Planning Ahead = Saving Money

Planning ahead is a way to always save money. If I know that I have a plan, I am less likely to decide and make random choices. I am definitely planning ahead for the Spring. I can not begin to explain how much I am looking forward to warm days.  First, it gets me so much closer to the end of the school year and my summer off with lots of fun filled activities.  Next, I am also looking forward to my week of Spring Break at the end of March. Let’s talk about what my plans are starting to look like.

Both Kendall and Zach will be in school during my Spring break which means I should have some extra time to doing not only shopping for food but also some extra time for meal preparation as well. We are currently eating out of the pantry and freezer in order to make more room for prepared meals. I will be make a huge trip to Costco during my week off to purchase items to make at least 30 meals to place in the freezer. This should provide us with enough “prepared” meal to make the months of April and May pass smoothly even with all the end of year activities, baseball and chorus. My current plans include:
·         2 baked ziti- One for an evening meal and one for the freezer.
·         5lbs of taco meat in the crockpot for our Mexican meals
·         A pot of sloppy joes. We have been enjoying at least one meal of sloppy joes a month.
·         2 chicken pies and 2 chicken pot pies
·         3 meals of chicken enchiladas- one for an evening meal and the other two for the freezers. ·         6 bags of chicken breast ready to grill.
·         I am also hoping to try out some more of the freezer meals I have been finding online.

A more long range goal is to plan and prepare ahead at least 60 meals during the summer to use for the school year!

Moving to the garden. I am so excited to have the extra time to devote to the garden this year. Last year was a bust overall but I am wondering if most of the issue is the amount of time and energy that was put in the garden.  To reduce the overall expense of the garden, I am planning to use gift cards earned through Swagbucks to pay for most of improvements in addition to all of the plants that I want to use.  My goal is to have at least $100 to spend on the purchase of plants during the first week of May. I have purchased both cucumber and squash seeds and will be starting these during my Spring break.  I will need to purchase one additional bag of dirt to use for starting these plants. I have already purchased one bag of organic fertilizer and will be purchasing at least 5 more to spread in the garden.  Between the dirt and fertilizer I am hoping to spend less than $50. My overall goal is to also fund as much of these purchases with gift cards as well.  I will also need to spend several hours if no more in the garden spreading the fertilizer and replacing some of the strings that separate all the squares as well. Prior to moving forward with these plans I also need to make a master plan for planting for the year.

My other goals/ plans during Spring break include an appointment to get my hair colored and a trip to the nail salon for a pedicure and manicure. 

Saving on Saturday 2/23/2019

The last couple of weeks, we have been doing things to improve the flow and function of our kitchen.  My plan is to show all the changes at one time. But in order to complete these updates as inexpensively as possible, I am using “free money”, gift cards that are earned via swagbucks or other apps.  I am also trying to use as many things as possible that we already have.  For example, while cleaning and organizing the laundry/ extra food storage, I found a dish rack that was no longer being used. I had Matt hang this on it’s side to hold lunch boxes. 

This cleaned off the dryer and even looks better.

Matt was able to put new brakes on the red car, saving all the labor cost!

The final big event was our church’s annual Ladies Banquet.  I have been asked to decorate a table the last several years.  This year with a little bit of planning ahead, I purchased all the items except for the center vase at the Dollar Tree. I borrowed the vase from my mother.  The total cost for the table was $25.  I am very happy with the results!,, What do you think?

Clothing

Beside groceries, you could easily suspect that clothing is one of our bigger expenses. Especially given the fact that prior to last fall, I wore scrubs four days a week. I probably spent less than $100 total on work clothing in those 12 years. Matt also has transitioned from wearing jeans and t-shirts to a more traditional work outfit. However, we have definitely been blessed over the years in the areas and we continue to receive blessing.

The girls often, at least once every 3 or 4 month have received bags of hand me down clothes over the years. Zach, since starting school has been gifted with clothing over and above any wants he could have. During the past several weeks, I began to notice that Kendall’s jeans were getting shorter and shorter and then ankle short. Lily has also been complaining about not have any “public” long sleeve shirts or sweaters to wear. Last Sunday, in fact, she ended up borrowing a sweater to wear to church from Kendall.  Matt and I decided that we really needed a trip to Goodwill and that we also need to take a good inventory of what clothing we had and what we needed.

At Goodwill, Kendall was able to locate a pair of jeans and a pair of capris that she really liked and Lily found 2 sweaters that she could use for layering.  The total spent was $14. We were also blessed by one of Lily’s  friend who after hearing Lily says she borrowed a shirt decided to clean out her closet and passed two huge bags of clothes down for the girls. I have been working on cleaning out my closet over the past several weeks and am actually at the point were most if not all the clothes that are left are unstained and something I have worn in the last year.  The kids all spent last Sunday afternoon and some time this week, going through and cleaning up their closets. I am so happy to report that each of the kids  has enough clothes not only for the rest of winter and spring but also the summer. Kendall “found” 3 additional swim suits in her closet that were the perfect size for Lily to finish out our needs list.

Matt and I have also been slowly, replacing some of our more worn out clothes, and updating some clothes as well. He needs mainly pants as his shirt collection is huge and I need more “professional” clothing as t-shirts are only allowed on Fridays. I receive lots of advertisements from multiple clothing stores on a daily basis. Today, I noticed that Old Navy was running a sale on dresses and jeans. I have been saving my Verizon rewards for the past couple of months and had two $5 gift cards from them.   I even remember to shop via Swagbucks. I am super pleased with the outcome. I purchased a pair of jeans for Matt, a pair of Khakis for Matt, 3 simple long sleeve dresses for me and a pair of bike shorts for either Lily or Kendall. I added the shorts for $2.08 in order to receive free shipping. I used $10 gift cards and spent a total of $45. I did receive $20 in super cash and another $5.69 from Swagbucks!

Menu Planning Monday

We were VERY successful eating up the junk food Sunday left-overs this past week. I did not post a menu plan but did talk about some of them over here.   The focus of this week is to try out some new recipes. I found a bunch of new to me crockpot recipes that include a shopping list. After looking at most of it, I realized that I would only have to buy the meat for most of these. I did want to do a taste test before stocking the freezer with these items. I also realized that some are just as easy to prepare the morning of or the night before. So far all three have been good but I will most likely only repeat two, the Mexican chill and Honey Sesame Chicken.

Breakfast- Saturday– Pancakes- with leftovers for several additional mornings this week. Sunday-I made an egg frittata with lots of veggies for me and biscuits for the kids and Matt. . Monday- Left-over egg frittata (the kids tasted mine on Sunday and wanted to finish it on Monday). Tuesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of any available left-overs, oatmeal, grits, cereal, toast or eggos waffles.  Wednesday- baked oatmeal of some form.

Lunch–Saturday-Olive Garden (special treat) Sunday-Cranberry Roast with mixed veggies.  Monday– Potato soup for kids and a can of soup for me.  Tuesday– hummus and dip for me , Kendall and Zach had egg salad sandwiches , Wednesday-Thursday and Friday- uncrustables for the kids. I have a salad for one day and left-overs.

Dinner – Saturday-Mexican Chill with cornbread topping. Sunday–Oddles of noodles soup (yeap it was that good of a day) Monday-Honey Sesame chicken with egg rolls and rice. Tuesday– Taco pasta   Wednesday– Baked Ziti Thursday– Hamburgers and FF. Friday – left-overs or rice kielbasa depending on what the fridge looks like.

 

Do you have a favorite crockpot recipe for me to try?

January in Review

This January has turned into a quite expensive month. I did some reading of old post and realize that I usually have a successful clean out the pantry month and stay way below spending in grocery spending. This was not the case for this January. I did clean out the pantry for all but the last week. After some debate, it was physically less demanding and stressful for me to do a huge grocery shopping trip to Costco in January instead of trying to squeeze it into February.  I also ended buying food for junk food Sunday as well. Total spend in Groceries $800 YIKES!

I was able to keep a running total on our gas usage for the month. We are spending $93 a week to fill all three vehicles, for January that meant $465.  I know that both vans need oil changes in the month of February so I expect this amount to be closer to $600 next month.

Given the numbers above, I am not at all surprised that our overall debt increased by $481. YIKES! One of the other unexpected expenses for the month of January was the purchase of new phones and an apple watch for myself. Feel free to check out the details here 

Personally, I have been able to complete a devotional 3 times a week. This is a huge increase from zero!

I did use the treadmill several time this month. I also realize that I am walking quite a bit for work. I am averaging 2.5 miles just at work. I am going to set a goal for walking at least 3 miles a day for February.

Blogging: I have posted only 9 times this month. No real reason other than I am tired. Guess it is time to start doing instead of thinking.

PLANS: A couple of plans for February include not increasing our overall debit, staying under $200 for groceries and increasing both devotional time and treadmill time!

 

Eating from the Pantry

January is always a favorite month of mine because everyone is trying to save money and I can find lots of place to read for eating out of the pantry and freezer.  This year I have joined in.   Today, I am going to share some of the history of the whys and hows of this challenge in addition to what this is actually looking like at our house.

Let me give you a little background first. I dislike shopping most of the time. A trip to Costco is fun but otherwise I prefer not to go to the grocery store.  I live a busy life so I actually have to plan most of my shopping trips these days. Unfortunately, during the months of November and December, my life was a whirlwind. In fact, I do not have an accurate amount for my grocery spending in either of these months. Looking even a little bit further back and I spent $700 in October and $500 in September. So I have a variety of foods and had stocked up on lots of items so January is a good time for us to try and not spend and use up the items we have on hand. A huge plus for us is that we purchased an entire cow last April and still have a freezer of meat to pull out of.

So now the good news, as of today, I have spent $65.35 in groceries for the month. I am also at the point that I don’t anticipate going shopping again this month unless it is to purchase butter which I am down to my last 3 sticks of. Otherwise we are eating from what we have.

Next up the challenge and the reality of what our pantry and freezers currently look like.

The biggest challenge for the next two weeks is providing/finding snacks for the kids to take to school each day. One of the reasons I like to shop at Costco is the ability to purchase a large size of snack foods and not have to open 17 boxes each week.  After starting the pantry challenge I realized I had not purchased snack foods since October. Currently, we are REALLY REALLY low!  In fact, I just raided the snack bag in the van to provide enough of a variety of snacks to get us through the next 10 days of school. I am also planning to offer to pop some popcorn tomorrow as well.

We are also starting to run low on our preferred lunch foods such as soups, ravioli and chicken nuggets. Kendall really enjoys a ham and cheese wrap but we are limited to exactly one for the next two weeks.  I actually found 2 more packages of lunch meat in the freezer so if I can convince the kids to eat regular bread, sandwiches are not a problem.

Another noticeable area that we are running low on is breakfast foods. We have cereal but no pop-tarts. We also have some waffles left and some oatmeal. Currently in the refrigerator is one package of bacon and one package of sausage. We have around 2 dozen eggs left. I did buy a package of frozen biscuits today but they will only last a couple of weeks.

Other “changes” include the ability to see open areas in the pantry in the laundry room which holds extra condiments and cans. We also are able to close both freezers easily. Finally I have less than one half of a shelf of food in the laundry room.

As you can tell this has not been nearly as emptying as it could have been but I am also making a list for our shopping in February. I know that we will likely spend at least $300 but I hope to keep it less than $400.

Saving Money

Things have returned to normal around here. At least as normal as they will ever get!

I am  very happy to report that we have been sticking to our grocery budget so far and I can even see a difference in our pantry.  I also noticed this week, we are starting to run out of the preferred snacks and lunch for the kids. I have started a list on the refrigerator in order to determine if we need a Costco trip for February and unfortunately the answer half way through January is yes! My goal is to keep the list going for another two weeks and try to stretch things as far as I can.  So far, I have spent a total of $48.57 cent on groceries with a goal of $60 or less for the month. 

One of my favorite website to read these days is http://theprudenthomemaker.com/ each week she list all the ways she has saved money and then encourages others to provide their list as well.  Most weeks we do the same things so I will definitely not make a list each week but maybe once a month or so would be fun.  Here are the ways we have been saving money lately.

  • Stopped at CVS this morning for free toothpaste. The CVS app has a $1 off any toothpaste coupon. I bought Crest, which was on sale for $3.00 used the coupon and $2ECB. Paid tax of fourteen cent and earn 2 ECB back.
  • Used water from the kids water bottles to water all the plants
  • Purchased 2 dinner plates at the local Chinese restaurant and brought them home to eat. Total of $23 to feed all 5 of us plus a left-over meal for someone for lunch.
  • Used Nail polish already purchased to paint my nails on Sunday night instead of getting a manicure once a month or more.
  • Menu planning and prepping the crock pot at night. We have eaten out only twice since Christmas. Once we used a gift card and the Chinese from above.
  • Made pizza dough in the bread maker instead of ordering pizza for lunch on Saturday.
  • Used gift cards earned from Swagbucks to purchase a Roku Stick and picture frame that I wanted.
  • Stocking up on items on sale such as shampoo and toothpaste instead of buying when we are in need.
  • Repurposing left-overs like tonight used rice from Saturday evening and from Chinese instead of making a new batch. This way, we have less food waste. Saturday night, I made a batch of rice and then gave everyone a choice of pulled pork, pepper steak or beef and broccoli that were left-overs.
  • Adding layers of clothing, instead of turning up the heat in the house. The temperature is currently set at 69 but we all have been cold. I ended up adding a sweatshirt and socks to stay warm.

Are any of these new or different to you?

Monday Menu Planning 01/07/2019

I have mentioned that my plan for 2019 is to get back on a budget with spending and to reduce my overall grocery budget. I really do have a stockpile and my goal is to go through and use ALOT of it up during the months of January and February. Another way to reduce expenses is for us to not eat out. This is a hard one!

Breakfast- Saturday– Toast and Eggs  Sunday-Sausage cresant casserole . Monday- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of any available left-overs, oatmeal, poptarts, grits, cereal, toast or eggos waffles. I had purchased a couple of boxes of Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheerios, this have been a huge hit so far and probably will only last until Wednesday.
LunchSaturday-Chic-A-Filet (My mother treated Lily and I) Zach and Kendall had school so that took grilled cheese sandwiches. Sunday-Baked Potato bar. Monday– Salad for me, soup for Kendall and Zach, Lily and Matt had burritos. Tuesday– Ham salad for me, Kendall and Zach had grilled Cheese sandwiches, Lily a salad, Wednesday-Soup for me, chicken nuggets for Zach and Lily, Kendall-vegetables to dip, Thursday– leftovers for me, Zach has chicken nuggets and Kendall a roll up. Friday- I eat out, Zach, Lily and Kendall have soup.
DinnerSaturday-Leftovers, Sunday– Turkey Cheddar Soup- used a soup pack mix and added in our left-over turkey , Monday-Hamburger Helper  Tuesday– soft tacos . Wednesday– Salisbury Steak with left over stuffing and carrots, Thursday– Chicken fried Rice .  Friday -Grilled Chicken if the weather permits.

Food!

If you have been at our house or read a couple of blog posts you realize that food is our biggest expense except for the mortgage. It also requires the most time and effort. I honestly don’t mind cooking if and when I have the time. But here is the real confusion, I enjoy and prefer to eat out. Life and our budget tell me that this is not a reality so back to cooking I go.  The balance of having enough easy simple meals for school days and cooking ahead is hard to achieve.

During the recent snow, I cooked only two meals a day and we enjoyed left-overs the third meal and even had some for the next week. Last week, we enjoyed quick simple meals Monday- Thursday.  I decided on Friday two separate very different things, first- I wanted Seafood, specifically flounder and shrimp for dinner and second- I need to stretch and make a plan for food so we did not waste  any food over the Christmas break. The good news is that so far it has been working! I thought I would share a recap and part of the current plan.

Friday night- Flounder and shrimp. The local seafood place has a special for 24 pieces of flounder, 6 baked potatoes and cole slaw for $22.95, I also added 2 plates of popcorn shrimp to bring my total to $45.00.  This was ALOT of food especially for the cost and actually around the same as we spend for Chinese. I knew I wanted to save the baked potatoes for a second meal, so I split one for the kids that wanted it. On Saturday, I used the baked potatoes for twice baked potatoes, which became our Sunday lunch. We also had left-overs on Saturday at dinner as well. I know we have at least a fourth meal from this so I am very pleased to stretch $45 into four meals at around $10 each!

Saturday- For breakfast- I used some cinnamon raisin bread that Amanda had brought over to make French toast this was a HUGE hit with only 1 piece left.  Lunch was a special treat of McDonalds.  I used the app and we brought it home for drinks. Total spent was $15.  Dinner was left-overs see above.

Sunday-  I really try to make this as much of a day of rest as possible. This week to avoid going out after church, I placed the twice baked potatoes in the oven and they cooked while we were at church.  I actually planned ahead for dinner as well. Saturday night we cooked up 2 pounds of ground beef and chopped up the ingredients for Pasta Faggioli soup. Everything was placed in the crock pot in the fridge so we move it out and turned on before heading to church for our special breakfast. The soup ended up much better than anticipated, we made up 4 lunch containers and froze for January in addition to a small container of left-overs for this week.

Monday- I had left-over gravy in the fridge and decided to make breakfast bowls. We used a pound of sausage, 12 eggs, green peppers that were frozen from the garden and onions. I fried 6 hash browns to complete breakfast. The remaining egg mixture will be rolled into burritos and frozen for a quick breakfast during school. We should have an addition 6 breakfast burritos. Lunch is left-overs, I plan on a flounder-cheese sandwich. Dinner is BBQ at my mothers!

Monday Menu Plan

This is most likely my last menu post for 2018. I will be home on school break from December 23rd until January 2nd. I am hoping for a lot of less stressful/ busy days. I also want to continue the word of the week LEFTOVERS!  I will adjust each day to maximize the food we have and also not overwhelm with the same food items each day.

Did I mention left-overs? We will have BBQ on Christmas Eve at my mother’s and a huge meal on December 30th.

Left-overs- During the snow last week, my compromise was that I would cook only two meals a day. This seemed to work well but also has left my refrigerator full. I ended up only cooking one meal a day on Saturday and Sunday but still we have left-overs.

The plan for this week is really simple and easy.

Breakfast- Saturday- Grits and Bacon Sunday-Sausage cresant casserole left-overs or bagels. Monday- Sausage and egg on bread (some had croissants, some biscuits) Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday- Choice of any available left-overs, oatmeal, poptarts, grits, cereal, toast or eggos waffles.
Lunch-Saturday-Left-overs  Sunday-Left-overs. Lunches are packed for the week and included salad, soup and chicken nuggets.
Dinner – Saturday-Leftovers, Sunday- Chinese  , Monday-Sloppy Joes and French Fries Tuesday-  soft tacos and or nachos. Wednesday- Chicken Fried Rice, Thursday- Salisbury Steak, rice and vegetable.  Friday- Famous Left-overs.