan.  If you haven’t already made a plan it’s not too late. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about what you can do right now if you don’t have any Christmas cash yet. But today, watch the video to see how to get it on paper.

 

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Using PowerPoint to Plan for Christmas

 

A couple of things I forgot to mention

1.  In PowerPoint you can drag over pictures to help with ideas.

2.  You can also copy and paste your budget from Excel and keep everything in one place.

More on excel and budgeting tomorrow :)

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5 Things to Do Right Now to DeStress Christmas

photo by MeiTeng

photo by MeiTeng

I know Halloween just ended and Thanksgiving isn’t here yet, but it’s time to plan for Christmas.  You don’t have to get out the tree yet or starting playing carols (But if you do, I won’t judge.)

Do these 5 things this week to make this holiday season easier to navigate.

1.  Make your Christmas Budget:  How much are you spending on gifts, cards, postage, decorations and food? It has to be cash….no borrowing allowed.

2.  Make your Christmas List:  This is just a list of names and a dollar amount you are going to spend on them. All those dollar amounts must add up to what you budgeted for gifts.

3.  Brainstorm Gift Ideas: This is a broad list of everything you can think of.  There will be time to narrow it down later.

4.  Make Your Christmas Card List: If you have one from last year, just take a few minutes to update the addresses and see if there needs to be any additions or deletions.  Knowing how many cards you plan to send will help you tweak your budget in step 1.

5.  Put it on the Calendar: When are your gatherings, school concerts, church events, family traditions?  Also put in when you should be done Shopping, when to wrap gifts, when to mail out Christmas Cards, when to bake cookies.  Put it on the calendar that is simplest for you. We use Google calendar in our home and have it sync with all our phones and lap tops.   I still love real paper calendars too.  When it comes to scheduling less is more.  If I get too scheduled up, all my family gets for Christmas is a stressed-out mama. Nobody wants that.

If you’d like more detailed ideas and printable planning pages, I wrote an ebook with all those things a few years ago.  You can get it here.

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How to Motivate Your Kids to Practice

 

How to Motivate Your Kids to Practice

Music is the language of God.  The more I study it, the more I’m convinced it’s a fact. As an adult it’s easy for me to spout the benefits of music study….especially when it comes to brain development in the language and mathematic areas.  You would think these lofty truths would motivate my kids to practice.  What they hear is, “Wa wa wa wa wa wa.”  (Read in an adult Peanuts voice.)

They want to play music for the self-expression and the opportunity to play in a group.  But they do NOT want to practice.  Lessons are expensive and going unprepared is a complete waste of money and time.  This pains me in my frugal organ.

So, a few weeks ago I told my kids that they were going to start paying for their own music lessons.  I offered them $3 a day for a good session of practice.  If they fit 5 practice sessions into their week, they’d have the money to pay for their lesson.  If they practiced more than that, they could pocket a little extra. If not, the lesson money came out of their piggy bank.

It was motivating!  It worked!  With a little problem.  The kids would practice and I would be too busy to hand them the $3 right then. Getting the money right away is a very good behavioral reinforcement and we were missing that. A few days would go by and I’d forget exactly how many times they practiced, and they would too.  We were sloppy.

Practice Boards

So I made a little clipboard to keep track of it for us.  It cost $3 a board.  $1 for the clothespins and $2 per board (Dollar Tree sells these for $1….but ours are never in stock.)

I hung them upstairs near their practice spaces (their bedrooms.) They practice.  I hear them.  I give them permission to get their money.  They put it in their cash envelope labeled “Violin Lessons” which is kept in their cases.  They are too smart to steal the money off their board when I’m not looking.  I trust but verify.

The little clothespins came from the dollar section at Target (I bought them November 1st, 2014–so depending on when you are reading this, they probably still have them.)  Before I saw those pins already decorated, I was shopping for printed paper tape to jazz up some regular sized wooden clothespins.  The tape cost the same as these pins already done….so I took the easy route.

practice boards 1

I used a ruler to line them up.

practice boards 2

Then hot glued them in place.

The name tags are 6 x 3 inch squares printed onto card stock.  I just typed something up in Powerpoint.

If you wanted to get all fancy, decoupage and scrapbook or wrapping paper would be fun.  I’m spending my spare moments building stuff in the garage, so decided the natural board was GORGEOUS.

I’m not sure how long this will motivate the kids, but for now is the most genius thing I have thought of in my life.  I really like watching them hand their hard earned money to their teachers at lesson time.  I think it sends the kids a message about what things really cost.

How do you motivate your kids to practice?  I’d love to hear.

 

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Posted in Family, Frugal Living, Kid's Activities | 9 Comments

3 Budget Saving Fixes

Oh, Girls!  I am in such a good place right now.  My adrenals are almost completely recovered. I have energy and life doesn’t feel overwhelming.  I know the blog has been quiet, but it’s not because things aren’t well here.  I’ve been enjoying my family and working on things behind the scenes at Grocery Shrink Plus and organizing our home.  I will be posting pretty randomly as I finish up some big projects.  If you are subscribed to the blog (form on the right), you’ll get an email when a new post is up.

I’ve made a few updates to the kitchen.  We are back at Baby Step #2, building our emergency fund, after our foundation repair last year drained it.  I’m content with letting the kitchen be unfinished for as long as it takes to get that emergency fund done.  It helps me to be patient now that the space is functional for cooking and family meals.

As I finished up a little project in the kitchen today, I noticed several things we did as temporary fixes to help us rebuild our savings.  I thought it might be fun to describe all of those in a video and show you our space.

Compared to where we started, this kitchen is a dream!  Oh my!  It’s so big and so much counter space.  I really love it.  Here are a couple of  before pictures:

Kitchen before (current) view 2

Kitchen Before

And here’s the most current view:

Kitchen after

It really is the same space and the same angle. We took down a few walls so it can be hard to realize it’s the same view.DSC_3541

I know the plastic cover on the island is “Grandma Chic,” but I don’t mind.   I have 6 kids that are good at rubbing mustard and chocolate into pretty things, and then feeling terrible about it, so the vinyl makes us both happy.

After I finished the video, I thought of a few things I didn’t put in there, like our big round folding table that we use for our meals. It was left in the basement when we bought the house.  We were excited to find it because it seats 10–which means a couple of kids can have a friend over and we can still sit together. In our previous house the table only held 6 and we took turns standing during meals.  I’m wondering if I could add some kind of skirt under the table similar to what I did to the island, except looking like a pedestal?  It would hide the folding legs and make it look more like permanent furniture while still letting us get our legs under comfortably.

The chairs around our round table were salvaged from a restaurant that closed.  We got 15 chairs for $100 a year or so ago.  They are pretty ugly right now and covered in food bits, but the padded seats are comfy and I like the craftsman style.  A little scrubbing, paint and upholstery will make them amazing.  It’s on my project list, probably over the summer.

Have you ever made a temporary fix while you saved up for something nicer?  Tell me about it in the comments.

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Hold the Phone!!!

GroceryShrink Logo 1014

…literally!  Our menu service just added smart phone enabled shopping lists with the free Out of Milk app.  (No smart phone, no worries.  The pdf shopping lists aren’t going anywhere.)

out of milk

This means no more printing shopping lists.  It works on both iphone and android devices.  Family phones can sync up and share lists and changes. (So your spouse can shop from the list too.)
  • Upload the appropriate amounts for the size of your family (You’ll be able to choose from 2, 4, 8, or 12 serving sizes.)
  • Edit or delete list items
  • Add or edit prices to see what your shopping trip will cost
  • Cross off items as you shop with one touch
  • Items are uploaded by where you will find them in the store, but you can also drag them around to change the order
  • Lists available for both the everything and dinner only plans
  • Free for all current subscribers

This service starts Friday!  

I’m just a little excited.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to use it:

If you are a current menu subscriber, ignore the message below:

This Friday at midnight the menu subscription prices are going to double.
If you subscribe now you will lock in at the current low rate.  You have 3 days left to save.

Our guarantee: 

Once you enroll, your price will never go up as long as you are a subscriber.

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How to Make Homemade Fortified Almond Milk

How to make homemade fortified almond milk
I turned my nose up at vegan milks for years.  Real milk has protein and calcium, it’s affordable, and tastes great.  Why mess with a good thing?

Lactose Villain

Then I met up with the symptoms of lactose intolerance.  Sometimes I could eat dairy products without consequence and sometimes I would be doubled over in pain.  It was like a dietary game of Mumblety peg

Almond milk sparked my interest when I found out it only has 30 calories per cup, is low in carbs and tastes pretty good.  It boasts a good serving of calcium, but only because it is added artificially.  This is not a drink for babies or kids unless the diet has other rich sources of fats or protein.

Almond milk makes good smoothies, custards, cream soups, cream gravy, and fettuccini sauce.  It costs about $3 for a half gallon, or $6 a gallon.  The cost is about 50% more than regular milk, and recently there has been some concern about the additive carrageenan in the more affordable almond milks.  My children do not show signs of lactose intolerance or milk allergy so I do not feed them almond milk.

It’s not hard to make homemade almond milk and homemade costs quite a bit less than store bought–PLUS Almond flour is a by-product of almond milk production.  That’s good news for low carb and gluten free bakers everywhere.

At Costco, almonds are $15 for 3 pounds.  It takes 2 oz of almonds to make a half gallon of milk.  So one 3 lb bag of almonds makes 24 half gallons (plus almond flour) at $.62 each.  If you want fortified almond milk that has the same nutrition as milk, you will want to add 8 calcium, magnesium, vitamin d3 tablets.

Adding vitamins adds to the cost slightly.  These tablets* are $.07 each and I would need 8 of them to create a homemade nutritional profile comparable to store bought almond milk.  Homemade fortified almond milk is $1.18 per half gallon vs $3.28 for store bought for a savings of $2.10.

Here’s how to make your own almond milk.

DSC_3426

Measure 1/4 cup of almonds into a class cup and cover with twice as much water. 1/4 cup of almonds makes 1 quart of milk.  1/2 cup makes half a gallon–the same as in the typical grocery store carton.  Let stand for 8 hours or overnight.

 

Almond milk 1

After 8 hours, drain your almonds, then place in a blender.  Add a generous pinch of sea salt and any supplements or flavors (like vanilla and honey or stevia) you are adding.  I used 4 calcium tablets so each cup of milk would have 30% RDA of calcium, plus magnesium and vitamin D3.

Almond milk 3

Cover with just enough fresh water to keep the blades running smoothly.  Too much water will allow the almonds to get away from the blades and not grind as fine.

Almond milk 4

Blend for a couple of minutes until the nuts are all ground up into tiny bits.

Almond milk 5

Strain though a nut bag (I use a huge straining bag that I purchased for Kombucha.)  Amazon* has nut bags also, or you could use cheese cloth, a clean flour sack towel, or even a coffee filter.  They all work, but the nut bag is fastest and easiest.  At the end, give the mass of ground nuts a good squeeze to get as much water out as possible.

Almond milk 6

Pour the strained milk into a canning jar.

Almond milk 7

Pour in enough fresh water to make a quart (or half gallon–whatever you used enough nuts for.)  My water is cloudy because I used it to rinse out the blender and cup I strained into so I could get all the goody.

Nut Milk 7

Voila!

Almond Flour

Now scrape the nut meal out of your straining bag (or whatever you used.)  Spread it onto a silicone mat, wax paper or parchment.  Let it dry thoroughly.  (In the dry weather, mine dries overnight.)  If it’s humid, you can spread it on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 2 hours.  Then turn off the oven and let it stay in there for a few hours more. Transfer the dry stuff back to a clean dry blender cup and pulverize it super fine.  Use it as you would any almond flour.

Q.  How long does the almond milk last?

A.  If you are using raw almonds it will go “sour” in 3-4 days.  Costco’s almonds are  blanched and the milk lasts longer.  I’ve gone a week and it was still fine.  It’s never lasted longer than that, so I can’t say when it sours.

Q.  Shouldn’t you remove the skins from the almonds first?

A.  Who’s got time for that?  The milk tastes great either way.  With the skins on the almonds, the almond flour will have flecks of color in it, compared to commercial almond flour which is just white.  I haven’t noticed a difference in performance between the two flours.  And the almond milk comes out white either way.

Q.  I don’t like almonds.  Can I do this with other nuts?

A.  Yes.  Cashews and sunflower seeds work especially well.  Let me know if you try it :).

More questions?  Concerns?  Put them below.  Have you ever made your own almond milk?

* P.S. The Amazon links are for your benefit only and are not affiliate links.  As a Missouri resident I am not eligible to be an Amazon Affiliate.

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