June in Review

June is definitely my favorite month of the year! The weather is hot and we get to spend lots of time in the pool because Summer break begins. Things are slowly starting to return to more normal. The pool is open, we are attending church and baseball is happening. We also look at our budget and make any adjustments or changes that are needed. This year that was a very positive thing as we were able to move money from braces to other areas. After the kids summer camp was cancelled and I was able to score free for now airline tickets for our Disney trips, we decided to spend a week in July at the beach! After some research, we were even able to get a condo on the oceanfront for a week for $1900! I am so looking forward to some beach time!

Gardening- continues to be a challenge this month. The weather is simply not cooperating. We have been able to harvest lots of snap peas, one cucumber , a batch of green beans, strawberries, squash and zucchini. Currently we are eating just about everything we are harvesting. Squash bugs have attacked and we have lost several plants. I am hopefully for the tomatoes to start this week, I have picked two but both were rotten. Cucumbers are blooming so we continue to hope! The kids are most excited because they spotted 2 growing watermelons when mowing yesterday.

Goal #1 Grocery Budget of $550- The total for the month is $640.36. After looking back, I realized that I have not been able to maintain this budget at all this year. I have been over every single month. My grocery average is $722 a month YIKES! I am not going to increase the budget yet but this will be something I closely monitor for the rest of the year. We have been purchasing alot of meat and prior to COVID, we had decreased our stockpile significantly. Currently I am comfortable with our stockpile and don’t have any gapping holes. I am thinking that our expenses may decrease in this area and if so that will help me to determine exactly where we need to be in this area. For July, I do not plan to actually spend any time in the grocery stores except to grab things we need for our beach trip. I most likely will do a huge trip the last week of July in preparation for returning to school in August.

Goal #2 – Record and keep up with gas/ auto purchase- $186.13 the total for the month. This is the lowest spending on gas in a very very very long time. The price of gas is starting to rise and we are planning to travel this month. One of the benefits of having a significant decrease in our gas budget during the three of the last 6 months is that we are able to pay off debit. We are currently using a credit card for all gas purchases. Any additional money have been used to reduce the balance of this card. I am projecting that by the end of the year we should have this card completely paid off and will be transferring any excess after groceries to reduce another card. In July, I need to put tags on the van. I expect we should still be under $500 budget for the month of July.

Goal #3-Use a cash envelope system for everything possible. Success! This may become a little more difficulty in the next 2-4 months as the Untied States is currently experiencing a cash shortage. I do have several options so we may do a hybrid system. No spend days are 5 this month YAY! My goal for July is 5 days as well.

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month. This is post number 15 for the month! I am becoming more consistent!

Goal # 5- Fitness- Goal is to walk 3 times a week. I managed to walk 7 days this month! It is not the goal but a significant improvement over last month!

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal- 3x a week –Not there at all!

Goal #7-Attempt at least 52 new recipes this year.-  We have tried 40 new recipes this year! I am planning to finish out the remaining 12 over the summer but time will tell.

Earnings_ $30. This is probably the lowest earning month in a long long time. The economy is not great and I suspect this may be the beginning of the end for swagbucks. Matt did not even earn a single card this month so at least we should double this amount next month! But free money is free money!

July appears to be a busy but fun month. We have swim team, baseball, our beach trip and baseball camp! Because of COVID-19. I will be returning to work the second week of August so July is really our last summer I plan to enjoy!

Saving on Saturday

Kindle Unlimited– I first saw this particular offer in May, 2 Free Months of Kindle Unlimited. I LOVE to read but usually don’t really have time to read more than a blog on the internet. Since I started working in the school system, I have decided to use the summer to catch up on reading real books. I waited until the week before finishing school to activate this deal. My original plan was to read at least one book a week. The plan should end in September so the timing was perfect. So far, I have read 10 books in two weeks. This free subscription has saved me at least $20. I currently have another 10 books downloaded to read! I am really good at keeping up with cancellation so I don’t think I will have any cost involved in this!.

Staying home/ keeping track of spending. I managed to have 2 total no spend days this past week. I am avoiding shopping in stores especially with the new mask requirement in my state! By not even window shopping, I am able to not spend any money. For example, total grocery spending was $4.21 for the week! We have finally restocked our pantry and freezers. My plan is to use what we have on-hand for the next 3-4 weeks and then do one big trip in August before returning to work. I am continuing to watch sales and buying items we need or want at the best price. For example this week, I ordered a basketball goal from Walmart for $95. I have been looking for a goal for the kids since march and this goal is actually only $15 more than what I have found at yard sales and on Facebook. The best thing is that the goal will be delivered!

Using or storing as much fresh fruit and veggies as possible. We are receiving a summer food delivery from our school district. This provides 6 breakfast and six lunches per child each week. This is really alot of food and the majority of it has been fresh! This week, I have made homemade apple/pear sauce, cooked and froze spinach, made a packet for squash casserole! I am very pleased to be able to continue to use this food or store for future use.

Meatless meal and left-overs. Don’t get me wrong we are meat eaters but with all the fresh items we have sometimes change is good. Several lunches this week have been sautéed veggies. Saturday, I made sautéed zucchini, a batch of green beans, creamed spinach. and pulled out potato salad, cucumber and onion salad for lunch. For dinner, baked sweet potatoes so two out of three meals were meatless. Sunday, the plan is left-overs for one meal and to reheat the egg rolls from school meals for another meal. That means that both days this weekend have been out of the fridge with basically no cost!

How have you been saving money?

Saving on Saturday

I finally feel like I have a couple of ways we saved to share this week!
1. We turned off the air conditioning for 4 days. Saving approximately $20 for the week. Our electric bill came for this week and the only difference is use of the air conditioning. It jumped $80 from last month. I am going to use that figure of $20 a week as what it cost to run our air conditioning.
2. Buying conditioner and body wash at the Dollar Tree. The girls were out of conditioner (which neither Matt nor I use). So I made a stop at a Dollar Tree. I was able to purchase 3 bottles of conditioner for $3 as opposed to $3.99 a bottle anywhere else. I also picked up Zach and Matt a bottle each of body wash. Again saving at least $3 each on these purchases. On a side note, I usually buy shampoo, conditioner and body wash at CVS when I can purchase for less than $1. We have used all of our stockpile so instead of spending even $2, the Dollar Tree is a great option.
3. Ate at home for all except one meal this week. We have gotten into a habit of grabbing breakfast out on Saturday mornings. We keep the cost low at around $15 but this week, I made a plan for Saturday breakfast and saved that money. I also have been very focused on using up left-overs instead of cooking anything. We received lunches and breakfast from the school in addition to a few items from the garden. It is important that we use these items instead of letting them go to waste. I am excited to say that this week, we have eaten at home and eaten out of the refrigerator.
4. Order glass for Lily from Zenni. I was able to get a pair of glasses with transitional lens for $108. Lily has a stronger prescription and most places will not make her glasses for this reason so to be able to order for around $100 is a huge money saver. In comparison, I also purchased glasses for Zach this week as well. I used a BOGO deal at vision works and spent $410 for two pair of glasses or $205 each. This puts me at saving at least $100 on Lily’s glasses.
5. Purchased for $1 a 30 day supply of contacts for Kendall. We are going to try these out. My vision insurance starts again on July 1st and I will be able to order more regular contact for her but these should help us bridge the gap of what I can order and a true year’s supply.
6. Moved both Lily and Kendall’s braces payment from our regular account to my Medflex account, which renews on July 1st. This money is tax free! We saved $267 a month by moving these payments.
7. Purchased polo shirts for Matt at Costco for $9.99 for 2 shirts. We purchased a total of 6 shirts for a savings of at least $50 even finding items on sale.

Friday Update

  1. The Garden- Because of our strange weather here, the garden has been all over the place. We are still finding 5-10 ripe strawberries a day. We seem to be on the last of our snap peas but have been able to enjoy on a very regular basis. This week, we are enjoying zucchini and squash. It appears that my cucumber plants are actually alive! They have started to produce blooms and I am hopeful for some in a couple of weeks. We have tomatoes growing and I am really excited that it appears that all the plants have survived and are starting to produce. I was able to purchase a peach tree that if lives will finish up the eatable border in the back yard.
  2. The weather- CRAZY! For the first time ever in June, we turned off the air conditioning for 4 days this past week. Our average high is 85 but we had 3 days in the 60’s. Unfortunately the humidity got us on the the four day and it is back to the air.
  3. Food- I am very excited and pleased that our school lunch deliveries have improved significantly for the summer. I am thankful for any and all food but this past week, we received lots of raw fruits and vegetables that the kids love. Breakfast food switched from donuts to cereal and pop tarts. My kids are big breakfast eaters so a single donut or muffin is a snack but a bowl of cereal will last several hours. I am now very comfortable with our food storage. My plan for the summer is to continue to replace what we use and what I can find on sale but I am no longer afraid of running out even if I stopped shopping completely.
  4. Summer Break- I am officially on summer break until August 10th! The weather has limited my ability to enjoy but I have been able to read 4 additional books this week.
  5. Budget- We are continuing to save money on gas! I am going to do a budget rearranging in July due to the changes in health care cost. I am most excited to see our debt numbers decrease! I am planning a post this week with lots of details!

5 Things Friday

  1. Next week should be the most normal week since March. Monday is my last day of work for the school year!!!!!! The kids have swim practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Piano is scheduled for Wednesday. Zach has baseball games on Tuesday and Friday. And finally on Tuesday, Kendall finishes her oral surgery! Never thought a crazy busy week would cause this much excitement!
  2. The square foot garden is awesome! We are currently harvesting zucchini and snap peas. I have small tomatoes and green peppers! The cucumbers are flowering finally so I am so thankful and excited!
  3. The school system benefits reset in July of each year. Because of the ability to place even more in my flex spending account this year which is pre-tax. I was able to move our braces payments from the regular account back to the medical flex account which gives us an extra $267 a month. I will need to use at least $100 of this each month for other medical expenses but it is still a huge savings.
  4. This past weekend, we decided to have a yard sale. We have been slowly cleaning out different parts of the house during COVID-19 so I was anxious to finally get rid of the excess. I am very pleased that we made a profit of over $200! Even better is I had a lady come and purchase all the remaining clothes at the end of the day. This was huge and saved us a trip to Goodwill.
  5. I was very excited to find Suddenly Salad marked at $1 during my last trip to Walmart Express. I was able to stock up ! We will have these at least once a week for most of the summer! I am also excited to try several new salad recipes that I found on line! I have decided to try and complete the 52 recipe challenge over the summer! I am afraid that once we go back to school, we need to stick to easy and recipes we are comfortable with!

May In Review

May was another different sort of month. It definitely did not fly by but was not as slow as March or April. I am still working from home. I was able to get an additional 17 hours from my Guam job so that was extremely nice. We decided to go ahead and tackle one more home improvement in the month of May, our sink room. I am glad it is finished and LOVE the results.

The square foot garden is actually growing! I was getting really discouraged in the middle of the month. The weather was just not cooperating at all but finally in the last two weeks we are starting to harvest some small items and even the cucumbers that I had written off have returned to life. We did have to spray with bug killer today so hopefully we will not lose alot to these pesky insects. We continue to get a ton of lettuce and a finally a batch of snap peas that made it inside instead of Kendall eating them all!

Goal #1 Grocery Budget of $550- I was doing so well but decided to purchase 4 gallons of strawberries yesterday and a trip to Aldi put us at $607.45 for the month. I keep telling myself that spending will decrease soon. We have almost 2 completely full freezers! I have added an additional 3 meals this week along with some simple breakfast ideas! I think at this point, unless we are set with meat. Going to make a realistic grocery budget for next month…. stay under $550!

Goal #2 – Record and keep up with gas/ auto purchase- $284.40 is the total for the month which does include taxes and tags on the CRV. The CRV was filled 3 times and the van twice. I do actually expect our driving to go up this month as I finish up work and start to enjoy the summer. We also will be returning to church and going to the pool. The goal for June keep the gas budget down to $300 with the extra going to pay off debit!

Goal #3-Use a cash envelope system for everything possible. Success! No spend days are 3 this month YIKES! I knew going in to May that spending would increase. But still the goal for June is to have at least 5 no spending days. I am going to change a couple of rules. First, we save change all year to spend at the pool so this does not count as spending! Second an purchases for clothing, hair or piano that come out of a budget envelope does not count as spending as these are “spent” each payday when it is placed in the envelope. I am also planning to switch at least half of my grocery spending to cash as well.

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month. This is post number 17 for the month! At least this is staying on track!

Goal # 5- Fitness- Goal is to walk 3 times a week. yea I did walk 3 times this month but only 3 times. This is something that I definitely need to improve on.

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal- 3x a week –Not there at all!

Goal #7-Attempt at least 52 new recipes this year.-  Still way ahead of this one! I have blogged on 32 new recipes but I have 3 more to post this week!

Earnings_ $75 in gift cards. Slow and steady.

June is an exciting time of the year! I finish up work, the kids finish up school and we enjoy the summer. I am extremely grateful that we have the pool open this year. I am hopeful that by the end of the summer, our lives will return to normal with a crazy busy schedule! Our first Disney trip is planned for the end of August, my goals for June and July are to save save and find more ways to save!!!

Saving On Saturday

This week I feel like I am really saving on Saturday. I used up the pork chops from Recipe Challenge #29 to make up a container of pork fried rice. I added some corn and rice and it will make an awesome quick meal one day this week.

After all the cleaning out that has gone on around here the past several weeks, we discovered we actually needed several different clothing items so today we ventured out to find what we needed. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover several awesome deal. First was Rue 21, Lily and Kendall each got a $5 shirt, Lily found some swim suit bottoms for $8.49 but by far the best deal was $1 each for two pair of swim suit bottoms to fit me! I am shocked but seriously if I can wear twice I am making money on them! Next was the Shoe Dept., we purchased 4 pair of sandals for the girls at $9.99 each!! Our final shopping stop was OLD NAVY. I purchased 22 items of clothing! My receipt says I save $136.49 and spent 126.36 including tax! Nothing I purchased was over $8. I did have $30 in super cash and received an additional $30 in super cash to use in July.

Matt and I celebrated our anniversary by stopping at Outback for lunch. This was a splurge! While waiting, I saw that the local strawberry had a special for 2 gallons for $20. This works out to $1.25 which is an good deal in this area! I purchased four gallons and have spent most of the afternoon flash freezing for future use. I did cut up smaller pieces to use in Baked Oatmeal. We will probably uses these strawberries for the next year so I am very excited!

Tuesday Money Thoughts

We are approaching the end of May! Typically, this is a stressful time of year around our house. We are trying to coordinate multiple activities and plans for the summer. This year it is not quite as stressful but lots of changes on the horizon as well. I wanted to share some financial information with you both past present and future.

Let me start by saying that we are on the most financial stable ground that we have been on in many years.

Matt is currently employed full-time and really enjoying his job. I am actually employed full-time and working a second job as well. We have been very blessed as COVID-19 had only a small financial impact on our jobs. My second job in Guam was closed entirely for the 3 weeks in March and first half of April. I have been able to resume on a limited basis for May and will have very limited work in June. I do receive reduced pay in April and May. The school system pays on a ten month system, therefore in the months of April and May a double portion of insurance is taken to cover the summer months. I am very fortunate to have a bank that is set up for state school system employees. I have a set amount automatically deducted during the 10 months I receive a regular check and it is place in a summer savings account. In June and July, on the same day as my regular checks the amount equal to my regular pay is moved over to my checking account. This makes budgeting so much easier and I really feel like I get twelve months of pay. We have always lived on a budget. The difference these days is that we have enough income to cover our expenses. We set our budget in January and each month I can arrange money and use as we see needed. We have currently paid off several of our debits and continue to make larger than the minimum payments on all of our credit cards. We are not totally out of debit but we feel like we can enjoy life and still work our way out of debit. We are not going to live rice and beans but we are definitely no overspending.

We did receive a government stimulus check. We had already begun a much needed home repair of replacing our kitchen and dinning room floor at the time that things closed. Our intention was to use the money from my Guam job to cover this expense. We decided to use the stimulus money to cover this expense instead and we also chose to redo our master bathroom. I am happy to say that both projects are complete and they are awesome!

My initial plan in January was to reduce our panty and freezers until June. I wanted to use up alot of stuff and then spend the summer re-stocking them, However this changed as we started to see shortages and limits placed on lots of items especially meat. In March, we doubled our grocery budget spending $1025. In April we spent $922 which included $180 in chicken. In May we have spent $542 which includes around $250 in meat purchased locally. I am being very deliberate in our grocery purchases. I want to maintain a stockpile but also continue to use the stockpile. My goal for the summer months of June and July is to reduce the grocery spending to less than $250 each month and save at least $250 for future purchase. However I am realistic and know that I may exceed this depending on food prices and our specific needs. For example, on my shopping trip today, I found Suddenly Salads on sale for $1 a box. I decided to go ahead and purchase 20 boxes as this is one of our summer favorites. This price is also $1.35 less than the lowest price I have seen lately. On a really bright note, I have already stocked our freezer with lots of convenient easy to prepare meals for the fall. My plan/goal is continue to prepare double batches of items we really like so that in the fall we can simply throw food in the crockpot or oven and enjoy a quick good meal. Our pantry is also nicely stocked. The garden should start producing in the next 3 weeks so I want to be able to use and not lose any food.

We are not planning a summer vacation, instead we have 3 trips planned to Disney World! This was a choice that the kids all made around Christmas last year. We will be attending both the Christmas and Halloween Parties in addition to a long two week trip over Spring Break next year! Currently, our trip in August for the Halloween party is completely paid for! We are hoping to use points and vouchers to cover the flights for our December Trip and anticipate paying it off in October!

I have been selling items on Ebay and we are also anticipating a large yard sale in the next several weeks depending on the weather. All proceeds go to Disney trips!

Prepping Ground Beef

As COVID-19 continues, we are seeing changes especially at the grocery store, not only are prices starting to rise but we are continuing to see limits and stores out of stock on many items. We have been finishing the last of our cow purchased two years ago and were running on the low end of meat. I was so excited to find the chicken on sale last week. After processing it, Matt and I talked and decided that instead of continuing to wait to purchase beef we felt the need to stock up. I knew that we could not afford to purchase a whole cow right now and also that supplies are not great in the area as well. I decided to head to a local meat market to complete the stock up. I did not purchase any steaks as these are a treat and I can purchase a meal for around $30 when we chose. I also did not get any stew beef as I see at least 2 packs in the freezer and no cube steak as we have probably 4 packs of this left. I did purchase 3 meals of pork chops and 3 sets of wings. The biggest purchase was 40lbs of ground beef. I was a little surprised at finding even at this market, ground beef had a limit. They did not care about packaging but had a strict limit on the pounds that could be purchased. This is totally new for them as I often purchase large quantities for church functions or simply to save myself a trip.

I already had a plan in mind for most of the ground beef but it has taken several days to complete it. I will add that both Lily and Kendall have worked hard several days along side of me to get it all in the freezer in useable portions.

Zach helped me fry up the first 10 pounds, we bagged 2 1-pound bags of cooked meat and threw the rest in the crock-pot to make taco meat. We enjoyed tacos for dinner. I froze 4 1# bags of taco meat along with a single serving of taco meat.

Next up in the crockpot was sloppy joe mix. The recipe I use calls for 6 pounds of cooked meat. This recipe is a little time consuming to prepare but after cooking on low for 4 hours it is definitely worth the effort. We enjoyed sloppy joes for dinner and I bagged 12 bags of sloppy joes for future use. The secret to bagging is 3/4 cup per bag which equals 2 tablespoons per sloppy joe for six people. This is a meal that is quick and no left-overs.

Lily, Kendall and I made 4 bags of Salisbury steak from the remaining 4 pounds of raw meat. The girls ended up making around 50 meatballs which we froze for later use. I am going assume that is another 3 meals.

Cooked ground beef is an easy cheat for a quick and simple meals. I decided to go ahead and fry another 8# and bag up individually. I decided to bag up 4 1# portions and 2 2# portions of raw meat as well. Last but not least I made and froze 18 meatloaf muffins, this will provide us with 3 meals.

A Grand total of 44 meals from 40# of ground beef! I am super excited with this and even more so that I can grab and go to throw together an awesome meal!

Menu Planning Monday

I know that I always do better with a goal and a plan. I am counting down the weeks until my summer vacation begins (6) so in the process I want to get a jump start on what the summer may bring. I realized last year that I needed to use some of my free time to stock the freezers with quick and easy to complete meals for the fall. I need to start planning for fall 2020. We will go from over six months of limited to no extra activities to three kids in three spots/ activities along with my return to full time work. The goal is to get the stocking done before the summer starts! This week, we should be making a large beef purchase and I will be working full steam ahead on cooking. The good news is that I only have one night scheduled in Guam this week and I gain an hour a day simply by working at home. You will notice that we did well this week with only one meal of eating out!

Breakfast– I was able to get a jump start this week by making Sausage muffins on Sunday! I need to make up some baked oatmeal bags and continue to add choices such as French toast and waffles to the freezer when ever possible. Saturday- bacon and eggs . Sunday- Sausage muffins.  Monday, Tuesday,  Wednesday, Thursday, Friday-choice of breakfast muffins, eggs, sausage, pancakes,  cereal or grits. –Still have not gotten around to a baked oatmeal but really do need to make one this week.

Lunch-   Saturday- pizza and ham and cheese sliders. Sunday- Gregg’s (local restaurant) .The kids will have school delivered lunches, Matt has 2 days of chicken sandwiches and 2 days of chill that he made on Saturday. I am going to return to eating at least one salad a week and also continue with some left-overs on other days.

Dinner-  Saturday- Left-overs Sunday- chicken nuggets Monday-Hamburgers and French fries (hamburgers are in the freezer) Tuesday-Taco Tuesday (the plan is to make a crock pot full of taco meat and freeze the left-overs to use in the summer and fall. Wednesday- Sloppy joes and tator tots ( Again made in the crock-pot with the left overs frozen for use later). Thursday-Spinach Ravioli (Lily’s in charge) Friday- BBQ chicken pizza. Zach is in charge.

I will also be cooking and freezing one pound bags of cooked ground beef to use in meals. Next weekend, I plan to make 5 dinner packs of Salisbury steak and several pans of meatballs to freeze. This should use up the 40-50# of ground beef I am planning to purchase. I will also need to purchase several packs of Italian sausage as I would like to get at least one baked ziti in the freezer. Hope you will stay around for the ride and please share if you have a great recipe that you think we would enjoy especially if it can be doubled!