Food Hacks that Work!

Our schedule for this week includes swim team practice on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and baseball games on Wednesday and Friday.   As you can imagine this means that we are extremely busy. I anticipated this season of busy enough to try a couple of new quick and easy food tricks this week.  I am so excited to report that they worked!

Breakfast is always a big deal at our house. We all enjoy eating breakfast but also like a lot of variety. I saw that Harris Teeter had “egg in a cup” on sale for $1.67 each this week. That gave me an idea and after a little bit of research on the internet, I made my own “breakfast bags” Zach fried up a pound of sausage while I diced green peppers and onions. I placed 1/8 cup of peppers, 1/8 cup of onions and ¼ cup in a snack bag, in the freezer they went.  My plan was to stir a couple of eggs in a cup drop in the bag contents. This week we have decided that you need at least 2 and usually 3 eggs if you chose to add cheese to the mixture.  In the microwave for 1.5 minutes or you can also add the bag to a frying pan and stir. Zach was unable to eat 2 eggs for breakfast so we decided to separate his bag in half and that seems to work well for one egg.  We also have some breakfast burritos in the freezer.  These simple omelets are a huge hit.   HUGE win for quick and cheap breakfast on the run.

Kendall and Zach take their lunches to school every day, at this point in the school year, we are tired and really want something new and fun for lunch.  Both Kendall and Zach love uncrustables and we have been able to purchase on sale several times this school year, however at fifty cent each on sale this is an expensive lunch.  I had heard of several folks making homemade ones and again after some research decided to try it. I was a little worried at first about needing some special way to seal the outside, however after using one of our glasses to make the circle I was pleasantly surprised to learn that by using the glass it sealed the sandwich. Kendall says that these taste better than the store bought ones.  I spent sixty-cent on a loaf of bread for these but otherwise have the peanut butter and grape jelly already in my pantry from sales.   I was able to make 8 sandwiches at the average cost of ten cent or less each!   I am planning to make another batch of these this weekend!   

April in Review

April is in the books. I honestly can say I think it flew by.  The success this month is planting the square foot garden!   We already have lots of small plants and I am very hopeful to start eating out of the garden by the end of May.

We were able to stick to our menu planning for the majority of the month! I have also been really good at eating things before they have to be thrown away.  Unfortunately, I have not been keeping a running record of our grocery spending but estimate we spent around $300. I am back to good record keeping today!

Fell off the wagon with keeping up with gas spending as well.

We are struggling in the area of finances this month as well. I am hopeful for positive news soon on this front.  We increased our overall debt but also covered summer camps for all three kids. I am beginning to notice a pattern and know what needs to be done to change it…. I NEED TO STICK TO WRITING THINGS DOWN!  Some good news is that my check was $100 more than expected. Matt was able to reduce his work cost by $35 a month.  I also have a better budget in place. I NEED TO STICK TO IT!

I have continued with completing either Bible study or reading at least 3 times a week!
I did not use the treadmill this month. May is warmer and the pool will open soon which also gives me better opportunity for walking.

I was only able to post 9 times in the month of April.

We have continued to earn money with Swagbucks this month, we were able to gain $100. Currently we are grabbing gift cards to Dominos which are discounted at 20%. Pizza is good!

PLANS: 6 weeks of work left for me! Bring on the Summer! I am going to focus on using our money wisely this month!  We are also planning of painting Lily’s room which should get us caught up to date on house projects!

March in Review

March was a different kind of month. I have really enjoyed the last week off for my spring break. I realized today that I would for 14 days(3 weeks) and have a long weekend at Easter. This should also work out timing wise so we can plant most of the square foot garden. This past week, I have spent a lot of time cooking and shopping!

We were able to stick to our menu planning for the majority of the month! Yesterday, Saturday the 30th was a total fail as we ate out breakfast and lunch. Dinner was a find your own meal, which meant lots of starch was consumed. I did not stick to the grocery budget in any shape form or fashion, in fact I spent $1100 for groceries this month. Check out this post if you want to see my rationale.

Driving is a way of life for use but I am just trying to get a firm idea of what we are spending each month in order to budget better, $565 is the number for March.

Unfortunately, we did not reduce our overall debt in the month of March.  I did keep track of spending. We ended up with 6 days of NO spending for the month. This appears to be a really low number to me. I would like to track April and hopefully will achieve at least 50% or 15 days of no spending for the month.

I have continued with completing either Bible study or reading at least 3 times a week!
I did not use the treadmill this month. I did have a doctor’s visit this past week and have lost 2 pounds in 3 months but am `5 pounds heavier than I was a year ago.  I am hopefully with the warmer weather and longer days to start walking on a more regular basis. The goal for April will be once a week or a total of 5 times during the month.

This is post number 15 for the month!  After two years, I have finally met this goal. Now to continue with the success!

We have continued to earn money with Swagbucks this month but are at our lowest point of $80 for the month. We have used this entire amount for working on things outside. The good news is that this means we have not spent anything on the square foot garden so we are eating free food at this point.

PLANS: One of the downfalls of my new job is that in both April and May my paycheck will be reduced by $500. I am going to track our spending very closely for now to try and maintain some balance. We will have 2 or more Baseball games a week but this should be less than $10 each week.  I plan to keep grocery shopping to a minimal of less than $100 as well. The countdown to summer is on; 12 weeks till I have an 8 week vacation!

February in Review

February was a great month, I feel like we have actually figured out our busy schedules and I have begun to enjoy some of the extra time I have in the evenings.  Swagbucks was a much better earner this month that I expected. In total we earned $135! We also cashed in and used $4 in Walmart gift cards from Shopkicks.

We did much better sticking to a meal plan for the month. I also have reduced our grocery bill to $175 for the month!

We continue with a huge gas expense and ended up with putting brakes on the red car.

Unfortunately, we did not reduce our overall debt in the month of February but I am planning to write down each dollar spent in March to determine where the extra money is going.

I have continued with completing either Bible study or reading at least 3 times a week!

I did not use the treadmill this month, but I am really surprised at how much walking I actually do each day.

Blogging: I have posted 11  times this month.  This is a small increase from January but does not still meet my goal of 15 a month.

PLANS: I have a week of Spring Break at the end of March. The kids will all still have regular school hours so I am planning to get ahead of lots of cooking, get a pedicure and hair color as well. I will also need to make a large grocery trip.

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!

 

2019- A Look Ahead

We have talked about 2018, now on to what I hope to accomplish in 2019.

I like the idea of choosing a word for the year. I am not sure how to keep this in focus but I am going to work on that. May learn a new verse each month or find something each month to share?   Mainly, I just want to remind myself that I always have a choice as to what I focus on.  My word for 2019 is “JOY”. I am going to choice joy no matter what is happening and I want to find joy in the little things of life.

Financially- The overall goal is to reduce our debt. I would like to reduce our personal debit to less than $20,000 or by $6,000. This is a very lofty goal but any reduction is a significant improvement so I want a goal that seems almost impossible.  One of the biggest changes I want to make this year is the way I spend money. We are now paying our bills essentially a month ahead of time. This means that I actually paid all bills due in January on December 31st. By continuing in this manner, I will be able to move unspent money into another place and keep much better records.  I also plan to use cash method for keeping up with most of the items except for gas. Finally, I want to use our second checking account as a slush fund/sinking fund account. Any extra money such as mileage checks or money earned from apps will go into that account. I can use it for extra such as meals out or other wants as they arise. For example, I eat out with my co-workers on Fridays, this will be where the money comes from. Today, I ordered a late Christmas gift for Matt’s father and the money came out of the account. This will allow me to not overspend in addition to keeping track of what extra we do have to spend.  I am not planning to set a gas budget for the year as there is little to no way to control this when we go over. We simply can’t stop driving. I am going to track our spending for gas to achieve a better understanding of what we are spending.   Grocery budget is $400 a month. This will be a reduction from last year even without including our cow purchase but again we have to have a goal.

Personally-
Blogging- I am going to set the goal at 15 a month. I enjoy writing and I want to spend time doing it more often this year.

Weight- I need to lose at least 30lbs. I like to keep track of days exercised as it again gives me something to improve.

Bible Study- This is a area that I definitely need to make changes in. I am going to be realistic and set a goal of 3 times a week. If and when I have meet this goal for a month I can always increase.

Now let’s talk about specific goals for January- I have already paid our bills including some extra Christmas cost.  I don’t have a saving goal this month because I honestly don’t have a way. Baby steps!

No spending outside of the Slush fund.
Groceries at $60 or less
Keep up with gas spending for the entire month.
Walk at least 10 times this month, before I can start this I need to get my snow village put away so I can set up the treadmill.

2018 Review

It was the worst of times and the best of times.  2018 was definitely a hard year for us on all aspects, personally, emotionally and financially. Yet, I am totally at peace and looking forward to 2019.

2018 was a year of change, Matt began a full time position and I switch from working at the hospital for 12 years to working in Davie County schools. These were both huge positive changes but they required a lot of faith!

I have been planning a recap of the year just to have it in one place for several days and finally sat down tonight to pull number. First I must admit that I have no idea what our grocery or gas spending was during the month of December. I just did not keep up. For the sake of having a number, I am going to say we spent $300 in groceries.

We did purchase a whole cow in 2018 and should have enough meat to use this entire year. The average amount for grocery spending was $617 a month or $7400 for the year. I am shocked at how low this number really.  That is around $125 a month of each of us including all household items for cleaning and laundry.

Auto expenses are another huge expenses for us. Looking back we spent an average of $250 a month prior to August on gas. With our job changes in August, I honestly can’t give an average. I am going to work diligently in January to find out this number! Extra expenses including purchasing of the red car, a new windshield for the silver van and new tires for the silver van.

Our financial gain for the year was reducing our debit by half. The majority of this reduction came from my retirement but I am convinced that slow and steady will win the race and we will be able to stay on this same course.  One really bright spot was the fact that we earned an average of $110 a month via Swagbucks and other free apps.

I did not meet my blogging goal, one single time in 2018 and gained weight so both of these goals will be placed back on the list of 2019.

As you can see 2018 was rough and I am positive 2019 will be much better if the only thing that changes is my attitude.  My goal is to get up plans for 2019 in the next couple of days!

 

November in Review

I have been debating even writing this post for several days.  November was a month that was busy, frightening and unforgettable but I also want to stay true to myself and have documented some of the reasons that things happen. First we decided to take a trip to Michigan to visit over Thanksgiving.  I am a planner and two weeks is never enough time to plan a 7 day trip. But this Amanda was sick and the two weeks turned into 3 days. I spent 5 solid days at the hospital with her and ended up eating several meals just to make the days go faster. I don’t regret spending the time at the hospital and would do it again if needed but it made the month really short.  I don’t even think I have actual numbers this month but best guess has to work for now.

Financial- I did fairly well for our trip expenses and I still plan to write a blog post about that.  I did end up spending money on more new clothes and shoes. The good news is that we paid all our bills and we have no real needs. 


Grocery budget $500- I did end up staying under this amount I am positive.  However I am going to guess that I spent around $200 this month on groceries. I am going to plan a HUGE grocery trip at the end of December but the goal is to stay well under $100 prior to that. 


Gas-  Our trip to Michigan cost us 7 tanks of gas for around $250. I have absolutely no idea what else was spent in gas for the month except $15 on parking for the hospital. 


Kid/Summer expenses: Kendall gymnastics $60 was the only required spending for the month but I am thinking I also paid $20 on a fieldtrip.
Earned $100- I have gift cards left for Christmas and we used $70 for trip expenses .
Personal-
Blogging-5 for the month. I had many things to think about an little time to blog this month. 
Exercise- Zero… no explanation.

October in Review

It is one thing to anticipate spending after planning and knowing exactly where you wanted to spend money but quite another for bunch of small “fixes” becoming a very expensive month. In October, we ended up with some MAJOR automotive cost. First we need the oil changed on both vans. Next the silver van needed four new tires and finally the silver van needed a new battery. UGH, we made the choice to leave our emergency fund intact at around $600 and place the new tires on a credit card. Frustrating but not a total budget disaster. The good news is that I anticipate paying off this prior to the beginning of the year!

Financial- Yikes, did you read above. In addition, I have purchased new clothes and shoes for most of us. I am hopefully that we can stop spending and enjoys frugal months prior to Christmas without really noticing a change.
Grocery budget $500- Total spent $700. Yes, that puts us over for the second month in a row. I have pulled out $100 in cash to use for groceries this month. We are stocked up and I really want to eat what we have. The good news is because of losing power in October, we moved everything from the house freezers to the ones in the building. I was able to really organize and we have a great system for pulling up and knowing what food we are going to use. I have already pulled the food we need for the month of November minus Thanksgiving so we are only buying needs and good sales.
Gas- We are currently around $200 over for the month. This does include gas for the generator we ran but about 24 hours as well. I have not figured out exactly how much we are spending but get a better idea in November.
Kid/Summer expenses: We ended up spending another $100 for Lily for theater this month. We spent around $25 on baseball games including some food. Kendall choose to begin gymnastics this month which cost $100 for the first month.
Earned $175- This is a huge improvement from the last year. We have used most of this to purchase Christmas gifts. I also paid for clothing with this money this month.
Personal-
Blogging-12 for the month. I will admit that this has been a struggle but my goal is to make this goal at least for November and December as we have no travelling planned.
Exercise- Zero… no explanation.

September in Review

Whew… we made it.  September was another busy month with lots of money being spent.  You can read about out budget reset here.    To be quite honest, I am glad to have all the spending and buying hopefully behind us.  I actually paid bills twice this month as we move to paying most bills with my paycheck, we are paying a month ahead so it is much easier and quicker. My goal for both October and November is to have more days of no spending than spending days.  We still have not settled on a final budget as I have not started my second job via Skype yet.  At this point, I am even becoming doubtful if this is going to materialize. If I do not being this job it will me a reduction in our budget as I will need to cover our two remaining credit cards from regular bill money. I will definitely keep you posted. But now here is what our month looks like.

Financial- We have moved toward a cash envelope system with most of the budget. We are continuing to use our Costco credit card for the HUGE rewards (total of 8%) in the form of cash back but otherwise we have no plans to acquire any more debit.
Grocery budget $500- Total spent $500 for September and $440 of our October budget. Because I was paid on Friday, we went ahead and shopped at Costco for the month in addition to I have been stocking up at Food Lion during their quarter back sale. I do not anticipate spending more than $60 in October and it is in cash so when it is gone, I am done!
Gas- We are currently around $75 over for the month. I was initially very unsure about the exact cost with both Matt and I traveling at least 30 minutes to work each way. I did increase our gas budget to $400 for the month of October. I may have to continue to monitor and adjust this as time progress. The good news is that I will be earning mileage which should cover at least part of this expense.
Kid/Summer expenses :Lily is participating in youth theater and including tickets for the show so far we have spent $200. Remaining cost include several items for her costume and at least one silent auction item. Zach is playing baseball- $90 sign up fee, $25 on new uniform and around $5 a week for game entry fees.
Earned $75- We are continuing to use this money in different ways. This month it was to purchase items for my building including a light. We are planning to put at least $50 a month for the next three months toward Christmas gifts. Every little bit helps!

Personal-
Blogging-10 for the month.  I have been sick for the past week and we have been incredible busy over the past two weeks but I am going to hopefully stay above this number in the future.
Exercise- 3 total days for the month. I am going to again blame my cold on part of this but I know I can and need to do much better in this area!