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!

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!

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!

Monday Menu Plan

I was very surprised last night when Zach told me, “Mom you need to get the board up! I don’t know what my life looks like. ” The board he was referring to is our white board that includes our menu plan for the week and the schedule for the week. I was waiting because today (Monday) is Memorial Day. We are all enjoying a day off of work and school. We have several things happening this week including piano, swim team sign up and hair cuts. You will notice we are switching to a more summer oriented menu as well.

Breakfast– Saturday- Bagels from a local shop. Sunday- Hash brown casserole, bacon, eggs and biscuits. Monday- sausage and left-overs, Tuesday,  Wednesday, Thursday, Friday-choice of breakfast muffins, eggs, sausage, pancakes,  cereal or grits. I may add a baked oatmeal to the mix depending on what is happening.

Lunch-  Saturday-Left-over pizza Sunday-Chips and salsa or left-over breakfast. Monday- left-overs. The kids will have school delivered lunches, Matt has 2 days of chicken sandwiches and 2 days of hamburgers 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- Pizza bites Sunday- KFC, Monday- hamburgers on pretzel buns. Tuesday-Burritos. Zach is in charge Wednesday- Million Dollar Spaghetti pie. Lily will make two one for the freezer. Thursday-Chicken Sandwiches and French Fries. Friday- Pepper Steak in crock potand egg rolls, Kendall is in charge.

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Kendall is finally almost done with cleaning out her room. She was able to reduce the amount of clothing down to the point of everything fitting in her closet!!! This allowed her to move a huge dresser out of her room! Lily decided to take the larger dresser and was able to empty out not only her smaller dresser but also a bigger standing shelf. Lily does want to replace the shelf with a mirror and three shelves but we shall see. I moved the standing shelf to my room and laid it on it side under my jewelry box. This is currently a place to keep all of Braxton’s toys, clothes and diapers! Finally Zach did not want to be outdone so he exchanged 3 small dressers for one from Lily’s room. I am pleased with the extra space that everyone was able to find and we have moved at least five garbage bags of clothing to the building for a future yard sale or something.

I have been able to sell between ebay and Facebook market place 4 American girl dolls and a ton (50) build a bear outfits. We used this money to cover our tickets to the Disney Halloween party in August.

Our August Disney trip is completely paid for including air fare. The only item left to purchase is a gift card to cover food on the trip. Matt receives 3 paychecks in July so we plan to use the extra check to purchase a gift card to use on the trip! Next, we are going to work on paying for our December trip! At this point, we will have the plane tickets covered between credit card miles and airline vouchers.

I will be working in Guam through the end of June due to the school closure. My goal is to take the entire month of July off of work and resume both Davie County and Guam in August! I am so ready for a normal schedule!

I am focusing on controlling the grocery budget this month to under $550. So far we have been way over budget each month!

Matt and I have decided to tackle our master bedroom sink area. We are going to repaint the walls, change out the cabinet and sink for a double sink vanity! I am hoping we are able to complete this project in two weekends but it may take a little longer.

I am starting to quickly lose hope in our garden this year. The weather has not cooperated at all. We should be having warm spring/summer like days but for the past 2 weeks the temperatures have been stuck in the 60’s. I have covered everything I could on the couple of nights of freezing but things are just not growing well. In addition, we are having to water every other day. We have had little to no rain since mid April. I was so hopeful for the garden especially using all the seed packets but now if we harvest one each from our vegetables that will be the break even point!

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!

Saving on Saturday

  • Turning off lights and not using the heat or air condition. We have been fortunate to have a very unusual Spring so far with temperatures the end of March in the 80s and now most of April temperatures around 70. Even with everyone home during most of the month, we reduced our electricity bill by $70 from what was budgeted.
  • I am keeping a close eye on the sale ads. I had actually ran out of 2L of Diet Coke last week but Food Lion, our local store ran a sale for $0.99 on Wednesday and then reduced to $0.79 Friday thur Sunday. I am stockpiling these. My goal is to have purchased a total of 50 by Sunday. These do not go bad and at a saving of $0.90 a bottle. I can give up a little extra space.
  • While at Food Lion, I decided to check the clearance bins at the back of the store. I was shocked to find that they had reduced the price of a bunch of cookies. Most items were between $0.25 and $0.50 cent so I decided to go ahead and stock up. I spent a total of $16 for all of this!

I also headed out to CVS this week to grab some deodorant and shampoo that was on sale. I had an average of 59% saving. I am actually pleased with this as I started out with no ECB and ended with 3.

April in Review

April was not as long as March. I think we are finally settling down into a manageable routine. Matt worked from home the first two weeks of April but has returned to working at his office full time. I am working full-time at home. I am planning to continue through the month of May. I may need to return to work during our school work days in June but I will wait to see what is decided between now and then. School building have officially been closed for the year in both North Carolina and Guam. Lily will not have to take final exams but otherwise she is still completing her charter school. I am getting some limited work in Guam, a lot of IEP for the next couple of weeks. I am hopefully to complete 10 hours of work for April and another 10 for May before the school year ends. We did receive our government stimulus money this month. It was used to pay for the floor in the kitchen and dinning room which I originally budget with Guam money. The rest was applied to debit but every little bit helps!

The garden has taken up a considerable amount of time this month. We are very hopeful that it will produce some inexpensive veggies most of the summer. I have planted the majority of item from seeds this year. Seeds were purchased at twenty-five cent or less a pack. I made a trip to a local nursey and purchased both pepper and tomato plants spending $11 total. So far we are harvesting “volunteer lettuce” each week. I still have some cherry tomatoes to transfer and I am planning to plant green beans every two weeks so that we can get a more continual and plentiful harvest. I still need to purchase and plant sweet potatoes but I am going to assume that will be the last of expenses this year. We have already built an additional strawberry box so I will have to end up buying dirt to fill it this fall.

Goal #1 Grocery Budget of $550- We have exceed it again this month but $190 worth of chicken breast makes this a no brainer. But on the bright side it is still less than we spent last month! Currently we have spent $922 which also includes a stock up on Diet cokes. I think we should also note that April is a 5 week month which threw me off as well. I am hearing lots of reports of increase pricing for groceries and a possible meat shortage as well. I am planning to stock up on beef and maybe pork next week. I expect the grocery budget for May may be high as well for that reason. The good news is that we should be able to dramatically cut our grocery spending during the summer because of stocking up now. I will continue to watch prices and re-stock items as needed. I actually have started a price list on my phone to begin checking items as I am out picking up other things during the next several weeks.

Goal #2 – Record and keep up with gas/ auto purchase- We spent $$450 this month in gas! This does include the windshield purchase. We decided to wait until May for the taxes and tags on the car.

Goal #3-Use a cash envelope system for everything possible. Success! No spend days are 9 this month. This is better than March but still not my goal of 15. I am not sure what the goal will be for May. Spending will increase as we travel to the pool and as restrictions are lifted. May 10 days of no spending….. or should I just count the days?

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month. This is post number 18 for the month! Which is an increase of 1 for the month! Go Covid-19!

Goal # 5- Fitness- Goal is to walk 3 times a week. I have met this goal this month. The kids are really good at reminding us that we all need the fresh air and exercise. We actually walked 12 days this month! I should be able to continue this especially if the pool opens in May.

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal- 3x a week – Getting better but still not achieved.

Goal #7-Attempt at least 52 new recipes this year.-  For the first time ever we are ahead of a goal. We have tried 22 new recipes so far this year. We need to try 30 more. I am actually thinking we can meet and exceed this goal. The one down side is that only a handful will be used again.

Earnings_ $75 in gift cards. I did complete one large payout on Swagbucks. Matt completed another survey outside of Swagbucks and should receive another $50 gift card in a few days for Amazon. I will be surprised if this amount increase in May as people are overwhelming the system.

Except for the grocery budget, we did extremely well in the month of April. We are blessed and continue to thank God for his provisions!