Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mid Week News

It is only Wednesday, but feels much more like Friday. Would you believe I have only worked one day this week?  A sick child kept me home Monday, and yesterday was a stressful day, to say the least. After a day of work we had a swimming lesson and then I drove to my sister's so the kids could spend the night, due to a teacher professional day.  We have our own on Friday. 

Needless to say I was hungry and did not want to only cook for myself because it was just me for dinner. I stopped at a local grocery store and bought a fresh precooked entree for $5.00. I have had bad luck before, so I blame myself. It was orange sesame chicken and rice. The rice was so raw it was crunchy. I could not eat it.  Bummer.  At least I did not order out.

This weekend I made a chicken tortellini soup that I love and others eat with minimal complaining. We ate it two nights in a row because Sunday was sort of a rough day.  Monday I roasted a whole cut up chicken. Tonight when I get home from work I will make a quick pizza dough and get the pizza made before I meet my sister and the kids at soccer practice.  Tomorrow I have the making for fajitas. Friday might just have to be eggs. Saturday it is back to the store.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Why it is okay to spend $200 a week on food

I have been enjoying the solitude of the morning and trying out different posts. I am on my second cup of coffee. It will all change once people wake up. It is Saturday, so we need to get to soccer and go food shopping. I have to color my hair. I feel like it goes from fine to dreadful over night!

Here's the reason for my title.  My original title was going to be "What is Wrong With Me?" I spent $156 at a local grocery store on Saturday with a $57 follow up trip the following Wednesday. This is the best priced store in the area.  My purchases included a lot of produce that the kids were willing to eat, lasagna ingredients, ground beef and chicken cutlets that were on sale and, deli turkey and cheese.

  • Saturday- lasagna (and Sunday because I was out)
  • Monday-chicken cutlets
  • Tuesday-beef lettuce wraps
  • Wednesday-homemade pizza
  • Thursday-chicken and spinach ravioli
  • Friday-chicken fried rice
The last two dinners used chicken from my freezer. I also made tons of lunches for the week.  On Wednesday I had to go back and spent another $57. Wednesday's trip included laundry detergent and dishwasher soap for good prices. It also included fruit and necessities like milk. I did not remember to buy bread, but we got by.  I also skipped the impulse purchases like hummus and pizza dough. I went home with my tired self and made it from scratch.
Is something wrong with me that we in a week we ate over $200 worth of food? Actually I think we are doing pretty well. Our portions could be smaller, and we could cut back a little on the snack food, but overall we are making good use of our money.  I think my new monthly grocery budget is going to be $800.00. I am in awe of those spending under $400 a month on groceries; they have my respect and admiration, but I don't see it working for us. One take out meal could cost $40. If you did that five nights in a row there is your $200. My $200 included breakfast, lunch, and seven dinners. I could serve soup two or three nights in a row, but there would be hecklers. Personally I love it, and I try to sneak it in, however, some people (other adult in house) don't consider it a meal. I actually made a butternut squash soup this week to celebrate fall, but it was all for me. I took it for lunch each day.  I could start serving beans, but there would be a revolt.

It is all about situation. Our situation is that we both work full-time, and the kids go to an after care program after school. In their lunch bags they need snacks for snack time, lunch and after school. That is a lot of food. Also, we both take lunch to work. Most days I am making four lunches with multiple snacks. The past few weeks have included too many Oreos. This weekend I plan to bake some snacks in lieu of purchasing them. Also, I am trying to mix up breakfast so the kids eat less cereal. If I could get them to love oatmeal that would be helpful.

This month I am going to track my spending and cooking and see if $800.00 is legitimate, spendy, or enough.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Random Thoughts at the end of September

I am the worst blogger. Ever. Not that I have a following, but even if I did, my lack of writing would not keep them for long

My last post was my grocery shot of my really good day food shopping. Now, since school is back in full swing, the strategic shopping is hard to do. Currently I am trying to shop at the cheapest store in town and just stick to it.  They don't double coupons, but their overall prices are lower, so in the end it is probably cheaper.

Right now I am trying to get a handle on what I spend on food each month. I know for the first half of September it was $500.  Most frugal bloggers would be freaking out, but really we don't buy a lot of crazy things.  Last Sunday I had Pea Pod deliver because we had a crazy weekend. My total was around $140 with deliver charges. By Thursday the fridge was barren. It was unreal. Yesterday I hit the best store in town, but I brought the kids. Bad idea. My total was $156.00. I made a lasagna last night for dinner and it was repeated for tonight as well. There is one more piece, which will be my lunch for tomorrow.  My grocery goal is to stay out of the store until Saturday again. However, we will need milk at some point.  I hope I can get through the week with only a purchase of milk.

Monday, August 10, 2015

My Score at the Store

 Excuse my rhyming title. I keep trying to get a handle on this grocery thing, and it is hard. Food is at an all time high, however, when shopping you must think about the needs of your family.

Most of our dinners include meat, and that won't be changing anytime soon. I personally could eat many meatless meals, but I have to meet the needs of everyone in my house.

So even though I am not an extreme couponer, I did extremely well on Saturday at my local Stop & Shop. While that isn't really my favorite store, it is a good place to go for strategic shopping because they run good sales and double your coupons. My shopping included lots of produce, which I mainly bought on sale. I would never not buy produce. It is an essential part of our diet and must be purchased even without coupons. 

My score included:
Family size boxes of cereal $8.00 (after coupons and b1g1-not awesome, but we do eat a lot of cereal
Horizon crackers -2 boxes with a b1g1 coupon
Fish sticks for 50% off each box-feeding my family fish sticks doesn't really win me mother of the year, but we all have flaws
Two bags of cookies with a coupon
Free ice cream (for buying the cookies)
Bread for $1.50 a loaf (whole wheat-no hfcs-already plenty in the cookies)
Large package chicken drumsticks
Shredded Cheese
Canned tomatoes
Canned pineapple
Granola bars
Laundry soap
Multi-pack tissues
Deli turkey
Deli cheese
Two boxes of yogurt tubes
Tuna (two cans)
Hummus (large container)
Produce, including squash, carrots, grapes, apples, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados, and strawberries
Napkins-I try to use cloth and keep some paper on hand
Large storage bags (really for my classroom)

All together my order was only $104 and change. It was really amazing. I received a $5.00 in the mail as well as $2.00 off produce. I was also able to load an additional $5.00 off onto my Stop & Shop card. In addition, I had multiple coupons for other products that were on sale. I know I could skip the junk food and save some more, but you have to have something. Also, I did not buy much meat. I have some meals planned with things we had on hand.

I was super impressed with my trip, but we have already eaten a lot of produce.  It really goes fast.  I hope to get through two weeks on an allotted budget. We will see.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Changing Habits

Throughout the summer I have made a great change in my daily or weekly habits. Not that it is earth shattering or something that will change the world. It isn't a new idea that I came up with. It is an old idea that people have been talking about forever, but since I have implemented it, I find that it is working extremely well.

No more coffee when I am out.  Not an astounding accomplishment to many, but to me it is huge. On average I probably purchased 4-5 coffees a week. This included Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Cumberland Farms. Not cheap. I will say Cumberland Farms coffee is surprisingly good and the cheapest of the three.

On the way to work I didn't always stop for coffee. I do make it at home, but sometimes I needed just a bit more caffeine. My stops were usually after work when my energy was draining and I just felt exhausted. Depending on where I stopped I could spend $1.00 or $4.00. My coffee spending was probably $10.00 a week or more. So no coffee spending has been saving me at least $40.00 per month. That is a lot of money to put towards groceries, pay a utility bill, or save.

This commitment to not buying coffee has been fairly easy to stick to in the summer, but when work starts back up again I hope I have the same resolve to keep my commitment to not waste money on coffee. For most of my life I have thought nothing about grabbing coffee anytime or anywhere. There was no thought about budgeting the coffee. I could always afford it even when I couldn't. I am finally, after many years, making a commitment to stay away from this type of spending for now. When we are in a better situation I may be able to budget a certain amount of money for coffee, or I could continue to save the money.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sad Cooking

I was going to write about the fact that I am sad to be cooking when the kids aren't even here. We could have gone out and had fun, however, we are trying to save money.

But that isn't really how I am feeling. This is really sad cooking.  Sad to see my father the way he is now. Sad that no matter his situation the rest of us get up and follow our regular routine. It doesn't seem right, but it is what we do. We still have to clean our houses, pay bills, shop, cook, and carry on with life. Sometimes it feels weird to be laughing or enjoying a situation knowing that he can't appreciate it. Sick parents are something most people deal with at one time or another, but it is still really hard.

The past few months are starting to catch up to me. I can feel the weight of what has happened and how it is impacting everyone. Life is hard. Things change fast. There are many sad things, but there are beautiful things too. It is hard to focus on those things right now feeling this way, but it is all we have to get us through.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Easiest Way to Save Money is....................................

to not spend it. I happily did this many times today. At one point today I thought I would check out the clearance racks at Kohls because the kids could use some pajamas. They could use some, but it isn't a necessity. I thought I might find some good clothes for work on sale. But I don't need any clothes. There are wants and needs, and as good as a bargain can be if we don't need it, it may be better to just not buy it.

I thought of stopping at the grocery store on the way home to buy some fish for dinner. Then I decided that was a very bad idea. To enter a store with no plan when you are hungry and need many things is a very bad idea. I did not go. I was able to use what we had and grill out for dinner. Tomorrow I will probably shop with a very detailed plan in hand. 

I think what I was looking for was a little retail therapy. So eventually a little bit of money was spent. My son needed a new lunchbox. I remembered that I had a few dollars in credit from my Amazon card. I searched for an extremely inexpensive lunchbox, signed up for a free trial of Amazon Prime to get free shipping (which I will cancel) and was able to get a new Spider Man lunchbox for $2.66. That is a great bargain, and I won't be running around August 30th looking for a lunchbox.

As much as I wanted to go do some shopping I learned today that sometimes it pays better if you don't. Unless you can get something for $2.66.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Birthday Party Gifts

We have four different birthday parties in the next few weeks. We have never had that many parties in such a short amount of time. Parties are great, and kids just love them. We have had many parties for our kids. I do support parties. However, parties need gifts.  Yikes! We are trying to be extremely careful right now.

There are many homemade gifts that children can give. We always do homemade cards and reuse old gift bags that are in good shape. I really wanted to give gifts that would be enjoyed, not take up too much room, and fit the budget. I was able to combine an Amazon gift card with my husband's Amazon points. I searched gifts and set limits for $5.00-$10.00. I was able to get three Lego kits and an art kit and only pay $1.76 for everything because of our gift cards and points. Also, I now have all the gifts I need to buy even though only one party is this weekend. I will have everything in two days, spent almost nothing, and am ahead of the game.

A small victory in our quest to spend less.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Vacation Summary: Walking, Church, and Frugality

We are back, and I miss the beach. It was great to be able to walk down the street and swim at the beach. The last day had a lot of seaweed, but overall the water was great. 

During our stay I walked four out of six days. Walking on the last day was out because we had to pack up and check out by 10:00 AM. Walking those four days made a huge difference in my mood. I started using a walking app that helps to keep track of miles and routes. I think the calorie burn may be inflated, but it is a good way to keep track of how many miles you are walking. We also went to church our first day there. It was a beautiful church and it felt really good to be there. I am trying hard to bring God into the center of my life. I want to do that with the kids too. Being sure we attend church weekly is an important part of that.

Walking and going to church were helpful, but relaxing is just plain hard for me. My brain does not let go that easily, but I am working on it.  I worked hard to enjoy the break.  I have to remind myself that it is okay to relax.

From a frugal standpoint I give us a B +.  I made a lot of meals, which I typically enjoy doing. We had a couple lunches out and ordered pizza midweek so I could get a night off. Considering we were there for six solid days and seven nights we thought that was pretty good.  The kitchen was small but very cute. It made our kitchen seem so much bigger when we got home. 

Other expenses included a couple of visits to a local homemade ice cream parlor, entrance to a great natural history museum ( I was actually free due to my union card), and a few adult beverages for us to drink while watching television at night.  Eating lunch out was a big savings because we don't usually drink any beer or wine at lunch which makes a big difference in the check. I mistakenly purchased juice and water at a local market and almost fell over when they told me the price. I really should have left it there. I think when the price sunk in I was already in the car.

Our grocery supply included a few things I brought from home, a stop at a very well priced store on the way to our destination and a mid week stop at Stop and Shop for a few more things. I did spend more on groceries than a typical week. We were eating a bit more junk than we would usually consume, but it was great fun.

We spent more money when we returned home yesterday and had lunch out. We had no food for lunch and we were all starving. Also, I was unable to bring home a few old bananas and bread ends that I would have re purposed, but they would not fit in the cooler.   I did, however, go grocery shopping yesterday. I plan on making that last through Friday. It is Sunday now, so we will see how creative I can be. Two loaves of bread last about two days, so we will see if it can be done.

It's a Vacation So Get Over It

The following is a post that I wrote the day before we left for our vacation. I am posting it now that we are back and will add another post with some follow up thoughts.

The title is my mantra to myself as I pack, pack, pack, pack, and get grumpy, grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. I am going on a week long vacation with my family. Many people don't even get to take a vacation so I need to enjoy the experience and change my attitude.

Yes, I have been talking a lot about cutting back. We planned this before we got super serious and I must say we paid for most of it.  It is a week in a cottage near the beach where we will be bringing our own food. We only have one planned meal out and are extremely serious about eating our meals at the cottage or on the beach with food from the grocery store.

Living in an East Coast state gives us access to many beach areas. We are about an hour and a half away from a very popular beach destination. We opted to to spend the week in the same town as we did last year. We can walk to the beach and it will cost us very little extra. This is 1/5 of the cost of the Disney vacation I was drooling over in the winter. We all enjoy the beach a lot. The kids will have a blast.  However preparing for a vacation can be time consuming and gets me cranky. I spent most of the morning preparing food and getting things ready. Finally I hit the neighborhood for a walk to get out the blahs and take in the ahs.  I plan on doing that every day that we are away. Last year I walked on just the last two days and really wished I had walked the whole week. It is great fun to check out new neighborhoods and it burns extra vacation calories.

What is vacation for? It is to unwind, relax, and build lasting memories. It is to enjoy some down time before the school  year begins and things are crazy again. I want to enjoy this vacation and have it to remember when it is mid December and I feel crazed. I want to sit back, count to ten, and remember the beach. That is what vacation is all about and we are blessed to be taking one.

So to make vacation super relaxing and fun I will:
Walk daily to destress, take in the sites, and unwind
Be in the moment with the kids, build sand castles, swim, and walk on the beach
Indulge a little but eat lots of salad too
Enjoy the week and not complain about anything
See you in a week.

Vacation Update:

Still here and enjoying the relaxing time. Off to do my third walk of the week. My walking has been every other day. I hoped to walk every single day, but every other is pretty good. We have eaten many meals in and just a few out. All our groceries that we don't consume can be used next week. We have two more days of ocean paradise before we pack up and head home to the rest of our summer.  Now I need to walk to get my head straight and burn some calories from all that vacation indulging. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ten Years Today and Dinner this Week

Today is our ten year anniversary. We are celebrating it by not spending any money.  No cards, no flowers, no dinner out.

I have tonight's dinner all planned. It is chicken quesadillas with  homemade salsa.  I actually made salsa out of what I thought was an empty pantry. I had no fresh onions or canned tomatoes. My salsa came together yesterday with diced grape tomatoes, a few jalapeno peppers, garlic, and pureed frozen onions and peppers. Sort of weird, but I remember I had all these frozen peppers and onions in the freezer. Peppers are not popular in this house ( I like them) but salsa is. So I pureed most of them and added the tomatoes and simmered it on the stove a bit. It prevented me from going to the store to buy salsa. I also made bread to get us through until tomorrow. Yesterday I had poached some frozen chicken and was able to create two meals. Tonight's quesadillas and last night's chicken salad sandwiches on  homemade bread.  We also have some chicken salad left for lunch today. My refrigerator is amazingly empty. It feels good to utilize every single thing we can before we hit the store. I have not been to the store since Sunday, with the exception of buying milk at CVS because I had Extra Bucks.

So would it be nice to go out for our anniversary?  Yes and no. I always love going out, but at this point in our life I would prefer to get our finances under control. We have been doing a great job in the past two weeks with no restaurants or take-out.  I have been bringing my own coffee along in the car to prevent accidental coffee trips.  It is hard at times, but it feels good to love what you have and not want what you don't. 

So tonight instead of sipping a nice cocktail at a fancy restaurant we can eat dinner with the kids and be thankful for all that we have.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Waking Up Early

It's 7:17 AM and I have been up since 5:30. My typical night involves crashing on the couch around 10:00 PM until someone wakes me and says "Time for bed". It drives him crazy that I actually never go to bed until he does, but it is just something that I do. I should go to bed at 10:00. Getting all that sleep (however I get it) allows me to wake up quite early and start my day.

Starting my day includes drinking coffee, sort of folding some laundry, paying some bills, and surfing on the internet. If I was a really organized person I would have taken my walk already. Instead I enjoyed the solitude of the house while everyone else is sleeping. The kids are probably wiped out from yesterday's swimming.

I hear my six year old friend waking up. I am sure his cute face will join me soon. The sun has created a golden highlight around the edges of his brown hair and bleached his eyebrows. It is too cute.

My solitude is ending; it will probably be the most relaxing part of my day.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hair Update

A couple of posts ago I talked about our spending and how we were finally cracking down so we could pay our house debt off and get it together. Nine days in, and we are doing well.  My hair had come up because for about a year and a half I have been having my hair lightened and cut at various salons. Each trip costs about $120. Now I don't go every six weeks like many people. And for the record many people spend a lot more on their hair. However, I probably get it done five to six times a year. When I thought about how much money that was and compared it to how good my hair looked, I decided that, even though my hair did look good, I should get over it and go darker. That way I can do it myself. Here is my story.

I bought some dark brown hair dye that looked good on the box and colored my hair. The initial results were awful. My hair was a blackish dark brown with no warmth to it. I looked washed out and pale.  I Googled how to fix it. The next day I washed it with baking soda and shampoo which did take out a bit of the color and cracked the kids up. After about five days I can say that my hair seems to be a normal brown, I don't look washed out, and I do not need to go pay someone else to fix my mistake. Also, my gray is covered.

Do I like to get my hair done? Yes. Do I want to have money in the bank and our bills paid off? Yes!!  More than I want my hair to be lighter. I may eventually be at a place where I can go get my hair colored but right now I will continue to (carefully) do it myself.

The Cost of Eating

I found this article about grocery spending It is a couple of years old, but it states that a frugal grocery plan would cost about $146 per week for a healthy diet.  I find it mind boggling, even though I shop weekly (or more) and see how much things cost now.  How do people on strict budgets do it?

We are fortunate to have a decent amount of money to spend  on groceries, however, in our current situation, we are trying to pay off our house debt, so we are trying hard to be a bit leaner.   It makes me wonder how people with no choice really do it week after week. In the past week and a half I did use a menu plan, and I  really stuck to it.  I switched our meals around depending on the day, but we pretty much ate what I planned. One thing I did that was not part of the plan was to pick up some pizza dough at the store to get dinner on the table quickly. It was so much quicker than making dough and still cost under $10.00 for grilled pizza for four people.  I know I could make some dough ahead of time and freeze it, but grabbing it one day saved me the cost of takeout.

So last night I whipped up pasta cabonera with bacon, eggs, and cheese. It is a quick dinner that relies on very little meat. I used half a box of whole wheat pasta and it did feed four of us. Next time I will make a larger salad and maybe add another vegetable. Once the bacon is cooked it comes together quickly. I see myself making it in the fall when work is back in session.  It is a dish that goes over well for everyone in my family, which is great after working all day! One thing I noticed about this and some other meals is the lack of protein. I do have to make some changes to our menu. I have been been focusing on some more pasta based meals and find that we are more hungry later than if the meal had more protein. Also, too many carbs are bad for my weight loss goals. I need to up the protein and veggies big time.

As we try to reign our grocery bill in I have to think about our needs as a family. I am impressed with countless blogs that I read, but what works for one family doesn't work for everyone.  I know that minimal meat night after night would be met with raised eyebrows and questionable looks. It would not work for me either. Since the whole family is home for part of the summer, it is important to have enough food in the house to prepare meals and survive with a smile.  Yesterday I went shopping and tried to stay under $100 to get us through until the end of the week (Thursday or Friday).  I tried not to buy things we already had, and I had my list with me that I pretty much stuck with. We needed things like coffee, tea, and toilet paper. Important items to buy. I included fruits that we eat regularly like bananas and apples as well as salad veggies. I eat many vegetables, but right now I am focusing on raw salad vegetables that are eaten by more household members like cucumbers, carrots, and celery.  They are also great with humus when someone needs a snack.  I did buy some deli meat and cheese, and since we are home we will use these items for lunch. I know some frugal bloggers stay awaw from the deli, but PB & J does get old. I reconcile my deli choices with a once a week purchase and when it's gone it's gone.  I bought oatmeal (only eaten by me unless I make granola) and some low priced cereal for the kids. I had a few store coupons, but I was not focused on crazy couponing. I have tried it and am always impressed with people who can stick to it, but it is a lot of work.  Too much work for me.  My only meat purchase was a package of drumsticks. So cheap and great when grilled. Those are dinner for tonight. I hope to take off the left over meat and use it in another dish this week. I also have chicken in the freezer and will be using that this week in something that I have not planned yet. I did buy some snacks. Now I know that many true frugal blogs stay away from snacks, but I really believe it is important to do what works for you. I had a store coupon to buy cookies that were on sale. When I get home someone (over 40) is going to ask me if I bought cookies anyway. It is just easier to get a few snacks. Now I did not show all the snacks to everyone. When purchasing certain things it is good to hide things so that they don't all get eaten immediately.  My trip also included eggs, bread, and a buy 1 get 2 free humus deal. Unfortunately there was no plain humus for the kids, but maybe they can try the flavored kinds. With careful shopping I still spent $95.00, however, I feel like we can eat for the next few days without feeling deprived.  The most amazing part is that it took careful shopping to only spend $95.00. It doesn't seem possible, but the cost of food is sky high.

My point of this very long winded post is to get the most out of your grocery money try to do the following:
  • Shop carefully and focus on what most people in your house will eat
  • You can get great ideas online, but make choices that you and your family can happily live with
  • Find a few meals your family enjoys that are cheap and easy
Now off to plan my menu.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reeling in spending for good

I love frugal blogs. It is inspiring to me that someone can turn a pair of pants into a skirt. (I thought about trying this and remembered I couldn't sew. ) I do read a handful of them and have got many great tips from them. My love of cooking probably got me reading one, then you click on another and bam you are a frugal blog reader. Frugal bloggers don't eat out much. Or they use a coupon.  This is not a frugal blog because one of our biggest downfalls that I have discussed before is take-out and eating out in general. Grabbing this, stopping for that. I am the coffee getter.  I probably drop $20-$25 a month of coffee.  It doesn't seem like much, but it adds up. Also we have never really planned for miscellaneous expenses like gifts, holiday expenses, new appliances etc. We don't account for spending. Finally the reason this is not a frugal blog is because we are not surviving on $40,000 for a family of six like many blogs out there. Our income, at this point in life, is good. Oh yeah, and we aren't that frugal.

I have seen readers destroy people who make a decent amount of money and have debt by saying that they aren't spending it well. I try to be nonjudgmental. Everyone has story, and it is hard to know another person's without walking in their shoes. I really admire frugality and hope to find some.

The other day I went to do my bills and started as I have been starting by paying what I put on my credit card before I got paid. Yes, I did not have enough money to get to the next check.  Yikes! It has been that way for some time.  Also, I had a balance on that card from the month before. I stopped. I transferred that balance to 0% interest card so that card would be empty for good. Then I opened the drawer, took out the scissors, and snipped that card up. I knew in my heart it was the only way to prevent me from using it.

As a disclaimer our house is not decked out in top of the line Crate and Barrel furniture. We don't have i Phones or tons of expensive technology. We have been milking the same broken lap top for some time and I do shop grocery sales.

However we just completed a renovation this past fall, in which we borrowed almost all the money. Yes, frugal blog writers would never borrow money to renovate their house. I know this. But we spent ten years in a very small house and it got crowded, and I am inpatient, and it is too late now.  It is not some giant colonial. It is still a modest cape style home, but it is cute, not so crowded, and we are staying here for good.  Our choice to borrow a variety of loans for the renovation was the choice we made, and we are okay with that. However, our spending was not in line with us being able to pay back those loans and live without using more credit.  We do have enough money coming in to pay our bills and other expenses if we are careful and really account for all of our spending. Also, we have committed for a number of years to these loans. As they start to end we will feel the relief, but our new "frugal" life style really has to be a life style change.

This really means no eating out.  No eating out. No eating out. This also means shopping as carefully as I can while I have the time. I do have the time in the summer to do this, but it is hard.  It is amazing how quickly food costs add up.  I wrote a menu plan on last Thursday that we have stuck to for five days.  It feels good to stick to that. We also still have small college accounts we are contributing to each month. I am also saving each month, which we continued to do. Also, no random nail appointments. I don't get those things done regularly, however, I do those things occasionally. Done with that.  I am still wrestling with my hair. It is highlighted, and I know I can't maintain that without a salon. Still mulling that one over. The fact that I am even thinking about my hair just shows you how frugal I am not.  It just looks so much better lighter than darker, and my weight is not where I want it to be, and yes I am a bit vain sometimes. 

So our no eating out commitment feels good. We concur that it will help us on our quest to pay our bills off without incurring more debt. I will keep reading those frugal blogs because they have great ideas and maybe some day I can make a skirt out of a pair of pants.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

When Your Heart Hurts

Life is very complicated right now because my father is not well. It is surreal, and lousy, and mind numbing, but it is true. Also, without the whirlwind of school to run my day it is hard to avoid thinking about. Not that I hadn't been thinking about it. It is always there, but now there is nothing else that is looming over me so I just think about Dad, and Mom, and my sister and how bad things happen to good people and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. My father was already dealing with some memory issues, but since the stroke there are much greater moments of confusion, combined with the difficulties a stroke can bring. He is in a wheelchair, and though he can stand, he can not walk independently.

It is sad to see him a situation like this and hard to see the toll it takes on everyone. Both my sister and I worry about my mother and how it is impacting her.  She has dealt with a lot of illness and loss during the past eight years; this is a lousy addition to it all. It is frustrating too how others deal or don't deal with it.  He has been at various facilities for over eight weeks. It is interesting to see who visits and who can't.

One of the challenges of all this is talking to my kids about it.  They are only eight and six. My eight year old knows a bit more. I explained what a stroke does and how we don't know the outcome. They know he isn't home, and that he looks different. I can't say much more about it to them. They are already hesitant when they see him. It is unsettling for them. I don't think he notices their hesitation, but my mother does and it makes her feel terrible. My daughter knows she can ask me questions if she has any. I worry about what they may be thinking.

So now my heart hurts for my family, my parents, and my kids, my sister and both our husbands who are helping us deal with the situation. My own husband has already experienced the loss of both parents. He is quite supportive and feels bad that my parents are experiencing this situation at much younger ages than they should.

I pray that we find a way to make it through, and that my father's condition improves. That is all I can do right now.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Behaving Poorly

Yes, I did this. I behaved poorly today. And for this I feel bad. Really really bad. One reason I feel bad is that my children were witness to it.  I did tell them later that I was upset and I should have been calmer. Another reason I feel bad is that a stranger that knows nothing about me probably thinks I am a jerk.  Finally, instead of enjoying this gorgeous June day I am feeling guilty.

It's the last day of school for the kids. Their normal routine is to go to an after school program, however, today they were to come home on the bus. This year they were at separate schools, but in the fall it will be the same school. The bus that picks up my little one goes to the elementary school. That is where some shuffling of kids takes place and everyone goes home. Somewhere, somehow there was no shuffling. As my daughter got off the bus, I realized my son was not on it and my phone started ringing telling me to pick him up at the elementary school where he was waiting for me. I was pretty unhappy. By the time I arrived I greeted the bus aide who now hates me with "I am really upset. How did this happen?" She responded in a fairly defensive way, but I did put her there. She relieved herself of any wrong doing saying that she did not know what his plan was. But I did send the paper back.   I tried to say in my heightened and frustrated voice that I was not blaming her, but I think my initial approach put her on a defense that I could not change.  Overall it was not a great conversation, and probably a moment in time I will always wish I could fix, but I can't. I did speak with the principal to share my frustration with the issue. I also mentioned in talking with the aide that I was quite upset.  It is upsetting when your child does not get off the bus.  However, I could have handled it better.  If I had approached in a calm manner and asked what happened it may have changed the scenario. But I did not, and I can't go back.  All I can do is try to do better next time. That is all we can ever do.  So to the person who I was unpleasant to. I am sorry that I behaved that way.  I was just upset about my child.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Snow Days and Healthy Diets

It is our third snow day in a week. We had last Tuesday and Wednesday off and now this Monday. It is exciting, but it will be sad when June hits.  So many things to talk about

Healthy  Eating-What does that really mean?

Trying to eat clean and slowly include everyone in the plan. This is something I always come back to again and again. Trying to combine this with not spending too much on food is always a challenge as well. We did quite well in the first half of the month with no take-out, but the second half of the month included take-out. Last week I had my final wake up and lose weight call. It was not a " I really want to wear a bikini for the first time ever" call. It was more of "I would like to live a long time and set a healthy example for my kids, be there as long as possible" call.  When I look at my extended family (that I love a lot) I see a lot of medical problems, many of them connected to being overweight. If  avoiding those medical conditions is my goal, the time to start is now.

Gluten free? Dairy Free? Vegetarian? Vegan? Plant Based? Organic?What the heck is healthy?

I love avocados, nuts, beans, raw vegetables, humus and fruit. I like enough of those things to be a vegan. It may challenging to live that life style, but those foods are quite enjoyable to me and if forced to join a vegan commune I would survive.  My other half, as sweet and perfect as he is, is not a veggie guy. He does eat a few vegetables and fruit, but there is no humus or avocado for him. We will never eat kale salad for dinner, and he would not last a day in that vegan commune. Neither would my kids.

In trying to create a healthy  menu plan I constantly ask myself, "What is healthy?". I know that the wheat bread sans high fructose corn syrup is still not that great. All that wheat is why we all look so thick around the middle. Right? I tend to think so, but it is so confusing.

Dairy? Yikes! I have a lot of thoughts about dairy and am currently (once again) trying to make some personal dairy free choices and analyze the results. This does not mean replace all real cheese for fake cheese. It means create recipes that don't include cheese.

Processed foods? No brainer here. The optimal goal is to eat minimal processed foods.

Whew. I did not even cover half of what I mentioned, and I am hungry and overwhelmed. There are millions of ideas on what is healthy and what is not healthy. What's a girl that wants her kids to grow up without weight issues to do?

1. Offer fruits and vegetables at each and every meal and snack. Lots of times their snacks our crackers or pretzels with peanut butter. I can back down on the number of processed carbs and throw in a sliced apple.

2. Lower sugar content. We don't typically drink juice so that is one bonus. I usually make hot chocolate so I control the sugar. They do drink chocolate milk when they buy lunch at school, which is usually twice a week. School lunches is an entire blog post that makes me crazy.

3. Minimize milk consumption. I have already done this. When pouring them milk, I usually pour them a  quarter of a cup at a time. They do drink a lot of water. There will be no milk guzzling teenagers here.

Those are my February goals for eating better. We will continue our frugal shopping goal as well.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Menu Plan Change Up

After all that planning and prepping I was ready to have a nice home cooked meal. However the end of my day did not go as planned, I never defrosted anything, and I was feeling GRUMPY. The end result did not result in take-out ( I am so proud). The kids ate raviolis because they just could not wait until after 7:00 to eat. We ate eggs. I made some adjustments to the menu. We were going to eat eggs later in the week, but now we won't. I do have something in the fridge that I can cook tomorrow.
I think the best thing about not eating out is that I actually still have money left in my account. That may sound ridiculous, but I am always out of money by the time I get paid, and I really should not be.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Planned, Prepped, and Prepared .

Whew! What a whirlwind of a weekend. I can't believe that I will be throwing back coffee in just seven hours.
My current food plan is try to go as long as we can without doing big shops. I stocked up at two stores over the weekend with a huge focus on sale items. I also participated in a meal prep with my mother and sister. We got together and created about sixteen meals a piece. There is great variety, and I plan on getting through the rest of the month with these meals and a few simple things thrown in the mix.
The total cost of my two store trips and the meal prep was $320. Part of that was a Christmas gift for my parents from me and my sister.  So I really only spend $280 on our groceries. We have a lot of stock in the house. All I should have to do for the next two weekends is do a quick stop for fresh fruit, milk, and probably bread by the end of the month. Right now we have tons of bread, cereal.  Bottom line is that I could probably make it through the month without going over $450 because I have to consider the $100 I spent last week. So right now I am at $380. Maybe I can get through without spending more than another $70.00.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Back at work and crazy taco soup

We went back to work today. It actually feels good to get back into it. Getting there and teaching is much better than thinking about getting there and teaching. I tried a few new routines today that I hope will make the year continue smoothly. I felt a little bossy, but I think it is good to start the new year with some good structure and specific rules while continuing to be nurturing and supportive. It is a tough balance, but both are so important.

I have really been doing well with dinner. I made repurposed last week's taco meat into a cheesy enchilada casserole for Saturday, which was loved by everyone. Last night I put together my own version (whatever I had on hand) of spaghetti pie. I made mine in a deep square dish using frozen precooked ground beef and a jar of sauce. I also added the last of the shredded cheese and sour cream. This dish was also very popular. Tonight's dinner is a gamble. Simmering on the stove is Whatever I had Left Taco Soup. I know that soup is a great way to use up leftovers, and I was dying to try taco soup. However, I am the only one who likes beans. Here is how I created this crazy soup

About 2 cups preseasoned cooked ground beef from freezer (with onion and garlic)

About 2 cups of water

1 can diced tomatoes

1 bag frozen corn

3 ounces tomato paste

1 package onion soup mix (not something I buy often but I happened to have it on hand)

2 1/2 large tortillas sliced up

I threw the ground beef in a pot with a cup of water. Once the ground beef defrosted I added the tomatoes and corn. I added more water, the onion soup mix, and tomato paste. Once it simmered a bit I tossed the tortillas into the soup. It is on the stove. I used the rest of my shredded cheese and sour cream last night. I diced three cheese sticks to toss on top of it. I hope it goes over well enough.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year to you and yours! It is resolution time. The statistics on people following through on their resolutions are pretty grim. That is why I joined a gym mid December so I could make a positive change but not call it a resolution.

My true resolution for 2015, besides being more appreciative and less grumpy ( I hope the gym helps with that) is getting a handle on money and becoming a saver. I have talked so much about not spending, but really it is about saving. Money is freedom. Knowing that you have some money to fall back on and not live check to check is a life style goal for us as a family. Last night we did not even order out on New Year's Eve. I made sweet and sour chicken and we ate together with the kids. Later the two of us watched a movie. Now we did watch a new movie that we had to buy for $15.00, but now we own it. It is still out in theaters, and it was cool to watch it from home while eating our own homemade nachos. Not a bad amount of money spent for New Year's Eve.

I was scouring the ads for good deals to get the most out of my shopping money. I have some extra bucks and CVS has some great deals this week, so I am going to hit CVS with my coupons and extra bucks and try to stock up on some things that we need for very little money.

Today we are going to take the kids skating because they will be taking some skating lessons and have never been on skates. I have not been on skates in almost 30 years. I am very afraid.