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.

Monday Menu Planning

Now I get to start to reap the benefits of all the cooking and planning this summer. Today, EVERYONE is back on a regular work and school schedule. We are going to start adding activities over the next several weeks so this is really a slow week for us. It was so nice to be able to come up with a meal plan for the week in less than 10 minutes on Saturday.

Breakfast- Saturday,- steak and gravy biscuits. Sunday, Monday,Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of breakfast burrito, omelet oatmeal, grits, pop tarts cereal, Lunchable brunch French toast or toast. 

Lunch–Saturday-left-overs , Sunday-Stuffed Green Pepper Soup.     Zach is taking lunchables and Kendall is doing a mix of dipping days, sushi, uncrustable and a sandwhich. I am eating out quite a bit this week as we have not started a regular school schedule. Once I return to a regular schedule, I will eat out only one day a week.

Dinner – Saturday-Spaghetti with fresh pasta sauce  Sunday–Chill cheese fries. Monday- Broccoli chicken casserole.  Tuesday– Nachos   Wednesday–Country Style Steak in crockpot Thursday– Pulled pork in crockpot . Friday- Pizza for Zach’s birthday party.

Menu Planning Monday

This week is a back to reality sort of week. I start back to work and Lily begins classes on Tuesday. We have decided to change the way we plan and instead of planning a month at a time, we are going to make a list on Sunday and shop from the freezer. This way, we can add and change as the weather and our activities start to change. This week Thursday night is a hectic night with a quick dinner needed. I am also trying out several new to us recipes. Tonight, Monday, the creamy chicken spaghetti was a huge hit!

Breakfast- I have really focused on getting some easy to finish breakfast plans together for the week. Saturday– BLT sandwiches – Sunday-English muffins with choice of egg, sausage or Nutella, Monday- Smoothies for the kids and Matt I have a breakfast burrito. Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday, Friday– Choice of breakfast burrito, omelet oatmeal, grits, pop tarts cereal, Lunchable brunch (special treat since the kids are enjoying the last week of summer) or toast. 

Lunch–Saturday-sandwiches , Sunday-Pasta salad    The kids can have a choice of sandwiches, soup, easy pasta or left-overs. I am trying to get my lunch ready the night before so I am no scrambling in the morning. Monday was a grab and go day. Tuesday- Chicken cucumber Ranch wrap, Wednesday- Taco Salad, Thursday-left-overs probably pasta salad. Friday- is my meeting day at work so I eat out.

Dinner – Saturday-left-overs choice  Sunday–Left-overs Monday- Creamy Chicken spaghetti with green beans and garlic toast.  Tuesday– Tacos with choice of hard or soft shell    Wednesday–pork chops Thursday– Chicken filet sandwiches . Friday- Left-overs if any are available or maybe pizza.

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.

5 Things Friday-Vacation

Vacation is a special time for my family. So today, I thought i would share 5 things that make our vacation special and unique to us.

  1. The beach specifically a beach in South Carolina is where you will find us on vacation during the summer . We typically spend 4-6 hours a day on the beach! Over the years, we have gained a collection of toys, boards, chairs and umbrellas that we bring each year to help occupy our time. I also enjoy sitting on a balcony listening to the waves during meals and at night. In fact, I am sitting outside now!
  2. Eating out. As a large family, one way we reduce our expenses is by eating at home. We typically eat out once or twice a month. On vacation, we typically eat out once a day. We also enjoy ice cream or donuts as dessert each day.
  3. Paper products- No one especially me wants to spend time washing dishes on vacation. We bring paper plates and utensils to use and throw away for the meals we do eat in.
  4. Shopping- We live in a rural area which requires a minimum of a 10 minute drive to get to the closest store. We enjoy outlets bargain stores and even specialty stores while on vacation!
  5. Family game nights. Typically we play a game 4 or more of the nights we are on vacation. Our current favorites are Uno,Rook, Heads up, Yahtzee and Apples to Apples. The kids also enjoy time on their electronics without having to earn via chores like the rest of the year. Electronics are not missed or used during meals or games.