Sunday, January 31, 2016

Getting a Handle on the Grocery Budget

Our grocery total for January was $676.41. That total feeds two adults and two children in elementary school.  The thrifty plan, according to the USDA is $648.80 for our family. Not bad. There is one receipt I don't have from when my husband picked up bread.  We are still under $700.00 for the month. I shopped this Friday, but since it was January 29th I put it at the beginning of February's spending.  I am tracking our monthly grocery costs on a spreadsheet to see what we spend per month, if it is enough and how to potentially tighten it up. Believe me when I say that my spending took a lot of additional work. I did a lot of cooking, planning, and baking.  For the most part we shopped weekly and avoided too many midweek trips to the store.  I ate the majority of leftovers for work lunches.  We utilized almost every bit of food we had.  I thought we had done well, but we still spend more than I would like to spend per month.

February is a short month. We are already at $112.74. If I aim for a $600.00 total for this month I still have $488.00 dollars left to spend. This month also includes a vacation week that we are all home to eat, eat, eat, as well as the fact that I will have class once a week until May and not be able to make dinner that night. That means I need to have something already made with instructions or something frozen ready to go. My plan this week is enchiladas that I hope to make. If not I have frozen raviolis as a back up. It will prevent a weekly meal out that I am really trying to avoid.

Personal Spending Update
 I have not spent any extra money this week. No coffee, no shopping, no nothing. I feel great!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Strange Timing with Sadness

It has been two months since my father died. Lots of strange things happen when someone dies. Throughout the whole ordeal I have just felt odd. That is not clearly articulated, but it is all I can come up with. December was bizarre with the constant stream of holiday cards and sympathy cards coming at the same time.

One night after work I got the mail and was sorting through said assortment of sympathy and holiday cards. A card with half a return address jumped out at me.  There was no name, but I knew that address. It was a friend with whom I had parted ways with 13 years ago.  We had a falling out of sorts. It does not matter now. Slowly I opened the card. She had heard about my father's passing and sent me a card. In the card she had written a great deal about how sorry she was to hear about my father. It was overwhelming to get this card from someone who had seen so much of my father when we were growing up.  It made me think about what has happened in our lives in the past 13 years. What we don't know about each other and how we have moved on to our own worlds.

Five weeks have past since I received that card. Tonight I learned that this same old friend lost her mother Sunday. I am in shock. The sadness I feel for her family is indescribable. I have some lovely memories of her mother and feel terrible for her father. I am taken aback by the timing of both incidents. How do two people who were friends for so long and then not, lose parents in the same time period. It is coincidence? Is it fate opening a door to reconciliation? Do I reach out? I know, given how things have happened, that I will send a card? Do I offer further support or the willingness to listen. I don't know. I am overwhelmed with sadness.

No More Spending

There are so many financial wizards out there trying to help you create a budget, pay off your debt, and get smart about money. You can buy that sandwich, but budget it. You can get that new purse, but budget it.  Yes and no. I have read many books and blogs about not spending as much money, but the concept of not spending ANY extra money is pretty amazing to me.  I think it may be the thing that saves us.

What does it mean to afford something? The old me (from the other day) thought if I had the money in my checkbook I could afford it. That is so not true, and I think I knew that. I just needed a wake up call. I am awake now, and am ready to live my new life that cares less about stuff and more about freedom. The freedom that comes with having some money.  It will take us many years to get there, but I am convinced we can do this.

With my new mindset I have eliminated coffee and take-out from our lives for now.  I do have a gym membership, but I will get reimbursed for the first two months and use it until the spring. Once the weather is good I will freeze it until the fall. There is no need to pay for the gym when I can walk in the world. Duh!

For the next month I am going to keep track of every penny and spend nothing on ridiculous items like clothes I don't need, make up, or new books.  My daughter needs winter boots, so that will be one purchase. Other than groceries, child care, and paying for kids activities I solemnly promise to make no extra purchases that are not necessities for any reason. I think this lack of spending will show me how much extra money there really is when I don't blow $2.00 here and $40.00 there. That money will go toward my first bill that I am paying off and hope to pay off very quickly.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

So I Read the Blog that May Have Changed My Life

Strong title, but I think it may be true. In searching more grocery budgets and ideas I found this blog that has a sarcastic yet funny way of explaining how people need to get it together with their money. I read several posts over the last few days and am hooked.

This doesn't mean that I will run out and cancel my cable television (my other half would never agree and I probably would miss it too), but there are so many things he mentions that changed my thinking. I feel more motivation to push forward with some new goals.

This well known blogger saved most of his money and retired early. Yikes! This loser (me) has been spending all her life.

Some things that I have done well include hitting Super Cuts and coloring my own hair (for the past 6 months and forever after). That is around $30 to do it this way, but the salon would be over $100. Nice.
Manicures and pedicures have left my budget. They have left my budget. They have left my budget. Seriously I don't even want one and haven't had one a six months. When the spring hits I can soak my feet for an hour and figure something out. I have also done a great job (although a bit tiring) of shopping on the cheap and feeding us a fairly healthy diet without breaking the bank. That will continue as well.

Things that need to be eliminated include shopping in general, drive thru coffee ever. I really will never get coffee again. I promise.  Eating out (there may be a few exceptions like spending time with a friend). Tightening it up all around and kicking debt in the shins.

My first goal is to get rid of one credit card that is 0 percent interest and then a credit card with a piece of furniture on it that is 0% as well.  Then we can figure out what loan should be paid off next.

I have a plan.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Groceries for This Month

My total for January was about $500. That is awesome. Really I am quite excited about it. Also exhausted from spending so much time in the kitchen cooking, planning and organizing, but still quite pumped that I was able to feed us that well for what I spent. Part of it was participating in a pantry challenge on another blog. I certainly did not have the food supply that many people seemed to have, but it was a huge help.

Next week's shop will count towards February's spending. Another thing that really helped was all the coupons I was able to use. Great local store coupons that gave me $ off the end of my order. Two or three weeks in a row I have been able to get an additional $10.00 of my order. That is fabulous.

For this week I already planned and prepped dinner for tonight and Monday. I have a tentative plan for Tuesday and the rest of the week as well. We will see how it goes. Right now I have work to do, but I feel like I need a nap. 

It Looked Good on Paper

We could make the payments. Everything seemed great. We got all the loans.  I felt trapped in such a small house and did not have a community to share that with. It was one of my reasons for starting this blog. Everyone in town that I had any exposure to had real houses or so it seemed to me at the time. It was the main reason I went back to work full time.  Now fast forward.

Here we are over a year after everything is complete. The house looks great, but it is still a modest house.  But the money keeps going out. We have come to a place where all the payments can be made, but if people only knew what we were paying out a month. They would be shocked. It is like we are paying two mortgages. We have the mortgage, which we refinanced to a fifteen year almost three years ago to save money. So it was a good decision but made our mortgage higher. We also have a series of different loans that we are paying out. They all have different end dates and interest rates.   The largest loan still has four and a half years on it.  So we have to keep this up for another four and a half years. Watching each penny and breathing very slowly.

Did we do the right thing?  Some would say no. We couldn't afford it and should not have done it. I would say what we did was not the worst decision. Yes, it looked better on paper than it feels each month,but we can make our payments. Selling seemed challenging when we started this process. Real estate came up quick, but we were underwater for years. Buying another house in the town we live in would have cost us a lot. We would not have found much that didn't need a face lift for under $550,000. We did not want to start all over with a 30 year mortgage at our ages.

It looked good on paper, but it feels stressful sometimes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Beauty of Sleep

Guess where I am going once I hit Publish? Bed time. I am finding that I really need a full eight hours of sleep to get me through a day without being grumpy. Well, maybe I am still a little grumpy with eight hours, but I can hide it better.

I have always been sort of a night owl. Actually I fall asleep on the couch a lot these days. Could be the 6:00 AM wake up, the two kids, the job. For most of my life I have always enjoyed staying up late. It could be my procrastinating personality. I spent a lot of late nights writing papers.  The 44 year old me is not that different than the college me. Maybe a bit more organized, but last minute is my specialty. My husband likes to stay up late. When we met we always talked on the phone or emailed really late. Once he married me he got a girl that falls asleep on the couch. Oops.

Time changes us and at this point in my life if I want to be productive I know I need some sleep. Getting good sleep helps me to be less groggy in the morning and allows me some time to enjoy a cup of coffee before the kids wake up, get ready for work without racing around, help the kids get ready without getting mad at them. It also helps me to stay focused and patient with an entire classroom full of kids all day. They are young and need a happy, smiling and patient face no matter how I may feel. Sleep helps with all those things. It helps me finish the day, clean my classroom, pick up my kids and feed them.

And start all over again. It is 9:14 on the east coast. Bed time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Freezing Cold Day and Dinner is Served

It wasn't a bad day. We got up and had a decent morning. We didn't leave at 7:30, but we left before 8:00. My work day was okay. We made it through without major issues.  A long weekend leaves kids tired (and teachers too).

I was totally committed to going to the gym right after work. Right after lunch I got hit with a sore throat and some ear pain. I swore I had strep. I stopped on the way home to get checked out. No strep and the pain seems gone. Probably the dryness. It is so cold.

It was the kind of cold night that made me really glad I had an already prepared dish of chicken enchiladas to pop in a hot oven. Having a dinner plan makes for a happy night and a happy mom, which makes for a happy house. We have no night activities for the rest of the week. Yippee! Tomorrow's dinner is calzone. It is defrosting in the fridge right now. I put it together this weekend. All it needs to do is heat up in the oven. Dinner will be served tomorrow. Perfect.

A Tentative Budget

My last two shops have been right around $120.00. This has included store coupons that I may not always have. I have decided to use that as my weekly allowance. If I spend an average of $120 per week that will give us a budget of $480 per month. I think it will take a lot of work, but I am going to try to hit my mark. I have spent $339 so far this month. If I stick to my plan that only allows me to spend another $141 for the entire month. We are already out of bread, and I know I have to get it today.  Well, it is good to have goals.

Monday, January 18, 2016

My First Birthday Card

Yesterday was my birthday. It was the first birthday card in my life that only had my mother's name on it. It was strange to see it in writing. Not that I imagine that my father signed many birthday cards. I assume it was usually my mother, but to have it just be her name made my heart skip a beat.

Yesterday was the two month anniversary of his passing. I can't believe how fast it has gone by. Sometimes I am so busy that I just work, cook, organize, and surf the grief away. Then it floats back in reminding me that I can't ignore it. It must be dealt with. My father is gone, and no amount of cooking, working, organizing, or planning vacations that we probably shouldn't take will bring him back. It won't change the way things are. My father is gone. It is a new normal that I must contend with and process.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

An Amazing Shop

I am blown away by what I was able to get today.  Once again I had a $5.00 off coupon and an additional $5.00 on my Stop and Shop card. That gave me $10.00 of my order. Also, I bought the following products that were buy one get one free: onions, potatoes, and bread. I also took advantage of their "buy theirs get ours" that they do, which got me two dish soaps and two containers of hummus. I also got free Cabot butter due to a coupon. My final free item was milk because I spent $12.00 on certain products. That was mainly yogurt for the kids to take to school and a few yogurts for me. They looked good, but I am not sure I am in love with them.

Now my order was not free. This is not extreme couponing where I got 100 boxes of cereal free. My order included clementines, apples, peppers, lettuce, carrots, cantaloupe and fresh pineapple. It also included oatmeal, sour cream, 4-5 pounds of chicken breast for $1.77 lb, deli meat and cheese, pita bread, peanut butter, frozen blueberries, eggs and few other snack items.  It looked like it was close to $200.00, but it was only $122.00. For someone who has been spending over $150.00 a week and then hitting the store again for a $50.00 or $60.00 order this is wonderful. I have my menu plan and am working hard to get everything ready for another week of "no more shopping".

Our groceries this month........The Good and what to improve

So since the beginning of January I have been participating in a pantry challenge. I have never participated like this before. We did not have overwhelming amounts of food storage, but I wanted to focus on what we had and try to eat it.  So far, we have done really well.  My freezer is almost bare and my daughter looked in and said "We have chocolate ice cream. I didn't know that". At this point I am out of eggs and very low on yeast, rice, and oatmeal. My fridge is pretty sparse. We are working hard.

My spending for the month at this point is under $220, and the month is half over. I do have to shop today.  That is really amazing for us. Now I don't spend the $300-$350 dollars a week on food like some families, but I was finding that it was easy to be spending $150-$170 for a weekly shop with more stops through the week. I have done a few things to help eliminate the extra stops.
  • Buy enough milk and bread at the beginning. Those are staples for us.  I put milk in my coffee and without coffee I am not human
  • Write a plan, but be flexible. I am good at writing a plan, but I don't always want what I plan. I move things around and make changes. It is working.
So far we have eaten dinner at home for two full weeks in a row with two exceptions. We had take out pizza last weekend with a friend. After cooking for seven nights in a row that was enjoyable. My husband and I also grabbed dinner out this week since the kids were out with my mother and sister. Another nice treat. I am walking in the door most nights after 5:00 and I typically leave between 7:30 and 8:00 in the morning, so not ordering take out is a small miracle.

What I Need to Work On
We have done really well, but our food has been pretty high in carbs. Certainly not what my overall food goal is. Today I want to get more vegetables and put them into more meals. Three of this week's dinners included homemade rolls or biscuits. Delicious but deadly. I need to back off of that.

My carb heavy menu:
Sunday Chicken in Gravy with Biscuits
Monday Baked Omelet with Linguini
Tuesday Skillet Chicken Pot Pie with Biscuits
Wednesday Out for Dinner
Thursday Chicken Soup with Homemade rolls
Friday Left Over Lobster Sauce from New Year's take out from freezer and fried rice that I threw together with Caesar salad (weird combo but the kids love Caesar)

See what I mean. This week's plan, and yes I already wrote it will include more side veggies like tossed salad. I usually throw raw veggies like carrots on the table too. We will see what the next week brings.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Hello Out There If You Stop By

I have been writing and not writing this blog for years. I have talked about food, money, life, my family, sadness. Many thoughts that randomly come to mind. I have had a couple of comments in that time. However, I have noticed that I do have a few people that have stopped by and read my thoughts. It is exciting to know that I have a few people that have visited.  I would love to have a well read blog and keep thinking about what my main focus could be. So far my thoughts are very random and my blog is not the well organized machine one would hope for.

Anyway, if you do stop by please say hello if it suits you. Also, if you have your own blog please let me know. I would love to see it.  If you have a blog and ever need a guest post I do love to write and would love to contribute to another blog.  And finally, if you can think of something wonderful that I can blog about that would make me famous before I win Power ball tomorrow I would love suggestions.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Taking time for me

So I did get back to the gym today. Finally. I joined over the vacation and made it four times. I was so proud of myself. Once work started back up I just could not get there. We had a cold snap too, so I had so many great excuses as to why I could not work out. Too cold, too tired, too LAZY.

The gym is one mile from my house. Yes, just one mile. That is why I joined. I figure in the summer I could walk down, work out, and walk home. Although I can be lazy, exercise boosts my mood, clears my mind, relieves stress, and just makes me feel better. Not to mention it may lower my weight.  That would be a nice bonus. Also, it will make me a better mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, coworker. We wear so many hats, and if we want to wear them well we have to take the time to do something for us.  My typical time for myself involves cooking because I love it. Reading is also a favorite past time, however, I sort of get lost in my book and do nothing else. I would really love to add a regular work out schedule to my list of things that are for me.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fast Weekends, and Money

Where does the weekend go?  I left work on Friday to grab the kids. I wanted to leave earlier, but I had a few things that had to be done. We were in the door before 5:00, which is early for us. I knew there was tons to do. Over vacation I had worked hard to put things in order, catch up on laundry, organize (some parts of the house). I would like to stay caught up.  Friday night included three loads of laundry that I still need to put away. Folding and putting away laundry is my least favorite part of laundry. Yesterday included basketball, grocery shopping, and cleaning the house. I squeezed it all into one day since we were having company. Now today is already Sunday and includes more activities, and I have lesson plans and work to do, AND I must go to the gym. I just could not do it this first week back.  I was so bad.  I am going today, no questions asked.

Yesterday's grocery shopping was amazing. I was able to use two different $5.00 coupons off my order, get a few items free (water and carrots), and use a few more store coupons. I don't bother printing the coupons because my old lap top can't handle the software.  We had homemade dinner Sunday through Friday.  I prepped and really planned it out, making changes as needed. The kids took yogurts, leftover holiday treats, and fruit with their lunches. Saturday we ordered pizza since my friend and her children came over for dinner.  Today it is pizza for lunch. I roasted a chicken yesterday which I hope to get three meals out of, including soup. Can you hear my family groaning?  Last Sunday I spent $79.00 and yesterday I spent $117. That is under $200. I typically have been spending over $160 plus additional trips for a family of four. We don't have a ton of food storage, which is why I spent what I did yesterday, but we will make this work. I made sure to buy enough milk and bread so there is no need to hit a store or send my husband who always adds cookies to the milk.  I even passed up some holiday tea for .75 per box. I almost bought avocados and my nine year old joked "It's not on the list".  Well guess who did not buy avocados? It is funny to hear your own words used against you. I hear sweet voices and feet. Time to start my day. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Challenge Helps to Keep Me Focused

So I am really into this January pantry challenge because it is day 4. Talk to me on day 25. We have done so well this week. This kids didn't even realize that they have not purchased lunch at school. It doesn't mean that they won't, but so far it has all come from home. 

I am also really into coffee and have written many times about the whole stop and get coffee problem that I, and many Americans, have. Well, when I leave my classroom, and the air is cold, and my eyes are closing, gosh I want some coffee. Monday I left work and knew it had to happen. Coffee. So I stopped at Dunkin Donuts, knowing that the over $50 worth of gift cards we got for Christmas were home. So I bought a cup of coffee. Well Tuesday I planned to get coffee, but I forgot to take the right turn. I was suddenly motivated to skip the coffee and focus on not spending. Yesterday I followed suit as well. Today I was really dying for hot chocolate, but I stuck to my guns and did not stop. I envisioned sitting around the table with the kids drinking homemade hot chocolate. Well, I did make them hot chocolate, while I made dinner, helped with homework, emptied the dishwasher, reminded my six year old to wash the blueberries off his hand and sit in a chair while eating etc. I did manage to drink some coffee at home of course. So now with my goals in hand, I have decided that I am going to stay away from buying coffee, or try really hard, while we are doing the pantry challenge. I can buy a lot of ground coffee with those gift cards, which will certainly help my pantry stay full for free.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Great Starter

That is what I am. I am really good at getting started, but I am not always good at finishing.

Take gyms for instance. I have joined so many gyms, but I don't look great. I just joined another one, but I hope to actually go this time. However, this week has been so cold I just want to grab the kids and get home after spending all day at work.

This week I have been doing a really good job planning meals and staying focused on eating from the pantry.  I don't have much left for protein, so I will have to shop this weekend, but I am going to set a specific spending limit. Not sure what it will be yet. Saturday we are going to order pizza because we have some friends coming over. I am always focused when I start something, and then.........I fizzle. This week I made a crock pot dinner for Sunday that we finished tonight. We had soup Monday and lasagna last night. The lasagna is gone. We ate it all. It was only a 9 x 9, and I did not make it very thick, but I was still sort of surprised we finished it.  Tomorrow will probably be an egg bake or homemade mac and cheese. I guess I will figure it out when I walk in the door (after I go to the gym).

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A New Financial Goal


  I have one credit card left that I really want to pay off. It is a zero percent interest card that I opened in August for some stupid reason*. We did need to use it for a short time, but now we are okay. I want to use the money I save during the pantry challenge to pay on this card. I did put a few Christmas things on there that I will be paying off on Thursday. After I pay that off my balance will be $1371. My goal is to pay that off by May.  I think I can do it by putting as much on the card as possible each pay period. There will be on interest on the card until August. Cutting the grocery bill and using what we have well will help support this goal. We will eat well. I will always buy produce and feed us a healthy diet with a few treats here and there.  I am excited for my goal.  It will start after my next pay day.  

* Stupid reason-This is a cash back card and I thought it would be so great to get cash back on stuff that I already buy, but I forgot that I can't really handle that sort of thing and at almost 44 I should know that about myself.

I am doing well with using what we have. I got some great ideas from other sites and am super excited to make it work.  When I shopped on Sunday I only spent $79.61. I had a few good store coupons and bought produce, dairy, bread, deli meat and cheese and some nonfood items like Q-Tips. I do tend to grab what I need at one place even though it is not always the most economical choice, because time is money too.

Pantry Challenge Update
Last night's dinner was chicken tortellini soup. My own version based on recipes I have used in the past. I love it, and my husband, who is not a soup fan, will eat it as well. Tonight we are having a lasagna that I threw together last night. Tomorrow night will be left over chicken from Sunday's crock pot dinner of gingery chicken breasts. Quite gingery, but pretty tasty.  Thursday is eggs, left over soup or left over lasagna. That is my problem with menus. I change my mind a lot. I should not write my menu in pen. What ever doesn't get eaten gets put in the freezer or become my work lunch. We are really pretty good about not wasting food. Not sure what we will eat on Friday.

 Doesn't the cold make you want to burrow under a heavy blanket for days.  Last night I stayed up so late. Not sure why, but sometimes I do that. I could have slept for days.  I think the low temperatures make our beds feel more comfortable.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A fresh start with some New Year's Resolutions

My family has experienced some heartache in the past few months, but I would like to approach 2016 with a positive attitude and put my best foot forward for my husband, children, mother, sister, and friends.  I am dedicating my list of resolutions to my father, who is no longer with us in person, but I am convinced is always here.  I miss you Dad.

  • Appreciate each day, even the bad ones
  • Utilize my time and give the proper amount of time to my family, myself and my job (tough one)
  • Spend time with my children and when with them give them all my attention (see resolution 2)
  • Spent time at the gym to improve my health, lower my weight, and relieve stress (see resolution 2)
  • Go out with my husband alone once a month
  • Cook at home, utilize what we have, don't go overboard at the store
  • Don't waste food (see prior resolution)
  • Spend money wisely
  • Be a good friend
  • Don't be angry even if I am not wrong
  • Work hard at my job but remember it is a job and not the only thing in my life. I promise I will find a balance and make it work or find another job.
  • Blog a bit more than every three month