Frugal Ideas {Welcome Home Wednesday}

Frugal Ideas {Welcome Home Wednesday Homemaking Link Up on Raising Arrows}

Last week on the Welcome Home Wednesday Link Up, I ran across some really great frugal ideas that I wanted to share with all of you.

First up is a series from SewMona on extending the life of your kids’ clothing.  She shared how to transform long sleeves into short sleeves and how to revamp kids pajamas.  I actually just threw away a pair jammies with holes in the knees.  OOPS!  Should have listened to SewMona!

frugal pantry

From Aspired Living comes a REAL frugal pantry solution.  I love this!  She gives suggestions for using the things you already have rather than buying all sorts of cutesy containers and such.  We’ve been doing this a lot in our new home.  I don’t have a lot of drawers in my kitchen, so I have created “drawers” by putting things in open boxes that I can slide in and out of cabinets.  Works great and is oh so frugal!

Laura from At Home in the Wilburness shared how she keeps baby socks on her little girl’s feet. Really cute idea – and really cute baby!

The most clicked post from last week was from Sweet Country Roots on birth control.

Now, it’s your turn!  Link up as many as 3 posts from your blog and enjoy the other links left here!  {If reading via email, please click over to see the links and leave yours!}

Welcome Home Wednesdays
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Christian Healthcare Ministries as an Alternative to Traditional Insurance

Christian Healthcare Ministries

Referral # 112373

A few years ago I wrote briefly about Christian Healthcare Ministries and how much we appreciated all they had done for us during Emily’s illness and subsequent death.

Today, I want to tell you a little more about how this Christian Cost-Share ministry works.  Please note, this information is specific to Christian Healthcare Ministries.  I have no experience with any other cost-share program.  We have been with CHM since 2006.  They have seen us through major medical bills and the death of our daughter, 4 live births (including a c-section) and 2 miscarriages, as well as ER visits, blood tests, and a heart echo.  While I do not claim to be an expert, I do feel like I can speak to how we personally handle using this kind of program.  Any specific questions you have will need to be asked of the helpful people at Christian Healthcare Ministries

CHMLogo600x131

 Referral # 112373

No matter how many people are in your family, you never pay for more than 3 UNITS of coverage.  Each unit has a specific level – bronze, silver, gold.  You can mix and match these.  I am on gold because I am still of child-bearing age and we birth in a hospital.  Everyone else is on silver.  We pay $320 a month for coverage for all 9 of us.  (There is catastrophic coverage available through a program called Brother’s Keeper.)

Every month we pay in to an account that is then divided up amongst the needs of others in the program.  We have the opportunity to pray for others and give more than our allotted amount.

When we have medical bills of our own, here is how we handle them:

1.  We tell the hospital/doctor that we are self-pay.   Christian Healthcare Ministries is NOT insurance.  We are the ones responsible for our bills.  You do not want to tell hospitals/doctors that this is insurance because it cannot be filed as such.

2.  You try to work to reduce your bills.  We ask for discounts for being self-pay (many offices have significant discounts available).  If we can get a significant discount for paying some up front, we will do that.  CHM will also work with you to get your payment quickly if you need to make a lump sum payment to get a large discount.  Any discount you get goes toward your “personal responsibility”.  More often than not, you reach this amount without ever paying a cent.

One thing to remember here is that medical markup is HUGE.  Sometimes hospitals mark up services/supplies as much as 700%!  You are NOT asking for anything that the insurance companies are not already receiving.  You CAN negotiate as an individual!

3.  Set up payments if need be.  Some offices will put your bill on hold knowing you will be paying within a few months, but others will need to have a payment plan in place.  We always ask to pay the least amount possible just to keep everyone happy until the shared amount comes from CHM, and then we pay the entire bill off.

4.  Keep a file for each incident with careful records.  I have an envelope for each medical incident we incur.  I label them and then put every bill, notification, etc in that envelope.  I’ll explain more about how we notate these bills here in a moment…

5.  Submit bills to CHM for sharing.  For every incident, you will need to fill out some general information for CHM to start processing bills.  Those papers can be found here.  As soon as you have an itemized billing from the incident, you should make a copy and submit it for sharing.  You DO NOT have to wait until you have every bill from the incident in hand before submitting the incident.  As you receive bills, simply send them in as Add-Ons.

6.  Make notes and file.  Every bill that comes, I make notes on.  I write Submit to CHM if I am needing to copy and send.  Once a bill is sent, I put a checkmark beside that notation and mark the date sent.  I write any payment plans on the bill, I make note of the names of people I’ve spoken with about the bill and the date I spoke with them.  I also note any discounts received.

7.  When payment is received, pay off bills as needed.  Checks from CHM are made out to you.  If you have already paid the bill in full, then you simply pay yourself back.  If you have an outstanding bill, you deposit the check and pay off the bill from your own account.  Keep track as you go with your file of bills.

When we first joined Christian Healthcare Ministries 7 years ago, payment took about 7 months.  There are so many people with CHM now that payment is most often received within 3 months!

We tell everyone about CHM because it has been such a great way to handle medical costs without paying into a system that encourages sickness and immoral decisions.  This type of program may not be for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, I’d encourage you to get a Free Information Packet.  And if you choose to go with Christian Healthcare Ministries, I’d be grateful if you would use our referral number

112373

If someone we refer joins CHM, after 3 months, we receive a free month!

And in case you were curious, CHM does qualify as an eligible option under the Affordable Care Act.  I really do hope you will take a serious look at cost-shares as a way to handle your healthcare if you find yourself wanting or needing something besides traditional insurance.

Using Affiliate Links to Supplement the Household Income {WHW}

Using Affiliate Links to Supplement the Household Income | RaisingArrows.net

You may have noticed that I have been putting a disclosure in my posts about affiliate links and such.  I’ve always had a disclosure on my sidebar and in the past year, I’ve had the words “affiliate link” in a box when you hover over the links that contain affiliate links, but the FTC has changed their guidelines for bloggers and so I figured now was a great time to explain that change and talk to you about why affiliate links can be a great thing for bloggers.

So, you might be wondering WHY this post is my post for Welcome Home Wednesday.  It is because as homemakers, we often look to the Proverbs 31 woman and wonder what our purple cloth, fields, and merchant ships look like in this day and age.  For some this comes in the form of selling eggs and milk from their farm animals.  For others, it looks like couponing.  For me, it is blogging.

Now, as you can probably tell, my blog is not meant to be a big money-making project.  There are blogs out there that are for the sole purpose of making money for the blogger (I was actually surprised when I heard about this for the first time a few years ago!).  My blog’s primary purpose is to encourage and minister to other women, but I also have the opportunity to use affiliate links of resources I believe in and resources I think could benefit my readers to bring in a bit of supplemental income for our family.

I have to be honest about the new FTC guidelines and say that I really don’t like them, not because I don’t like being upfront and honest about making commissions, but because I really hate how they look in a post.  It interrupts the flow of the post and is a terrible eyesore.  But, I suppose that is because I’m more of a writer than a blogger.  I like how words look and how paragraphs flow, and being required to stick a disclaimer in the middle of it all pains me.  But I will follow the rules, and I hope you, as my readers, are able to look past it.

So, perhaps you have a blog and you would like to know how to use it to bring in a bit of income.  Affiliate links are a great way to do this!  Here’s why…

*You use products every day in your home, homeschool and life!

*Many of those products have affiliate programs!

*You are already passionate about the products you use, why not share with others and make a bit of income from any sales you generate for the company?!

Let me tell you a little bit about some of the affiliate programs I use (and yes, this post contains affiliate links!):

See the Light | RaisingArrows.net

See the Light is an art program I was introduced to a couple of years ago.  We had tried several art programs and I just wasn’t impressed by any of them because they weren’t very user friendly or useful.  See the Light was different and I wanted to share that difference with my readers.  See the Light has an affiliate program and they love having bloggers use that affiliate program because it helps them to advertise and market their products to an audience they could not reach with a brick and mortar storefront.

I want to interject something here…

Homeschool companies need bloggers.  They need our help because it is very hard to reach the homeschooling market.  I am honored to be able to help these companies!

I also love to help other bloggers by promoting their ebooks.  If I hear about an ebook I think would be a good fit for my readers and for our family as well, I look for an affiliate program for that ebook. (like yesterday’s post)

You’ve probably seen my passionate promoting of Sheri Graham’s 12 Week Holiday Planner.

12 Week Holiday PlannerI purchased this ebook after listening in on a webinar with the authors years ago.  I have used it ever since and look forward every year to pulling it out and planning the holidays.  I love it and love the fact that I can share it with you.  I am thankful Sheri has an affiliate platform in place that blesses our family during the holidays.

When it comes to actual affiliate programs, each one is different.  After you sign up, familiarize yourself via the FAQ’s and poking around on the site.  You can always email the company or blogger and ask for help if you can’t figure it out, but most of the time, it is self-explanatory.

So, I want to encourage you that if you have a blog, take a moment to look into the products you use to see if they have an affiliate program you could use to promote their products.  I even have an affiliate program for my ebook The Homemaker’s Guide to Creating the Perfect Schedule (if you’re interested ;) ).

Before you check out the links in the link up or add your own, take a moment to let me know your thoughts on affiliate programs and how you’ve seen them used on blogs.  And if you have any questions, feel free to ask, but I also want to tell you a

GREAT BIG AWESOME SECRET!
(ok, it’s not really a secret or I couldn’t tell you, but well…you’ll see…)

**THERE IS A FANTASTIC eBOOK ON BLOGGING COMING OUT VERY SOON!**
and I contributed to it!

If you are the least bit interested in blogging (as an income generator or not), this ebook is going to bless you immensely!  It is huge and full of great content (at a great price!) and I cannot wait until I can give you more info.  So, stay tuned!

And now, for the link up…

Welcome Home Wednesdays
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Planning Precooked Meals & Easy Menus For Others

Planning Precooked Meals and Easy Menus for Others | RaisingArrows.net

Last weekend, Ty and I and Creed attended a homeschool conference and left the other children in the care of Ty’s mom.  We were gone 2 nights and 2 days, and I wanted to make it as easy on Grammy as possible.

Now I need to disclose something here.  Being this organized for others is pretty new to me.  I struggle terribly when it comes to planning ahead, but I was recently inspired by another mom of many who planned and prepared a whole week’s worth of menus, of which I reaped the benefits.  I considered the plan she put in place and realized it wasn’t as difficult as I believed it to be.  So, this past weekend, I decided to try my hand at it, and boy, was my mother-in-law appreciative!

Today, I’m sharing this success with you which will hopefully give you the confidence and encouragement you need to successfully plan meals for others

Consider How Many People You Will Be Feeding

Since we only took 1 child who doesn’t eat big people food anyway and replaced ourselves with another adult, I could make the same amount of food I usually make and be fine.  But, had I been taking more children with me or had more people been eating, I would need to adjust accordingly.

Brainstorm Simple Meals

Don’t try something new or extravagant.  You are not trying to impress others with your culinary skills.  You are doing this to feed them and make things easier for them.  Think about simple meals that can be easily thrown together from the components you provide.  Also, consider what the people you are cooking for like and any food allergies they might have.

Here are the meals I chose:

Breakfast:
Cereal
Pancakes (from Homemade Pancake Mix)

Lunch:
Sandwiches (meat & cheese, pb&j)
Pizza (frozen)

Dinner:
Spaghetti (the meat was precooked and the spaghetti sauce was store-bought), Frozen corn, French Bread
Bierocks (made ahead of time and frozen), Frozen peas

You can also plan snacks, which is something I didn’t do because I knew Grammy would bring plenty of that kind of thing.  Cookies are a really simple snack/dessert that freeze and keep well.

Some other simple meal ideas are:
Breakfast:
Peanut butter/Banana toast (these are easy to put together with ingredients that keep well)
Baked oatmeal (put together, but don’t bake, and leave in refrigerator)
Breakfast Casserole (most of these can be frozen)

Lunch:
Taco salad (shred your lettuce and have the meat and beans precooked and mixed)
Quesadillas (these freeze well, but are also easy for even young children to make)
Sloppy Joes (have the meat precooked and seasoned, freezes well)

Dinner:
Crockpot Hamburgers (idea taken from Tricia at Hodgepodge)
Soup (easily frozen!)
Chili (again, easily frozen)
Lasagna (yep, easily frozen)

Grocery Shop Based on Menu

As I plan my menu, I take note of what I already have on hand and what I need to buy.  I make my list and head to the store.

Prepare Anything You Can Make Ahead

I baked several loaves of bread and fried up all the meat needed for the meals and froze in individual ziplock bags.  I made the bierocks and froze them, and put together the baking mix.  Anything you can do ahead of time and combine to make prep easier, do it!

Create and Label

I wrote out a menu for each day and wrote next to the meals where the components could be found.  So, for the spaghetti, I wrote:
Thursday -
Dinner:  Spaghetti & sauce (pantry), Frozen corn (freezer 1), French bread (fridge 2)

We have 2 refrigerators and 3 freezers, so I wanted to take the guesswork out of where I had stashed everything.  Also, remember to label all food with baking, cooking, and/or assembling instructions.

Explain Your Menu to Caretaker

If possible, explain either in person or on paper the system behind your menu.  Give them any extra instructions they need to know and put it in the simplest terms.

Planning and preparing meals like this works for a variety of situations.  It really is a simple way to bless those who are taking care of others and could use a break!

Shopping Azure Standard as a Frugal Way to Eat Healthy

Today, I’m writing at FreeHomeschoolDeals.com on eating healthy in a frugal way.  One of the things I mention is ordering from Azure Standard.

I’ve been familiar with Azure for many years, but I never ordered from them until this past year.  Part of the reason I never ordered was because I was afraid it was too complicated.  So, I thought today I’d take some time to demystify Azure and give you some tips on making ordering easier, plus introduce you to the family behind the trucking company that handles the Midwest area orders.

First of all, what is Azure Standard?  You can read how their company came into existence here.  Basically, they are a bulk food company out of Oregon.  The food is trucked all over the country via private trucking companies like the Christian family-owned and operated Covenant Ranch Trucking, who delivers my order every month.  (For a listing of routes CRT delivers to CLICK HERE.  For a listing of all Azure drops, CLICK HERE.)

So, how do you order from Azure?  If there is a drop near you, you can sign up as a customer for that drop via the Azure Standard website.  If there is not a drop near you or you would like establish a new one, please read this information and/or contact Covenant Ranch Trucking or Azure Standard. (you can reach CRT via email here: CovenantRanchTrucking at gmail dot com)

To order from Azure, you need to be purchasing at least $50 worth of product each time.  However, you don’t have to order every month.  The food comes in bulk quantities, so it is perfect for larger families, but if you are not able to use up as much as is packaged, you can split an order with someone else (often drop sites have a facebook page or yahoo email group that makes it easy to find someone who would be willing to split an order with you.)

So, you have your account set up, now what?

The simplest way I’ve found to keep track of what I need is to use my online shopping cart as my list.  Anytime I find I need something, I throw it into my cart and it stays there until I am ready to finalize my order and pay for it.  I get an email notice telling me the deadline is nearing, so I don’t accidentally miss it.  The next week, on the scheduled route drop off day and time, my husband or I show up to grab our order off the truck.  It’s that simple!

What do I order from Azure?

I order a multitude of items from coconut oil to palm shortening to whole wheat pastry flour.  Next time, I’ll be ordering almond four and flax meal because I have a serious addiction to the Muffin in a Mug from Trim Healthy Mama! ;)

So…how would you like to meet the family behind Covenant Ranch Trucking?  Here they are:

The Wood Family

 Wood Family

The Wood Family, including Jeanette’s parents who will soon be living on the farm with them.

Hi, my name is Jeanette Wood. My husband, Joseph, and I operate Covenant Ranch Trucking LLC, along with our 11 children.

If you’re interested in saving money and eating Real Food then we just might be of interest to you. In 2010 our family started hauling organic and natural food for Azure Standard to 14 of the Midwest states.

We love working with families who are just learning of Azure or wanting to develop a drop in their community. No town is too small for us to come to delivery too. If there is enough interest , we’re willing to bring you your groceries each and every month. To learn more about the Wood family please visit us at: www.covenantranchonline.com.

Our family lives in Topeka, KS on 16 acres where we enjoy fresh air and farm life. We have multiple fruit trees, a growing garden, and many livestock to tend to each day. We have been home educating our children for the last 19 years. Joe, my husband has driven truck for 28 years; he is the owner of Covenant Ranch Trucking LLC. and I tend to the endless paperwork and record keeping that owning a trucking company requires. I also help develop new routes, set up drops and any other customer service needs that might come up.  Several of the children go with Joe to help unload the truck, making multiple stops across the Midwest. Bethany, Joe’s second oldest daughter, helps in the office with phone calls, emails and customer assistance.

Please, take a moment to connect with Covenant Ranch Trucking and the Wood Family!  (and don’t miss the story of why Jeanette signs her name Mrs. Joseph Wood – I LOVE this story!)

Covenant Ranch Trucking
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Joe & Jeanette Wood & Family
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Tips for Backyard Farming as a Family

Dear Readers, I am pleased to bring you a guest post today from my friend, Angela England.  She has written a new book all about homesteading in small places and it is a real treat!  Backyard Farming on an Acre is a treasure trove of ideas for getting started right where you are with easy-to-follow information.  In fact, reading through her section on Beekeeping was the first time I felt like, “hey, I could do this!” 

A quick note about the book…if you purchase the book TODAY, you will be eligible to receive whole host of BONUS DOWNLOADSCheck them out here! 

Tips for Backyard Farming as a Family
by Angela England

One of the misconceptions I had about backyard farming and the lifestyle of a homesteader is that it wasn’t something applicable to the modern lifestyle – only for those who want to be semi-Amish. We’ve managed to find a great balance in our family and I want to share how we make it easy, doable, and something we do all together with our five homeschooling children.

Adam is helping to spread straw over the garden space.

1. Involve the Children in Simple Tasks

Even very young children can help with the simplest (or messiest) garden chores. Spreading mulch, planting large seeds like potatoes, garlic, beans or sunflowers, and collecting eggs from the chickens. My kids LOVE to feed the chickens, and collect the eggs each day. And of course, planting things is such a hopeful act it’s like a tiny, every day miracle right in the backyard.

2. Don’t Expect Perfection

This is true not only for kids but for ourselves as well. In generations past they depended on a good harvest for their very survival. Now for us the stakes are a little less serious so I try to be more flexible with our garden-experiments-gone-awry or weather not cooperating. We plant a variety of fruits and vegetable and there’s always something each year that does so well, even if other plants don’t do as well that year. And please don’t think that you have to make it look picket-fence perfect. A real garden is full of dirt and a real backyard farming is like a real child’s room – well lived in.

Learning from and helping her Papa

3. Work Together as a Family

The thing that I most love about our daily chores is that we usually get to do them together as a family. Sometimes it’s bringing in wood that my husband is chopping with some kids collecting the bits of kindling and others stacking the larger pieces. Sometimes it’s working together to dig up the potato harvest and gather bags and buckets full. But always it is a case of many hands lightening the load and making things go more quickly.

4. Use Modern Knowledge to Your Benefit

Modern intensive gardening techniques like irrigation, mulching, wide rows and organic pest controls mean that it’s much easier for us than it used to be. Research, selective breeding for various regions, and judicious use of technology (where it’s helpful and not hurtful) can all save you time in the maintenance of your backyard farm. Choose specific breeds of animals that will do well in your area. Touch base with your county extension office to get details on regional soil deficiencies, growing season, and more specifics that will help you plan your garden right the first time.

Intensive planting and vertical gardening techniques are easy to implement.

Backyard Farming can be a fabulous way to develop positive character qualities in your children, to develop a healthier lifestyle and eating habits, or just become a little more self-sufficient while cutting your grocery bills. But it doesn’t have to be overly complicated or take over your life. Weave the tasks into your daily chore time as a family and you’ll find that the addition of healthy food right from your backyard doesn’t have to mean an unbearable burden for you and your family.

Angela England, Author of Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) is the Founder of Untrained Housewife, co-founder of Homestead Bloggers Network, and Editor of Blissfully Domestic. She lives with her husband and five homeschooling children in rural Oklahoma where they are learning more about living an intentional and self-sufficient lifestyle. Find her on Twitter and check out details of the book on the Backyard Farming Facebook Page.