August 29

Doing Good Things: 12 Year-old Steps Up to Help Mom Battle Cancer

You always hope that you’ve raised your kids right, with a willingness to work hard and help others, and one Missouri mother has realized that she has indeed done something very right while bringing up her son. Twelve-year-old Devon Melton has stepped up big time to help his family find the money to pay off mounting debts after his mom, Christina Craig, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The full story can be found here: http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/395098/3/12-year-old-son-raising-money-for-struggling-family

” The bills are starting to add up and she and her husband are worried about their finances. Christina’s son, Devon, overheard a private phone conversation about the troubles and decided to do something.

“I can give up a couple of my things and go in and put the hard work in and she takes care of me, so I thought I should take care of her for once,” Devon Melton, Christina’s oldest, said.

Even though he’s only 12-years-old, Devon took control. He started walking the neighborhood asking for things he could sell in a garage sale. It was a surprise to Christina.

“I see my son come down on this skateboard and he’s got a trash bag and the trash bag is full of stuff and I thought he went dumpster diving,” Christina said. ”

I can’t begin to imagine what a strong bond this family must have! What a resourceful and thoughtful young man Devon is…I hope the people in his community are proud of him and inspired to follow his lead!

The article goes on to explain where Devon has learned such generous behaviors:

“The word has spread through Facebook and now Christina is getting notes left at her door, piles of stuff for the garage sale left at her house and 60 plus emails from people wanting to help.

She has already had the lump removed from her breast and is deciding what route to take for treatment, but in the meantime she’s doing her part, just like her son.

“I actually draw strength from her, to see and know what she’s going through and just the strength that she have,” said Maya Rivers, who volunteers with Christina at the King of Kings food pantry every week.

“If I can do something, I am going to,” Christina said.”

It’s inspiring to see someone battling cancer who still feels compelled to give back to her community. If we all felt this way, the world would probably be a nicer place!

“Mom always told me do good things and good things will come back to you,” Devon said.”

I think Devon says it perfectly: do good things and good things will come back to you.

I hope you have a wonderful Thursday…don’t forget to do good things!

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 15

Christmas is Coming

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My youngest daughter looks pretty freaked out about Christmas in this photo, and I usually feel the same way about the holiday once the excitement of the back to school rush settles down. By Halloween I’m practically hyperventilating about all the gifts I have to buy, food I have to cook and visits to family that I should, but probably won’t, get around to making.

Sound familiar?

Dave Ramsey (oh, God, I love that man!) always says that it shouldn’t come as any surprise to us that we will need to budget for Christmas. It’s not an unexpected emergency, and it always happens at the same time every year. But, still, many of us freak out and do some crazy silly things during the holidays.

My personal bad habit is twofold; I overspend and don’t budget enough for gifts. Or, rather, I set an amount that looks reasonable on paper but once I get into the stores my husband and I can’t seem to accommodate all our gifts on the suddenly miniscule budget.

This year, I’m ahead of the game. Hopefully. I figured that if I put aside $25 each week, starting this week, I’ll have nearly $500 by Christmas. That will definitely help cover the cost of all those gifts and goodies during the holiday season!

Consider this: If you can only manage $10 each week, starting from today, you’ll have $190 put away for the holidays. That’s like, two McDonalds breakfasts a week, or a couple of ‘good’ coffees. You can probably even shave ten bucks off your grocery expenses each week and slide that money over into a red and green envelope for some real holiday fun! Better yet, keep it up all year long for an almost effortless $520 bucks for next year.

See if your bank offers a Christmas club account that holds your savings, possibly pays a little interest, and mails you a check sometime in October or November. Set up an automatic transfer of ten bucks, or whatever you can afford, each week from your checking to the Christmas account, and lose a whole lot of stress in the process!

Excuse me while I go pat myself on the back for being ahead of the game, LOL! I think I’ll indulge in a little early Christmas shopping. If you want, feel free to join me over at My British Christmas !

Got any tips for saving for Christmas? Please share…we love it when you do!

August 13

How To Save Money On Back To School Clothing

Quick! Have you kitted your kids out in the latest and greatest trends for their return to school in a few weeks time? No? Well, good for you! You may have just saved yourself some money and hassle.

According this article on DailyFinance.com, people jump to buy too quickly and may miss out on deeper savings.

“In the summer, you’ll find plenty of back-to-school apparel sales, but beware of kid-branded promotions in August. According to DealNews.com, Old Navy had a 20-percent-off back-to-school sale in early August 2010. Just 10 days later, however, the company had a sitewide sale, offering 30 percent off the same items. So, you see, a few days can make all the difference.

If you can hold out until September, you’ll find the best discounts during Labor Day sales. In 2012, DealNews also reported that back-to-school supplies, “including apparel and dorm goods,” were priced at their last and lowest markdowns of the season.”

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/08/06/save-on-back-to-school-clothes-savings-experiment/

It’s true that a lot of parents get caught up in the hype of back to school shopping, but just waiting a few weeks can save you a lot of money.

Can’t wait because you need school uniforms or your kids have just grown too much over the summer? Buy online for the next best discounts. Plus most online retailers offer incentives such as free shipping or future discounts for shopping online, and most offer no worry returns via mail or their local stores.

Another benefit of shopping online is the fact that you can please even the pickiest fashionistas without fighting the crowds, a win for everyone!

Checkout the Amazon School Uniform shop for some great savings on uniform essentials, or check out their other more unusual offerings, such as this adorable school-themed outfit:

So, slow down, save some money and take some of the stress out of back to school shopping!

How do you save on school clothes for your kids?

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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August 7

Save Money on Back to School Items

Green Apple on BooksIt’s that time of year (thank goodness!) when summer starts to wind down and our thoughts turn to going back to school. Whether you are sending your kindergartener off for the first time, or packing one off to go to college, here are some helpful money-saving tips to keep more cash in your pocket!
Tax free savings
Some states still have a tax free weekend during which you don’t pay sales tax on certain products, such as school supplies, computers and clothing. This is really useful for larger purchases if there are no value limits imposed, but be careful not to overspend just because it’s tax free. Our weekend in SC has just passed, but there are still some tax free weekends coming up in other states for 2013, so check to see if your state has one.
School supplies
Do you have a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco, or any other ‘superstore’ that offers discount prices for bulk purchases? Why not pair up with one or more other parents and buy school supplies in bulk and split the cost. You can see the most savings on things like tissues, hand sanitizers and office supplies (think dry erase markers and paper) by doing this.
For things like crayons and pencils, keep your eye on the local ads. Stores like Walmart and Target often offer school supplies at ridiculously low prices just before school starts, but stock up while you can. Often the items are hard to find later in the school year, and they are always more expensive. Buy more than you need, then keep extras in a plastic storage box with a lid so you can easily see what you have when you need it.
Computers
Missed the tax free weekend but really need a new computer? Don’t just go to Best Buy or any old electronics store without doing your homework first. If a computer is required by your child’s school or college, find out the minimum requirements and start from there. Do your homework and compare prices among at least three stores before you even consider going in to look at one.
Display models can often be a lot cheaper—by as much as a few hundred dollars—if you don’t mind one that has been ‘used’. Another fantastic way to get a lower price on a great computer is to see if the store sells refurbished ones with a warrantee. Apple stores do this, and they guarantee the used computers for one year from the date of purchase. This is a great way to get an otherwise unaffordable computer fairly cheaply.
Classifieds
Ebay, Craigslist and other local online classifieds can be a great way to pick up used scientific calculators and textbooks, but beware that you are getting goods that aren’t damaged. It’s a good idea to try the item out before handing over any cash, or you could be wasting your money.

Another great place to get books and supplies is Amazon. Many of the items sold there are already pretty cheap, like this cute pink calculator, and you can always read through the reviews to see if the item seems to be a good one.

What tips do you have for saving on back to school costs? We’d love to hear them!