Aldi Shopping Trip

I am really trying to control and maintain our grocery budget to under $100 for the month of September. In theory and on paper it may sound like a fairly simple thing to accomplish for several reasons. First we have almost 90 dinner meals prepped and in the freezer. Second, we have a nicely stocked pantry and enough additional food for another month at least. And third, my mother is always really generous when she comes for dinner and brings desert. But the reality is that we are a full time family of five eating 3 meals a day with some days becoming a family of 7 or 8. Things seem to go pretty quickly in this house. This week, we are out of bread! I had already planned to stop one day this week to pick up buns for the sloppy joes that we have planned on Friday. But I also need to buy some sandwich bread and bagels as well. I ended up with some extra alone time on Wednesday as the kids and Matt were all involved in church activities. I decided to stop by Aldi. I am really pleased that I managed to limit my spending to $8.07 which included 3 dozen eggs, graham crackers, peanut butter bars and vanilla wafers in addition to bagels, buns and bread! Total grocery spending for the month $29.72

I did spend a few minutes walking around the store and realized that prices are starting to creep up! English muffins that I regularly purchased this summer for $0.95 were $1.25, the peanut butter bars that were $0.85 are not $0.92! Even my $0.65 loaf of bread was up to $0.85! Yikes I have got to keep a watch on prices because at some point we will need to increase our budget.

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.

Saving while Shopping

I mentioned last week that one of the things we enjoyed doing on our vacation was shopping the outlets. Today, I am going to hopefully share some of the deals we got and several pictures as well. I did debate about sharing because you will not be able to replicate the deals but it does give you an idea of what good prices for items are.

On Sunday, we left early, before 7:30am after eating at our favorite local breakfast place.



The goal was to be at the Tanger Outlets before lunch. South Carolina has a tax free weekend usually the first weekend of August. We planned to take advantage of this sale. We were successful! Some of the deals that we were able to combine with the tax free weekend included $8 shorts (for me) at Old Navy. Children’s clothes priced at $2, $4, $6 and $8 at Old Navy. We purchased mostly clothes for Braxton with this deal but Kendall grabbed a shirt for $2.49 and Lily found 8 pair of “cool socks” for $8. We shopped at RUE 21 where we found $5 shirts, each of the girls was able to find 2 shirts that are appropriate for school and out with me!

One of Lily’s new shirt! This was taken prior to our 2nd shopping day!

I will say that Lily probably found the best deal at H &M. She purchased a bikini both pieces included for $11!

We also purchased a couple of shirts and an outfit for Braxton’s birthday at the Disney Outlet store.

On Wednesday, we decided to venture to the second Tanger Outlets.

The biggest store that we wanted to visit was the Nike Store. One of the things that I have learned about this store is that the back wall is all clearance shoes. It has everything from kids to men’s shoe. There is usually a sign on this wall that indicates an additional percentage off. On this particular day it was 20%. Lily, Kendall and I were able to locate shoes that we liked all from this wall. At the register, I was encouraged to sign up for the Nike app which would give me an additional 10% off. I purchased 3 pair of Nike shoes for $85! If you shop at all you realize that this is a good price for even one pair of shoes. We shopped at the Simply Southern store where I purchased t-shirt dresses for the girls for $5. I also purchased several Christmas presents! Mom and I also headed to the Lane Byrant store where we shopped the clearance rack. I was able to combine $20 in birthday cash from the credit card and a school discount. I actually think my Mom did better. She found 5 tops on the clearance rack and opened a credit card account for an additional 20% off. She ended up paying $10.17 for all 5 pieces. To complete the transaction she used cash to pay off the credit card.

We finished the day at Chick A Filet, where the kids traded the books from their meal in for ice cream cones!

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!

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!

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!

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!

Saving on Saturday/ Sunday

Saturday was a gorgeous spring day in North Carolina. The temperature was in the low 70s and no rain!  I took advantage of this great weather and the “Spring Black Friday Sale” at Lowes to get the Square Foot Garden up to date. We purchased 20 bags of garden soil at $2 saving $2.29 a bag for a total of $45, 2 green pepper plants,1 basil plant and a container of zucchini for $2.50 each saving a total of $5.12 and 7 small containers of annuals(flowers) saving sixty cent each for a total of $3.00.  The total saving for our two trips to Lowes was $53.10!  The garden beds are now full of dirt and we have started planting some of the vegetables. I was able to plant the green pepper and jalapeno plants that were purchased way ahead of time.  I have been successful at spouting both watermelon and pear tomato seeds. These will have to wait until the last chance of frost before planting outside. I am super excited about what we are planning to grow in the garden this year and the money we are going to save in the process.

I also shopped at CVS on Saturday. I had a raincheck for 2L Diet Cokes which I combined with ECB I already had to purchase 16 of the 2 L at sixty-seven cent each. We were out of razors at my house so I purchased multiple razors spending a total of $20 and saving $18.39. My total savings at CVS was $46.13.

On Sunday, Harris Teeter decided to run a “Super Double Coupons Event”. This means that they doubled all coupons up to $2.00. For me the bigger deal was the fact that they had a great sale of several items that we use and are easy to store including paper plates, Gatorades, Flour, cream cheese and gold fish.  Mom and I were able to find most items on my list except for the shampoo.  I spent $76.51 and saved $84.74 or 53%.

In all just this weekend shopping the sales, I saved $184!