Category Archives: Budgeting

Five Ways We Save Money


We all have a few unique or easy ways to save some cash, and let’s face it, saving money is important. The more I save, the more we will have for the future (or zombie Apocalypse preparations). 🙂

This morning while sipping my first cup of coffee, I started quickly reviewing the ways we save money. I am curious how others save cash, work their budgets, and spend the money they do have.

Below are a few ways we save each month and over the course of the year.


Water wasn’t always the case. When Jack hit 12 months, we started with juice. Big, BIG mistake! Not only is juice unhealthy, it is expensive. We would buy apple juice and water it down (YUCK). It wasn’t long after we started we realized we could save money (and his health) by switching to water. It wasn’t easy but now he drinks only two things; almond milk and water. Occasionally, we have some juice in the house, but it’s rare. Usually around birthday party time and in the summer, we have a few (healthier) juice boxes on hand.


I realize for many, hunting isn’t really an option. We are lucky that my husband grew up hunting each fall because he is able to hunt, package, and freeze enough meat (a half of a deer) for one year! Yup. It only takes a half of one deer to feed us for one year. We rarely ever buy beef (we usually trade with others – a lb of venison for a lb of beef) and we often share our deer with our friends and family. The only other meat we buy is chicken. Hunting is time and time is money, but it is worth the time and effort. It saves money and deer are a far better quality than beef bought in the grocery store.


We use cash for purchases. If we use a credit card, it gets paid off with cash we have on hand for the purchase. We do not own debit cards; therefore, we can only spend what we have.

 I Bring My Kids to the Store

Ah, kids in the grocery store. Just getting into the store is a huge task, so once I am in there with a three-year old and a seven-month old, I simply want to get what I need, and get out. I am an impulse spender by nature but my kids (and cash) keep me in check!

Make Certain Foods At Home

We make quite a few pantry staples and other foods in our own kitchen. Below are a few things we make.

  • Humus
  • Chicken Stock
  • ALL soups
  • Ghee
  • Apple and pumpkin butters
  • Apple sauce
  • Baby food (baby-led weaning) also, we are starting to fill our own pouches with homemade puree.
  • Granola

What are some unique or easy ways you save cash?


Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Menu Plan and Grocery Purchases: Week 1/18 – 1/25

*Below are some pictures of our fridge, and on the table are some items purchased on Saturday*



I had a number of responses to my post $75.00 per week grocery budget post, ( I had a few people ask me to post my weekly menu plan so they can see how it translates to $75.00 per week.



This week my purchases included the below food items:

  • 2 Almond milks – $4.98
  • Organic Apple Juice – $1.39
  • Mozzarella and Cheddar Cheeses – $3.58
  • Organic Blueberry Apple Sauce – $1.59
  • 1 Can of Black Beans – $.59
  • 2.27 lb of Bananas – $1.68
  • Organic Roma Tomatoes – $1.69
  • Organic Grape Tomatoes – $1.99
  • 3 lbs of Carrots – $.79
  • 1 lb Strawberries – $2.99
  • 3 lb Clementines – $3.99
  • Mixed Lettuce – $2.49
  • Unsalted Peanuts – $2.39
  • 1 Jar Salsa – $1.49
  • 1 Can of Coffee – $5.49
  • Whole Chicken – $4.34 (.95 per lb)
  • Rudi’s Gluten-Free Wraps – $5.99
  • Chicken Wings – $5.99 for 3 lb bag (Target – on sale)
  • Lay’s Potato Chips – $2.50 per bag (Target)
  • Sour Cream – $1.65 (Target)

Total Food Purchases This Week : $57.59

Menu Plan For This Week

Saturday 1/18/14

Breakfast: Banana, clementine, cashew butter toast on gluten-free bread.

Lunch: Leftover chicken taco mix and cut up strawberries

Dinner: No dinner cooked at home – we were without power.

Sunday 1/19/14 – Football Sunday

Breakfast: Kind granola and coconut yogurt. Jack and John had rice cereal, almond milk, and some strawberries on top.

Lunch: Banana, handful of mixed nuts, and spinach pancake

Dinner: Chicken wings, venison burger, and grilled pineapple (our friends brought the pineapple and some buffalo wings). The buns were non-gluten free buns we had leftover from Christmas. I froze them and we thawed them for the burgers. Easy! Don’t throw away those leftover bread items. They can be easily frozen. 

Monday 1/20/14 – MLK Day

Breakfast: Bacon, Cinnamon Honey Quinoa with Blueberries and Almonds, Jack also had a banana and a bowl of rice cereal with almond milk.

Lunch: John – leftover venison burger and green salad, no bun. Jack – cut up venison burger, humus and veggies. Me – Green salad with humus on top. I make my own humus. I have  a HUGE stash of chickpeas I purchased on sale at BJ’s during the summer.

Dinner: Roasted chicken, carrots, potatoes, and small salad. I have a massive supply of baby red potatoes from my parent’s garden.

Tuesday 1/21/14

Breakfast: Gluten-free breakfast sandwiches, egg and venison sausage on GF bread, fruit salad.

Lunch: Chicken salad on greens, humus and veggies.

Dinner: Rice and black beans, salad.

Wednesday 1/22/14

Breakfast: Sunshine smoothie, handful of mixed nuts.

Lunch: Chicken salad lettuce wraps.

Dinner: Chicken pot-pie.

Thursday 1/23/14

Breakfast: Rice and beans with scrambled eggs, frozen berry and kale, smoothie

Lunch: Bone broth soup, humus and veggies, fruit.

Dinner: Leftover chicken pot-pie

Friday 1/24/14

Breakfast: Hemp seed banana smoothie, mixed nuts, clementine

Lunch: Bone broth soup, humus and veggies, fruit.

Dinner: Gluten free pasta and sauce, salad

Saturday 1/25/14

Breakfast: Hemp seed pancakes, bacon or chicken sausages.

Lunch: Leftover pasta, cut-up veggies, fruit.

Dinner: Venison steaks on the grill, potato on the side, salad.

Summary of How This All Adds Up:

  • We eat simply, and try to keep things easy. I don’t plan for snacks or desserts in my menus. We don’t typically eat desserts, but have fruit, nuts, and the occasional treat on hand.
  • Whole chicken – this purchase feeds us for the entire week, from the night it is cooked, to the chicken salad, pot-pie, and bone broth.
  • Chicken wings, chips, and sour cream were bought specifically for Sunday Football
  • Lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots are for salads, wraps, and even side vegetables (carrots) to go along with main dish.
  • Clementines, peanuts, apple sauce, and cheese are all snack items for the week, along with some fruit, like the berries.
  • Beans used for beans and rice. We have tons of rice in our bulk supplies.
  • Bananas, almond milks, coffee … these are our weekly staples.
  • We currently have bacon, chicken sausages, blueberries, already in house, so I didn’t need to purchase them this week. We have a surplus of apples and a watermelon in the fridge. We have mini peppers, lemons, and a Bolthouse Farms pre-made smoothie we got for free at Target last week (I had a coupon).

This is our food plan for the week and how it correlates with the purchases above. I have extra money in my weekly food budget. I typically leave extra money for extra produce purchases during the week. We will need extra greens and cucumbers. I was unable to purchase cucumbers at Aldi on Saturday; therefore, I will hit Stop and Shop tomorrow to grab those.

Keep in mind, this is the plan that works best for us, and may not be suitable for your family. Also, my plan changes here and there. I typically move things around and sometimes change an item all together, based on what I feel like eating or making. 🙂

We keep a pretty decent overflow of certain items, like eggs, GF bread, frozen veggies and fruits, protein powders, etc. We have a chest freezer and another refrigerator in the garage. I stock up on things when they are on sale.

Again, I am not claiming we are perfect or eat perfectly. We eat as healthy as we deem appropriate and are always striving for healthier. When I worked part-time, we were able to spend roughly $120 to $130 per week on food. This allowed us to buy all organics, special meats, and more extras. We had to scale down and figure out how to make this work on a more limited budget once I stopped working. A lot of my 365 posts are healthier food choices and it is also a learning process for me. 🙂

Happy Menu Planning,

The Joyful Homemaker


My Weekly Grocery Budget: $75


I recently modified our grocery budget to match the ever rising cost of food. I have upped our budget to $75.00 per week. People continuously ask me to share how I spend such little money on healthy foods. Do I cut coupons? Where do I shop? Do I shop at 100 different stores? How do I buy bulk items?

Below is a breakdown of my system. Keep in mind, this may not work for everyone. Every family has specific needs and your grocery budget depends on certain variables like, family size, income, additional sources of food, etc.

Why We Spend So Little On Food

Let’s face it, $75 per week is NOT a lot of money for food for four people. “Americans report spending $151 on food per week on average. One in 10 Americans say they spend $300 or more per week and, at the other extreme, 8% spend less than $50.” – 2012 Gallup Poll (

My family falls into the “17% of Americans” range when it comes to how much we spend on food. We find $75.00 per week is “our magic number” based on our other monthly expenses and income. We live within our means and eating healthy, fresh foods on a limited budget requires some thinking outside of the box, but it does work

Our Strategy

General Rules:

  • We rarely eat at restaurants, and if we do it comes from gift cards, or our bi-weekly allowances (this is also our gas money – John usually eats take-out dinner at work twice per month and occasionally grabs some lunch, but it always comes out of his allowance).
  • We shop Aldi for most food items and shop other local stores for any remaining items we cannot buy there.
  • We rarely use coupons – most of our items cannot be purchased with coupons.
  • We use store savings cards, except Aldi.
  • Unused money goes into our grocery budget slush fund.
  • We make coffee at home, and ditched our Keurig!

Bulk Staple Items

  • Bulk items do not typically come from our weekly food budget.
  • We purchase bulk items when we have extra money, such as gift money, gift cards, or from our slush fund if there is a really great sale.
  • Things we buy in bulk include: rice, beans, oats, frozen veggies, frozen fruits, gluten-free bread (when on sale I stock up big time), gluten-free pastas, ALL gluten-free mixes, hemp powder, protein powders, spices, oils, Braggs, maple syrup.
  • Foods grown during the growing season are processed and stored appropriately so we can eat them throughout the year.

Items Bought Weekly

  • Eggs
  • Almond Milk
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce / greens mix
  • A whole chicken
  • Bacon
  • Yogurt (coconut or goat)
  • Apple Juice
  • Orange Juice
  • Coconut water

Items Bought Bi-Weekly & Monthly (often on sale)

  • Earth Balance
  • Butter for making Ghee
  • Ketchup
  • Mayo
  • Sugar
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Celery (lasts forever)
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Rice Chex Cereal
  • Some bought granola
  • Pre-packaged lunch meat (we buy Applegate farms in bulk at BJ’s Wholesale – they often have high discount coupons)
  • Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Fresh broccoli
  • Shredded cheeses, goat cheeses, pretty much any cheese, including my Daiya.
  • Coffee by the can
  • Powdered goat’s milk
  • Canned coconut milk
  • Canned chick peas
  • Tahini
  • Ginger syrup
  • Olive Oil (about every two months – I don’t typically buy Olive Oil in bulk)
  • Rudi’s wraps

“Splurge” or Specialty Sale Items

  • Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
  • PB2 Powder
  • Coconut milk ice cream
  • GF, DF, SF frozen donuts
  • Van’s waffles (these go on sale often)
  • Pre-made smoothies
  • A specialty humus (I almost always make my own)
  • Local cider (when in season)
  • Beer (John is starting to brew his own now that we have the space)
  • Starbuck’s Coffee
  • Pesto
  • Cookies and treats
  • Spinach pancakes
  • Sweet potato fries (my family loves Alexia)


Meat is a biggie for most families. If you are carnivorous like us, you love meat.

  • John hunts; therefore, we have a chest freezer full of organic, local deer.
  • We buy chicken (organic if possible) in bulk when on sale and freeze it.
  • Each week I buy or defrost a whole chicken for weekly meals.
  • I save chicken bones and pieces to make soup stock and bone broth.
  • We purchase organic, nitrate free bacon from Aldi. We go through roughly a pack a week.

 Putting Together A Trip

Twice a month, either pay-day or the day after, I go to the bank and withdraw cash for groceries and our allowances. I divide the cash into two. When ready to hit the store I grab my list, calculator, and weekly cash.

What To Buy

I buy our foods based on our weekly food menu. I am an impulse buyer, I always have been, so it is important for me to stick to a strict list. We also eat homemade, nutrient dense foods. This makes it easier to buy less overall. As a general rule, we eat a lot of plant and some animal protein. We don’t rely on cereal and a lot of packaged foods. We buy (mostly) real food.

So, with the above in place, here’s a look at today’s purchases at Aldi.

I spent $55.18.

  • 2 almond milks – $4.98 (Almond milk is cheapest at BJ’s – I can buy 1 gallon for about $3.89).
  • 1 dozen eggs – $1.55
  • 2 packages of organic bacon – $7.78
  • 1 bunch of bananas – $.76
  • Grapes (2lbs) – $3.98
  • Blueberries – $1.89
  • Roma Tomatoes (pack of 8) – $1.69
  • Broc. Crowns – $1.69
  • 1 grapefruit – $.39
  • Pesto Sauce – $1.49
  • 2 Goat Cheese logs – $3.98
  • Whole cashews – $3.99
  • Whole Almonds – $4.49
  • Frozen Cal. Veggies – $1.09
  • 2 lbs frozen strawberries – $3.29
  • 2 lbs frozen mango – $3.29
  • Extra Virgin, Organic Olive Oil – $2.99
  • 2 seltzer waters – $1.18
  • 1 jar of salsa – $1.69
  • 1 package organic chicken sausage – $2.99

Most of the above are ingredients for our weekly planned meals. I bought 4 lbs of organic apples on sale last week at Aldi; therefore, no apples needed this week. I am thawing out chickens since there are some older ones in the freezer, so I didn’t buy one this week. I have some extra money in my budget to buy some lettuce, kale, and other produce items at Stop and Shop.

So, there you have it. A look into our food purchasing system. The above feeds three people, and assists in feeding a fourth :). It is not always easy, but it is doable. With the right menu planning it is easy to eat healthfully on the cheap.

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

5 Ways To Save At Christmas

christmas savings

‘Tis the season to be jolly, right? Well, for some people, ’tis the season to go broke, drive up the credit card debt, and have to dip into savings. Here are ten ways to save yourself from plundering into financial unknown at the most wonderful time of the year.

1.  Downsize

Many years ago, our family decided the adult children would stop buying gifts for each other. We have a large family and it was becoming financially difficult for most of us to keep buying. We adopted the motto, “Christmas gifts are for the kids.” We buy for the children and our parents. This allowed us to focus on the kiddos, food, and holiday spirit.

2. Mindset Change

This one is tough for many, but Christmas is not about buying gifts and breaking the bank. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, celebration of family, friends, neighbors, and giving love, joy, and a small token gift like the wise men gave at the birth of Jesus.

Our media and culture has taken Christmas and turned it into, “cash in their pockets,” with no mention of Jesus, Love, Joy, or Family. They simply want you to break the bank, spend that Christmas bonus, and buy the “hottest new toys, electronics, expensive clothing, gift wrap, and all that goes with it.”

It is time to break the cycle! Look at consumerism as the anti-Christmas. Think of frugality, homemade gifts, and time spent with family and loved ones as Christmas.

3. Shop Smart (and early!!)

I always joke, Christmas shopping for me starts on January 1st! It is true. The stores are clearing out merchandise at a super fast (and cheap) rate right after the holiday. Throughout the year, toy stores and big chains run huge clearances on items. Here is my method for gift clearance shopping throughout the year.

  • Right after Christmas – stock up on tissue paper, wrapping paper, ribbon, Christmas ornaments, and any other holiday items needed.
  • Right after Christmas – head to the toy store and grab some clearance items for next year, for birthdays, and some general gifts to put in our gift bin. This is a great time to stock up on stocking stuffers for the next year.
  • Each month – stash away some cash in an envelope for Christmas and birthdays. When I know a store is running a clearance sale, I dip into the fund.
  • Christmas in July – July seems to be the month for moving in new toys and items in preparation for the upcoming holiday season (they begin early) so many stores have large clearance sales in July. I was able to buy pricey, name brand toys for $4 and under at Toys R Us this summer!
  • Cyber Monday – for the past few years, I have gotten some amazing deals on Amazon and other websites. This is especially good for big items. Last year my husband bought me a Kindle Fire on Amazon at a big discount. I typically buy my husband three or four Xbox games at around 60% or more.
  • Avoid Black Friday like the Black Plague! Many people LOVE the game that is Black Friday, if you do; go for it! I find it too stressful and the sales are not there.

4. Start a Tradition

Make a change and suggest to your family a new tradition, such as everyone receives a handmade gift, start a caroling group, meet up at the local food pantry and give your time, or throw a Christmas potluck gathering. That options are endless. This year we all decided our children receive too many gifts. We are going to set up a simple name drawing system for our children. They will each pick the name of a cousin and buy a very special gift. Our hopes is to downsize the amount of gifts they receive, teach them to give, and maybe give them a lesson on spending. 🙂

5. Relax

This one is important. Stress causes us to react and a knee-jerk reaction while in a store full of grumpy people at Christmas time, can cost a lot of money. Try to avoid shopping when the stress meter is high. If the holidays are causing you a lot of stress and a lack of joy, simply take a break and find where the stress is coming from. Once determined, address the issue.

It is my hope some of the above suggestions save you some hard-earned cash at Christmas time. It is most important to enjoy the holiday season without the worry of debt and draining the bank account.

What are some of your saving methods at Christmas?

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

Dress Your Kids For Less! Six Tips For Saving!

Back to school and the change from summer to fall and eventually to winter can only mean one thing; buying clothing for the kiddo(s)! This happens to be one of my favorite areas of homemaking. I enjoy organizing, grouping, and putting together outfits. I adore those knit sweaters, corduroy pants, and striped polo tops.

While this is the case for me, it may not be for many parents. I am sure many worry about the cost of clothing, shoes, mittens, hats, and coats. Well, here are my top tips on dressing the kiddo(s) on the CHEAP!


As always, this is the first and most critical step to ensuring you curb excessive and unneeded spending. Have a set budget for each child and a detailed list of what they need. If your child needs turtleneck tops and jeans, stick to finding those items. Don’t forget to add important items such as, Halloween costumes, holiday clothing, shoes, mittens, hats, hair accessories, and any special occasion items into your budget.


I will preface this by saying, not everyone has gobs of hand-me-downs flowing their way; however, one need not look very far for hand-me-down clothing. Post a swap notice at church or on a community Facebook site. You could simply ask to swap needed hand-me-downs for an afternoon of yard work or other helpful task. Many sites like Free Cycle and Craigslist are great for finding needed items, like hand-me-downs, for free. Many people want to get rid of unwanted items and will either toss them or donate them. By doing a little groundwork, hand-me-downs are easy to obtain. I am beyond blessed to have mountains of hand-me-downs passed along from my family and friends. I have also put want ads on Craigslist and have found great items through Free Cycle.


There are a few important differences between thrift shops and consignment shops. Thrift shops take donated items and sell them for profit or charity. These stores are often cluttered and will eat up the most time because clothing is often not organized by size. Consignment shops take hand picked items directly from their consignors and sell them at a 50/50 or 60/40 split with the consignor. Consignment items are often slightly higher in cost and may be of better quality in some cases. Both may have a ticket sale system and consignments shops usually have a deep clearance rack. Shopping at thrift and consignment shops will undoubtedly save you major cash as long as you stay focused.

dino sweater



Yard sales are a great way to save on clothing. You will need cash and time to hop from sale to sale and to check each item for quality and size.


Most stores begin their summer to winter seasonal clothing transition at the the end of July and keep pushing the discounts out the door until the end of August. Target and Kohls are my two favorite stores for clearance shopping at the end of the season. It is important to note, the items in the seasonal discount are more than likely for the current season (if you are shopping in July and August, clearance items will be summer items). At the end of last winter, I picked up a few 4T, long-sleeved tops at Target for $2.00 a piece. Jack was wearing 3T at the time and I knew I could stash them for this fall / winter. Sure enough, they fit perfect.

target tops


This one is questionable; however, for a seasoned sale shopper, outlet stores can offer rewarding finds. Outlets often have deep discounts especially during their transitional season. Outlet shops also offer coupons and bulk discounts throughout the year. Outlet shops are a great way to pick up coats and shoes for a huge discount. Just remember to be stay away from tempting stores!


The word “splurge” is enough to send a smart shopper into a panic. Splurge means to spend money on something far out of one’s budget. A savvy splurge is two things; a needed sale item and an item bought with remaining budgeted money. If you have purchased every item of clothing needed for your child and have extra cash left over, you can do two things; save it for the next needed clothing purchase or a savvy splurge. For example; last year after organizing all of our hand-me-downs and purchasing any additional needed items, I had some money left over. I decided to go for the savvy splurge and buy Jack’s Christmas sweater for the following year. I purchased a (brand new with tags) $58, Heartstrings Christmas sweater on EBAY for $14.00. A splurge would have been to purchase a sweater outright for $58.00. It would have broke the bank and been a foolish purchase. No kid needs a $58 sweater! My splurge was a savvy splurge for two reasons; the sweater was a needed item and in my budgeted clothing money. I do not need to buy a Christmas sweater this year and a have extra money in this year’s clothing allotment in the holiday category!

xmas sweater

Hopefully, my 6 savings tips for purchasing kid’s clothing is helpful. How do you save money on kid’s clothes? What are some of your favorite places for bargins? I would love to hear your ideas!

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker

How to Spend $50 Per Week on Groceries


I recently began on a quest to spend no more than $50 per week on groceries. Up until recently we have spent no more than $100 per week but with me transitioning to a full-time SAHM in the next month, our finances need a bit of tweaking. I decided it might be beneficial to cut back on our groceries. It seems like a steep task for many but I seem to have it down to a science. SO how exactly does one stick to $50 per week for a family of three with another on the way? I have outlined below my step-by-step process.

1. BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET! If you don’t have a budget at this point, it is critical to start one. Budgeting is the only way to truly track where every cent goes. I am going to do a series on budgeting next. Budgeting is not hard!

2. Evaluate your money situation. When shopping with $50 per week, toss the plastic; cash is where it is at. Very few have the budgeting resources and will power to use a debit card at the store. This is painful for many and is the point where most “give up” on budgeting. The truth is, cards simply do not work for this process (for most people).

3. Pick your starting day of the week and meal plan. (here is a great set of templates if you need one This step is not only important but necessary if you want to stick to $50 a week. It is beneficial to plan out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks (also desserts if you wish) for each day. This ensures you only buy the necessary ingredients for each recipe and meal. You do not have to buy sale items to make $50 a week work; however, for items like meat, it is a good idea to buy what is on sale.

4. Compile a list of the items and how many of each you will need at the store.

5. Cross ingredients. When planning a meal plan, I find it is easier to put together a few recipes in a week that share ingredients.

6. Head to the store(s)!! Things you will need:

  • $50 in cash – leave the debit card or credit card at home – plastic makes it too easier to go over budget.
  • Bring $5 to $10 extra on your first trip to start your “bulk fund.” Only use when you spot a great deal on a pantry item or other essential. By putting leftover cash from your $50 surplus into your bulk fund, your fund will grow!
  • Your list of items and something to write with.
  • Coupons if you have any.
  • Calculator or use a smart phone with an app to track your spending – don’t leave home without this one! I went over by $10 on a trip because I forgot my calculator.
  • Reusable grocery bags for stores like Aldi.

7. While at the store if you find you have gone over your $50, evaluate why. We all go over at times but if possible, reduce what is in your cart, there is probably something in there you do not need.

8. HAVE FUN! Being frugal and thrifty is not the dredges but a task that can save you literally hundreds and maybe even thousands over the course of the year.

Happy Homemaking,

The Joyful Homemaker