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.

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!

 

5 Things Friday

This is a little different this week as I am sharing 5 ways I am adding and managing my stockpile this week.

One thing that I realized during last school year especially the spring when we had multiple activities going on at the same time is that we need meals that are basically heat and eat. During my Spring break, I spent a lot of time cooking and prepping food. This summer, I have decided to try and restock and over stock our freezer with the same type of meals. A couple of weeks ago I made both taco meat and sloppy joes. This week, I have managed to add the following to our freezer stash: 1. Meatloaf muffins x 2
2. Fresh spaghetti Sauce x 4
3. Shredded Chicken Packets, (Made from chicken thighs purchased on sale several weeks ago.

I have continued to shop for sale and add to the stockpile. This week, I found chicken breast at Aldi with the price of 6lbs for $9. I came home and separated the chicken into two packets by cutting up the breast. I added a bottle of Italian dressing to each and now we are ready for grilling. I also grabbed some strawberries on sale for $1.20 a pound and froze to use in smoothies and stuff.

The fifth way, I added to our stockpile this week is probably the most satisfying for me. I was able to take a $25 gift card that Matt earned on Swagbucks and purchase a list of items that we needed. I was able to grab a total of 8 boxes of pasta, 8 cans of soup, 2 containers of mayonnaise and 1 container of Ketchup for ZERO cost!!

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.

Grocery Budget Fail

I was doing so well sticking to my $150 grocery budget for the month of June. I was at $144 on Thursday, June 27th. Just three days to go and I had been able to grab some muffins and donuts on sale, so no one was complaining about the limited spending. Innocently, I decided to go to a different Food Lion near our community pool, while the kids were at swim team practice Friday morning. My mom had gotten a $5 off $30 coupon out of the local newspaper so my first stop was to verify with customer service that they would except the coupon. This turned out to be the best move because of course as I am checking out the first thing the cashier says is “We don’t except those.” Another sign of my budget fail was the fact that half way through the store, I had to switch out for a larger buggy. But on the bright side, I am pleased and excited with my purchase.

First, I grabbed a watermelon on sale for $2.99. Next stop was the clearance rack where I found LED light bulbs to fit in our bathroom bar for ninety- six cents each, I grabbed all four! The clearance rack was very interesting and my next find was 4 pound bags of corn bread mix for forty-three cents. I grabbed two just because. My usual routine is to walk past all the meat just in case I can find a good deal. Today, I hit jack pot! First I grabbed two packs of pork chops both containing at least 6 chops for around 3 each. Next up chicken, chicken livers were ninety-five cent for a one pound container, grabbed 4 of those. Chicken thighs at ninety-five cent a pound, I grabbed 6 packs at around 2.5 pounds each. These should be good for crock-pot meals. Finally chicken wings, pre-cut at 2.10 for 10 wings. I ended up with 6 packs of these. My total was around $55 but that includes the meat for at least 10 meals. This definitely puts me over my budget for the month but I know it will be well worth it in the end.

I also headed to Aldi, because we were down to our last three eggs! Total spending for the month is at $253! One hundred above my goal but still at least $200 below our usual spending!

5 Things Friday 6/21

Today is the official first day of summer and it marks the end of my first week of summer break! Lily and Kendall left for church camp early Monday morning. I have some really cool pictures to post from Kendall including rock climbing and archery. Lily did mange to sprain her thumb but still sounds like she is having a great time.

2. The square foot garden is continuing to grow the best I can remember. This week we have picked green beans and peppers. My cucumber plants finally look like they are growing! I did break down and buy both cucumbers and peaches from the farmers market this week.

3. Several years ago, I decided to attempt to create an edible landscape. This year both the apple and pear trees are large enough to produce fruit. We added 2 pecan trees that grew in my mother’s flower beads that are thriving as well. My third attempt at a peach tree has 3 leaves. I decided to try something new and planted 5 pits from the peaches I bought this week. I will be thrilled to grow even one as they are very expensive from the nursery. I also have started a blueberry blind. Yesterday, we planted another plant to replace several that died this year. The exciting news is that we also managed to find and tie up two other plants that I assumed were dead! The kids really enjoying picking and eating the blueberries and I am hopefully that 3 years from now some may actually make it inside.

4. I have spent $30 on groceries this week, including items from the farmers market and bagels on sale at Alidi. We also have not spent any money on gas which is exciting decrease from 3 tanks a week.

5. I feel like I am achieving a good balance, keeping things caught up and extra cleaning at home while enjoying time at the pool, reading and relaxing as week. I wonder if this will change next week when the girls return?

Saving on Groceries

I have shared before that our largest expense besides our mortgage is groceries. Yes, groceries are even higher than our car payment. Included in the grocery budget is all the cleaning products and paper products that we use in the house. On a positive note, I have been able to reduce our grocery budget over the past several years. When I started tracking our grocery budget I was spending around $800 a month. I will say that this included diapers for many years. Last year we spent $620 a month on groceries. This year, the grocery budget has varied significantly from $1100 to $175. I did an average of the 5 month and that put us at $540 a month. My goal for the year is $500 a month. I think this is doable as we continue to eat off the cow purchased last year which should reduce the budget as well.

In the month of June so far, I have spent $90.30! I am super excited about this! I am planning to have the lowest spending month ever for groceries. My goal for the summer is to keep spending below $200 for June and July.

Now on to the fun stuff, how am I planning to keep this goal reachable. First, we continue to earn at least $50 to $100 a month in gift cards from Swagbucks. I am using this earning for Walmart gift cards, to purchase toilet paper, sunscreen and all the other fun stuff that we need to keep the house running. I also received my Costco reward this month. I purchased laundry detergent, dishwashing tabs and such with it. A second way, is by using Norwex products for cleaning. I purchased the window cloth and a dusting system several years ago. Yes, the cost was upfront but after a year of use then I am saving money simply by using them. One of my new favorite ways of saving is looking through clearance section at Food Lion. I have been able to grab breakfast sausage, pastries, candy, juice and much more. This is all food that I know we will eat and usually priced fifty cent or less. I have also been going to Aldi on Wednesday afternoon, this is typically when they reduce bread and pastries. Finally, I am trying specifically to use what is in the garden, freezers and pantry. I even made a list of the items that we have in addition to several ideas of ways to use these items. In addition to the list of items we have, I started a stockpile list, these items I am going to watch for a good sale and build up our supply. I am eager to save as much money as possible this summer while enjoy a more relaxed pace!

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.