Saturday, October 24, 2015

10 Ways to Save Money Without Getting Cranky: Entertainment

Still going strong on day 24!   We were able to take my mother in law out to a local Clydesdale ranch.  It was really fun, and since we bought the tickets months ago it was free :).  I can't believe this  no-spend month is almost over!

One thing I am learning through this month of no spending is that even though we really don't spend a lot on things overall we usually don't feel badly about the sacrifice.  Most of my friends call me their "thrifty friend" (I also answer to frugal and in the right context cheap).  I love brainstorming with them about ways to save money and not feel deprived.  I have decided to share a series of "top 10" lists of our frugal ways that usually don't make me cranky.
When we decided that I would work from home with our kids, we knew that one of the areas that would really be cut would be our entertainment budget.  I would sometimes get bummed out that we couldn't, or rather shouldn't, go out to eat or spend an evening shopping.   I still think those things can be viewed as a treat and done in a frugal way on occasion.  But when it isn't time for that, here are several things we really enjoy.

Entertainment in your Home/Hometown (With or Without Kids)
 Go to the Library  Check the calendar for events like concerts, classes, and crafts.  At most libraries you can go online and check the massive catalog for books, DVDs, CDs and more.

Park and Picnic  Our little town has several great parks with trails, playgrounds, disc golf, tennis, and even a splash pad.  We also like to find parks along the way when we travel to picnic and play (saves money and waistline from fast food).  We have found some excellent parks along the way.

Visit a College  Colleges and Universities constantly have things to do that are free and very low cost - especially at smaller schools.  Plays, concerts, art exhibits, sporting events, classes, and more can all be found on the school's websites.  Not near a college?  Try taking in a high school football game or choir concert with your kids.

Art Crawls  Many towns have a specific night each month dedicated to art galleries being open late.  These nights are usually family friendly, and sometimes have live music and hor d'ourves.

Date Night In  After we put the kids to bed, we like to watch a movie, play a board game or simply work on a project together.  The mundane can be magnificent with the attitude adjustment of "We are doing it together - yeah!"

Date Night Out Childcare   Hiring a sitter can be expensive.  Finding friends who would watch your kids for you  if you watch theirs is a great way to avoid that.  There are even babysitting co-ops in some areas.

Think like a College Student  Remember when you were in college and really had no money?  No real bills, or real responsibilities either in most cases.  Back then you would have fun on a "date" sitting in a stairwell playing guitar.  Build on that idea.  Go for a walk and get ice cream.  Play a game of tennis, pool, or anything that you might not be the best at.  Jump in rain puddles together.  Have each other try on outfits of the other's choice at the mall.  Simpler worked back then and it can still be fun now.

Go Online  I have been know to google "Free things to do in (insert city)"  both here and when preparing for a trip.  Festivals and fairs, Concerts, Exhibits, and more can be found by doing this.  Our chamber of commerce has a calendar on their website full of upcoming events.  There are also great websites like Macaroni Kid , HulaFrog, and Free Attractions who will do the legwork for you.

Get Cooking  Find a new recipe or one from your favorite restaurant to copy.  The cost difference will surprise you and usually it will have less fat/salt/sugar than the dining-out version.  Pick a country and choose several dishes to make from it.  Like a delicious Irish stew with soda bread and salad.  Or, see what is in your pantry and freezer with no purchased ingredients.

Think Creative  Work on a new garden bed together, do a craft, teach the kids a new game. Invite the neighbors over to roast marshmallows in the fire pit.  Have dinner by candlelight.  DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  My kid, and husband think its hilarious fun to roll two old tires down the hill and see which one gets to the bottom first.  That is definitely different and completely free.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Spending free October with one small spend

Just wanted to update on our Spending Free Month.  We are already on day 20!  Despite not spending money this month, we have stayed very busy and well entertained.  It has been a month of hayrides, playing at the park, bonfires, and s'mores.  We have been blessed to have these fellowships with good friends and church family.

The one splurge that we were unwilling to give up for our family was purchasing fall pumpkins and go to the pumpkin patch.   Livi has loved it the past two years and I wanted John to get to experience the fun. I went back and forth about whether we should do it, and I wanted to share how we were able to without spending from our normal budget.

We were blessed to receive a monetary gift of $20 from a church member.  Our family so grateful to our church for their generosity in service, time, and even tangible items.  Now $20....that may not sound like a lot but for our family it was EXACTLY what we needed.  That gift allowed us to go to the pumpkin patch, and to purchase pumpkins from ALDI -they were 1/4 of the price of the patch at $2.50 each.  The kids loved playing in the corn box, seeing animals, and walking around the pumpkin vines.  We took a lot of pictures.

While we were out, we were emailed a coupon for $5 off of $5 worth of candy at Staples.  Free Candy!  God provided a way for us to donate candy to our church fall festival without spending any extra money.   I am going to keep looking for free candy deals before the festival to get more for this great cause.

Olivia showing off one of our pumpkins and a sign we painted

I am so thankful for this month going so smoothly.  Are any of you up for a no spend challenge?  It has been incredible to see how God has supplied all of our needs AND some of our wants.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Food Glorious Food! Food This Month / Bread and Tortilla Recipes

Our family survived week one of no spending!   We purchased milk for the kids today and a replacement 9V battery for our smoke detector but nothing else.  This week will probably be the easiest for us this month as we went camping with my folks and didn't have to worry about much for a few days.  This was a huge blessing.  I have received some great encouragement from sweet friends as well as a few funny looks as to why we are doing this.  Thankful to the Lord for taking care of everything.

I want to share how I am planning meals this month.  Food is very important to me.  I want my kids to have a varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.  I try to limit our processed foods and cook almost all of our meals from scratch.  We do really enjoy cheese and I would almost say I need chocolate every day.

For October, I evaluated everything we had in the house in pantry, freezer, and fridge.  We have also been blessed with an insanely prolific tomato crop,  and a youth pastor who shares eggs once or twice a month so I factored those in too.   I listed everything in the categories of Meat, Dairy, Vegetables, Fruit, Grains, Beverages.  I evaluated what ingredients I had and what I could make with them.  Then I created a list of all of the meals we will be eating this month including treats, snacks, beverages  It took a bit of time, but I know it will be worth it to know that we have healthy food planned.   I can rotate meals if it doesn't work with how the day unfolds.   Here are a few things we will be eating:

1.) Pancakes and fruit
2.) Toad in the hole (toast with egg in the middle)
3.) Oatmeal and fruit
4.) Biscuits with ham and apple butter
5.) Peanut butter sandwiches with fruit
6.) Black bean breakfast burritos
7.) Toast with jam and fruit
8.) Yogurt Parfaits

1.) Vegetable stir fry with eggs, brown rice and sauces (we will eat this several times
2.)  A Tuna dish (tuna noodle casserole, tuna loaf, tuna salad)
3.)  Huumus with veggies, wheat crackers, and apples
4.) Chicken stew with sage, onion, carrots, and potatoes
5.)  Lentil Soup
6.) Chicken Alfredo Spinach Pizza
7.) Black bean soup
8.) Ham with potatoes, peas and carrots
9.) Ham and bean soup
10.) Chicken or Ham wraps with homemade tortillas

1.) Peanuts and Raisins
2.) Crackers with Huumus or Cheese
3.) Popcorn
4.) Applesauce
5.) Molasses Cookies
6.) Chocolate Cookies
7.) Apple Pie
8.) Blackberry Pie
9.) Hot Chocolate

Most of the dinner recipes will feed us all 2-3 complete meals which is great for when I am busy.

I am making our grain products this month.  Here are the recipes that I use for part-wheat french bread and whole wheat tortillas.  These are both great for all meal times, and hold up to sandwiches, spreads and dunking in soup.  They are easy enough that I can make them during nap time or fairly quickly after the kids have gone to bed and taste so much better than store bought.

Part-Wheat French Bread
 2 3/4 cups warm water (I nuke mine for 25 seconds on high in the microwave)
1 tablespoon yeast or two packages
5 cups all purpose flour
2 cups wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
Olive Oil

1.) Combine water and yeast and let bloom

2.) Whisk together flours and salt

3.)  Slowly add yeast mixture to the flour.  Knead dough for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Cover and let rise until it doubles in size.

4.)  Shape the dough into two long baguettes.  Start the oven preheating to 425.   Cover and let rise until the oven is preheated or until they have nearly doubled in size.

5.)  Brush loaves with olive oil.  Bake at 425 for 20 minutes

This bread freezes well and will keep in an air tight container for 3-5 days

Whole Wheat Tortillas  yields 10  Recipe can be doubled
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup warm water (more or less as needed)

Cast iron or non-stick griddle (this is really a must as the tortillas could burn and leave marks on your pan)

1.) Combine flour, baking powder, and salt

2.)  Add oil and stir until it is combined

3.)  Add in water a little at at time until the dough forms a ball

4.)  Knead the dough on a floured surface by hand for about 10 minutes.  Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

5.)  Divide dough into 10 balls

6.) Roll out each ball into a circle on your floured surface

7.)  Cook each tortilla over medium high heat for 30 seconds on each side until slightly browned a puffy.

8.) Freeze tortillas or enjoy right away.  Stores fine in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-5 days

Olivia had fun rolling out the dough

Hope that you enjoy these delicious recipes!  I would be happy to help with any questions that would make them easier for you to make.