Paying Off Student Loans

Disclaimer: The advice provided may not work with your lender.

Student loans are overwhelming.  The interest rates are frequently higher than a mortgage rate and the amount owed is sometimes equal to or more than a mortgage.  Rather than give up, here are some things you can do to help the balance decrease.

  1. Figure out how much interest is accumulating each month.  If you select one of the lower amount payment plans they typically only pay off the interest and you don’t even hit the principal amount.  Look at options that your lender has to calculating the interest earned per month so that you know exactly what you’re paying on.
  2. Try to put one larger amount down so that you can get a month or two ahead of their calculated due date.  I’ve had two of the lenders that take on the federal student loans.  Both of these have given me a longer period before the next payment when I pay a month or more in an extra payment.  This will be useful to get you to the next step.
  3. Make payments more than once per month.  It’s a trick that works well with a mortgage as well.  Interest on student loans accumulates more than once per month.  By dividing up your payment into one or more per month it can cut down on the interest that’s adding up.  If your lender won’t allow you to split payments you will need to be at least one month ahead so that you avoid their late fees.
  4. Pay slightly more than your payment each month.  Even if it’s only $20 it will help to pay off the loan.
  5. Remember that interest.  When you first start paying loans you are only paying on the accumulated interest.  This is one of the ways that makes it difficult to pay off loans.  Most people don’t start paying off their principal until years after they’ve begun payments.
  6. If you’re still in school try to pay on the interest.  You may not be required to make payments, but in most cases the interest keeps adding up.  Knowing how much interest is adding up each month can help you determine what you would need to pay to keep it from growing too rapidly.
  7. Don’t spend that tax refund.  The refund should either go towards tuition if you are currently in school or towards your student loan.  Unless you have circumstances that can’t be avoided, this is a great way to get ahead in their calculated payment schedule.
  8. Get a side gig if necessary.  There are tons of ways to earn extra money, especially in the growing field of e-commerce.  Even if you’re only earning an extra $50 here and there it can help pay down your loan.
  9. Examine other debt that you may have.  If you are focused on student loans and ignore other debt these tips won’t help.  Make sure you note interest rates and how much of the principal you are paying on other debts before fully focusing on student loans.
  10. Keep debt to a minimum.  Avoid purchasing items that will add to more debt unless absolutely necessary.  Make sure you pay off your credit card and carefully examine loans or deals that seem too good to be true.

These are just some things that I’ve followed.  Feel free to chime in with other useful tips and tricks to reduce debt, especially student loans.

Finding Recipes

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is “Where do you find your recipes?”  Since I’m a librarian by trade I have no problem in sharing my resources with you.

  1. Cookbooks-it’s true print is not yet dead and I still use these.  Small town midwest ones are best because it’s very rare that the recipe isn’t excellent, otherwise the entire town would be all over the person that submitted it.  Definitely the accountability factor for those.  I also have a few of my own that I’ve picked up on sale (Barnes and Noble sales get me every time) and I check out some from the public library.  The library is a great go to if you don’t want to purchase and entire book and just want to browse through some to get ideas.
  2. Pinterest-linked from this site is my Pinterest.  I will give the disclaimer that I haven’t made all of the recipes yet, but I’m working my way through them.  I’ve also attempted to organize them for easy browsing.  Again my librarian skills are being used in my personal life.
  3. Websites-just a quick disclaimer, I’m not receiving anything from recommending these so hopefully they won’t mind.  My favorites are Taste of Home, Pioneer Woman, All Recipes, and Betty Crocker.
  4. Make up my own-sometimes I just have a bunch of leftover stuff and I throw it into a pot and make it into soup.  I also modify most of the recipes I find and add in my favorite ingredients.  I’m not afraid to experiment, especially with soup.  When it comes to soup you can either add in more broth to dilute the flavor or add in more flavor.  Since it stirs right in you can always taste test once it heats up.  I always taste test anything I fully make before it goes in the freezer.

There are definitely other resources out there, but these are the main ones that I use.  Happy cooking!

Freezer Meals Soup Edition

soup ingredientsI seriously love soup!  Even though it’s in the upper 80’s/lower 90’s I still love eating soup.  Each time I’ve made a round of freezer meals I’ve noticed that I usually eat the soup first.  I figured with all of the delicious produce available this time of year it would be a good time to stock up the freezer for fall.  Nothing says comfort like a delicious bowl of tomato soup or minestrone with grilled cheese.  Since I live in Iowa it only makes sense that I also try out various corn chowder recipes since fresh sweet corn is available any place you look, including parking lots at convenience stores.  So step by step here is what I did.  I haven’t found any posts yet on someone doing only soups so this might be unique enough to get your attention.  Or you might just think I’m crazy, at any rate thanks for stopping by my page!

You’ll also note the TV in the background.  I love my island because while I was prepping most of the soups I watched Christmas movies to get me in the mood.  Thank you Hallmark Channel for the marathon all weekend!

I have an entire board of soups on Pinterest.  I belong to the crowd that frequently makes items that I pin so I started making my way through all of the recipes that I want to try right away.  I then found I had to limit myself because I don’t have a deep freezer and 20 different soups were not going to fit in the freezer I do have.  So I settled on 13 different recipes because that’s what I usually make when I do meals.  All of my empty containers fit in the freezer so I figured I was good to go.  That was mistake number one.  I underestimated how much soup each recipe would make and ended up with more than I planned.  Even with all of the organizing I did I ended up breaking down and buying a small dorm sized freezer.  I also had to purchase more containers.  However, since I do this multiple times per year it was worth it.

soup in freezer

Not smart planning, there are still four soups to fit in here and they will be at least 10 cups each.

Here are links to the recipes that I used.  I underestimated how much they would make so I have that information for you as well.

Olive Garden Pasta e Fagoli-10 cups

Olive Garden Minestrone-14 cups

White Chicken Lasagna-13 cups

Creamy Tomato Tortellini-13 cups

Pepper Jack Chicken Fajita-12 cups

Corn and Zucchini Chowder-9 cups

Summer Corn Chowder-9 cups

Corn Chowder with Shrimp-9 cups

Crab Bisque-12 cups

Rustic Lobster Bisque-7 cups

Chicken Detox-11 cups (I added extra ingredients so this one made more)

Beef, Tomato, and Macaroni-12 cups

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato-6 cups

I use Rubbermaid and Ziplock containers which have the cup markings on them.  Now that I have a better idea of how much these make I can estimate better 🙂

After I decided which recipes to make I sat down and made my shopping list.  I do up one big list with all of the ingredients and then double check what I have on hand.  Since I do meal prep frequently I stock up when items go on sale.  I then divided my list into sections in the grocery store and began watching for the non-perishable items to go on sale.

The photo at the top of the page is all of the ingredients minus the dairy and meat, only because I couldn’t fit them in the space 🙂

I then sketched out a basic plan of which soups to make on which days.  Since I planned on making everything ahead of time I knew that I couldn’t do it all in one day.  I also only have one large pot so a couple of the soups that could be made in a smaller pan or the crockpot were paired with the soups that needed the larger pot.

soup recipes

I’m a super messy cook so I always write out cards instead of using my phone for the recipes.  I also like to make notes on veggies or seasoning that I want to add.

As my usual routine I began purchasing items and when I knew I was ready to begin cooking I bought the rest of the items and perishable items.  Before laying anything out on my island I made sure to wipe it down with a Clorox wipe.  I don’t use these on a regular basis, but feel it’s a good thing to do before and after every large prep session to make sure I get anything lurking around off the surface.

I then got out my prep bowls and started cutting veggies for the first day of soup.  I highly recommend a food chopper if you are planning to do this on a regular basis.  It chops an onion with a simple press of a button, it saves so much time!

I was only planning on making three soups the first day but ended up making five.  I found that if I let the soup cool down on the stove and then place in containers and cool the rest of the way I can prep for my next recipes, wash the pan, and then begin the next soup.  I always taste test my creations, especially if it is the first time I am making a recipe, so I had small portions of each soup to make sure it tasted ok and didn’t need anything added.  I can safely say that I liked all of the soups.  I didn’t measure out the seasoning, I eyeballed it because I’m familiar enough with my own tastes to know how much to sprinkle in the pot.

Two soups cooking at one time

As with any project, each container was labeled with masking tape and written on with a Sharpie.

soup portioning

soup labeling

After some trial and error I am more than likely going to be doing this again.  Though it would be a lot more fun with someone than by myself 🙂