Sunday, February 20, 2011

This Week's Shopping - $19.78!!!

Whoo! I actually kept the groceries under $20!

Here's what I got:
3 packages of feta cheese - $1.00 each (DH asked for a dinner that requires feta for his birthday) pepperoni - $1.00 (for girls' whole wheat english muffin pizza lunches)
2# cheese - $3.50
liquid formula - $.59
baby food - $.45 (clearance)
10# carrots - $5.29 (need for meal swap)
apples - $.59/lb
bread - $.99
cantaloupe - $.39/lb
Not pictured: $.49 lunch meat

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday Project - Taxes Done!

I got our taxes done yesterday. Woohoo! I'm visiting my folks for a few days and was able to get some time and wrap it all up. I like to get our taxes done as soon as possible so we can get our refund as soon as possible. Also, the earlier you file, the earlier you get in the queue for the refund.

Also, I love to help with taxes so if you have any questions I'll do my best to answer them!


Friday, February 18, 2011

God is Faithful!

I wanted to share how God was faithful this week in our finances. Over and over our needs have been met and I want to be sure I'm giving God the glory!

We visited DH's family last month in California and our travel expenses were $637.60. I had set aside $200 in January and squeezed another $10.12 to pay toward this cost. When DH took over the finances a few weeks ago I explained that we still had to come up with $427.48. He was frustrated that we hadn't had the money in advance of the trip (and he is totally right!) and listed a few options of places we might "find" money to cover this cost. Then I had to pay annual payroll taxes for our business and those options disappeared as I wrote a check to Uncle Sam.

On Tuesday morning we prayed about our finances, specifically about this outstanding bill and about a much larger expense we are anticipating this summer. In the mail that day, we received a check for $302.81. It was an insurance refund related to expenses back in December 2009! I also received a payment that day of $39.63 for some babysitting I had done in January. Finally, DH was signed up to participate in a focus group that night, but the company ended up not needing him. We couldn't believe it when he was paid $85 for his trouble anyway. In total we were needed $427.48 and the day we prayed about it God provided $427.44! Isn't God good?

Also on Tuesday . . . DH found out that he had won an award at work that came with a monetary bonus. That bonus will be saved toward that large expense we're anticipating this summer. God is already meeting that need, too.

He is faithful to meet our needs! Philipians 4:19 says "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." Amen.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pantry Challenge 2011! Update

I have so much food stockpiled that the Pantry Challenge 2011! hasn't been a huge challenge in regard to creative meal planning. The biggest challenges we've run into include running out of "kid" cereal - at our house that means non-sugar stuff like rice krispies, cheerios, and kix - and running out of raisins. We've been eating a lot of oatmeal with dried cranberries in it!

I have been challenged, however, with my grocery shopping and trying to keep my perishable purchases under $20. So far I haven't managed it, but I've been close!

I am buying less milk, less produce, and skipping really great deals! To make up for less produce we're eating canned peaches, pears, and applesauce from last summer. It might sound strange to you, but I am supremely proud of myself for not buying a pound of butter for $1.49 at TOP last weekend. I never see butter at that low price, but I have about 10 pounds in the freezer and the whole point of the Pantry Challenge 2011! is to use what I have and not add to it!

I also reviewed the contents of my pantry this weekend. I haven't done that since DD#4 was born back in September so I was really pleased to find that I only had a few expired things like teriyaki sauce, salad dressing, a can of cranberry sauce and a box of rice-a-roni. I have a few more things I need to use in March so I'm already planning my meals for next month (since this month's are already all planned). I still need to dig into the freezer and find out what's lurking there. Maybe next week . . .

How is the challenge going for you? Does anyone want to have a challenge in March? I'm definitely continuing my own challenge into March.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Albertsons Double Coupons

Well it wasn't my best double coupon shopping ever, but thought I'd still share with you.

Scott Paper Towels 8 pack - $7.49 on sale ($1.00 MC doubled) = $5.49

Colgate Total toothpaste - $2.50 on sale ($.75 MC doubled) = $1.00
Buddig turkey - 16 oz - $1.99 on clearance ($.75 MC doubled) = $.49

I only buy paper towels about once a year because we really don't use them much. I was pleased to get these particular ones though because they're those "pick-your-size" type with really short towels. Now I can use even less!
I was bummed that my $1.00 Total coupon was expired so I had to settle for the $.75 off instead.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Recycle Stained, Worn Clothing

I generally donate our old clothing to local thrift stores. These thrift stores universally ask that you only donate useable clothing/household items and one of my favorites has a sign posted that says "If you wouldn't want to buy it, don't donate it." This is because unusable items are basically trash and the thrift stores have to foot a dump bill for those donations they can't sell. If you're trying to help a charity, you don't give them your trash! You're only costing them money.

OK - off the soapbox. All of this to say that I hate throwing clothing items away because another American won't buy it at a thrift store. A few years ago I saw a picture of some kids in Africa and one of them was wearing a little girl's Ariel nightgown like a shirt. I have wondered how clothing gets to these places. I have wondered if a warm sweater with a stain on the sleeve wouldn't be useful to someone, somewhere as I throw it in the trash because it's not 'good enough' for the thrift store.

Thanks to my friend, Denise, I learned about a donation alternative to these 'too used' textile items. There is a great company called Retex whose mission is to help people and the environment through textile recycling. This company has over 150 donation boxes in King & Snohomish counties, so donating is easy! The clothing and shoes are sorted and used for a variety of purposes including secondhand use in poor countries, industrial cleaning rags, recycled fibers into new products, and recycled fibers into insulation products. Only 5% of items donated to Retex end up in a landfill!

The website is full of great information if you want to poke around. I will be taking my 'too-used' items to the Woodinville Park'n'Ride donation bin in the future and feeling much better about not tossing things in the trash!

p.s. Seattle is pretty good about recycling, in general, compared to the rest of the United States. Here's a neat article if you want to pat yourself on the back for living and recycling here!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shopping This Week $26.35

I am really trying to stick to $20/week for groceries while I am doing the Pantry Challenge 2011! This week I was foiled by a couple last minute items I needed to pick up for a Super Bowl party. I had spent a big chunk of the $20 just as the week started! Poor planning definitely hit me in the pocketbook this week.

This week's shopping included:
3 1/2 gallons organic milk - $2.29 each
ice cream - $1.99 (to go with peach pie - company for dinner)
onion - $.69/lb
pizza sauce - $.89 on clearance (kids love 'pizzas' on whole wheat english muffins)
whipping cream - $2.29 (for Super Bowl dessert)
creamer - $1.69
2 pie crusts - $1.49 on clearance (for meal swap)
2 boxes go-gurt - $1.77 sale ($.75/2 MC) = $1.39 each or $.14 per tube
sour cream - $1.50 sale ($.40 MC) = $1.10 (for Super Bowl)
bananas - $.69/lb

not pictured: green onions & shredded cheese for super bowl party, too.

Lesson Learned: Safeway coupons are only good if you spend at least $10. I made sure I had spent $10 only to discover that 'liquid diary products' are not included in that $10! The cashier graciously gave me the coupon discounts anyway, but I'll have to remember that for the future!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Friday Project - Maternity Clothes Out!

Oh yeah! You read that right! I know it's not much of a project, but I am so very happy to say goodbye to my maternity clothes. I finally am to my pre-baby #4 weight and I have rewarded myself with my old clothes. Yahoo!

Anybody need maternity clothes? A few mediums, a few larges, and lots of extra large. Mostly summer season.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine Craft - Heart Crayons

The girls and I tried out this Valentine Craft this week.

We have a big box full of old crayons, many of which are broken and unusable. We decided to try out an idea I saw and attempt to make new crayons.

First we line cupcake trays and filled them with crayon pieces. Varying shades of a color were combined.

Then we baked them at 350 for 10 minutes. The kitchen totally smelled like melting crayons! When we pulled them out, the cups were filled with hot wax that soon solidified into crayon discs. We popped them out of the trays and peeled the paper off.

You can see that some crayons are nice and round, and others are misshapen because the paper liners were bent. We intentionally 'bent' the ones on the far left. We tried to make heart shapes, but I wasn't crazy about the results. If you want to try it, too, we just tucked some wadded up aluminum foil into the cup.

Next, we'll package these up and mail them off to cousins and friends.


Gift Card Deals this week

Albertson's is offering a $5 off next shopping trip coupon with the purchase of a $25 gift card. Gift cards included in the deal are: Applebee's, Regal, iTunes, SpaFinder, Mastercard, Visa, Olive Garden, Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherine's, and Sears.

I'm planning to buy a $25 Visa card, get my $5 coupon, then go right back in to buy diapers using the coupon and the gift card.

Safeway is also offering a gift card deal, but it's not as good as Albertson's. If you buy $50 of gift cards and a bouquet of flowers you get a $10 off next shopping trip coupon.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Budget - DH Takes Charge!

I have designed and maintained our family's budget for 7 years. I started managing both our finances even before DH and I got married. It made sense at the time because I was a tax accountant and loved numbers. DH was an artist and less organized than I was when it came to money.

Fast forward 7 years. I am no longer a tax accountant, but a mommy of 4 kids aged 5 and under. I do many, many things all day long related to the household and the children. I am overburdened with my responsibilities. Ed has been gracious enough to take over the decision making and allocating of our budget. I will still do the grunt work, but really, paying bills online takes about 20 minutes and doesn't require a lot of brain power. More exhausting (and stressful) is figuring out how to make the ends meet and prioritizing our needs. Thanks to DH I no longer feel responsible for these things. I used to figure things out myself and run it by DH for 'approval' wanting to give him authority over our financial decisions.

What a joke! I realize now that while he was the ultimate decision maker, I made many choices Ed would have disagreed with and was easily able to hide those choices from him because I was in control of our budget. I never thought I was being deceptive, but because he wasn't handling the day-to-day bits there was a lot Ed just didn't see. And I didn't enlighten him. Mostly this meant spending money that was outside the budget during the month telling myself I'd "figure it out" at the end. Figuring it out sometimes used money that would otherwise go to pay off debt or accumulate savings. In really bad months I would have to take money out of savings.

I still love numbers and DH is still less organized than me about money. However, DH has great discipline and is much better at practicing restraint in spending than I am. Our new model is to budget for all of the bills each month and I will get a 'household allowance' with what's left to pay for anything that's not a bill. This is divided into four and I'll get cash each week. The debit card is only in case of emergency.

I am already enjoying Ed's ownership of our budget. I love that it's not my job to decide how much will go toward paying of the student loan. I love that I don't have to figure out how to pay for those airline tickets last month. I love that I get a set amount of cash for the week. It is really freeing!

I am enjoying the challenge of making my little allowance stretch. This month it's $100 each week for groceries, gas, diapers, etc. I am so thankful for the Pantry Challenge 2011! and that I had set aside $30 of the grocery money last week. As it turned out we needed it! Ed and I had a date night and had planned to use his Prime card to get discounted tickets for an exhibit. Unfortunately the card was expired and we had to pay the full price of $19 each! Oh, it was painful to hand over $38 but praise God we had it in cash!

I have found I'm much more conservative in spending when it's "my" money. For example, I have been more mindful of using cloth diapers because I don't want to buy any more disposable diapers than necessary! I also skipped the $5 teriyaki lunch I would normally have bought for myself last week. I am also thinking twice about if I really want to stop for a latte!

I am eager to see if this new model continues to work. I am hoping Ed and I are both more satisfied with our budgeting and spending as a result of this big change. Mostly, I hope God will be glorified with Ed having real authority in the area of our finances.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meal Swap - Dijon Chicken

For the freezer meal swap back in December I made a Dijon Chicken dish.

6 pieces of chicken breast- about 2 pounds
2/3 c. cream of celery soup (about 1/2 a standard can)
2t. garlic
1 T. dijon mustard
6 tomato slices

1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1 T. parsely
1 T. rosemary

Directions: Spray cooking dish, put breast in a single layer.

Combine soup, garlic, and mustard and spread evenly over the chicken Top with a tomato slice.

Combine salt, pepper, bread crumbs, parsley, & rosemary. Sprinkle over the tomatoes.

Bake uncovered at 375. 40-50 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. We like ours with a side of rice pilaf.
Cost Analysis: I needed 9 meals for 4 (36 servings) so I multiplied this recipe for 6 servings times 6 for a total of 36 servings.
36 piece of chicken/11 or 12 pounds = $18
3 cans cream of chicken soup (I didn't have cream of celery) = $.75
spices = $1.00
bread crumbs = made from FREE bread at church
36 slices of tomato = $2.00
Total Cost = $22ish/9 meals = $2.40 each meal. Yahoo for great holiday grocery sales where I stocked up on $.25 cooking soups and boneless, skinless, chicken breast for $1.61/lb!

Monday, February 7, 2011

$10 Papa Murphy's Gift Card - Only $5!

Plum District is a deal website similar to Groupon. You'll have to become a member (free) to be eligible for the deals they offer each day.

Today the site is offering a $10 Papa Murphy's Gift Card for only $5! If your family eats Papa Murphy's this is great deal.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

This Week's Shopping - $22.10

I tell you what, $20 just doesn't stretch very far! My goal during Pantry Challenge 2011! is to spend only $20 per week on the basic grocery necessities, primarily dairy & produce. This week I had to buy cheese, milk, and coffee which are all, unfortunately, higher priced items.

I spent a bit over $20 but could have said no to DD2 adding a third huge Bosc pear to her produce bag and to the markdown yogurt because we still had a few at home in the fridge.

Here's what I got for $22.10:
2 gallons of organic milk - clearance priced $2.49 and $2.79. Yahoo!
Coffee - $6.49
2# cheese - $4.49
Yogurt - markdown to $.19
6 pears - $.88/lb
whole wheat buns - clearance $.79
4 roma tomatoes - $.98/lb

When DD1 was born and DH and I were committed to my staying home I only spent $20 a week on groceries on a regular basis. I worked at a restaurant about 3 times a month and often was able to bring home food that would be thrown out, and my parents helped out a lot by providing vast quantities of meat whenever they came to visit.

Things have definitely changed in 5 years, especially since we switched to organic milk and DH started drinking coffee. This week's shopping trip was a challenge and a good reminder of how far we've come, thanks to God's provision.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

January Wrap-Up & February Goals

January is always a hard month for me. Everything seems in turmoil emotionally, financially, and in our home. I expect to feel a little off with holiday letdown and I know there will be tension as we scramble to cover holiday expenses. We have several "big" bills in December and January that always seem harder to manage (car tabs, car insurance premium, annual January trip to visit in-laws, AAA) just because of the time of year. The kids are adjusting back into 'normal' routines after weeks of sugar-highs, excitement, and trips out of town.

This January was a rough one, but I survived. I have been feeling more myself the last week or so, and am so happy to be mostly past the January yucks!

There were many blessings and things to be thankful for in January including:
- free baby formula from three friends and my young aunt who has a baby.
- a financial gift from a friend that went straight to the student loan
- a great trip to visit family in Southern California
- airline tickets for the same cost as driving to California so we were spared the difficult 22 hour drive each way with our 4 small children
- several friends and family who remembered our anniversary (I so admire and appreciate people who remember wedding anniversaries! I wish I was better at it.)
- my childless brother and sister-in-law volunteered to watch all our kids all day long so DH and I could celebrate our anniversary at Disneyland.

Goals for January included a more detailed budget, closing the business books, groceries at $140, blog at least 3 times a week, and have more consistent Bible study. I did pretty well, but not great with these. I did make a more detailed budget, but then tossed it out as DH and I are trying something new - more on that next week. I did close the business books and had much more consistent Bible study. I did not stay under $140 for groceries, but spent $187, and I did not post 3 times per week on this blog. I did post more than November and December, but that's not saying much.

Goals for February include:
- Pantry Challenge 2011! Full month of meals planned out & $20/week on perishable groceries only. Use mostly food from pantry and freezer.
- Blog more consistently - 3 times per week
- Keep up consistent Bible study
- File business taxes
- File personal taxes
- Use cloth diapers more (like when we're away from home for the morning)

I still haven't sent Christmas cards so it looks like they'll be Valentine letters, but I still hope to get them out.


    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Pantry Challenge 2011! - Month of Meals

    As I planned a month's worth of dinners I realized that I have an even more ridiculous amount of food than I realized. I will be out of town 8 days this month so I had to come up with 20 dinners and it was total cake! I may have to challenge myself further in March to even make a dent in my freezer!

    20 meals:
    pulled pork
    turkey gravy/rice
    baked potatoes & toppings
    french toast
    macaroni & cheese pie
    ground beef & red bean chili
    pork chops & scalloped potatoes
    country bean soup
    russian chicken
    sausage gravy/biscuits
    turkey & white bean chili
    beef stroganoff
    cream dijon chicken
    hamburger helper
    turkey pot pie
    chicken bake
    ham/bean soup
    Whatever DH picks for his birthday

    8 of these are freezer meals, already prepared. Several more are super-easy dinners from the pantry. I guess I was hoping I'd have to get more creative in my menu planning. Perhaps the real challenge for me will be spending only $20/week on dairy & produce.

    Lunches will be leftovers, box mac'n'cheese, sandwiches, quesadillas, and chicken nuggets (as long they last).