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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quick Frugal Tip For You Natural Mamas!

I just wanted to pass along this wonderful sale that is going on. Zarbees has a sale going right now where you can get a 4oz. bottle of their all natural children's cough medicine (great time to stock up for those winter colds!) for just $2. Your choice between cherry or lemon. Just enter USA at checkout and receive one bottle (all additional bottles are $9.99 each) and free shipping for a grand total of $2! I've never used this brand before but it sounds like a great alternative to traditional cough medicines. Let me know if you have tried it, or plan to!
As seen posted on Hip2Save.

Day 30: Final Day!

When the news of this challenge spread around I heard many times that it was impossible, especially since many people stated that their mortgages were that amount alone. I understand that in many areas of the country that this challenge would be impossible. We live in the Midwest where the cost of living is low. Our mortgage is just $461 a month. When added all up, our fixed expenses (mortgage, electric, gas, phone, life insurance) are around $850 a month. Which means that we could attempt this challenge and possibly succeed!

Why did I decide to do a challenge such as this? I wanted to see just how low my family of five (plus three dogs and two cats) could go. It may prove helpful in the future if we have a lot of unexpected expenses…we will know how and where to cut back to meet those extra needs. I also wanted to point out that my goal as a stay-at-home mother raising a family of five on a fairly small budget (more than $1,200 monthly, thankfully!) could not only live within our means, but rather, live below our means. I want to prove that it is possible to live on a small income and yet not live paycheck to paycheck, even with a larger family. In this economy, many people are loosing their jobs or getting their hours/pay cut. I also wanted to walk a mile in their shoes. They don’t have a choice on how much to live on a month. Some families are trying to get by on less than $1,200 a month. Others make enough money to survive but spend so wildly that they are living beyond their means and don’t know where to begin to cut corners. I wanted my challenge to bring awareness to both those facts.

I also wanted to discern, for myself, between our needs verses our wants. What does a family in America need to survive and how much more do we spend on wants each month?

When all is said and done, we came in at $175.78 over budget. That means that this family of five was able to live off $1,375.78 for the month of June.

Could our family had survived off $1,200 for the month? Yes. Looking back, we could have cut out the $30 some odd dollars we spent on fast food. I could have cut out all treats and extras at the grocery store. I could have not made as many grocery store runs and saved money with more organized shopping. I could have not bought the throw pillows for the couch and the small rug for the kitchen.

$1,375.78 isn’t a bad number though. As a matter of fact, I am proud that we were able to get so low in the first month of trying. We were able to accomplish this by not eating out much except for a couple times, one occasion being a birthday and the other times just picking up sandwiches instead of whole meals. The rest of our food was prepared at home.

We saved money by not going out of town often. It saved gas and unnecessary expenses. We took advantage of local free events (Bible camps, library programs, parks) instead of paying for activates. We celebrated a birthday on the cheap, spending less than $40 for the presents, cake, and food. Father’s Day was creative as I pulled a gift out of the gift closet for my hubby and made him a nice steak dinner (all for under $15) and made my own father a double batch of his all time favorite cookies. Special days don’t have to end up costing a fortune. It seriously is the thought that counts.

Had I known in advance about my challenge I could have saved more by reducing our electric use in May to have a smaller bill this month. Had this challenge been later this summer our grocery bills would have been less due to our garden produce. This challenge made me look at every way we spend money and see little changes that could add up to big change (pun intended).

Could this challenge work for us every month? No. $1,200 leaves little room for any extras…such as underwear or other basics that need to be purchased a few times a year. I also chose a month to do this experiment when our city bill (water, sewer, garbage) was not due. Our city bill comes every other month and averages $140. We didn’t have to pay our car insurance this month either as we pay it bi-yearly. Those two expenses would have made this challenge impossible. Winter in the Midwest would also make a challenge such as this impossible as there are heating costs which bring our expenses up even higher.

We now know what we are capable of if needed though. We know where to cut corners and what our low number could be. It may never be $1,200 but $1,300 looks possible. As a matter of fact, I will be attempting this challenge once again in August to see if I can take what I learned this month and meet the challenge then. July will find me working on a healthy eating $400 grocery budget challenge.

For those few readers who attempted this challenge along with me, how did you do? Please update us of your progress in the comments below.

Any questions about this challenge can also be asked below and will be answered in a Q&A post.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 29

As promised, I have stayed out of stores today and have spent no money. So it looks like we really will end this month at yesterday's total of $175.79 over budget, as we are dropping the van off at the repair shop this evening and I won't have a vehicle the next couple days...so no going anywhere to spend money!

I am gearing up for July's food/grocery challenge and have already experimented with a few healthy foods that ended up being yummy (which I've eaten two days in a row) so will be posting recipes and reviews of some of my favorite healthy meals and foods in July. I can't wait for some of you to take this challenge with me...and hope that you will be sharing with me some ideas and tips...and recipes!

I hope you all are having a lovely summer day. I've had one of those days where everything that can go wrong does. I've been taking this out on my clutter as when I am in a bad mood I am ruthless in throwing out things and getting rid of a lot. Filling up boxes for an upcoming garage sale and putting together several boxes of free things. At least something good is coming out of my mood. :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 28: Confession TIme

Yesterday we went shopping. I didn't even have a grocery list written out but we still went shopping. Which means that we spent $85.15 at the grocery store and didn't even get all that we needed for the week. I also finally got fed up with waiting to buy throw pillows for the couch (the ones we had were in really bad shape and I planned to wait until July to buy some new ones but couldn't hold off any longer). While at Kohl's browsing through the pillows, I saw a small rug I wanted for the kitchen and a package of washcloths, which we needed. I spent $25.97 there. We also spent $10 in gas.

It didn't end there, though. This was also the month that hubby and I were both in desperate need of new underwear. No, not the sexy expensive kind...just basic underwear. Again, I was holding off until July to buy them - along with flea medicine for all the animals, cat litter, and baby wipes. You know how they say that you can start with one sin and work your way up to bigger sins because once you sin it's easier to keep on going? Well, the same held true for this experiment/challenge. Once I went over budget it was just too easy to keep on going. I spent $45.05 at Walmart, which means all totaled up we are $175.78 over budget. With three days left in the month I am staying out of stores.

These were not all luxury purchases. We actually needed everything that I purchased at Walmart. The food we bought at HyVee was all healthy foods that we will eat, but I could have done better by having a list and just sticking to what we needed for the week. The pillows and throw rug were more of a want.

So for this month we have come in at $1,375.78. It's still much better than what we usually come in at towards the end of each month. It is a change. I'm going to take what I learned about this month and try to perfect it for August.

Could we have lived off just $1,200? Yes. We could have cut out the $30 some odd dollars we spent on fast food. We could have cut out all treats and extras at the grocery store. I could have waited to purchase my Walmart items until next month. That all would have brought us under $1,200. But I wanted to be realistic. If someone living on $1,200 a month needed underwear, they would have had to budget it in somewhere. Does someone living on $1,200 never eat out or get treats? I guess, had we really had to live off $1,200, we would be $175.78 in debt right now. Scary!

I will be writing about where I could have saved more, cut out, and done things differently which will be published later this week. I then plan to take what I did learn and use it to do better in August.

Don't forget...the $400 grocery budget starts in just three days!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Can You Afford to Be a One Income Family?

One thing that I learned this month during my challenge is that we can do without a lot of what we typically buy. Had we cut out fast food completely and trimmed down the grocery bill even more, there is no doubt that we really would have come in at under $1,200.

Which brings me to another topic that involves money and cutting back: being a stay-at-home mom. I don't stay-at-home because I'm living the life of luxury and my husband makes boat loads of cash. I'm able to stay at home because we make a lot of sacrifices in order for me to do so.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against working mothers. If a woman gets fulfillment from her career or enjoys her job and wants to continue to work while being a mother, that's fine. And I know that there are single women who have to work because there is no choice. Even married couples have to have two incomes in certain instances.

But what gets me, and my husband, is women who moan and complain about their jobs and how they wish they could be at home with their children but that they can't afford it. And then they leave work, get into their brand new fancy SUV, drive to their $80 hair appointment, stop and pick up take out, pick up their children from daycare and drive them to one of their many activities, arrive home to their McMansion, and plan their Disney World vacation while watching their $100 a month cable. This scenario sounds silly but it is all too common.

The majority of women who say to me or my husband that they wish they could stay at home but can't afford it tend to live a lifestyle similar to above. And their husbands tend to make at least double, if not triple or quadruple, what my husband makes. These women are not working because they couldn't afford to stay home, these women are working to maintain their lifestyle. Which is fine with me...if someone thinks trading 40 hours of their time each week to have an SUV, vacations, etc. is worth it that is okay. But to complain about how they wish they could be at home with their children but just can't afford it to someone who lives on 1/4 of their income and does stay at home is foolish.

These types of women could afford to stay-at-home if they really wanted to. Buying a used car with cash, downsizing from their Mcmansion to a regular house, taking their kids out of daycare, not paying $80 for hair appointments, not taking an expensive vacation each year, cooking at home instead of getting takeout several times a week, shopping for clothes at thrift stores and garage sales. All those tips may actually equal what they make a year. In reality, it's not that they can't afford it, they just choose not to. So they are either lying to people like me when they say they wish they could or they are lying to themselves when they say that they can't.

There have been several studies of women who work on, I think it was, $10 an hour or less. These studies have looked at daycare costs for the children, the added expense of clothing and car costs for the job, the extra taxes, the added expense of take out more often due to the working mother being over-tired, etc. When all was said and done and subtracted, it was said that the woman realistically just made about $3,000 a year working 40 hours a week. In many instances, a woman is able to save more money by being at home then she is able to make working 40 hours a week.

This challenge has taught me to never say I can't when it comes to money. If we can manage to almost scrape by on $1,200 a month then couldn't we comfortably live on $1,400 a month and put the rest in savings. It is teaching me that even a family on a low income doesn't have to live paycheck to paycheck. And it is definitely teaching me that the American way of thinking about money is ridiculous. We are taught to consume as much as possible and work all week at a job we hate in order to afford that brand new car and McMansion that we are never at home to enjoy. Isn't there more to life then stuff?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Year Without Shopping

I didn't start this $1,200 just to save money but also to see the difference between wants and needs. Coming in close to my goal, the very first month in, is thrilling and mind opening.

I'm not the first person to challenge them self is some way. Proving that point is Judith Levine, author of Not Buying It; My Year Without Shopping. I just started reading this book this morning and am on just chapter three but it has so far been quite interesting. Judith attempted to go a whole year with just buying what she needed. Not only does she highlight what their true needs are (are Kleenex a need or a want? If Kleenex is a need, are the plush ones with lotion on them a need or should you make do with the cheap scratchy ones?) but also highlights what type of consumers we Americans are. For example, we are just 4.5 percent of the world's population and yet we use 24 percent of it's resources. In one study conducted 78 percent of participants stated that most Americans are "very materialistic", and yet only 8% considered themselves very materialistic.

I'll be very curious to finish the book and see if she was able to last the whole year and what she learned from it.


Yep, we blew the budget. We are complete losers and failures. Okay, okay, I'm not going to be too hard on myself. I blame hubby. Just kidding...I think. :)

Today hubby got $6 in gas for his car and we were out of any vegetables and fruit and it was hot and sticky and I didn't feel like cooking anything so I picked up carrots, celery, grapes, sweet corn, bananas, and a few things to make whole wheat chicken wraps (no cooking involved). These are all things I won't have to pick up when I do my weekly grocery trip tomorrow but at $26.67 it put us $19.61 OVER budget.

We didn't make the $1,200 challenge. We were close, with just five days left in the month. I will still continue to keep track of what we spend this month, to see how far over budget we go.

I've learned a lot this month though, and plan to take what I learned this month and apply it to August when I try it again (if hubby agrees). Maybe $1,200 will never be our low number...maybe $1,300 or $1,400 will be. Or maybe we can tweak it a little and really get down to $1,200. I'll be sharing more of what I learned later this week.

I have to say that I am still proud of us. With this being the first month in really trying to cut back we did pretty well. Even with having to do a little more grocery shopping later today (updates later) I don't think that we will go more than $100 over budget so a family of 5 living on just $1,300 for a month wasn't too shabby. :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 25: Inexpensive Birthdays

Yesterday Jacob turned 5 years old. Trying to have an inexpensive birthday wasn't too hard as we typically do that anyway. We have had small birthday parties before which involved extended family, large cakes, and games. The majority of our children's birthdays are more quiet affairs with just our immediate family. Such was the case this year.

My children have so many toys that they don't need a whole pile of presents. We get them a few small things that we know that they will like and make them feel special but we don't overwhelm them with gifts. That is both just silly and a waste of money. We spent $22 on Jacob's gifts, which consisted of the two toys below and a ColorWonder Toy Story coloring pad.

We often times buy a bakery made cake because the kids want one. This year Jacob had fun making a cake with me and enjoyed it just as much. It was only around $3 to make.
We always let the birthday child choose a meal that they want to eat. This year Jacob decided on Pizza Hut pizza and breadsticks. We could have made pizza for cheaper but he wanted Pizza Hut and I wasn't about to crush the birthday boy's dreams. A large pizza and order of 5 breadsticks and 2 liter of Pepsi was $15 (actually, it was $14.98 but I'll round up!). So total for this birthday was $40. We would have had to eat supper anyway so it ended up being cheaper than that. Not too bad.
Sometimes we are able to find brand new toys (or look like new toys) at garage sales or consignment shops that we save for birthdays and Christmas, which brings the total even lower. I also could have used my SwagBucks to purchase items on Amazon for free. SwagBucks is a search engine (similar to Google) that "pays" you to search. You can win SwagBucks just by doing your regular searches and then turn them in for gift certificates. I love the $5 Amazon gift certificates they offer and have earned over $180 in Amazon gift cards since October, when I first signed up.
With the pizza purchase of $15 and $9 at the gas station for milk and eggs we are down to $13.06 for the rest of the month.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Day 24

Sorry that I forgot to update yesterday but it was a terribly busy day! Today looks to be just as busy as we are celebrating Jacob's 5th birthday. Tomorrow I'll post about how we are celebrating without spending too much money.

Yesterday I ran to the store to let Jacob pick out a cake mix, which he will be helping me make today. I also picked up some ingredients for guacamole (which turned out terrible...what a waste!). I spent $9.53 so our total is at $37.06 for the rest of the month.

Weezy, our dog who was hit by a car, was able to get her stitches out yesterday. Her incision healed up nicely but the vet could still feel some cracks in her femur so took another x-ray. There is another spot that is cracked but the other vet feels that it should heal, he just doesn't like that she isn't putting any weight on that leg yet. So we go back in a couple weeks for another x-ray, and if everything looks good then she will be getting the pin out after that. We did pay the bill yesterday, which was $473. More bills are yet to come with the additional x-ray, the pin coming out, etc. When I posted about Weezy's accident and our budget being blown a few weeks ago all you readers said to not count that against the budget as it was an emergency and taken out of our emergency fund, not our regular budget. Since you say so, I'm not counting it against the budget. But if we had to live off $1,200 we wouldn't have had room to spare in fixing her. We would have had to make payment plans with the vet. Then again, if we were just living off $1,200 a month we wouldn't have 5 pets because we wouldn't be able to afford them. The receptionist proved this point when we went to pick her up after surgery by saying "She's lucky to have you for an owner as many people wouldn't have paid for this surgery." It isn't just those who couldn't afford it, but those who don't want to spend the money on a pet. I believe that taking ownership of a pet means taking care of all their needs, even in an emergency. But I guess not everyone feels that way.

The good news? Because of all the money we have saved this month, I didn't actually have to touch our savings account to pay the vet bill...I was able to use the extra in the checking account to pay it off. So maybe there is a reason that I chose this month, of all months, to do this challenge.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My July Challenge!

Check back a little later today for Day 23 of my $1,200 Budget Challenge. I wanted to announce my July Challenge today for one reason...to give all of you would like to take the challenge time to prepare.

When I announced my June $1,200 Budget Challenge just a few days before June many of you said you would like to play along, but just didn't have enough time to get all your ducks in a row. So this time around, if you would like to take a challenge with me, you now have one week to prepare.

What is my new challenge? Changing our diet for the better, while spending less than $400 for groceries in the month of July. We typically spend just $300 a month on groceries, so how can this be a challenge when I am raising our grocery budget $25 a week? I want to eat a lot more raw foods in July. I want to purchase the bulk of our groceries in the produce section. I want to do more organic and natural foods.That can be expensive. And until I can get into a bulk buying co-op and stock up on some groceries I will be using the month of July as the first month that we really start to buy and prepare our food differently. I will try to come in well below $400 but I am giving myself that leeway because it does cost more to eat healthier. And yet, I don't think it costs a whole lot more, as others always attest to (you know, you've heard, I'd like to eat better,or more organic, but it's too expensive). I'd like to try to prove that wrong, so essentially, I am adding just $25 to our weekly budget and trying to eat that healthy diet.

$400 for the month of July will mean $20 a person, per week, for our family. We are not stocked up on food so I will not have a lot of reserves to draw from. I will be posting our menus, shopping trips, and recipes. Be prepared that we are not going to change all at once. You will still see little treats in the shopping cart, or boxed foods from time to time. I want this to be a gradual change through several months. July will be a starting point. And hopefully each month I can learn the tricks of healthy shopping and cut our healthy food shopping back down to $300 a month. I think our grocery bills/shopping will look a lot like our last week's shopping trip.

If you want to take this healthy grocery budget challenge along with me, feel free to e-mail me for the code for the button at babys_mama1@yahoo.com or just write about it on your blog. Once again, $400 is not the magic number. You may have a larger family or smaller family or live in a more expensive area of the country. You can still be a part of the $400 Grocery Challenge even if your budget will be higher or lower.

I can use all the tips I can get so feel free to share recipes or grocery shopping tips.

And don't despair, I know a lot of you want me to continue the $1,200 Budget Challenge. I will take what I learned from this month and use it for August, to hopefully come in below $1,200. So those who also want to participate in another $1,200 budget challenge can prepare for August. By the way, those of you who are doing the challenge this month, how is it going? Please check in today and let us know where you are at on your challenge!

Thank you to my brother, Dan, for helping me with my new Challenge button!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 22

Yesterday we needed toilet paper and the kid's Vacation Bible School are collecting supplies each day for hygiene kits for poorer countries so we bought 4 wash cloths for today. All together it was $7.33 so we have $46.59 left.

I've been asked why I decided to do this challenge. There are several reasons for my decision. One was that I wanted to see just how low we could go in a month. That was important to me because it was a way to track all of our expenses and to see how much we were capable of saving in a given month. It makes me realize that if needed we would be able to live off of less. Big expenses come up here or there and I now know that we could live off $1,200 (or close to it) for a month or two if we needed the extra money for something else. I think it is important for any family to track all expenses for at least a month to see where their money is going and find ways to cut out money drains.

Secondly, I wanted to point out that we always need to live within our means. If you make $3,000 a month, your expenses should be $3,000 or less. Too many families get sucked into the credit card or other debt traps and spend more than they make.

But third, I wanted to prove that living below your means is even better. Meaning, if you make $3,000 a month, wouldn't it be great if you only spent $2,000-$2,500 of that money? Putting the rest in savings will build a nice nest egg fairly quickly.

It's been said that the more money you make the more you spend. I find that all too true. If you get a $5,000 raise one year, you don't often put that extra $5,000 in savings, do you? People typically find ways to spend that $5,000 on other things. I've seen one income families that are struggling to pay bills go to two income families who are still struggling with bills. Because their income increased, their spending habits did as well.

Money doesn't fix money problems. I know that sounds silly to some and crazy to others. Sure, if you have $5,000 in debt and someone gives you $5,000 to pay it off, your money problems are fixed, right? Unless you go right back to using your credit card and rack up the debt again. Changing your money habits is what fixes money problems.

I think that living beneath your means needs to become a national movement.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Not Me! Monday

(Looking for more about my $1,200 challenge? Scroll to next post, please!)

I did not finally find the secret to keeping Joe quiet and sitting in the grocery cart at the store. When traveling past the concession stand at Target I did not see a bag of popcorn and have a light bulb moment. Asking the woman working if we had to eat the food in that area or if we could shop while eating and getting the answer I was looking for (yes, we can shop while eating!) I did not purchase a bag of popcorn for Joe and happily stroll around the store for half and hour as Joe happily munched away at the popcorn.

I did not drop my two oldest off at Vacation Bible School this morning, giddy at the thought of only having one child at home for three whole hours. That one child did not just fall asleep on the couch and I am not now wasting the total peace and quiet in the house by working on the computer, writing this post. Nope, not me!

Day 21: Happy Summer!

Today is the Summer Solstice so I hope that you are all enjoying a summery day. It's humid and looks like it could rain any minute here, which equals summer weather for us!

We had a nice, quiet Father's Day yesterday and didn't do any shopping so our budget is still at $53.92 for the rest of the month. With some careful planning, we may be able to meet this challenge. That leaves us with just about $5 a day though!

I wanted to mention how to have summer time activities without spending a lot of money. One idea is to invite a mommy friend and her children to a park and have a picnic. The kids love it and the mommies love it as well since they get some adult conversation and are able to wear their children out at the same time.

Or let your children have a picnic in your own yard. The other day the kids were playing outside and asked for bottles of water. The next thing I know they were having their own little picnic in the front yard. It was so cute I had to snap a picture.

I just dropped the two oldest off at Vacation Bible School. It's all this week for three hours a day. The kids get to make crafts, play games, eat snacks, and learn about the Bible and Jesus and it is all free.

Libraries have summer reading programs and these events are free as well. The kids signed up for the summer reading logs and for every two hours that they read (or are read to) they get to pick out a little prize. There are also activities that we were able to sign them up for at the library and the kids are especially excited about the Zoo Show and Tell at the library this coming weekend. Again, free, fun, and educational.

Border's, Half Price Books, and Barnes and Noble all have summer reading programs for children where you can earn free books. What a great way to encourage children to read!

Hiking trails are fun ways to get out into nature. Pack a lunch and it can be an all day adventure with the family. Bike rides, walks around the neighborhood, and visiting your local parks are also fun free activities.

What do you do with your family that is fun and free (or very inexpensive)?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day! (On The Cheap)

I want to wish my dad, my husband, and all daddies out there a Happy Father's Day!

When I started this $1,200 challenge at the beginning of the month I forgot that we would have to celebrate Father's Day and Jacob's 5th birthday this month. We never throw elaborate bashes or buy real expensive presents anyway but this time around we needed to be more creative.

For Father's Day today I am making Ben a steak dinner (steak, hot dogs for the kids, sweet corn, breadsticks, pea salad, and cut up strawberries.) which will only cost $14-$15 for all of us. You can barely buy one dinner for that price at a restaurant.

I found a DVD set of All In The Family in my closet that I had intended to give him for Christmas but gave him today instead. Since we don't have cable he likes to watch shows that he used to watch on cable when he was younger. Shows like Sanford and Son, The Cosby Show, All In The Family, Three's Company, Seinfeld, and so on. I typically get him a season or two of a show for Christmas and his birthday. I've found the best prices to be on Deep Discount and the shipping is always free. I'm not getting paid to advertise for them, I just really like their website. And I hear that until tomorrow you can get 25% off many titles by just entering code 25MORE when checking out. See more details at their site.

For my dad I decided to make a double batch (it ended up being about four dozen cookies) of his all time favorite cookie (well, it probably ties with peanut butter cookies). He loves the Ginger Snaps that I started making a few years ago. As a matter of fact, everyone who tries them loves them and they are so simple to make. He can hide them from everyone else in the family by freezing them and pulling one out whenever he likes. :)

Ginger Snaps

2/3 c. vegetable oil

1 c. white sugar

1 egg

1/4 c. molasses

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 t. baking soda

1 t. ground cinnamon

1 t. ground ginger

1/2 t. ground cloves

1/3 c. white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl mix together 1 c. sugar and oil. Add egg and beat well. Stir in molasses. Ass 2 cups flour, baking soda, and spice.

Shape dough into small balls. Roll in 1/3 c. sugar. Place 3 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until tops crack.

My biggest hint is to use Organic Blackstrap Molasses. It has a different taste and everyone who has tried to duplicate my recipe says theirs don't taste anything like mine (since they use regular molasses). It has to be the differences in molasses. This picture was of cookies made without the organic blackstrap molasses since I was out. They turn out much lighter than the ones I make with the organic stuff and they do taste different. Still yummy...just not the same!

What did you all do to celebrate Father's Day?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 19: Menu and Shopping Trip

Our menu this week is:
Egg Salad Sandwiches
Grilled Cheese and tomato soup
Chicken burritos (held over from last week)
Taco Salad
Sausage and Sauerkraut Sandwiches
Steak for Father's Day
All are served with side dishes. Lunches are typically sandwiches, mac and cheese, cheese and crackers, leftovers. Breakfasts can be toast, eggs, oatmeal, yogurt, or cereal.

I must admit that we went a little overboard today with grocery shopping. The kids and hubby went with me (which is a big no-no as things go into the cart that I wouldn't put in there). Our fridge was bare and our cupboards were no better so we did a lot more stocking up than usual. I took a before and after photo of our refrigerator to show you the difference. Before:

We bought:
2 packages fresh baked buns $1.99 each
breadsticks $1.67
dozen eggs 99 cents
Goat cheese $5.89 (minus $5.50 coupon = 34 cents)
Sliced American Cheese $2.02
Brown sugar ham $3.91
shaved white turkey $2.69
Pea salad $2.31
French fries $2.96
Package ramen noodles $1.88 (hubby threw these in)
Doritos $3.99
Sauerkraut 99 cents
3 packages cookies on sale 33 cents each
2 packages alfredo noodles $1 each
4 sodas for trip home 69 cents each
pretzel rods $1.48
Mac and cheese $1.58
red beans 79 cents
cereal $2.99 (minus $1 coupon)
Mac and cheese homestyle $2.99 (minus free coupon)
Rice and bean (don't know what this was!) $1.28
Mountain Dew $1 (yucky...hubby's)
Bread $1.68
Sierra Mist $1 (hubby again)
3 cans Van Camp beans 33 cents each
Kefier on clearance $2
Cereal $2.79
Newman's Own lemonade $2
Redmond Real Salt $3.79 (this salt is the best...none of the minerals are taken out)
Yogurt cup 99 cents
bologna $1.88
hot dogs 99 cents
big container of yogurt $2.29
Cottage cheese $1.68
ziplock freezer bags $2.59 (minus free coupon)
corn tortillas $1.29
2.22 lbs. bananas $1.27
blueberries $1.88
2.27 lb. apples $2
cherry delight (natural trail mix) $2.99
4 lb. strawberries $4.88
2 avocados $2
head lettuce 89 cents
salad mix $1.79
peanuts 99 cents
organic peaches (3) $1.51
2 packages raspberries $1.88 each
6 ears sweet corn $2
1.58 lb. tomatoes $2.34
blackberries $1.50
3 lbs. vidalia onions $2.77
ground beef $2.99
Steak $6.63
Total: $108.42
Way over my $75 grocery budget. This happens every six to eight weeks. We manage to spend around $75 for weeks and then hit a time when our whole kitchen is bare and needs to be stocked up and we spend a little more. It just happened to be this week. As you can see, my husband also threw several things in the cart that I would not have bought. Which is why I often go to the store alone!

Plus, we bought Jacob his birthday gifts at Target for $22.49 (his birthday is this Thursday and more info on that later this week!). We put $20 of gas in the van. And yesterday we paid $22.36 on life insurance. We also bought some sandwiches from McDonalds on the way home from shopping and sent $8.44. So we are left with $53.92 for the next 10 days. That is cutting it close and I'm beginning to get nervous that we won't be able to make the $1,200 goal. Regardless, I think we will come in quite close...we will see!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 18

Yesterday we needed to buy a new tie out for one of our dogs as she managed to break it and run off down the street (good girl came right back when I called though!). While at Dollar General my husband picked up some gum and some canned dog food since our bulldog isn't too eager to eat after her surgery and we can at least entice her with canned dog food. She doesn't like standing up and eating since the pain in her leg must be quite uncomfortable so I spoon fed her some of the dog food and she ate it all up. Anyway, long story short we spent $10.91 and have $235.63 left for the month.

I promised some more recent garden pictures yesterday. I promised them after I weeded the garden. As you can see from the picture below, I started weeding (as seen by the small pile of pulled weeds on the lawn) but then had a million other chores to tend to so didn't finish the weeding. With a chance of storms for the next several days I decided to snap a few shots regardless of being weed-free or not.

The kids are standing behind the trellis for the cucumbers. The vines of the cucumbers are growing just long enough that today I tied some string to the trellis and will train the vines upwards and onwards. The trellis is just simple bamboo steaks, bought in a bag at The Dollar Tree for $1, that my husband nailed/twined together. This is the second year we are using it and it seems to still be in great shape. For $1 you can't go wrong with that! Next time we are at the Dollar Tree I am going to see if they have more for my beans and raspberry plants. The cucumbers thrived on being off the ground last year so if you've never grown your cucumbers on a trellis you may want to consider it this year.
This messy little garden bed is my strawberry patch. They should really take off next year but just today we had our first strawberry and Joe was the lucky person who got to eat it.
This is the whole view of the garden area. Rhubarb is in the back behind the beds (which really needs to be picked right now and sliced up to be put in the freezer). Going left to right we have brussell sprouts in the back and green peppers in the front, cucumbers in the back and more green peppers in the front with a few turnips and spinach mixed in between, several tomato plants, then the strawberry bed and a pot of cherry tomatoes beyond that. Once the turnips are ready (the kids picked one and shared it today) I will plant some beans in their space. Tomorrow I intend to plant a couple more hills of cucumbers (hope it isn't too late!) and some pots of herbs to set around the garden area. Later this summer I will plant more turnips, radishes, beans, lettuce, and spinach to have a late fall crop. In this small area we are able to produce quite a lot.
The kids and I also worked on re potting some flowers and planting a few flower seeds for some planters out front on the porch. A little late in the season to start from scratch but I think we will still be able to enjoy some blooms from those later this summer. I replanted the parsley in my small kitchen window pots as the previous plants died. I'm also giving our little houseplant a nice bask in the sun outside after spraying it down with the hose so it will be happy and squeaky clean when it gets put back in the house tonight.
And that is how we save a little on our grocery bill each summer!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 17

We are still at $246.54 left for the month. Since we are over half way through the month (two weeks from today the challenge will be over!) I think that we may be able to make it!

One thing that I wanted to mention is that had I waited a month or two for this challenge I probably would have saved more at the grocery store because our garden would be producing. The following photos were taken on April 20th, which shows just a few small plants emerging:

We do raised bed gardening and in such a small space I am able to grow quite a bit by planting things early in spring, late in spring, and late summer to get three separate crops of produce. Right now we aren't getting anything out of the garden except a few late radishes. In a month or two we will be munching on brussell sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and more which will save us a lot at the grocery store.

I will post photos of what our garden looks like now later this week. It has been so rainy the past week that it is full of weeds so I need to get out there and weed it before I snap some photos. I can't wait for summer produce and raising it in your backyard is the cheapest option for getting fresh, organic vegetables and fruits.

How is your garden growing this summer?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 16

It has been rainy and dreary for days now. I've had a serious case of cabin fever so when hubby arrived home from work we decided to take a shopping trip out of town. It is the first time in two weeks that we have traveled out of town. Unfortunately, when you travel out of town you tend to spend more money.

We stopped at Sam's Club first because we had a free one day pass. We looked around the store for quite awhile but Joe got free of the cart and ran free and chasing after him and trying to think at the same time were impossible so we left. I saw a few things that would be a good deal for us, but didn't see enough to contemplate spending $40 on a membership. Maybe next time I get a guest pass I will go alone and stock up on a few things and just pay the 10% non-member fee.

We then headed to Hy-Vee. We picked up things like bananas, apples, grapes, nectarines, and milk, and lunch meat. We also hit the day when a lot of items in the organic/health food section were marked down due to close expiration dates. I was able to get two bottles of Keifer for $2 each (yummy for breakfast!), three packages of organic yogurt for the kids marked down to $1.75 each, organic lemonade for $2, and hummus for $2.99 (yummy!). Hubby also threw a bottle of vodka in the cart which tipped the scales at $12.69. We spent $54 even there. Which leaves us at $246.54 for the remainder of the month.

I'm interested in eating more raw foods and more vegan items. I'm looking into joining a local co-op to save money on more natural foods. I'm thinking this may be a challenge for July...more to come on that later!

For now, one way that I save money on groceries is by signing up for every single free food coupon I can. Companies are going strong especially on Facebook, offering us free coupons by becoming a "fan" on Facebook. It's as easy as filling in a simple form and waiting to see what arrives in the mail. One way that I find out about all these freebies is through Hip2Save which is a website that I check daily for freebies and good deals.

Just look at these free coupons:

The free Go-gurt was found through Hip2Save. The booklet of free coupons was sent to me from Kraft First Taste, which I have blogged about before right here. Six free coupons for products with a total value of close to $20! You can't beat that when trying to save money at the grocery store. Even though it isn't all foods I normally buy it is food that we will eat and it is definitely fun trying new products that have just arrived on the market.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 15: What If Your Spouse Isn't Thrifty?

I received our electric bill in the mail and was a little shocked by the number. We paid $61 last month in electric and I thought that it would be about the same, or lower. This month is was $83. It has to be from putting the air conditioners in last month. We only used the downstairs air about five days so far but my husband seems to turn the air conditioner on in the bedroom almost every night, even when opening a window would cool it off. I've mentioned it to him but I won't nag, even though it is a shock to see how much it adds to the electric bill. There were only five or six nights that I found to be too hot/humid with the window open and did see the need for the air conditioner.

Air conditioners do use a lot of electricity in the summer, which uses up a lot of your money. Using fans whenever possible to bring cool air in from outside (such as in the cooler evening or after a rain shower) can keep your house comfortable. When using the air conditioner, setting the thermostat higher will keep your house cooler by taking the humidity out but save money as it won't be running as much. A house does not have to be cold to be comfortable.

So what happens when a household has a thrifty partner and a not-so-thrifty partner? Our electric bill would be a lot lower if I was in charge of our electricity usage. We wouldn't make so many last minute runs to the store. We wouldn't throw snack cakes and chips into the cart at the grocery store.

Don't get me wrong, my husband is not a huge money waster. He doesn't go out and buy a fancy sports car or all the new electronic gadgets. His money wasters are just in the way of small luxuries in life. Which is why I don't complain or nag, even when he is doing something that I wouldn't do. We can afford these small things in life. It would be another matter if he was using the air conditioner every night and we couldn't afford the electric bill or was buying snacks at the store when we couldn't afford basic food.

I think we balance each other out nicely. I save in a lot of areas in our life but he makes me see that it is okay to spend money on things that we don't need, but rather want. Spending money on unnecessary but "fun" things is not wrong, unless one is putting themselves into debt for those things. So in our family our money personalities compliment each other. Other couples could have problems with their spouse's spending habits. What if both partners like to spend and never save any money for a rainy day or emergency account? What if one partner is thrifty but the other spends and hides their purchases from their spouse? What if both are so thrifty that they don't enjoy the little things in life because it may cost money? These extremes exist and in those cases a financial advisor may come in handy, or following a plan such as Dave Ramsey. It is important to thrive on your paycheck but also be responsible with your earnings.

With the $83.30 electric bill being paid we now have $300.54 left for the month.

How do your spouse and your money personalities compliment or affect your money matters?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Not Me! Monday

Since this is my $1,2oo budget challenge month (read more about that in posts below) I will post about the hardships of that!

Yesterday I soooooo did not want to go shopping. It was a rainy day and I was bored out of my mind at home. I did not have to stop myself, several times, from heading to the store.

My husband did not remark that there was nothing good to snack on and that he hates this challenge. But being a good sport, he did not only say that once and then quiet down when I made him some chocolate chip cookies.

Happy Not Me! Monday!

Day 14

We didn't spend any money yesterday, which is a step up from the last few days. Believe me, I wanted to go shopping. It was a gray and dreary day and I wanted to get out of the house. Instead, we went out for a little drive and came right back home. So our total left for the month still stands at $383.84.

On Friday I was looking for something for lunch and couldn't find one thing that I felt like eating. I was sick of sandwiches, we didn't have any leftovers, and our cupboard were fairly bare. I flipped through one of my cookbooks and saw corn fritters which involves very basic ingredients. I thought I'd fry some up for lunch and eat them with some sliced cucumbers. It turned out to be a delicious lunch for a hot, lazy day.

Corn Fritters
1 can corn, drained
2 eggs
3 T. milk
3 T. flour
salt and pepper
Mix together and fry like pancakes. They turned out great in my iron skillet fried in a little butter. The recipe recommends serving with syrup or apple sauce but the kids and I like eating ours with ketchup on.


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