Tuesday Thoughts

I have been very blessed and fortunate because the “little” kids have very rarely been sick, especially Kendall and Zach. Kendall missed two school days last year and yesterday Zach missed his first school day in several years. Zach started complaining with his stomach hurting on Thanksgiving Thursday. He actually threw up on Saturday and Sunday. This morning, he just did not feel like going to school.

While Zach spent most of the day in bed, I found several task to keep me busy all day Monday. I ended up turning five pounds of potatoes into mashed potatoes for future use. I deboned the chicken we purchased on Saturday to make a double batch of chicken enchiladas. I have just enough for use to eat on Tuesday and froze a large batch that will provide dinner another evening with left-overs that can be used for lunch as well.

One of the less fun things that we worked on this weekend was re-organizing and cleaning out the office. Matt was originally the intended occupant for our home office. After completing it use as a nursery, it became his office. I first applied for my position in Guam in February 2017. One of the requirement was that I have the ability to block out all noises from the house in addition to plan walls. So we simply moved everything from my desk in the office and everything from his desk to my desk in the corner of the bedroom. Considering how little time I ended up spending in the office it was crowded but not a big deal. My teletherapy job in Guam has picked up significantly . I am spending between 8 and 10 hours a week working in the office. The crowded room and clutter really started to bother me. So cleaning and organizing occurred. I am very pleased with the result but I am the most proud of the charging shelf that we figured out. This holds all the phones and other devices that need to come in my bedroom at night!

Tuesday Thoughts

I am so excited that I get to spent 3 complete evenings at home this week! We have no football game(cheerleading) or cheer practice this week and only one baseball game. I am planning to get some extra cleaning done around the house as the things has gotten dirty and overlooked during the past couple of weeks.

We are hopefully that we have finally fixed the leaky shower problem. Matt re-caulked the shower pan on Saturday and I am planning to start using it again today. We have already purchased the tile to finish this project but need to find several hours in which we can spending working on it. We may be able to spend some time on the project on Saturday but that depends heavily on the weather as well.

North Carolina is finally experiencing some cooler temperatures. I finally turned off the air on October 3rd. This is very late for us as we usually can get a good week or so with no air in September. I am hopefully that we can at least keep the air and heat off for most of the month of October but we it can depend heavily on when the first freeze of the year is.

Matt loves his new job. The first week was a challenge especially with our crazy busy schedule. I am hopefully that we will be able to get into a good routine that will allow him to work his second job at least 3 evening a week so that we can have some time to work on projects around here on the weekends.

I have spent a total of $47 on groceries so far this month! I am super excited about this and hope to continue this streak for most of the month. I am making a Costco list and am holding out hope that the quarter back sale will appear at Food Lion soon!

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.

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.

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!

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.

Monday Musings

The end of school is fast approaching. Lily finishes up 8th grade this week with End of Grade test on Wednesday and Thursday. Zach and Kendall have two weeks left. They also have testing this week with the following week being a lot of celebrating and other activities. I have 3 weeks left. My weeks will be full of meeting and paperwork. But I am counting days can’t wait to start my summer break.

I am usually pretty good at looking at the schedule and determining just how busy we will be. However, I underestimated the last couple of weeks. We are staying supper busy with end of school activities and swim team practice. I am hoping to make it through the next 2 weeks without breaking the budget grabbing food on the run. But I am beginning to wonder how we will get it all done.

My grocery goal for the summer is to keep the grocery bill as low as possible for at least the months of June and July. I know that August will be a huge shopping trip as we stock up for the beginning of the school year. So far for the month of May we have spent $215 which includes lots of sodas to get us through the summer. We are running low on lots of quick and convenient meals but I am trying to stretch them at least the last two weeks of the school year.

My square foot garden is growing the best that I have ever seen, I am very hopeful that we will be able to not only use it for lots of food this summer but also that we can restock the freezer with yummy veggies for the winter.

I checked the freezer yesterday and estimate that we have about six month of beef left. I need to seriously start to work on a plan to use what we have but also to pay for another cow. This one has lasted about 18 months so that is a great way to stretch our budget!

We should not be spending any money on clothing for the next two months so that will make things a little bit easier as well.

5 Things Friday

1. Summer is officially here in North Carolina for two very distinct reasons. First, I caved and turned on our central air on Wednesday this week. The house temperature at 6 pm was 83* so you really can’t blame me. The second reason is that our community pool opens this weekend and swim team practice will start next week!

2. The square foot garden is doing really well so far. I am excited to be harvesting lettuce several times a week. I also will soon be able to enjoy green peppers and jalapeño pepper. I notice this morning that we have our first zucchini squash is showing.

3. I have 5 weeks of working left before I get to enjoy a long summer break.

4. We are managing to stay well under budget for groceries this month as so far we have spent $12. I am planning to purchase some 2-Liter sodas for our Mother’s Day celebration.

5. We only have 3 baseball game left this season. Zach is still LOVING baseball. He has moved to the first of the batting order and is planning to attend a baseball camp at a local university to improve his skills this summer.