Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Month: January 2014

On Curving Balls and Stretching Dollars

Sometimes, life has a way of throwing you curve balls that force you to abandon all of your plans and best intentions. Actually, life’s been throwing us an inordinate amount of those lately. The most recent involved raw sewage backing up into our bathtub, and also up through the drain under the water heater in the garage. After a couple of days of trying not to panic and praying that we wouldn’t need to call a plumber, a very helpful person on Facebook recommended Instant Power Main Line Cleaner from Home Depot. Two bottles, many pots of boiling water, and a few days later, and we’re able to shower again. Hallelujah.

All of which is why there was no post last week.

I had wanted to go over my 101 in 1001 list and talk about how that’s coming, but honestly, that feels a little overwhelming right now. I think I probably need to embark on a project that breaks the big goals down into smaller ones, but at the moment I’m too scatterbrained to figure that out.  One goal I have been working on this week, though, is creating a budget now that our income has stabilized a bit (for now). This has made me somewhat obsessive about learning how to stretch the grocery budget as far as possible. I think my husband and I both have a long way to go before we become coupon experts, but so far, these two sites are helping immensely:

1. Money Saving Mom – This blog lists weekly deals, coupons, freebies and giveaways, and has a ton of useful info for newbies (like us) to the whole couponing game. One really helpful feature is that it scouts out the best deals at various stores, like Target and Walgreens, and matches them up to coupons and rebates to help you get the ultimate savings. Pretty cool.

2. Swagbucks – I’ve been a Swagbucks user for a few years now, but I’ve always been pretty casual and passive about it, just using the search engine whenever I remembered and racking up the occasional Amazon gift card here and there. If you don’t know what this is, it’s a rewards program that randomly awards you “swagbucks” for using their Internet search engine, which you can exchange for gift cards and other prizes. You can also earn swagbucks by playing games, watching videos, taking surveys and various other activities on the site.

This week, I’ve gotten more serious — read: obsessive — about racking up those swagbucks, mainly because they also offer Target and Walmart gift cards, as well as an option to just swap your swagbucks for Paypal cash. And the awards really aren’t that hard to earn, with a little diligence. I already do a lot of searching most days while researching freelance articles. Searching alone usually gets me between 15 and 30 swagbucks a day. I’ve learned that I can significantly add to that amount pretty easily by simply installing the tool bar, going through the site’s To Do list each day (which takes less than 10 minutes), and letting the videos play on mute in another tab while I go about my business. It’s basically free money to spend at the places where we buy most of our groceries for not a lot of time and effort.

And for the sake of full disclosure, if you decide to sign up yourself using my referral link I’ll earn additonal swagbucks, not only when you sign up, but also every time you earn your own swagbucks. You’d be helping us stretch our budget as you stretch your own. That would definitely help to take the sting out of having spent the last week with our house smelling like poo.

Got any budget-friendly links or advice you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Easy 5-Ingredient Skillet Chicken Chili

Easy 5 Ingredient Chicken Chili My husband is the real cook in our family. It’s not that I can’t cook — I’m actually pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. But when it comes to enjoying it and liking to try complicated recipes and spend a lot of time in the kitchen, on a scale of Sandra Lee to Ina Garten, he’s closer to Ina’s end of the spectrum, wheras I’m a LOT closer to Sandra Lee. I usually go for relatively simple dishes that can be made in a single pot or pan and don’t involve a lot of chopping or dicing. If I can just throw together a lot of canned ingredients, so much the better.

This is that type of recipe. I was originally going for a skillet chicken taco casserole when I first started making it, but the consistency is more like chili, so I’ve taken to calling it that instead. It’s ridiculously easy and can be thrown together quickly. It’s also flexible, with a lot of room for customization (it actually can be made entirely with canned goods, which makes it an ideal recipe for your prepper pantry). It’s affordable, and best of all, it’s pretty darn delicious.  Continue reading