Thursday, December 31, 2009

Planning My Life

I love organizing and planning- a fresh new calendar, a color-coded schedule, a well organized to-do list. I'm a little strange, I know. It's easy for me to sit down and plan. The tricky part is implementing that plan into real life! I'll share a little about my planning methods. Most of it has come from some great books I've read- maybe you'll add them to your 2010 must read list!

What's really important to you? What do you want your time and money to say about you? I've learned that each of us has a most productive time of day. Into that time slot is where we should put the activities that fall high on our list of priorities. For me, my high production is in the morning. If it's after lunch, the day's over! So, it's into the morning that I put spending time with God, school work with the kids, and one chore that HAS to get done. A great book that helped me sort through my priorities is A Woman After God's Own Heart®by Elizabeth George. I read through this every couple of years to keep myself on track.

Daily Schedule
There are some things that you know will happen at about the same time each day- meals, car pools, work, etc. These fall into a schedule with very little thought. But now it's time to add the other activities based on your priorities. Think about your most productive time of day and start from there. Don't fill it all up with things to do. Remember to add "transition time" (putting coats on the little ones), and down time- when you can just play with your kids or get out a book you've been meaning to read. the day should have it's own ebb and flow and the more days of your week you can get to look like each other the easier it will be to follow. I loved Managers of their Homes by Teri Maxwell for helping me figure out a schedule that works for me. I've also enjoyed the FlyLady website for cleaning help.

There are so many out there to choose from! I love a calendar that gives you lots of space to write things. This year I'm going to try the Mom's Plan-It Calendar It divides the grid into space for each family member and retains the calendar look.

A planner is important for the times you're standing at the clinic trying to schedule the next appointment. Essential for me in a planner is a week at a glance, space for a to-do list, and a monthly view. I'm really enjoying Amy Knapp's Christian Family Organizer which even has space for a menu plan and a "tearable" grocery list. The Christian version also has a space to record prayer requests.

Our monthly budget is put together in a similar way as my schedule. What are our standard expenses?- house, utilities, insurance, etc. The rest of the money is then alloted according to our priorities- food, gas, clothing, savings, giving, date night, babysitter, fun money, etc. There are times in life when there's no room for fun money, and that's a season that must be gone through. There are a number of computer programs out there that can help you track your spending. If you've never done a budget before, I recommend keeping track of all your expenses for two months. You'll see how things fall into a pattern. Once you can see where your money has been going, it should be easier to figure out how to allot it intentionally. Maybe you don't really need to eat take-out twice a week and you can put more money towards something else. Or you can turn that second take-out meal into the date night you didn't think you could afford and let the kids eat mac and cheese! We went through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and loved it! Envelopes are a great method of controlling your spending.

Every time something "new" starts up I re-evaluate all of these things. The start of a new calendar year has many people looking around themselves desiring to make changes. Being intentional about how I spend my time and money means that I'm more likely to make it happen in real life. These are the tools and resources I've found particularly helpful in the past few years. What are your favorite tools? Do you have a favorite resource? How do you make it all work?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Meet Roselyn

Every birth story is a little different. Even having had all of my children via c-section, things are a little bit different each time. I think that the only things that have been the same for us is that we've had the same surgeon and all of my kids have been born on Tuesday.

This Tuesday started out a little differently, since we were scheduled for a noon baby. We enjoyed a couple of hours at home with the other kids before heading off. Once we got there, things were pretty similar in the prep department. We had a wonderful nurse working with us and we knew what to expect at each step of the way. It's still amazes me that there are three doctors, an anesthesiologist, and half a dozen or so nurses all devoted to caring for me and my baby!

When Roselyn was born they brought her over to the warmer and cleaned her up. I got to keep my glasses, so I could see what was going on this time around. She did not like being out in the cold and cried a lot. She weighed a mere 5 pounds 15 ounces and was 18 3/4 inches long.

When I was done in the delivery room they wheeled me over to recovery, just like normal. But this time, baby got to come with me! In the past they have used this time to take baby to the nursery and get it all cleaned up. This time I got to cuddle with my baby and they did the washing up right there in recovery. It wasn't until we were in there than anybody asked us what her name was. Two minutes later the lab tech came in to do her first blood poke, and her name was Roselyn, too! I was worried that this baby would cry all the time. I'd never spent those first couple hours with my babies before and did not realize how much crying they did! She got it all out of her system and hasn't really cried since. Well, unless we're changing her. It's cold with no pants on!

My room was very nice, but a little small when all the kids came for a visit! Apparently when they were getting ready to leave, they told Eleanor they were going to see the new baby and she said, "no, puppy." I think she's glad for the baby now, though! She is convinced that Roselyn needs all of her blankies and toys at all times. The boys love holding her and touching her soft skin. I'm still not sure what Veronica thinks. Mostly, everyone is still excited about Grandma being here to take care of them and having all this snow and Christmas, too. What a busy week it's been at our house!

I wanted very much to come home on Christmas Eve (one day before regular discharge after a c-section). That's always been the time for our family to read from the Bible and open our stockings. Because we went into the week planning to push my recovery and discharge date, we were ready to go before the blizzard made the roads impassable. Praise the Lord! We had a wonderful evening with Greg reading from the Word and the kids acting out the story with the nativity set. They all got sleeping bags under the tree and had a slumber party in their bedroom. Sweet memories.

The most difficult part of the process was trying to get my pain meds. We stopped at the pharmacy on the way home and dropped the prescription off. They told us fifteen minutes. We figured Greg would pick it up when he took the kids to the Christmas Eve service a couple hours later. When that was cancelled due to weather, he headed out to get it then. Unfortunately, they did not tell us that they were closing one hour after we dropped the prescription off and he arrived a few minutes too late. I was devastated! The prescription could not be picked up at another location or called in to another pharmacy. We called the hospital, and the nurse wasn't sure what to do, either. Thankfully, the doctor was able to call in a prescription for a different pain reliever and Greg braved the snowy weather to head to an open pharmacy. Thanks to my wonderful husband, I had drugs on Chirstmas Day :) There was enough in the bottle to get through the blizzard until our original pharmacy opened. My husband was even willing to walk down there for me, but the main streets were plowed by then, too.

The Lord has truly been gracious to us. Other things have progressed extremely well this time around. All of our babies have had some jaundice that required extra attention, but no light therapy. Roselyn is a great eater helping to flush all that bilirubin out, and we've even been able to avoid any extra pokes! Usually my post-op swelling has me sitting in a chair with ice on my feet, but this time it's been practically non-existent. My pain has been fairly managable, too. And last night, Roselyn slept for six hours! What more could a Mama ask for a week after delivery?

Thank you, Lord, for a wonderful new baby. You have truly blessed our family with Roselyn's presence. We pray that she will grow into a compassionate woman who loves You above and beyond all else and serves You out of a grateful heart. We pray that we can be the kind of parents You desire us to be and that we will turn to You for wisdom and guidance each and every step of the way. What an adventure parenting is!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baby on a Budget

Being just eight days away from having our baby, I've been thinking a lot about the things I still need to get out, washed up, bought, and put together- it's a lot of work getting things ready for a new baby! It's just too bad that the time for getting things ready comes when Mama is big, uncomfortable, and has trouble breathing if using the stairs too much!

I remember when we were expecting our first baby and looking over the lists of things we were going to need. It was so overwhelming! The price tag on those items was pretty overwhelming, too. Thank goodness for baby showers and hand-me-downs. I think that's the only way that most people can survive the hit of that first child.

Budget Savers:
1. Baby shower- It's great to have a friend or family member throw a shower for you. You'll get all sorts of things as gifts, and a great place to find out what other moms' favorite products are.

2. Hand-me-downs- Know someone with a baby a few months to a year older than yours? Maybe they have some things they're getting rid of! Be sure to return the favor to another new mom when you're ready to clean out your storage area.

3. Consignment sales- It's like one huge garage sale! I love these, but they usually only come around once or twice a year. Be ready for the lines! Take 2 and Neat Repeatz are the two I've visited here in Lincoln.

4. Consignment stores- A great place to visit year round. Watch for their end of the season sales for even better deals. Thrift stores can be a good place to find things, too, but they go quickly.

5. Borrowing- Especially for those bigger items that people don't need to use all year round or even with every child. This is baby #5 for us, and the first time I've thought it would be good to have a double stroller. But we don't want to buy one at this point. Our solution? Borrow!

6. Go neutral- from clothes to bedding to strollers this makes things more useful if you have more than one child.

7. Limit the number of "outfits"- they just grow so fast! Onesies and sleepers are really all you need for at least the first six months. An outfit or two is nice, but certainly not the 7-10 they have on some of those lists!

8. Cloth diapering- It's quite the thing to do for the environment, too. There is a bit of an initial expense, but the money saved over a year's worth of diapers is incredible. I should try to figure out how much we've saved over the course of five kids! Even with using disposables over night and when we leave the house for more than an hour, we've saved a bunch.

I've also learned that you don't need everything that's on all of those lists. Your baby will survive just fine without wearing an "outfit" every day. But there are a few things that I've come to love and make a point to tell every expectant mama about. What's your number one go-to baby item? What do you wish you could give to every new mother you come across?

Definetly Needed List:
1. Car seat cover- Needed if you live in a cool climate in the winter. Styles range from the kind that slip over your baby like a blanket, to the kind the buckle into your chair.

2. Nursing cover- I can't believe how much I love mine! These are especially great when you're at the park on a windy day. Or have a wiggly baby, or one that needs a little extra help.
3. Boppy- These things are so versatile! From tummy time to a sitting helper, baby grows strong. After having a c-section, it really gives me the extra support I need to hold that baby up, too.
4. Mittens- Cover their hands that first week or two so they don't scratch themselves all up. Socks work for this, too.

5. Changing pads- These are great on the changing table or in the diaper bag!
Useful in Certain Circumstances:
1. Double stroller- In general we make our kids walk when they're able to. It's important to teach them how to hold my hand or the side of the stroller. This time around the youngest will be 18 months when the baby comes and it will be icy January, and she was a slow walker- those are all good reasons to carry two!
2. Swings and bouncy chairs- Most babies can learn to fall asleep without the extra help a swing or chair provides. Or the car seat can be utilized, with a little rocking help from parents. I do have to say that babies with tummy issues benefit a lot from the vibration and rocking. And when older siblings like to roll and wrestle near the baby, getting them off the floor is a great help!
Fisher Price Soothe 'n Play Bouncer

3. Sling-
Lots of people live with their baby wrapped to them and love it. It hurts my back. However, we had a fussy baby that screamed unless you were holding her (until we figured out it was a dairy issue). Having the sling allowed me to make dinner or do any other task in relative quiet.
Nice to Have But Can Live Without It:
1. Booties and shoes- unless your babies are not like mine! I could never keep those booties on their little feet. And until they're walking, what's the point of shoes? Maybe to keep the socks on when they're wearing one of those outfits!

2. Bassinet- our first baby slept in a laundry basket next to the bed. Our second had some breathing issues and slept more upright in his car seat. With our third or fourth I ended up finding a great deal on a bassinet that doubled as a Moses basket. It's something we could still be doing without, though. It takes up a lot of storage space!

3. Baby bath tubs- These are nice because they use a lot less water, but the regular tub with only an inch in it works just fine. Or the kitchen sink- that's where I was bathed as an infant! We have a neat foam thing to place in the tub that helps elevate baby's head.

4. Baby toys- Because quite honestly by the time they're playing with toys the things that you get at a baby shower are just not that interesting! Go for stacking cups or blocks over the rattles and things. And think about how many bath toys you have- how long do you want them in that tub anyways?

Okay, moms, your turn! What's your favorite baby item? What's something that sat in your home and never got used?

Menu Plan Monday

This is my last week of menu planning for a couple of weeks. We're having our new baby in just eight days! Next week, my mother-in-law will stay for a couple days. She and my sister-in-law will take care of Christmas dinner. They told me not to worry about anything, but I'm thinking about baking some breakfast goodies for my freezer as my contribution. :)

In the past when we've had a baby, we've usually had several friends offer to bring us meals. It's so nice to have one less thing to think about during the day with a newborn. I've also doubled a couple of family favorites and frozen them throughout the month. This year, I didn't, needing to keep room in the freezer for the deer my husband is hopefully shooting tonight!

Knowing what a huge blessing it is to a new mom, I have done my part to provide meals over the years, as well. Sometimes I've wondered if a sack of lunch and breakfast items would be just as appreciated. (And quite honestly less work for me!) Or an offer to vacuum the house (especially after a c-section). What do you think? What other kind of help could be offered to a new mom in those first couple of weeks?

Monday- Chicken strips, potatoes, veggies
Tuesday- Hot dogs, mac and cheese, salad
Wednesday- Pasta
Thursday- Venison stew, bread/rolls
Friday- Pizza Night
Saturday- Sausage and potato skillet
Sunday- Eat what you want night (ie leftovers)

There are lots more menus and recipe ideas at

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow Day(s) in a Homeschool

Does anyone know what day it is? This snow and the subsequent schedule changes has me all messed up. I wouldn't have thought that a snow day would affect our homeschool that much, but for some reason it did! Just the feel of being snowed in, having Daddy home in the middle of the week, and feeling like it was a day to just sit around in jammies and blankies with hot drinks made for a fairly non-productive week school-wise. So, how did we fare?

Monday we spent SIX HOURS cleaning our house. And that was just general stuff- no closets or desk piles were touched! Tuesday was spent e-mailing road conditions to Daddy at work. The boys attempted to scoop the driveway, but the garden shovel wasn't getting the job done. These pics are from then, about halfway through the official snow storm. And Eleanor thought I'd let her out, too! We had Daddy home on Wednesday, so it felt like a Saturday. Unfortunately, we had some sick kids. They felt fine by mid morning, but I spent most of the day disinfecting bathrooms. We made some cookies, too. On Thursday, I thought we should get back to our school routine, but by then the school/toy room was a disaster so the kids spent the day attempting to clean it up. I also ordered some new things online that I think will help keep me on track and consistent in the spring. I'm excited about my new books, and hope they get here before Christmas. Today will probably be a day devoted to organizing some games and crafts, and reading some library books. I also get to go grocery shopping tonight (without kids). I'm so excited to get out of the house that I'm hoping it takes a couple hours!

What I did realize this week is that when one is homeschooling we can take hits like crazy weeks and keep on going. Public schools were out for THREE DAYS, and I'm sure everyone thinks those kids will turn out fine. Even though we didn't sit down with our books and I didn't get to cross things off of my school list, my kids were still learning and growing. They've watched their movie on Planets twice this week and have looked through the huge stack of library books at least that many times, as well. Zachary instigated his own experiment about planet rotation after seeing flashlights and balls as a demo in one of those books. We looked through recipes and the boys had to do some simple reading. We doubled one of the recipes and I was amazed at how well the boys did. It could have been a great lesson in fractions, but I didn't think of that at the time. And, as always, my kids are learning about diligence, orderliness, kindness, obedience, and many other characteristics every day.

It would be so easy to look back on this week and feel defeated. We didn't crack even one school book open even one time. I have a huge list of really fun projects that we could do for our planets unit and another one of Christmas crafts that didn't even get looked at. Instead, I will choose to look back on this week and see how our homeschool is such a blessing. This is what I want for our kids. I want them to go through life looking at each and every day as an opportunity to learn and grow, regardless of what's on the schedule or whether they have a structured lesson plan to follow. (And it doesn't seem to matter if our hair stays in it's ponytail, or if we even have pants on!) I've come to the conclusion that homeschooling is a Finer Thingin my life. It's worth all the stress and chaos in my home and I'm so glad that we do it.

I've had some thoughts rolling around in my head about homechooling on a budget. There are so many great resources out there, that it can get quite overwhelming. And quite costly. So far, we've managed to "do school" for less than $100 each year. The philosophy we have and the tools we use are simple and easy. They are also great tips for encouraging your child's growth, whether or not you homeschool. I hope to get those thoughts written down soon :)

So, how did you spend your snow day(s)?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

December is a time for warm comfort foods and extra baking. So, we're having family favorites that are simple and easy for my family to make. They don't require a lot of prep time, and have a minimal amount of pans to clean up!

Monday- Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
Tuesday- Pasta
Wednesday- Turkey and Rice
Thursday- Breakfast Night (Bacon, Waffles)
Friday- Pizza Night
Saturday- Taco Casserole
Sunday- Eat What You Want Night

What are some of your favorite meals to pull out during this hectic season? Do you have any simple, easy family favorites? Check out Menu Plan Monday at for more menu ideas this week.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tis the Season

Tis the season to over eat candies and cookies. Tis the season to buy lots of toys that our kids will break or never play with. Tis the season to buy ugly sweaters and useless gadgets for friends and family. Tis the season to return the gifts you didn't want and try to find something useful. Ever feel like that? It's so easy to get sucked into all the deals and hype of Christmas and forget what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.

Our first year as parents was the year that my husband had been laid off. He had yet to find another engineering job, and was working through a temp agency to make ends meet. (Well, get closer to meeting!) We had cut EVERYTHING out of our budget, except house payment, car insurance, and utilities. We cut our food budget to under $100/month. And those were our expenses. There was absolutely nothing left over for anything else. In fact, we had to utilize some of our savings during that time to cover even those monthly expenses. So, what did we do for Christmas?

Nothing. No one got any presents. We told family that we usually bought for not to expect anything. Our son was a mere nine months old, so he wasn't expecting anything, either. We did purchase a small tree and had a hand full of ornaments that we had stored from the previous year. That year, Christmas was all about being together, without the expectation of buying gifts for anyone, without the greed that comes from a pile of presents with your name on it.

The following year, we had two young sons (ages 20 mos and 3 mos). We knew it was time to start developing our own family traditions, and we wanted to include gifts in that, but money was still tight. We decided to only do stockings as a family. Mostly filled with items from the dollar store. For our relatives, we had a minimal budget, and told them not to expect much. Again, Christmas was about being together as a family, reading about the birth of Christ, and the joy of having a couple of small items to pull out of a stocking.

Fast forward a few years to the present Christmas. Now, we aren't wealthy by any means, but we have the money to do as much or as little as we choose. And we choose to continue in our tradition of minimal gifts at Christmas. We still primarily focus on the stockings. It's fun to take the kids to the dollar store to pick out items for each other. Play dough, small plastic toys, hair accessories, water colors, activity many things to choose from! We have also added one present under the tree for each child. We have a budget for these items, and the gifts we buy for friends and family, and we stick to it. (We use an envelope method for our Christmas purchases, that I talked about in a previous post.)

On Christmas Eve, we gather near the tree and read the story of Jesus' birth from Luke 2. We have something hands-on to help the kids visualize the story- small items representing different aspects of the story or a nativity set that they can manipulate. We thank God for the birth of his Son, and what He did for us on the cross when He grew up. We do gifts then, but because there's only one present, it's not consuming our evening. The time is centered around the Lord and being together as a family.

Last year we started a tradition of having a family Advent wreath. Each Sunday we light one new candle and talk about what that candle represents. On Christmas Eve, all five candles are lit and we celebrate the birth of our Savior. At times, we have also had a birthday cake for Jesus with the decorations representing different aspects of the Gospel.

I highly recommend "the ADVENTure of Christmas" by Lisa Whelchel as a way of bringing Christ into the things that you do this holiday season. Everything from the Christmas tree, to writing cards, to wrapping the presents is given a significance and can strengthen our faith in the Lord.

What do you do during Advent or Christmas to center the time around Christ's birth? How do you handle all the hype around presents? For other ideas on a budget, check out Frugal Fridays.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

While it feels like a short week in every way, there are still meals to plan for this week! We cooked two turkeys this past weekend, and I'm looking forward to months of casseroles and soups made from those turkeys! What are your favorite leftover turkey recipes?

Breakfasts- cereal, oatmeal, cinnamon rolls, bananas, milk
Lunches- PB&J, pretzels/crackers, carrots/celery/apples, milk
Monday- Venison Steaks, baked potatoes, broccoli, cheese sauce
Tuesday- Hot Dogs, fried potatoes, carrots and celery
Wednesday- Fried Rice
Thursday- THANKSGIVING (pop, wine, green bean casserole and/or sweet potatoes)
Friday- Turkey and Rice Soup
Saturday- Pizza Night
Sunday- Eat What You Want (i.e. leftovers)

See what others are planning this week over at

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Works-for-Me Wednesday

Ahh, once a month cooking. It seems like such a good idea every time I think about it. It exhausts me every time I think about it! I have used some of the methods from the once a month cooking and made it quite a bit easier on myself. Here are some ideas to consider incorporating into your own meal plan if you're not quite ready to fill your freezer with 20 prepared meals in one day.

1. Pre-cook your meat. A lot of people buy 10 lbs of hamburger when it's on sale and portion it out. Why not cook it first? If you want to, you could just brown half for use in sauces and soups, and turn half into taco meat all in less than an hour! One pan to clean for that 10 lbs.

2. Plan for leftovers. By the same token, if I'm going to make a whole chicken, I make two (or three) and debone the second for later use in recipes that call for cooked chicken. Then I throw those chicken bones in my pasta pot make some homemade broth. (I use my pasta pot so I can lift the bones out of there!) A similar method works for roasts and hams.

3. Double your meal. If you're going to all the trouble to make one casserole, it's just as easy to make a second at the same time and freeze it before cooking. I like putting my extra meals in freezer bags. I freeze them flat, than organize them like records in my chest freezer. Don't forget to label- everything looks different when frozen!

When just the mention of once a month cooking makes me break out in a cold sweat, I pull out one of these ideas and get a little bit going. It works for me! Find out what others are trying at Works for me Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Everybody Needs an Alice

Remember the Brady Bunch? Did Carol Brady work outside the home? I can't remember. Sometimes I think every stay-at-home mom needs a housekeeper. And Alice sure was a great one! If someone just did my laundry and shopping, I could get so much other stuff done!

Last night I signed up for and used a brand-new account. I'm pretty excited for this new and useful tool. It's a website where you can purchase groceries online and have the shipped to your house. They even have several items discounted with coupons!

I purchased a $5 gift card from swagbucks to try this out. I was pleasantly surprised at the ease of use and great prices. I bought Crest toothpaste for $1.22 among other things. They even offer reminders for frequent purchases, track your spending, show you their best deals, and have free shipping!

I have since discovered that there are $10 sign-up bonuses, and my understanding is that this cannot be combined with the swagbucks offer. So, if you want to give alice a try, here's a link for you!

Update: The $10 bonus is credited to your account after having made $50 worth of purchases. So, I think the Swagbucks offer AND the $10 offer could work in conjunction with each other. I'll let you know when I hit $50 how it turned out!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Free Finds

Signing up for free samples really helps stretch my budget. Whether I'm using these things for myself, gifts, Operation Christmas Child boxes, or stocking stuffers, it's money that's staying in my pocket! Free stuff can be found on many company's websites and you are just a couple of clicks away from a mailbox full of goodies.

I must admit that getting free stuff is pretty addictive. I've spent more time on the computer in the last couple of days than I'd like to admit. Here are my free finds:

Lipton Green Tea (free sample)
Gavalia Coffee (I did the 3 boxes of coffee for $3 offer)
Kohl's ($5 for newsletter signup)
Vista Print (bunches of free samples, including 140 return address labels, 100 postcards, and more for shipping costs)
Beauty Herbal Spa (free candle)
Crest w/Scope (free sample)
Taste of Home (cookbooks for $5 each)

In the mail today, I received my free sample of Dunkin Donuts coffee. they have this offer up again, if you missed out last time around. I also received a Kashi granola bar. Kashi has become my new favorite! I don't see any samples on their site right now, but will be coming my eye on them!

Usually these will be sample sizes, but there are a few places where you can sign up to receive full-szied free items, too! My favorite two are Vocalpoint and Kraft First Taste. I've been a member with each of these companies for a few months and have been very pleased with the free product offers. And they usually come with high dollar coupons, too!

Have you found any free samples or other great deals? Let me know! I'm always on the lookout!

Menu Plan Monday

Next week is Thanksgiving. I tried buying one of the .40/lb turkeys from Wal-Mart last night, and they were all out! I'll try again tomorrow. I'm hoping to cook and debone a couple of turkeys for my freezer. That's such a great price!

I also need to make some room in my freezer for (hopefully) another deer this season. And get some freezer meals in there ready to go for January (baby coming end of Dec). Plus, I still have two pumpkins that need taking care of, and a basket of tomatoes that actually turned red! There's a lot on my cooking to do list in the next couple of weeks!

Breakfasts- oatmeal, muffins, cereal, milk

Lunches- PB&J, pretzels, apples/carrots, milk


Monday- Pasta
Pasta, Sauce, Hamburger, Bread

Tuesday- hot dogs
Hot dogs
Fried Potatoes
(+cook venison for tomorrow)

Wednesday- Venison stew (in crock pot)
Venison, Potatoes, Carrots, Onion

Thursday- Chicken and Rice
Chicken breasts
Brown rice and broccoli

Friday- Pizza Night
dough recipe:
2 c warm water
1 c oil (vegetable is good, olive is better)
2.5 tsp yeast
2 tsp sugar
3 tsp salt
5-6 c bread flour (can sub 1/2 whole wheat)
optional- add italian seasonings (basil, oregano, garlic) to the crust or make breadsticks!
Let dough rise for one hour, punch down, rolls out 2-3 crusts (depends on thickness) top with favorite ingredients. (If making bread or breadsticks, let rise for 30-45 min after shaping)
Bake at 425 for about 20 min

Saturday- Eat What You Want (ie Leftovers)

Sunday- (Thanksgiving at church) Sweet Potatoes
sweet potatoes, butter/margarine, marshmallows
Do you have a good sweet potato recipe? I need to make a lot of these and my normal way may not be the best suited for the crockpot. Any suggestions?

That's the plan! If you'd like to take a peak at what some others are planning head over to Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." ~1 Samuel 16:7

There are many things that I have learned from having a limited budget: the importance of prayer, humbly accepting help, how to get a great deal. But most of the things I have learned have been heart-related issues. Understanding that God owns everything and is in complete control of all the things that we receive, learning how to be content with what we currently have and to stay content no matter what the future may hold, and realizing that my value to the Lord is not wrapped up in my husband's occupation.

God loves me just as I am. He loves me with an infinite amount of unconditional love. There’s nothing I can do to make Him love me more than He already does. And there’s certainly nothing I can do to make Him love me any less. It became a status issue for me. Where my husband works, what position he holds, or how much he makes is not what should be defining my life. My life needs to built upon the Truth of God's love and mercy and my desire to follow and obey Him. I need to value my husband for his character, not his position or salary. I am married to a wonderfully faithful man who works hard and puts forth his best effort into everything he does. He provides financially for our family and takes good care of us. Those are the things that are important.

Realizing that I was thinking wrongly about this was a huge step for me. God was able to change my view of our situation and begin to value the things that are of eternal importance. Character, heart, and obedience. Your financial life should be a reflection of the things that truly matter to God. He does not look at the curb appeal of your home or the size of your paycheck. He's looking at your heart.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dining Out for Less

I love eating out. Mostly I love the not having to cook part. But I really dislike how expensive it can get. Especially with four kids. I'm sitting there calculating our bill and how much it would have cost me to prepare the same meal at home. Kind of ruins the enjoyment. Here are a few tips for eating out for less that we have been utilizing to help our budget. And it usually keeps me focused on having a good time with friends and family!

1. Sign up for birthday clubs, VIP clubs, etc. Most places offer something for your birthday- an appetizer, dessert, or even a full entree! They may even send you other coupons to use throughout the year. The coupons are usually good from the week before your birthday to the week after. The only hard part is deciding which one(s) to use!

2. Get a dining club card or coupon book. Here in Lincoln, the POGO card is our favorite. It has a variety of restaurants offering free items with a purchase. Buying this card benefits a local organization, too. I saw a copy of the Entertainment Book at Menard's last week, and have heard that at many stores they are on sale.

3. Use a store punch card. These are most often found at coffee shops or ice cream places. Although some others have a card that offers a discount on your food purchases. If you tend to choose the same restaurant over and over again, this is a great option.

4. Kids eat free night. There are a lot of places that offer a free kids meal with an adult purchase on certain nights of the week. I do recommend calling your location, even if the website says "free meal." Recently, we visited a restaurant for kids' night and they didn't get a free meal, just a balloon. Highly disappointing.

5. Try I first looked at this site a couple of years ago and there weren't any restaurants in Lincoln participating. Now there are quite a few. You can purchase $25 gift cards for only $10. I finally took advantage of this last month when I had a coupon code and bought a 1-year dinner of the month club for just $24. Yes, that's right, we'll get a $25 gift card each month that I paid just $2 for! Plus, we got a $50 certificate just for signing up! You do need to watch the fine print as some places have minimum purchase amounts. We may even use some of these over the course of the year as gifts.

6. Sign up to be a mystery shopper. This is by far my favorite way to eat out for less. It feels like I'm spending someone else's money! Check out last week's post for a list of some of the companies I've had good experience with.

That's what helps me save money on eating out. Check out Works for me Wednesday for other tips across a variety of topics. What tips do you have for dining out for less?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Deals of the Day

Deals, deals, everywhere there's a deal! I'm overwhelmed trying to keep track of all the great deals that I'm reading about today. And we haven't even hit the height of our seasonal shopping! Here's what I'm taking advantage of today.

Family Fun magazine for $2.99 Sign up at Tanga and get your subscription for just $2.99/year when you enter the code 98c7 at checkout! If you already have a subscription, it will add to what you've already got. I think you can get up to three years at this price. I ordered mine this morning!

Sign up at See Here and get 50 free photo cards (no shipping, even!) with the code freebies4mom-1109 all month long. Apparently new customers can also get 100 free photos! See Freebies 4 Mom for more details. We'll be taking our Christmas photo this week and taking advantage of this great deal.

At 1-800-flowers you can sign up for their Fresh Rewards program and earn points from every purchase. For the month of November you get points for events you add to your reminder calendar. Up to 400 points- which is $40. Plus as a member, you'll get 15% off your order! I've got one November birthday gift taken care of!

I've spent a little more time than usual sifting through all the deals that are being posted on blogs and e-mailed to me. But I'm pretty excited for what I've accomplished. A little bit of time and a few dollars and I've got a bunch of great stuff coming my way! Do you have any exceptional deals you're taking advantage of this week?

Menu Plan Monday

I've been in a menu planning slump the last several weeks. Nothing sounds good, everything is too much work, we eat the same things over and over...sound familiar? I'm sure we've all been in this position at one point or another. Well, I'm taking the advice of a friend and am in the process of creating my "master menu." (Check out her blog post here.) This will be a compiled list of all the recipes we use consistently. Mine's almost completed. I have a huge list of about fifty items, now I just need to figure out what makes sense for organization- by meat type? by carb type? by meal "genre"? I may just set my husband loose to build me an excel spreadsheet. I could type the info into various columns and print lists according to all those methods. I could easily add and reprint as we find new family favorites. Then I can look at my list when I'm in a slump and remember the meals that we like and haven't had for awhile. This should enable me to put some variety back into our menu and maybe even have enough time and energy to pull out my cookbooks and try some new recipes! What do you do when you're in a menu slump? Do you have old favorites you go back to? Do you pour over the cookbooks?

Breakfasts- cereal, bagels, oatmeal, muffins, fruit, milk
Lunches- pb&j, pretzels/popcorn, apples/carrots, cheese, milk
Monday- Grilled Chicken, Fried potatoes, broccoli
Tuesday- Fish and rice
Wednesday- Bread and dip, cupcakes
(appetizers and desserts with friends)
Thursday- Venison Stew
Friday- Pizza Night
Saturday- Birthday meal (still planning)

For more great menu ideas, head over to Menu Plan Monday and see what other folks are cooking up this week.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Deals to Start Your Holidays

We're coming up on the holiday season. And that means that the stores will all be vying for your attention, or your dollar! They're not even waiting until the day after Thanksgiving this year. With all the great deals, it's sometimes hard to control myself! One thing we've found helpful is to set a budget for our holiday spending. Usually we set aside money each month so it's not such a shock come Nov/Dec. Have both an overall budget and a budget per person. Make a list of everyone you're planning to buy for early on, including teachers, work exchanges, etc. Don't let anything sneak up on you! Here are a few deals to get you started this holiday season.

Thanksgiving for Less turkeys for .40/lb and more
Free Samples updates every couple of weeks
Nov 7th In-Store Savings lots of electronics posted, not sure what else will be on sale

Community Day Sale donate $5 to a local organization and get a coupon booklet- a $10 off plus many % off coupons
(I'm selling these for my local MOPS group, e-mail me if you want some coupons!)

Home Depot
Christmas light trade in $3 off LED lights
Power Drill trade in 15% off a new drill

Photo Cards 50 free photo cards

Most stores will offer free shipping from their online sites. See if your favorite store has a facebook fan page, or an e-mail newsletter. These are great places to get extra coupons or free products. Do you know of any other deals coming up in the next week or two?

Check out Frugal Fridays for more great tips this week!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Get Paid to Eat Out

Date night is an important part of a marriage. Time out of the house, away from the kids and other distractions. Whether it's a time to go out and just have fun, or a time to revamp the family budget, time alone with my husband helps bond us together and unites us as one.

For the most part, we eat dinner out where we usually talk about something half-way serious. That can certainly be a budget killer! We have found a way to eat at nicer restaurants without spending $40 a meal. Usually, it's about $10 (with tip) and I have leftovers for lunch. You're wondering how, aren't you?

It's called mystery shopping. There are a number of reputable companies that enlist the services of private contractors (that's me) to evaluate their clients for quality service. We got into this a couple of years ago, and have never looked back! Here's a list of the companies I do most of my shopping for. These companies have lots of restaurants in our area, which is what we like, and some also do other things- retail, grocery, theater, phone calls, etc. There are a number of other companies that focus specifically on those types, as well.

None of these companies asked me to pay a sign-up fee or promised great wealth. They are reputable companies that will help you get started in your own mystery shopping experience. Some of these companies pay a flat fee while others will reimburse to a certain amount. Either way, it generally works out the same for us- two dinners, drinks, and an appetizer/dessert and we pay around $10 out of pocket for a casual dining experience. I try to get two per month on our scheduled date night. Sometimes we'll do a different night of the week and take the kids with us. One time we had three in one week- yes it is possible to eat out too much!

I've done a few phone call evaluations. That ends up being about $8 for twenty minutes of my time. I've done one retail- that was a lot of work for the $10 they paid me. It was also my first shop, so maybe it would be a little easier now. I'm also working on a special project right now where I'll be interviewing for three jobs and will get paid a nice sum. Just in time for Christmas!

Do you have any experience with mystery shopping? I love to hear about other companies and see what they have in my area. If you decide to check out mystery shopping, let me know how it goes! For other great tips across a variety of topics, check out Works for Me Wednesday! This week is even themed, and many posters have some great tips for preparing for the holidays.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Affirming My Priorities

I woke up with a to do list a mile long. How about you? I took a few quiet moments and sifted through some blogs I follow. I read a great article and my day has been re-focused. If you, too, need a little mommy lift, take a look here. It's a little long, so I didn't want to copy the whole post over! Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Do you ever get tired of cooking? Do you get tired of planning menus? Tired of making the same things over and over? Do you have a desire to try new things, but no time to find recipes that fit your family and budget? That's me right now... So, here's my un-inspired menu for the week. These are all easy meals for me, and my goal is to go through some of my dusty cookbooks and mark a few recipes for later this month. My goal for the month is to try a new recipe each week. I also need to keep my dinners under $5/meal. Do you have any fun, frugal recipes I could try?

Breakfasts- cereal, oatmeal, muffins, fruit, milk
Lunches- pb&j, popcorn/pretzels, fruit, milk
Monday- Cheesy Chicken and Rice
Tuesday- Venison Roast, Potatoes, Carrots
Wednesday- Fried Rice
Thursday- Waffles or Pancakes
Friday- Pizza Night
Saturday- New Recipe Night (Will update with recipe!)
Sunday- Eat What You Want Night (leftovers)

That's my plan! Head over to Menu Plan Monday to check out some other weekly meal plans.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Appliances pt 2

I'm learning more and more about saving money on all sorts of things. Here are some tips we've picked up over the last few years about getting good deals on larger purchases. For part one of getting great deals on major purchases, click here.

First of all, do your research. Know what you want and why you want it. Pick out your model and get familiar with the costs associated with each of the features. Know about the models above and below that one, and which features you're willing to let go of to get a different model at a bargain price.

I think everyone knows about price comparing. Visit different retailers- in person and online. Check out the major stores, as well as the discount stores. Sometimes there will be a special in store that they're not running online, or vice versa. Get an idea of how much your item is selling for and which places have the best prices. What kinds of sales do they have? Are there any other promotions you can take advantage of?

Consider purchasing second hand. Sites like e-bay and craigslist are the favorites in our home. Make sure you really know what you're getting before you make any bids or phone calls. This is where knowing how much it costs new can really help you out. Generally, you should be able to find something used for at 10% off, but could get it for as low as 50% off depending on the product and the demand for that item.

Most of my second-hand purchases are for kids' items. Garage sales, consignment sales, and thrift stores are great places to find baragains. Sales like Neat Repeatz and Take 2 here in Lincoln are where I get most of my shopping done for the year. I haven't been brave enough to take all my kids to a garage sale in quite a while, but I believe that's where some of the best deals can be found, and you can have fun bargaining, as well!

Recently, I was looking for an infant swing. New, they're anywhere in the $60-$200 price range. I figured out which brands should get me a $20 swing and kept my eye on craigslist for several weeks. Nothing was coming to my price point, and I began considering the need to spend more than that. But wait! Here comes Take 2, and not only did they have a swing for $20, but there were two to choose from!

Look for the clearance, returns, scratches, and overstocks. These are usually found in a back corner somewhere. If the store is big enough, there will be an outlet store or something like it "nearby." Last summer, we needed a new dishwasher. We just happened to get a $75 rebate off our particular brand because of some problem with a feature we didn't even use. Within the time frame of using that coupon, ours actually broke- it's a lot nicer to run a dishwasher if the dishes get cleaned and the water stays inside! So, we went to a store that was doing some appliance promotional, as well. We found our dishwasher on clearance because the new year's model came out the week before! I can't remember what we spent, but after clearance price, sale, and rebate, we paid less than half the original cost of the dishwasher. At that point, even the most basic model they had would have cost us more money!

Have a budget and stick to it. This is a lot easier if you're planning to pay with cash. It's amazing what will happen when you say something like, "we'll just write a check" when they go into their store credit card speech. It makes me wonder how much time they spend on those that just get turned down. We were at a furniture overstock-like store to purchase some couches. They were a "special buy" and with the 10% off weekend, we thought we were getting a great deal. I was wandering around again while Greg waited for a salesman. I found a beautiful dining room table. Originally priced around $1800, it was marked under $300! The salesman even went to see if it would qualify for the 10% off! Anyways, he was moving kind of slowly with our purchases until we said we'd write a check. Boy, did he move fast then! The same thing happens on the car lot. They don't seem to know what to do with you if you pull out a checkbook! Dave Ramsey says to bring cash in, but we haven't tried that, yet.

Buying in multiples. This is the way stores like Sam's Club operate, but it can work on other things, as well. We love the Slumberland clearance section and often use part of a date night to wander around in there. One time we found three of the chairs for our dining room in the return section. Of course, we asked for a deal if we bought all three. Of course, we got it!

Be willing to walk away. This is especially important when shopping for something that you will actually bargain for- cars, furniture, etc. We were looking trade our car in for a van and had a certain amount of money to spend above that- and it wasn't very much. We didn't need the van, yet, so were able to walk away when the dealership wasn't willing to come down on the model we were looking at or show us anything in our price range. Just two days later, the dealership called and offered us the van for what we had! We got an exceptional deal because we knew our budget before going in and were willing to walk away. This is a lot easier to do this if you're paying in cash and the item isn't an urgent need.

Have we missed out on other deal opportunities? How do you get the best bang for you buck when you make a larger purchase? I'd love to hear some of your ideas for getting a great deal. We'll try them out when we make our next large purchase!

If you're looking for other ways to save some money, check out some other links at Frugal Fridays.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How Cheap Can You Be?

I've recently entered the world of couponing. A few weeks ago I posted about my first "deal trip" and I thought it was amazing. Last week I had another trip, that I thought was pretty great, too. But this is absolutely amazing! She feeds a family of six for $4 a week! The principles that she uses are the same ones that I've started applying. Maybe I'll get there, too! If only we had the room to store all of our deals...

I love the chicksdigdeals website. Here in Nebraska, they compile a list of all the coupons in the Sunday paper and match them each week with store sales. I started visiting their site last spring, just for the convenience of checking all the store ads in one location. Now I'm hooked on couponing!

You may notice that there's a link on their site to get the Lincoln paper- Sun and Wed for $1/week. That's a great way to get coupons and the store flyers, especially if you decide to do some price matching. Here are some other website for coupon printing that I've found. So far, I've been able to get all of my deals solely from online and in-store coupons.

Most grocery stores have a few coupons on their websites. And of course, check out the manufacturer websites for coupons, as well. Some people find it helpful to set up another e-mail account just for all their coupons and newsletters.

What's the best way to get a great deal? Match a coupon with a store sale. Even better is to put a store coupon on top of that! And if another store has that prouduct on sale, price match! For example, last week the Keebler cookies were on sale 2/$4 at one store. But I had a $1 off 2 store coupon at another store. Plus a manufacturer's coupon for $1.50 off 2. So, if I took my ad to that second store and used both my coupons I could get two packages of Keebler cookies for $1.50. It turns out that the second store had dropped their in-store price to match the competitor, so I didn't need to price match, but I was going to!

And because I can't contain myself any longer, here's the picture from my trip last week. I spent $6.80 on all the food you see in the photo! 2 boxes Kashi cereal, 2 boxes of whole wheat pasta, 2 packages Keebler cookies, 6 jars of Ragu sauce, 1 box Fiber one pastries, and 2 pounds of bananas. I used somewhere around $13 in coupons. I think I need to start framing my receipts!

My goal for the month of November is to buy only deals. That may not work perfectly- I'm out of potatoes, but I'm going to try!

What kinds of deals can you find? How cheap can you be?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Appliances pt 1

"In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." Psalm 50:3

Much of my time and energy is spent in getting great deals on the things that we need for daily life- food, diapers, toilet paper... But everyone needs to make a larger purchase at some time or another. Whether it's a necessity or something more fun, there are lots of ways to get great deals on those larger purchases. Not the least of which, is asking the Lord for a great deal- pray for those appliances

I'm not kidding. God has given you a responsibility over the money you have. Of course, He wants you to get a good deal. Every major item in our home was purchased at an incredible deal (and most minor things, too). We have a budget in mind when we walk into the store and ask God to give us something great. This is the same God who fed 5000 people from what basically amounted to one boy's lunch box.

The first time I experienced was when we purchased our home. We were now in need of some appliances. We thought we could hold off on the washer and dryer, but a refrigerator was necessary. In order to save money, we first looked at second hand appliance stores. Any of you who have done this may know that they are not the best options. We decided that this was a purchase that would be worth the cost of buying new. So, we headed off to do some comparison shopping.

When we got to one particular store, I was tired and slightly frustrated. Even the most basic models were out of the price range we had thought to spend. So, as we walk across the parking lot, I say, "Dear God, please give us a good refrigerator for under $500. In Jesus' name, Amen." It was a simple prayer, and not said very reverently, but it was one that the Lord decided to answer! We found one we like that was $550. We were pretty excited! It wasn't quite as low as we had hoped, but better than anything else we had seen. As Greg waited for a salesman, I was wandering around. Back in the corner, I found what looked like the same one, for over $100 less. It was marked as a return and it turned out that the only thing wrong was a scuff mark on the side- that would be covered by the counters in our new house! With taxes and all, our total was $505. Go God!

I have story after story of other large purchases that we have made- cars, dishwashers, cameras, and more. Do you have any tips that have helped you walk away with great deals?