Five Things Friday

  1. We have enjoyed two entirely free meal out this week. On Thursday, we used the gift card that was earned and planned for Halloween combined with IHOP customer appreciation to feed our entire family for the cost of the tip! Friday night is always a hetic night with piano. Matt used another gift card earned via Swagbucks to pick up three large pizzas! We have already enjoyed one pizza and left-overs will be for lunch on Saturday and Sunday!
  2. Kendall is growing. I realized this week that she had only 2 pair of pants that were actually long enough for her. We decided to go to Old Navy to try and find her some pants. We actually found what they call “Ballerina” style pants that fit both length and her waist. We grabbed 4 pair along with 2 pair of boots for her. Lily ended up with a sweater, Zach and Braxton have matching Christmas shirts, I got a dress and Braxton has several new church outfits to wear. Total spent $225!
  3. I knew that I was going to be way over budget this month for Groceries. In fact I am at $882 for the month with a goal of staying under $950. I was a bit concerned until I read this :
    “According to the USDA monthly report for October 2019, the average couple spends $617 per month on groceries alone.
    A family of four with young kids on the Moderate-Cost plan spends $894.40 a month on groceries. Families with older kids spend $1067.50. ”
    Matt and I both are working and make it work with an additional 20 or more hours of paid work each week. Our budget is really enjoying the boast and I am very comfortable with setting and achieving budget related goals for the next year. I am planning to share our new updated budget toward the end of December after a second month (December) to tweak it. I also am anticipating that I will have to only purchase one Christmas present in the month of December along with a birthday present for my mother!
  4. The car that we are driving has significantly reduced our gas spending. Currently, we have spend $268.23 in gas. Because we will be at home more next week, I would guess that we will stay under $300 in gas this month. I can not honestly tell you the last time this happened!
  5. I am anticipating a three day work week next week. Sunday night in Guam. Monday and Tuesday at Davie County. Followed by a four day total vacation! I am excited not only for the break but to finish out our budget for November really strong.

Tuesday Thoughts/Catch Up

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!

Saving on Saturday

Our single largest expense besides our mortgage is groceries. Typically, the majority of our groceries are food. In order to reduce our overall spending, I always must focus on reducing the amount of money we spend on food. The only real problem with this is that as the kids grow, they eat more food!

One of the ways that I have found to reduce our grocery budget is to make sure we don’t waste any food. I typically do not make a menu plan for the weekend. First this makes my life a little less stressful and second it also allows us to focus on using up left-overs. Today, I feel like I have been really successful at this task. Typically on Saturday mornings, I try to make a bigger breakfast but not this morning. Zach finished a pancake and piece of sausage left-over from Cracker Barrel and I finished the baked oatmeal from last week. Lunch today was pizza left-overs for the kids, I ate the turkey, dressing and green beans plate left-over again from Cracker Barrel, Matt ate some left-over pulled pork. For dinner it was twice baked potatoes! We had crockpot baked potatoes one day last week and I filled the pot up so we had plenty of left-overs. I even froze 8 additional potatoes that can be used in the future either for a lunch or dinner. We are currently out of cheddar cheese so instead of running out to the store, I shredded a block of Colby jack and used in the potatoes instead. The final way, I saved money on food today is a little bit unusual. I signed up to bring a desert tomorrow for our church dinner. I planned to make a peanut butter pound cake. When I pulled out the recipe, I needed two additional sticks of butter. Instead of rushing to the store, I searched the internet and found a slightly different recipe that used more peanut butter and less butter. Another huge win in the food department!

I have not been couponing as much as I would like and really have not been able to find many deals at CVS lately. However, Lily had a personal hygiene need. I had 3 ECB from several weeks ago, I scanned my CVS card and received an additional 3 ECB. I was able to purchase 2 bags of product which should last about 2 months for a total out of pocket of twenty-one cent! Another huge win!

Saving on Sunday and More

Yes, that is me with my head bobbing above the water. October has definitely been a huge month of change for us. Matt started a new job which added an additional 20 hours to his work schedule in addition to a significant pay increase. I also have finally after 18 months added a second job. The hours will vary greatly for me but at this point I am guess an additional 5 -10 hours a month. This may increase in January but I am very grateful for the slow start as crazy needs to slow to a slightly less than crazy before any more significant changes. This week, we made a personal decision to add a car payment to our budget. This may or may not be a long term budget item but we are able to cover the payment amount in addition to slowly reduce our debit and get a good control over our finances. We have seen in many different ways that God’s hand and timing are perfect. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is God’s will so we are going to praise him even when we are not sure the how or whys.

One thing that has not changed this month is that we are continuing to find ways to save money! I want to include a detailed list so that next year and 3 years and 10 years when I look back, I am able to see that all the little saving did add up.

  • Running the dishwasher and dryer at night. We are making a conscience effort to reduce our electricity use. By running this at night we add a little bit of heat to the house on the cool evenings and prevent heat from staying in the house on the not so cool evenings.
  • Not turning on the air conditioner. This sounds simple, especially in October, but the temperature today inside was 81*, We did turn off the heat on Wednesday of this week but I refused to flip the switch and turn back on the air. Instead we opened the windows and turned on a couple of ceiling fans. The weather is actually suppose to start to get cooler with a high on this Friday only in the 50’s.
  • Hanging sheets out to dry. Yes, it was not convenient and the weather said it was suppose to rain but I got up and got them on the line.
  • Shopping for items we need and on clearance. So far this month, I have spent $203 in groceries. Which including stocking up on soda and items for Braxton’s birthday party. I always check on clearance items and have been able to grab both hugs/kool aid drinks and Gatorades on sale for $0.25 each.
  • Combining sales and coupons. I scan my card each time I go in Food Lion. In the past, I have been able to grab pasta at fifty cent a box. Today, I got 24 waters for $0.99 and 3 packs of brown gravy mix for a total of $0.77 which is less than the price of two. Neither one of these items were needed but I will definitely use them both.
  • Meal prep. It is so much easier to prepare lunches ahead of time. Four out of the five of us need to pack a lunch each day before leaving the house by 7:20am. We save a minimum of $10 a day by packing lunches instead of buying. We are also able to stay on track by planning dinner meals a week ahead of time. This week, I even used the instapot to brown the ground beef ahead of time so that I can get dinner on the table even after attending a workshop all day.
  • Call and asking for help. We are continuing to struggle with stopping a leak in our master bath room. Matt has replaced the entire floor and subfloor and is trying to replace the shower faucet. Yesterday, he was able to contact a manufacturer and receive a replacement part he needed for free. He has been asking for advice and suggestion through out this process and we are saving money just by completing it ourselves.
  • Using items on hand instead of immediately purchasing a replacement. Braxton does not like and will not eat meat baby food but Rugar, our dog will. Instead of buying dog food we are using the baby food that would otherwise go in the trash.

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!

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.

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.

Best Homemade Sandwiches

One of my goals for this summer was to stock the freezer with food that would make my life much easier when the school year starts again. I started the process during my Spring Break. As things happen and change we did not use as many of these pre-cooked meals as I thought we would. In fact, when I started checking we are really good on chicken meals with about 20 remaining in the freezer. This summer, I have been slowing adding to this usually one or so items a week. So far, I have sloppy joes, taco meat, meat loaf and spaghetti sauce as meal. I have made hot pepper jelly and even cooked up some chicken to use. On Monday, I realized that my summer is fasting coming to an end, We have plans for the next several weeks that will keep us really busy. I started a list on my whiteboard of items that I can think of that I definitely wanted to add to the freezer. Today, I decided to tackle a major lunch prep, 100 homemade no crust peanut butter and jelly sandwiches aka “uncrustables”. First the numbers, $12.48 spent for bread, jelly and peanut butter this ends up being thirteen cent each. We, 3 kids and I, spent 45 minutes to assemble and place in the freezer. This is a huge win for me!

10 loaves of bread at $0.65 each.


We started by lining up the bread with an entire loaf on each side of our table. Kendall was in charge of placing 1/2 tablespoon of peanut butter on the bread. Lily spread the peanut butter in the rough shape of a circle.
Zach placed 1 teaspoon of jelly on top of the peanut butter!
Sandwich made! Zach ended up helping the most with this step.
I used a glass to cut out a circle. A butter knife helped remove the crust. I will admit this appears to waste a lot of bread but the cost of buying is fifty cent each on sale so the waste is not an issue.
individually bagged and ready for the school year!

5 Things Friday

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

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

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

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

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:┬áJuly 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!