Thursday, May 31, 2012

How I Save Money When Shopping

When I started being a stay at home mom our income was cut by over a third. I had lived poor before we got married so I knew we wouldn't starve and we wouldn't be homeless because we moved on to the military base. Other than that I was scared. I never thought about being a stay at home mom. I was a hair stylist and I was quite social. I was a good hair stylist and made decent money. Staying home the social aspect has been much harder for me to deal with than the money issue. I have found ways to save money and get free products and while they may not be much that little bit seems to help a lot.

I use coupons when I can. We live overseas due to the military but we still have an American commissary. We can use coupons. They do not double coupons but they will accept coupons up to 6 months past the expiration date. My mom sends us her coupon inserts by using them as filling in boxes that she sends. I am also able to print coupons online and sometimes sign up for coupons from companies on Facebook. I was able to save a lot more money when we were in the states using stores that doubled coupons but saving money is saving money and I will always use a coupon if it is available.

I love thrift stores, yard sales, and online yard sale sites too. I wish I had understood thrift stores more when I was single and poor but I love to go to them now. When we lived in Tucson I used to go to Savers every Monday because it was $1 day, everything of a specific color tag was $1. Here I haven't seen thrift store sales but I can still buy like new/ gently used items for a fraction of the cost. There is also a local online yard sale site that you can look for used items for sale. I have managed to score great deals by using these. Regular yard sale season is rapidly approaching as well. There are a few here and there and if I could get up and ready earlier on the weekends I would probably find a few more. is a word of mouth site. You can sign up and take surveys about yourself and then at times you are invited to join BzzCampaigns. I have done a few where they have sent me a product to try out and review. I like this because I am able to try a product for free or deeply discounted. All they ask is that you spread the word about the product and share a review. I love this because I can put an honest review out there. I am currently waiting on my DrScholl's for her insoles to try out. I don't wear heels that often but I would love to see if this actually makes them more comfortable. is a search engine that rewards you with points for using it. You can also take surveys or polls and watch their Swagbucks TV to help earn extra points. You can print coupons and earn point for redeeming them. For even more points you can get referrals and earn points for your friends earning points. I earn about 1 $5 gift card per month. It isn't a lot but it is free for doing something I would be doing any way. My referral link is at the beginning of this paragraph. is another site that you can earn points toward gift cards. I manage to earn about 1 $25 gift card per year. They also have a referral program. I do not have a bunch of referrals so these are realistic opportunities for anybody. Printable coupons from this site will earn points as well as shopping online through this site. I receive emails from them with click to earn points as well.

I save money by checking online for deals and pricing when we need clothes, shoes, or personal effects. If I find the price I am looking for I will buy online. When shopping online I also check sites like or to see if they have any online coupons or cash back. A lot of sites are included on these sites.

Most of these suggestions have to deal with savings when shopping. I will share some more ideas on savings around our house at a later time. Do you have suggestions for saving when buying clothes, groceries, or household items?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rhubarb Cinnamon Jam

We have been trying to experiment with new foods because I did not come from a home where there was a ton of variety. My parents were great and they fed us well but they both worked and so we had a lot of plain meals such as spagetti, hot dogs and french fries, or chicken with rice and a vegetable (generally corn). Since I am a stay at home mom I have a little more time to attempt a garden and cook more variety of food from scratch. I also enjoy being able to make some things from scratch because it is not only cheaper but we also avoid a lot of preservatives in the homemade version.

This past week I found a recipe on the blog One Hundred Dollars A Month for making Rhubarb Cinnamon Jam. Rhubarb seems to be in season here at the moment since it is at every store and the markets for a reasonable cost. Rhubarb is one of those foods that I did not have as a child so thought I would try this recipe. It turned out amazing! Even my middle boy who is super picky and wont eat much variety liked it. He said it smelled like apple pie while I was making it. I think he is right. The Man thought it was good too. I like these homemade jams because they can be different flavors than what you can buy in the store and they are cheaper for a bit of effort.

My cost breakdown goes something like this:
rhubarb - 2.30
water- free
pectin - 1.89
butter - .05?
sugar - 2.28
lemon juice - .10?
cinnamon - .05?
For a total of  $6.67 for 7.5 - 8 oz jars. Less than $1 per jar of homemade yummy jam that does not contain HFCS. This is worth my time to let my family have something that I prepared especially for them.

Please take a few minutes to look around the blog One Hundred Dollars A Month. Mavis has great ideas on how to eat healthy foods on a very slim budget. She has ideas I would have never thought of. I really enjoy visiting her blog.

The Recipe:
Rhubarb-Cinnamon Jam (adapted from Sure Jell recipe)

4-1/2 cups prepared fruit (about 2-1/2 lb. fully ripe rhubarb…about 5 lg stalks, 6 c chopped)
1 cup water
1 box SURE.JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
6-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
1 T lemon juice
1 t ground cinnamon
*red food coloring (optional…see note at bottom)(I did not use)

BRING boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain jars well before filling.

CHOP rhubarb in medium dice. Place rhubarb and water in 4-qt. saucepan. Bring to boil on high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 2 min. or until rhubarb is tender. Measure exactly 4-1/2 cups prepared rhubarb into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot.

STIR pectin into prepared rhubarb in saucepot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar & cinnamon. Return to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

LADLE immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

*Add a few drops of red food coloring after you remove jam from heat and skim off any foam with metal spoon.

makes 5 12 oz jars or 7.5 8 oz jars

Monday, May 14, 2012

Live Below The Line 2012 - Wrap Up

As I posted before we did the Live Below The Line challenge. We had to eat for 30 GBP for 5 days. We survived but buy the end of day 4 we were sick of eating such boring food and wished we had more fruit and meat. We had plenty of food it just was high in carbs and low in vitamins. We did continue to take our daily vitamins because I could not risk everybody getting really sick.

 I learned that oatmeal is a very filling, cheap breakfast. Even if a tablespoon of sugar is added for flavor it is still very cheap. I know I will be eating more oatmeal because it is not only filling and cheap but it is also quite low in calories and I am on a diet via the doctors now. I prefer to have my oatmeal with a bit of banana added for flavor too.

I have learned that nobody in my house really likes white bread and that the tortillas made with plain white flour are more pliable than the ones we normally make with whole wheat flour. I will not go back to white bread as a daily supplement as it is quite flavorless compared to the whole wheat alternative. I am not sure what we will do about the tortillas as I think we all liked the white ones better. I think maybe we will cut some but not all of the whole wheat flour and maybe add a little more water.

I learned that I do not like my spaghetti without a little bit of meat. Normally we make our spaghetti with whatever extra veggies we have in the fridge plus one pound of ground beef. For the challenge we couldn't afford to buy a bunch of meat so we had to eat our spaghetti without. It was boring tasting to say the least.

I did find out that we all liked lentil taco filling without ground beef. Prior to this challenge we would make the lentil filling and add a pound of ground beef. I think we will stop this now and make tacos into a meatless meal. It was really good and had lots of flavor and there were no texture issues like I thought there would be.

I also found that lentil chili without meat is tasty too. I do like chili with meat so I think this will be an alternating thing. Sometimes we will make lentil chili and others we will make chili the way we normally would with meat.

I also found that the generic store brands that I can buy here in the UK are of a great quality and the prices are amazing. A can of sliced peaches in juice at Sainsburys is 29 pence or about 48 cents. A box of generic corn flakes at Tesco is 31 pence or about 51 cents. These sizes are the same as the name brand equivalent and are really good in comparison. It would be nice if a store in the US could do the same without compromising the quality. It would help out immensely.

All in all I don't think we had a terrible week. I think we all took a little something from the experience and will move forward with more compassion and even some knowledge on how to stretch our own budget a little more.

If you would like to find out a little more please visit the website here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

LIve Below The Line 2012

I mentioned that our family is doing the Live Below the Line challenge this week. I thought I would share a little about what we have been eating.

Sunday we made two loaves of white bread. We normally only eat whole wheat bread but for the purpose of this challenge the plain while all purpose flour was the cheapest. We put them up and cut into the first loaf on Monday when we started this challenge. I am surprised how bland white bread tastes. We make most of our bread here at the house and I haven't had white bread since I married The Man in 2005. The recipes are almost identical but it just doesn't seem to have the depth of the wheat bread we normally eat. I will be thankful to have wheat bread back when this challenge is done.

The kids have been doing OK but they sure miss the options to have as much fruit and veg as they like for snacks as well as yogurt, cheese, or applesauce. I have been trying get them on a feeding schedule always but it has always failed me. They are grazers which is probably better for them but I have been thwarting that this week. Life will be back to normal come Saturday. They older two are quite picky eaters while the little two will eat almost anything. It has been easy feeding the little two. The older two not so much.

The Man and I have also not been able to have our several snacks of fruit or veg this week. The food portions have been fine it is just having snacks that is hard. We are both on a diet to lose weight at the moment as well. He is on a diet to lose weight for his job and I am on a diet from the doctor due to some health issues. I have lost one pound this week. I haven't found that the meals are too small or not fulfilling but I will be thankful to be able to have my two small snacks back everyday come Saturday. Also to have more fruit and veg in our meals will be nice.

Day 1 for me-
Breakfast was oatmeal with a bit of sugar
Lunch was spaghetti noodles with butter, garlic, onion, and carrot
Snack was an orange that one of the kids didn't finish
Dinner was lentil tacos- homemade tortilla, lentil taco filling, cheddar, lettuce, soured cream, and salsa

Day 2:
Breakfast- oatmeal with sugar and jam
Lunch- Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich
Snack- canned peach slices
dinner- lentil chili and rice

Day 3 so far:
Breakfast- oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon
Lunch- potato topped with leftover lentil chili

My drinks have been water or plain unsweetened cold tea.

I must say I am super impressed with the number and quality of the generic store brand foods here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Live Below The Line 2012

May 7-11, 2012 we are doing the Live below the line challenge. We had the option living where we do to choose to do the US or UK versions. We decided to do the UK version as we have access to more options for UK stores than we have for US stores. We got 1 pound per person per day for 5 days. We have 6 of us in this house so it worked out to being 30 pounds for 5 days. I took our 30 Pounds out and basically started from scratch to make it a bit more of a challenge and so I wouldnt have to figure out how much a teaspoon of salt or sugar would cost.

Here is my grocery list and the costs associated with what we bought:

tesco everyday spaghetti 2 0.35
almond milk 2 2
cathedral mature cheddar 1 1.99
country life butter 2 2
table salt 1 0.29
tesco everyday pepper 1 0.18
tesco mixed herbs 1 0.19
Tesco chicken cubes 1 0.1
tesco sieved passata 2 0.58
molases sugar 1 1.19
discounter sunflower oil 1 1.39
red lentils 1 0.83
chopped tomatoes 1 0.31
kidney beans 1 0.18
oaklane blackcurrant jam 1 0.89
tesco everyday peanut butter 1 0.62
granulated sugar 1kg 1 0.98
allinsons yeast 1 0.64
tesco oats 1 0.75
tea 1 0.27
cornflakes 2 0.62
flour 2 1.04
rice 1 0.4
baking powder 1 0.83
salsa 1 0.69
chili powder 1 0.63
peaches canned 3 0.87
cinnamon 1 0.55
cumin 1 0.48
cooking bacon 1 0.99
garlic 1 0.26
soured cream 1 0.6
oranges 1 0.5
lettuce 1 0.5
maris piper potatoes 1 0.69
Bag onions 1 0.69
Bag carrots 1 0.65
Eggs 15 pk 1 1.25
milk 2 ltr 2 1.8