June in Review

June is definitely my favorite month of the year! The weather is hot and we get to spend lots of time in the pool because Summer break begins. Things are slowly starting to return to more normal. The pool is open, we are attending church and baseball is happening. We also look at our budget and make any adjustments or changes that are needed. This year that was a very positive thing as we were able to move money from braces to other areas. After the kids summer camp was cancelled and I was able to score free for now airline tickets for our Disney trips, we decided to spend a week in July at the beach! After some research, we were even able to get a condo on the oceanfront for a week for $1900! I am so looking forward to some beach time!

Gardening- continues to be a challenge this month. The weather is simply not cooperating. We have been able to harvest lots of snap peas, one cucumber , a batch of green beans, strawberries, squash and zucchini. Currently we are eating just about everything we are harvesting. Squash bugs have attacked and we have lost several plants. I am hopefully for the tomatoes to start this week, I have picked two but both were rotten. Cucumbers are blooming so we continue to hope! The kids are most excited because they spotted 2 growing watermelons when mowing yesterday.

Goal #1 Grocery Budget of $550- The total for the month is $640.36. After looking back, I realized that I have not been able to maintain this budget at all this year. I have been over every single month. My grocery average is $722 a month YIKES! I am not going to increase the budget yet but this will be something I closely monitor for the rest of the year. We have been purchasing alot of meat and prior to COVID, we had decreased our stockpile significantly. Currently I am comfortable with our stockpile and don’t have any gapping holes. I am thinking that our expenses may decrease in this area and if so that will help me to determine exactly where we need to be in this area. For July, I do not plan to actually spend any time in the grocery stores except to grab things we need for our beach trip. I most likely will do a huge trip the last week of July in preparation for returning to school in August.

Goal #2 – Record and keep up with gas/ auto purchase- $186.13 the total for the month. This is the lowest spending on gas in a very very very long time. The price of gas is starting to rise and we are planning to travel this month. One of the benefits of having a significant decrease in our gas budget during the three of the last 6 months is that we are able to pay off debit. We are currently using a credit card for all gas purchases. Any additional money have been used to reduce the balance of this card. I am projecting that by the end of the year we should have this card completely paid off and will be transferring any excess after groceries to reduce another card. In July, I need to put tags on the van. I expect we should still be under $500 budget for the month of July.

Goal #3-Use a cash envelope system for everything possible. Success! This may become a little more difficulty in the next 2-4 months as the Untied States is currently experiencing a cash shortage. I do have several options so we may do a hybrid system. No spend days are 5 this month YAY! My goal for July is 5 days as well.

Goal #4- Blogging- 15 post per month. This is post number 15 for the month! I am becoming more consistent!

Goal # 5- Fitness- Goal is to walk 3 times a week. I managed to walk 7 days this month! It is not the goal but a significant improvement over last month!

Goal #6 – Bible study- Goal- 3x a week –Not there at all!

Goal #7-Attempt at least 52 new recipes this year.-  We have tried 40 new recipes this year! I am planning to finish out the remaining 12 over the summer but time will tell.

Earnings_ $30. This is probably the lowest earning month in a long long time. The economy is not great and I suspect this may be the beginning of the end for swagbucks. Matt did not even earn a single card this month so at least we should double this amount next month! But free money is free money!

July appears to be a busy but fun month. We have swim team, baseball, our beach trip and baseball camp! Because of COVID-19. I will be returning to work the second week of August so July is really our last summer I plan to enjoy!

Saving on Saturday

Kindle Unlimited– I first saw this particular offer in May, 2 Free Months of Kindle Unlimited. I LOVE to read but usually don’t really have time to read more than a blog on the internet. Since I started working in the school system, I have decided to use the summer to catch up on reading real books. I waited until the week before finishing school to activate this deal. My original plan was to read at least one book a week. The plan should end in September so the timing was perfect. So far, I have read 10 books in two weeks. This free subscription has saved me at least $20. I currently have another 10 books downloaded to read! I am really good at keeping up with cancellation so I don’t think I will have any cost involved in this!.

Staying home/ keeping track of spending. I managed to have 2 total no spend days this past week. I am avoiding shopping in stores especially with the new mask requirement in my state! By not even window shopping, I am able to not spend any money. For example, total grocery spending was $4.21 for the week! We have finally restocked our pantry and freezers. My plan is to use what we have on-hand for the next 3-4 weeks and then do one big trip in August before returning to work. I am continuing to watch sales and buying items we need or want at the best price. For example this week, I ordered a basketball goal from Walmart for $95. I have been looking for a goal for the kids since march and this goal is actually only $15 more than what I have found at yard sales and on Facebook. The best thing is that the goal will be delivered!

Using or storing as much fresh fruit and veggies as possible. We are receiving a summer food delivery from our school district. This provides 6 breakfast and six lunches per child each week. This is really alot of food and the majority of it has been fresh! This week, I have made homemade apple/pear sauce, cooked and froze spinach, made a packet for squash casserole! I am very pleased to be able to continue to use this food or store for future use.

Meatless meal and left-overs. Don’t get me wrong we are meat eaters but with all the fresh items we have sometimes change is good. Several lunches this week have been sautéed veggies. Saturday, I made sautéed zucchini, a batch of green beans, creamed spinach. and pulled out potato salad, cucumber and onion salad for lunch. For dinner, baked sweet potatoes so two out of three meals were meatless. Sunday, the plan is left-overs for one meal and to reheat the egg rolls from school meals for another meal. That means that both days this weekend have been out of the fridge with basically no cost!

How have you been saving money?

Recipe Challenge 38,39 and 40

First only 12 more recipes to try and I will have met my goal! WOOT WOOT WOOT WOOT! It has been fun trying new things and I am really enjoying trying to find recipes to use the items we have on hand. This week we tried 3 new recipes of which two were definitely to use fresh produce on hand so that it would not go bad!

Garlic Parmesan Sugar Snap Peas- We are definitely coming to the end of growing for our sugar snap peas and I had about three cups sitting in the refrigerator. Kendall is try of eating them raw! These were just ok. Most of them got ate but it is definitely something I would not do again. I used them as a side dish for egg roll in a bowl. Which is also a fairly new recipe that I have made maybe once before. I had purchased an extra bag of cole slaw mix for BBQ chicken salad last week not sure how much I would need. This was a great way to use that bag of mix along with a couple of extra packs of carrots. The egg roll in a bowl, I actually finished for lunch but everyone else thought it was kind of of bland but their favorite part of an egg roll is the outside anyway.

Slow Cooker Pear and Ginger Applesauce The school lunches have significantly improved in both quality and variety for the summer. We are receiving alot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Pears for some reason were the item of the week for the first week. We received a total of 12. Apples appeared to be a runner up as we received 10. We did use most of the apples for fried apples but the second week brought another batch of apples. I decided to try this just to use 6 pears and 6 apples. It is awesome, everyone ate it hot the first day and I have tried it cold the second day. This is a definite repeat when we get more pear. My mother said her pear trees are loaded so this may be something to freeze in the fall.

Cheesy Corn Dog muffins I have actually printed this recipe three times. I discovered when I was trying to organize recipes. I made it on a baseball day! Everyone but Matt seemed to really like them. So I will put them in a repeat stack. They will be a great think to eat at the pool or beach or even in the car as they don’t make alot of mess.

The official count is
Repeating 20
Maybe 8
No 12

Monday Menu Planning

Last week did not go at all as I had planned on Monday. The weather turned really cool and we decide to change things up. The good news is that we did not eat out extra(1 time on Saturday) and we had everything we needed here. School deliveries were a pleasant surprise with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit. My pantry and freezer are officially stocked up but I will continue to replace things we eat all of and add things as I find them on sale.

Breakfast– Saturday-Sausage crescent rolls Sunday-bagels Monday- , Tuesday,  Wednesday, Thursday, Friday-choice of breakfast muffins, eggs, sausage, pancakes,  oatmeal, cereal or grits, breakfast burritos, breakfast pizza or omelets

Lunch-  Saturday-Bad Daddy Burger Sunday- Left-overs. Monday- corn dogs (school) Tuesday- sautéed zucchini and squash with other dipping veggies Wednesday-(ham and cheese sliders school). Thursday- Salad, Friday- left-overs

Dinner-  Saturday-veggies and fruit Sunday-quesadillas using left-overs Monday- Chicken Sandwich with left over French fries Tuesday- Olive Garden Chicken pasta Wednesday- Egg Roll in a bowl Thursday- Cheesy corn dog muffins Friday- Spaghetti and meatballs.

Saving on Saturday

I finally feel like I have a couple of ways we saved to share this week!
1. We turned off the air conditioning for 4 days. Saving approximately $20 for the week. Our electric bill came for this week and the only difference is use of the air conditioning. It jumped $80 from last month. I am going to use that figure of $20 a week as what it cost to run our air conditioning.
2. Buying conditioner and body wash at the Dollar Tree. The girls were out of conditioner (which neither Matt nor I use). So I made a stop at a Dollar Tree. I was able to purchase 3 bottles of conditioner for $3 as opposed to $3.99 a bottle anywhere else. I also picked up Zach and Matt a bottle each of body wash. Again saving at least $3 each on these purchases. On a side note, I usually buy shampoo, conditioner and body wash at CVS when I can purchase for less than $1. We have used all of our stockpile so instead of spending even $2, the Dollar Tree is a great option.
3. Ate at home for all except one meal this week. We have gotten into a habit of grabbing breakfast out on Saturday mornings. We keep the cost low at around $15 but this week, I made a plan for Saturday breakfast and saved that money. I also have been very focused on using up left-overs instead of cooking anything. We received lunches and breakfast from the school in addition to a few items from the garden. It is important that we use these items instead of letting them go to waste. I am excited to say that this week, we have eaten at home and eaten out of the refrigerator.
4. Order glass for Lily from Zenni. I was able to get a pair of glasses with transitional lens for $108. Lily has a stronger prescription and most places will not make her glasses for this reason so to be able to order for around $100 is a huge money saver. In comparison, I also purchased glasses for Zach this week as well. I used a BOGO deal at vision works and spent $410 for two pair of glasses or $205 each. This puts me at saving at least $100 on Lily’s glasses.
5. Purchased for $1 a 30 day supply of contacts for Kendall. We are going to try these out. My vision insurance starts again on July 1st and I will be able to order more regular contact for her but these should help us bridge the gap of what I can order and a true year’s supply.
6. Moved both Lily and Kendall’s braces payment from our regular account to my Medflex account, which renews on July 1st. This money is tax free! We saved $267 a month by moving these payments.
7. Purchased polo shirts for Matt at Costco for $9.99 for 2 shirts. We purchased a total of 6 shirts for a savings of at least $50 even finding items on sale.

Friday Update

  1. The Garden- Because of our strange weather here, the garden has been all over the place. We are still finding 5-10 ripe strawberries a day. We seem to be on the last of our snap peas but have been able to enjoy on a very regular basis. This week, we are enjoying zucchini and squash. It appears that my cucumber plants are actually alive! They have started to produce blooms and I am hopeful for some in a couple of weeks. We have tomatoes growing and I am really excited that it appears that all the plants have survived and are starting to produce. I was able to purchase a peach tree that if lives will finish up the eatable border in the back yard.
  2. The weather- CRAZY! For the first time ever in June, we turned off the air conditioning for 4 days this past week. Our average high is 85 but we had 3 days in the 60’s. Unfortunately the humidity got us on the the four day and it is back to the air.
  3. Food- I am very excited and pleased that our school lunch deliveries have improved significantly for the summer. I am thankful for any and all food but this past week, we received lots of raw fruits and vegetables that the kids love. Breakfast food switched from donuts to cereal and pop tarts. My kids are big breakfast eaters so a single donut or muffin is a snack but a bowl of cereal will last several hours. I am now very comfortable with our food storage. My plan for the summer is to continue to replace what we use and what I can find on sale but I am no longer afraid of running out even if I stopped shopping completely.
  4. Summer Break- I am officially on summer break until August 10th! The weather has limited my ability to enjoy but I have been able to read 4 additional books this week.
  5. Budget- We are continuing to save money on gas! I am going to do a budget rearranging in July due to the changes in health care cost. I am most excited to see our debt numbers decrease! I am planning a post this week with lots of details!

Monday Menu Planning

I am on summer break!! I am so excited to finally have some guilt free down time and hope to enjoy every second of it! However today the weather is not cooperating so I may even have to change up the menu plan to add a soup! The goal this week is to use up left-overs. The kids will begin receiving 6 breakfasts and 6 lunches from the school starting this week so we need to make some space!

Breakfast– Saturday-Biscuit King! This is become a favorite and I am not upset with that idea! Sunday-Toast, bacon and eggs Monday- , Tuesday,  Wednesday, Thursday, Friday-choice of breakfast muffins, eggs, sausage, pancakes,  cereal or grits, breakfast burritos or omelets have been added for the next couple of weeks.

Lunch-  Saturday-left-overs Sunday- Seafood from a local restaurant. I ate out today (Monday) and Matt will eat out (Friday). So depending on what the kids get from the school we may just eat left-overs the rest of the week. I am also planning to add it what ever we can harvest from the garden!

Dinner-  Saturday-BBQ salad using left-overs Sunday- left-overs Monday- Pork Fried rice (all left-overs) Tuesday- Quesadillas using left-over BBQ chicken or pork. Wednesday- Italian Spaghetti Salad (depending on weather) or left-overs or soup Thursday- Cheeseburger pizza Friday- Olive Garden Chicken and pasta!

Recipe Challenge 36 and 37

I have decided that since I am doing so well on this challenge that it would probably be best aka make my life easier if I plan to go ahead and finish the challenge during my summer break. This way, when we start back to school and our crazy busy life, I can enjoy some new favorites! The second reason is that it allows me to keep up with my goal for blogging as well! I also want to get my recipe book and folders cleaned and organized this summer as well.

I decided to try this first recipe AppleSauce BBQ Chicken for a couple of reasons. I wanted a good easy meal with chicken and second I still have some baby food from Braxton that I need to use, applesauce is one of these. The recipe is from one of my new favorites websites One Hundred Dollars a Month. I have only been reading for about a year but it is a wealth of information. This chicken turned out perfectly. I had 5 random piece of chicken breast left in a bag so I decided to go ahead put it all in to make room in the freezer. I was worried about enough sauce but I had plenty! The recipe is a freezer meal but I just added it all to the crockpot, chicken first, onion and then the sauce. I decided to go ahead and shred the chicken prior to serving. It was a huge hit. Definitely a repeat but will likely cut the recipe in half next time because it made two additional meals. The first is below and the second is chicken sandwiches on Sunday.

After dinner I place 3 cups in a bowl for the second recipe BBQ chicken salad. I got the idea for this from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures but really made it my own. I simply add a bag of Cole slaw mix and 2 tablespoons of lemon to the chicken. Mix it all up and put in the refrigerator. We took this to the pool and enjoyed for dinner on Saturday. Another hit! The original recipe said you could use canned chicken and I may do that next time.

Two repeats in a row! Fifteen more recipes to try sounds very doable at this point! This is the reason I want to finish the challenge finding lots of good and simple meals for the winter! The official count is
Repeating 18
Maybe 8
No 11

5 Things Friday

  1. Next week should be the most normal week since March. Monday is my last day of work for the school year!!!!!! The kids have swim practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Piano is scheduled for Wednesday. Zach has baseball games on Tuesday and Friday. And finally on Tuesday, Kendall finishes her oral surgery! Never thought a crazy busy week would cause this much excitement!
  2. The square foot garden is awesome! We are currently harvesting zucchini and snap peas. I have small tomatoes and green peppers! The cucumbers are flowering finally so I am so thankful and excited!
  3. The school system benefits reset in July of each year. Because of the ability to place even more in my flex spending account this year which is pre-tax. I was able to move our braces payments from the regular account back to the medical flex account which gives us an extra $267 a month. I will need to use at least $100 of this each month for other medical expenses but it is still a huge savings.
  4. This past weekend, we decided to have a yard sale. We have been slowly cleaning out different parts of the house during COVID-19 so I was anxious to finally get rid of the excess. I am very pleased that we made a profit of over $200! Even better is I had a lady come and purchase all the remaining clothes at the end of the day. This was huge and saved us a trip to Goodwill.
  5. I was very excited to find Suddenly Salad marked at $1 during my last trip to Walmart Express. I was able to stock up ! We will have these at least once a week for most of the summer! I am also excited to try several new salad recipes that I found on line! I have decided to try and complete the 52 recipe challenge over the summer! I am afraid that once we go back to school, we need to stick to easy and recipes we are comfortable with!