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What I Learned From the July Pantry Challenge

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I just finished my month long pantry challenge!!  If you’re not aware of the term, a pantry challenge is meant to encourage you to use up items you already have in your home, (pantry, fridge, freezer, shelves, etc.), instead of spending money at the store on groceries.

My goal was to save a little extra money during the month by spending less on groceries.  To do this I decided to cut my regular grocery budget of $400 a month in half.  This would mean I could only spend $200 for our family of five.  This was no easy task and I was incredibly intimidated from the beginning, but I was determined to make it work.

The pantry challenge is now officially over (thank goodness) and I am proud of how the challenge went.  I would LOVE to say that I was able to only spend $200 on groceries….but I didn’t quite accomplish that.  I went over budget by $1.98.  I spent $201.98 on groceries for our family of five….and you know what I am so PROUD of MYSELF!!!

I wanted to share all about how I was able to make it work and what I learned during the process.

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Make a Plan

The ONLY way I could be successful with this pantry challenge was to plan ahead. I’ve always been a meal planner, but I learned quickly I needed to be much more detailed about planning every snack and meal.

At the beginning of each week I looked through my pantry, made an inventory of all our food.  I wrote down the meals and snacks we could make with what we ALREADY had in the house.

I was able to eat out of the pantry exclusively about 50% of the time.  The other 50% of the meals I tried to only plan really frugal meals with only a few cheap ingredients I would need to buy.  This meal planner that I use is available as a Free Printable in my Free Frugal Living Challenge.

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Successful Meal Plans

I listed out a few of the meals and snacks I found to be the most helpful in keeping the grocery costs low.  A few of these recipes (starred) are also available for free in my Frugal Living Challenge.

Breakfasts

*Fluffy Eggs

Pancakes

Eggs and Toast

Oatmeal

*Breakfast Potato Casserole

*Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Lunch

Muffin Tin Lunch

Sandwiches

Salad from Garden

Leftovers

Dinner

*Freezer Burritos

Layered Zuchinni

Spaghetti

*Taco Soup

*Balsamic Chicken

Pasta Bake

*Taco Tortilla Soup

Grilled Chicken

*Korean Beef

*Baked Island Chicken

Snacks

Pretzels

Homemade Cookies

Energy Bites

Popcorn

Canned Fruit

Bananas

Homemade Pudding

Homemade Bread

Grocery Shopping

I am a little obsessed with grocery shopping using Walmart Grocery Pickup (hello, shopping in my PJs and groceries loaded in the car FOR ME!  Sign me up!).

With my $200 monthly grocery budget, I was only allowed $50 a week.  One of my favorite things about Walmart Grocery Pickup is the ability to watch my cart total while I’m shopping.  (I know I COULD use a calculator at the store, but I’m just not great at it….) Being able to see how much I’m spending WHILE I’m shopping was crucial for me during this challenge.

If my cart ever went over the $50 amount I knew I needed to go back through the cart and delete a few items.  This was MUCH harder to do than I had anticipated!  My family all had to sacrifice a few items we were use to having regularly in order to make the month work.

Getting the Family Involved

I would LOVE to tell you that my family was totally on board and excited about my little July Pantry Challenge Experiment……but, they didn’t really love the idea.  When they saw the amount of food I was bringing home with each grocery trip they started complaining about the lack of food.

I tried to get my kids excited about the goal and had them help me make a lot of our homemade snacks.  They liked being able to help and were somewhat excited at the thought of having a challenge.

Unfortunately, this only lasted a couple of weeks.  As the month went on they began to get a really tired of the challenge.  The biggest problem was the snacks.  They are use to having snacks in the pantry, and we just couldn’t have those this month.  I decided to make a list of snacks we did have available and I hung it on the fridge.  This helped them a lot!  I think they had gotten so use to those convenience snacks (not awesome parenting, I know) that they had forgotten about all the other great options we had.

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Even though my family didn’t necessarily ENJOY the pantry challenge, I am really glad they were able to go through it with me.  It was such a good life lesson for my kids to learn about stretching dollars and how much food really costs.

What I learned

My biggest takeaway from the July Pantry Challenge is that I CAN live on less than I usually do. Yes, it took A LOT more effort, (preparing a lot more food from scratch and a lot of time planning), but I CAN do it!  We survived.

Moving forward I have a new sense of motivation to stay in budget, shop my pantry, and really spend with a purpose.  I’ve always told myself the lie that I HAVE to spend money on this food because we NEED it……but, we don’t!  We were just fine having less food around.  I am excited to take this new knowledge and adjust my grocery shopping from here on out.

What’s Next

My pantry challenge is over!  Does this mean I get to spend a lot of money next month restocking my shelves?????  Absolutely NOT!

I will be going back to my regular grocery budget of $400 a month.  I will slowly try to restock my pantry, but I will always stay within that $400 budget.

I honestly was terrified for this challenge!  I really didn’t know if I would be able to meet my goal, $400 a month is usually a little bit of a challenge.  But I did it, and I’m so glad I was willing to try!  If you are wanting to find a way to save a little extra cash, try having your own personal Pantry Challenge.  Be sure to come back and let me know if you did it and how it went!!

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Finances · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge · Good Ideas · Money Educatioin · Money Helps · Side Hustle

10 Items In Your House You Can Sell Quickly To Make Money

Did you see my post 5 Places Online To Sell Your Clutter and Earn Cash?  I am a HUGE fan of selling ALLLL of my house hold clutter (because let’s be honest, there’s a lot of clutter) and making some quick and easy money.  I make the goal to sell a few items every month.  It’s not a huge money maker for me, but it gives me a little extra spending money!

I’ve had a few people comment to me that they just have “nothing to sell.”  I truly believe EVERYONE can find SOMETHING (probably even a few things) to sell.  The more desperate you are to earn some money the more likely you’ll find something.

Today I am sharing a few household items that will usually sell quickly.  I am hoping these ideas will inspire a few people and help you brainstorm what YOU have in YOUR house to sell.

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10 Household Items You Can Sell Easily

1.  Children’s Clothes

Children’s clothes are ALWAYS a hot item to sell online.  Clothes will need to be in good condition (no stains or rips) in order to have a good chance of selling.  Brand names (think Gymboree, Gap, etc.) will sell best.

2.  Furniture

Used furniture is a GREAT sell.  There is always someone wanting to buy.  The great thing about selling furniture is that it doesn’t matter if the furniture is older or newer, you will most likely be able to sell it.  There is a different market for all types of furniture.  The older items will usually be bought by someone looking for a DIY project and the newer by someone looking for a good deal.

3.  Electronics

Do you have an old phone or ipad laying around?  Or maybe a computer that doesn’t work anymore?  Electronics is a popular item to buy/sell used.  Phones are so expensive to buy new which makes for a lot of people jumping on the opportunity to buy a cheaper used phone.  Try selling your non working electronics as well!  There are a lot of people out there who will buy something that doesn’t work so they can use the parts out of it.

4.  Baby Items

Baby items are some of my FAVORITE things to sell.  High chairs, strollers, bumbo seats, cribs, bouncers, etc.  These are all hot items to buy used.  Use a magic eraser and washcloth to clean them up for an easier sell.

5.  Kids Toys

If your kids are anything like mine, you probably have toys laying around that never get used.  Clean those toys up and sell them!  Popular items include plastic play toys (such as play kitchens and slides), barbies, hot wheels tracks, etc.

6.  Tools

Do you have a garage full of tools like I do?  Look through all those tools (or ask your husband to do this) and find a few that haven’t been used in months (or maybe years???).  We have been able to sell MOST of the tools we have tried, but not all.

7.  Decorations

Search your house and try to find a few household decorations you could part with.  Maybe your style has changed or you just want to scale back a little bit on the decor.  Either way, there is always someone looking to update their home and will love getting a good deal on used decor!

8.  Clothing

Look through your closet (or your husbands closet) and find a few items that haven’t been worn for weeks.  Sell them!  If you’re not wearing something regularly, there’s no reason to save it in your closet.  I’ve sold shirts, pants, shoes, etc. If the price is right, it will most likely sell.  Be sure to get out all stains before trying to sell any clothing.

9.  Holiday Decorations

I have WAY to many boxes of holiday decorations.  I have found that all I really need are a few favorite pieces and the rest of the holiday decorations are just not necessary.  List these items for sale about 3-5 weeks before the actual holiday.  This will increase your chances of being able to make a sale.

10.  Outdoor/Yard Items

Do you have a swing set that rarely gets used? Maybe a hose that just seems to sit around.  I have always been successful in selling outdoor items.  Things like bikes, slides, lawn mowers, sports equipment, etc. all sell really well.  Look through all of your yard/outdoor items and if you find anything that seems to take up more space than necessary, sell it!  Try doing this during the late spring months when everyone is anxious to get outside.

 

What did I miss?  What are some of the items you sell that are always bought quickly? Share below in the comments so we have even more ideas!

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5 Places Online To Sell Your Clutter and Earn Cash

I am a member of online affiliate programs.  I may receive compensation for purchases made through links on this post.

I try to sell a few things online every month.  I don’t make a lot of money doing this, but I do make a little bit, and I am a firm believer that EVERY little cent matters.  I’m sure if I spent more time doing it I could easily make even more money.

I’m convinced EVERYONE can find at least a few items to sell.  Clean out your closets, look under the bed, search through your garage.  Try to find something that hasn’t been used in years (or even months?).  There is no use in hoarding something if it’s not getting much use.

I love clearing and the clutter AND getting to make a little extra cash on the side.  Being able to do it ALL online makes it EVEN better (hello, not leaving your house and getting to stay in PJs!)!!!

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Here are a few of my favorite places to sell online:

Sell on Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is my very VERY favorite place to sell.  If I price my items right, they will sell immediately!  I love to post large items on Facebook Marketplace; such as furniture, baby items, lawn care, etc.  I have the most success with these.

Sell on ThredUP

Thredup is where I sell a lot of my clothes and my kids clothes.  All you do is request a free bag to be sent to you, fill it full of clothes, and send it back.  Thredup will do all the sorting, picture taking, selling and shipping your items for you.  I really like selling with them because it requires VERY little effort on my part.  I have found that they are a little picky about what they accept (which is really nice as a buyer).  But, if you have clothes in good condition that you want to get rid of anyway, send them to thredup!  You can sign up through this link for a free $10 credit to shop.  It’s a great way to get a feel of the website before you start selling.

Sell on Poshmark

Poshmark is very similar to thredup.  It’s a great place to sell and buy used clothing.  I have found they aren’t quite as picky as thredup, making it easier to sell through them.  I am still a little new to poshmark and learning the tricks, but so far I have been very pleased.  Poshmark will give you a $5 shopping credit if you use my code sweetfrugallife when you sign up.

Sell on Ebay

I have had quite a bit of success selling on ebay.  I don’t sell with them as much as I use to (thredup and poshmark are just MUCH less work), but they are a great resource.  I’ve sold clothes and little trinkets and electronics stuff on ebay.  Sometimes it takes a little adjusting with the price to find the right fit, but more often than not I have been able to make a sell.  If you want to have a little more control over how your items are sold and for what price, ebay is a really good option for you.

Sell on Amazon

I have never personally tried selling anything on Amazon , but I do know others who have.  The fees are a little more than ebay’s fees, but EVERYONE shops amazon now, so I’m betting it is a really great market.  You will need to set up a free business account to start selling, but it is fairly straightforward from there.

Remember NOT to give up if an item doesn’t sell immediately.  Usually that means you will need to make some changes; such as adjust the price, take different pictures or try a new selling website. Try a few different changes BEFORE giving up.  Different websites tap into different markets.  Be patient with it.  Selling items online is a learning process.  The more you do it however, the easier it becomes.

Where have you had success selling household items?  Share in the comments your favorite place to sell!

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Show Me the Money: 4 Ways to Earn CASHBACK on Purchases

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Who likes free money???  I LOVE free money!  And I’m betting you like free money too!

This post is all about how to earn cashback, just by shopping like you regularly shop!!

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Cashback with Discover Card

My FAVORITE way to earn cashback is by shopping with my Discover Card.  I talked in detail about why I love my Discover Card in my post The one idea I disagree with Dave Ramsey on.  In short, when I shop with my Discover Card I automatically earn cashback on all purchases.  They give you 1% cashback on EVERYTHING and 5% on different categories that are rotated monthly.  (Currently, I am receiving 5% on groceries).  You don’t have to do anything, just use your card and your cashback will grow.  I earn around $500 cashback with Discover a YEAR, and all I do is shop like normal!

Cashback with Ibotta

I love shopping with ibotta.  This is the very first app I check after completing my grocery shopping.  All you have to do is shop, check the app for rebates, scan your receipt, and the money is instantly put in your ibotta account.  Easy.  Peasy.  They have a wide selection of rebates, common items are milk, apples, pantry items, broccoli, beauty and household.  I can almost always find at LEAST one or two items to receive a rebate for.     If you don’t currently have an ibotta account you can get a FREE $10 just for signing up for one through my link.  (FREE money people!)  Once you have $20 in your account you can redeem your money as cash or a gift card.  I have earned over $100 by using ibotta!

Cashback with Checkout 51

Checkout 51 is very similar to ibotta.  It works as a rebate program.  You shop, scan your receipt and qualified purchases and you will get the rebated money instantly in your account.  Once you reach $20 in your account you can request your money, same as ibotta.  It only takes a few minutes to check for rebates and one minute to scan your receipt.  I have made over $50 cashback using Checkout 51!

Cashback with Ebates

It is so easy to earn cashback with Ebates.  If you like to shop online, you need to shop through the Ebates app.  If you shop through the ebates link you will earn cashback for every purchase.  They have a large variety of stores available to earn money with.  Everything from Kohls, Ebay, Zulily, Justice, Aerie, Lowes, Gap, Ulta, and so so many more.  Before I make ANY online purchase, I always check Ebates first to see if they offer cashback for that store.  All you do is click on the store link in the app, you will be taken to the store website, you do your shopping, and instantly earn money back.  SO SO easy!

 

If you are going to be shopping ANYWAYS, you might as well be earning a little cashback along the way, right???  RIGHT!

A quick word of caution however.  It can become easy to want to buy a product JUST because you see you can get a rebate for it through ibotta or Checkout 51.  Be careful to NOT to fall into this temptation.

I have found the best way for me is to do my shopping FIRST and then check the rebate apps to see if I bought anything eligible for a rebate.  (Except for with Ebates, you must check Ebates FIRST!)  This has helped me immensely to not buy things I really didn’t need in the first place.

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What cashback secret did I miss???  How do you like to earn cashback?  Share your successes in the comments!  I would love to hear all about them.

 

 

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15 Baby Items You Do NOT Need On Your Baby Gift Registry

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I have had 3 kids, my youngest is now 5.  I’ve spent the past couple of years sorting through baby supplies.  It’s taken me years because I have struggled with closing that baby chapter in my life.  I love the memories that come flooding back to me as I look through my boxes of baby items.

I have sold most of the items, gave away a few things, and saved a couple of special items to help remember my sweet babes.  As I’ve sorted and cleaned I’ve realized that so many of the items I thought were necessary, actually weren’t!

There are many articles out there telling you what to add to your baby registry, and a lot of them have some good advice…but I think so many of the things we THINK we need….we actually could do without!

I have come up with a list of 15 items you do NOT need to add to your baby registry.  I also added some alternative, more frugal options to consider.

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15 Baby Items You Really Don’t Need to Buy and their Frugal Alternative

1. Car seat cover

I really wanted a beautiful car seat cover with a fun design.  It’s all I saw while at the grocery store.  So, I bought one.  It was cute and trendy and looked good on the car seat.  And then…2 months later I took it off and it stayed in the closet for the next few years until I gave it away.

Frugal Option: A great alternative is just to put one of the many baby blankets over the handle.  Blankets are something you always have on hand and are just the right size to cover the car seat with.

2. Baby food maker

Baby food makers look pretty and claim to offer convenience and ease to all your baby food making.  While that might be true, it is not a necessary item.  You CAN make baby food without it.

Frugal Option: Baby food is very easy to prepare just by using a pot and a blender.  It only took me an hour or two to make large batches of baby food and I did it without a baby food maker.

3. Baby Shoes

Let’s face it, little tiny baby shoes are adorable!  So many colors and styles…and oh so itty bitty!  However, as darling as those little shoes are, babies don’t really need to wear shoes until they are walking.

Frugal Option:  Baby socks are necessary for those sweet little toes.  Instead of buying shoes, buy some cheaper socks.  Find some that have a cute style.  I love these socks that look like shoes.

4.  Baby nail clippers

I will agree that baby nail clippers were useful for trimming up those tiny baby nails.  However, when I threw mine away I realized I really could have done without them.

Frugal Option: Most people already own a pair of nail clippers.  These would work just as good for babies as they do for adults, you’ll just want to be extra careful not to clip any of that sensitive skin.

5.  Hooded Towels and Baby Washcloths

I was really excited to buy cute hooded towels and small baby washcloths for my babies.  But, I have come to learn they just aren’t necessary.

Frugal Option: Use a towel you already have at home!  They will work just as good and your little one will never even know the difference!

6.  Nursing Cover

If you are planning on nursing you probably will want something to help you cover up while in public, I know I did!  You really don’t need to buy a special cover for that though.

Frugal Option::  I found that a large light weight blanket worked just as good as a nursing cover, and I always had it in my diaper bag anyways.  One less thing to pack!

7.  Bathtub  

A baby bathtub was an item I thought was so important to buy when I had my first baby.  In hindsight, it was handy for a few months, but then the babies just grew out of it in a few short months and the tub was stuck sitting in my basement.

Frugal Option:  If I were to do it all again I would purchase this Bath Sponge instead of a fancy tub.  It is much cheaper at only $6.39 and it won’t take up as much space.  This would be a much more frugal option.

8.  Nursing Pillow

This is another one of those items that I thought I just HAD to have.  I ended up not using my boppy pillow as much as I thought I would have and I have since decided it really wasn’t worth the money.

Frugal Option: I found that I preferred nursing with a couple of small pillows under my arms instead of the nursing pillow.  I was able to smash them in a way that felt most comfortable and I didn’t have to worry about the bulky nursing pillow.

9. Changing Table

Changing tables are so pretty in all the magazine nursery pictures.  But, once your baby grows out of it, they really aren’t super functional.  Changing tables usually don’t have a lot of drawers or great organization.  I found I needed to buy a dresser later on to help supplement with space.

Frugal Option: Instead of buying a changing table AND later a dresser, how about just buying a dresser.  Try to find a short dresser so that it will be the perfect height to changing your baby on.

10.  Changing Pad

While we are discussing changing stations, let’s discuss the changing pad.  You’ll find all sorts of different changing pad shapes and sizes and all the darling patterns for a cover to go with it.  These are cute and fun to buy, but really not necessary.

Frugal Option:  A couple of soft towels (that you already own) folded up and placed on the baby dresser will work JUST as good for a changing pad.  They are easy to throw in the laundry and clean, and they are free (big win!)!

11.  Diaper Pail

You will find a diaper pail on almost every baby registry idea list.  I do believe they can be convenient and very useful.  But, they can also be really expensive, especially when you have to buy the pricey refills (which you will need to do….A LOT).

Frugal Option:  We had a cheap trash can next to the changing table (I should’ve chose a dresser!).  With all the late night diaper changes with newborns, it was very nice to have somewhere to put alllll those diapers.  I would change the bag daily and fortunately newborns messy diapers usually don’t smell bad!  After about 4-6 weeks, once baby starts sleeping a little longer at night, I just started taking the messy diapers out to the dumpster outside.  It only took a few minutes and felt good to get a little fresh air.

12.  Diaper Organizer

I’ve seen these fancy diaper organizers around for a long time.  They look really cute in a nursery and I can see the appeal for them.  I don’t however think they are must have.

Frugal Option:  How about use one of those top drawers of the dresser (aka changing table).  They will be within arms reach during diaper changes, and it didn’t cost you anything extra!  It’s also so nice to have them concealed away.

13.  Wipe Warmer

Baby wipes are cold and you might feel a little guilty wiping the baby with a cold wipe.  The problem is that you won’t always have a wipe warmer with you, so it would be good for the little one to get use to the cold wipe right from the beginning.

Frugal Option:  I unfortunately have no frugal alternative for a wipe warmer.  I’ve found that babies really do get use to a cold wet wipe.  So, just use them as is and save yourself some extra cash.

14.  Sound Machine

My babies slept much, MUCH better with a little white noise next to them.  You do NOT need a sound machine though to accomplish this.

Frugal Option:  You can download white noise apps for free on your phone or ipad and place them in babies room while they are sleeping.  Or, we just used a small cheap fan.  We placed it next to their bed and pointing it away from.  Our babies slept great this way!

15.  Bottle Drying Rack

I’ll start with a disclaimer…..I actually never fed my babies a single bottle….so you can take my advice on this one with a grain of salt.  I have seen the bottle drying racks in ads and have always assumed that even though they look super fun and handy, they just aren’t very frugal.

Frugal Option:  How about just placing your bottles upside down on a dish cloth and let them air dry.  A dish cloth should work just as well as a drying rack, but wouldn’t cost you a thing!

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What baby item did YOU buy that you wish you hadn’t????  Let me know in the comments all your Frugal Baby Alternatives!

 

Finances · for free · Frugal Life · Frugal Living Challenge

14 Day Frugal Living Challenge

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I have been working so hard on my 14 Day Frugal Living Challenge.  I wanted to create something that would encourage, inspire and help others to live a more frugal lifestyle.

I have put together 14 e-mails (one a day), each with a different frugal living topic.  Each e-mail includes tips and tricks from me and a daily challenge, all related to the topic.  There are links to other articles, free printable worksheets, and 15 of my favorite simple and frugal recipes.

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I am really excited for this project!  I hope others will find it useful, helpful and encouraging as they try to save money and live beneath their minds.  If you are interested in signing up you can do so at this page; Frugal Living Challenge Sign Up.

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Let me know if you sign up!  I would love to follow along as you participate in the challenge!