Friday, January 29, 2010

Financial Goals: Checking in for 2010, January

For accountability (for us) and hopefully encouragement to anyone whom this might encourage to keep pressing on towards Financial Freedom, I plan to share each month how we're doing with our financial goals. Our overall goals for 2010 are in our "big" Goals for 2010 list. Over the past couple weeks we have been talking and coming up with some bigger goals that I will be sharing later. For now, here's our January progress:

Goal: Cash only for groceries and entertainment/recreation.
This has been a definite success! I did have a little goof-up my second week of shopping when I forgot to go to the bank before I went to the first grocery store, but I'm gonna let that sneak by. Using cash only was very strange at first, but I can certainly see how it keeps you from overspending!

Goal: Stick to budget - less impulse buying.
Hmm... well, this one is going to take some getting used to. Daniel called me this morning to tell me that he spent $20 on new lawn-mower blades. Then he asked which category that stuff comes out of... of course the one that doesn't have any money in right now :) Like I said, we're still learning :) (My first thought was "in JANUARY???" LOL!!!) This is not the end of the earth, we will still be able to eat, wear clothes and sleep in our warm bed :) As for the grocery budget, using cash has really kept me from going over. My weekly grocery budget is $30, and the average per week this month is $30.54.

Goal: Put some money into savings each week.
We put money into savings just the first 2 weeks of January. As it turns out, we were not as close to meeting the insurance deductible for Baby George as I thought, so last week instead of putting the weekly amount into savings, it went into the medical fund to go towards the deductible. This week the paycheck simply was not big enough to get that far in the budget - Daniel took a sick day last Monday, and the rest of the week was extremely slow, so it was a very little paycheck.

And that's our progress and success for January!!

**Weeks like this week, when the paycheck feels so very teeny-tiny, are just reminders of several things:

~To be so very thankful that Daniel has a job. Many, many people that we know personally do not have jobs right now and are searching high and low for one. Daniel's job may not always be booming with 40 hours plus overtime, but we have been and continue to be blessed in that he has a job.

~The importance of an emergency fund/savings account and putting money in it! This one week of "slim pickin's" won't throw us off to the point of having to use from our emergency fund, but there have been times in the past when his work was very slow for multiple weeks and we did have to dip into our emergency fund to pay the bills.**

How are you doing with your financial goals? Still trying to get your head above the water? Perhaps you're DEBT FREE and saving for something specific? I'd love to hear how it's going for you :)

This post is linked to Life As MOM's Frugal Friday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weekly Grocery Trip 1/26/10

Today has really been a good day. The weather is beautiful and I have the laundry hanging out on the line, bread dough is rising in the oven, and I'm feeling great! It's amazing what going to bed earlier will do for a body :)

Here are the results of my grocery shopping on Tuesday. Kroger is having a Mega Event Sale this week. I had planned to get 10 items completely free, but they were out of the last thing I needed so I had to fill in the gaps with some other participating items (that I'd planned to get anyway). I was able to get 20 of the Mega Event items squeezed into my budget for almost free. I'm hoping that like usual, they run the same sale again next week so I can pick up a few more great deals.

* - Mega Event Item

*3 lbs. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter sticks - FREE
1 gal. Orange Juice - $2.50
1 gal. 1% Milk - $2.50
*(8) 8oz. bricks Kraft Cheese - $.49 ea.
*Green Giant Steamer - $.69
Salt - $.59
*(3) Hunt's Tomatoes - $.19 ea.
G2 Gatorade - $.10
*(2) Nature Valley Nut Clusters - $.49 ea.**
*(3) Quaker Quakes Rice Snacks - FREE
(2) 1.4 lbs 75/25 Ground Beef - $5.44 ($1.88/lb.)
(2) 5 pc. B/S Chic. Breasts - $11.58 ($1.88/lb.)
18 ct. Eggs - $2.37

Shelf Price - $84.77
Total OOP - $31.31
Saved - $53.46 / 63%

**The Nut Clusters should've been free, but one of my e-coupons that I had loaded onto my Kroger card did not come off :( That put me over my cash budget by $.04 and I did a "no-no" and pulled a nickle out of my wallet :P If I'd thought fast enough I would've put back the Gatorade and stayed within my cash limit, but I don't think $.04 this once is going to ruin our grocery budget ;)

I also want to go ahead and say that I don't normally buy "fake butter" or like to pay money for fat that I'm just going to drain off (that is some pretty fatty ground beef...). However, when the price is right (who can beat FREE?), or the freezer is empty (we were completely out of ground beef), I get whatever I can get that fits my budget. I still have 11 lbs. of REAL butter in the freezer that I bought for $1.50/lb over Christmas. We will use the "fake" stuff on our breakfast toast, etc. and that will allow us to save the real butter for cooking and baking. That's one way I'm frugal :)

And a cheese hint: Cheese has a loooong shelf life. I discovered that if I freeze the solid bricks it doesn't slice very well at all for Daniel's lunch sandwiches (freezing it makes it crumbly), so I just keep it in the back of the meat drawer in the refrigerator where I keep his lunch meat and cheese. I have 2 blocks left from the last sale, so I made sure to move them to the front so I will use the older ones first. What I bought this week is dated for May and June, so we have lots of time to use it up before it reaches the date. And if the date starts to get close, I'll just throw it in the freezer and use crumbly cheese :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Will Be Back

Hopefully tomorrow! To bloggy-land, that is. I'm sorry if you've been waiting for posts that I just haven't written this week!

I have been in some sort of funk all week... not wanting to do anything. No housework, no laundry, no nuthin'.

This afternoon I think I figured out why: I have been staying up way past my "bedtime" and waiting to get up until the last minute as a result of staying up too late, then feeling tired and blah all day.

Well, today is Wednesday, so that means I have 1/2 a week left this week and by golly if I'm gonna let it go to waste just because I've been in a funk so far! So, tonight, I am going to bed earlier and I plan to get up earlier so I don't have to rush around getting Daniel's breakfast and lunch made. And hopefully tomorrow will be the start of funk-less days :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Very Yummy Rice

One of my "In the Kitchen" Goals for 2010 is to try new recipes more often. This is one of my new recipes! It's simple, reasonably inexpensive (sorta - depends on how much you eat :P ), and quite delicious!! (And it makes a LOT!)

Very Yummy Rice

1/4 lb. (1 stick) butter - $.38 (sale)
1 huge onion, chopped fine - $.25
2 cups rice - $.56
2 cans beef consomme
*I used 28oz. of beef broth made with bouillon powder - $.12
8oz. sharp cheese, grated - $1.50
2 small cans mushrooms, with liquid - $1.58
1 cup toasted almonds
*I used 1/2 cup slivered - $1.79

Saute onion in butter. Add uncooked rice and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix all ingredients except almonds in a 9x13 baking dish. Bake at 325° for 1 hour. Stir in almonds before serving.

Total cost: $6.18

Like I said, it makes a lot, so depending on how many people you're serving, one pan could very easily do for 3 meals, making the cost per meal around $2. And, you could very easily leave out the almonds. My gracious, they cost an arm and a leg! I don't know how much flavor they add as much as they just add some nice "crunch."

This post is linked to Life As MOM's Ultimate Recipe Swap and The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap. Head on over to browse through more yummy recipes that are being linked up!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Laundry Soap - What Works for Me

Many moons ago, when I was first getting started on being even more frugal in an effort to save Daniel's hard-earned moo-lah, I switched from "cheap but good" store-bought laundry soap to making my own. It is very, very inexpensive to make and 1/2 a recipe lasted us quite a long time.

I think I used homemade for about a year and a half. Many people that I know IRL (In Real Life) and through the blogging world use the same recipe for homemade laundry soap and it works great for them. I figured it would do the same for me :) I was tickled pink to be able to save money in this area of our lives, especially since it kinda is a necessity :P

Towards the end of summer last year (2009) I started seriously paying attention to our clean laundry. I was beginning to notice things that I didn't really like. Two things that stood out to me the most: First was that Daniel's clothing that he wears for work (jeans, company shirt, etc.) was not smelling so nice after a good washing, even with line-drying on a nice, sunny day. Especially the clothes from the days that he would get so hot and sweaty, the clothes would still smell sweaty and stinky when I'd get them in off the wash-line. The second thing I was really noticing was that the towels and washcloths were getting the same way. Smelling very stagnant and stale, and the lighter colored washcloths were becoming very dingy and gray in color. For some of the washcloths, it was very obvious exactly where my body-wash had been, either because there was a large gray area, or the color from the body-wash (which was pink Oil of Olay at that time) was staying in the cloth. I didn't care for any of it.

I decided to "experiment" with a jug of Tide laundry detergent.

Photo from Tide's website.

The next time Tide was on sale and I had coupons, I bought some. It was a 64 load bottle. I wanted to try two things: First and foremost, I wanted to see if it made an obvious difference in the cleanliness of the clothes. Second, I often hear people say that the number of loads that is listed on the bottle is a bunch of hooey because they never get that many loads, so I wanted to see exactly how many loads I got out of this bottle.

The results from the first would be that almost immediately I noticed a big difference. Within 2 washings (2 weeks), the towels and washcloths lost almost all of their dinginess. The one white washcloth that had the pink area from the body wash was white again (and it had been pink for some time!). Daniel's clothes were smelling clean and not just like rinsed sweat. Yes, I'm sure that the fragrance of the detergent had some effect on that, but when I line dry the clothes I don't really notice the detergent smell so much as the laundry just smells like clean fresh air :)

The second experiment proved the bottle to be correct. The fine print stated that the 64 loads was based on the 1st line (smallest amount) in the bottle cap. I eye-balled it and determined that line 2 was equal to 1 1/2 "loads" and line 3 was equal to 2 "loads" worth of detergent. Based on this, I kept a marker with the bottle and each time I did laundry, I marked on the bottle how many "loads" worth of detergent I used. In the end? I had gotten just a few more than 64 "loads" of laundry out of that bottle!!

So, for now, what works for me is Tide. So far I have been able to get it fairly cheaply (as far as Tide goes) and I'm hoping for another good sale to come around before I run out again :) I have not been brave enough to try the "less expensive than Tide" brands again. I may, or I may not. Right now I'm very happy with Tide!!

This post is linked to this week's Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Weekly Grocery Trip 1/19/10

First stop: THE BANK! I remembered this time :)

Here's everything that I managed to get for less than $30 (cash!):

I had ECB's that expired this week. There weren't any really good ECB rolling deals, so I did the best I could with as little OOP as possible.

1 6ct. SoyJoy Bars - $6.00
1/2 Gal. Milk - $2.59
-$3 ECB
-$5 ECB

Total: $.80
Earned $6.00 ECB

I had RR's that expired today. Since I don't shop there often I wasn't dead set on rolling the RR's, plus all of the deals I could've rolled them on would cost me more OOP than I wanted to spend today.

(2) Utz Chips - $3.00
-$1.00 RR
-$1.00 RR

Total: $1.08

Food Lion
6pc. Chicken Thighs - $2.23 (markdown, $.78/lb I think)

Total: $2.29

6pc. Bone-In Pork Chops - $3.79 ($1.39/lb)
Pint Sour Cream - $1.00
(2) OJ Concentrate - $3.36 ($1.68 ea.)
(4) 5ct. Pillsbury Sweet Rolls - $.20 ($.05 ea.)
Vegetable Oil - $2.93
(2) Gatorade G2 - FREE
Canned Green Chilies - $.99
Mushrooms - $.79
1lb. Navy Beans - $1.39
2lbs. Rice - $1.39
5lb. Bread Flour - $2.49
Bananas - $.48
18ct. Eggs - $1.99
Lettuce - $1.55
Tomatoes - $1.41
Oranges - $1.00

Total OOP: $25.20


Total Shelf Price: $63.35 (doesn't include the meat savings)
Total Spent: $29.37
Total Saved: $33.98 / 54%

Included in the picture but not the prices is a box (48oz) of Cole Slaw. It was compliments of Customer Appreciation :) I was shopping and a guy walked up with a buggy loaded with Cole Slaw and Potato Salad. He greeted me, asked if I liked Potato Salad or Cole Slaw (both are "dangerous" foods in my mind, unless I've tried them and know I like them). I chose Cole Slaw (always the safer choice) and he gave me a tub, saying that they were giving them away for Customer Appreciation. Cool! It is dated the 21st, Daniel's guess is that they were just getting rid of them :P

This post is linked to The Grocery Cart Challenge

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Different Kind of Weekend

Wow, this past weekend was all wonky. I'm glad it's finally Monday and hopefully things will get back to some sort of system and order :)

Daniel was on call over the weekend (he and another guy traded) and was out pretty late Friday night, and had two calls to go on Saturday. Saturday evening we had dinner with his parents and were up late visiting.

About 4am Sunday morning I woke up very suddenly (the kind where you are wide awake RIGHT NOW), realizing Daniel wasn't in the bed. That's really unusual. I immediately called out, asking if he was ok (I saw the night-light on in the bathroom). At the same time I jumped up to go check on him. It ended up that his right ear was hurting so badly that it woke him up and he was in the bathroom trying to get relief with some warm water. He spent the rest of the night (morning) on the couch and I didn't sleep much of a wink because I knew he was in pain and because it was just strange to not have him in bed with me.

We slept in and did not go to Sunday School or church. We were both worn out from the middle of the night escapade and Daniel's ear was still bothering him. You know how men are - when they don't feel good, you just leave them alone and don't pester them - at least that's how Daniel is ;) I suggested that I thought it might be an ear infection and that he might go to Patient First (our "open 365 days/year urgent care" place). Of course he wanted to wait it out and hope that it would get better on it's own. He did take Tylenol (he almost never takes pain meds, so I knew he was really uncomfortable) and slept ALL morning. I didn't want to clang and crash around in the house, so I spent the morning quietly cleaning off the desk and resting.

He spent most of the afternoon dozing off and on, and in the evening we watched a couple movies and he fell asleep again. He woke up when I was going to bed and took more (regular)Tylenol and spent the night on the couch. This morning he called in to work to say he didn't think he could work today (they do not have off for MLK Day), took Extra Strength Tylenol, slept some more and is finally off to Patient First. He said that yesterday his equilibrium was off, so I'm really suspecting some type of ear or inner-ear infection. Hopefully he will be able to get some relief and start to feel better soon!

In the mean-time, I'm enjoying getting back into the routine of things for the week. I enjoyed the lazy day Saturday and Sunday, but I'm also enjoying doing my housework. It is a really nice day here - the sky is clear and it's probably close to 50°, perfect for line-drying the laundry!! Which reminds me... the washer is finished and I need to go hang out the 2nd load :)

Menu Plan Monday ~ Jan. 18

I'm a little bit later in the day for getting this posted, it's been an interesting weekend!! This week I'm trying a new recipe (my MIL has fixed it, but it will be the first time for me), and I'm hoping to try a couple more new ones next week. I've been purposely looking through cookbooks (even if they don't have ANY pictures!) and dog-earing the pages with recipes that I think I might want to try. And my new Taste of Home magazine came last week so I've been dog-earing recipes in there, too!

For this week, though:

Monday - Grilled Chicken Breasts, Very Yummy Rice*, Green Beans
Tuesday - Beef Roast in Crockpot (maybe a new recipe?), Rolls, Corn
Wednesday - Sweet'n'Sour Chicken over Rice
Thursday - Homemade Pizza and Smoothies
Friday - Chili (another possible new recipe), Cornbread
Saturday - Venison Stroganoff, Rice, Peas
Sunday - Leftover Sweet'n'Sour Chicken over Rice

*new recipe, I hope to post it if it turns out well.

I haven't finalized which recipes I'm going to use for Tuesday and Friday, but I will before I go shopping tomorrow. Hopefully I can find recipes that won't call for any ingredients I don't already have :) I'm a little curious about White Chicken Chili - I've heard about it a lot but have never had it. If you have a good recipe, feel free to share a link or the actual recipe in the comments, or you can email me through the Contact Me button on my sidebar.

This post is linked to Organized Junkie's Menu Plan Monday

Friday, January 15, 2010

Beef and Rice Stew

Last winter I tried this recipe for Hamburger Barley Stew. I had barley in my pantry and it looked like a good recipe to use it in. It made a LOT, and it was good, but it wasn't an instant favorite for Daniel and me (good enough to make it into my recipe book, though).

It wound up on my menu for last night, and I decided to tweak it a bit. Not much, but some. We like it alot better the new way. It was meatier, heartier (Daniel doesn't like really juicy soups) and a more reasonable amount for the two of us. We had some rolls in the freezer that I heated and served with the stew. It was a great meal, and we have enough leftover for Sunday :) This recipe would work in either the crockpot or on the stove. It was supposed to be in the crockpot yesterday but I got a late start and it ended up cooking on the stove :)

Oh, and the best part? I used up the last "rubber" potato that was hiding out in my pantry!!

Beef and Rice Stew
1 lb. lean ground beef, browned (Daniel suggested that stew beef would be good, too)
1 1/2 cups water
2 cans stewed tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
2-3 carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 small - med. potato, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp. beef bouillon or cubes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 ts. pepper
1/3 cup rice*

Brown beef in large pot, add remaining ingredients except for rice. Simmer on low heat for about 1 1/2 hours. Stir in rice, simmer for 20-30 minutes more. Enjoy :)

For the crockpot, brown the beef, dissolve the bouillon in water, stir everything (except rice) together in the crockpot. Cook on low all day, or high for 5-ish hours. Stir in rice 20-30 minutes before serving.

*I used white rice. If using brown rice, back up the rice-cooking time accordingly since brown rice takes longer to cook.

Click over to LifeAsMom and The Grocery Cart Challenge for more recipes from their weekly recipe swaps!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My First Baby Shower

Is a virtual one!!

A couple months ago I joined Twitter, and Heather was one of the first people (that I didn't already know - I only knew a small handful) to "come over and introduce herself" and welcome me!

Soon after she found out I was pregnant with Baby George, she jumped right in and said she was going to host a baby shower for me on her blog. I think it's awesome!! Of course, this morning was one of those mornings (the first in a while, actually) that I got up, got Daniel off to work, just didn't feel up to it yet, and crawled back in bed. Lo and behold, when I did get up (feeling much more rested and energetic!) there was a baby shower going on and I was in my bathrobe!! LOL!!

Heather's baby shower for me is a "no gifts required" shower. Go check it out and leave some of your awesome advice and tips over there for me!!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Weekly Grocery Trip 1/12/10

Whew, this cash only business is taking some getting used to. I went to Food Lion before I went to the bank. Grr. I had 1/2 of the total in cash (leftover from last week) and put the other 1/2 on my debit card. I had every intention of not spending that $2 but somehow my math got goofed up at Kroger. Oh well. I will make up for it next week.

From Food Lion and Kroger:(3) Tony's Pizza's - FREE
(2) 1/2 gal. Orange Juice - $1.25 ea.
1/2 gal. milk - $1.50
Boneless Skinless Chic. Breasts - $2.97 (1.88/lb.)
1.37lbs. 85/15 Ground Beef - $3.49 (Manager's Special)
8oz. Swiss Cheese - $2.29
(3) BirdsEye Steamers - $.33 ea.
(2) Kroger Mushrooms - $.79 ea.
pint Sour Cream - $1.00
2-ish lb. London Broil - $4.02 (1.98/lb.)
2lb. Rice - $1.39
Apples - $2.29 ($1.00/lb.)
1/2 cup slivered almonds - $1.79
Tortillas - $1.39
Bananas - $.91 ($.49/lb.)
Celery - $1.59
Oranges - $1.50
18ct. Eggs - $2.37

Shelf Price - $56.90
Total OOP - $34.26
Saved - $22.64 / 40%

Since I had $2 and some change left from last week, I went over by not quite $2 this week.

One thing that threw my total off was that I thought I'd loaded a coupon onto my Kroger card for the frozen veggies. I couldn't figure out why it didn't come off, then I realized that the coupon I'd loaded was Green Giant brand. Yeah, a Green Giant coupon won't work so well for a BirdsEye product :P

Hopefully next week I'll remember to go to the bank first :P I'm determined to get the hang of this cash only system. Maybe I'll start leaving my debit card at home. Any of you that use the cash only system, do you have tips or advice for a newbie?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Jan. 11

Whew, menu planning is getting interesting. I need to find an easy way to come up with new recipes. I look through my homemade cookbook and see the same recipes over and over again. Not that there's anything wrong, I just don't want to make the same thing over and over again :P Somehow when I'm flying by the seat of my pants on the menu thing it doesn't seem as complicated... but then neither am I as prepared!! I've spent some time this week looking through cookbooks for ideas and I think I have a few in mind for next week.

For this week, though, it's tried'n'true stuff:

Monday - Leftover Showalter's Chicken Casserole, Corn
Tuesday - 4 Cheese Pasta and Beef Casserole, Salad
Wednesday - Chicken Enchiladas
Thursday - Crockpot Beef and Barley Stew, Frozen Rolls
Friday - Marinaded and Baked Chicken, Aunt Eva's Mac'n'Cheese, Salad
Saturday - Supper with the in-laws
Sunday - Leftover Beef and Barley Stew, Rolls

This post is linked to Organized Junkie's Menu Plan Monday where there are piles and piles of menu plans linked up every week that you can browse through.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

32 Weeks

Here's Mama and Baby George at about 32 weeks!! Somehow I still don't feel nearly as big as I look. I look in the mirror or see pictures and go "Yikes, I'm alot bigger than I feel." But I guess getting bigger is a good thing at this point since Baby is really packin' on the pounds now, gaining about 8oz a week between now and birth. Little Baby George (as we still call him or her) weighs about 3.75 lbs and is almost 17" long. The only thing he or she really needs to do between now and being born is grow!

I am still feeling really good. Going to bed earlier (something I'm doing much more consistently) has really been great. I get up in the mornings (earlier than usual!) feeling rested and ready to go for the day. It's great. I realize it's not going to be the same for a while once the baby is born, but for now I'm enjoying it!!

Tonight I got my first "you look like you're going to go sooner" comment. Well, really the second since last week my chiropractor told me there's no way I'm going to last till March. Who knows? The baby will come when the baby comes :)

I noticed my feet swelling for the first time this week. It seems to mostly come from sitting at the table, which is where I do almost all of my sit-down work (blogging, planning, etc.). So far it has not been very bad, and it seems to go down quickly once I get them propped up. I don't know what they do throughout the day... I have shoes on so I can't tell :) They look fine when I take my shoes off, so I imagine that being up and moving around they don't swell.

We started our birth class this past Thursday night. We have two more yet. A friend at church is a childbirth instructor and she comes to our house. I really enjoy the one-on-one, what she's teaching us is tailored specifically to us and we can ask questions to our hearts content. Thursday night she went over the 3 stages of labor and delivery and we practiced a relaxation technique (which we are supposed to practice on our own... better remember to do it!). There wasn't anything Thursday that I didn't already have some kind of idea about, but it was nice to have it all laid out and talked about in detail so I know better what will (hopefully) happen.

For those of you with curious minds, my "birth plan" at this point is: Get as far as I can/want to/feel like and then get an epidural (and if I feel like going the whole way without an epidural, more power to me, but I'm a firm believer that if you're in pain and there's a way to dull the pain, go for it. I'm not too stubborn for pain meds!!). I'm not interested in the labor being rushed (induced or sped along) and I want to avoid a C-section if possible. I want to keep a very open mind, though, that things don't always go the way we "plan" and God might have something different in mind!!

Now I must get off of here and get to bed. I have a long day tomorrow with MOPS in the morning, a Dr. appointment at noon and all the other Monday stuff on my list :)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thinking Ahead: The Baby Fund

Since Daniel and I live solely on his income (being a full-time homemaker does not draw a monetary paycheck :) ), it is of utmost importance that we don't let things creep up and surprise us. Yes, there are emergencies, and that is what an emergency fund is for, but when big (or even small) things are known about ahead of time it's always good to have a plan in place for how you're going to pay for it if it's going to cost money.

Last spring when Daniel and I talked and prayed and talked and prayed about it and finally came to the conclusion that we were "as ready as we'd ever be" to start a family (Don't worry! We both want to have kids very much!), we knew we needed to start saving immediately for our little person. We didn't know how long it would be until I would get pregnant, it could be right away, it could be months or years. Regardless, we knew babies cost money, even when you have decent health insurance (which I have not had any reason to not be pleased with mine).

Babies cost a LOT of money. Even before they are born there are copays, deductibles, maternity clothes, etc. etc. Not to mention a crib and other "nice to have" things - unless you plan to use a cardboard box or dresser drawer :PWe tossed around some numbers, not really knowing what we were talking about, and came up with a ball-park figure to start setting aside each week into our baby fund. We started adding to our baby fund and it started growing. Shortly thereafter our little baby started growing, too :)

So far, between our baby fund and our medical fund, we have had to take very little money out of savings (different from our emergency fund) to pay for baby/pregnancy related expenses. It hasn't been cheap. There have been some surprises along the way that we hadn't counted on (um... meeting the insurance deductible was one of those things, but we managed). I didn't know maternity clothes were so stinkin' expensive, but they are probably just as "expensive" as other brand new clothing, which I rarely buy! (And it has been VERY nice that several ladies in our Sunday School class loaned me their maternity clothes stash to use! I've had to buy very little, really.)

Quite a few people have been surprised that we had and have a baby fund. When I met with the insurance lady at the Dr's office to discuss payments to meet our deductible, she was pleasantly surprised that payments, period, were not going to be a problem for us. I must not look like I have gold bars stashed away in my closet... hmm. I assured her that we had been setting money aside for baby-related things and no, $X was not going to be a problem. I plan to use the baby budget to fund cloth diapers for the baby and any other needs we have along the way.

Once the baby is born and all those expenses are out of the way, I hope to continue our baby fund for two things: to get a head start for (hopefully) the next little munchkin, but also to get started on saving for things I know will likely cost an arm and a leg down the road (schooling comes to mind), and possibly even a savings account.

For anything - from a weekend camping trip to a new house - it is always easier to start saving for it sooner rather then later. Especially if you have a time frame that you're working in, the sooner you start saving, the smaller your "payments" to the fund can be, which is a lot easier than at the last minute realizing "Oops! Every single extra penny and then some!" has to go towards being able to have the end result debt-free.

This post is linked to Life As Mom's "Frugal Friday" where SEVERAL people link up, blogging and sharing their Frugal Friday posts. Head on over and check it out, you might learn something - I always do :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Year, New Datebook

In Part 3 of the My Journey to Homemaking series I did last year, I sang the praises of this datebook. I loved it.I think last year was either the 3rd or 4th year I'd used a PlanAhead planner. I knew how it worked. I had everything figured out, I knew how I liked to fill it out and maximize it to fit my needs. I loved how each day had it's own space, and my daily lists fit each day almost perfectly. But there were a few things I didn't like, but I didn't realize it until almost the end of last year. When I needed to get a new planner for 2010, I "shopped around" a bit, keeping in mind what I liked about my old planner, and what I wanted in a new one.

Out with the old, in with the new!

I came up with this Mead Daily/Monthly Planner:I bought it at WalMart, I don't remember how much it cost, but it was more than the PlanAhead planner. I decided that having a good tool was worth the money.

It has monthly tabs! Not something that was on my "want" list, but I've been enjoying them!
Each month has month-at-a-glance pages. Love it! I can write or pencil in activities, and don't have to go flipping through the whole book to see what's scheduled on a certain day. I also have enjoyed using this to plan my menus - I can pencil them in here and easily rearrange or change it before I write it out for the week. It also makes it easy to see what meals we've had recently so I don't do repeats too often.With the 1 day per page format, yes, it is a little bigger and a little bulkier, but it just stays on the counter so size isn't a real issue. I wanted more space for each day, but I wasn't sure exactly what I was looking for. This format works perfectly!
In the old datebook, appointments and my to-do lists got all jumbled up together. I tried using different colors of pens, highlighters, etc, but that was just too much to keep track of. I specifically wanted something that with each day I had space for appointments, and space for my to-do list and notes. (And no, my social and Dr. visit lifestyle is not so massive that I have THAT many appointments! But I figured with a little person joining our family, we'll have more than the one annual poke'n'prod Dr. appointment to keep track of.)

With this format, the left side of the "day" has times printed in, where I can write in appointments. The right side is blank where I fill in my to-do list and notes. My to-do list starts at the top and works down, and little extra things I need or want to do (phone calls, projects, reminders) I start and the bottom and work my way up. That way I know what is "to-do list" and what is optional or really needs my attention. I also use the right side to remind me to pay bills. When a bill comes, I determine when I'm going to pay it, then I write it at the top of the "to-do list" side in red ink.

Across the very bottom of the page is a blank block. This is where I write the menu for the day and any notes that need to go along with it.

So far I am really liking this planner! If you're looking for something that will work for you, I hope this gives you some ideas. If you already have a system you really like, please share, either with a comment or a link in my comments. I love seeing what works for other people, and gleaning ideas :) Or if you just want to leave a comment saying that you stubbed your big toe or the kids are driving you crazy, that's fine, too!

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Weekly Grocery Trip 1/5/10

In keeping with my Goals for 2010, before I bought any groceries this week I went to the bank and pulled out $30 cash. There was not much on sale for really, really great deals this week, which was nice because I had some big ticket items that were musts on my grocery list. Since I knew I was only spending $30 and not a penny more, I prioritized my grocery list before I went into Kroger. I will admit, there was a point when I started to dig through my purse to see how much change I could scrounge up so I could get "one more thing," but I quickly told myself "no." If I'm going to stick by my cash only goal, I need to stick to it... if I'm always making excuses, well, that's not my goal. I wasn't able to get everything on my list, but plenty to cover this week's menu some for next week's, too. And the sodas should last most of the month!

From Target:
12 pk. Pepsi - $.50
I had a $1 coupon, plus after I walked ALL the way from the grocery section to the CS desk, I noticed the box was dinged up. The cans were all ok, but the cashier marked it down 50% voluntarily.
12 pk. Dr. Pepper - $3.00
Total - $3.59

From Kroger:
(2) OJ Concentrate - $1.68 ea.
1/2 gal. Milk - $1.89
5lb. Bread Flour - $2.49
3pc. Split Chicken Breasts - $2.84
1.48lbs. 85/15 Ground Beef - $4.72
18ct. Eggs - $1.99
8oz. Sour Cream - $.79
Mushrooms - $.79
Lettuce - $1.97
1lb. Carrots - $.92
(4) Tomatoes - $1.27
Total - $23.61

Shelf Price - $37.93
Total OOP - $27.20
Saved - $10.73 / 28%

How is your grocery shopping for this week going? Staying under budget? Totally blowing it? Finding great deals you can't pass up? Feel free to leave me some comment love :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Habit for January

In my list of goals for this year, I have that I want to choose and develop a new habit or two each month. I think this is a great way for me/us to get into the habit of doing things that we should do but usually don't.

I know which one I want to work on right away :) I want both of us to get into the habit of taking our dirty dishes from the table to the sink or dishwasher when we're finished with the meal or snack. Usually we just let them sit and I clean them up the next day or whenever I get around to it. And it's annoying to have to go hunting down dirty dishes each time I run the dishwasher. Why haven't I done anything about it before? I don't know.

This might be more along the lines of creating and sticking to a new "house rule" but it's certainly something that if we do it often enough, we'll get into the habit of doing it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Jan. 4

Wow, the first week of January already!! Our schedule has been so un-normal the past couple weeks that it felt strange to sit down and plan a menu, but I know I will be so thankful for it each day when I don't have to wonder "hmm, what should we eat?"

Our hamburger and chicken meat supply is starting to run low, so in an effort to keep the budget down this week so I can have extra money to replenish those things, I've been careful to create a menu that requires only a couple "new groceries." This week will use up our ground beef stash, but with not needing to buy lots of "extras" I should be able to get a couple pounds to replenish.

Monday - Ham and Stuffing leftover from New Year's Day, Corn
Tuesday - Bean Pie (using up the extra topping that has been in my "odds & ends" freezer collection), Salad
Wednesday - Showalter's Chicken Casserole
Thursday - Stuffed Peppers, Salad
Friday - Crockpot Dill Roast, Garlic Mashed Potatoes (from freezer), Green Beans
Saturday - hopefully Daniel's family Christmas that got postponed in Dec.
Sunday - Taco Soup

To see more menu plans, hop on over to I'm an Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday post where lots of people share their weekly menu plans!

Goals for 2010

I am good at making lists and following lists, but I think this is perhaps the first year that I have actually thought about and written out a list of goals that I would like to accomplish throughout the year. I have been thinking about these things for the past several weeks, and reading other people's goals has given me ideas, and reminded me of things that I've thought about or wanted to do, but just never do them. Hopefully by having a written list, I'll do better at actually doing instead of just thinking. These are all subject to change. I have no idea what God has in store for us this year, but I can still at least make a plan and strive to do my best with whatever situation I'm in.

(Many of these Daniel and I have talked about, since several of them include not just myself, but the both of us.)
*Go to bed, at bedtime, together.
*Spend time together as a couple each day.
*Spend time together as a family each day.
*Regular date nights for just the two of us (monthly or bi-monthly)
*Daily personal quiet time with the Lord.
*Read at least 1 book a month - I love to read, but push it to the back burner so often.
*Exercise 3x a week or more.
*Lose baby weight and then some (after the baby's born, of course!)
*Choose and develop 1 or 2 new habits each month - I really enjoyed FishMama's "Get a Good Habit Going" challenge last year, I want to keep it up.
*Eat breakfast together more often - usually Daniel eats breakfast on the way to his work.
*Don't overschedule our calendar. Keep time free for "us" and know that it's ok to say "no."

*Cash only for groceries, entertainment/recreation. It is so easy to overspend in these areas, I want us to try the cash only system to keep us on-track.
*Stick to budget! Less impulse buying!
*Put SOME money into savings each week, plus any extra that is possible.

In the kitchen
*Menu plan each week 1 week ahead.
*Serve salads with meals 2x a week - we both like salads, but I don't often plan them into the menu.
*Find or create the happy medium for eating healthier without going overbudget.
*Update the freezer inventory quarterly (basically print off new sheets to correspond with my chicken scratches and changes on the existing one).
*Try new recipes more often.
*Use crockpot 1x a week.
*Reduce food waste - stay on top of leftovers and freezer inventory.

*Donate or throw away more. DO NOT KEEP CLUTTER
*Complete To-Do lists daily.
*Stay on top of filing paperwork (aka - keep the desk clean!).
*Print off, write on and put photos in albums monthly.
*Maintain clean and welcoming bedrooms.
*Put curtains in kitchen windows.
*Continue with weekly or monthly "Monster Projects"

*Blog more regularly.
*Clean out coupon file quarterly.

Above all else
*Do all things in a manner that glorifies God and brings honor to my husband.
*Strive to be the best wife and mama I can be.
*Maintain a peaceful and welcoming atmosphere in our home.