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.

July in Review

What a difference a year makes. This is one of the reason, I continue to blog after so many years is the ability to read what things were happening in the past. Last year at this time, Matt was starting a new job and I was working out my notice at the hospital. I had intended to begin working 2 contract jobs in August. Fortunately, Davie County Schools offered me a position and this year I have enjoyed a month of spending time with the kids! I also have realized that I have been free styling my month in review for the last several months so this month, I am going back.

Financial-I took a $10,000 a year pay cut with my new job, however I do not have any regrets! I will be hopefully starting a second job in the afternoons which will make up the difference. We have survived this past year but a boost of income will definitely make my life easier. Something new I am tracking is the number of days a month that we don’t spend any money. In June, I had 2 days and this month I had 7! I am going to set the goal at 10 for next month and 15 on a regular basis when school starts.

Grocery Spending-$418.17 This is actually less than last year and more than my previous two months. I am pleased with this spending as I have focused on getting food prepared ahead for the coming school year. I currently have 50 meals that just need to go in crock pot or oven and plan on another 10 to prepare the week after we get home from the beach! I do think that my grocery spending will decrease when school starts as we will be only purchasing items that we need.

Gas budget- $280- Spent $291. I am going to increase the budget to $300 a month starting in August.  We purchased a small car to use for my home health job so I am hopeful that this will keep our expenses close to $300 each month.

Kid/Summer expenses : Kendall has a one day cheer camp and I was responsible for paying for half of her uniform ($59). August will be expensive with school fees, baseball fee and more cheer expense

Earned $155- This is a HUGE improvement! This is definitely the most money we have earned in a month for this entire year. I honestly think it is because I am trying to make as much as possible with the focus on completing at least one survey a day on Swagbucks.

Personal-
Blogging- post number 10 for the month. This is an improvement of 3 from last year but a decrease in 4 from June.

Exercise- Don’t see any this month. A regular routine will probably improve this area!

Looking ahead to August- We are planning to enjoy our beach trip which means spending but once we get back to a regular schedule and I start the second job, my goal is to stay focused and enjoy my kids!

 

Saving on Groceries

I have shared before that our largest expense besides our mortgage is groceries. Yes, groceries are even higher than our car payment. Included in the grocery budget is all the cleaning products and paper products that we use in the house. On a positive note, I have been able to reduce our grocery budget over the past several years. When I started tracking our grocery budget I was spending around $800 a month. I will say that this included diapers for many years. Last year we spent $620 a month on groceries. This year, the grocery budget has varied significantly from $1100 to $175. I did an average of the 5 month and that put us at $540 a month. My goal for the year is $500 a month. I think this is doable as we continue to eat off the cow purchased last year which should reduce the budget as well.

In the month of June so far, I have spent $90.30! I am super excited about this! I am planning to have the lowest spending month ever for groceries. My goal for the summer is to keep spending below $200 for June and July.

Now on to the fun stuff, how am I planning to keep this goal reachable. First, we continue to earn at least $50 to $100 a month in gift cards from Swagbucks. I am using this earning for Walmart gift cards, to purchase toilet paper, sunscreen and all the other fun stuff that we need to keep the house running. I also received my Costco reward this month. I purchased laundry detergent, dishwashing tabs and such with it. A second way, is by using Norwex products for cleaning. I purchased the window cloth and a dusting system several years ago. Yes, the cost was upfront but after a year of use then I am saving money simply by using them. One of my new favorite ways of saving is looking through clearance section at Food Lion. I have been able to grab breakfast sausage, pastries, candy, juice and much more. This is all food that I know we will eat and usually priced fifty cent or less. I have also been going to Aldi on Wednesday afternoon, this is typically when they reduce bread and pastries. Finally, I am trying specifically to use what is in the garden, freezers and pantry. I even made a list of the items that we have in addition to several ideas of ways to use these items. In addition to the list of items we have, I started a stockpile list, these items I am going to watch for a good sale and build up our supply. I am eager to save as much money as possible this summer while enjoy a more relaxed pace!

5 Things Friday

  1. I used a sick day today. After visiting 2 doctors, I have a stye that is infected and has likely caused a eye infection as well. Or a sinus infection caused the stye. It is a classic case of which came first. I know that my head hurts, my eye is very swollen and red. And I am having trouble seeing.  It is truly as much fun as it sounds.
  2. This weekend is going to be very busy. Kendall is participating in All County Chorus with practice Friday night and Saturday. Her performance is Saturday night. Zach has baseball practice on Saturday. Lily and I will be participating in and in charge of a fundraising lunch at church on Sunday. I am praying this infection does not slow me down too much.
  3. I was able to grab razors this week at CVS for 90% off. The best information was when I talked to the manager who was telling me about couponers that come in an usually clear the shelves for most deals. They decided that 90% was not good enough so he ended up putting a lot of items back out. These folks must have watched too many extreme couponing shows!
  4. The weather is really crazy around here. We had a beautiful snowfall that did not stick 2 weeks ago. Today the temperature is 63 with rain. The good news is that I have not had my heat or air on in almost two weeks. I am hopeful we can go at least 6 weeks (mid May) before needing to turn the air on. The bad news is that our grass is out of control. We need to mow but can’t catch a dry day that we don’t have a baseball game.
  5. I have achieved success with growing things from seeds. I currently have 8 watermelon plants and 6 tomato plants that we started from seeds. I am hopefully depending on the weather to plant most of the garden next week. We currently have pepper plants, broccoli and cabbage growing successfully.

Saving on Saturday/ Sunday

Saturday was a gorgeous spring day in North Carolina. The temperature was in the low 70s and no rain!  I took advantage of this great weather and the “Spring Black Friday Sale” at Lowes to get the Square Foot Garden up to date. We purchased 20 bags of garden soil at $2 saving $2.29 a bag for a total of $45, 2 green pepper plants,1 basil plant and a container of zucchini for $2.50 each saving a total of $5.12 and 7 small containers of annuals(flowers) saving sixty cent each for a total of $3.00.  The total saving for our two trips to Lowes was $53.10!  The garden beds are now full of dirt and we have started planting some of the vegetables. I was able to plant the green pepper and jalapeno plants that were purchased way ahead of time.  I have been successful at spouting both watermelon and pear tomato seeds. These will have to wait until the last chance of frost before planting outside. I am super excited about what we are planning to grow in the garden this year and the money we are going to save in the process.

I also shopped at CVS on Saturday. I had a raincheck for 2L Diet Cokes which I combined with ECB I already had to purchase 16 of the 2 L at sixty-seven cent each. We were out of razors at my house so I purchased multiple razors spending a total of $20 and saving $18.39. My total savings at CVS was $46.13.

On Sunday, Harris Teeter decided to run a “Super Double Coupons Event”. This means that they doubled all coupons up to $2.00. For me the bigger deal was the fact that they had a great sale of several items that we use and are easy to store including paper plates, Gatorades, Flour, cream cheese and gold fish.  Mom and I were able to find most items on my list except for the shampoo.  I spent $76.51 and saved $84.74 or 53%.

In all just this weekend shopping the sales, I saved $184!

 

Sunday CVS Shopping 3/17/2019

I am starting to see a cycle with CVS shopping.  The best sales are usually January and February with a huge slack off after that, It has been true again this year. I have gotten in the swing of checking out the CVS sales every week. I have skipped a few weeks of shopping just because they had little to nothing that I need or use in the stock pile to grab.

Last week, I was able to score both cans of Diet Coke and 2L on sale for my stock up price. I only buy 2L at or below $1 each and I stock up at seventy-nine cent each.  I was able to purchase a total of 6 case and 16 2L this past week. Even better is the rain check I got for 16 more 2 litters.

This week was a great week to shop CVS. I spent a total of $6.83 and saved $37.60 or 85%. I purchased 4 bottles of body wash and a bottle of mouthwash in addition to most of the candy I will use at Easter.  I used only 1 coupon for $1 off Irish Spring Body Wash.  The other savings came from using ECB and coupons from the red machine. I started the trip with $10 in ECB and ended with $7.45 in ECB.  They have changed the rules for earning ECB with beauty products but I am anticipating getting another $6 in rewards when I shop next week.  This makes grocery shopping so much cheaper in the long run!

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?

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.

Saving on Saturday

I was really hoping to find some awesome after Christmas sale this year. I usually buy items for the gift drawer in addition to some new Christmas décor.   I will admit that I am disappointed, in fact the best sale I found were at Lowes and Harris Teeter.  We headed to Lowes the day after Christmas basically to have something to do. I was surprised to learn that all Christmas was at 75% off and even more surprised at how little was left out. I did find and purchase my favorite item.

It was the display so I was offered an additional 10% discount. I had to wait patiently for around 10 minutes to claim it but ended up paying $20 for this awesome light! Even better, I used a Lowes gift card earned from Swagbucks really it was a nice freebie!

My other find was a jingle bell wreath holder for $1.50 at Harris Teeter. I did buy some gift tags, a couple of table cloths and platters but that was it for sales.  I may try to go to Dollar General and Walmart again next Saturday (5th) to see if they have better deals I can not resist.

CVS Saving

This year has been a struggle on many fronts. I am also going to admit that I have fallen off the wagon and stop doing several things that help keep us on track. One of those is shopping at CVS regularly. I could not honestly tell you the last time I went to CVS or the last time I planned a CVS trip.  So now that I have admitted that, I am going to work on getting “back in the swing of things”   Luckily our stash has been a very positive thing and I have used a lot of items instead of buying. Matt did let me know that he was down to his last stick of deodorant and I actually opened our last bottle of shampoo this week. Although this does not put me in panic mode, I knew I need to start CVSing again.

I did not take any coupons with me to the store, only used the coupons that printed from the “red box”.  I was aware that shampoo was on sale but not deodorant. My first stop is always the “red box”  Let me tell you this trip was gold.  Lily was shopping for some make up so as I was wondering around I discovered the awesome deodorant deal.  I completed 3 transactions to make the most of my money. Lily did the first transaction and used a $6 coupon that had printed. She earned 5 ECB and I was able to use those.

My transaction #1 2 bottles of ELVIVE shampoo on sale 2 for $8, used 2 off 2 that printed and Lily’s 5 ECB Total $1.56 for 91% savings. Earned 4 ECB back

My transaction #2 2 sticks of Speed Stick Men’s deodorant and antiperspirant on sale for 2 for $5. Used $1 off any deodorant that printed and 4 ECB from first transaction. Paid twenty-eight cent for 100% savings.  Earned 2 ECB back

My transaction #3 4 full size piece of candy, used Buy 3 get one free and $0.75 off coupon that printed, 2 ECB from previous transaction paid $1.31

Total paid for 2 bottles of shampoo, 2 sticks of deodorant and 4 pieces of candy $3.41

Yeap this is a win!