Saving on Saturday

No spend days equals savings. This idea sounds very simple and is actually foul proof. If you don’t spend any money on a given day then of course you are saving money. However, when putting this into practice it actually becomes much harder than you think. I am a very black and white person so when my understanding of No spend days is exactly that no spending what so ever even from budgeted amounts. The one exception I make is using med flex money. I don’t count this as spending because I never see this money and don’t budget for it either. During the school year there are many things that can count as spending, ball games, school activities/fees and piano. All these activities are planned but still count as spending. Gas is a big culprit during any season of the year.

I started tracking my no spend days in June. I was very shocked to see my total as 2! I was even more shocked to realize that both of these days occurred while school was in session. In July, I was able to achieve a total of seven days of no spending. Again, I was shocked to learn that one of those no spend day was on our missions trip. So far during the month of August, we have managed 3 no spend day with today counting as the third. The first no spend was on Saturday August 3rd, just prior to our beach trip and the second day was during our beach trip. Given all this information, what is the one thing that makes a no spend day work? Planning is the simple answer. The good news is that heading into the school year, I have been focused on preparing ahead aka planning. I have enough meals that grocery shopping should not need to happen but maybe twice a month to grab milk, cheese, bread and vegetables. I don’t anticipate having lots of extra time so that eliminates online shopping and any shopping really. Yesterday, I took the van for an oil change so that eliminates that expense for at least a couple of month. We have also replaced the brakes this summer and replaced tires on the older van. I am hopeful that gas will be our only vehicle expense. The kids and I all had hair appointments yesterday which means we are good for at least 2 months in that area. I may end up getting another pedicure but only one more should be sufficient. The one expense that I know is coming is school fees including signing up for Baseball, and Youth Theater.

Now to the planning part, my goal for August was 10 no spend days. I had originally stated that when school started I would shoot for 15 no spend days. I am no sure that 15 is realistic but I will wait until the end of August to decided if it is reachable.

Thursday Thoughts

I have been very slack on my posting this month. In fact, this is the 5th post and today is the 15th of the month. I do have a legit reason or a couple of legit reasons for this slackness. I am going to share these with you. Of course, the first reason was vacation. We spent a lovely week at the beach. We really enjoyed time as a family. And to be quiet honest, I just did not feel like posting. I do have a couple more post to share about our beach trip and will hope to get at least one of these up this week. We arrived home on Sunday and actually got ahead of the game by unpacking completely Sunday night.

The second reason that I have not posted a lot this month is that I have been focused on stocking the freezer with breakfast and dinners to use as I start back to work next week. I am so excited to say that I am finished with this task. I currently have 75 dinners and 50 breakfasts pre-made and in the freezer. I wanted to share a little bit about this process with you. But first the reason this has been such a focus for me this week is simple LIFE. All three of the little kids will be involved in an extra curricular activity this fall. This means that not only do we have at least one activity every evening we have two activities most evening and an occasional evening where all three kids need to be somewhere different. Kendall will have a football game to cheer at every Saturday during the months of September and October. My goal is to keep Sundays as a day of rest and day to get things organized for the week.

When we arrived home on Sunday, we found peppers, pimentos, cucumbers and tomatoes ripe in the garden. Matt was able to roast 2 batches of pimentos to use to make pimento cheese during the fall and winter. I started a batch of pasta sauce in the crockpot and with the help of Zach made 10 omelet bags. We use omelet bags for breakfast, simply add the bag contents in a cup with 2 eggs and microwave for 2 minutes. Each omelet bag contains sausage, onions and pepper. Prior to leaving on vacation, I made 20 breakfast burritos to use the eggs, milk and sausage in the refrigerator.

Monday after spending several hours/days researching and book marking recipes during our vacation, I checked in the freezers and pantry and made a list of items that needed to be purchased in order to complete different meals. I added to this list pop tarts, instant oatmeal and cereal to use as well. I made 3 batch of pizza dough and froze along with the toppings (cheeseburger and chicken) for these. The pasta sauce was used to make dinner and two additional containers were placed in the freezer.

Tuesday was a shopping day. Mom and I headed to the local Food Lion and to Walmart with my long list. I am very proud to say that by using coupons, gift cards and sticking to my list, I spending $70 total. I did add two packs of chicken thighs to the crockpot to cook while shopping. For dinner, I unthawed a package of chicken livers and added sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.

Wednesday morning, I made a double batch of French toast using bread we found on sale. I added another batch of omelet bags to the freezer as well. I used the chicken thighs to place a chicken divan in the freezer. I decided to go ahead and make chicken broth with the skin and bones as several of my recipes called for it. After our dinner of chicken and dumplings, I made two bags of slow cooker lasagna. My mom and the kids helped with bagging up the dried basil that has been hanging in my building for several weeks.

Today has been another hectic day of cooking. First I cut and hung 15 stalks of basil in the building to begin the drying process. My goal is to not only preserve the basil but allow new plant growth on the existing plants. I also assembled the chicken casserole that we ate for dinner. All the kids were recruited to help with cooking and carrying things to the freezers today. Zach is awesome at browning/ cooking sausage and meats. I assembled 2 baked ziti, 5 bags of Salisbury steak and 2 packs of hamburger patties. I also bagged and froze an additional 10 cups of chicken stock. My plan is to eat one set of the hamburgers for dinner tomorrow and the other will be a meal later in the school year.

Now that all the cooking is finished, I plan to enjoy the last few days of summer with trips to the pool and Wet and wild. I may even finish my 4 book of the summer.

5 Things Friday-Vacation

Vacation is a special time for my family. So today, I thought i would share 5 things that make our vacation special and unique to us.

  1. The beach specifically a beach in South Carolina is where you will find us on vacation during the summer . We typically spend 4-6 hours a day on the beach! Over the years, we have gained a collection of toys, boards, chairs and umbrellas that we bring each year to help occupy our time. I also enjoy sitting on a balcony listening to the waves during meals and at night. In fact, I am sitting outside now!
  2. Eating out. As a large family, one way we reduce our expenses is by eating at home. We typically eat out once or twice a month. On vacation, we typically eat out once a day. We also enjoy ice cream or donuts as dessert each day.
  3. Paper products- No one especially me wants to spend time washing dishes on vacation. We bring paper plates and utensils to use and throw away for the meals we do eat in.
  4. Shopping- We live in a rural area which requires a minimum of a 10 minute drive to get to the closest store. We enjoy outlets bargain stores and even specialty stores while on vacation!
  5. Family game nights. Typically we play a game 4 or more of the nights we are on vacation. Our current favorites are Uno,Rook, Heads up, Yahtzee and Apples to Apples. The kids also enjoy time on their electronics without having to earn via chores like the rest of the year. Electronics are not missed or used during meals or games.

July in Review

What a difference a year makes. This is one of the reason, I continue to blog after so many years is the ability to read what things were happening in the past. Last year at this time, Matt was starting a new job and I was working out my notice at the hospital. I had intended to begin working 2 contract jobs in August. Fortunately, Davie County Schools offered me a position and this year I have enjoyed a month of spending time with the kids! I also have realized that I have been free styling my month in review for the last several months so this month, I am going back.

Financial-I took a $10,000 a year pay cut with my new job, however I do not have any regrets! I will be hopefully starting a second job in the afternoons which will make up the difference. We have survived this past year but a boost of income will definitely make my life easier. Something new I am tracking is the number of days a month that we don’t spend any money. In June, I had 2 days and this month I had 7! I am going to set the goal at 10 for next month and 15 on a regular basis when school starts.

Grocery Spending-$418.17 This is actually less than last year and more than my previous two months. I am pleased with this spending as I have focused on getting food prepared ahead for the coming school year. I currently have 50 meals that just need to go in crock pot or oven and plan on another 10 to prepare the week after we get home from the beach! I do think that my grocery spending will decrease when school starts as we will be only purchasing items that we need.

Gas budget- $280- Spent $291. I am going to increase the budget to $300 a month starting in August.  We purchased a small car to use for my home health job so I am hopeful that this will keep our expenses close to $300 each month.

Kid/Summer expenses : Kendall has a one day cheer camp and I was responsible for paying for half of her uniform ($59). August will be expensive with school fees, baseball fee and more cheer expense

Earned $155- This is a HUGE improvement! This is definitely the most money we have earned in a month for this entire year. I honestly think it is because I am trying to make as much as possible with the focus on completing at least one survey a day on Swagbucks.

Personal-
Blogging- post number 10 for the month. This is an improvement of 3 from last year but a decrease in 4 from June.

Exercise- Don’t see any this month. A regular routine will probably improve this area!

Looking ahead to August- We are planning to enjoy our beach trip which means spending but once we get back to a regular schedule and I start the second job, my goal is to stay focused and enjoy my kids!

 

Goodwill

One of the things that we decided to do this summer as a family was a “mission trip”. We actually scheduled it back in March but will leave on Friday of this week and return the following Tuesday. I had heard that we would all need long pants or skirts for this trip. This was confirmed a couple of weeks ago. Matt said he would be able to just wear his jeans and other “work pants” that he has! Zach just finished baseball camp and decided he could easily wear baseball pants for the trip along with the same shirts he wore to camp. However, Lily Kendall and I did not have thin long pants or long skirts that I felt would be appropriate. By appropriate I mean in length or without a thick lining. After doing a little bit of research, I decided to try our Goodwill store first. My back up plans including Roses ( a local discount store sort of like Big Lots but with clothing) and heading to Winston to hit up the Thrift stores there. I knew we needed to be early to Goodwill and ask my Mom to go along to help with clothing selection. Mom ended up being an awesome assets as she is a seamstress! My secondary goal was to be able to locate items that could and will be worn a second and third time.

I am pleased and excited to say that I was able to achieve all my goals and only shopped two stores. We arrived at our Lexington Goodwill at 8:45 and spent about an hour and half shopping. I was able to purchase 1 longer dress, a pleated blue skirt and 2 coordinating tops and skirts. The dresses need to have the busted arm seams fixed which my Mom did in less than 5 minutes. Lily located 2 skirts she liked but both were extremely long. Mom volunteered to alter both of these. Kendall found 2 skirts and shirts with only one needing alternating. So for $52.84 we purchased 12 pieces of clothing that will be worn multiple times!

Lily was able to borrow 2 additional skirts from a girl at our church! Another huge savings! We also shopped at Roses, where Kendall was able to locate and purchase 2 long dresses that she definitely wants to wear again. I end up spending an addition $22 at Roses for Kendall’s dresses.

I was able to dress all 3 of us girls for four days for $75!

Best Homemade Sandwiches

One of my goals for this summer was to stock the freezer with food that would make my life much easier when the school year starts again. I started the process during my Spring Break. As things happen and change we did not use as many of these pre-cooked meals as I thought we would. In fact, when I started checking we are really good on chicken meals with about 20 remaining in the freezer. This summer, I have been slowing adding to this usually one or so items a week. So far, I have sloppy joes, taco meat, meat loaf and spaghetti sauce as meal. I have made hot pepper jelly and even cooked up some chicken to use. On Monday, I realized that my summer is fasting coming to an end, We have plans for the next several weeks that will keep us really busy. I started a list on my whiteboard of items that I can think of that I definitely wanted to add to the freezer. Today, I decided to tackle a major lunch prep, 100 homemade no crust peanut butter and jelly sandwiches aka “uncrustables”. First the numbers, $12.48 spent for bread, jelly and peanut butter this ends up being thirteen cent each. We, 3 kids and I, spent 45 minutes to assemble and place in the freezer. This is a huge win for me!

10 loaves of bread at $0.65 each.


We started by lining up the bread with an entire loaf on each side of our table. Kendall was in charge of placing 1/2 tablespoon of peanut butter on the bread. Lily spread the peanut butter in the rough shape of a circle.
Zach placed 1 teaspoon of jelly on top of the peanut butter!
Sandwich made! Zach ended up helping the most with this step.
I used a glass to cut out a circle. A butter knife helped remove the crust. I will admit this appears to waste a lot of bread but the cost of buying is fifty cent each on sale so the waste is not an issue.
individually bagged and ready for the school year!

Tuesday Thoughts

I have decided that this week is officially my “staycation week” In reality it is the only week this summer that we have only swim team practice and piano. We started off the week strong, by spending six hours on Saturday and another four hours on Sunday at the pool. I really enjoy just hanging out talking with friends or simply reading a book! We ended up spending $5 for ice cream at the pool on Saturday. I also headed to Food Lion to pick up a couple of items. Spent a total of $1.45 out of pocket and received two $2 off my next shopping order coupons.

Monday, we headed to Emerald Pointe, the local water park. We decided to do things a little differently and take a slower pace this time. The kids spent a lot of time in the splash area just having fun. No spending this day as the kids all took their own money to pay for ice cream. We had a pasta salad with grilled chicken for lunch.

Monday night after coming home, I decided to make another batch of spaghetti sauce. I am enjoying using my insta pot to cook ground beef in because it has little mess and does not heat up the house. I also fixed a batch of chill using my small 3 pot crock pot. Both items cooked all night. This morning, I froze some chill for the beach and placed another 2 bags of sauce in the freezer. I ended up cooking meatball to add to the sauce for our dinner tonight.

Today, Tuesday, was a laundry day. I washed a total of 11 loads of laundry most of which was bedding. I was able to save electricity by hanging out the 10 loads of sheets and bedding. I have been slowing catching up on paperwork and trying to schedule the last few appointments for this summer.

Looking ahead, we have swim team practice Wednesday morning and Thursday night. Our county swim meet is Friday evening and Saturday morning so I need to get some food prepared for both of these events.

I have started a list of the items I want to add to our freezer stash prior to school starting. I think it is doable but may take a couple of days. Tonight, we tried a new recipe, “hot pepper jelly.” I will not be trying this myself at all!

Here is to another 2-3 days of staying at home mostly!

5 Things Friday

  1. I have been trying several new recipes this week and also attempting to use my instapot for a couple of different things. So far, the recipes have not been 50%, ranch pork chops were a no, but garlic parmesan wings were a hit. I attempted to use the instapot for potatoes and that was a no, not all the potatoes were done. I am going to try and cook a bunch of ground beef today without using the frying pan.
  2. I headed to Walmart today to try and earn some extra money with Swagbucks. Again, 50% success rate. I purchased 8 bottles of cream, this deal worked perfectly with out of pocket cost of $13.00 and 1800 Swagbucks credited within 5 minutes. I also attempted an Amour All deal that was basically free if purchased four products. Unfortunately, this deal did not work and I will be returning all the products to Walmart. I also spent a little extra time doing Shopkicks while in the store.
  3. We spent some extra time in the garden this week. Cleaning out weeds and removing some dead plants. My plan is to replant some items such as squash and green beans again next week in hopes to get even more for our bulk. We are finally starting to get some tomatoes in and they are really really good!
  4. I am staying much busier that I want to be on my summer break. This was suppose to be an slower week but I have ended up on the go most days. Next week, Lily heads to Orlando for a national youth conference, she leave early Sunday morning. Zach will be attending a baseball camp from 9 to 3 each day. The only down side is that this camp is a 45 minute drive each way. Kendall has a swim meet on Tuesday and is scheduled to get her braces on Wednesday.
  5. I am anticipating starting a second job next school year to add to our income.

June in Review

I am almost in disbelief that the month of June is finished! I really have enjoyed the first two weeks of my summer vacation but it is going way to fast! In fact, we declared yesterday a chill day and I actually slept for about two hours which made a huge difference in my mood!

The garden is producing at a steady rate. We are on the verge of getting tomatoes and cucumbers! I am hoping to harvest enough tomatoes to make at least 12 batches of spaghetti sauce but will be happy to enjoy several sandwiches a week! The cucumber plants are blooming with several small cucumbers but nothing to great. We have two watermelons that are growing already! Unfortunately, we lost all but 2 of our corn plants. I have decided that corn growing is just not for me! We also lost both of our zucchini plants but were able to harvest several zucchinis first. I currently have enough in the freezer for zucchini something once a month for a year. I did discover zucchini hushpuppies which are a huge hit around here. Matt has been able to harvest enough jalapenos to make a batch for him to snack on. We are getting a steady supply of green peppers! I have only been able to freeze on batch but we are using them in a lot of things! I am trying my hand at drying basil this year in hopes to keep the plants alive and producing until the tomatoes come in. My plan is to plant pumpkins this month but need to check the almanac first!

My increase of free time has included lots of clearance shopping! I have been able to stock our freezer with both chicken and pork this month. I spent a total of $302 this month in groceries which is less than usual but more than I had anticipated. We have started to use items in our freezer and pantry and I have started a “stockpile” list. My goal is to keep spending low but also to maintain and improve the stockpile. I have realized that during the school year it is very hard to shop the sales and so I am hopeful to make huge gains in this area as well. I also am planning to attempt to cook ahead one item a week. For example, last week I made a huge batch of taco meat and froze enough for 8 additional meals. This week the goal is to make 10 pounds of sloppy joe mix.

We ended up spending $311 for gas this month. This is a decrease from previous months and I anticipate this to decrease even more for the month of July.

In the area of finances we are holding our ground right now. I did sit down and figure out my new salary. I also am actively pursuing several additional job opportunities to increase our income. This is always a hard decision and one that requires lots of prayer. Join me in praying that we follow God’s will in our financial life even if it is not easy!

I have been able to exercise at least twice a week this month. I actually increase my walking to two miles this week. This has not translated to the scale but I do notice a difference in the way some of my clothes are fitting which is always a nice thing,

This is post number 14 for the month! I am surprised at how difficult it is to reach 15 post in a month!

We have continued to earn money with Swagbucks this month, we were able to gain $75. I also have enough sitting in my account for another $25 gift card but am waiting so I can get it without a delay. My plan for this first gift card is Lowes to buy filters and plywood.

PLANS: July will be a busy month. Zach has 2 weeks of camp to attend. Lily will be at an International Youth Conference for a week. We will all be involved in our church Vacation Bible School the third week of the month. Followed by our family missions trip to Clarkston Ga. Spending should be minimal as everything but the mission’s trip is prepaid!

Saving on Saturday

I officially took a break from my Summer break today! Both myself and the kids were exhausted and really needed a down day! Today was the day! I even managed to get a nap this afternoon, which makes me feel and react so much better!

We did make a trip out of the house to one of our local discount stores “Ollies”. Matt let me know that he is down to his last 10 K-cups so that is what I was on the lookout for. We have found the cheapest to be 26 cent a cup when we order online at Costco. This is our standard price. Today was a good day to shop. The first thing we noticed was a 15% off everything sale! We ended up finding a variety pack of K-cups for twenty-one cent each! We stocked up with a total of 160 K-cups. I also found Pop Tarts on sale which will be awesome once school starts back and we are in a huge hurry in the mornings! The kid found Dippin Dot cereal, I caved and purchased one box which should feed them and Matt in the morning! We also found Christmas Candy and Cookies at 75% off. These lead to an interesting discussion at dinner about use by and expiration dates on food. It is no surprise that everyone decided that eating the Hershey Kiss Candy cane flavor kisses would be the best option. In total I spent $55 which included the coffee, cereal, poptarts, cookies, 4 bags of candy, a bag of twizzlers, 2 boxes of Kool-Aid drinks and 2 bags of chocolate chips!

The second purchase of the day does not sound like much saving but in the long run I think it will be. First the background, I purchased a Rainbow vacuum probably 14 years ago and we continue to use on a weekly bases. It is a huge pain to set up and take apart so once a week is the limit. This year we have moved a large carpet/rug to the kitchen in order to cover some of the more obvious/ugly problems with our floor. It becomes dirty quickly and I wanted to get something easy to pull and use at least several times a week. One of the chores that the kids do daily is to Swiffer either the kitchen/dinning room or living room. I have been amazed at how much this is reducing the dirt in the rest of the house. Swiffer cloths are awesome but can only be used on time and they do get expenses. I looked at “Ollies” for a stick vacuum but had no luck. We decided to head to Walmart. We were able to find a small stick vacuum for $35. Since it can also be used on the regular floors, my goal is a cleaner floor with less expenses! I will let you know if that works out!