11 Tips for Creative Budgeting – from a Mom of 11

11 Tips for Creative Budgeting (yellow)

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

My husband and I have been married for 26 years and are now living debt free.  We haven’t always.  We were like most young families, buying a house and paying off a mortgage, paying off a car loan, carrying a balance on our line of credit to pay for house renovations and repairs, car repairs, and other unexpected and unbudgeted expenses.

We knew right from the beginning that we wanted me to be able to stay home to raise our kids and to homeschool them.  This meant we would be living on one income.  After the really big decision to live on one income, there were many other big decisions that had to be made along the way.

Faith is at the center of our lives and the center of our decisions.  We trust that God will provide.  We have seen often enough our needs being met in unexpected ways.  That is God at work in our family and in our finances.  Everything works so much better when our decisions are made after much prayer.

God doesn’t want us to worry about money.  Sometimes debt can’t be avoided, but steps can be taken so that the debts don’t grow unnecessarily.  It might take time, but debts will shrink and disappear with proper money management.

A couple of years ago we had to redo our roof, and we knew it was a debt that we wanted to eliminate as quickly as possible.  We enjoyed living debt free!  I wasn’t sure where the extra money was going to come from, but I trusted God would provide.  I thought we were just going to have to tighten our belts.  But God had a different plan.   He provided an unexpected monthly increase in our income EXACTLY when our first payment was due.  A year later the roof was paid off!

It was only in later years that I heard some advice that helped us to finally eliminate our last lingering debt:  our line of credit.  I will tell you all about that advice in a future blog.

If we can do it, so can you!

#1 BUDGET, BUDGET, BUDGET – You need to keep track of your income and expenses.  Without a budget you are never sure where your money is going.  Make a list of all your expenses, and if it exceeds your income, decide what you can eliminate and where you can cut back.  We have 2 pays a month, and I allocate certain expenses to each one as well as gas, groceries and tithing which of course are budgeted on each.  I know our limits and try very hard to stay within them.  We work hard to keep an amount in our savings account for unexpected expenses.  We have a set amount automatically go into a savings account for us.  Those expenses that are not monthly, like water, property tax and sports, are broken down into monthly amounts that get transferred into a separate account until needed.  We have also seen the benefit time after time of tithing.  Tithing means we give 10% of our net income to our church.  When we do this, we always seem to have enough money to pay our bills.  When we don’t, there never seems to be enough money.  Seems backwards, but it has always been the way for us.  God is good!

#2  AFFORDABLE HOUSING – Our first decision was to move to where housing was affordable.  This meant moving to a small town, which is where we preferred to raise our family anyways.  Our down payment came from a back pay from my job after an evaluation.  Our mortgage payments were smaller than rent would have been in the city.  When our property taxes were paid with our mortgage, our tax account would accumulate extra money that we would ask to be paid out to us every couple of years.  A review of our house insurance with our adjuster helped us to find a way to lower our monthly payments.

 #3 AFFORDABLE DRIVING –  My husband owned a car before we got married that was financed.  The monthly payments were hard to budget and that helped us to decide to buy used vehicles after that and eliminate a monthly bill.  Our yearly tax return would help us to pay for our vehicles when they needed to be replaced.  Shopping around for the cheapest car insurance helped to lower that monthly payment.  My husband works in the city, and we live about 70 km away from his work.  Gas is our biggest expense after food, but when we weighed the pros and cons of moving to our small town, small town living still won.

#4 SAVING ON GROCERIES – Cooking homemade meals and eating at home is an easy way to save money.  Baking your own desserts is much cheaper than buying ready made.  Eating out is expensive and should be reserved for special occasions and date nights.  When home life is especially busy, I revert to cooking simple meals like chicken legs and rice, or I make a big pot of spaghetti sauce and we have pasta. With a only a few additions, the next night it changes to chili, with chili dogs being served the third night.  There are ways to cut down on money and also cut down on time.  Take time to study flyers and use coupons.  Build your menu according to the sales for the week.  Stock up on regularly used items when they come on sale.  I don’t use coupons often enough, but I have friends who save a lot of money this way.  I have a couple of stores where I like to buy my groceries because they have the lowest prices for what we buy.  Even though we don’t have a large garden, we do grow our favourites,  including tomatoes and cucumbers.

#5 BIRTHDAYS AND CHRISTMAS AND EASTER – These are very special events that also need to be budgeted for.  Birthday presents had a limit of $50 as the kids got older, and Christmas presents maxed out at $100 for the “big” gift.  The kids would also receive a new outfit on birthdays, Christmas and Easter.  Christmas outfits would be bought at the end of the previous winter from discounted racks, and Easter outfits were bought at the end of the previous summer.  Christmas also had stockings, and Easter had baskets full of goodies.  Money was saved, but there was still lots to enjoy.  And of course the best part is just getting everyone together to celebrate anyways.

#6 THRIFT STORES AND HAND ME DOWNS – A bonus with having a house full of children is that people are very generous.  We would often find a bag of clothes anonymously dropped off in our vestibule.  Even if we kept only a few items from the bag, they were much appreciated.  People also gave us larger things, like bicycles and furniture.  Those things that weren’t donated to us that we needed we bought in thrift stores and garage sales if possible, or bought on sale.  It’s important to decide if what you want is really something you need.  Sometimes you just need to put off a purchase for a little while to save.  And try to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

#7 RENOVATIONS AND REPAIRS – Doing the work yourself on your home or your vehicle is so much cheaper, and you have the added benefit of learning a new skill.  You can build and assemble furniture. There is pride in knowing that you can repair and build.  But don’t stop there!  You can also mend and sew your own clothes, knit, crochet, craft and create.  The possibilities are endless.  It’s true.  Sometimes one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.  Just fix them up and use them.  So many items in our home have been given to us.  Resist the urge to buy unnecessary items.  Not only do they add an extra expense, but they will also clutter your home.

#8 INEXPENSIVE AND FREE – Get creative and have fun as a family without it costing a fortune.  We like to drive down to the water and feed the ducks and watch the ships sail by.  You can borrow passes from the library to tour museums.  Make popcorn and watch a movie at home.  Take time to play a board game as a family or go to the park.  We even host a week in the summer at a camp that provides affordable vacations for needy families.  In exchange for organizing and running activities, we get a free vacation.  We go camping.  We tend to play sports that are same night, same time that have family rates.  It might be because we live in a small town, but our kids play soccer, broomball and take karate this way.  Make it a challenge to spend as little as possible and you will come up with some great ideas.


#10 RAISES MEAN EXTRA MORTGAGE PAYMENTS – Every time my husband got a raise, we would use that money to increase our monthly mortgage payments.  Extra payments meant that our mortgage decreased from 25 years to under 16 years.  Resist the urge to refinance your mortgage to pay off your bills.  Instead, find a way to live within your means and eliminate that need.  The freedom found in having no mortgage is priceless.  I thought that when we no longer had to pay a mortgage, that all of our other debt would magically disappear.  But it didn’t.  Instead, we just spent more money.  It took decisions and determination to finally eliminate our debts.

#11 BEING COMMITTED TO PAYING OFF DEBT – The unpaid balances on our credit cards were always moved to our line of credit which kept all our credit in one place and had a lower interest.  While this seemed like a good idea, the reality was that the amount on our line of credit seemed to remain constant no matter how much money we paid down on it. When we decided to get rid of the balance on our line of credit, we were very, very strict for one year.  We were committed to paying down a certain amount every month, and also committed to NOT adding to our credit each month.  This worked most months.  We had to be very cautious and very serious.  It also meant that sometimes there was hardly any money left for groceries.  But don’t worry, because we never went hungry.  No groceries didn’t mean we had no food, only that we got creative with the food that was still in our cupboards.  We weren’t so committed to eliminating our line of credit that we would have allowed our family to go hungry.  However, we were able to stick to this plan every month until our line of credit was paid off, without once going hungry.  I’ll tell you more about it in a future blog!

Final result?  We now have the freedom of living debt free!

God is good!






cheesecake WOLF

Hi!  My name is Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

Such a quick dessert – and never any complaints.  Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday and this is the dessert she requested.  During the Christmas season, we serve this dessert as a special treat, but really, you could make this dessert anytime.  Like today!

An easy light dessert.  Top it with your favourite topping…mine is cherry pie filling.



  • One 9 inch graham crumb crust
  • One envelope of DREAM WHIP dessert topping mix
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 package of (250 g) PHILADELPHIA BRAND cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of sugar

Make sure the cream cheese is soft before starting.  In a medium sized bowl, prepare dessert topping mix according to the package directions with the milk.  In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until creamy.  Blend the topping into the cream cheese mixture at low speed.  Pour the cream cheese mixture into the crumb crust.  Chill at least one hour.  Serve with your favourite pie filling.

If you want to make it in a 9×13 pan, double or triple the recipe and find a recipe for a graham crust. It is usually on the box of graham crumbs or crackers.



photo source

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

I made this salad today with fresh parsley from my garden.  The last produce from my garden…and it was delicious!

This is my husband’s favourite.  When I make a huge bowl (double recipe) of tabouleh, it’s gone in  a couple of days – and that’s mostly because of my husband and I.  Even though I adapted a recipe I had, I found one at Healthy Blender Recipes that matches mine, except I leave the mint leaves out of mine and add crushed garlic.   Make sure to wash your veggies well.


  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, riced (I hold the head over the bowl and thinly slice the outer layers until I reach the middle core.  Discard core.)
  • 1-2 medium tomatoes, finely diced (I include the whole tomato – minus stem)
  • 1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced (both green and white parts, both ends discarded)
  • 1 bunch of parsley, thinly sliced (discard tough stem ends)
  • 1 English cucumber, diced
  • 1/3 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed (add to the dressing)
  • 1 tsp. salt

Follow the directions at Healthy Blender Recipes.

You can also find it at Musings by Melina.






doughnutHi!  My name is Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

Deep fried food – the ultimate comfort food as the cold weather creeps in.  Fall has definitely arrived!

It was quite chilly today as I took my rosary walk, but the trees with their colourful leaves were beautiful, and the dried leaves on the ground were crunching underfoot.  I have to admit, I take WAY too much pleasure in crunching leaves!

This recipe was passed on to me by my mother-in-law, a favourite of my husband’s while he was growing up.  The nutmeg adds just the right amount of flavour, and a coating of cinnamon and sugar top them off nicely.

We usually make these in the traditional doughnut shape, but one Easter I used a bunny cookie cutter and made rabbit doughnuts that were very popular…so use your imagination and create something unique!


  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cups milk

Measure flour and add baking powder, salt and nutmeg; stir well to blend.  Cream sugar, butter and vanilla thoroughly.  Beat in an egg one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add dry ingredients and milk alternately.  Chill dough 2 hours.

Roll out 1/2 inch thick.  Dough is very sticky, flour generously.  Cut into doughnut shapes using a doughnut cutter (you can alternately use 2 different sizes of cups).  Fry in 375°F oil (I usually use Canola oil, but any vegetable oil will work).  I use a wok, but my mother-in-law used a cast iron pan.  Just make sure the oil is deep enough for the doughnuts to float.  The dough should rise to the top right away.  Make sure to flip the doughnuts in the oil to cook both sides.  It doesn’t take too long.  Cook in batches, removing the doughnuts and placing on paper towels or paper bags for oil absorption.


Mix granulated sugar and cinnamon to taste in a bag.  Add hot doughnuts and shake to coat.  Remove and cool before eating.


10 Back to School Lunch Websites

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11, and Grandmelina to 2!

Back to school with delicious lunches!  It won’t be long before lunch becomes routine, but we can start the year off in style.

I had the privilege of helping out at Summer Camp with the Salesian Sisters this year. One thing I noticed was the great variety of lunches kids bring with them.  Moms are so clever!  I homeschool my kids, and they grab their own lunch, but I love these ideas and hope to use some of them when we go to camp again next year and head out on our field trips.

school lunch 1

Vicky Barone has some great kid and mom friendly lunches.  Check them out.

Also check out more great lunch ideas here, and be inspired!  Your kids will thank you:

Kids Activities Blog

Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom

Belly Full

Happy Money Saver

Spend with Pennies

Ditch the Carbs

Keeley McGuire – Allergy Friendly Fun Lunch Boxes

The Krazy Coupon Lady


And why not top it off with some fun lunchbox jokes?  Free printable here from the Crafted Sparrow.

Or some inspirational lunch box notes.  Free printable here from Happy Home Fairy.


Matthew 16 – A Time to Celebrate!

Mercy and love will heal our country


Time to celebrate!  Parades, games, water fun and fireworks.  Family, neighbours and strangers together to celebrate.  Red and white everywhere.

And food!  Everything of the red and white variety, everything of the barbecued variety, everything of the Canadian variety – maple, Nanaimo, butter tart and poutine…

This celebration came just in time for me to be reminded of everything good in my country.  Facebook was filled with 150 reasons to celebrate our great country.  So much to be thankful for!

Happy 150th birthday, Canada!

It came just in time, because lately I’ve been looking at my country and getting discouraged by what I see.  I turn on the news and learn something new about my country that makes my heart sad.

Matthew 16 is both a rebuke and a reminder.

‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  Mt 16:3

I see the signs and I’m filled with sadness, but Jesus rebukes me and reminds me that I’m forgetting something.

Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Mt 16:9

Looking at history and all the miraculous things that have happened in our beauty filled country remind me that God has been present along the way, and is still at work today. From the first missionary who set foot in our land and erected that first cross, to the present day Bishops, so many care about the people of this land.

On this day, the 150th birthday of Canada, from sea to shining sea, our Bishops stepped up to altars in every diocese in our country and consecrated our land and our people to the loving heart of Mary.  They also see the pain and suffering of our people, and they are seeking a solution from Heaven.  A miracle just like the five loaves for the five thousand.  It happened then and it will happen now, with Mary bringing people to the loving heart of her Son Jesus.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Mt 16:15

The solution comes down to individuals like you and me.  Each heart that is turned to Jesus, the Son of God, will be filled with mercy and love.  And mercy and love will heal our country.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  Mt 16:24

Action.  Jesus is asking us to reach out to our neighbours.  Share His mercy and love, and speak of Him, so that He can bring them also to His loving Heart.

Jesus’ love for us is so great that it is limitless.  His Heart is so big that it has room for every person.  We can turn to Jesus and find the love and the healing that we need in our lives.  His mercy and love flow from His Heart and cover our whole land.

Can you picture it?  I can.  Healing rays coming from the Heart of Jesus and covering our whole land.

If each person in this great country of ours is touched by the Heart of Jesus and guided by His mother Mary, we will not only be healed, but we will be strong and whole and a witness to the power of prayer.

So fall to your knees and join the Bishops and faithful of our country, and pray, just as I am.  Pray for love and mercy and healing, and ask how YOU can make a difference.  For His sake tell your neighbours the good things that God has done for you.  For Jesus will win the battle for our country, and He will do it one heart at a time.

It is, and will be, a time to celebrate!

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.  Mt 16:27

YOUR TURN:  Read Matthew 16.  Take out your Bible and read it or read it online here. Read the scripture and listen with your heart to what God’s Spirit is saying to you.  Then write it down in your journal.  You will enjoy being able to see God at work in your life.

ABC BIBLE SHARING:  A great way to read your scriptures.  Follow the ABC Bible Sharing Method here.

PRAY:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.  This prayer is short but powerful.  Repeat it to yourself over and over, asking Jesus to reveal His Heart to you.


Matthew 15 – Mercy and Summer Prayers

Matthew - a journey through Matthew

Hi!  I’m Melina, Catholic homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

Dear Jesus, I come before you today.  Open my heart and my mind as I read Matthew. Help me to understand what You are trying to say to me, and to see what You are trying to show me.  I love You.


This devotion is following a similar format to the ABC Bible Sharing Method.  I encourage you to not only read this devotion, but read Matthew 15 yourself, and see what God has to speak to YOUR heart.  You can do that while following along with us, or even better – get together weekly with a group of friends and share with each other how God is working in your lives.

How to follow the ABC Bible Sharing Method.

You can read your own Bible or read an online version like the one below.  I like to use my own Bible so I can highlight, circle and underline those things that stand out for me.

You can find Matthew 15 here.


My challenge from last week’s devotion was to spend my first hour at adoration doing just that – adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  We have adoration at our Parish only on the First Friday of the month, and now that the kids are all older and don’t need me at home all of the time, I try to go for more than one hour.  I make this time my monthly retreat.  The Blessed Sacrament is exposed for 5 hours, and sometimes I am able to go for all 5 hours, but I go for at least 2 hours.  I take the time to adore, but I also spend the time praying my rosary, reading my Bible, and writing down in my journal what God has been doing in my life lately and what He is speaking to me during my adoration time.

That being said, I don’t think I have ever taken a whole hour to just gaze on the Blessed Sacrament and to sit and kneel in quiet adoration with no other distractions.  Even though my mind did try to wander at times, I always brought it back to the task at hand – the task of adoring Jesus for who He is, for what He has done, for what He is and for what He has done in MY life.

This hour reminded me of the pure awesomeness of Jesus, and was an hour of pure peace.  I will definitely be starting all of my monthly adoration retreats in exactly the same way.

Now on to today’s devotion…


It is not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes him impure; it is what comes out of his mouth.  What comes out of the mouth originates in the mind.  verses 11 and 18

Again, this whole idea of impure words is speaking to me, probably because this is a weakness of mine.  The more often I pray my rosary, the more often I have good thought and speak good words.  As you can imagine, that is a great incentive for me to pray my rosary, and I pray anywhere from 5 to 20 decades each day, with 20 being my daily goal.

So praying the rosary daily, as well as spending time in monthly Adoration, fills my mind with good things.  It helps me to guard my thoughts and speak good words.  It is a real struggle at times for me to think good thoughts, especially after I’ve been hurt.  But daily I lift those struggles up and allow God to fill me so that the words I speak hopefully will be from Him, full of love and mercy.

Already my life is filled with challenges in living a faith filled life, but God is still calling me to more.

Now on to this week’s challenge for me.


Lord, Son of David, have pity on me!    Verses 22

My Bible uses the word “pity” in verse 22 while many other translations use the word “mercy.”  Mercy is not a new theme for me to be meditating on, but it is certainly what God is bringing to my mind over and over these days.

The Jesus Prayer says “LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY ON ME, A SINNER.”  It is short, and it is simple, but it is filled with much truth and insight.  It is meant to be repeated over and over, a form of unceasing prayer as mentioned by the Apostle Paul.

It is called a Prayer of the Heart.  The very act of repeating these words turns our heart towards the love of God, lays open our heart with all the ugliness of sin, and bring us to the healing Heart of Jesus.

All of this in 12 little, but very powerful words.  Our whole faith is summed up in these words.  And the act of repeating these words and allowing them to transform our lives, brings us to the MERCY of Jesus and fills us with mercy towards others.

The Jesus Prayer

I was first introduced to the Jesus Prayer in the Russian spiritual classic “The Way of a Pilgrim.”  I spent years praying and being changed by this little prayer without realizing the importance of this prayer in the Orthodox churches.  I only knew what I gained from this prayer.  I grew in the awareness of mercy.

I just finished praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet Novena for a couple of special intentions, and I saw God already starting to work in those relationships.  The Novena brought me through the Feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  When I started the Novena, I didn’t realize it would, but praying the Mercy Chaplet while meditating on the Heart of Jesus brought me to an even deeper appreciation and understanding of the His Mercy and of Our Lady of His Mercy.

I want to continue meditating on the Mercy of Jesus, and I will do that by praying the Jesus Prayer daily for at least 15 minutes, as well as meditating on Mercy while praying my rosary.  Summer is the perfect time to do this.  I look forward to taking daily walks and praying.  I’m anxious to see what more God has to teach me.

It may look like I’m spending a lot of time in prayer, but after I get used to spending a certain amount of time in prayer, and it becomes a part of my daily schedule, it always feels like there is time for more.  But I started off small, and it has grown over the years. Instead of being overwhelmed by prayer, I encourage you to look at your schedule and to see when is the best time to schedule it in.  You will never regret it!