Trusting Jesus & Counting Pennies

The real reason I’m able to be a stay at home mom? The Lord! God worked everything out and is still working everything out. My husband and I took a huge step of faith when we had our daughter.

Just a few weeks before our daughter was born, my husband entered into a new position at his job, but on paper, it looked as though I’d still need to return to work. I had always longed to be a stay at home mom, but came to peace about working part time when I was pregnant. Then I had my baby girl and that peace was shaken quite a bit. I couldn’t imagine leaving her, and longed to invest all my time and energy into taking care of our home through cleaning and cooking, nurturing my baby girl, loving on her, and (most importantly,) prayerfully raising her up to know and love Jesus as her Savior. My husband felt the same.

We began to pray and seek God. Then we sat down and looked at everything financially, and realized that we could do it – but we wouldn’t have much wiggle room. No room for any big surprises in life (in other words no major car or home repairs etc.). We continued to pray for the Lord to reveal what His will for us was. He spoke to us clearly, that we were to take this step of faith and trust in Him.

Since that day, we’ve had our heat break, our washer break, had issues with plumbing, had to replace big appliances, etc. God provided for every single need. We were able to buy a home closer to my husband’s job, save on gas, save on utilities, etc. By trusting in the Lord, even though we couldn’t see what all was in store for the future, God made a way for us to cut down the cost of living and provide over and above our basic needs.

If you’re hesitant to take a step of faith in this area (or in another area), seek the Lord with your spouse. If your desire is one that is godly, sometimes you may be called to take a step of faith. It may not always be a smooth road, but God will provide and make a way.

“Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase;” -Proverbs 3:9

God instructs us to be wise with our money, so we are careful to budget out every penny, and try to save in every area that we can.  I decided to share some basic ways we have been able to cut down the cost of living, and since I love finding new ways to save money – please share your tips in the comments!

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Money-Saving Tips:

-Try using utilities less in general. Open up the blinds instead of turning all the lights on. Hang your clothes up to dry. Open up your windows in the summer, and dress warmer in the winter (but don’t roast or freeze yourself!). Take shorter showers. Join a cheaper phone company (I’m with Republic Wireless and pay $22 a month!).

-Cloth diapers! This has been a huge money saver for us. And I love it! It’s not complicated at all (don’t be intimidated). I also love that I’m putting a natural cloth against my daughter’s skin instead of chemical filled diapers (yes, even the companies that are all natural, free of dyes etc., and are organic are still filled with junk).

-Speaking of cloth, try to use cloth whenever possible instead of paper towels or napkins. Use cloth rags and cloth napkins.

-Cook/Bake from scratch. This really is a huge money-saver and not nearly as tough as it may appear. This includes making baby food from scratch – definitely way cheaper.

-Coupon. I’m not able to find incredible deals too often on organic products, but am still able to save a nice chunk of money through coupons. Check out this post.

-Start a garden and freeze or can extra produce for the winter. For a cheaper start-up, start your own compost, and save egg shells to start your seeds.

-Take a hobby or craft that you love and turn it into an Etsy shop. That’s how I started Garden Light Candles.

-Phone apps. I love to use these apps: Raise, Ibotta, Checkout51, ReceiptHog, and Swagbucks.

-Save on health insurance by joining a medical sharing program such as Christian Healthcare Ministries. Message me if you have any questions about this amazing ministry, at hillsideblessings@gmail.com (If you sign up, please let them know you heard about their ministry from member #165214)

-If you homeschool or if you’re looking to homeschool in the future, check out my friend’s blog post over at The Woolly Homestead.

-Celebrate your birthday with freebies! Check out this list of birthday freebies.

-Buy kids clothes from yard sales. My daughter wears like-new clothes and they are all either hand-me-downs or from yard sales. I spent probably $30 and was able to get enough clothes in the next size she’ll be in just from going to a few yard sales.

-Simplify your home. There are so many items that we really don’t need. I started selling items on my local Facebook mom swap, and was able to earn some extra cash, and enjoy having a less cluttered home.

-See if you can clean someone’s home, or a church for a little extra money. I have two cleaning jobs, and each of them take just under two hours, and are only once a month (and I can bring my daughter along).

-Look for free activities to do with your kids. My local library has a baby class that I go to once a week, as well as a ton of free summer activities to get involved with. In the summer, look for free concerts at local parks.

-Start making homemade gifts to save money on birthdays and holidays. Check out my post on homemade gift ideas.

-Follow money saving blogs by downloading the app, Bloglovin’. After downloading the app, follow blogs such as, The Krazy Coupon Lady, The Penny Hoarder, Passionate Penny Pincher, Hip2Save, Money Saving Mom, Passion for Savings, The Savvy Bump, Thrifty Littles, Thrifty Nifty Mommy, and The Greenbacks Gal.

-Make your household and body products. Try making some homemade cleaners, laundry detergent (I use this recipe with a bar of castile soap), lotion bars, etc.

-If you’re looking to go out to a restaurant or other fun outing, look for local deals, coupons, etc. first. We almost always refuse to eat out or do an activity without a coupon. Also, consider splitting a meal with your spouse. Here’s an example: go to Texas Roadhouse and get free rolls (you could even ask for extra), use a free appetizer coupon (they send these frequently if you sign up for their e-mail or text list, but they can only be used when dining in), and split the Texas Size Combo of BBQ Roasted Half Chicken with Pulled Pork. All for only $13.99!

I hope these money saving tips help you out. I’d love to find new money-saving tips, so comment away! 🙂

The Food We’ve Been Given

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
 -Genesis 1:29

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At the end of every month, I make a menu plan for the next month. I used to always plan our meals around what my husband and I desired to eat, instead of planning our meals around the foods that are in season. There was a time years ago, when we wouldn’t have had access to the variety of foods and produce that we have access to today during each season. But just because we have access to certain produce all year long, doesn’t mean it’s cheap or fresh! I’m sure you’ve noticed, when certain produce isn’t in season, the price at the market goes up and the quality of that fruit or vegetable goes down. So why not eat foods that are actually in season, fresh, and local (and save a chunk of money)!

I highly recommend the book, ‘Simply in Season.’ This is the book that changed the way I began cooking and menu planning. We now enjoy meals that are rich with fresh, in-season produce. We’ve also started saving a lot of money on our monthly groceries!

So what produce can you get each season? The following list is by no means complete. And there are some foods that can be found locally in more than just one season. This list is to just give you a general idea of the different varieties of produce that you can cook with in each season.

Spring:

  • Green Onions
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • New potatoes
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Wild Greens

Summer:

  • Asparagus
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans
  • Melon
  • Peaches
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Summer Squash
  • Tomatoes

Fall:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Collards
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes
  • Kale
  • Pears
  • Pumpkin
  • Swiss Chard
  • Winter Squash

Winter:

  • Apples (able to be kept in cold storage)
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Winter Squash (butternut, acorn, etc.)

You might be wondering what kind of meals you can make with the produce that’s available in the winter. Here’s an example of what one week of our meals looks like:

Sunday: Roast a chicken with potatoes and carrots (make bone broth overnight).

Monday: Chicken soup (use leftover chicken and homemade bone broth from Sunday) with potatoes, leeks, and carrots. (I had enough to freeze for another meal!) Serve with homemade bread and homemade applesauce.

Tuesday: Sweet potato quesadillas (Filling: sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and seasonings. Sometimes I’ll add chicken if we still have some leftover from Sunday.)

Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner (Apple spice oat waffles with bacon and eggs)

Thursday: Bean potato soup (with homemade bone broth from Sunday). Serve with roasted veggies (Whatever we have extra of… sweet potato, carrot, squash, etc.)

Friday: Leftover Bean potato soup (and I still had enough to freeze for another meal!)

Saturday: Butternut squash shepherd’s pie. Serve with applesauce.

I hope that gives you an idea of how cooking in the winter can be delicious and easy. Especially when you double recipes for the freezer. I do freeze some produce in the summer (canning is another great way to preserve summer produce), so we can still make a meal that calls for bell peppers, green beans, etc., without paying a high price for those foods.

We are learning to be grateful for the foods God has placed before us in each season. It’s also fun to have seasonal favorites with certain meals. Then they become even more of a treat!

Do you cook your meals based off of the produce that’s in season? What are some of your favorite winter meals?

Homemade Yogurt

We go through quite a lot of yogurt in our house. We use yogurt as a substitute for sour cream, dips, and dressings. We love eating it with granola or fruit or mixing it into our smoothies!

Thankfully yogurt has a lot of health benefits. Yogurt is full of probiotics, which are ‘good bacteria.’ Our bodies need this good bacteria to keep our digestive systems healthy.

Good quality, organic yogurt from pastured cows can get quite expensive. We were paying around $7 per quart. If you go through yogurt as fast as we do, it can get pricey. Thankfully, I’ve learned to make our own and only spend about $2 per quart. That’s a big savings! Homemade yogurt is delicious and easy to make – and a lot of fun too!

The supplies you will need:

  • Pot for heating the milk
  • 1 quart mason jar (But I recommend making more than 1 quart at a time!)
  • 1/4 cup of yogurt from pastured cows (MUST have live cultures!) per quart
  • Thermometer
  • Raw milk or whole milk
  • Whisk
  • Cooler

Making yogurt is so simple. First you measure out the amount you want to make. Today I just made a quart from the leftover milk we had. So I measured out my 4 cups of milk and poured it into the pot.

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Next you’ll turn the heat on medium-high and whisk the milk constantly, until the temperature reaches 175 degrees F°.

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Let the temperature cool until it reaches 110 degrees F°. At this time you’ll add the proper amount of yogurt (again make sure the yogurt you use has live cultures in it). Very gently whisk the yogurt into the milk.

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Pour into your jar/jars.

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Last, fill a cooler with hot water from your sink (I turn mine as hot as it will get and have found that this is the perfect temperature for keeping the yogurt at 110 degrees F°. Close your cooler and let sit for 8-10 hours until it has thickened into yogurt! The longer you let it sit, the thicker it will become.

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Place the yogurt in the refrigerator. And you now you have some delicious, homemade yogurt! Once you try out this recipe and see how easy this is, you’ll probably want to double or even triple this recipe the next time around! 🙂

Homemade Yogurt:

4 cups of raw milk or whole milk

1/4 cup of yogurt (must have live cultures in it)

Heat milk in a pot over medium-high heat to 175 degrees F°. Whisk milk constantly. Once it reaches 175 degrees F°, turn heat source off. Once the milk has cooled down to 110 degrees, add 1/4 cup of yogurt. Gently whisk this into the milk. Pour into a 1 quart mason jar. Fill a small cooler up with hot tap water (temperature should be around 110 degrees) and place the jar in the cooler. Seal the cooler and let sit for 8-10 hours. The longer you let it sit, the thicker your yogurt will be. Immediately refrigerate the yogurt once it’s thickened.

Then enjoy a delicious bowl of homemade yogurt!

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5 Tips For Eating Organic On A Budget

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I used to think it was impossible to eat organic without having to increase our budgeted amount for groceries. And when I first ventured down the road to a natural lifestyle, our grocery bill did increase. But along the way of that journey, I’ve found a couple of different methods for getting our grocery bill almost right back to where it was before. If you want to switch to an organic and wholesome diet without having to change your monthly grocery budget, these tips might be helpful to you!

1.) Coupon

It took me a while to learn that you actually can coupon for organic products. It is definitely more challenging, but it is possible. I save anywhere from $5-$15 a week on coupons. The key to using coupons with organic foods, is to be flexible to change what products you buy, based on what coupons are available. But be sure not to buy a product that you don’t really need just because you have a coupon, or you’ll end up spending more in the end. I don’t get my coupons from a newspaper, I print them off from online. Here are my favorite places to print coupons from:

Mambo Sprouts

Common Kindness

This site always posts great deals on organic products:

The Green Backs Gal

In addition to those sites, I check websites of specific brands we buy for coupons as well. Some sites you have to subscribe to in order to get coupons, so I’ve made a separate e-mail address just for coupons. It takes a little more time to look up individual coupons, but the savings is worth the few extra minutes!

2.) Have a Plan

I know if I didn’t meal plan each week/month, we’d quickly lose track of our grocery money! There are plenty of nutritious and delicious meals that can be made at a low cost. We try to do at least one, if not two, meatless dinners a week to help save money, since quality meat is more expensive. Rice and beans doesn’t have to be boring (we’ve found lots of yummy ways to make them)! Veggie quesedilllas and black bean quinoa burgers are just a few of our favorite meatless meals. We also try to do fish once a week, ground beef once or twice a week, and chicken usually two or three times a week. Other favorite meals get added in to the mix as well, such as a pot roast or breakfast for dinner. I also try for at least one or two of our meals per week to be crock-pot meals (which I try to have them pre-made in freezer bags) for those extra busy days.

3.) A Little Extra Time in the Kitchen

I absolutely love being in the kitchen and cooking from scratch. But if spending hours in the kitchen isn’t your thing (and I rarely have hours to spend in the kitchen!), there are still so many things you can save money on by making homemade, without spending countless hours in your kitchen. I pre-make a lot of things in a big quantity, and then freeze most of it. Once you start getting a stash built in your freezer, you’ll spend a lot less time in the kitchen. When I make bread, I make extra and then wrap it up in and tuck it away in the freezer.

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A few other things I make ahead and freeze are, cookie dough, muffins, granola bars, homemade chicken nuggets (a healthy and quick alternative to store bought), applesauce and breakfast wraps to name a few. And by making things yourself instead of pre-made, you’re saving money and knowing exactly what ingredients you’re putting into your body!

You’d be surprised at how many store bought items you can make in a matter of minutes. I make ranch dressing with yogurt for salads and dips, and it takes all but 5 minutes to whip together the 6 ingredients!

4.) Consider Buying in Bulk and Shopping Online

Buying in bulk is an initial up front cost, but it is so worth it! We save a nice chunk of money through doing so. Look into a membership at a place like BJs or Costco, or compare prices online. I shop at BJs and order from both Amazon and Vitacost. I’ve recently heard of another source called Azure Standard (I haven’t placed an order yet, but their prices seem very reasonable). Online ordering is so nice because it’s pretty easy to order enough for free shipping, and then you save on gas money as well. Plus it’s so nice getting grocery’s delivered right to your front door!

5.) Buy Local (and store up for the winter!)

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Produce is obviously the cheapest in the summer time, and it’s usually the cheapest when bought straight from a local farmer. Find a farmer nearby who grows organic produce and stock up! Buy double of certain items to freeze or can for the long winter months when produce is expensive and not fresh or local. Having a full pantry or freezer will help save money when winter rolls around! Check out this site to find farms in your area:

Local Harvest

I hope these tips can help you save money on healthy food, so that you can stretch your dollar even further. I’d love to hear how you save money on organic food!

 

How to Stop Wasting Food

Over the last three years of being married, I’ve slowly learned one “skill” that has helped us save a lot of money on food. That “skill” is to not waste or throw away any food. When we first got married, I’d forget about certain foods we had, especially fresh produce. I’d end up discovering something rotten or moldy and have to pitch it. I hated doing this, and felt guilty each time I’d throw something away, knowing there are people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Over the past three years, I’ve grown and learned as a homemaker, and have become more and more involved in our kitchen. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and baking, and since getting married, my passion for being in the kitchen has only increased!

If you find yourself throwing away food all the time, this article is for you. I have a few tips on how I’ve managed to change my ways and stop wasting food.

First, always have a menu plan. You’ll spend less money in doing so, and only buy ingredients that you actually need for specific meals.

Of course, you’ll want keep fresh produce on hand, like fruits and veggies and salad, so keep tabs on anything “extra” that you buy that’s not needed for a specific meal. If you have trouble remembering what you bought, keep a tiny list somewhere on your fridge.

If you have leftovers from a meal, and no one eats them the next day for lunch or dinner, immediately pop the leftovers into a container and into the freezer. It will be so nice to pull out on a day where you’re really busy or feel too exhausted to make anything (I always make too much soup, and actually just put some in our freezer today – enough for another meal!).

Anytime you have something that’s not getting eaten up, immediately look up a recipe for it, or pack it up and put it in your freezer for another time. We seem to struggle with the same foods, so I’ll give some examples of what I do to prevent food from going bad and having to be thrown out.

One item we always have trouble with is bananas.

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We either eat them up really quick, or end up leaving them sit forever on our counter. As soon as they get extremely ripe, whatever we have leftover, I make into banana muffins.

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Last night I made a double batch and then froze the two dozen muffins, and now we’ve got an easy snack for the rest of the next few weeks. There’s really a lot of produce that can be turned into muffins or bread. Zucchini, carrots, berries, apples, pumpkins etc.

When we first got married, we always purchased store-bought bread (now I make our bread) and we always seemed to be throwing out bread. One loaf took awhile for two people to get through before going bad. So I started keeping it in the freezer and only getting it out as needed. Now that I make our bread, I make it in round bowls (I make peasant bread which is about the easiest bread recipe you’ll find!), and often have end pieces that we don’t eat. I stash those away in our freezer. Once I have a lot of end pieces, I take them out and make a delicious french toast casserole. You could do this with end pieces from any bread, if you find no one in your house likes those end pieces. You could also make breadcrumbs, croutons, or bread pudding.

Another food item often found left over, is beans.

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I often soak more beans than needed (it can be so deceiving since they increase in size after soaking), and while we try to incorporate them into meals to save money, beans aren’t exactly a favorite here. So I’ve learned to use up leftover beans in numerous ways. Leftover kidney beans get made into chili, leftover navy (or other white beans) into a chicken soup or chili, and black beans into black bean burgers or black bean soup. I make our yummy black bean burgers by mixing the beans with cooked quinoa, some spices, and an egg, and then form them into patties to freeze.

The real key to not wasting food is to be creative, and freeze, freeze, freeze! If you need inspiration, I’m sure a quick search on the internet will guide you to a great recipe for whatever item you want to save before going bad. This will give you the skill of turning anything into a meal or snack and ultimately save you lots of money on groceries!