Tag Archives: Stay at home mom

Baby Food For Thought

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I knew I was going to make my daughter’s baby food from the very beginning.  Surprisingly, the money that I would be saving my family was not the reason why.  I decided I had to know exactly what I was feeding my daughter and how it was being prepared.  So, making it myself was the only option.  It was not until after, that I started realizing how much money I was saving.  

To put it in perspective, a typical non-organic jar of baby food will cost you around $0.50.  But, when I buy a fresh bag of baby carrots, I usually spend $1.  From my experience, I would say a bag of carrots makes, what is equivalent to, around 15 jars of baby food.  That means that the homemade baby food would cost you $0.07 a jar.  For arguments sake, if you fed your child 3 jars of baby food a day, from the age of 6 months to 1 year (182 days), that would be about 547 jars.  At $0.50 a jar, that would cost you about $274.  Or,  you could make it yourself and would be spending about $38.  That’s a huge difference.             

How:

In order to make your own baby food, you will have to make sure you have the right tools for the job.  First, you will need an appliance to blend the food.  Either a food processor, hand crank food mill, blender, or a good old-fashion fork will do the job.  I personally chose to purchase a food processor.  It was a little of an investment, but I was already been thinking about getting one and this solidified my need for it.  Then, you will need a few ice cube trays and some zip lock freezer bags.  I found these at my local dollar store.

Equipment, check!  Ok, lets get cooking.  Based on the type of food, the cooking process will be different.  Most vegetables and fruit can be softened by steaming or boiling on the stove top.  Make sure to always wash all produce thoroughly.  A Vinegar and water bath is cheap and does the trick   Squashes can be a little tricky, but all you need to do is poke holes in the skin and bake until soft.  Some foods do not require any cooking at all, like avocados and bananas.  Just simply mash and serve right away.    

After your baby food cools, blend until you get a smooth texture.  I always found it convenient to serve whatever I was making right away as my daughter’s next meal.  Then, I would store a small portion in the fridge for the next day or two.   Everything left was frozen.  The freezing process is very simple.  Spoon the food into the ice cube tray and pop in the freezer.  Once the food is frozen transfer into ziplock freezer bags.  Make sure you label the bag with the date and what food it contains.  When its time to use, re-heat cubes in the microwave and serve.  

*Once your child is able to chew, you don’t have to stop making specific meals for them.  I just started making, what I called, frozen toddler meals.  Her favorite is my homemade mac and cheese with peas or ham.  They are so convenient to have in the freezer.  I always know that my daughter has a homemade healthy alternative.  Every few weeks, I cook a few meals in bulk and freeze in meal size portions.  A lot of my meal options include three different food groups to ensure a balanced diet.  They also come in handy when traveling to visit friends or family.  I can easily grab one out of the freezer and have a homemade nutritious meal anywhere.  This process is not only saving my family lots of money, but it is also saving my daughter from eating lots of preservatives.

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EASY FIVE STEP PROCESS FOR CREATING A FAMILY BUDGET

A year ago I told my husband I wanted to quit my job and stay home to raise my daughter.  His response was, “lets do a budget”.  And that’s what we did.  Our budget helped us realize what our current financial situation looked like.  It helped us make a educated decision. We knew this was a big decision and it would significantly impact our finances.    Now, you don’t need to be in our situation to have a budget.  You just have to care about your finances.  You work so hard everyday to earn a paycheck.  Why not know were it is going?  Follow these five easy steps to save lots of $$$.

1.  HOW MUCH DO YOU MAKE?– Wether you are a one or two income household, calculate how much your total income is, AFTER taxes.  If your paycheck fluctuates a little, then use the least amount that you would ever get.

2. BACKTRACK–  Gather all your receipts, bank statements, credit card statements, and bill invoices for the last three months.  Make sure to keep each month separate.  If you do not have all of your past records, just start gathering now and work on the budget three months from now.

*** For the time consuming part.  But time is money and I promise you that the time you spend will save you money.

3.  WHERE IS YOUR MONEY GOING– Make an Excel spreadsheet or use one that you find online.  You can even be old fashion and just write on a piece of paper.  Fill it with every expense you could ever imagine having.  The more detailed you are the better it will help you. Then go through all three months and figure out how much you spent on each category.  The easy ones will be your fixed expenses, but include all your changing expenses as well.   You will probably be surprised with at least one category, if not all.

4. EVALUATE– How much did you spend on what?  What were your spending choices and habits?   Did you spend more than what you made? If the answer if yes, there is a big problem.  You are living outside your means, and are probably increasing your overall debt every month.  You need to figure out what you can live without, or cut down on.  Figuring out what is a necessity, and what is a luxury. (Future blog: How to save on common household expense)

5. GOALS– Create a goal budget and discuss your plan of action with your entire family.   You want your entire family on board.  Make sure you are budgeting an “emergency savings” contribution each paycheck.  I can’t stress how important it is for every family to have a savings account with money in it.  By having a savings account, you are able to borrow from yourself whenever you need to.  Plus, it will be interest free, and you will never be denied.

Good Luck!

Let me know how it goes!

Uncle Sam Is No Uncle Of Mine

Tax time is upon us and unfortunately we have to watch those dancing tax people for another three months.  Which brings me to my next topic, taxes and how it can save you money. 

Not everyone, but most people work for a company that takes taxes out of your paycheck.  You are responsible for telling your company how much to take out and at the end of the year you find out if you have over or under paid.  If you have paid too much you get a refund and if you underpaid you obviously owe.  Some purposefully overpay and consider this there yearly bonus.  But, that is far from the truth.  

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be a tax professional.  

A lot of people are throwing money away when it comes to the way they set up there W-4.  The W-4 is the form that determines how much Federal, State, Local, Social Security, and Medicare tax is withheld from your paycheck.

The government is happily holding this money for you in an account were they themselves are making interest on YOUR money.  The key to taxes are that you want to pay enough with every pay check where you do not owe at the end of the year and you get as little of a refund as possible.  This way you know that you were in control of your money throughout the year.  

You might be asking well how would this save me money.  Think about any debt you have where you are paying a high interest rate based on your yearly balance.  The money that you are letting the government hold could be used towards paying down these debts.  Which, would save you money on the interest.  

Say you are just making enough every paycheck to make ends meet.  This could mean the difference between being able to pay your bills or having to use credit cards to pick up the slack.  You could say, “well, I will just use my tax return to pay that credit card debt off at the end of the year”.  But, it would be too late. You could have already paid hundreds of dollars in credit card interest.  

For the people that have a hard time saving and use the government as a savings account.  You have the opportunity to save it yourself and keep the interest you earn on YOUR money.  You have worked so hard for it, why not let it work for you.  I know interest rates are not great right now but I promise it adds up.  Think if you earned $10 a year in interest.  In about fifty years when you hopefully go to retire you will have earned $500 just by making this small change.  

If you do not know how many allowances you should claim on your W-4 for 2014 you could always ask the tax professional while they are doing your 2013 taxes.  If you do your own taxes then see how much your refund is this year and make small adjustments every year until you get it right.  For example, if you get a large return this year, you could add one allowance each year until your return is under $500. 

Small ¢hanges that make big difference$.