Friday, November 26, 2010

Family Dinner

There are so many benefits to having dinner together as a family. I love spending that time in the evening enjoying each others company and modeling good eating and manners for our kids too! ;) It's been a priority of mine to have dinner as a family each night, at least as often as possible. It has required us to work around my husband's work schedule, but it's an adjustment that has given us many benefits.

What I like even more then just sitting around the table to eat are the opportunities when we can make the cooking a family experience too. Last weekend we had one of those fun moments and I wanted to share the idea with you!

I had some coupons for the pre-made refrigerator pizza crusts, so I thought I'd give them a try. The next evening we pulled them out and gathered up any ingredients in our fridge that could work as pizza toppings. We divided them up into 4 individual sized pizzas. My husband and I did the chopping and pouring and then let the kids top their pizzas. All of them ended up having something different on them! Our daughter loved being able to make her own dinner and was especially happy about eating it. Our son was a little too young to full grasp the fun, but he still enjoyed the process too.

After we finished eating my husband and I talked about how lovely of a family time that had been and it didn't take hardly any effort or money to create a great memory!

Thursday, November 25, 2010


We have SO much to be thankful for this year. We have been so blessed by God and his goodness to us. We have a beautiful family, all of us have our health, we have all that we need and even lots of extra bonuses and 'wants'. I'm thankful that this year has been a year of learning and growth in the area of our finances and also in our ability and desire to serve and reach out to those around us. The list goes on! Thank you for joining us on this journey too!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A raise = an extra blessing!

This week my husband was offered a new job, which also comes with a raise. We are so thankful for this pay increase because it's giving us the opportunity to pay off debt quicker. We know that God has provided this for us and count it as a blessing from Him on our family. I'm certain God is pleased with our desire to have our finances in order and honor Him by living within our means. It's a further testament to His provision for us. God is SO good to us!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Expensive time of year

Here we go again. November and December seem to always hit our budget hard! Between Christmas gifts, donations and gifts to charities and ministries, extra parties and events to attend and buy tickets too, traveling expenses to see family. The list just keeps going...I'm sure you're all familiar with all the same expenses. Then, by January we're all shell shocked by the bills coming in and the total amount of money we've spent over the holiday season.

I'd encourage you to make this year different. We've been working on making the changes necessary for our family to not feel these effects in January and I'm hoping we won't.

Here are some things we're doing differently that maybe will give you some ideas for saving too:
-Saved for the last few months and continue to put money away for gifts (I got a later start on this this year, and hoping to do some of our shopping throughout the year next year).
-Saved and continue to put money away for our trip to see family for holidays
-Staggered our shopping, so we could pay for it as we bought things
-Waited for sales on items we knew we would need for gifts or dinner gatherings
-Paid cash for everything! This is really the key. If you're paying for things with cash as you go along, it ensures you stay on budget.
-Being realistic about what we can afford and who we can buy for
-We hardly buy anything for our kids. They get a lot of gifts from family, so we buy one or two larger gifts for them and then a few small things for their stockings and that is always plenty!

What ideas do you have? What are you doing to save money this holiday season?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Easy Dinner!

Tonight I discovered a really easy recipe, so of course, that means I need to share it with you! :) I found this recipe in "Don't Panic-Dinner's in the Freezer" cookbook that I just got a week ago. I've been trying some of the recipes before I make a lot to freeze to see which we really enjoy. Since I didn't want to go to the grocery store for a bunch of ingredients, I chose some of the recipes that were made with ingredients I usually have on hand.

The first one I tried was a little more labor intensive and time consuming and not a fam favorite, but it certainly wasn't bad either.

But tonight's, was so easy, that I'm sure I'll keep in our list of meals and just jazz it up a bit like I did tonight. I think it took me less than 10 minutes to get this dinner going. It's called Taco Soup.

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 package of taco seasoning
1-15 oz can of diced tomatoes (I used Rotel or diced tomatoes with green chilies)
1-15 oz can corn
1-15 oz can kidney beans (or black if you prefer)
1-15 oz can pinto beans
1-15 oz can water (this one was a little tricky, but we found some! ;) ).

Instructions: Brown the hamburger and onion in a large saucepan/pot. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until hot or for about 30-40 minutes. That's it!

It's so easy to get it going. I did add some salt and pepper to it and also added some yummy toppings that added a great amount of flavor to it. I cut up avocado (another regular item around here!), sour cream, shredded cheese and chopped fresh cilantro. I'm not sure it would've been as good without those things, but it all depends on what you like! ;)

So tuck this idea away for a night when you need to get dinner going in a hurry while you work on other things and dinner will be ready when you are!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Refrigerator Update and Stock Pile Tips!

For anyone who cares, and even if you don't, I'm reporting about the status of my refrigerator! About five minutes after posting my last post, I was in the kitchen emptying shelves. It took me a good chunk of time, but the inside of the fridge is looking amazing! While I was cleaning it, I was imagining the thank you note it will be sending me here any day now. :) Seriously, how does a refrigerator with all closed containers in it get so gross and dirty?

Now that my fridge was cleaned, my oven felt left out, so it's working on getting a good cleaning while I type! ;) Thankfully some appliances come with a 'self-clean' button. Anyone want to work on inventing one for the rest of them?!?! ;)

It's good to clean out. It's a great feeling at the end of it, I can see and find everything in my fridge now. Nothing has anything sticky on it and I have a cupboard worth of tupperware again! ;) I also discovered I have a great variety of sauces and marinates that I've been forgetting about. Now I've got all kinds of ideas for dinner menus again too! :)

Speaking of dinner, which reminds me of groceries, the sales around here are great for stock piling. I'm sure they are probably similar in most parts of the country because all the Thanksgiving dinner items are on sale. I wanted to remind you all to stock up on items that you know you'll use a lot and don't just buy enough at the rock bottom prices for your Thanksgiving dinner plans. For example, we have canned green beans and corn on sale for 49 cents at one local store. I got the limit worth. They're good until 2013 and I know they are things I'll either use in recipes or on the side when I'm in a bind and for that price, it's worth it. This is also the season to buy pie fillings. Most flavors are on sale now and they are expensive during the rest of the year. If that's something you use as a topic for a favorite dessert or you're a pie baker, get a bunch this week. Like I mentioned earlier, turkeys are a great way to get meat for cheap. I just bought a turkey that was over 20lbs for $9.99. That averages out to about 49 cents a pound! This is a great week to thing long term, as far as sales go. Even if you end up going to several stores to get stocked up on the foods that you family will enjoy for longer then next weekend. Get that pantry stocked! :)

Also, keep in mind baking season sales will be coming up next. Watch for really great deals on all kinds of baking essentials and make room in your pantry for another stock up! :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cleaning out the Fridge!

I've had this task on my "to do" list for about three weeks now. Ugh! Can you tell I've been avoiding it? ;) I've certainly had the time and opportunity to do it, I just don't wanna!!

I did hear a good idea of a way to handle such a time consuming and annoying task as this, but have yet to try it. Remember, I'm avoiding it.

For those of you who may actually *want* to clean out their refrigerators, but have a limited amount of time on your hands, here's the idea:

*Find a time that you are already in the kitchen working on something. I think dinner time clean up would be a good fit.
*Clear off a shelf or two, throwing out what's gone bad & adding the dirty dishes to your current load. Wipe down the shelves and walls around it and reload.
*Do another section during your routine for the next few days until all of the refrigerator has been cleared and cleaned.

Sounds great, huh? If you are motivated to it! ;)

Alright, well this post served as a distraction from--you guessed it--cleaning out my refrigerator. All good things do come to an end, including my procrastination.

Wish me luck, I'm going in!

Friday, November 12, 2010


Yesterday we spent some time going through our children's toys and things in their rooms and took a load to Good Will. It's so nice to get rid of things we don't need or use. I've discovered that one of the best ways to keep your house clean is to have a space for everything and when you have TOO much stuff, you always have a mess to deal with. So, we're wanting to keep up with the de-cluttering to hopefully minimize the messes around here too! :) That's always a plus. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A stress-free Christmas

Yesterday we did a bulk of our Christmas shopping. It's certainly not all done, but we've made good progress. We've done a great job finding good deals and keeping our spending down, which is wonderful! We've never been huge spenders for Christmas, but it's always been a stretch for us. For the last couple months we've been putting some money away for our gifts, so we haven't had to spend any out of our regular budget.  :) After we got home with bags of gifts, I didn't have the 'ugh, how are you going to pay for all of this?' feeling that usually happens around this time of year? I had no anxiety or stress over the purchases because they were well within the amount we have saved, with enough left to still buy the remaining items we'll want to get. We'll also continue to put money aside for the next several checks until all our gifts are purchased. I actually feel excited to be generous too. I'm not having the 'cheap gifts' feeling that we've had in the past. We've even been able to buy more then one gift for people and still stay within our means. It's wonderful! The best part is that we haven't even had to put that much away each paycheck, it's been under $50 each time, so it hasn't been a huge sacrifice on that end either. 

The best way to describe how I've been feeling is to say that Christmas is exciting and joyful again. It's simple in the sense that it's not emotionally draining or causing us to be anxious, but we're able to be generous. (No one is getting anything extravagant, for sure, or even a lot of stuff, but it's the way our hearts feel-lighter and excited to give). I think it's how Christmas really should feel, without the guilt of overspending or debt to repay afterwards. 

Anyway, I know this is a little bit of a ramble post. It's hard to put into words how my experience shopping is different from other years, but it is and it's exciting. I'm looking forward to a lot more Christmas that feel this way! :) 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gobble, Gobble!

In just about a week or so turkeys will be all over the place! There will be great discounts on turkeys at most, if not all, local grocery stores and chains. This is a fantastic opportunity to get some meat for your family for cheap! If you have a little extra freezer space or a little bit of free time between the sales and Thanksgiving, grab an extra turkey or two. Get a couple of extra large ones for a great deal and then take them home and prepare them the way you like it. You can skip all the trimmings with this one! ;) Once it's made you'll have the option of cutting the breast for sandwiches (if that's a regular thing at your house), pealing the rest of the meat off the bones and freezing it for future meals. When we have extra turkey meat I'll use it in my recipes that call for chicken and I don't think any one has ever noticed the difference! :) It does take some work, but it can be worth the savings on your grocery bill.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Making Space...

It's such a wonderful feeling to get rid of things that we don't need. We just sold a piece of furniture that has been sitting in our bedroom for about three months waiting to be taken to another home. It's refreshing to feel like you're ridding your life of things you don't need or want so you can have that space for what actually matters to you. Which in this case, is nothing! ;) I'm glad to have my space back and $50 in my wallet! :) Of course, it will go straight toward debt, but I can live with that. It's getting us to where we want to be.

What are you making space for in your life? What are you getting rid of that doesn't need to take up space any longer?

This got me thinking, sometimes we need to get rid of things on an emotional/spiritual level too, in order to make space for the qualities and people that matter most to us. It takes an intentional action, for us prayer and submitting it to God, to move out of our unhealthy patterns and thinking.

This past week I've been leaning closely on a great friendship to help me rid my life of things that take up more time then I should be willing to give it. I've slipped into unhealthy patterns of not being intentional in how I spend my time, letting days waste by. It's an awful place to be, but seriously "addicting" at time and very difficult to change. Again, it's taking intentional action on my part to move out of those habits and lifestyles.

I've had a great week. It's been filled with great memories with my kids and very productive. It's also given me an opportunity to connect more often with a wonderful friend!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Setting up the Cash Budget

Yesterday I set up our cash budget for the next two weeks and thought I'd do a post about how I actually do our budget each time. So I'll do a "pretend" budget as an example.

Income: $1,000
Balance in Checking account: $1,100

Bills due this two week period: $550
Extra expenses this time period: $25 haircuts, $30 Parenting conference

So I take the balance of money we currently have to work with: 1,100 and start subtracting our expenses:
-550 bills, -$55 extra expenses. That leaves me with $495 to work with for living expenses and goals. I like to do it this way because then I know all my bills/expenses will be taken care of an I won't have anything that won't be paid on time.

Goals: (These are some examples of goals that you may have)
-Pay off debt (10,000)
-Save for Christmas gifts ($300)
-Save for an Anniversary get away ($450)

Keeping your goals in mind and the order that you're needing to deal with them, then set up a reasonable cash budget with the remaining amount in your account. Be sure to try to keep some set aside for each of your goals.

Buffer for the checking account: $100

Cash Budget:
Groceries: $75
Gas: $75
Personal: $50
Entertainment: $40
Clothing: $0
Fun Money: $30

So after setting up my cash budget and weighing what we'll need or won't need for the next two weeks, I have $125 left to use.

Now I designate it towards the goals in order of importance and time frame.
Debt: $75
Christmas: $25
Trip: $25

After I've set up my budget I shouldn't have anything that wasn't accounted for. It's up to you and your spouse to decide what's important and what your priorities are. Notice that in this budget I had to say $0 for clothing in order to have money to put toward our "goals". I also had to make the budget amounts smaller then what they would've been if we didn't have to save for special occasions. The sacrifices and cut backs are totally up to you and it's up to you to live within the boundaries you set in your budget.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tackling the Laundry Pile

A few years ago a wise, more mature lady gave me a suggestion for how to handle the laundry piles while raising small children and keeping it from turning into a day long or longer task each week. I've liked her suggestion, but have yet to actually put it into practice, but either way, it may work for others, so I'm sharing it.

Her laundry routine happened as part of her morning routine. Each morning or several mornings a week (depending on how much she needed to do) she would throw a load of laundry in the wash machine right away (before getting herself ready). After she was finished getting ready, she'd change the load over to the dryer and work on fixing breakfast, getting lunches packed, getting her kids ready, etc. After she had gotten the kids off to school and her husband off to work, she'd take the laundry out of the dryer. She'd fold it right away and put it all away and then move on with the rest of her day. The next day, she'd follow the same routine and her laundry never became a giant pile, she was always on top of it, one day at a time! :)

I think there is a lot of wisdom in her idea and I know if I had a more structured routine in the morning it would work really well for me. Since we aren't at the school stage yet, our mornings are much too relaxed for me to remember the laundry! I'm certainly saving this idea for the days when it'll fit our lifestyle better, though!

It's a quick and easy way to keep your stress down and simplify a somewhat overwhelming task. Love it!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cleaning the Bathroom

Hmm...not sure why this never posted a while ago, but here we go, I'll try it again! :)

I read this tip on a baby/parenting website years ago and I've always remembered it. I thought I'd share with you because it's actually been a helpful tip for me.

This idea works better for a little bit older children, which is why I've just recently been able to apply it, but it's worth keeping stored away in your memory bank for the future.

The point was to maximize time and also to get some household chores done during a busy week. This one happened to be about cleaning the bathroom. The mom who wrote in explained how she cleaned the bathroom while giving her kids their baths. This is how it works:

*Bathe your kids
*While they are playing you clean the rest of the bathroom (toilet, counters, mirrors). You are still right there and able to supervise their time in the bath, but you're also getting something done while they enjoy the water a little longer.
*After getting the kids out of the bath, you do a quick wash of the shower and tub area.

This isn't a time to do the most thorough of bathroom cleanings, but it's a great way to get the regular, maintenance cleaning out of the way, while you're in there any way! I love this idea and its worked well for us now that the kids are a little more independent and love to play in the bath.

Now, if I could only convince my husband to clean our bathroom while I'm in the shower! ;) I'll work on that one...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I've been Tagged!

Well, this is a first. My blog has been tagged, and it comes with the responsibility to answer some questions by a reader. She chose these questions, so here they are...

1. What is your current job? And is it what you always wanted to do?
I'm currently a stay at home mom, but I'm a licensed elementary teacher. Both of those things are what I always wanted to do. From the time I can remember I've wanted to be a Mom and a Teacher. I've never been one to struggle with the question, "what do I want to be when I grow up?" until most recently. I LOVE filling both of those roles in my life, but at times find it difficult to see the progress and purpose in being a stay at home mom. God has been faithful to remind me of what this season is for. 

2. What is one day of your life you wish you could relive?

Hm...I'm not sure about this one. I guess it could go in two ways, one you loved so much you want to do it all over again, or one you could relive to change the outcome of how it went. I'll go with the first one! :) I think my wedding day and all the joy that came with that day would be worth reliving. Not necessary at the same age/stage, but to have those emotions and excitement in your relationship to refresh your memory would be great! :) 

3. What brings you joy?
My kids, especially when they are laughing. It's one of my favorite things about motherhood. 

The days that are restful, fun, relaxed and memory building. 
A good conversation with my husband or a good friend.
The sense of accomplishment
Fulfilling my purpose

4. What three words do you hope people use to describe you?
Loving, fun, compassionate

5. What is the last movie you saw? 

We just saw Life as We Knew it, I really liked it.. 

6. What is the purpose behind your blog?

I have two blogs. The first one is solely for the purpose of writing about and remembering fun things that happen with my kids. This one is all about our journey to being debt free and also about finding a way back to a simpler time when things weren't all about a rat race and climbing ladders of success. We are longing to live a slower pace, a more fulfilling lifestyle and be in community with those around us. This blog is my journal as we seek to do better at those things and also a way to share ideas and tips that have worked well for us to save money and hopefully simplify life for others too. 

7. Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions?

Not a whole lot. We eat a great meal as a family and then we write out all the things that God has done in our lives that year and read them around the table. It's always amazing to see how many we can think of. 

8. What are you most thankful for?

There are so many things. I have a wonderful family that gets along great, we are all healthy, my husband has a great job, we always have everything we need and extras too, I have wonderful friends that come alongside me in every stage of life, I have and serve a God that is faithful and cares about all the details of my life, I've had experiences of living and traveling all over the world that others will never have, I have a husband that is committed to our marriage and family and who I'm totally in love with. I have an endless amount of blessings, we have a wonderful life.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Microwave Trick

Do you hate how stuff cakes on and builds up in your microwave? I sure do! A few years ago I learned a trick that works like magic! :) It's about letting the steam clean for you AND it's FREE! You place a bowl of water in the microwave for about 3 minutes and let it stand for another few minutes. If you like to have a fresh smell you can add lemon juice to the water or a little vinegar for added cleaning possibilities. Once you've let it sit for a bit, take a warm wet washcloth and wipe it down. It'll just wipe clean and with very little effort your microwave will look like this again:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...