Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January in Review

I am actually excited to write this first update for the year! I also am including some important changes we are starting to implement this month. I will be the first to admit that most of my excitement is due to the fact that with alot of conscience effort, I have met most of the goals this month.

Blogging: This post will make 16 for the month!! I can honestly say that I have had to think about blogging this month. But have been successful in at least getting something on paper.

Goal: 15 per month

Devotions: Major improvements this month including meeting the goal for the month. I need to continue with this focus and also add some meat to it. I am also extremely excited that Matt has "stepped up" and is taking an active role in being the spiritual head of the house!
Goal is 3 a week.

Groceries: So this is the major ouch I am way behind goal on this one. I spent $1120. So my explanations is as following: stock-pile. Food Lion the one local grocery store has been running an awesome "Brand sale". I have made 3 separate trips spending approximately $85 each trip.  This is a store that I normally don't even shop. The other part of the explanation is that we are attempting to stock up on items during the first 3-4 month of the year so that during the remainder of the year, it will make all things easier.
     I am planning on making some major changes in= the way I keep up with our budget in this area. I am going to pull out the designated money on Monday and keep a cash envelope for it each week. This first week will be the hardest since I usually shop at CVS on Sundays, so I may just end up taking a week off or at least                 
 Grocery Budget is set at $800 per month, this includes diapers, cleaning supplies, food and toiletries.

Financially: After looking at our spending and income for the month, we are $450 over budget. I can account for all of this in the medical bills that were paid during the month. In order, to continue without this overage tanking our budget for February, we will be using our unexpected tax return to cover. Other plans for the return including the completion of our addition with gutters going up!
     I realize that we need to place money in our budget for medical expenses and will begin this in March. No debt was paid off this month but we should begin to see one or more a month starting in February.
Goal: To be Debt free except for mortgage by the end of the year.

Weight- I lost 7 pounds in the month of January! An awesome start..at this rate I will reach my goal prior to December of this year! Currently I am exercising 4 days a week and drink 8+ glasses of water

Goal to exercise 3x a week and to be down to 150

Monday, January 30, 2012

Saving Money- Using the 3 Rs

Reduce, re-use, recycle... We have all heard of these especially in relationship to saving the earth or reducing our carbon footprint, but they are true when trying to save money.

Reduce- the amount of pre-package foods you are buying and consuming.  This is a huge area where saving money is easy. Instead of buying pre-package dinners try freezer cooking. Another way to REDUCE your spending is by reduce the number of time that you eat out during the week or even simpler reduce the number of trips  you make to the store in a week. Menu planning for us is the only way that we can accomplish the goal to REDUCE. Each Sunday, we look through the freezer and decide what to place on the menu for the week. This is especially helpful when we are running low on meat. If we don't have the items we need then we can't cook.

Re-use- Before throwing away anything, think if you can use it for something else or can it be donated to someone who can. Currently, we are re-using the deck from our deck that was replaced 9 years ago to make a new square foot garden. This wood was taken to the very edge of our yard and has been covered with weeds for years. Matt is in the process of going through each peace to determine which ones can be used and which need to be burned. I also like cooking items like taco rice that can be re-used for green peppers or nachos. Plastic containers can be re-used for storage especially large coffee ones. Another great re-use of plastic containers is for planting. I am also re-using empty water bottles. I started this after reading and realizing that the filtered water from our refrigerator is better than most bottled water. Re-using clothes or hand me downs are a way of life for us.  We currently re-use plastic grocery bags for scooping cat litter as well as holding wet clothes and for small trash can liners.

Recycle: This principle is very similar to the Re-use. One major difference is that by using our own bags for groceries and stuff we are recycling fabric  as well as saving money at the same time. Another way to look at recycling is by using for a different purpose.

My hope is that you begin to look for ways to Reduce, Re-use and Recycle to save money along with me!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Educational Afternoon

I mentioned that on Sunday, I began to work out a plan for our square foot garden this year. One of the new things I want to try is to grow broccoli. The main reason is that it is a "cool weather" vegetable. Meaning it can be planted early in the spring and then again in the fall with several harvest each time, this would significant increase my use of the gardening box. I went ahead and ordered some seeds on line. They arrived today, I was home around 2:30 and decided to turn this afternoon into a learning opportunity for the younger kids.

We first all watch a video on how to make paper pots from Budgetsavingmom.  Lily was in charge of searching the newspapers to find some without color, each of the 3 little ones got to tear apart the newspaper pages as well as "help" make the pots. Lily actually made her second one alone. Zach and Kendall were learning about positions (before and after) as well as turn taking. After finishing the pots we went out and filled with potting soil. Lily was given 2 word problems to keep her on top of things. Next we all planted the seeds and I watered. Hopefully they will sprout in around 10 days and we will be planting outside the first of March.  I am going to keep an eye on the weather and maybe getting all the plants outside by the first week of April?. But alot will depend on when the estimated last frost is, I have been reading that this can vary as much as a month in our area.  Finally after putting the pots in a cardboard box for easy transportation, Lily was able to use the calender and write the date we should have sprouts by followed by Zach and Kendall working on their names by signing their names. The total time we spent on this mini project was about an hour. But it provide the most teachable moments that I took advantage of in a while. It felt awesome to just be a mom but also know that I was spending quality time with the kids this afternoon.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Productive Free Weekend

We once again had a weekend with no major things to accomplish or events to attend. Haley left on Friday for Winter Retreat with her youth group, Amanda was at school and work and Lily did have a skating party on Saturday afternoon. Lily loved trying to skate and actually got around the rink a couple of times.

On Saturday, I was able to get FREE toilet bowl cleaners at Walmart. I had read about this deal on several website, and decided to try it. I asked to "price match" a sale at Family Dollar for $4 and then had a $4 off coupon. We actually got 2 of these and they are really working great. I was disappointed to find that they were out of the 3 other free items on my list. Also on Saturday,I cooked the 10lbs of chicken I purchased earlier in the week. I was able to freeze 10 cups of shredded chicken as well as 22 bags of chicken broth.

Sunday in North Carolina was rainy and COLD. The temperature was around 35 all day. So to get things warm, I decided to start planning for my "Square Foot Garden."  We have been debating on how big or small to make it this year. I also wanted to stick to items I know we will use. I had purchased several packs of seeds 2 years ago and want to try to start from starch again this year. The good news is that I actually got myself organized enough that this should be possible and if not then I can always purchased at the right time for growing. I did order broccoli seeds to start right away as well as some green chili seeds to try my hand at. I will also be raising some tomatoes this year as well. Otherwise, I hope to purchase enough corn to freeze as well as we will be participating in the Food Coop again. I am excited that I actually am ahead of the game this year instead of waiting to the last minute to start. I also hope this means it works and produces enough for freezing.

Finally on Sunday, Matt and I got all the tax papers together. I am currently waiting on 1 more W-2 then I can spend 3-4 hours filing online.

Sounds relaxing right?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saving Money-Why we are NOT buying/raising Chickens

One of the things Matt and I have been discussing over the past several weeks to help reduce our food expenses is the possibility of getting our own live chickens. The idea being that we would then raise both hens for eggs and a couple of roosters for meat. However, the only answer for us it NO!  The main reason is that the upfront cost as well as maintenance are significantly higher than what we are paying now. Below is the break down

Current cost: Chicken breast 21.99- 10# bag at Costco, 7 doz eggs 13.99 at Costco, chicken leg quarters $0.59 a pound on sale at Food Lion. I estimate that with the purchase of 2 10# bags of leg quarters the above items will last us approximately 2 months. A total of $50 or $25 each month.

Cost of chicken farming: Original building of coop and hen house $120 (divided into a year so $12 a  month). Chicken food $20 a month. With out even considering the initial cost of chickens we already are spending more for at least the first year on chicken farming. This does not include any labor cost or the daily expectation of gathering eggs or processing chickens.  I should add at this point that Matt does not like birds in fact he said "the only good chicken is a boneless one."

But as you can see with the numbers chicken farming is not in our future.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Saving Money- Add to the Stockpile

Just last week, I was excited to share that I thought our stockpile was near complete. I was even more excited that I was not even close to the grocery budget for the money. Well since then I have been shopping again at Food Lion and have a plan to go to Costco again tomorrow. Sounds crazy doesn't it, what is even more crazy is that I am planning to move some money from dinning out to cover the Costco trip tomorrow.  But let me explain.....

Food Lion is the only "grocery store" in our area. We also have a Walmart that sells groceries but I really dislike Walmart. I rarely go to Food Lion because of their coupon policy and usually much higher prices when compared to Costco. But these past several weeks have been different. A good example is my trip tonight I spent 85.09 and saved 66.13 or 44%. This is not a huge saving percentage and in the past I would not even post about this trip but if you take a close look at what I bought for that $85 it makes more sense.  Chicken leg quarters were on sale for 0.59 a pound in quantities of 10#. This is actually 0.20 cheaper than my stockpile price. I ended up purchasing 40# of chicken. My thought is that I will crockpot cook one bag at a time. This should provide enough meat and chicken stock for at least 4 meals or 1 month so I purchased a 4 month supply tonight. While I was in the store, they have continued there "Store brand sale", in addition to ketchup and BBQ sauce, they added cat food and salad dressing. I again grabbed several of the condiments as well as 40 cans of cat food, at 0.15 a piece it is cheaper than dry food. I also grabbed more sodas at 0.64, with coupons goldfish and pop tarts also made it into my cart.  So this 44% saving trip really is a great deal in real life.

We will head to Costco tomorrow for milk and other items we are out of just to finish off the month. Matt and I are already talking about several changes to the way we are budgeting. In addition starting next month, I am going to use a envelope system for groceries so that we can "carry" any remaining amounts over for a month when our financial situation changes as we are anticipating in the next 6 months or so.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Random Tuesday Thoughts

  • Plans for Saturday including working on and filing our income tax.
  • Going to try the envelope system next month for easier budgeting and saving.
  • Lily's face is looking much better!
  • We are going to make another trip to Food Lion this week to stock up more on house brand items
  • I am the only one that has a doctor's appointment this week.
  • Work is still really slow and looks like it will stay this way for several weeks.
  • I am actually met most of my goals this month- thus the need for this really lame blog entry!
  • CVS was actually a good place to shop this week
  • We actually spend less money when cooking/entertaining friends than even the 5 of us going out to eat!
  • Water from our refridgerator is better filtered than what I have purchased, so I am going to start re-using bottles and/or dig out our disney bottles.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saving Money- Stockpile complete Now what?

Back in November, I found a "stockpile" list on line and with a few changes, I posted it here.  With the financial changes we are facing in a couple of months, one of the ways we are preparing is by building the "stockpile".  As I was reading over on Southern Savers, I realized that Food Lion has it "special brands sale." Basically this give you a quarter back for each of the store items you purchase, in the form of a catalina.  After reading further, I realized that they also had several items on a great sale. So we decided to make a trip to Food Lion. I rarely go to Food Lion simply because of their higher price and the fact that they do not double coupons.  Ketchup, mustard and BBQ sauce are all on sale @0.88 with the sale this make each 0.63, this is the lowest I have seen any of these items. They also had there soda on sale for 0.89 with the additional discount that was 0.64 each. I purchased a total of 46 items of the store brand including bread and milk. While shopping I also discovered wing drumette marked down. I grabbed these for our Super Bowl party.  I did seperate my purchase out to 3 transaction to use the catalina and not have any left.  While putting these items away, I realized that we have added a lot to the stockpile this month. So I decided to check out the list vs what we actually have.  I am about 4 items short but these are not things I will run out and buy but probably will just grab extra the next time I buy them. So now what?

If you watch any of the shows on TV, you see they just keep adding and adding and adding. Not me!  I am not planning on adding to the stockpile unless an item is free or what I consider a stock up price. So I will continue to buy items especially at CVS and also watch the sales at other places. But for now, I just want to maintain this level of stuff. So unless,it is a great deal it won't be coming to my house! I also have managed to spend only $600 of our $800 budget so far this month. I know this will go up at least by $50 but that still is awesome for us and below budget!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Where did it Go?

Seriously where did this week go? My usual excuse is work but this week I know that is not the case, work is actually really low at the moment but I just can't seem to figure out where my time went. So maybe list will  help?

-took down the snow village. I am so sad doing this. But the good news is that we were able to store much better this year so I can purchase a  couple of new pieces for next year maybe :)

-Thursday was spent between doctors and IKEA.
  •      Lily has a infection on her face, there is a 60% chance it is MRSA. We decided to stop at the peditricians office on the way to all the kids eye appointments in Matthews (1.5hours south). She missed school on Friday and is on a strong antibodic. We are praying the infection clears quickly otherwise we have been warned that it might require surgery, because of it's location and size.
  •     Zach has decent vision. There is a slight concern that he may be far sighted but it will be a mild case and currently will just wait a year!
  •     Kendall can stop with patching now. Her vision is unchanging at this point. She did get a new presciption but we were told we could wait a couple of month before switching.
  •    Lily's vision is improving. She still has extremely poor dept perception, we have to continue patching 4 hours daily and her prescription also changed.  The hope is that her corrected vision becomes 20/20.

-IKEA- we joined the "family card" program for free. It allowed the girls to stay an extra half an hour at the play place, Matt got a free cup of coffee and we also received a free ice cream cone as well as saved 0.50. Not bad for a free card.
          - we purchased a new frying pan, new lights for over the kitchen sink, and several differenet shelves. I think this will be the last shelves needed for the house in a long time. I am excited to have enough storage space and a home for most things now!
         - we daydreamed about purchasing a new living room and kitchen. Never hurts  to dream.

-I have been able to keep up with the goals I established for the year! I am excited to be losing weight slowly and keeping on top of devotions!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wordless Wednesday- Reorganizing

Zach grabbed my camera while I was moving stuff and this is his picture.

Our new bedroom set. After Christmas, Matt and I chose this set and some new bathroom towels.

We were able to finally finish the picture wall in our bedroom. I have one more wall of pictures to get completed!

This past week, I have focused on  finishing a major clean of the playroom. This was the orginal living room and after Christmas we could barely walk in it.  We found the top organizers( it is actually 2) at Costco. The bottom wooden portion was a build in cabinet at my brother first house. As you can see we did manage to keep a few toys to play with.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Not Me

It is Not Me who is writing this post on Sunday night, with hopes to be able to participate in the fun over at MckMama on Monday.

It is Not Me who fed not only my children but also another child; chips (at least they were Multi-grain), salsa and cheese dip for dinner tonight.

It is definitely Not Me who is allowing my kids to watch Nick Jr while in the bathtub simply to get a few minutes of peace without interruption.

It is also Not Me who decided that the weekends don't count on her diet :).

It also would Not be Me who is so excited because she used the strike out feature in her last blog. That would be very nerdy.

It was also Not Me who after discovering, she had lost 2.5# consumed 3 bottles of water, knowing full well that means I am going to be in the bathroom half the night.

It would also be Not Me who is glad that her husband has finally seen the light regarding the expense of processed/convenient food and is willing to cut every corner imaginable to save money!

Finally it is Not Me who after cleaning out the freezers last week is so happy that they now are incredible full due to the cooking we have accomplished this weekend.

Anyone else what to join in the confessions?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Productive Day in the Kitchen

We are a busy family, we need things to be as convenient as possible. We also are trying very hard to be good stewards of the money that God has provide. Combine all of these things for the maximum benefit, the result is a day in the kitchen. I discover Freezer Cooking several years ago, I even used recipes from the site http://www.30daygourmet.com/.  I also have learn what our family likes and adaptive some other things to do to make evening meal especially easier and less expensive. Matt loves bread so of course I made some artisan bread. (Disclaimer: I have not purchase the rights to any recipes, I use google and tried only the free ones from 30 day).

Here is a list of things that have been finished or if indicated will be finished on Sunday.  I am including only one list because we also made a trip to Walmart today and the kids have not been neglected :).

Breakfast- Baked Banana Oatmeal (Confession: this is a site I discovered yesterday, I can't wait to try out many more of her recipes).
Lunch- Ham and cheese crescent rolls
Dinner- Salisbury Steak with gravy, mashed potatoes and squash casserole.

Frozen Meats- 3 Salisbury Steak (30 day gourmet)
                        3 meals of shredded chicken
                        2 Cheeseburger Pies (30 day gourmet)

Other Frozen things- 5 cans Navy/White Beans
                                9 cans of Chicken Brooth/ I simply threw all the throw away parts of chicken back in crock pot, filled with water to the brim and cooked on low for another 6 hours.

Finished on Sunday            did
To be completed- I will try and remember to list actual quantities after they are finished. These are all soaking and will cook overnight. We will finished up on Sunday afternoon!
                           3 cans Re-fried beans
                           3 cans of Black beans
                           3 cans of Red beans

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Day of Shopping

I am really interested in the way people shop, especially how you shop if you have a large family. Yes, I know we have a large family but I am often curious if I am doing it right? Can I do it differently, smarter or better? This is one of the reason that I watch TV shows about people with large families. So I thought since I haven't done a post about a day in my life in a long long time, I would share today.

Preparation- This is the most important part of the trip for me. The more prepared I am the less chance of missing something in the store. I also really dislike running to the store to pick up one item at a time. We usually will start to notice that we are running low on things, look at the calender and decide we need to make a trip to Costco. At that point, I usually place a list on the fridge to add things as I realize I need them. This list went up last Saturday. It also serves as a reminder to me to check out things that we might be running low on.  Next on the list of preparation is checking out the Costco coupons. Are there items we usually buy that I will definitely get  because there is a coupon? Because we simply can't purchase very thing at Costco I usually have a second list for Aldi or Food Lion. This week happens to be "Super Doubles" at Harris Teeter so I have spent around 2 hours gathering coupons and placing 2 separate orders for this. Matt took the kids and picked up the first list yesterday.  After discovering they did not give me credit for any of my coupons, I spent another 20 minute on the phone and decided to use up some of the value and place an order for today.  In the category, I put things like making sure the cooler is in the car as well as getting all my coupons and list in one spots so I don't forget them. We also usually take a small cooler with drinks just because someone is always thirsty.

Trip itself- We first window shopped at BabysRUs for a new car seat. We ended up purchasing one at Costco, it is a booster for Lily. Costco had a good deal on pork. Highlights of our purchase include: bag of chicken breast, 3 large pork roast ( at home I divided these into a total of 10 separate meal and froze each individually), 2 packages of pork chops ( these are divided into 2 meal each, we had one for dinner and froze the rest0 6# of hamburger ( I am planning a cooking day on Saturday, this should be 3 meals), 2 gallons of milk, 6 gallons of Apple Juice, 2 gallons of Orange juice and 7 dozen eggs. I did purchase a lot of meat today as well as staples that I have not been able to find cheaper through coupons.  We had lunch at Costco, ran over to Harris Teeter to pick up and then came home to put away everything. I did make a quick trip to Aldi for beans, rice and taco seasoning.

The End- I spent approximately half of our grocery budget this week. Just looking at the meat we purchased this should be the only large trip we make this month.  Since we don't have any plans on Saturday, I am planning to cook  that day. Items on the list included chicken for stews, beans, 2 cheeseburger pies and 2 meals of Salisbury steaks. Today alone, I was able to divide up the pork roast and pork chops. On average we have enough of both of these items for 2-3 months! So that is exciting to me!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Good vs Bad

I have heard that if you want to see both side of something that you make a list of the good points and bad points which make them easier to compare. To be honest with you, I am struggling right now.  We are facing several huge financial changes in the next 6 months.  I know in my head that "God has a plan for me" but I am still struggling with doubt and worry. So I am going to write a good vs bad list about the things going on in my life both financial and not. Bear with me, support me or close the page...

- I have been able to not take but 2 hours of vacation time during the month of December. So I should have enough saved for both my trip and our beach trip.

-Zach is doing excellent with potty training. I think* that we have bought the last bag of diapers around here.

-I don't have any more scheduled days at the nursing home.

-Last year we were able to replace/ repair the majority of major expenses around the house. We currently need to replace only 1 more window and purchase gutter till we will be complete finished with the house as far as major remodeling expenses.

- We have no car payments!

-We have purchased a lot of new electronic equipment over the past 2 months and don't need/want anything else unless our current television stop working. And even if this is the case, I don't see us replacing them quickly instead saving for a couple of months.

-We have replaced a ton of clothes over the past several months and should not need anything until the spring/summer.

-"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 
Jeremiah 29:10-12

-Matt's unemployment is becoming very unstable, we are reading various statements that indicate that it may end as soon as February or that it will last through June, which is what we originally thought and planned for.

-My work at the hospital has really slacked off. I will only be working 20 hours a week for at least the next 2 weeks.

-I don't have any more scheduled days at the nursing home.

-We need approximately $1000 to complete both the remaining window and gutters for the house, I had planned to finish during the month of March/ April but it just may not be possible.

-I greatly reduced our tax withholding for last year and we should only expect a refund of $1000 or less. My plan was to use this either for the remaining house repairs or pay upfront for the beach condo.

Monday, January 2, 2012

How I Spent my Christmas vacation...

I remember doing these in school, the only bad part is that I don't remember doing anything grand to write about then, pretty much the same as now but at least I am writing it down. I am really focusing on accountability this year, basically if I post it for the world to read, I need to be honest and give it my best shot. In addition to that, please ask me about specific things that way I have some real life accountability as well.
So back to how I have spent the past several days working on my goals for 2012 of course.
                   Dieting-Yesterday, I was conscience of what I ate, weighed in using the Wii, consumed 8 glasses of water and exercised for 30 minutes on the Wii. The down side to this is that I have a long way to reach my goal of 150 by next December but the good news is that I am starting at all!
                  Saving Money/budget- One of the ways we are going to save money on groceries is finally eliminating the need for diapers/pull-ups.  Since last Thursday, we have been attempting to potty train Zach. He was doing really well in pull ups but did not complain when he was wet or didn't even seem to care. So after buying underwear, he has been in underwear for about a day and half. The results are not as stellar as I would have hope but we do have results: Zach gets very upset when  he is wet, he even thanked me for cleaning up his mess.  We are going to continue to work with him this week, I would be very pleased if he is able to stay in underwear at home and move to underwear in public by the end of the month or as long as we have diapers!  Next I have been cleaning out the freezers and refrigerators.  I actually went shopping in the freezer in the building this morning. I was able to bring up enough meat for an entire week as well as lots of veggies. I did not have any "extra" money this month to work on purchasing the final window or beginning to pay down debt so the plan is to squeeze some of that out of our grocery and dinning out budgets. I have also spent some time searching for ways to use of the remaining items from Angel Food that we really didn't like. Last night I used some pre-breaded chicken wings to make Buffalo wings for Matt's dinner, he is planning to use the rest of the smoked sausage for sandwiches. Finally, I am planning to do some cooking this coming Saturday of "conveince meals' because after looking at our schedule for the month of January it is going to be really easy to get off track.
                Blogging- 2 days, 2 post a really good start.

I was able to get together a donation for Goodwill on Saturday as well as done alot of general cleaning and cleaning out done.  Best of all I have been able to spend time with the kids just being a Mom. Not rushing to get to something or tired from working.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Celebration

It literally has been years since I have made plans for New Year's Eve. Normally,going to bed by 10pm is the top of my ways to celebrate, other years it is sitting and watching the ball drop on the couch. This year turned out to be a little bit different.
I honestly can't say whose idea it was, but a group of people from our church met at Chick Filet for dinner and then we headed to a movie. This was a very different group as it include a couple that is older who have grand kids, a couple with one son, who is an young adult, another family that has teenagers and young adults, our friends the Pierces and us. The movie was pretty good. I even got to watch all but 10 minutes which was my one and only bathroom trip. The little ones are learning to really watch and behave, I am even optimistic that we could go once a month to the movies if we wanted. The movie was longer than we expected so as we left the parking lot at 9:45pm all three of the little kids were asleep. We arrived home and I actually fell asleep while watching the news. No ball drop for me!

Today (New Year's Day) was spent at church and sleeping. I wrote about  my goals for the next year last night so today I am trying to slowly starting working on them. My thought is that if I start slow then I will not be overwhelmed and just give up!