Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No time to blog...

because I've been doing all the things I've been blogging about! :) I've got so many great things to share with you, but as you're well aware, these things take time. I'm really enjoying it all, but it's kept me from being able to write about  most things. I'll be sure to get pictures and ideas up as soon as I get a chance. Today we went to a local farm and now I have so many fresh vegetables it'll probably take the rest of the week to get to them all. I can't wait to load up my pantry and freezer for the winter! :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Groceries-Delivered: CORRECTION!

Well...after a more thorough investigation, we've found some sad facts about the grocery delivery program. Much of what we were told about the condition of the meats actually isn't the whole truth. I'm disappointed to not be getting my groceries delivered, but even more so by the lack of honesty they displayed in their sales pitch. Lesson learned, though, always, ALWAYS, always wait out a larger financial or commitment decision over night. Thankfully, we have 3 days to cancel, so we're all good. Back to Plan A--buy meat from a local farmer whose growing/raising practices you can see first hand.


This Sunday we went to the farmer's market and had a lovely time. I'll post all about that another time this week (I got some great deals! :) I can't wait to share them with you!) While we were there I came across a booth for a company that delivers fresh, all natural, organic meats and produce.

Sidenote: I've been reading a book called The Conscience Kitchen, which talks about all the benefits of organic and local foods. It hasn't been my favorite book ever, but it has been very educational and gave me more facts to back up my already forming beliefs that some of what we are buying at the grocery store isn't exactly the best for us or the earth.

Needless to say, the booth caught my attention and so I asked for some information. They explained that I would get a weeks worth of groceries for free if I signed up for a meeting to talk to them about their program. I'm always up for anything free, especially when it's actually way more meat then we'll use in a week! :) I'm also not afraid to say no in high pressure situations, so I was confident that if this wasn't for us, we'd be okay with taking the free food and tell them we weren't interested in their services.

Well, they came this afternoon for our appointment with a box of great food along with them! :) After hearing what their program offers, we decided to give it a try. The short version is that they deliver 6 months (although we opted to spread ours out over 10 months) worth of all natural meat, fresh pastas, and organic produce to your house. They offer a freezer through them, which is an additional option if you're needing one. They then load and organize your freezer for you with all the goodies! :) YES, PLEASE! The best part is that it really is very affordable. Considering all the food we will be getting and keeping it within our current budget, it's going to be so convenient to have all that on hand and help me avoid the grocery store!

Just a few booths down there was an all natural, fresh dairy and eggs delivery service as well. I'd already decided I wanted to sign up for them before stopping by, but I wanted my husband to try their milk to see if he was on board too. They not only gave us samples to try while we were there, but they also sent us home with a half gallon of milk for free too! :) Lovely. The downside to the dairy delivery is that it will be more expensive then what we're currently spending on milk, cheese and eggs. I've been doing some research on what's in our dairy products though and it's not good. I'm feeling confident that I've been able to reduce our grocery budget enough that spending a little more for healthier food for my family is worth it in this case.

I've also been really considering baking our own breads and making our own dough for pizza, etc. So it's looking like the grocery store will be a much less frequent errand on my to do list. I think I'm going to like having my groceries delivered! :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Coupon Resources

Here are some of my favorite places to get grocery coupons:

*Our newspaper lets you subscribe to an ads/coupons only delivery for FREE. It's called YES! The Essential Shopper--maybe other areas do something similar.

I've noticed that some of our local stores are no longer accepting printed coupons, so be sure to ask before planning to use them. What sites do you use for getting grocery coupons?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's PAID for!

My bachelor's degree that is. I officially paid my last payment today!! WOO HOO!! It feels so wonderful to take bills off our bill pay page! :) Not to mention not having to worry about it each month. So, now we're going to pile it on full force on to my husband's school loans. Something to celebrate, for sure! :) YAY!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cereal Stock Up

This week our Albertson's had a special on General Mills cereals for $1.57/box. We had one box left in our stock pile, so I knew this would be a great opportunity to stock up. I also had 3 $1 off coupons for General Mills cereals too, so I was sure to read all the fine print on those to get that extra savings. After it was all said and done, I walked out with 8 boxes of cereal for about $10! That was a savings worth the extra trip!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Giant Pot Chili

Chili has to be one of the easiest things to make it bulk and can be a really inexpensive meal. This week I did just that. To cut the costs even more, I bought the bags of beans (rather then the cans) which only cost about $1 each and make a whole lot more! It did take some time, but not really "working time". The beans do need to sit over night in water to soak, but that only takes 5 minutes the night before to get them ready and then you let them cook alone for about 1 1/2-2 hours and then it's just like making your regular recipe. So, for about $5-6 I got 5 meals (maybe a little more if you count for lunches) out of it!  We ate it the night I made it and then I filled 4 large freezer storage bags with the leftovers. It's also easy and inexpensive to stretch the chili too. If you need a little extra filler you can serve it over rice and/or make cornbread or another side. I loved the savings I got out of using three bags of beans! It's a rice and beans budget, but doesn't has to always taste like it! ;)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fall Cleaning

Last week I tackled some projects in the kitchen that have been needing to be done for a while. I wanted to also do a little inventory, if you will, on what I had for cleaning supplies and in the pantry. I know there have been times that I've bought things at the store and then come home and found three more in the pantry. So, I wanted to actually KNOW what I have and what I was running low on or was needing to replace. I also wanted to know what things I should be using that I always forget are in there. All of those questions were answered!

It turned out to be a very helpful project. I now know that I have not one, but TWO bottles of hardwood floor cleaner (which then motivated me to actually use some! ;)), TWO kinds of miracle grow for the garden (I'm blaming my husband for that one! ;)), and a ridiculous amount of old candy (thank you Halloween from who knows what year--yes, it's all in the garbage now). My pantry looks fantastic because I also cleaned off every shelf and drawer and neatly organized it again. Yes, I'm a bit compulsive about things and actually made a list of what is in our pantry. I'm posting in the kitchen so that when I'm making my menus I can see what I really do have. I'll be crossing things off as I use them and adding those items to my shopping list if it's necessary. We'll see how long that "system" lasts, it could prove to me too high maintenance, but at least now I have a starting point.

I intend to do the same thing in my overflow pantry (yes, I know....ours inside is tiny...and I like to stock up!) and our freezers for the same reasons as I noted above.

Overall, I think it's a good time to really get things in order for the fall and winter. It'll hopefully cut some spending and some waste. It feels nice to see everything in my pantry now too.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Today I started meeting with a teenage mom to help her work on getting established on her own two feet again. She's currently living with her Aunt who has done a lot to help her. Today I heard her story about how she got to this place in life, and in a lot of ways, it's a sad story. A story of rejection, pain, hurt, neglect, and searching for love and acceptance. A story full of naive and uniformed decisions. A story of survival. It's good for me to hear the heart of a teenage mom, because I often times find myself judging their choices, but in a lot of ways, her parents fell short and contributed to this outcome. It gave me a lot of compassion and sympathy for her, she's still a child looking for love.

The exciting thing is that as I talked to her I told her I wanted to teach her ways to become independent and to be able to provide for herself and her baby. She loved that idea and is excited about having some tools to help her get out on her own. I was really honest with her though about how difficult it'll be and told her it's going to take a lot of work on her part. I'm happy I can help her though and hopefully be someone who makes a positive difference in her life. Next week, we're going to work on getting her set up on a budget so she'll be able to start paying for her baby's needs.

I guess I'll always be a teacher. The teacher in me wants everyone else to know what I've learned. I guess that's why the blog too. If I'm learning something new and helpful, I figure others will benefit from the same information. So, this time with this young mom is much like a teaching and learning experience for me. I hope some of the tools that I'm working on right now will be the beginning of positive tools for her and eventually a great future for her and her little girl.

Laundry Soap Solutions

So I've noticed on other websites that people have had trouble with the homemade laundry soaps. A lot of people have complained about leaving clothes a little dingy, which I can see too. Others have complained about a foul smell, but I haven't noticed that problem at all. The Fels-Naptha smells strong in mine. Anyway, I saw a recommendation from Grocery Shrink newsletter where a lady  wrote about this great product called Mrs. Stewarts blueing liquid. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm going to probably get that to add to my laundry to see if it helps keep clothes looking nice and fresh. Thought I'd pass that on to anyone else who may be using some homemade laundry soaps. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I made it! :)

This morning it randomly occurred to me that tomorrow is the end of my two week no grocery shopping goal. The awesome thing is that I wasn't feeling frantic about needing to get to the store asap! In fact, if I don't go tomorrow, it certainly won't be the end of the world. It's nice to set goals like that an then realize afterwards that you've been able to  meet it all along. It's good confirmation that I don't NEED to go to the store every week. I love being able to not add that chore to my list each week. I think as I do a better job of sticking to our menu that'll get even easier. So may next month I'll have to set a three week goal...yikes, that sounds intimidating...

Are you a goal setter? What kind of goals to you set for yourself to accomplish things you want for you or your family? What savings goals have you set?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Not gonna lie...

The 'beauty' of a blog like this one is that I have the freedom to only share the positives of our journey navigating the some times intense moments along the way. It's kind of meant to be a positive, uplifting blog full of great ideas and tips for you, the readers, to be able to join in on the ride too. Well, today you're not getting one of those posts.

Ugh. sigh. Have you ever had those moments when you feel like things are just falling to pieces around you? Well, it's been feeling that way for the last few days with this money makeover. I know that's a little dramatic, since it's really not THAT bad, but there are times when it's just plain discouraging and the truth is that's where I'm at.

Why? Well, we were hoping to be able to finish paying of the student loan that only had a small balance left on it with this last paycheck and be able to cross that bill right off our list. Unfortunately, a few things caught up to us and that didn't work out. If you recall we had a credit card bill to pay this month--thankfully our last forever, but that took quite a chunk out of our income this month. Sigh. The other thing that we've been having to do is survive with about $600 of our income not coming in. Thankfully, we'll be back to making that at the end of September, but that too has "caught up" to us. Long story short, we barely had enough to have ANY cash for the next two weeks. It's significantly less then our normal allowance for each category, but I know we'll be fine with that. The thing that makes me the most bummed is that in order to have any money for gas and groceries for the next two weeks, we had to put off the student loan payment. It just feels like a bit of a step backwards. Then, to add to the already feeling down, we found out today that the Comcast deal, wasn't so much of a "deal". Ugh! I'm really irritated by that, but I'll get over it. The short version is that some things were lost in translation and the price they quoted us TWICE, by two different people, wasn't the full picture and our bill was significantly higher then expected. So, today we said good bye to cable, and argued our way out of several fees to get our bill back down to a normal range. Now, what we thought was going to be a $35/mo bill is back to a $70/mo bill minus cable. It was irritating to say the least. This too will be alright, though.

The positive side? It's all going to work out. We'll just have to put it off until the next paycheck and then hopefully our cash system will have been in place longer and things will be more of a fresh start going into next month. We won't have the credit card any more, we're used to the cash system, we're doing a good job saving where we can and we're super determined to get out from under this debt. Our income will be back to it's normal range again and we'll be better at handling it all now that we are more intentional with our spending. It's all good. This is where that perspective post comes back to mind. It's only a two week set back...

Thanks for being readers that understand that reality is not always upbeat. Thanks for being a place where honesty is accepted and having it together isn't required! :) Phew...otherwise we'd be in trouble!! ;) Keep your ideas and thoughts coming, because the truth really is, we're all learning together.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bread Crumbs--Lesson Learned!

Common sense tells me that IF...

1. Stale bread molds quickly
2. Stale bread that was frozen, was frozen, to keep it from molding


Bread crumbs made from stale bread should either
1. be used immediately
2. be frozen for future use

and NOT left in the pantry to mold

Yep....that's what common sense would do, but apparently not me. So, for those of you making bread crumbs, take it from me--you should definitely do what common sense would tell you to and NOT what I did! :-/

Just passing that on, in case someone else may have been tempted to ignore the advice of "common sense." :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Menus-Post #2

I'm a "systems" girl. I do well with plans and organization. A lot of those that know me well and have seen my house, know that I'm a label nerd! I like everything labeled and organized. If you ask me, I think in the long run it saves time and money if you know where your things are and where to put them back when you're done. (Not that it always works with 2 little ones in the house, but we try at least!) when it came to menus I wanted a system. I'm not always good about writing out a menu every single week and the idea of doing that for the next how ever many years just sounded daunting! I needed a system.

I know there are others out there like me--just admit it--so for those that like to have a plan here's my system.

I started with using the free templates that I found online. There were other kinds too, but this is the one I liked the best because it also included a grocery list on the side.

Then, I had to deal with the idea of doing this every week--forever--that's just not working for me. So, I decided to do a file system. I have a hanging file holder that is sitting completely empty right now and it needed a job. So, it's now become my menu files.

System summary-- a year's worth of menus, recipes and grocery lists created and rotated each year.

Once my idea was formed I had to start working on it. Sadly, I didn't have all the materials I needed to complete the project. I had my "no store" goal going, so I didn't want to mess that up by going to buy things, and I knew if I put it off too long, it would fall through the cracks. I had to get creative. I needed folders--didn't have any, BUT I had a huge supply of construction paper and glue. I just glued two pieces of the same color of paper together at the edge and voila--folders! :) I made 12 in 4 different colors and labeled them "Week #__"

Then, I wanted to have an envelope with recipes for each week in the folders along with that week's menu and grocery list. Half way through, my plan changed to just having an envelope for that month's recipes paper clipped together for each week. Not sure, how I feel about the change yet...

Anyway, the plan for the folders is to have that week's menu, grocery list, store adds, and coupons in it so it's all easily accessible that given week.

Then, the hanging file will hold all four weeks worth of menus for the month. Here is what my September folder looks like:

Each of the colored folder has one of the white pages in it all filled out with most of the days menu filled in and then a master grocery list with the ingredients needed for all the  meals that week. 

I'm hoping to do 2 weeks to a month worth at a time and then file them away at the end of the month. Then, next year all I'll have to do is pull out the month we are in, make a few updates based on sales, coupons and foods we have on hand and it'll be ready! :) 

I'm purposefully leaving at least three days left unplanned so that I'll have options to incorporate new ideas, allow for flexible schedule changes and to avoid the over planning problem. It also has a space to leave notes for each day, so as I have adaptations or thoughts I'll write them on there so I remember it the following year. I've also decided to be vague on some of the side dishes, for example instead of writing in green beans, I put "green vegetable" to allow me to buy based on sales each year. I've also done that with things like potatoes, instead of saying "baked potato" I just wrote, "potatoes", so I can chose the variety to make depending on mood and time. The general idea is there though, so it's "planned" just not overly specific. 

I decided to make a few extra "envelopes" for recipe ideas that I come across throughout the year. There is one for "Recipes to Try", "Recipes to add to the Menus", "Recipes for Special Events" and "Recipes for this Week". That last one will be hanging on the inside of my cupboard door so they are easy to get to each week and I'll just switch them out from the monthly folder with the new additions I've added that year.

-Seasonal foods will still be rotated at the appropriate months
-A year's worth of work can be used for several to come
-Space allowed for change & new ideas
-A master grocery list is already created, so each week I'll just be able to look at that list to form the one I'll take to the store with the items I don't already have on hand to avoid over buying
-You can plan your grocery list based on two weeks or more of menus since you have it all pre-planned and avoid the need to shop every week. 
-Allows for coupon/specials planning. If you know what you'll be needing in the next few weeks you can buy them when you see them on sale/have coupons for them. 
-No more wondering "what's for dinner?" at 5 PM! 
-Not feeling stuck in a rut with the same meals over and over again!
-Less eating out 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Raising the Next Simple Girl

I just went to get my daughter for lunch and she told me, "Mom, just a minute, I'm making baby food for my babies!" Yep, she's already learned that homemade baby food works great for those babies you love in your life! :)

Menus-Post #1

Menus. Sigh. I've tried them before and have had a love/hate relationship with them. Loved not always trying to figure out dinner plans at 5 PM when everyone is hungry, nothing is thawed and not a single thing in the pantry looks appetizing. Having a plan works well for me. On the other hand, I hated having way too much food that needed to be used and if our plans changed at all during the week, food would go bad. Can anyone else relate?

Plan B-flexible menus with only 4-5 days worth of ideas using similar ingredients. That's what I've found to be the best scenario for our family. I've been looking into menu ideas, tips, plans and systems to get an idea of how I could do this effectively and consistently.

The highlights from my research:
*Using similar ingredients is key to savings
*Don't try to make every meal "gourmet"
*Simplify the list of ingredients
*Be flexible on the days
*Make extra for future weeks
*Don't over plan/buy--allow for days to use leftovers, being invited over, etc.

So I've been working on a system that incorporates the bulk of those suggestions and I think I found the best solution/system for us. I started working on it yesterday and so far I like it! :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I'm going to be a better coupon-er. It's one of my goals for this year to really work at getting a better system in place to use coupons wisely and not just casually. Here are few things I know already, and I'm sure I'll learn a lot more as I do it more often.

*Some stores offer weeks where they will double/triple coupons up to $1
*Combining coupons with weekly specials gets you even better deals
*Using multiple coupons for the same product can you things for really cheap or even free!
*Being a good coupon-er requires some organization, so you can use them effectively & with limited time consumption
*It's never good to use coupons on things you don't's just a little less wasteful! :)
*Planning your grocery list, menus and shopping list around your coupons is beneficial

What other nuggets of information should I know about coupon-ing? Does anyone know of good resources for getting coupons?

If you're a local reader you can subscribe to a Sunday delivery of specials and coupons by calling 303-832-3232. It's legit, I promise! :) I get it every week and love it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One Week Down, One to Go

On my grocery store goal, that is. So far this week hasn't been difficult at all and I think we have plenty of fresh produce from our garden and what I bought last week to get us through the next week. I'm feeling optimistic about making the goal. Oh man, if I could go to the grocery store less often in my life....I think I could get used to this change! :) It's one of my least favorite errands anyway!!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Cash Budget FAQ

As I've been talking to people about our cash budget I've heard some of the same questions. A lot of people have tried the cash budget system before (we did too) and have had problems. Our first attempt failed miserably as well, so we've learned a few new things this time that have helped with some of the "quirks". I figured I'd do some FAQ to get some of the answers out to people that are looking to give it a second try!

What are your budget categories and how to you do know what to put under each category?
Our categories are Groceries, Entertainment, Gas/Car, Clothes, Personal and Individual "fun" money.
Groceries only includes food for us. You can do it however works for you, but we decided to take toiletries, cleaners, diapers, etc out of that category. Entertainment includes any outings or hanging out that the family goes on, eating out also goes under this category. Gas/Car includes oil changes and money for registration each year. Clothes is one category for the whole family. Personal includes all the household items that don't go under groceries. It also includes things like haircuts, one time expenses that don't go under other categories like carpet shampooing. This also includes pet expenses if you have them. In our relationship it works well for each of us to have some money that is ours to spend any way we want. It's basically a little bit of "freedom" money for each of us and it protects against our family entertainment budget being used by one individual's hobby/hang out times. So we each (the adults) have a monthly spending allowance too. Gifts is not taken out monthly, but we set money aside for those special occasions each month. 

Keep in mind that if you are working on getting out of debt, you need to be willing to make sacrifices in EVERY category of spending. There is no category that can be "off limits" to have some cuts for a month or two. If it's gas money, then maybe you'll have to stay home a few nights a week or find things to do that are closer to home. Same goes for every category, sacrifices will be required of you in all areas in order to get out of debt. 

What do you do if your income isn't consistent each month? 
This was one of the ways we messed up the first time. We tried to figure out how much we needed for each category every month without figuring out that each month might need to look a little different and that our income might not always be exactly the same amount either. This time around, we made some changes. First of all we evaluate our cash budget every two weeks, based on my husband's paycheck. Second of all, we have learned that some areas are going to have to be "flexible" amounts and some weeks we'll have to make do with less in some categories.

How do you know how much to take out for your budget?
We estimated a reasonable amount for each category. We used Dave Ramsey's percentage chart to help guide our amounts too. During months that we have the full amount to spend, we'll take it all out and categorize it, otherwise we have to cut in the areas that we are able to for that month. For us it didn't work to do all the cash budget for the whole month at one time. We ended up taking out too much of one paycheck and didn't leave us enough to cover all of our bills. 

What do you do with large budgets that are spent at a certain time of year (ie. Christmas, car registration)?
You can do this a few ways. You can have it as a category in your cash budget and set it aside all year in an envelope designated for that expense or you can have a savings account that you transfer money into each month to keep that money available. If it's something like Christmas, you can shop throughout the year and have an amount you can spend each month and just keep the presents hidden away until December. It still needs to be part of what you are "spending" each month, so that it doesn't land all in one month. 

How do you handle automatic payments? Online Payments?
Any automatic payments that we had scheduled on credit cards were cancelled. Now we either do it on our debit card or through bill pay. We don't use our credit card for anything any more. If you are used to paying your bill online for each individual company, then you would start using a debit card for those payments. Remember to account for these purchases when figuring out your total outgoing for the month to make sure you don't over spend. 

What do you use for online purchases?
Again, credit cards are banned! If you need to make a purchase online (which we have continued to do regularly) you need to use your debit card. If it is bought after you've figured out your cash amounts, then you'll need to take the cash out of the envelope for the category it falls under and re-deposit it into your account. This may require you putting off buying it until you get to the bank. 

How do you use Bill Pay with the cash system? 
I still pay all our bills online through our bank. Every two weeks when we get a paycheck I'll first pay every bill that is due before the next paycheck and subtract that from our income. If there are bills due after the next pay check, but I'm not sure we'll have enough to cover them from one check, then I'll pay additional bills with the first check. Once the bills are all paid, then I will figure out our cash amounts. Keep in mind that since I'm doing it every two weeks, the cash budget totals are in half, so that it gets us through the whole month. 

**Side Note: Tithing/Charitable Giving
This is part of our personal conviction and family values, but it is also addressed through the Dave Ramsey program, so I'm addressing it in case this is a question others are wondering about. Our family believes that we should give 10% of our monthly income to our local church and when we have it to give we give above that amount to other charities, missions' organizations or ministries we feel the urge to support. This is an area where Dave Ramsey agrees with us, even during the debt diet, giving to God is never eliminated from your budget. In our house it is the only "budget" that is non-negotiable. We have always believed that no matter what our financial situation, living in obedience to God's instruction about giving has been our priority. It is also what has carried us through really difficult situations. When you live by faith, God provides for you. Now who doesn't want God to be your financial advisor and institution? 

I hope this helps with some of the quirks of a cash budget. If you have other questions, leave a comment and hopefully we'll be able to come up with an answer, if not me, maybe another reader! 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pass the croutons, please!

I just got this idea from my friend Jessie and it's so good I had to share with all of you!

Remember all that old bread that you were storing in your freezer to make bread crumbs with? Well, here is another way to use some of it. Homemade croutons.

Cut up stale bread into cubes
Place it on some wax paper on a cookie sheet
Season with some butter, salt and herbs
Bake for 15 minutes at 375 degrees, flipping them half way through

Almost as easy as bread crumbs! I think I'm becoming a big fan of stale bread. Who has another use for it?

Eliminating the Waste

*WARNING--this is a soap box (a homemade one, of course) post! :)

Much of what we've been doing has been working on ways to cut out the 'wastefulness' of in our lives. We certainly have not been perfect at it and I see areas that really need improvement, but the goal is there. The need for change exists, that's the beginning.

If you really sit and think through the American lifestyle, we are such wasteful people. It's really embarrassing to think that our country is using WAY more then our share of the world's resources in relation to our population. In large part it's because we aren't wise users and stewards of our resources. Here are some of the things I can note just off the top of my head, where waste is unnecessary and yet very prevalent:

*Food consumption--our country consumes way more food then what we 'need'. We are a 'want' society.
*Food industry--there is wasteful spending and use of resources going on in our food industry and their methods of manufacturing/producing foods. Product packaging is another way we aren't using our resources wisely. A lot of products are over packaged, using up plastic, cardboard, paper, metal, aluminum, etc more than we need to be. (Which is also a pollution issue)
*Food production--on an average day thousands of packages of good food is thrown out at bakeries, grocery stores, and restaurants because too much was made or bought, more than could be sold within the timeframe boundaries. The truth is that much of that food is TOTALLY fine and edible, but because we are a 'picky' society we like all our packages to look perfect and our bread to be less than two days old. In most parts of the world the food we throw away, because it doesn't meet our 'standards' of acceptable food, would be used and be perfectly fine. *Note: I'm not saying that we shouldn't have standards and ways of protecting ourselves from disease and food that has legitimately gone bad, my point is that I think sometimes we've taken our "concerns" too far.
*Food Costs--a result of our poorly managed food production, the costs on a lot of products are out of proportion with the products and the consumers are either forced to or willing to over spend.
*Over use of products like aluminum, paper & plastic. I noted this above with over packaging issues, but it's also related to other areas too, like the business world, schools, toys, and just over all production. We, Americans, are using more then our fair share.
*Utilities--water, gas, electricity. There is waste all over the place when it comes to these areas.
*Time--enough said.
*Land--do you know that the average size single family home is substantially larger then it was just 20-30 years ago? Do we really 'need' the size of homes we have or is that just because we have too much stuff because we are wasteful and have more then what we need? Alright...I'll stop there. I don't want to step on too many toes! ;)

The point is, we need to start evaluating what we're doing (myself included) that is contributing to what  is becoming a global problem. There is enough food produced to feed everyone living on our planet. So why are people going hungry? Is our wasteful production keeping people hungry? Oh man, I pray we are better then that. I pray that we recognize that we have the power to influence and make changes in our habits that don't just help our families, but that literally change the world. If the changes I make for my family could make a great impact for those that don't have food for their families-every change is worth any amount of sacrifice I make.  The truth is that our dollar is our voice, our spending is our vote. We hold the power to voice our opinion on these issues. Okay, I'm off the soap box now.

So what changes can we make? How can we cut some of the waste out of daily living? Here are some of my ideas, please share yours too by leaving comments!

-Find ways to avoid the "convenience" items at the store. Those are some of the most wasteful products made. They are seriously overpriced, they usually use more packaging then the actual products themselves, they take a lot of resources to make and then there is the shipping/gas/trucking expenses to get them to your store. Some of those items literally are growing in our backyards and farms down the street, why are we willing to pay to have them trucked in from the other side of the country? That is money that could stay in your pocket!
-Grow produce, herbs, even flowers and plants in a garden. It's good for nature, it's a great teaching tool for your children, it's good for your health, it cuts down on waste on several levels, it's good for your checkbook. Need any more reasons?
-Go back to basics of cooking. It's about avoiding those convenience items again. Make your own "mixes" while you're cooking, just add the ingredients into a ziplock bag, label it and save it for next time. Cooking from scratch, using your ingredients in alternative ways (like the bread crumbs with old bread, making your own hash browns, using oil, vinegar & seasonings as dressings).
-Reuse or recreate things in your home to avoid them going into a landfill.
-Borrow and lend. Remember when people felt free to use things from their neighbor's pantries? Be a good neighbor, share your resources and others will share with you. Here's an example of something we've done: our neighbor next door was an 'older' single gal who had a lot of gardening and lawn tools from when she and her husband lived in their previous home. My husband offered to mow her lawn for her and take care of her yard in exchange for use of her lawn mower & garden tools. Do we all really need to own a lawn mower? I'm sure she would've let us borrow it even if we didn't mow her lawn, but we believe that we are called to care for those around us. So what better and easier way to show care for her then to help her with things that we are capable of doing for her? That's a win-win right there. We saved money on gardening/lawn products and she didn't have to worry about her lawn. *Now that she's moved (sad), we got an old fashioned push mower (no power, no gas) for about $15 at a garage sale and use that instead! :) It saves money on a gym membership too! ;)
-There are a lot of ways to cut waste on utilities. This is an area we haven't been great about tackling, yet. One of the areas I want to focus on is cutting out some of this waste. Some of it can be as easy as teaching my kids to shut things off when they are done with them and turning out lights when they leave a room. Also, changing over to power strips will probably be coming soon! :) I know there are a lot of online resources for creative and easy ways to cut back. I've posted about some for saving water. Here are some resources for saving on electricity, and a few more and this one is a really cool site. I also know that most areas have "peak" usage areas where they charge you  more to use your utilities during that time of day. I think you can look that up on your provider's website. I think around here it's after 9PM, so it's best to run your dishwasher, washer/dryer after that time of day. Most of them also offer rebates and discounts for being more efficient, which can easily be found on their websites.
-Another way to save on utilities is to do full loads of laundry and dishes. I've also been trying to reduce the amount of laundry I do each week (mostly because it's crazy how much laundry I do and I hate having to put it all away afterwards--uh! it seems to never be done). Also, because not all of it was necessary. For example, I've been having our oldest wear her PJs, pants and dresses more then once before washing them, unless they are obviously dirty. She's not wearing them long enough, sweating in them or getting them dirty enough to wash every time she wears them (especially when she's having those days that she changes her outfit every few hours, just because she likes the "new" outfit better!)
-Save on gas, here is a list of some ideas.
-Time. Yikes, that's a hard one for me. It's so easy to waste time on useless things. I think I'm going to start setting timers for certain tasks to keep me focused on what I'm there to accomplish and then move on when I'm done. There is something about a time-crunch that makes people, me especially, more productive.
-Being more cautious, thoughtful and aware of how we are spending our money.

So, there are a few thoughts. When it comes down to it, waste in any form is also a waste of money and that's something no one wants. Bring on the ideas, friends! :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010


There are days that my perspective is focused on how big of a mountain our school debt is and I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, and hopeless that this will ever be paid off. Then there are other days when I see others who have more debt and they are working hard at getting out of it and their stories inspire me to keep going, with a change in my perspective.

A little background story. My husband and I moved out to Colorado with two stable full time jobs and a decent income. We always knew that I would be a stay at home mom, so we tried to get used to living on just my husband's income, so that when it came time for me to quit we wouldn't be in shock! We bought a smaller house then what we qualified for because we knew we didn't ever want to get in over our heads. Thankfully, we were realistic about that and had wise counsel when we were making that purchase. Sadly, we bought at the peak of the market and bad loans. So, our home value has dropped significantly and we are one of the thousands of Americans with an awful and unstable mortgage situation. Despite that we are happy to be in our home and God has always provided for us and we know He'll continue to do so. Since there isn't much we can control in that situation, we live by faith. It's also a reason we are working so hard at getting ourselves into a better financial position before our loan rates increase. Anyway, shortly after we moved here my husband's job (a ministry position) wasn't able to pay him a full salary any more, so he started looking for work. He found decent jobs, but as we were looking at starting a family, we knew his income wouldn't provide for me to be at home. That's when nursing school came into the picture. Looking back on it, we were lied to, flat out and it makes me mad, but I'm trying to not hold onto that bitterness. As we were looking at him enrolling into school the admissions counselor was telling us about the $10K sign on bonuses and all  the loan repayment options that were available to nurses, etc. Well, none of that was really true, at least not here. There is one hospital that offered a sign on bonus and it was like $1,500 or $2,000 and required several years commitment and even that was a limited situation. Loan repayment options are ridiculously hard to qualify for and there are so many people applying that the percentage of people getting them is very small. We've applied twice and the first time were denied and this time, we're still waiting to hear if we got it. So what we thought would happen, didn't at all. The bills are all ours to pay--ugh! It's irritating that we weren't able to make that decision with the real information. It's one thing to go into it knowing full well the situation you're signing up for and totally different when you think there will be options available to help you on the other side. Once we came to terms with the real situation we've worked really hard at taking care of things, but it's been hard.

My husband has been a nurse for about 3 1/2 years and I've been a stay at home mom since then too. Literally, the same week! :) During that time frame we have gone from $55K-ish in school debt to $37K-ish, we've paid off both cars (some where around $10K-I can't remember exactly how much we had left), finished our basement $4,500, and paid for our son's hospital bill around $2,000.

Perspective--when I look at those numbers from that perspective, I'm so blessed by our progress. I know some people have done things much quicker then that, but God has really taken care of us. He has provided for us enough that even as a stay at home mom we've been able to pay off debt and still have the means to pay for the larger things that "came along" in life too. The amazing part in all of that is that we weren't working nearly as hard on it as we are now, so that gives me an extra boost of encouragement too. If we made that much progress without being SO intentional about it, imagine what we can do while being THIS intentional.

I read a story today about a family of 5, with 3 little kids, who paid of $89K debt in 6 months! Crazy, huh? Not only that, but in that time frame they also had a 3 month emergency fund saved and $40K for a down payment on a house AND she was a stay at home mom and her husband's income was $40K/year (that doesn't include the extra jobs they took on during that time frame). Are you kidding me?!?! Talk about motivation. If they can do that in 6 months, what could our life look like in 6 months to a year? I'm not sure we'll be doing that well that fast, but that's still an encouraging story. I do need to note that they did sell a house with $30K equity that really helped them. I'm still impressed though.

All this to say, perspective really is a magical thing. When you look at the progress you've made rather then focusing on the mountain you're climbing, it makes the rest of that climb seem possible again.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My To Do List

I'm discovering all kinds of ways to save money that I had never even thought about. So, I'm making a list of money saving ideas to do as I get a chance. I'm sure this list will grow as I keep researching and learning more about cutting out unnecessary expenses and protecting our world.

Here's what I have so far:

*Make reusable swiffer covers--genius idea I never even thought of! Click on these links for ideas and patterns. Reversible Cover , Fleece Cover and Duster, Duster "how to"
*Make homemade dryer sheets
*Transition to homemade/natural cleaners like vinegar, baking soda, borax, washing soda, etc. for most, if not all, household cleaners
*Limit Paper Products: Use cloth napkins instead of paper (I'm hoping to make a few sets of cute ones out of scrap fabrics to save on the cost, unless I can find them at the $1 store or on clearance), cloth rags instead of paper towels (this is such an easy change and it costs nothing to use old clothes, old washcloths or towels instead of throwing them away or donating them). 
*Use Rain Water- we want to look into setting up a rain barrel or finding a way to store up rain water to use it for our garden. You can also plant a garden that soaks up the rain well, so there is less waste too. 
*Make/use a gray water system. This is basically a bowl that sits in on your sink that connects to a larger container under your sink. The purpose is to use your gray bowl when you're waiting for water to get hot/cold so you are essentially saving that water into a container rather then letting it run down the drain. You then use your gray water for cleaning, gardening, etc. 
*Find ways to reuse/recycle more products we use
*Start stretching our meats by trying recipes that add a stuffing to them. Never would have thought of this, but it makes perfect sense. You end up using less meat, but can get really full from meats that have extra yumminess tucked inside them. 
*Become a better grocery shopper--come prepared for what we really need/will use, use a coupon system, watch for specials & coupon combinations
*Organize my stockpile in the pantry and freezer to avoid wasteful spending and things going bad. 
*Plan weekly/monthly menus to avoid extra spending on "quick meals" or unused groceries and also to make meals based on local sales and planning in using our "stock pile". 

I've already started working toward some of these plans, but some will take more time. I'm excited for the possibilities these ideas open up. I'll be sure to give you updates on my progress and what I learn along the way. As always, I love hearing your ideas and suggestions too, so please fill me in! :) 

By the way, I'm currently addicted to Tipnut. That has to be one of the greatest websites. If you go to the   "household tips", you'll see a list of other sections like "frugal living", "green living", "homemaking" and some others, but that way you can browse things that may be more specific to your family's needs. It's fantastic! 

Happy saving, friends!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Goal--Avoid the Grocery Store

I heard some where at one point that every time you enter the grocery store you spend a certain percentage more then you intend to because you grab a few "ohhh, that looks good" kind of items. I've been trying to find that actual stat, but can't track it down. Regardless, I found all kinds of websites with tips on how to spend less at the grocery store and most had a lot in common. Some of the most frequent suggestions were

1. Going by the unit price, rather then the actual price.
2. Shop in season/sales
3. Don't fall for all the "sales"/ buy 10 and save, kind of deals. They aren't always cheaper in the long run.
4. Going with a list
5. Shopping on a budget
6. Making a menu to use similar items for the week
7. Eating more simple meals with less ingredients
8. Don't go to the store hungry
9. Avoid buying too many snacks/junk food and focus on meals
10. Have items you use frequently on hand to avoid frequent trips to the store

AND that's the one I'm focusing on today. I started noticing those "impulse" purchases after hearing that statistic, so ever since then I've been working on avoiding that impulse buying OR just avoiding the store all together. So, around here, I have things stocked up that we use often and try to keep things on hand that I know we use on a regular basis. For example, instead of buying one gallon of milk and going back next week for another one, I'll buy 2 or 3 (depending on how much freezer space I have available) and freeze the other two. YES, you can freeze milk and if you do it correctly you won't notice a difference in the consistency. First, you need to pour some out into your current jug to allow enough room for the milk to expand when frozen and not burst open your container. About a day or two before you're going to be ready for your milk take it out of the freezer and leave it out to TOTALLY thaw. It's important that it thaws all the way before you use it. Give it a shake or two before you pour it and it'll be fine. If you're really particular about your milk you may notice a difference, but we never have. Just taking that extra trip to the store just saved me a bunch of money because I won't go in and buy a whole lot of other things I never intended to get while buying milk.

So, like my title says, my goal is to avoid the grocery store for the next two weeks. Do you think I can do it? I went to the store today and spent about $50 on groceries and another $30 or so on household items, diapers and wipes. We're well stocked on all the basics and our pantry has plenty of regular items in it to get us through all the meals we'll need. I'm sure they'll be the occasional  item that I missed, but my goal is to put off buying it until I really need to go to the store for a list worth of groceries. Anyone else want to try it? :) I'll let you know how it goes...


Who doesn't like a good freebie? Ever since our daughter came along, I've been working harder at finding good deals for things to do as a family. During one of my searches for free or cheap outings I came across a website "On the cheap" and they have a network for all major cities/metros. This website has provided us with countless opportunities to do family outings for really inexpensive and/or free.

Another awesome thing that our city does is provide free days at the local museums and zoo. It's such a great perk. They decided to schedule a number of days throughout each year that are free admission for all state residents. Each attraction sets their own dates, so they are usually all on different days, so the variety of options is awesome. It's one of the few things that we throughly enjoy as tax payers! :) Which seems only fair anyway, right? If we pay taxes, shouldn't we benefit from the places we pay for? I sure think so!

Just this week we got to go to the Museum of Nature and Science for free. One of my favorite things about free days is that if you're kids are having a huge meltdown and you've only made it through two exhibits, you don't feel bad leaving, you really aren't out any money anyway! :)

If discovered a short search on the internet and you can find all kinds of deals in your area. Kids eat free nights, free attractions, discounts for families, etc. Google is amazing, isn't it!?!? :)
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