- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
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!
- This week at home has been more of a struggle for me. I am not sure if it was the fact, I was stressing about some work issues or just this is the fourth week of Covid-19 or my Humira shot. But most likely a combination of all of the above. The good news is that I survived and am hopeful the work stress is behind me as well.
- I decided to go out shopping on Wednesday this week in order to avoid the crowds over Easter weekend. Again good and bad news. The good news is that we did avoid the crowds and used pick up for both Lowes and Walmart. The bad news is that it was insane at Lowes. I can’t believe how many people were there. We have spent a total of $77.42 on groceries so far this month. I fully expect to keep this number low this month.
- Yesterday, Thursday, the windshield of the van was replaced. It developed a crack from a rock in January and finally reached the point it definitely needed to be replaced. I also will need to get the car inspected and tag renewed this month. I know this will exceed my gas budget even with only filling up once or twice. My plan will be to use some of the gas money from May to help cover the expense as well. I will be at home until at least May 15th so between the two months we should have all the repairs and tags covered.
- The weather this week has been beautiful and we have spent a good chunk of time outside preparing the garden. We are expected to have another frost this weekend so if all goes as plan we will be doing a lot of planting next weekend. This also works out with the recommendations by the Farmer’s Almanac.
- Speaking of next week it should be a real test of patience and parenting skills. All three kids are out of school for Spring Break. I am off on Monday but have to work the rest of the week. In addition, there is a strong possibility that Guam schools will resume which means I am going to be working both jobs from home. A test of patience is the best description I can give.
As we start this week with lots of uncertainty and confusion, due to the Cornoavirus. I have three goals. First to try and get the kitchen back together quickly, and second to again develop a good list of what food/meals we actually have. Finally to start to slowly restock the freezer on quick and easy meal. You will also notice that we do not have a kitchen for the weekend due to the new floor being installed. Lots of eating out.
Breakfast– Saturday gravy biscuit from Biscuit King Sunday- McDonalds Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday-choice of bagels, breakfast bowls or burritos, breakfast muffins, eggs, sausage, pancakes, cereal or grits. Thursday- Spinach and Bacon Quiche Friday- Cinnamon Roll waffles
Lunch- Saturday- Left over Pizza , Sunday- Left-over from Fridge. Monday- Kids- mac and cheese from box, Tuesday- eating out of Matt and I. Girls had soup. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday- left-overs from the fridge. My plan is to make lunch the one meal that I do not cook or at least cook the least. I also want the kids to get use to heating something up if I am required to return to work.
Dinner- Saturday- Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings , Sunday-Applebees Monday- Spaghetti and meatballs. Tuesday- Steak Fatijis Wednesday- Grilled Chicken, Thursday- Choice of baked potato or baked sweet potato Friday- BBQ pork Roast.
We all know that I enjoy shopping and I REALLY enjoy saving money. To be honest I have done my fair share of Black Friday shopping especially when my kids were smaller and it was really a chance to get out in public without three little people attached. Things changes as we all know. I have no desire to go out and fight a crowd tonight or tomorrow. But I wanted to grab some of the best deals of the year so I did both online shopping and in store shopping on Wednesday. We ended up spending most of yesterday afternoon shopping. Crowds were light to no existence and the deals were awesome. So I thought I would share most of them with you!
- Zach used his money to order a X Box One from Costco online for $213 shipped. I used my Costco membership in addition to my Costco credit card (which I paid off immediately online). I ended up earning at least $9 back in cash for this purchase.
- Lily wanted to use her money to buy Air Pods. We had anticipated grabbing the Black Friday deal online at 10pm, Wednesday night. However we failed. I had actually put the Air Pods in my cart around 9:30 but the price did not change when I went to check out at 10:01 and by 10:02 they were all sold out online. I quickly flipped over to Staples where she was able to purchase them for $8 more. I ended up going through Swagbucks for this purchase and earned $4.02 back.
- Lily is going to a semi formal dance next weekend. At Kohls she found a dress for $38. I purchased several books for $2.50 and t-shirts for Kendall at $10 each.
- Hobby Lobby is always so much fun just to walk through. I did find some baseball ornaments that I will turn into a curtain for Zach for $4.
- Our last stop of the evening was Shoe Carnival. I was so excited to learn that their boots were already on sale for $19.99 a pair. I was beyond the moon to find a selection of wide calf boots that actually fit me. I purchased 2 pair of boots for $42. Today, I received a $10 reward certificate in my email which is good until February!
- We ate at Olive Garden and brought home 6 prepared meals to use this weekend in addition to enough left-overs and soup for three additional meals. A total of 3 meals for $80 is a huge bargain in my book!
- My only stop today, Thanksgiving was at CVS. I purchased several gifts and grabbed anything that was free and we use. I spent a total of $30.23 saved $76.14 or 72%. I also left the store with over 20 ECB to be used during the month of December.
I am excited to shop and save but not in a crazy exhausted ugly people way!
We survived the busiest six weeks that I can remember. During the month of October, all three kids were involved in one additional activity besides piano and church. This weekend, Lily had three performances of her play. I can honestly say that I was super excited and luck to have yesterday off from work just to catch up.
Income update- The really good news on this front is not only is Matt working a job that actually pays well but we both have part time jobs. This is a source of stress. We had a couple of different discussions regarding how we could or if we should even attempt this. We are at a point where the kids are pretty self sufficient so that allows us to have the ability to add not one but two part time jobs. I am working in Guam via teletherapy as an Occupational Therapist. This was a job that I initially applied for in February 2017. I have decided to limit by availability to Sunday night for a full 8 hours and Wednesday night to around 3 hours. Because of the 15 hour time difference this schedule works well. I will admit that the first week was a challenge but I also feel that once I get in the swing of things, I should be able to maintain a low level of stress. This job will continue until the end of May. At that time, we will again evaluate and decide if I want to attempt this for a second school year. Matt is working 10 hours a week as the marketing manger for the Humane Society of Davie County. We are currently unsure how long this job will last but God has a plan and a purpose so we need to simply obey. My plan is to use the extra money in November and December to get us on track. I will share an updated budget in December.
I took a day from work last Friday to catch up on grocery shopping. I was able to go to Costco, Aldi and Food Lion and restock our pantry. So far for the month of November, I have spent $750 on groceries. I would bet this number will end up closer to $800 but I am definitely ok with that. I will run numbers at the end of the year but I have a feeling that I need to increase our grocery budget instead of decrease this year.
We are currently driving a car that gets better gas mileage than either of the vans. This is a family decision that I don’t feel free to discuss but it should reduce our gas spending at least as long as we continue to drive it.
To close out our busy season, we had a family movie night on Monday. We watched Toy Story 4. It was much better than I anticipated, in fact it is my second favorite Disney movie now!
I was able to find a couple of hours today to search out some awesome sale items, I want to share with you. My first stop was at Dollar General. I specifically chose this store to buy Hot Wheels cars that were on sale for Buy one Get one free. The selection at this store was really limited so I only ended up purchasing 10 cars with several of those being duplicate. I will send the duplicates to church to use. I was so excited to discovery that they were taking an additional 30% off items already on clearance. Summer items are at 90%. So I was able to grab 10 packets of seed for ONE cent each. I did get some cold weather plants such as lettuce and spinach that I hope to plant in February. My favorite find of the day were these signs that I paid SIX cent each for.
Clothing was at 70% off so I found Matt a swim suit for $1.13 and Braxton an outfit for sixty-three cent. I decided I need to check out at least one more Dollar General before heading home. The second store had a much better selection of Hot Wheels cars so I grabbed one more but less of anything else. I did purchase one Christmas present for $1.34 for the older girls.
My final stop was at Food Lion to grab some carrots and potatoes. I did grab 8 2liter Dr. Peppers because they were $0.69 each. These are a huge treat for the kids and I will plan to take a coupe to our Thanksgiving dinner. I also grabbed a couple of Boston butts roast that we can use for pulled pork. The BEST deal of the day was on cupcake mix which were in the clearance section at the back of the store. The boxes of vanilla cupcake mix were marked down to twenty cent each. The shelf also had coupons for $1.00 off 2 boxes. I grabbed 20 boxes and used 5 coupons so that I was paid $1.00 to carry the boxes out of the store! Better than free!
Did you find any deals let me know in the comment section!
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.
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.
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!
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!