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.

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!

Eating out of our Pantry

I enjoying reading about the lives of others and often wonder if I could learn something to make life easier or better. This, my friends, is the reason for this post. One of major goals for this Summer, is to spend less than $150 a month for June and July on groceries. To achieve this goal we must start to use up items that we already have on hand.

I will first share why we have so much in our pantry and freezers. We purchased a whole cow of 800 pounds in March 2017. We have been enjoying it since then, we currently probably have about 1/4 of the meat left. I like to shop sales, I usually will buy the limit of items on sale at the grocery store. At Costco I often grab one extra of things on sale. I do shop smartly and usually only buy items that I know my family will eat and . However, it is much easier to purchase and use items that are more convenient and often I buy items that we really don’t need just because they are on sale. I will be the first to admit that I should not have purchased 25 cans of Spam at the same time. We have lots of food around this house. Eating out of the pantry will not be difficulty but it will mean trying some different things and using things up until they are finished before replacing if and only if it is something we NEED in order to cook or prepare a lot of different items such as sour cream. I have spent some time making list of food in the freezers and other pantry items I need to use.

Now, here is what eating from our pantry looks like around here. I am going to try and add ideas or things we do to this list for the next couple of weeks.
1. BLT sandwiches on buns instead of bread.
2. Making pizza dough and bread to slice instead of purchasing. (I found an entire food storage container, large bucket of bread flour and 10 packs of yeast.)
3. Using link sausage in sausage gravy instead of bulk sausage.
4. Breakfast for dinner, even breakfast for lunch.
5. Adding tuna and/or Salmon to noodles/pasta packs to increase the amount of protein.
6. Trying different recipes to use only the ingredients on hand.
7. Grinding up the remaining “roast” into hamburger meat for taco meat. For some reason, my family does not like roast. I have tried different recipes and always end up with left-overs that usually go bad or have to be repurposed to get eaten. This way we have at least 3 meals out of the roast that we really enjoy.

Do you have any secrets to using food? Ideas for Spam?


Thursday Thoughts

I must admit that I was wrong. I assumed that with school ending for all three kids last week, things would slow down. Nope, we are still moving at what feels like full speed ahead. I am off work today, using a sick day because all three kids have dentist appointments and our first swim meet is this afternoon. I return to work on Friday for my final day of the school year! I am exhausted and looking forward to spending some quality time at the pool this weekend!

Lily and Kendall will be attending our church camp next week. Zach decided he would prefer baseball camp instead. I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday and plan to spend at least part of the week, catching up on shopping. Zach and I should have some fun as well.

I am doing awesome on limiting my grocery spending for the month. So far I have spent $71.53. I do need to pick up several items at Costco so I am sure this will end up closer to $300 by the end of the month. One of my new favorite things to do is check the “clearance” sections of Food Lion. I have been able to find sausage patties and links for under $2 a package. Other finds include candy, juices and baked treats. I have also discovered that Aldi discounts baked goods on Wednesday. I am hopeful that we will be able to keep our grocery spending to a minimal by simply eating out of the pantry and shopping the sales as often as I can.

Another area that should have a huge decrease is gas. We have spent $127 so far this month. I am anticipating that with tomorrow being my last day of driving to work of the summer. I should be able to reduce the gas by one tank a week. The only problem is that we live in the middle of nowhere so any trips involve gas.

5 Things Friday

  1. Today is the last day of school. This week has been a whirlwind of activities and events to mark the end. Today, Kendall has her 5th grade graduation! Zach’s awards day was on Thursday. He has maintained an A average for the year. My mother is correct in her statement that I really deserve the awards as much as we struggle each week in spelling. Zach was also voted “Future President”. I hope this means he has a charismatic personality!
  2. We are starting to harvest several items from the garden, We have several LARGE zucchini, a couple of handfuls of snap beads, a random pepper about once a week and of course dill and basil. I am really excited to see some blossoms on our cucumber plants!
  3. Kendall has decide that she wants to cheer next year. I signed her up at the booster club. They will be cheering for football and basketball. The season runs from July to February. I am excited that she wants to cheer but also know it will mean some juggling of our schedule.
  4. The kids are planning to attend several camps this summer. Lily is going both to camp and a national youth event. Zach has baseball camp, and arts discovery camp. Kendall is going to church camp and already has several other days planned around middle school chorus. We, as a family, are planning a 5 day missions trip in addition to our annual beach trip.
  5. I have four and half days of work left! 9 weeks of summer vacation is starting to sound shorter and shorter! But I am so excited!

Month in Review

May has come to a flying finish. I went in to the month knowing that it would most likely be one of our busiest as a family. May did not disappoint in this for sure. We should be finishing up baseball next week after a 2 week break. Swim team has started with a goal of attending at least three practices a week. We have birthday parties, graduation parties and end of the year activities that all seem to be keeping our calendar full.

 As you can tell from the pictures yesterday, the garden is looking awesome, we have been able to harvest some green peppers, two very small zucchini, basil, dill and of course mint. We have blossoms on the tomato plants and the corn is over knee high. 

With all the scheduled activities for the month, menu planning has been important however we have been making changes to accommodate evening when we have literally an hour or less at home to get not only homework finished but some sort of dinner. We ended up eating out Chinese once and ordered pizza once. It feels like I am going to the grocery store every other day. However, I am starting to realize that the reason for this is that I am only buying what we are out of or what things I find on manager special. I am planning to write a post this weekend about the deals I have been able to find at Food Lion.  I have been able to keep a total of grocery spending. We are currently at $325 including the $75 trip I made on Thursday of this week. I am very pleased with this amount and plan to continue to monitor and reduce the overall spending for the summer months.  

We ended up spending around $400 for gas this month. I am not keeping a running total for this because we have to have gas to work and for most of our everyday activities. After much thought and consideration, this is really not a budget item that I can control.

In the area of finances we are holding our ground right now. I made the decision this week to sell the little red car. I was pleasantly surprised that it only took two day for it to sell. This will probably mean an increase in our gas spending but it did mean a $70 decrease in insurance for the short term. Today is the last paycheck for the school year and it was less than anticipated. I am going to have to sit down this summer and redo our budget once I actually figure out what I can anticipate for my salary next year. The good news is that I have scheduled two deposit, one in June and one in July, that will serve as my paychecks for the summer.

The area that has seen the greatest improvement during the month of May is with my weight loss and exercise. I have walked a total of 8 days with one of those being in the water. I have lost 2# this month.

I was able to increase my number of post for May to 13! I am only two away from goal.

We have continued to earn money with Swagbucks this month, we were able to gain $80. This is again going down but free money is free money.

PLANS:  9 day of work left till Summer! I am going to focus on using our money wisely this month! I want to keep the grocery budget less than $300 again. The cost of gas should also decrease significantly this summer as well due to me not going to work. We are planning to replace the tires on the old van. This money will come from profits of selling the car.  Lots of things to think about and consider during the summer! I plan to update regularly so get ready to enjoy some summer fun and gardening.  Spending should be minimal as we have already paid pool dues, all summer camps and our Wet and Wild membership is also paid.  f

April in Review

April is in the books. I honestly can say I think it flew by.  The success this month is planting the square foot garden!   We already have lots of small plants and I am very hopeful to start eating out of the garden by the end of May.

We were able to stick to our menu planning for the majority of the month! I have also been really good at eating things before they have to be thrown away.  Unfortunately, I have not been keeping a running record of our grocery spending but estimate we spent around $300. I am back to good record keeping today!

Fell off the wagon with keeping up with gas spending as well.

We are struggling in the area of finances this month as well. I am hopeful for positive news soon on this front.  We increased our overall debt but also covered summer camps for all three kids. I am beginning to notice a pattern and know what needs to be done to change it…. I NEED TO STICK TO WRITING THINGS DOWN!  Some good news is that my check was $100 more than expected. Matt was able to reduce his work cost by $35 a month.  I also have a better budget in place. I NEED TO STICK TO IT!

I have continued with completing either Bible study or reading at least 3 times a week!
I did not use the treadmill this month. May is warmer and the pool will open soon which also gives me better opportunity for walking.

I was only able to post 9 times in the month of April.

We have continued to earn money with Swagbucks this month, we were able to gain $100. Currently we are grabbing gift cards to Dominos which are discounted at 20%. Pizza is good!

PLANS: 6 weeks of work left for me! Bring on the Summer! I am going to focus on using our money wisely this month!  We are also planning of painting Lily’s room which should get us caught up to date on house projects!