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5 Tips to Save Time and Money on Groceries

Guest post by Jenna from 

Need some quick and easy tips to help you save more money at the grocery store in 2019? Here are five of my favorites:

1. Plan Your Meals

It has been said time and time again, but meal planning really is the one of the best ways to save both time and money at the grocery store (here’s a great free printable meal planning kit).

Of course this tip comes at the expense of spending a good amount of extra time at home planning out the meals and grocery list at least a week at a time.

However, when done well, meal planning saves some serious cash by giving every single item on your list a specific purpose. It also helps you find places to trim or double up on certain items and you are creating your plan and even includes planning for leftovers.

2. Make Well-Organized Grocery Lists

While your meal plan can help save you money, a well-organized grocery list can help save you time at the store.

I’ve tried paper lists, grocery list apps, and everything else under the sun and they can all work. But the list only makes your shopping faster IF you follow one important rule… organize your list by department.

That means instead of writing your list in whichever order you think of adding them (ie: eggs, avocado, chicken, bananas) causing you to run back and forth across the store, your list should have like items together so you can work your way through your list and the store at the same time.

Bonus points if you set up your list to follow the floor plan of your actual store.

3. Shop Your Pantry First

Before you head to the store, make sure to shop your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer first. In fact, this should probably come before tip #1 because if you really want to up your game, you can plan your meals based on the items you already have at home!

By using what you already have, you are not only saving money by not buying more groceries, but also saving the time it would take to think about whether or not you have a certain item in your pantry already.

4. Use Technology To Your Benefit

Once you finally get to the grocery store, make sure to use technology to your benefit. Because… there’s an app for that!

Remember the list you made? There’s an app for that too! My favorite is because my husband can add items from his phone and it will instantly appear on my list. Also, it’s automatically organized by store department and you can edit the department if you need to.

I haven’t tried every app out there, but I’m sure there are plenty of others that would serve this purpose just as well.

There are also apps for helping save you money at the store, from to the (and Cartwheel) you can always save money if you take a few minutes to check out the deals before heading into the store.

5. Order Groceries Online

I’ve saved my very favorite tip for last because it compliments every other tip from this list AND makes my life exponentially better.

Ordering groceries online is the one-two punch you might not have expected to see on this list… right?

There is a stigma that ordering groceries for pickup or delivery is a luxury and very expensive. In truth, ordering groceries online can be a great way to save money (and obviously time) on groceries.

While there is often a slight markup on some product and/or a delivery fee, those extra costs are often offset by the other benefits of buying groceries online.

  • No more worrying about shopping while hungry.
  • No more making unhealthy or unnecessary impulse purchases.
  • No more going back to return an item you’ve decided might not fit the budget or meal plan for the week.

All of the grocery delivery services I’ve tried not only let me see the running total as I add items to the cart but they always have sale sections that are very easy to find and plan meals around.

I shouldn’t even need to mention how much time you can save by not stepping foot in the grocery store, but ordering groceries online allows you to fit groceries into your schedule when you can’t manage a full trip to the store.

Bottom line, grocery shopping has to be done… but if you can do it faster and within your budget maybe it won’t be such a source of pain!

What are YOUR best tips to save time AND money on groceries?

Jenna is a mom to four awesomely exhausting children. She believes that finding the right food for your family should be easier. That’s why she is committed to providing information you need to make deliberate choices for your family over at .

Toddler Mom Hack: How To Make Mini Freezer Meals With No Extra Effort

Guest post from Keri of :

If your kid are anything like my kids, they eat ALL THE TIME!

It’s no secret that young children eat about every two hours. If you are in the throes of motherhood, you have probably wondered how in the world they can fit all of that food into such tiny bodies. I sure have!

I have also wondered how I can get away from spending all of my time in the kitchen slicing apples, doling out PB&J’s, and cleaning up the inevitable mess. I really didn’t want to pay for ready-made snacks and meals as they aren’t healthy or budget-friendly!

There had to be a way to streamline the process without shelling out more money.

My Solution = Mini Freezer Meals

I’m all about practical shortcuts, so I put my thinking cap on. After a bit of trial and error, I figured out a no-stress way to create toddler sized freezer meals! It’s so simple that you might just cry happy tears.

My “secret” is to use silicone muffin liners.

When silicone muffin liners first came out, they were all the rage, weren’t they? I saw them everywhere! People were making homemade chocolate cups, and using them as lunch box dividers. I thought “Well, I’d better get myself a set of those and see if they are all they’re cracked up to be.” It turns out, they are.

The idea came to me after I saw someone freezing soup in muffin tins. I thought it would be pretty difficult to remove the soup without a liner. Suddenly, I realized that although soup might not be a great thing to put into a silicone liner, other leftovers would work great!

That night, I took the few leftovers from our meal and dumped them into a muffin liner. I stuck it into the freezer in a snack-sized Ziploc bag. The next day, I fed my two-year-old his very first homemade freezer meal. It was a miracle!

Homemade Freezer Meals Save Time, Money, and Energy

I have been doing this ever since and it is a complete lifesaver!

Right before I had my third baby, I made a few dishes to turn into muffin cup meals so that I could feed my boys without having to cook. I can’t imagine what I would have done without them!

However, my favorite thing about this is that it can be done without any extra meal prep. My youngest two would be hard pushed to finish two muffin cups each. This doesn’t add up to much food at all!

Whenever we have a little bit of a recipe left after dinner, it goes right into the freezer. If I’m running low on mini freezer meals, I usually steal a couple of muffin liners before everyone eats. Nobody is the wiser, and it saves me a lot of work.

This has relieved me from dishes and cooking so many times!

Homemade Freezer Meal Tips

Make sure to label the snack bags. It won’t take long before you have a variety of meals to choose from. If your toddler is anything like mine, he will want a say in what he eats for lunch, and everything starts looking the same pretty quickly.

When you are ready to feed your kids, just pop a muffin cup into a dish and heat it up in the microwave. The muffin cups take about thirty seconds each to defrost. Then, stir them up and they are the perfect temperature for little ones. If your kiddo is a bit older, zap it for another fifteen seconds or so.

Make Your Own Mini Muffin Meals

This idea is incredibly simple and it can be applied to almost any leftovers. I have frozen mac and cheese, casserole, and breakfast bowls to name a few. The sky is the limit!

It’s amazing how much of a difference this one simple trick has made in our lives. Give this mom-hack a shot if you are looking to save money, time, and energy while feeding your kids!

Keri is a mother of three, Financial Planner, and founder of the blog, . She helps struggling stay-at-home-moms relieve the stress of money through frugal living, personal finance, and entrepreneurship so that they can find fulfillment in their everyday lives.

How to Clean Your Teeth at Home

Can't afford dental care regularly? Try these tips to professionally clean your teeth at home!

Note from Crystal: I know that this topic might be a bit controversial and I personally would differ with some of the conclusions of the guest poster and do believe that regular dental visits are something that should be prioritized if you can at all make it happen in your budget. However, I decided to share this post here because I thought it might give some great ideas for those of you who are unable to afford regular dental care. It also is a great reminder for all of us to think outside the box and this might be a great option for in between dental visits and/or to reduce the costs of needing extra expensive dental work.

Please do your own research and do what is best for you and your family. If you have other suggestions for ways to save on dental care, I’d love for you to leave them in the comments. As always, sharply critical comments will be deleted but we welcome kind and gracious comments that contribute to the conversation.

Guest post from Liberty:

When was the last time you had your teeth cleaned? How about your kids’?

If you’re like many people, you find it challenging (particularly on the budget) to faithfully book teeth cleanings for each family member every six months.

The average cost of a regular teeth cleaning is $137. Multiply that times a couple of children, parents, and you have a regular six-month monstrosity of a dentist’s bill!

It can be difficult enough living on a tight budget without worrying about a huge extra bill, or the worse alternative. an outbreak of cavities (bigger cost alert!)

We all want to provide the care our kids need to enjoy clean, healthy teeth for a lifetime, but sometimes it’s harder than getting your six year old to eat shrimp at your friend’s dinner table!

The good news is you can professionally clean your entire family’s teeth at home for less than the cost of a new crockpot!

My grandmother, a dental assistant for 30 years and only recently retired, taught my family how to clean our teeth ourselves.

I grew up cleaning my teeth at home (and watching my mother clean my teeth when I was younger) and neither I nor any of my siblings have ever had a cavity.

Every once in a while, we’d visit our grandmother and she’d offer us free teeth cleanings at the dentist’s office. But she always ended up saying, “I don’t even know why I do this, your teeth are just so clean!”

The best part about cleaning your teeth at home is that it’s unbelievably easy and extremely cost-effective, in addition to causing other health benefits you may not expect. Teeth cleaning is so easy teenagers can do it — and that’s saying a good deal!

There are four simple steps to clean your teeth:

1. Floss thoroughly.

Run the floss between every tooth twice: once up and down on one side and once up and down on the other side.

2. Scale and scrape.

Gently scrape your teeth with a scaler along the gum line, between your teeth, and over the flat surface of each tooth. Be sure to gently scrape out any grooves you may have in your teeth, and to avoid widening cracks.

You’ll want to use a — they’re actually quite affordable. Don’t use one of those cheapie Walmart teeth-scaling kits.

3. Polish and brush.

Put a small amount of pumice polish on your toothbrush and give your teeth a good brushing. Pumice whitens your teeth and removes plaque and tartar at the same time.

Brush with side-to-side, up-and-down, and circular strokes. Make sure you brush along the gum line as well as the surface of the teeth themselves.

4. Replace your toothbrush regularly.

The pumice polish ruins your toothbrush’s regular cleaning capabilities, so buy yourself a new toothbrush each time you clean your teeth at home.

Yes, even replacing toothbrushes every six months doesn’t raise the cost to more than a fraction of the cost of a crockpot!

It can be intimidating to clean your teeth the first time — you may want to begin by cleaning your family’s teeth at home, and still going in for a cleaning occasionally to see how well you’re doing. Get x-rays. Ask the hygienist if there’s much of a buildup on your teeth. Make adjustments to your home-care routine accordingly until you have the process mastered.

You’ll still save money without worrying about sacrificing the health of your teeth in the process.

DIY teeth cleaning is a cost-effective, rewarding experience!

As you run your tongue along your teeth and feel the newly-smooth surface (the rough plaque having vanished along with the pumice), smile big and show your teeth as you think of all the things you can do with the money you saved.

Legal Disclaimer: As you’ve guessed, I am neither a dentist nor claim to be. This information is provided for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for obtaining professional dental advice. Please use at your own risk.

Liberty is so fascinated with effective DIY teeth cleaning that she wrote an eBook about it: Goodbye Dentist! Professionally Clean Your Family’s Teeth (in Under $20). You can of this step-by-step, pain-free, detailed guide to becoming your own dentist and saving hundreds of dollars.

10 Experience Gifts for Kids

Give experience gifts to your kids this year! Unique, frugal, and clutter-free!!

Guest post from Micah of :

For my fifth birthday, my dad gave me a choice between two birthday presents.

  1. A traditional gift.
  2. A daddy-daughter date with no other siblings to come along.

Coming from a family of seven, there was never alone time… and as a little girl, I was practically my dad’s shadow, so naturally, I chose the date with him.

Fast-forward a few decades later, my husband found himself unemployed after leaving law school, and our family finances were tighter than a knot.

Our children had birthdays coming up, and we felt guilty knowing we wouldn’t be able to buy them the toys they were eyeing at the store.

As my husband and I discussed what to do for our children so they wouldn’t feel neglected on their birthdays, the memory of my father’s date came to mind.

I shared the experience with my husband and we decided to try to give experiences to our children instead of gifts.

Our little ones had SO much fun that this has been their birthday gifts ever since!

5 Experience Gifts For A Non-Existing Budget:

I completely understand that a tight budget can be tricky when dealing with experience gifts. In these situations, I’ve found that creativity is my best friend!

1.Use the seasons to your advantage.

Is it winter? Use a trash can lid to go sledding. Are you enjoying summer time? Pick wildflowers together and have a contest to see who can make the most creative headband with the flowers.

2. Have a puddle splashing contest to see who can make the biggest splash.

This one was a hit with our little boy who loves the outdoors. Just make sure you have a lot of clean towels nearby for when you’re done!

3. Take dancing lessons together using YouTube and have a dance party at home.

Use what you have around your home to decorate the dining room or living room for when it’s time to dance.

4. Go on a nature walk and skip rocks in the river.

5. Take your child on a “tour of their life” in your local town.

Drive them to where they were born, places that have meaning to them and share your feelings and experiences with them on how much they mean to you. If you do this option, be sure to have a recorder going so you can write these stories down to give to your child later.

 

5 Experience Gifts When You Have a Little Money to Spare:

When you can budget the experiences, you want to gift your children, you’ll be able to cater to their interest and needs more.

1. Something they love more than anything. 

Maybe they’ve always wanted to be a professional baseball player… go enjoy a day at the ballpark.

Or perhaps they want to be a ballerina on ice skates… take them ice skating.

2. Cooking Classes.

Sign-up and take a cooking class together and then step back and let your child take the lead. You might be surprised at how well they do in the kitchen.

3. Music Lessons.

Does your son or daughter want to learn how to play a certain instrument? Sign them up for music lessons. If you can afford the lessons but can’t buy the instrument, there are places you can rent instruments from, whether this is the music store or your child’s school.

4. Museum Day Date.

Get lost together exploring the wonders of the world, learning about science, planet Earth, history, or anything else your child has an interest in.

5. Day Away With a Friend.

If your child has no interest in doing a one-on-one date, offer to take them and their friends to a trampoline park, a panic-puzzle room, or another fun, group party place where they can have a blast with their friends and family.

I promise (from experience) that children will rarely remember the gifts they receive on their birthday. But they WILL remember the time you spent with them and the memories you helped create.

Toys will eventually break, electronics will quickly become outdated, but the pictures you take and the laughter you share will be something you two can hold onto for a lifetime!

Have you ever been gifted with an experience gift?

Share it with us in the comments below… as well as why you loved this gift so much!

Micah Klug loves being a mother and helping other women DIY their home on a budget, grow their faith in Christ, love their marriage, and strengthen their family relationships by living simply without losing their quality of life or sanity. She writes at , where you can download your free marriage ebook,

5 Creative Ideas to Lower the Cost of Expensive School Trips

Expensive school trips breaking the budget? Try one of these super creative ideas!!

Guest post from Karen of :

Statistics show it currently costs a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child in North America… sometimes it feels like half of that goes towards school-related expenses!

“Mom – I need $34 for a field trip next week.”

“Can you give me money for…a new agenda…pizza day…school pictures…and a yearbook?”

And the list goes on.

Everyday items can certainly add up, but one of the largest school expenses is class trips.

A few years ago, one of our boys had an opportunity to go on a three-day school trip a few hours away… for $350! We wrestled with whether we would send him, knowing it was a big-ticket item and would set a precedent for future trips for his three younger brothers.

Ultimately, we decided to pass on this trip since our youth group offered a similar outdoor experience at a fraction of the cost.

Of course, it’s not easy to tell your middle-schooler he won’t be able to go on a school trip with their friends… but after talking with another school mom who also felt the trip was too expensive, a possible alternative emerged.

Together, we organized “Camp Left Behind” for our two grade six boys. While the rest of their class was on the school trip, we did affordable and memorable activities with our boys at home.

The boys enjoyed our ‘homemade’ camp, because they could still miss school and spend time together. They even embraced the quirkiness of our camp name.

Camp Left Behind included:

  • a full day at a gym and pool, using my friend’s guest passes
  • an afternoon of trampolining
  • lunch out at the restaurant of their choice
  • 1-on-1 basketball competitions
  • movie nights at each other’s houses
  • memories captured in many photos

Since December212012 readers are a resourceful group, I’d love to share 5 more ideas we’ve used to lower the cost of expensive school trips.

1. Discuss Openly as a Family

We follow Crystal’s suggestion to not use “We can’t afford that” as a default response to our children.

Rather, we talk about , and we encourage our kids to be part of deciding how important the trip is to them.

A few times, our boys have decided to miss one trip in favor of doing a different one later in the year. This reinforces decision-making rather than focusing on a lack of resources.

2. Be Honest

Families in our school have homes ranging from one-bedroom apartments to luxurious dwellings. What is easily affordable for one family can be prohibitive to another.

The school needs feedback from families of all budgets.

One teacher appreciated my feedback that a $700 trip could be a financial strain for many.

Ask if a reduced rate might be available or inquire if group fundraising would be an option.

3. Be Prepared for Unexpected Blessings

One time, my son explained to his teacher that he would not be able to attend the planned class trip. His teacher called me later that week to offer my son a full scholarship for the trip!!!

She said she nominated him for his quiet, consistent leadership, and explained other teachers were thrilled for him to receive the allotted funds.

Not only could he attend the trip, but he learned that character can be noticed and valued.

4. Ask Your People

Do you have any grandparents who would be able to contribute? They might just be thrilled to help their grandkids have a unique experience like a trip.

Children can learn how to write a letter explaining the details of the trip, and politely ask for any contributions.

My mother-in-law told me they chuckled when our third son asked them if they would consider “investing in him”, then proceeded to talk only about the great food he would eat in Quebec.

They teased him that they expected interest back on their investment.

5. Be Creative

Since our family has committed to only pay cash for things, we often use out-of-the-box strategies to raise funds.

We sell items we no longer use at yard sales. Our boys have mowed lawns or done weeding for neighbors. One of our children sold his Lego sets online to fund his particular adventure. Another son buys vintage items at thrift stores and sells them at a significant profit.

Our children have been proud to pay for a percentage of their school trips; viewing this as an accomplishment, and a necessary part of being part of a larger family.

While it is difficult to say ‘no’ to our children, living within our means is an important life skill to weave into our family culture.

With a little brainstorming and flexibility, it IS possible to turn apparent roadblocks into life lessons sprinkled with adventures.

You simply can’t put a price on that!

Karen Gauvreau, would squeeze her four-baby-body into a cheerleader’s uniform for you to know someone is rooting for you as a Mom – cartwheeling for your victories and offering a pep talk when you feel pummelled. If you laugh in the process, even better! When she’s not saving money on school trips, she’s writing at .

Finding Contentment in the Pit of Debt

In the pit of debt and feeling overwhelmed? Read this for encouragement!

Guest post from Ariel of :

I sat at the table and cried.

Our 1100 square foot house was practically choking me. The kitchen cabinets were falling off. The dishwasher had been broken for nearly a year. Our wooden kitchen table was “lovingly” dinged, dented, and wobbly. The children had peeled paint off the wall like a banana peel. We held our breath every time we walked around the garage because we had no idea when it might decide to fall.

Our family of six isn’t getting smaller. We’ve got four kids all under the age of ten in a three bedroom house with one working bathroom. We also homeschool, so there are books everywhere (which, isn’t a huge problem!), and have two Golden Retrievers who shed more hair than they have.

We were in a pit of debt and trying so hard to climb out.

As I sat there sobbing, I felt I’d never see that glistening homeschool room, bookshelves to the ceiling, or perfectly groomed dogs. Everything felt so mountainous.

Our debt was a hindrance in our finances and our marriage. It caused fights, discussions, tears, and holding a magnifying glass over ourselves to find traits and habits we didn’t like. It also made this mountainous climb feel impossible.

The worst was the guilt of wanting money to afford nicer things. So I cried for my guilt and I cried for my foolishness.

Some people will say that being in debt is not forever, that we can get out and change our lives. I believe this is true. But I also am a realist and know that not everything I want will actually happen.

I may never have the homeschool room I desire or gleaming shelves of books. My kitchen may never be lined with fingerprint-free gray cabinetry worthy of HGTV and a dishwasher that cleans cooked-on eggs.

Sometimes it’s disheartening not to have things that make our lives easier or look magazine-worthy or offer us a pleasing aesthetic… but we cannot let that weigh on us. The truth is, even if I eliminate all my debt, that doesn’t mean I’ll have everything I want.

The good news is, both finances and attitudes ARE changeable based on our own perception.

I don’t want to stay at that table and cry. I want to get up and change my outlook and my situation.

I don’t have a working dishwasher, but I have four kids willing to pitch in washing dishes every day.

I don’t have sturdy bookshelves, but it gives me an opportunity to be creative in how to store them.

My dogs will provide many memories for our family, despite the clumps of golden hair I find lurking in every crevice.

What’s a life at the end when you’ve got everything you’ve wanted?

What matters is stewardship of our resources: our time, finances, and relationships.

My situation doesn’t have to define my perspective; I get to choose that. And in the pit of debt, when it’s overwhelming and heavy, perspective is a life-line!

Ariel is a Mid-Western wife to Greg, and stay-at-home mom to four kiddos. She is a freelance writer, homeschooling mom, and blogs about the challenges of motherhood at . She loves books, coffee, and avocados.