March 29

Spring Clean Your Finances

Five things you can do right now to improve your family finances!

I was just reading up on a few of Dave Ramsey’s posts on his website when I found this great article. I love Dave’s no nonsense approach to getting control of your money, and these tips are so easy, you can do them today!

1. Review all your insurance policies.

Dave makes a great point about reviewing all your insurance policies–home, life, and auto–in order to see if your circumstances have changed and to see whether policy changes could save you money.

2. Cut the grocery spending.

Rather than using coupons to save on shopping, Dave advises his readers to try cutting the monthly food budget by $10, and moving that money to another area of your budget. You could use this to pay off extra debt, or simply put it into a savings account. You won’t have to sacrifice much, and the money could be put to much better use in another part of your budget.

3. Review your cell phone plan.

This one is definitely worth doing, because most of us never use every feature of our plan that we pay for. Data usage is on particular area where people often overpay, so check your usage and see if you could save money by lowering your data limit.

4. Combine two items into one.

I really like this tip…it is especially useful for people like me who tend to break their budget down into waaaay too many categories. He suggests combining budget items to save money. You could combine things like ‘eating out’ and ‘entertainment’ to save more money every month.

5. Take a look at the kids’ extracurricular activities.

Again, this one hits home with me. It can get very expensive trying to keep three kids happy and entertained with their hobbies and after school activities, not to mention overwhelming for the kids if their schedules get too out of hand. Pick one favorite activity, and find the least expensive way to do it, and everyone wins!

What tips do you have for tweaking your budget this spring?

August 26

Cheap Comfort Foods: Chicken and Dumplings

chicken and dumplings
These are not my chicken and dumplings…it’s from Flickr…who the heck puts carrots in chicken and dumplings anyway? Still, it’s sort of like mine.

Hi there!

I woke up this morning to a cool, hazy morning and couldn’t wait to get the kids to school so I could get some work done! We went to the Greenville Zoo yesterday and had a great time, but I’m glad for a quiet house today!

With Fall on the way, I love to break out some of my favorite comfort food recipes. My grandmother, Nanny Jean, makes the best chicken and dumplings, ever! I learned from her, and while I don’t think mine are quite as good as hers, my kids always ask for seconds, sometimes even thirds!

I love chicken and dumplings because you really don’t have to be precise. Just throw all the bits in and use canned biscuits…quick and yummy! Oh, yeah, and CHEAP if you make it the way I do! Chicken leg quarters, drumsticks, thighs and other cuts of chicken are almost always on sale at my local grocery store. I can get them for a dollar a pound, sometimes less, and they freeze up beautifully, so I stock up when I can. Here’s how to make warm and comforting chicken and dumplings the easy, inexpensive way.

Ingredients:

2-3 pounds of chicken pieces (I used three leg quarters here)

2-cans biscuits-ten-biscuit-per-can-sized (store brand saves you $$$!)

2 tbs. butter

Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

1. Boil the chicken and butter in a pan with a lid until it is cooked thoroughly. Remove chicken, but keep the liquid as your base for the dish.

2. Remove chicken from the bone once it has cooled down enough to handle it. Drop it back into the liquid and add your seasonings of choice. (No measuring…just taste it and use your imagination. If you like garlic, add garlic. If you like chili powder, you might be from Texas. 🙂  )

3. Bring the liquid to a boil.

4. THE FUN PART. Open your canned biscuits and tear each biscuit into 2-3 pieces. Drop each piece into the boiling liquid and let it boil for 2-3 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the dumplings look like little pillows and not like raw dough.

Okay…here’s a disclaimer. I don’t know what the calorie/nutritional content is on this dish, but it’s comfort food, so the calories don’t count, right? This is an easy dish, it feeds four of us with leftovers and doesn’t require a lot of attention, which is perfect for me since I have Attention Deficit…hey, is that a piece of chocolate over there…?

Anyway, I hope you like this recipe. I plan on sharing a few more cheap things you can do with chicken, and some of them are actually edible. Stay tuned….

Share your favorite cheap comfort foods below!

August 11

Back to School Lunches That Won't Break the Bank

My kids are like night and day when it comes to school lunches. My son wants cafeteria food…it probably has something to do with all the ‘extras’ the school offers, like soft pretzels and pizza by the slice. My elementary school child would rather take a lunch box filled with PB&J sandwiches every day.

At just over $2 per day, the standard school lunch isn’t too expensive, but it adds up fast, especially when you add on the ‘extras’. Lunch boxes save money, but they can be boring or worse…uncool! I scoured the web for some money-saving ideas for school lunches that won’t come back uneaten.

Elementary School
Little kids need something easy and quick to eat, since they often only get about 25 or 30 minutes for lunch. Sandwiches are usually a good choice since you can change up the fillings. Try using fun cookie cutters to make shapes…my kids love this! It’s easy and quick, too. Pack fruit that is precut and washed; apple slices are easier than a whole apple for little hands and mouths, and pre-cut oranges make for easier eating.

Get veggies in with carrot sticks and other dippable veggies. Include a small container of ranch dressing or yogurt dip to make eating more fun.

Top tip: Freeze or partially freeze a small bottle of water or juice pack to place in the lunch box to keep food cold all day. It will thaw and be ready to drink by lunchtime!

Older Kids

Nobody in middle school or high school wants to be caught dead with an uncool lunch, so appearances are everything when it comes to packing a lunch for an older child. In place of boring sandwiches try whole wheat wraps filled with chicken salad or ham and cheese. My son prefers crusty rolls or hoagie buns from the bakery for his sandwiches. Pretzels and fruit with a pot of yogurt round it out, and flavored water or juice keeps their thirst quenched.

Top tip: Flavored water can be expensive and full of sugar that’s of great for kids. Try adding a splash of fruit juice to plain bottled water and add a tiny bit of Stevia if they want it sweeter!

Every Age

If you want a fun, cool lunch at any age, go Bento, baby! Bento is a Japanese style of packing all of the food in one container. It’s all about presentation and packaging, though the style leans toward simplicity.

For som great Bento suggestions, check out Lunch in a Box. This site has some easy and fun Bento lunch ideas that anyone can implement.
Some of my favorite Bento must-have items are from Amazon and are a cheap, cheerful way to create a great lunch box. Check out these:

Get creative and have fun, but don’t forget to get your kids involved in the decision-making process when choosing the foods!

How do you feed your family during the school year? Please leave comments and share your tips here!

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