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$95 Grocery Budget + Weekly Menu Plan for 8



Want to see what we bought for this week’s $70 grocery budget? I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.).

For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here.

We Were a Family of 8 (+ baby!) This Week!

We had a very unexpected, but blessed and stretching week this week! I mentioned last weekend that we took in three kids for a temporary foster care placement (ages 13, 11, and 3). They ended up staying the entire week instead of just the weekend since they are still working to find permanent placement for them (and we didn’t want them to be sleeping in the DCS office this week — something that often happens in these cases, sadly.)

It was interesting to go from 3 kids and one on the way to having a 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, and 3 year old + baby on the way. We had to re-remember how to do the whole car seat thing (which we quickly discovered we were very rusty in!) and shopping with a three-year-old! 🙂

We’ve had so many special moments and made so many fun memories and I’m grateful for the opportunity for us to pour into these sweet kids! We also bought quite a few more groceries than normal since I wanted to make sure to have plenty of their favorite foods and also because 13-year-old boys who are 6 feet tall eat a lot! 😉

(By the way, this week reminded me of how grateful I am that I have such a great stockpile of all sorts of things on hand. It definitely helped allow us to have lots of different meal and snack options without having to keep running to the store or spending a bunch of extra $$ on full-priced groceries!)

Here were the groceries we bought this week…

Kroger Shopping Trip #1:

  • 2 Barilla microwave meals — marked down to $0.79 each
  • 1 dozen eggs — marked down to $0.49
  • 2 Ore-ida Mashed Potatoes — marked down to $0.39 each
  • 3 St. Ives Sheet Masks — marked down to $0.89 each
  • 2 dozen cage-free eggs — marked down to $1.29 each
  • Garlic Bread — marked down to $1.89
  • 2 cartons Minute Maid Peach Punch — marked down to $0.89 each
  • Stoneyfield Yogurt — marked down to $0.99
  • Green Grapes — $3.36
  • Red Grapes — $4.58
  • Lettuce — $1.79
  • 7 Simple Truth Yogurts — marked down to $0.29 each
  • 2 cartons of raspberries — $1.25 each
  • 4 bags of apples — marked down to $0.99 each
  • 1 bag of avocados — marked down to $0.99
  • 1 bag of potatoes — $1.99
  • 2% milk — $2.59
  • Whole milk — $2.99
  • 2 Stayfree pads — $1.99 each when you buy 5 participating items, used $3/2 Kroger digital coupon = $0.49 each
  • 2 Colgate toothpaste — $1.99 each when you buy 5 participating items, used $4/2 Kroger digital coupon = free after coupon
  • Simple Truth Tortilla Chips — $0.99 when you buy 5 participating items
  • Total with tax: $44.90

There was this HUGE section of dairy markdowns at the store one of the days I went this week! I wished I had more refrigerator space because I would have bought more!

Kroger Shopping Trip #2:

  • 3 boxes of Kroger cereal — $1.49 each
  • 2 boxes of Coconut Cheerios — marked down to $0.79 each
  • 4 Stoneyfield yogurts — marked down to $0.29 each
  • Kroger rolls — marked down to $1.09
  • 4 6-packs of Danimals drinkable yogurts — marked down to $0.49 each
  • 2 2-packs of Oui yogurts — marked down to $1.09 each
  • 4 bags Kroger potatoes — marked down to $1.49 each
  • 2 Simple Truth yogurts — marked down to $0.29 each
  • 1 can of carrots — marked down to $0.29
  • 5 bags of Birdseye frozen veggies — $1 each when you buy 5 participating items
  • Total with tax: $33.33

Kroger Shopping Trip #3:

I wasn’t planning to go to Kroger a third time, but when I saw their deal on cheese over the weekend, I knew I had to run by there again!

  • 5 packages of Kroger cheese — $1.29 each with weekend deal
  • 1 gallon of water — $0.89
  • 2 bottles of apple juice — marked down to $0.89 each
  • 1 bag of onions — marked down to $0.99
  • 5 boxes of Jolly Time popcorn — $0.99 each when you buy 5 participating items (only 3 are shown because Kathrynne took two boxes to school for a party)
  • 1 loaf French bread — marked down to $0.99 each
  • Total with tax: $17.27

This Week’s Dinners:

Monday: Ritzy Chicken and Peas (the three kids we’re taking care of were with their worker this evening and we just had a crazy simple dinner because we had three different places to be this evening!)

Tuesday: Homemade Rotisserie Chicken in the Crockpot, Mashed Potatoes, Peas, Grapes, Garlic Bread.

Wednesday: Barbecued Meatballs, Cinnamon Apples in the Instant Pot, Roasted Broccoli, Mashed Potatoes, Rolls

Thursday: Dinner provided by Brown Bag (My friend coordinated with them to have them make dinner for us — something that they offer free of charge to foster families! How kind and amazing is that??)

Friday: Salad, Grapes, Ritzy Chicken Casserole, Leftover Corn & Peas, Leftover Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Bread

Saturday: Dinner out

Plan for Sunday: Steak, Roasted Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli, Grapes, Leftover Garlic Bread

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My mom passed away yesterday, overwhelmed and unsure what to expect



My mom was in relatively good health and only 55 years old, her passing was sudden and completely unexpected. We had never talked much about her finances and to my knowledge she doesn’t have a will. I’ll provide what information I have and if anyone has any input on things to watch out for or things I may not have thought of, any and all advice is appreciated.

I am an only child, my parents are divorced, my mom never remarried, and her parents are deceased. According to state law (NH), everything defaults to me, so that’s one less thing to worry about. I am concerned with the courts being closed due to COVID how this process might work, not sure if anyone will have any insight there since it’s such a new situation.

Debt: I do know for a fact she didn’t have any credit cards, so nothing there. She was in the hospital for 2 days preceding her passing. How are the bills for this going to be handled? I read in the wiki that I’m not directly responsible for them, would they come out of her estate? I know she had fairly good insurance through her job, I think with a $2500 deductible, so considered a high deductible plan. Is there anything beyond the deductible that would end up having to be paid?

Accounts: She had a 403b through her job that I am the sole beneficiary of. I’ve already contacted her employer and her manager is going to work with me to get the access I need. Her manager confirmed she did have a life insurance policy as well, I imagine with just me for a beneficiary as well. I would love a more in-depth explanation of what to expect here, especially the 403b. From what I glanced at in the wiki it sounded like this gets converted to an IRA and I become the account holder? I know retirement accounts have been losing value due to the hit the economy is taking right now, would definitely like advice on how to handle this account going forward.

She of course has a checking account, unsure on savings or amounts. What is the process like for getting this turned over to me? (Aside from being a pain, I’m sure).

Assets: She does own a house. It was purchased before I was born, been being paid on consistently for 32 years now. It’s been refinanced a couple times so the term was extended, as far as my dad and I have been able to determine she is still making payments but it must be very nearly paid off. I will be looking to sell it, since I live out of state and the thought of trying to manage a property from 1000 miles away is daunting. I’ve never owned a home before so I’m pretty unfamiliar with most things to do with buying or selling one.

She has a car that was purchased 3 years ago that she is still making payments on, unsure what we’re going to do with this as of yet. My dad is in automotive sales (he sold her the car, actually) and the way he explained it was that if she owes more than it’s worth or close enough to it that we can return the car and the loan will be forgiven. If she has enough equity we can begin the process to get it changed over to my name and try to resell it. This sounded logical enough to me

I’m sorry if this was rambly or if more of this was answered in the wiki. I’m overwhelmed and having an idea of what I’m in for will give me some peace of mind, but I just don’t have it in me to find all the answers on my own. Thank you for any advice you may have to offer.

Edit: some things I forgot.

I’m unsure whether she filed her 2019 taxes or not, is that something I’ll need to do? What about 2020, since she did work a portion of this year?

I’ve already made arrangements with the funeral home as well, which is open right now, just not holding services. They’ll be providing me with copies of the death certificate. My dad is local and helping me take care of anything I need done until I’m able to get there, and will be in touch with his estate lawyer tomorrow to help with the legal aspects.

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How I Make $1,500 A Month As A Podcast Virtual Assistant



Hello! Today, I have a great guest post from Melanie. She started a business as a podcast virtual assistant and talks about how you can too. You can download her free workbook – Podcast VAs: What Services Should I Offer? Enjoy!

I’m Melanie Scroggins – voice actor and podcast producer. I currently live in Austin, TX with my husband and two fur babies.

I’ve been working in audio production for almost three years, and what started as a fun hobby, turned into a lucrative side gig that gave me the confidence to leave my last job and turn podcasting into a business.

At this point in my journey, I work part-time on podcasts. But when I was working on podcasts full-time, I usually worked with three clients (10-12 hours a week per show) and brought in over $3,000 a month. Now that I work on podcasts part-time (about 10 hours a week) I bring in an average of $1,500 a month.

Working as a Podcast VA allowed me the flexibility to quit my full-time office job and pursue what I believe to be my calling. I have continued to work as a Podcast virtual assistant because I love the work and the industry – there is always something new to learn!

Every day at my job was the same.

Fluorescent lights buzzing. Fingers clacking on keyboards. Phones ringing. People chatting… constantly.  

I’d go in, get my work done and then I’d go home. 

Hundreds of thousands of people manage to do this every day. And for a long while, I was one of them. 

But I repeatedly found myself asking, “Why isn’t this working for me?” 

When I finally sat down to talk it out with my husband, I realized the problem. 

I didn’t want to work for anyone else. 

It was as simple as that. I wanted to work for myself and our family, have creative freedom, and lots of flexibility. 

I wanted to create a work life I was proud of – doing something I actually wanted to do every day. 

Work on my terms.


It Was Me, Not Them

I wish I could tell you that my exit from corporate happened in a dramatic flair; the company went out of business and we were all laid off. 

Or that I was so poorly treated that I had no choice but to leave. (Oh the drama!)

I really wanted to believe that it was them – not me. 

But that wasn’t the truth. It was me. When 

I struggled to be okay with the fact that I wasn’t forced out of my office job. Deciding to leave meant choosing something unknown and that felt scary to me. 

I only knew that the “nine to five” world wasn’t for me. 

The only question was, what was? 


A Newfound Love for Audio Production 

My husband and I had some adventures after I stepped away from my desk job. 

We were living in an RV in a remote part of the coast of Oregon, when I really started to experiment with creativity and flexibility in my work.

At that point, I had been freelance writing for a couple of outdoor companies but I still found myself with a lot of extra time. 

I decided to start interviewing other female business owners and adventurers who were doing things differently.

I ordered a mic that could be set up at the RV diner table, downloaded some free software, learned some basic audio editing, and then set up interviews with other female business owners and friends.

It wasn’t long after I started creating and sharing my own content that friends, and friends of friends, began reaching out about how I could help them launch a podcast for their own businesses. 


Starting My Podcasting Virtual Assistant Business

Fast forward to the spring of 2018. With minimal help and very little know how, I began to build a podcast support business. 

I’ll be honest, it took me a while to trust that I had a good thing going. There were many times that I truly believed that I wasn’t going to make it. At one point, I ended up at another office job once we’d settled down again in Texas.

I was so afraid to dive in 100%.

But, I continued working at my little business. Every evening after my 9-5, I’d worked on a few client’s shows. 

After about four months of consistent client work, I gained the courage to quit my office job (again). It was time to expand and take myself (and my goals) seriously. 

I had a long way to go to build my portfolio and make enough money to support my family, but I was convinced that I had the skills to make a living doing audio production. 

About a year later, I was making well over what I was making in my last office job. And guess what? 

I was happier. So much happier. 

Today, I am working for myself. 

I now have the freedom for which I’d been searching for. And I’ve had it for nearly two years already! Somebody pinch me…

I have the flexibility to work or travel whenever I want to – my life and business on my terms and it feels good. 


Why Podcasting? 

Okay, okay, so I wanted to work for myself and I’d tried my hand at audio production. Big whoop, right? 

The real question is: why did I stick with podcasting? 

With over 800,000 podcasts out there (and this number’s increasing daily), you’ll find there is a lot of promise in offering podcasting services to clients, and that’s exactly what I realized. 

I initially started by creating a personal podcast, but I quickly became aware that podcasting is something a lot of businesses were interested in pursuing. 

And it makes sense, right? 

Podcasting allows small businesses to create a more personalized and intimate experience with their audience, which is a great way to approach the marketing idea, Know, Like, Trust.

When people reach out to you and ask how you can help them, that’s a pretty good sign that service is in demand. 


Is Becoming a Podcast Virtual Assistant Right for You?

Let’s get something out of the way real quick – there is nothing perfect about work, ever. 

Just like there is nothing perfect about life. There are still tough projects, frustrating client experiences, and lots of work to do. 

But it’s not about things being perfect. It’s about being honest with yourself and pursuing your calling – whatever that may be for you. 

For me, that thing was and is audio production. I love everything about it – editing, mixing, publication, distribution. It hits all my needs, and incorporates a good mix of my analytical and creative skill sets.

But you might be entirely different. 

One of my favorite things about becoming a Podcast Virtual Assistant is that there are so many variations of the role. And business owners need all of them! 


Why Business Owners Hire Podcast Virtual Assistants

One of the reasons clients prefer to outsource their podcast work to freelancers or virtual assistants is because they simply don’t have the time, desire, or know how. 

Their podcast is just one more line item on their very crowded agenda. But that’s good news for us!

There are so many different services you can potentially offer clients. Including (but certainly not limited to): 

  • Audio editing
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Publication 
  • Distribution
  • Show note creation

The list goes on! 

No matter your skill set, there is something you can likely offer.

If helping small businesses with their podcasts is something you’ve thought about doing, here are five services you could offer clients as well as what you could potentially earn. 

1. Audio Editing 

This is a particular skill that many clients don’t know how to do or want to do. They’re busy working on their businesses and simply don’t have the time or skills. 

If you’re interested in learning how to edit audio, YouTube has a ton of awesome videos on audio editing. If you’re worried about the cost, you can get started today – Audacity is free and great for editors at any level. 

Potential Earnings – $50-125/episode

2. Project Management

Yes, project management! A podcast project manager or PM works in the same capacity as a regular PM, they just work on podcast specific projects. 

Project managers offer an invaluable service to clients helping them manage production, team members, and content scheduling. 

Have a background in project management? Even better! 

Potential Earnings – $30-75/hour

3. Guest Management 

If a client is interested in interviewing people for their podcast, guest management is a critical skill set they need to have (or hire out). 

Your job would be to connect with potential guests, be sure they have everything they need for the interview, and touch base with them after the interview. 

This role is especially important because you’re guest facing and representing your client’s business. If you have experience in customer service or administration work, this would be an awesome service for you to offer. 

Potential Earnings – $25-40/hour

4. Marketing 

You’ve seen this word a gazillion times before, but it’s because marketing is essential to a business’s success and that is also true for the success of a podcast. 

Offering this service can make a good podcast an even better podcast. Getting in front of the right people can create unique opportunities for your clients and provide valuable resources to people who are looking for exactly what your client is offering. 

If you have a background in marketing, marketing for podcasting is a huge portion of the industry and could provide you with all kinds of potential business. 

Potential Earnings – $50-70/hour

5. Content Repurposing 

When a podcast is published consistently for a substantial period of time (i.e. six months to a year), oftentimes, it’s a good idea to repurpose content, or, reuse and redistribute content that has already been made in different ways. 

Have you ever seen an audiogram or sound bite? Those images with a wave form or quote over an image of a person? This is one small example of content repurposing that is used to promote a podcast. 

A large enough show has a dedicated team of people constantly utilizing bits and pieces of older podcast episodes and churning out fresh and updated content. 

If you have a background in social media or design, you could offer this much needed service. 

Potential Earnings – $25-40/hour


This All Sounds Exciting, But Where Do I Start? 

Some of you may be excited about the prospect of starting your own podcasting support business while others of you might be shaking in your boots thinking, “I was really excited, but now I’m overwhelmed!”

Don’t worry. I’ve been there too. 

I spent tons of time learning tactics for audio editing, keeping up-to-date with the latest and greatest in marketing, and figuring out distribution; all on my own. It was certainly going the long way around for my ultimate goal; flexibility and creative freedom.

All the knowledge I gained was so valuable! But to be honest, I wish someone was there to help me get from point A to point B more quickly.  


The Fastest, Easiest Way to Become a Podcast Virtual Assistant

As a result, I teamed up with my good friends (and fellow podcast lovers), Gina Horkey and Hailey Thomas to streamline your journey. 

We created Podcast Assist to help people learn to master the skills and strategies needed to launch, manage, and grow podcasts for small businesses. 

Our goal was to put together everything you need to bridge the gap from where you are now, to offering your first service and earning your very first paycheck as a Podcast Virtual Assistant. 


You Can Start Now! 

In the beginning, I felt like there were so many questions and barriers to moving forward. And so we’re going out of our way to remove as many as we can for you!  

So we created this FREE workbook – Podcast VAs: What Services Should I Offer?

It’s especially designed to help you explore the career of a Podcast Virtual Assistant and decide which services are best suited for you. 

Included in this free workbook: 

  • What is a Podcast Virtual Assistant?  
  • What services should I offer? 
  • Example service menu and starting rates
  • “Which services should I offer?” questionnaire 

You can also check out the Podcast Assist Course so that you can learn the skills needed to launch, manage, and grow podcasts for small businesses.

I hope my story was an inspiration! Dive into the workbook and explore what’s going to work best for you!

But before I go… which of the five services above resonates with you the most and why? Chime in via the comments below!

The post How I Make $1,500 A Month As A Podcast Virtual Assistant appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

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The Hartford Home Insurance Review



While most insurance companies are for anyone who wants to pay, The Hartford caters to a specific audience. In fact, if you’re under the age of 50, you’ll have to go through an independent insurance agent to get a policy with this provider. The Hartford targets a fairly specific demographic: AARP members.

With the AARP® Home Insurance Program from The Hartford, policyholders get discounts to keep their cost of coverage down while protecting their home through the later seasons of life. The Hartford even offers credits for retirees. If you’re an AARP member or are thinking about signing up, consider this coverage. If not, you might be better off shopping elsewhere.

Find the Best Home Insurance

Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.


The specs

Price Varies by location, home and other factors
Best for People over the age of 50
Not for People under 50 who don’t want to work with an independent insurance agent
States served All, although features and benefits may vary
  • AARP member
  • Home and auto bundle
  • Home security
  • Fire protection
  • Retiree credit
  • New home
  • Claims-free
AM Best Rating A+
Standout features
  • Partnership with AARP to lower rates for members
    Retiree credits
  • 24/7 claims specialists

The claim

The Hartford claims that they can give AARP members the best, most affordable home insurance available on the market today. It says it wants to “deliver the customer service you expect.”

Is it true?

If you’re a card-carrying AARP member, you’ll get special treatment when you choose The Hartford homeowners insurance. In fact, you’re the type of person the provider is trying to attract. Expect a discount for flashing your AARP card.

As far as customer service, The Hartford’s performance is about average — at best. In the most recent J.D. Power U.S. Home Insurance Study, it scored three out of five in overall satisfaction, policy offering, price and billing process and policy information. More concerningly, The Hartford scored just two out of five for interaction and claims. The perks you get as an AARP member may balance out the less-than-stellar service, but if you’re looking for an easy claims process, look elsewhere.

Our deep dive

  • Bundling discounts: If you have other policies, like auto insurance, with The Hartford, you can bundle them to lower your premiums.
  • Home discounts: You can get policy discounts if your house has a home security system or protective devices or fire protection (e.g., smoke detectors, sprinklers). You can also score a discount if you live in California or New York and your house is new.
  • Older individual discounts: The Hartford home insurance offers discounts for AARP members yet and gives credits to retirees.
  • Reward discounts: If you’re an ideal customer for The Hartford, you’ll get some perks. Specifically, you can get a claims-free discount that grows the longer you go without a claim and a discount if you renew your homeowners policy for four years or more.
  • Online quotes: The Hartford offers instant online quotes to AARP members.
  • Standard coverage: The Hartford home insurance covers everything you’d expect, including dwellings, other structures, personal property, loss of use, personal liability and medical payments. Remember, standard homeowners insurance policies don’t cover earthquakes or floods.
  • Additional coverage options: You can opt for full replacement cost coverage, ProtectorPLUS Zero Deductible Benefit for severe damage and green rebuilding coverage.
  • Home Advantage Package: This package bundles standard protections with “new for old” personal property coverage, personal injury liability coverage, lock replacement reimbursements and identity fraud expense coverage.
  • Home Advantage Plus Package: This package adds disappearing property deductible benefits, equipment breakdown coverage and valuable items blanket coverage to the Home Advantage Package.

Cost rundown

When you choose The Hartford homeowners insurance, your agent will customize your premium (how much you pay for your policy) for you. Some of the factors The Harford considers to determine how much you’ll pay include:

  • The cost to rebuild or repair your house
  • The age of your house
  • The number and type of dogs you own, if any (dogs increase your liability)
  • Your home’s location
  • Your claims history
  • The age of your roof
  • Your credit score (in some states)
  • The deductible you choose

The only way to know how much The Hartford home insurance will cost for your specific house is to get a quote.

Cheaper (or free!) alternatives

If you own your home outright, you can go without home insurance and hope you have enough in savings to cover you if disaster strikes. But all mortgage lenders require home insurance, so most homeowners will need to shell out for a policy.

Fortunately, you can do a few things to keep your cost low:

  • Become an AARP member
  • Fit your home with disaster prevention devices like a home security system and smoke alarms
  • Stay with The Hartford for four years to score the renewal discount
  • Work on your credit score
  • Avoid filing a claim unless it’s necessary
  • Bundle your home insurance policy with other coverage like auto insurance
  • Increase your deductible if you could comfortably cover it

The competition

The Hartford might not be the ideal provider for you, especially if you’re not an AARP member or over 50. One of the best ways to determine the right choice for you is to compare rates and the strengths of weaknesses of your options. Here are some of The Hartford’s top competitors and how they compare.

  • Allstate: Allstate balances relatively high rates with plenty of discounts and claim forgiveness. The customer satisfaction is average; it scored threes across the board in the J.D. Power study. Still, with an agent to guide you to the right policy for you, it’s worth checking out.
  • Farmers: With plenty of policy customization options and an emphasis on customer service, Farmers seems like a solid choice. It also scored all threes in the J.D. Power study, so don’t expect jaw-dropping service, but you’ll likely be satisfied with the results.
  • Geico: Rather than underwriting its own policies, Geico connects you to a provider. The model’s a little bit odd, but it works well. Geico offers reasonable rates and decent customer service. Get a quote to figure out which partner would be underwriting your policy so you can do your homework to make sure the underwriter will serve you well.
  • State Farm: The largest home insurance provider, State Farm offers a fairly broad range of coverage for a fairly good price with slightly above-average customer service (it scored threes and fours out of five in the 2019 J.D. Power Home Insurance Study). It’s worth getting a quote to see if it can offer you more affordable coverage than the competition.
  • What others are saying

    Forbes reports that The Hartford has seen “strong, steady growth” in recent years. Judging from happy The Hartford reviews, it seems that this provider will be around for a long time.

    Yahoo! Finance recently shared The Hartford’s release of its 2020 Home Fire Index, highlighting cities with the highest home fire risk. The article also outlines The Hartford’s plan to direct $3 million to its public education program called Junior Fire Marshal.

    The Sacramento Bee reports that The Hartford wrote homeowners insurance policies for Californians in high-risk fire areas, although at a cost.

    The Better Business Bureau gives The Hartford an A+, but it averaged just one star out of five in the reviews.

    The bottom line

    If you’re an AARP member, The Hartford wants to work with you. It’s worth getting an online quote, considering it should only take you a few minutes. But if you’re not over the age of 50, you might want to check out your other home insurance options.

    The post The Hartford Home Insurance Review appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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