Saving on Sunday

We have definitely started one of the busy season of our lives. We have a minimum of three ball games a week in addition to scheduled practices and other events. During the month of September, I have two established goals first keep grocery spending to a minimum and second eliminate going out to eat. Today, I want to share how we are able to accomplish both of these goals.

I have a snack bag that I carry in my van all the time. I periodically refill it with snacks, typically you will find granola/fruit bar, rice krispy treats, fruit snacks and packs of applesauce in it. I have a huge purse and simply throw the snack bag in my purse before heading into a ballgame. If we have packs of chips, I let each of the kids add a bag of chips to my purse as well. This eliminates the need/ desire to purchase snacks at the game. Snack usually cost around $1 each for five people that is $5 a game or $15 a week that we are saving by bring in our own snacks.

The second way we save is by bring our drinks. The child that is participating in the game always needs a Gatorade or a water bottle. Each game I see at least one if not three parent buying a drink from the concession stand because they “forget” to bring one. I usually also pack a water per person or can of soda in our small cooler. I have never seen a sign at a school event that says “no outside food or drinks” so I usually just carry the cooler or I can always send the kids back to the car to grab a drink. At competition events, I will bring at least a water bottle in my bag and we do go back to the car to snack and even eat. Most Gatorades are $2 each. I can buy a 6 pack not on sale for less than $4 so I am saving a minimum of $4 a week. This does not include the $1 water for the rest of us or at least $12 a week.

Finally, we always plan ahead for the games. We always try to eat prior to the games. At worse, we have planned a portable meal such as hamburgers, sloppy joes, chicken sandwiches, chicken nuggets or burritos. This way, we can eat in the car prior to the game starting or even during the game. Now I do want to say that my whole family REALLY like ball game food. I have not seen nachos or chill cheese fries that don’t look delicious and usually smell even better. However, if we chose to eat even at one game at week, we spend at least $20 a week or $80 a month. Eighty dollars will buy us a nice meal even better than ball game food. One way we enjoy the ball game food is that if we all have eaten dinner prior to the game we can share an order of nachos for $3 or even a couple orders of fries. This way we are still saving at least $15 a week!


Saving on Saturday- Chicken Thighs

We are doing well with sticking to our weekly menu plan and I have been really focus on keeping out grocery spending as low as possible for the next couple of months. One of the things that I am focusing on is to use things in the freezer and pantry before going out to buy things. I noticed last week that I had two remaining packs of chicken thighs in the freezer. I found these on sale for $0.95 cent a pound in June. Read about the other deals I scored that day as well. Each of the packets had been reduced to $2.10. This weekend, I knew I needed to add some lunch items and also wanted to give some variety to our weekend. The OT at work shared an awesome recipe for Basil Lemon Chicken Salad and I decided I definitely wanted to make some this weekend. So yesterday (Friday) I went down and pull out the two packs of chicken. I was feeling lazy so I threw both packs in the crockpot added some salt and pepper and turned it on low for 12 hours. I did wake up last night at least once and think…”that smells good”.
After the ballgame, we were hungry. Matt, Kendall and I made a chicken and tzatziki sauce wraps. Zach decided plan chicken and ranch would be better for him. For dinner, I made the Lemon Basil Chicken salad which was a huge hit. Matt is not a fan of chicken salad and is really not a fan of chicken thighs but he even said how good it was! We have been able to eat both meals today from those chicken thighs and I have made a huge container of regular chicken salad that will probably provide at least 7 lunches! I threw the skin and bones back in the crockpot and was able to get 20 cups of chicken stock in the freezer as well! I count the chicken stock as totally free! So that is a total of 13 meals for $5.20 or forty cent each for the meat portion which is always the most expensive part! I will definitely call that a win!


Aldi Shopping Trip

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

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

Saving on Saturday 09/07

Today, I am going to list a couple of the ways we have been saving money over the past week.

Hung out 8 loads of sheets and bedding to line dry on Monday (Labor Day)
Packed lunch all week.
Planned ahead with dinners and stuck to the plan even after some very long days. Including using left-overs for one full meal this week.
Re-using water bottles at least once while at home.
Keeping the temperature at 74 during the day and 72 at night even if that meant someone was hot.
Used a gift card from Swagbucks to pick up “needed” items from Walmart.
Purchased lunchables on a one day sale at Food Lion for forty nine cent each. The regular price is $2.49 each.
Reduced the amount of Diet Coke and replacing with water on a daily basis.
Saving energy by running the dishwasher, washer and dryer at night without adding heat to the house.

How did you save money this week?

Tuesday Thoughts- Saving Ways

School has started back in full force this week. This includes ALOT of extra expenses this month. So I thought I would share some of the ways we are managing to save money any where possible.

Not eating out! Of course this makes sense because we all know how much we can save by simply eating at home but have you put actual numbers to the saving. As a family, we enjoying eating out! In fact, one of the highlights of vacation is eating out once a day! After returning home from vacation, we are back on track to reduce our eating out. In fact, we manage to eat entirely at home for 12 days. Friday night, we decided to celebrate the end of summer by enjoying a treat, sushi, cost of this treat is $70! This is not an outrageous bill for our family. Our lowest cost for all 5 to eat is around $40 and some meal can cost $100. By chose not to eat out once a week we can save $70 a week or $280 a month.

Bringing lunch- this is a huge money saver for us. The kids would each pay $2.85 a day for school lunch or $28.50 a week for both to eat at school. Matt and I both regularly take our lunch which saves an average of $10 each a day.

Turning off and/or down the air conditioning in the house. I recently read an article that said in order to save money you should place your thermostat at 78* when you are home and 85* during your absence. We could not do that. But this summer, we have raised the temperature to 74* during the day and 72* at night. Last weekend, we managed to cut off the air for 24 hours! We have needed to run the ceiling fans on a couple of occasion especially if we are cooking to keep the temperature bearable.

Saving fuel by not running the air in our vans. I am able to drive to work most morning with the moon roof open in the van which means approximately 35 miles of driving each day without air.

Running the washer and dryer at night and in the evening in order to not add additional heat in the house.

Saving on Saturday

No spend days equals savings. This idea sounds very simple and is actually foul proof. If you don’t spend any money on a given day then of course you are saving money. However, when putting this into practice it actually becomes much harder than you think. I am a very black and white person so when my understanding of No spend days is exactly that no spending what so ever even from budgeted amounts. The one exception I make is using med flex money. I don’t count this as spending because I never see this money and don’t budget for it either. During the school year there are many things that can count as spending, ball games, school activities/fees and piano. All these activities are planned but still count as spending. Gas is a big culprit during any season of the year.

I started tracking my no spend days in June. I was very shocked to see my total as 2! I was even more shocked to realize that both of these days occurred while school was in session. In July, I was able to achieve a total of seven days of no spending. Again, I was shocked to learn that one of those no spend day was on our missions trip. So far during the month of August, we have managed 3 no spend day with today counting as the third. The first no spend was on Saturday August 3rd, just prior to our beach trip and the second day was during our beach trip. Given all this information, what is the one thing that makes a no spend day work? Planning is the simple answer. The good news is that heading into the school year, I have been focused on preparing ahead aka planning. I have enough meals that grocery shopping should not need to happen but maybe twice a month to grab milk, cheese, bread and vegetables. I don’t anticipate having lots of extra time so that eliminates online shopping and any shopping really. Yesterday, I took the van for an oil change so that eliminates that expense for at least a couple of month. We have also replaced the brakes this summer and replaced tires on the older van. I am hopeful that gas will be our only vehicle expense. The kids and I all had hair appointments yesterday which means we are good for at least 2 months in that area. I may end up getting another pedicure but only one more should be sufficient. The one expense that I know is coming is school fees including signing up for Baseball, and Youth Theater.

Now to the planning part, my goal for August was 10 no spend days. I had originally stated that when school started I would shoot for 15 no spend days. I am no sure that 15 is realistic but I will wait until the end of August to decided if it is reachable.

Saving while Shopping

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday Thoughts

I have been very slack on my posting this month. In fact, this is the 5th post and today is the 15th of the month. I do have a legit reason or a couple of legit reasons for this slackness. I am going to share these with you. Of course, the first reason was vacation. We spent a lovely week at the beach. We really enjoyed time as a family. And to be quiet honest, I just did not feel like posting. I do have a couple more post to share about our beach trip and will hope to get at least one of these up this week. We arrived home on Sunday and actually got ahead of the game by unpacking completely Sunday night.

The second reason that I have not posted a lot this month is that I have been focused on stocking the freezer with breakfast and dinners to use as I start back to work next week. I am so excited to say that I am finished with this task. I currently have 75 dinners and 50 breakfasts pre-made and in the freezer. I wanted to share a little bit about this process with you. But first the reason this has been such a focus for me this week is simple LIFE. All three of the little kids will be involved in an extra curricular activity this fall. This means that not only do we have at least one activity every evening we have two activities most evening and an occasional evening where all three kids need to be somewhere different. Kendall will have a football game to cheer at every Saturday during the months of September and October. My goal is to keep Sundays as a day of rest and day to get things organized for the week.

When we arrived home on Sunday, we found peppers, pimentos, cucumbers and tomatoes ripe in the garden. Matt was able to roast 2 batches of pimentos to use to make pimento cheese during the fall and winter. I started a batch of pasta sauce in the crockpot and with the help of Zach made 10 omelet bags. We use omelet bags for breakfast, simply add the bag contents in a cup with 2 eggs and microwave for 2 minutes. Each omelet bag contains sausage, onions and pepper. Prior to leaving on vacation, I made 20 breakfast burritos to use the eggs, milk and sausage in the refrigerator.

Monday after spending several hours/days researching and book marking recipes during our vacation, I checked in the freezers and pantry and made a list of items that needed to be purchased in order to complete different meals. I added to this list pop tarts, instant oatmeal and cereal to use as well. I made 3 batch of pizza dough and froze along with the toppings (cheeseburger and chicken) for these. The pasta sauce was used to make dinner and two additional containers were placed in the freezer.

Tuesday was a shopping day. Mom and I headed to the local Food Lion and to Walmart with my long list. I am very proud to say that by using coupons, gift cards and sticking to my list, I spending $70 total. I did add two packs of chicken thighs to the crockpot to cook while shopping. For dinner, I unthawed a package of chicken livers and added sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.

Wednesday morning, I made a double batch of French toast using bread we found on sale. I added another batch of omelet bags to the freezer as well. I used the chicken thighs to place a chicken divan in the freezer. I decided to go ahead and make chicken broth with the skin and bones as several of my recipes called for it. After our dinner of chicken and dumplings, I made two bags of slow cooker lasagna. My mom and the kids helped with bagging up the dried basil that has been hanging in my building for several weeks.

Today has been another hectic day of cooking. First I cut and hung 15 stalks of basil in the building to begin the drying process. My goal is to not only preserve the basil but allow new plant growth on the existing plants. I also assembled the chicken casserole that we ate for dinner. All the kids were recruited to help with cooking and carrying things to the freezers today. Zach is awesome at browning/ cooking sausage and meats. I assembled 2 baked ziti, 5 bags of Salisbury steak and 2 packs of hamburger patties. I also bagged and froze an additional 10 cups of chicken stock. My plan is to eat one set of the hamburgers for dinner tomorrow and the other will be a meal later in the school year.

Now that all the cooking is finished, I plan to enjoy the last few days of summer with trips to the pool and Wet and wild. I may even finish my 4 book of the summer.

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!

Saving on Saturday

I officially took a break from my Summer break today! Both myself and the kids were exhausted and really needed a down day! Today was the day! I even managed to get a nap this afternoon, which makes me feel and react so much better!

We did make a trip out of the house to one of our local discount stores “Ollies”. Matt let me know that he is down to his last 10 K-cups so that is what I was on the lookout for. We have found the cheapest to be 26 cent a cup when we order online at Costco. This is our standard price. Today was a good day to shop. The first thing we noticed was a 15% off everything sale! We ended up finding a variety pack of K-cups for twenty-one cent each! We stocked up with a total of 160 K-cups. I also found Pop Tarts on sale which will be awesome once school starts back and we are in a huge hurry in the mornings! The kid found Dippin Dot cereal, I caved and purchased one box which should feed them and Matt in the morning! We also found Christmas Candy and Cookies at 75% off. These lead to an interesting discussion at dinner about use by and expiration dates on food. It is no surprise that everyone decided that eating the Hershey Kiss Candy cane flavor kisses would be the best option. In total I spent $55 which included the coffee, cereal, poptarts, cookies, 4 bags of candy, a bag of twizzlers, 2 boxes of Kool-Aid drinks and 2 bags of chocolate chips!

The second purchase of the day does not sound like much saving but in the long run I think it will be. First the background, I purchased a Rainbow vacuum probably 14 years ago and we continue to use on a weekly bases. It is a huge pain to set up and take apart so once a week is the limit. This year we have moved a large carpet/rug to the kitchen in order to cover some of the more obvious/ugly problems with our floor. It becomes dirty quickly and I wanted to get something easy to pull and use at least several times a week. One of the chores that the kids do daily is to Swiffer either the kitchen/dinning room or living room. I have been amazed at how much this is reducing the dirt in the rest of the house. Swiffer cloths are awesome but can only be used on time and they do get expenses. I looked at “Ollies” for a stick vacuum but had no luck. We decided to head to Walmart. We were able to find a small stick vacuum for $35. Since it can also be used on the regular floors, my goal is a cleaner floor with less expenses! I will let you know if that works out!