Friday, October 30, 2009

I went over-budget

and I hate that. Today is grocery shopping day. Last time I went, I bought just enough to get us through the end of the month, so not only was I lacking my usual surplus, but we also started running out of all the stuff I don't normally have to buy every time. Toilet paper, toothpaste, garbage bags, etc.

My grand total this time around: $215.79 Ouch. Still, that is for a family of 4, plus a zoo of animals for two or more weeks. That isn't bad considering.

So what can just over $215 get you when you shop with me?

Meat: $33.19

10 lbs ground turkey
1 bag frozen tilapia fillets
1 bag boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 package hot dogs
1 bag frozen cooked shrimp
1 dozen eggs
2 family packs pepperoni

Dairy: $23.44

5 lbs mozzarella
1 lb cheddar
1 lb pepperjack
1 gallon milk
1 lg container cottage cheese
1 container parmesan

Veggies: $37.86 (I count tomato sauces)

2 bags frozen corn
2 bags frozen peas
1 bag french fries
10 lbs russet potatoes
2 packages fresh broccoli crowns
1 bag tater tots
1 head lettuce
2 cans tomato paste
3 cans mushroom pieces
2 cans tomato sauce
3 cans black olives
1 jar roasted red peppers
1 package beefsteak tomatoes
1 package vine tomatoes
3 jars pizza sauce
2 jars spaghetti sauce
2 acron squash
1 spaghetti squash
2 pumpkins

Fruit: $2.64 (we still have apples out the wazoo and frozen grapes so this is short)

4 bananas
3 oranges

Grains: $18.77

1 bag egg noodles
4 boxes cereal
1 bag pasta shells
1 box frozen waffles
2 loaves wheat bread
1 box instant oatmeal
1 box saltines
1 bag cheese puffs
1 bag nacho cheese chips

Misc. food $37.74

1 can sloppy joe sauce
3 packets taco seasoning
2 boxes frozen pierogies
2 bags frozen cheese stuffed shells
2 jars peanut butter
1 bag dry pinto beans
1 bottle extra virgin olive oil
1 bag powdered sugar
1 bag chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
1 jar taco sauce
1 container anise seed
1 container curry powder
1 bag dry navy beans
1 jar chopped garlic
1 container cajun spice

Hygeine: $1

1 tube toothpaste

Cleaning: $9.58

2 bottles cascade

Pet supplies: $30.04

1 17.6 lb bag dog food
1 16 lb bag cat food
1 14 lb container scoopable cat litter
2 rawhide coils
2 dog bones

Paper/plastic: $15.96

1 8 pk paper towels
1 12 pk double roll toilet paper
5 paper bags
1 box 30 garbage bags
1 box 25 gallon sized storage bags

Misc. Household: $5.57

1 muffin pan
2 pumpkin cutters

So there it is. The only thing I should need to buy in the next 15 days is another gallon of milk.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I am done whining. Let's do dinner ideas instead.

You ever get sick of hearing yourself talk? I have been boohooing all month about my rotten luck. You know what? Yes. It sucks. Money has been spent, family has been sick, and vehicles have been vandalized. My entire extended family is falling apart. That sucks.


We have food, shelter, and nobody has died (knock on wood) so I am going to be Miss Mary Sunshine today because I am sick and tired of being miserable. Yay optimism!!

So let's talk dinner. I am going to have to make up a menu at some point. I am done planning out breakfast, lunch and snack. I have been doing it long enough that I have a general idea of what, and how much we eat. Cereal, oatmeal, frozen waffles through the week, and nicer breakfasts on the weekend. Mostly leftovers for lunch with the occasional sandwich or soup thrown in. We have enough apples and apple products to keep us in snacks forever, especially when you throw in my tendency to make pumpkin bread or freeze grapes. So this time, I am only doing dinners.

One thing I hate about making menus is that I can never remember what we eat. I don't like having the same thing over and over (except pizza. Weekly homemade pizza is a must) but everytime I go to make a menu, I end up with a lot of the same crap over and over again. SO, last night I made a list of every meal that I make that my family will eat (well most of them. Kids might end up with breakfast for dinner on chili night and eat sandwiches in place of hot italian sausage). I figured I would post the list here for 2 reasons. The first, so I have something that won't be lost. I make a ton of lists. It's a compulsion. That one will disappear and I will be back to square one. Secondly, maybe it will either give someone else ideas, or they will share ideas I am missing with me. So here it is. 50 days of WFD.

1. Veggie Stir Fry
2. Chicken Pot Pie
3. Potato Soup
4. Black Bean Quesadillas
5. Risotto
6. Polish Sausage, Sauerkraut, German Potato Salad
7. Lasagna
8. Veggie Fried Rice
9. Veggie Fajitas
10. Garlic Parmesan Chicken, Baked Potatoes, Peas
11. Chili
12. Shrimp Alfredo
13. Macaroni and Cheese
14. Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, Grilled Cheese
15. Beer Brats, Cottage Fries, Sliced Zucchini
16. Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry
17. Tacos
18. Lemon Pepper Tilapia, Rice, Broccoli
19. Pork Chops, Homemade Rice a Roni, Green Beans
20. Cheese Tortellini Primavera
21. Sloppy Joes, Tater Tots, Corn on the Cob
22. Chicken and Dumplings
23. Meatball Subs, Macaroni Salad
24. Hoppin' John
25. Veggie Lasagna
26. Tuna Mac
27. Homemade Pizza
28. Pulled Pork, Potato Salad, Grilled Asparagus
29. Pierogies with Butter and Onions
30. Hot Dogs, Fries, Corn
31. Chicken Enchilladas
32. Tuna Salad
33. Spaghetti, Salad
34. Nachos
35. Meatloaf, Barley Vegetable Medley
36. Bean Soup with Sausage
37. Shrimp and Snow Pea Stir Fry
38. Taco Mac
39. Salad
40. Calzones
41. Hot Italian Sausage with Onions and Bell Peppers over Noodles
42. Basil Butter Salmon, Rice, Carrots
43. Chicken Fajitas
44. Pasta with Pesto
45. Beanie Weenies
46. Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Green Beans, Rolls
47. Subs, Chips, Salad
48. Breakfast for Dinner
49. Ravioli
50. Fish Sticks, Fries, Corn

That is over a month without repeats. Hopefully it will make my menu planning a bit faster.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This month just keeps getting better

I have to have some severe Karmic backlash going or something.

My fridge has been having issues for a while. When our last fridge died (the one that came with this house and was old and literally falling apart) my grandpa happened to be getting rid of his fridge, which was working and nicer than the one that just kicked the bucket. The only problem it had was the temperature control knobs were missing, so in turning them, nobody knows if they are going warmer or colder.

Things were working fine for a long time. We have had it for more than a year and except for our freezer being extra cold, making ice cream scooping a pain, it woked really well.

Over the last month, our fridge has slowly been getting colder. I have fresh produce in there that has been ruined because the items in my fridge are actually freezing. Mmmmmmm frozen lettuce...

My husband started messing with the dial. Didn't seem to help.

Last night, ice cream was actually scoopable. Weird, because he hasn't messed with the freezer temps lately, but it was still frozen so all was well.

Today it is worse. The banana I had in there for banana bread is completely thawed. The frozen waffles and the tater tots are feeling kind of soft, and my frozen veggies are not quite so frozen. The good news is it seems to be holding steady at whatever temp it's at and the ice cubes are still frozen, meat is still solid. As long as that ice holds, my meat is safe I am pretty sure.

The fridge too has defrosted in that nothing in there is frozen. It seems cold, so I think I am ok for now. Still all this temp fluxing makes me think that there are some serious issues going on, and that this fridge is heading to a dark place. Maybe it is planning it's own Day of the Dead finale.

If it goes, I won't lose much at this point. We are at the end of the month so groceries are running thin. I have plans however, to actually do something this coming shop for food. I am not real big on the idea of filling my fridge and freezer if it is going to kick the bucket.

Now, my options are kind of limited at this point. Paying cash for a new one at this point? Yeah. Not going to happen. Maybe had we not gone over-budget on the roof and maybe if my husband didn't need new contacts and maybe if my younger kid didn't need two cavities filled. Next month is full of all kinds of fun expenses. SO

We can look on craigslist: Seems to be the best option in some ways as I can find one for anywhere from $100-$400. Some of them look really nice too. Cons: We don't know how long someone else's old fridge is going to last. Since this is how we have gotten the last 3 washing machines, that all worked well at first, then died, we know there is risk. Now, we have only paid a total of maybe $150 between the three washers, so we are still ahead on the last 5 years of washing clothes BUT when a washer dies, you suck it up and go to the laundry mat. When a fridge dies, you cry a million tears over the lost groceries. I think there was over $300 worth of food in our fridge last time. That hurt a little.

We can go with a rent to own place: Nice new fridge, make payments. Can probably manage to hit the 90 days same as cash and not pay the extra $1000 or so worth of financing charges and interest. However, all the fridges are higher end, so if we can't come up with the balance in 90 days, that is going to suck really really bad financially.

We can cross our fingers, maintain, and in a few weeks buy one cash: Probably more ideal than craigslist in the long run, but that is going to depend on the fridge making it that long. It might. I don't know. It's hard to say with a fridge. A fridge bought cash out is probably not going to be great, but it will work, and will work for a while. Goes back the price vs. quality thing. If we need it sooner we are going to have to go for price. Again.

Hire a fridge repairman and get it fixed: Another choice that is probably less costly overall, but the fridge is at least 10 years old. Is it worth it? Again, I don't know.

So tell me readers. What would you do in this scenario?

Monday, October 26, 2009

I have a confession

The same camera and person who took this picture
also took this one

just like the same camera and person took this one

and this one

I bring this up because quite frankly, the photography on this blog has started to embarass me. My problem is that I am lazy. That is it. I have the equipment and the knowledge to produce really good shots but that takes more effort than I apparently am willing to put into it.

Part of the problem is that I no longer have a dedicated studio. The small room that used to house my lights, backdrops, and other equipment now houses a guest bedroom where my mom and stepdad stay a few days a month. I have no qualms about giving it up. That simply means that it is a space and time issue to get things set up properly.

I will be attempting to be a little more proactive with my skills. There is no excuse for some of the shots I have posted. Just wanted to clear up that I did learn a little bit from that first degree I obtained. It may be useless as far as getting a job is concerned, but I still take great pride in the knowledge I obtained.

**Kid 1: Organizing a complex paragraph, October book review. Kid 2: Writing a complex paragraph. Both: Rosetta Stone German. Me: Stoichiometry**

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ooey Gooey Goodness

I love brownies. I mean I really love brownies. I have never actually made them from scratch. How sad is that? My brownies have always come from a box. Tonight I changed all that. I got this recipe from another blog .

Total cost is about $2.50 which is a little pricey as I try to keep desserts under $1 but I promise it is worth every cent.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
3/4 cup cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 and grease the pan.

Melt the butter. Stir in the sugar, then the vanilla and eggs, then the cocoa and the flour, the baking powder and the salt. Pour into the pan and bake 30-35 minutes. They are some of the best I have eaten.

Things I splurge on...aka...another product review

I love shopping at Aldi for food. I think most of it is top notch and it doesn't bother me at all that I am not eating name brand. I don't taste enough of a difference to care, and in some cases, Aldi food is better.

Their hygeine items on the other hand...not so impressive. I am a total brand whore in that scenario. I figured I would share my favorites that I feel are worth every penny

The pictures on this blog are lifted because I I do not have the inclination at the moment to go take pictures of half empty bottles. Maybe I will replace the photos with my work as I go.

Product 1: Listerine Total Care

I have really crappy enamel on my teeth. To add to the fun, I also grind them. The dentist I go to highly recommends that my kids and I use a floride rinse. Act, the traditional go-to product for this runs just over $4.50 or so. For $5.63 (at Walgreens, I haven't checked country market yet) I get the benefits of a floride rinse and the benefits of Listerine antiseptic mouthwash. My kids don't mind Listerine so flavor is not a problem. I love this stuff and plan on buying it until forever unless something even better comes out.

Product 2: Dove Ultimate Sensitive Care Deodarant

I am sick and tired of either smelling bad, or making my armpits suffer the wrath of overdone fragrances. This stuff doesn't really smell like anything, but the best part is, neither do I. It runs about $4 but it lasts a while.

Product 3: Garnier Fructis Curl Shaping Spray Gel

I have wavy hair, which is code for really annoying. In order for it to look good, I have to go for a full curl or I have to straighten it because otherwise it goes everywhere but where I want it. For days I go for the curl, this stuff is the only stuff I have ever used that makes it easy. I get out of the shower, run a comb through, spray and scrunch. It takes care of the rest. It costs me $3.66 but lasts me forever because it doesn't take much, and I don't use it every day. Plan to keep buying this one as well.

Product 4: Loreal Double Extend Mascara

I don't wear makeup very often. I don't like a ton of fuss on a daily basis. However, when I am trying to look good, my eyes are the first thing I go for. My eyelashes are short and straight and not very dark. Mascara and eyeliner is a must. This stuff is expensive compared to the much cheaper stuff I normally go for. It runs about $10, but again, I don't wear makeup that often so why not splurge? It takes some getting used to in order to get it on without clumping up, but the difference is dramatic. It has the two step beauty tubes and they rock. I do suggest that you curl your eyelashes first if they need it because once they are on, they are harder to work with. I curl then put the first stuff on, slowly and carefully. Let dry a minute and put the other stuff on. I will get some before and after pictures the next time I use it.

The only stuff I have to replace on a regular basis is the Listerine. That lasts 2 weeks if I am lucky. I think it will help with dental and save us money in the long run.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Laundry Detergent: A product review

I am sick and tired of running out of stuff like laundry detergent, soap, and trash bags. My husband happens to work for a company that sells many things, including janitorial supplies. I decided I am going to start bulk buying for real. My first order:Now, I hate cheap laundry detergent. My sister once bought a big box of Sun detergent when she was staying here. That stuff was awful. I mean really really bad. My kid also has sensitive skin so I have to be careful what I buy. This is a 40 lb bucket of detergent. 272 loads worth so I was taking a pretty big risk.

The stuff is great. It's a powder, which I normally hate but it is a much finer powder than the stuff you buy at the store. It has a wonderful lemon scent while in the bucket. The clothes come out clean. It even managed the get the roof shingle funk off my sweatshirt. The smell of the clothes was completely neutral. No smell at all which is awesome.

The retail price of this is $36.38 which puts the price per load at $0.13. That is what I was paying per load for the purex free and clear that I normally buy. Since my husband sells it, we get a pretty good discount and it's more like $0.09 a load. Either way, there is less waste, it is phosphate free and biodegradable. This will last at least 6 months. I don't have to think about it everytime I go to the store, if I am getting close to running out or not. I figure when I get about halfway through it, I will have my husband place another order. If my husband ever finds himself working for another company I would still be willing to pay the retail price on this stuff.

**Both kids: Costume making for halloween Me: Ionic compounds**

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A serious post: Let's talk healthcare

I am having an angry day. I read this article this morning. It talks about women who are routinely denied health insurance. They are denied because they have been raped. There may be a PTSD issue, or in the case of the first woman, she took anti-HIV drugs for a month. Isn't that just a lovely kick when you are already down?

This issue is very near and dear to my heart. When I first got married, my husband was in the Marine Corps. I never worried about insurance. Everything was covered. I think the most I ever paid was $25 out of pocket to the civilian hospital where I birthed my second kid. Then my husband got out of the Marine Corps and we came back to MI.

We followed the rules. My husband got a job that didn't have group coverage so we bought private coverage. My older kid started having problems with UTIs. We treated one with 4 different antibiotics and it would not go away. We finally managed to kill it. The doctor reccomended having her tested for kidney reflux. We did, and it was negative. This was my first time using insurance outside of the military. I was young and uninformed. I didn't think about the $1000 deductable and I didn't understand what was covered and what we needed to pay out of pocket. Let's just say at the end, our side of the bill was over $4000.

The fun continued. A few years later, my husband was a driver at this point and we were covered under group coverage. After a run in with the flu, my older kid was really sick. I took her to the doctor and she ended up being hospitalized with dehydration and severe constipation. Despite insurance and following the rules, there is another few thousand dollars we were expected to pay.

The fun gets worse at this point. My daughter was 5 at the time of her hospitalization. The chronic constipation issue started. She also snored and gasped at night, and by 7 was showing sure signs of Asperger's syndrome. A sleep study to diagnose her with obstructive sleep apnea $$$. Tonsils out $$$ (after all, despite doing my homework and making sure everything was covered, I don't get to pick the pathologist, and things of that nature), and the most recent issue, the constipation problems that would not go away. My daughter had not seen a doctor for the constipation issues in well over a year. We were handling it at home. Her ped. referred us to a gastro. My husband had switched companies a few months before this, so we were on new insurance. "Best in the industry" and fully paid for by the company he worked for. When her blood test for celiac came back positive, I looked very very carefully through the plan. I had been burned so many times. I got the pre-approval and we did the biopsy to test her for Celiac disease. The bills started coming. I knew the $500 deductable was ours. Then there was the $2300 for the anesthisiologist (I cannot spell. Forgive me.) and the pathologist that were not covered. I appealed because again, I chose an in network hospital and doctor. I have no control over the rest.

The "best insurance in the industry" decided to deny the entire claim. Pre-existing condition. Almost $7000 we owe to these people. In the last 8 years we have racked up more than $20,000 in medical bills for one kid.

By the way, the Asperger's syndrome? She shows every sign but I refuse to have her officially diagnosed at this point. Can you blame me? I am trying not to make my kid completely uninsurable.

I am not the only person with this problem. From my mommy board:

One person keeps fewer diabetes supplies on hand for her child than she is comfortable with because of the cost.

One person had to pay for the treatment of cervical cancer out of pocket

One person's insurance wouldn't cover the cost of food for a feeding tube

One person knows of someone who suffered a heart attack and never went in because of lack of insurance.

Another person knows of a women who suffered a broken bone with no insurance and could not get it treated without paying upfront.

I firmly believe that those who do not believe we need some sort of healthcare reform have never had medical issues in which they had to deal with this. We followed all the rules. We made sure we stayed covered, yet the insurance company has paid less to these medical bills than we have paid into them. That is bull.

**Kid 1: Parts of speech, define humanities and art. Kid 2: Singular and plural nouns, introduction to theater, art and music. Me: Basic atomic structure**

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chunky Cheesey Potato Soup

Another $3 meal. This is a family favorite. We eat potato soup a couple of times a month. Everyone looks forward to it. Sometimes we use polish sausage instead of bacon but the general recipe is always the same.

I should have mentioned with the first $3 meal, that my meals are based on Aldi prices.

First take 1/2 a bag of potatoes and chop them up. Leaving skins on for me depends on the type of potatoes. Today I am using gold potatoes that Aldi had on sale so the skins stay on. Total cost for potatoes: $0.99

I throw them in a big pot (I use my pressure cooker because it is the biggest pot I have) with some water and 1/2 a bag of frozen corn ($0.49)I also chop up 1/2 an onion and put that in. I only use 1/2 an onion because my girls are not huge fans so it is less for them to pick around. ($0.07)

While that is boiling, I cook 4 slices of bacon until they are crispy. Use your favorite method. I reccomend baking it in the oven for the easiest burn free method, but I am in a hurry so I nuked mine in the microwave.

Mmmmmmmm. Bacon. ($0.63)

I also use this time to shred the 3 oz cheese. ($0.56) If you are using pre-shredded cheese you can skip this step but I always buy block cheese. It tastes better to me.
When the potatoes are done, drain most of the water. You want just enough in there to cover the potatoes. Add in 1 cup of milk ($0.12), 1 tsp garlic powder ($0.02), 1 tsp oregano ($0.02) and salt and pepper to taste ($0.01) Crumble in the bacon, and stir in the cheese until melted. At this point add in 1/4 cup or so of potato flakes ($0.05) How much you actually end up with depends on how thick you want it. You can also use a handheld blender to puree some of the potatoes to thicken it up. I just like lots of chunks.

In the end you have this

for a total cost of $2.95

SAHM vs. WOHM Round 1 FIGHT!

Ok not really.

When I first had kids, I was a rabid SAHM fanatic. I was absolutely sure that my way was the only way and that WOHMs didn't care about their kids, and one income is plenty.

Over the years I have eaten some humble pie, stuck a foot or three in my mouth and just in general realized that I really don't give a shit what other people do.

In the past 11 years I have been a SAHM, worked part time, worked full time, volunteered, been a full time traditional college student, worked full time and went to school online full time, and worked at home. I have come to realize that it's all really freaking hard. There is no easy job.

Being a SAHM is hard. You are with the kids all day. There are no co-workers. There are no breaks. There is nobody to back you up if you screw up.

Working part time is hard. You have just enough time at home to make a mess, and just enough time at work to make no real money. It never feels like there is enough time for anything. The house still needs to be cleaned. The job still needs your full attention.

Working full time is hard. By the time you get home at the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is cook dinner or catch up on laundry. The kids want attention. The floor hasn't been mopped in a week. It is madness.

I guess I got into my deep thoughts because I worked today. I quit my daycare job in August in order to concentrate on my school work and go back to homeschooling my kids. My husband got a promotion in May that made it possible. I loved my job. I seriously did. I made crap money, I was behind in my school work, and my kids were not doing as well in school as they should have been. I made the right choice but I still miss it. I am good at caring for kids. I enjoy it. So, I still sub as needed. I worked this morning so the preschool teacher could take her own kid to the dentist. I had fun. I made maybe $30 if I am lucky. Still, subbing allows me to keep this job on my resume for longer. I won't have the pain in the ass gaps that just being home has when I am ready to teach. I need about 31 more credits and I will be able to sub in the schools. That will help too.

Don't get me wrong. I love being a SAHM also. My kids are older, and don't need me as much as they used to. If I do my job right, they will only grow more independant as time goes on. I don't want to be that woman that falls apart when the kids leave the nest.

**Kid 1: algebra rules and properties. Kid 2: prime numbers. Both: Rosetta stone German. Me: Measurements in chemistry**

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My one month quit-aversary

Yep. I have been smoke free for a month. This time. I would like to say I have made it through the worst of it, but I have quit for longer and started back up again so nothing is permanent. I just take it a day at a time.

I quit for two pregnancies. The second one I didn't start back up right away. I quit for 2 years. I quit for 4 months. I have a couple of month long quits behind me.

I am not discouraged though. I quit because I just can't afford it. I wish it was more noble than that, but there it is. I only had a few a day, and never around my kids so I can't say it was for them. I have asthma and I am sure smoking makes it a million times worse but that didn't stop me either. Nope. More than $6 a pack did it. Even at half a pack a day, with my husband smoking the same, that adds up fast.

We used the patch to quit. $40 for 14 patches, which with two of us lasted a week...well a little over because I only used them for 3 days then went without because my husband has a harder time with it than I do. Still, at $6.50 a pack, it paid for itself in 6 days. After that, just for me I have not smoked $78 worth of cigarettes. I could start again tomorrow (which I won't) and I still saved that money. That helps me feel like less of a failure for the times I have fallen.

I am not saying I will never smoke again. I don't plan on it, but I never did before either. I am just taking it a day at a time. If you are looking for a way to save money, start there. Even if you only quit for a day here and there, that is money in your pocket and minutes on your life. Worth a shot.

**Kid 1: Diversity of species, settlements of the first farmers Kid 2: Properties of wind, discovery of early humans Me: Lab 1-identification of unknown substances**

Monday, October 19, 2009

The definition of a shoestring budget

You know, budget means different things to different people. My version of a budget might be bloated in comparison to some, and seriously lacking compared to others.

My budget at the moment is very much paycheck to paycheck. We have a savings plan but these unexpected expenses like to wipe it out so we have to start all over. It makes life interesting I suppose.

Things in my budget that can be consider excess bloat

$45 a month for my youngest child to swim on the swim team. I have already been over why this is important to me.

$336 a month for a truck payment. We live out in the country and we are renovating our house as money allows. Having a truck has come in very very handy. The truck payment won't last forever, and we have every intention of keeping this truck until it falls apart. We don't get new vehicles every year. Before the truck we had a car that was literally rusting away. We bought the truck because it was a truck, and because after being stranded by the side of the road a dozen times, I was hoping for something that would be reliable for a while.

$55 a month for a cell phone. I have already dropped mine when I stopped working. My husband uses his for work. We go through Boost so that we have the unlimited plan for cheap, and no contract. I will never get myself into another contract.

$11 a month for the YMCA membership for the younger kid. See the swim expense above.

$98 a month for a land line phone and DSL. We are stuck going through the local tiny phone company which means about $50 of that is phone. The rest is DSL which is the only high speed internet available to us. We have two full time college students in this house who go to an online university. I am not doing that on dial up. Talk about misery. Time is money also.

$150 a month for orthodontist payments. This hasn't actually started yet. We get to pay a bit over $1500 in December to get it started. The $150 a month starts in January and will basically take up what used to be my car payment. My oldest kid needs an extreme amount of orthodontia to correct a severe overjet. It certainly isn't life or death, but it will help her feel better about herself, and will save her teeth from excess staining because they "stick out" It falls into one of those things we do for our kids because we love them and we can.

Now, I am fortunate that my husband makes enough money that I have the option to have those things. If the worst happened, we have areas that we can scale back. I would rather squeeze my budget in other areas like shopping Aldi for food and Goodwill for clothes than give up the excess that I consider to be important.

*Kid 1: writing complex sentences, required reading. Kid 2: Assembling information to create complex paragraphs. Both kids: Rosetta stone German. Me: Scientific method*

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I am upside down and backwards

Weekend two of the roofing project. It's been interesting.

So, my total as of last weekend was $1614.97

I added

15 drip edge - $52.50
2 rolls ice guard - $120.58
3 rolls roof felt - $53.57
1 4x6x8 deck board - $2.97

The deck board is unrelated to the roof, but needed to be replaced for insurance reasons so I am adding it in.

I also had another trip to the dump - $30 Why $30 and not $20? Because I think the first guy, an older gentleman, thought I was a cute little girl doing man's work and gave me a break. Hey. I will take it. This time it was a younger guy who was all business, and charged me $10 extra which is probably where it should have been the first time.

The new total with tax is $1888.22

But wait! I over bought.

I took back
2 rolls of roof felt - $35.82
1 roll of ice guard - $60.29
2 boxes of roofing nails - $53.96
7 Drip edges - $24.36

Total back with tax - $184.90 dropping our total to $1703.32

It doesn't end there though. I overbought the nails on purpose because we owe the guy who loaned us the nailer a box of nails. The ones I bought were the wrong ones. The right ones unfortunately are more expensive. $44.50 with tax. I also bought my husband a pair of kneepads as he was getting pretty torn up. That was $16.94 with tax. That brings the total up to $1764.76


We ran out of shingles. Sigh. We also need more tar as we didn't buy any and we are almost out of what we had in the garage. I also took back all the drip edge and didn't realize we needed one more piece. We were also getting low on nails, but didn't need a box of 7200 especially since we don't own the nailer.


One 4"x150' tar membrane thing (I don't actually know what it is called) - $12.36
4 tubes of tar - $9.48
2 small boxes of nails - $13.76
6 bundles of shingles - $94.44
1 drip edge - $3.48

New total with tax - $141.53 + $1764.76 = $1906.29

We overbought LOL

We didn't need the nails at all. Unfortunately they came in plastic boxes and one broke on the way home, so we can only return one.

We still have at least one bundle of shingles, maybe 2 left.

In either case, I am not convinced that a trip back to Ohio is worth what we would get back. We are going to have to do the garage at some point in the future so maybe we will just save them.

We do still have one more trip to the dump to make. That is $20-$30 depending on who is there LOL

We came in under budget. Barely. Honestly, if you count what we spent in gas and food/drinks to feed the people helping we went over. Either way, it is 99% done. The tar work still needs to be done. We did meet our deadline.

I have never in my life been so happy to put a project behind me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

From field to table

or from pumpkin to bread.

I took my girls, and the neighbor girl to the orchard today to pick apples and pumpkins. We ended up with a bushel of apples, 4 large carving pumpkins, 4 small pie pumpkins, caramel apples and donuts for all. Not bad for $30.

I figured I would use this blog to show our journey from field to table.

I started with 4 tiny pie pumpkins. These are actually the smallest pie pumpkins I have ever seen. They are not that much bigger than the decorative ones. Still, for $0.50 each, they will work.
I took them all and cut them in half
This was the worst part because honestly, I hate the smell of raw pumpkin. It seriously grosses me out. I scraped all the inside guts out, leaving only the shells.But I save the seeds. Thrown in the oven for an hour or so with a little olive oil and some salt and you have a fairly healthy snack. My kids love them.

I then cut the cleaned out shells into pieces so that they will all fit in my roasting pan, in this case a rectangular casserole dish with about an inch of water in the bottom.

I put them in a 400 degree oven to roast for about an hour. The skins at that point come off really easily. I peel the pieces and cut the meat of the pumpkin into chunks.
I love this because they are such a pretty color. I now take my handheld mixer and puree the pumpkin chunks. A food processor would probably be faster and easier, but I don't have one, so I use what I have.Now we are ready to cook. I take 1 cup, and portion the rest into ziplock baggies, 1 cup per baggie. In total I have about 6 cups of pureed pumpkin which is a lot more than I thought I would end up with.

Onto the bread making.

Preheat the oven to 350.

1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 cup water

Mix all the dry stuff in one bowl. Mix all the wet stuff in another bowl. Then mix them together. Easy.
Grease and flour a loaf pan. Dump the batter in. Bake it for an hour or until it is done in the middle.
You end up with this
Bon appetit

Total cost... $1.18


I have made it through another week. October has been a rough month financially with a bunch of unexpected expenses but it looks like we will make it through.

I am paying off my car today which is huge. My car was costing me $216.67 a month. I am going to pay $221.40 today and I never have to think of it again. That will take some pressure off next month, especially with upcoming dental and optical expenses. While I didn't have the cash at the time to just outright buy the car, and I needed it in order to work, I am very glad to be done with that bill. We financed at 0% for this one which is why we didn't pay it off early when we had the money to do so. It is easier on the mind to have a bit of backup money. The car was going to cost what it cost if we paid it off early or spread it out. Works for me.

I am back and forth on if I should drop the coverage or not. Right now I have full coverage on it. It's a 98 with 170,000 miles so it isn't exactly worth that much. Still, had I not had the coverage when I hit a deer in May, that would have put us in a serious financial crunch. Of course, I was working at the time and my income was vital at the time. At this point it would be an inconvenience more than anything else. It's something to think about anyway. I have a feeling that my savings would outnumber potential outpay within a couple of months.

Now, who wants to wager that the minute I pay that bill the car dies? That is, afterall, my luck with vehicles.

**Both kids: field trip to the apple orchard for apple and pumpkin picking**

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tuna Salad

The blog that inspired my blog includes $3 meals. I like the idea. Honestly though, the recipes on that blog are not only completely unappealing to me, but make barely enough to be considered a snack. I figured I would start blogging my own $3 meals as I make them.

Todays $3 meal is tuna salad. Not exactly gormet but a good simple meal, especially if you are in a hurry. I can pull this together in about 20 minutes, and it can also be made the day before and stored in the fridge if you know you are going to be short on time.

Tuna salad - $2.92

2 cans tuna - $0.98
1 bag egg noodles - $0.99
1/2 bag frozen peas - $0.49
1/2 onion, chopped - $0.07
1/2 cup mayo or salad dressing - $0.30
Salt and pepper - $0.01
1 tsp garlic powder - $0.04
1/2 tsp oregano - $0.02
1/2 tsp basil - $0.02

Bring a pan of water to boil. Dump in noodles and peas and cook until done.
Drain, rinse with cold water until completely cool. Let drain completely.
In a big bowl mix noodles, peas and the rest of the ingredients together.
Eat cold. It's good.

Voila. A fast dinner that is super cheap and will make leftovers for the average family of 4.

Rice Pudding

This is a great recipe. It is cheap and it tastes good. I like it for breakfast. It could also make a good dessert. I am not going to bother with the cost breakdown but it comes to less than $1 for the whole thing.

3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup cooked rice (great use of leftovers)
1/2 cup raisins
sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg
boiling water

Combine eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Beat until well combined but not foamy. Stir in rice and raisins. Pour into casserole. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Place the casserole inside a slightly larger baking dish and put an inch of boiling water into the bigger dish. Throw into a 325 oven for about 1 hour 20 minutes. Stir at 30 minutes and again at 1 hour. My recipe says 45-55 minutes but mine wasn't done in that amount of time, so keep an eye on it.

It ends up looking like this

And tasting like a little piece of heaven.

**Kid 1: Read more of assigned book, proper capitalization, locating resources on the internet. Kid 2: Properties of nouns, definition of humanities, art disciplines and aesthetics. Review favorite work of art.**

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A few product reviews

I got thinking of this when I was in the shower today.

Review 1: The Fusion razor. The blades are ridiculously expensive. They also last a ridiculously long time. They come out cheaper than the disposables and better for the environment. $8 for 4 blades, and that will last me 8-10 months.

Review 2: Salon Care shampoo, purchased at Sally's Beauty Supply for $10 for a gallon. It is a concentrate but while it claimes it can be mixed 1:8, I would not go more than 1:2 unless you can wash your hair with slightly bubble water. In either case, 2 gallons for $10 is a great deal, and the wild cherry smells soooo good.

Review 3: Cure Care Conditioner, purchased at Sally's for $5. It is not a concentrate, and it smells funky but it works better than any other conditioner I have ever used. My hair is soft and tangle free, and $5 for a gallon is a great deal.

I am also planning on adding what my girls are doing as far as school goes just because it's another way of keeping track of it that is more easily searched than their binders.

**Kid 1: ordered pairs in graphing, Kid 2: Addition of fractions. Both: German with rosetta stone**

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

WFD, or What's for dinner?

Since I need to go grocery shopping Friday I am pulling my menu together so I can get my shopping list together. I didn't do too bad last trip. I had to make an extra trip for milk as I figured I would. I also had to get a few more grocery items as I had to feed the roofing crew and that wasn't in the menu plan when I bought before. The only other thing I forgot about was rat litter and cat litter. Overall, I didn't spend much more than the initial trip.

I figured I would stick my menu up. It may give others ideas and maybe I can get ideas as well. I would be more than happy to share recipes as well.

Breakfast - Eggs, bacon, toast
Lunch - Sandwiches, chips, pasta salad
Dinner - Homemade pizza
Snack - Applesauce
Breakfast - Pancakes
Lunch - Nachos
Dinner - Pasta with pesto
Snack - Banana
Breakfast - Cereal
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Chili, corn bread
Snack - Grapes
Breakfast - Oatmeal
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Tilapia fillets, rice, carrots
Snack - Banana
Breakfast - Eggs, toast
Lunch - Grilled Cheese, soup
Dinner - Cheese tortellini primavera
Snack - Apple
Breakfast - Cereal
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Veggie stir fry
Snack - Carrots
Breakfast - Oatmeal
Lunch - Ramen noodles with veggies
Dinner - Chicken Enchiladas
Snack - Yogurt
Breakfast - Cinnamon Rolls
Lunch - Beanie Weenies
Dinner - Homemade pizza
Snack - Applesauce
Breakfast - Biscuits and sausage gravy
Lunch - Tuna sandwiches, apple, carrots
Dinner - Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans
Snack - Cheese and crackers
Breakfast - Cereal
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Hoppin' John, salad
Snack - Applesauce
Breakfast - Eggs and toast
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Potato soup, biscuits
Snack - Grapes
Breakfast - Lemon Poppyseed muffins
Lunch - Macaroni and cheese
Dinner - Risotto with vegetables
Snack - Cheese and crackers
Breakfast - Waffles
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread
Snack - Apple
Breakfast - Cereal
Lunch - Sandwiches, chips, carrots
Dinner - Black bean quesadillas, mexican rice
Snack - Applesauce
Breakfast - Omelettes
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Homemade pizza
Snack - Zucchini bread
Breakfast - Waffles
Lunch - Tuna salad
Dinner - Wings, onion rings, baked beans
Snack - pumpkin muffins

Long, but the nice thing is that I don't have to think too hard about what to make later on days I am worn out.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Run, don't walk!

That is what I did today. 1.25 miles ran which, let me tell you is impressive since I have not been able to run since my youngest was a baby, and that was nearly 10 years ago.

I used to have a gym membership. Working out is important to me. People who exercise are healthier and lower their risk of heart disease. People who exercise are happier and lower their risk of depression. People who exercise sleep better. I have a history of depression, insomnia and my dad's side is heavy set. Exercise is not an option.

I was paying $56 a month for a family YMCA membership. That is $672 a year. I dropped that and just got one youth membership for $11 a month for the swimmer in the family, or $132 a year. That is a difference of $540. We bought a home gym and a treadmill for about $1500. In slightly less than 3 years, it will pay for itself in comparison, assuming the YMCA rates stay the same. We could have bought used, but I wanted high quality equipment I would actually use and not something that would just sit in my house. A big chunk of it has paid for itself already especially considering I drop the kid's membership during the summer and start it back up for swim season. It's only another $44 but that adds up.

I probably should have used that money toward my house or savings, but the long term health benefits of exercise are more important to me. I live in an area where outside exercise is difficult enough in the summer, but impossible in the winter. I feel justified with the expense.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The roofing project breakdown

My husband, the hero of the day managed to get half the roof scraped and cleared, and about 30% of the total shingles on today. Not bad. He had some help from his dad and brother, but I tell you, when that man gets a project on his mind, he moves like a freight train. Nobody keeps up with him.

Overall, so far so good. The budget for this project was $2000.

62 bundles of 3 tab fiberglass shingles - $975.88
3 50' rolls Weather Watch underlayment (need along eaves to make code) - $200.97
5 rolls of 15 lb roofing felt - $99.50
3 boxes 1 1/4 inch coil nailer roofing nails 7200 ct - $80.94
16 10' sections aluminum drip edge - $55.68
1 staple gun - $36.99
2 rolls 14" x 10' aluminum flashing - $17.44
2 square roof vents - $11.92
1 box 5000 ct 1/2" staples - $9.97
3 pair gloves - $5.91
Tax for above items - $99.77
1 trip to the dump - $20

Grand total - $1614.97

Well under budget! That is the good news. Here is the bad news.

We need still more drip edge, another roll of ice guard, which will give us enough for the roof valleys as well, another 2-3 rolls of roofing felt and one more trip to the dump. I am hoping the measurements were close enough that the shingles were right. So far we are looking at another $216 or so. The good news is, that is still under budget. I might be able to pull some gutters out of this deal.

The dump trip was by far the best surprise. I was expecting to spend much more on disposal. It's a drive but to dump locally would have been about $75. We spent maybe $10 in gas, and the $20 at the dump. We are still way ahead.

Tomorrow is another long day, but it is looking good so far.

Friday, October 9, 2009

How far would you go

I spent most of today shopping prices for roofing material. There are two layers of shingles up there so it all has to come off and we have to start from the beginning. That includes shingles, felt paper, ice guard, venting, and drip edges. My husband can usually get a better deal on fasteners through his work, so I didn't include any of that in the price workup.

My first stop today was a local lumber yard. I took in my measurements (hard won out in the rain with a busted tape measure) and they were kind enough to do all the work for me. I ended up with a quote just under $2000. Since $2000 is our budget, that left no room for nails or disposal fees for the old roof.

My second stop was Lowes. They could match the prices I had from the lumber yard but they could not get the price any lower.

I did know from online research that Home Depot had the shingles at the very least significantly cheaper. The problem is the nearest Home Depot is an hour away. Still, for the type of savings we need, after my husband got out of work we made the trip to Ohio.

The cheapest shingles in our area were $20.49 a bundle. We bought them at Home Depot for $15.97 a bundle.

We also learned that the ridge vent is not the only option, and in many cases not the best option so we bought the square roof vents instead.

We brought home 32 bundles of shingles tonight and have 30 waiting to be picked up tomorrow. In total, we spent a couple hours on the road but we saved $450 off our original quote between shingles and changing our roof venting. We might actually be able to pull this off.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The things we do for our kids

$52.50. That is what the team swimsuit for my younger daughter's swim team is going to cost us. That was not in the budget, and her first meet is in the beginning of November. Oh, and I cannot forget $10 for the swimcap.

It doesn't matter what sport your kid is in anymore, they all cost a fortune. My kid swims for the YMCA swim team so I am considering myself lucky that I am getting off cheaper than I could be.

So why allow sports? Well, I believe they are vital. My kids are homeschooled. They need the exercise. They need the chance to socialize with other kids. They need the opportunity to be under another adult in charge. They need something to have pride in.

Why have kids if you are not going to provide them with opportunities? They are probably not going to get a ton of monetary help from us for college. The least I can do is allow them to grow into confident, well rounded individuals who have the ability to make their own way in this world.

If that takes moving the budget around here and there, so be it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The books are in

It's a week into October and I finally got the last of the books I need for schooling the girls this year.

One of the most frustrating thing about homeschooling on a budget is dealing with the curriculum. School supplies like paper, pencils, crayons and so on come so cheaply from the early bird school supply sales. I have so many 10 cent notebooks from 2 years ago that I only bought about 10 this year and I still think I will have leftovers. Finding things for the girls to read for pleasure is easy as pie as well. We have some great used book stores. Here is where I admit that despite being pretty tightly budgeted, I don't use the library. Why? Because I am terrible about getting books back on time. It is cheaper for me to buy used than to check out books. Isn't that awful? It's my weakness, and I have just given up on it. It's the same reason I splurge $10 a month on netflix instead of renting movies locally. Late fees are just expected from me.

Anyway, back to the original topic. School curricula is expensive. A textbook will easily run $60-$100. This wasn't so much an issue when my girls were younger. We were unschoolers, and there are a million and a half fun resources for teaching kids how to read, write and add. Now however I am trying to make sure my kids learn history, the scientific method, algebra. That requires a little more output.

This year, my kids are doing math out of college textbooks. No, I am not kidding. My older kid is a 6th grader. She is working out of Introductory and Intermediate Algebra for College Students. The first lesson? Fractions. It starts off at the perfect spot for what she already knows. It isn't that Intro Algebra is harder in college than it is in jr high. It just moves faster in a college environment. The way to make it work is to simply slow it down. It will take 2 years to make it through the book but it is more comprehensive than the typical grade level stuff.

The same can be said for science. Older is working Biology. Younger is working Weather. Again, instead of assigning chapters, I assign a couple of pages at a time. Sometimes it means explaining more of the words but really the girls have an amazing vocabulary, and most of what they don't know is defined in the text. Math, science, and the Arts are all being taught using college textbooks that my husband and I have used previously for classes.

History comes from two sources. Older kid is using The Last Two Million Years left here by my brother. It is in depth and covers a very broad range of history. I ordered the book I am using for the younger kid. For that history book, two writing books, and two grammar books I went to I am totally in love with their buy it used deals. The history book I ordered new runs $94. I paid $13 plus $3.99 shipping. I am also in love with amazons deals plus free shipping. The total for 5 books was $62. That is still less than the one book runs new.

The other thing I have learned is to backdate editions. What I mean is that for my classes, if they suggest I get the 9th edition of a book, I will order the 7th. At my school (WGU, will post about that later) it isn't a huge deal and it saves me hundreds of dollars per term in books. Most of the time the newer edition is almost identical to the older one. The only things I would be hesitant about is things that need to be cutting edge - computers, nursing, etc. But seriously, ethics haven't changed that much in the last 5 years.

Anyway, I told the girls 8:00 they had to get back to their assignments, and I have to supervise. Check out amazons used books. The savings is really worth it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I have a test today

I am going in to a proctor to take a test on Ethics. I have been a little wrapped up in the past couple of days to do much studying, but I believe I have a fairly good grasp on the subject.

College is one of those things that just out of high school I thought I could do without. I got married right out of high school, and pregnant soon after. My husband was in the Marine Corps and while the first year was a struggle, things got easier the higher the rank. By the time he made sgt. we had no debt, always paid our bills on time, and we were doing really well.

Fast forward 8.5 years after he got out. Not having a degree hurts in more ways than I could ever imagine. In 2005, I decided that I loved photography enough that I was going to go to school for it. I spent about $14000 to find out that I am good at it, I got my AAS, and also found out that I hate portrait photography and the market in this area is full. I enjoyed every single minute I was in school but ouch.

So now, my husband and I are full time students again. I am again going with something I love, but something a little more likely to get me a job in the future. I am getting my degree in secondary education - biology to be specific. I will be certified 5-12 to teach biology or life science. As of right now there is a shortage of secondary math and science teachers. I have between 2-3 more years left on my degree. I should have enough credits to sub in another year which will help bring in some income.

Is income everything? No. But my kids are not going to be here forever. I can't see myself wandering around an empty house straightening pictures and waiting for my husband to get home. I would also like enough income that we can start really saving and perhaps one day retire instead of working ourselves right into the grave.

Can such an expense be justified? Absolutely. Look at it this way. Pell grants and scholarships help take a chunk out of my tuition. Everything else is student loans, and I do take extra to cover expenses I cannot cover on my own. I am figuring by the end of my BA with certification, I will be about $40,000 in debt with student loans, plus an additional $14,000 for my AAS. I am estimating the payment to be about $450 a month. My husband will probably add on another $350 a month, so $800 in student loans a month. That sounds like a lot until you consider the following. The only job I have ever been able to get is preschool or daycare where I made minimum wage or just over. Last year I made $8/hour. After taxes I made about $1000 a month. Absolute worse case scenario, we know we can live on one income, and that a min wage second income will pay off student loans and we are more knowledgable.

However, I anticipate actually teaching. Teachers in this area start around $36,000 a year, or about $3,000 a month. By teaching, even if my husband keeps his same job, we will be able to pay the student loans and still have extra money to live or put into savings for retirement.

And what about the kids? I homeschool true, but I am not against public school. I homeschooled my girls up through 2nd and 4th grade. They went to the local public school for two years. It wasn't working as well as I wanted so I am homeschooling again. The public school experience wasn't bad. It's just a long story that will have to be another post altogether. In any case, by the time I get to the student teaching portion of my degree, my oldest child will be a high school freshman, and my youngest will be in 7th grade. My goal was to get them at least through the elementary years as jr. high and high school give them more options. The timing works out very well for me.

I could go on all day about the subject, but I will end it here for now. It leaves me more to write another day. I just wanted to make the point that going into debt for education is one of the good debts that will in time, more than pay for itself.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Price vs. quality, part 2

Ohhhh, I should have known that the first post on this subject would come back to bite me. I forgot to add a little important piece of information. Buying quality is cheaper than buying cheap in the long run, assuming you have the money to buy quality to begin with.

We have been inspected. We have until 11/02/09 to put a new roof on our residence or they can, and will drop our home insurance.

Now we knew the roof was bad. We actually had a plan and a budget to replace it next spring. We were going to go with a steel roof. Why steel? They last forever, they are hail, fire, rain, etc resistant, and the insulation properties rock. The problem is that steel is more expensive than fiberglass shingles. It was all price vs. quality. However, with the new deadline, guess who is going to end up going with price? We are about to end up with 25 year fiberglass shingles. No energy star rating. Definitely not going to last forever. It breaks my heart just a little.

I am also not about to spend $1500-2000 now and then redo it in steel in the spring. I can't afford the double blow, nor am I prepared to waste materials like that.

So there you have it. I concede. Sometimes price makes a huge difference.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The big seasonal clothing change

With fall here, it is time for the big clothing change out. The shorts are put away and out come the winter coats. That is about all it is in Michigan since pants and long sleeve shirts are in the dressers year round.

As I pulled the coats out of the big storage bin, I handed them to my children and crossed my fingers. I am so happy to say that last years coats still fit. For now. If they can hold off growing out of them until February, I will do a happy dance because last spring I completely forgot to get the next size up when all the coats were on clearance. I can't even hand one down. The younger kid wears the same size as her sister.

I love buying clothes and shoes. I am a typical girl when it comes to shopping. The difference comes from where I shop and how I shop.

I don't shop at consignment stores. It isn't that I am too proud. It's just I find all the local consignment shops to be too expensive for what they carry. If I want to pay $10 for a pair of Jeans, I will go to Kohls. Yes I said Kohls. I do 80% of my shopping there. They have the best clearance sales I have come across. I go straight for their 70-80% off racks. I bought an entire summer wardrobe for me for about $100. That included several pairs of capris and several shirts. I don't normally spend that much at once on clothing, but I was working at the time, and it was necessary. In general though, $4 for a pair of capris is garage sale pricing, but the stuff is actually new.

I also peruse good will for my clothing. It means a lot of searching through Rider brand mom jeans, and Guess jeans left from the 80s, but I have come across some great deals. Silver Tab jeans normally $75 and custom sized for about $4. American Eagle jeans for $1. I don't put a ton of stock into brand names but I am learning which brands look decent on my butt and fit right.

For my girls, I shop at good will. I pay about $1.50 an item and in childrens sizes, the stuff looks new and is still in style. I will let other people pay $20-30 for a pair of Hannah Montana jeans. When their kid outgrows them in a month or two, they become my great find for $1.50. I also shop kohls clearance racks, but kids clothes are so easy to find elsewhere for even cheaper than I can find there.

The other place I shop for the girls is Kmart. I normally try to avoid the big box stores, but there are some things I do not buy used such as undies, socks, and hats. Kmart has decent deals on these items, and the joe boxer brand is fairly decent. I find they last longer than hanes when it comes to underpants.

My husband is the difficult one to shop for. The thing I have learned about men and clothing is that they will wear clothes until they literally disinegrate around them. Have you ever looked for mens clothing at places like good will and salvation army? This is what you will find. You will find old man clothing purchased in previous decades. You have to do something with grandpa Bob's clothes when he passes away. You will also find some great finds from the 70s and 80s. These treasures were probably carefully snuck out of a man's closet by a wife who is rolling her eyes that she has to perform a James Bond to get rid of the dayglow parachute pants and the powder blue leisure suit.

Stores know how hard it is for men to get rid of clothes, and therefor how hard it is to come across decent used attire. The sales in the mens clothing section is never as good as the womens. Ever. Still, Kohls sale items tend to be a better deal than Walmart or Kmart when it comes to jeans and khakis. T-shirts can come from either place for about the same price.

In any case, if my girls can just stop growing until about February, I will get another year out of their coats which means paying $15 per coat instead of $40.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Grocery shopping for the best deals

I will let you in on a little secret. I almost never use coupons. The reason is that most coupons come out for things that the average person doesn't really need anyway. The exceptions I make are for cleaners, paper products, and pet supplies because many times I can get a better deal with a sale and a coupon than I can buying a store brand.

I have yet to see a coupon worth anything for food items. All the food item coupons tend to be for boxed dinners and other convenience food. Rule one on saving money on the grocery budget is to ditch the convenience foods. I am all for short cuts. Don't get me wrong. I don't bake my own bread (yet), I used jarred spaghetti sauce and canned beans. What I don't use are items such as hamburger helper and boxed cake mix. The exceptions include boxed mac and cheese which we have for lunch twice a month or so, and the occasional canned soup, which again I use for lunches. I don't do any real cooking for lunch, I admit. I am all about leftovers, sandwiches, and the occasional canned good.

In our family we have 2 adults, and 2 preteen girls. They eat the same amount we do, so lets just say I am feeding 4 adults. I grocery shop twice a month, with the very very occasional milk/bread trip in between. I try to make sure I get enough in one shot as one of the things I have learned is that the more often you shop, the more often you end up with the extras that you really don't need, and even $1-2 over several trips add up.

I went grocery shopping yesterday. I spent $145. That is for two weeks and includes dog food, medicine, paper products, hygeine products and cleaning products. The actual food portion of that bill is less than $100.

I shop at two stores. I start at Country Market (which may be a regional thing) for anything not food related because the second store, Aldi, does not impress me in any area except food. I try to stick to sales, and if I happen to see a sale on a food item that is cheaper than I normally pay at Aldi, I certainly buy it.

Before I leave the house, I make a menu for the amount of time I am shopping for. I include breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. I then make a list of everything I will need to meet that menu. I stick by this list. Things I do not buy: pop, snack foods such as fruit snacks and other garbage that won't actually do anything about hunger, juice. That cuts down a lot, plus the things I just mentioned are absolutely awful for your teeth. I will let the girls have pop if we go out, but I do not make a habit of buying it.

What kind of things are on the menu? Here are a few sample days.

Breakfast - homemade cinnamon rolls
Lunch - veggie fried rice (great use for leftover rice)
Dinner - Homemade pizza
Snack - Trail mix

Breakfast - Oatmeal
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Italian sausage with bell peppers and onions over noodles
Snack - Banana

Breakfast - Corn Muffins
Lunch - PB&J, chips, fruit (apple, banana, grapes)
Dinner - Veggie fajitas
Snack - Crackers and cheese

Maybe my next post will be an entire menu.

We eat well, and with careful shopping it doesn't cost us a fortune. Over the next year I plan on working on making even more, and dropping the convenience items I do use in order to save even more money.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My own personal zoo

So how can someone who claims to live on a budget end up with so many animals? They all come with a story. They are expensive when you add them all up, but what they add to our lives more than makes up for the cost.

The first to come into our household is Orion.

We got Orion as a tiny kitten back in 2002, when we were still living in an apartment. This old, mean kitty has been through 3 moves and all kinds of little kid attention. He has grown up with my own children, and is very much a part of our family.

It helps that he is a great mouser, and we live in the country. I hate mice. He earns his keep.

After we finally got our house and moved in, I started thinking about a dog. My husband at the time was on the road 5 days a week. I didn't necessarily want a guard dog, as I did have two young children. What I wanted was a companion to sleep in my bed with me, and give me a warning bark should someone come to the door.

Enter Sam.

We adopted Sam from the local humane society as an 8 month old puppy. He is a golden retriever/chow chow mix. He is also the absolute best dog anyone could ever hope for. He is gentle. He listens (well, most of the time) and he has enough of a bark that someone with ill intentions would think twice before coming into our home. Sammy really is the kind of dog every person hopes to end up with.

So here we are, one dog and one cat. It works for us. The one early spring day in 2008, I hear a noise in the barn. It sounds like a bird maybe. A high pitched squeak. Wait. Oh no. You are kidding. Kittens. We left them up there a while, watching for the mama kitty to come back to them. Nothing. At the end of the day, I climbed up into the rafters, and handed down to my husband 1 - 2 - 3 - oh boy - 4 - yes 5 little runts who could not have been more than a day old, and looked like they had not eaten in that time. Only one was making any noise. I have seen newborn kittens before. Living out in the country in cat dumping land you get used to seeing the strays and their litters. These kittens were tiny. Mama never did go back for them. Perhaps she knew they were too small.

So 5 kittens, being bottlefed around the clock. I kept all 5 alive for a week before I lost two of them. It was another week before I lost two more. The only survivor is the only one who would grow. He was the biggest of the litter, but still very very small as a cat. After all I went through keeping that little bugger alive, there is no way I could find another home for him. I am his mama. So we named him Columbia.

Now, fast forward to early this year. My daughter begged and pleaded and cried for her very own pet for her birthday. Did she want a guinea pig or a hamster? No. She wanted a dog. Now years and years ago we had two dogs who got along very well together. It was really nice actually because they kept each other busy so they were not always hanging on me. Now Sam, as I said before is the ideal dog. Adding a second, medium sized dog can't really be that much more trouble right? Our house is big enough and we have half an acre, which isn't huge but is good sized. So back to the humane society we went. We looked at all the dogs, found a beautiful basset mix who was so sweet and so sad looking. Unfortunately, it was late in the day, and we didn't remember to bring the animals shot records for our current pets. I was still working at the time, so my husband agreed to go the next day after he got out of work and get all the adoption work done. So he came home with Jack.

Wait a minute! That isn't a basset mix. That is also a puppy. Did I mentioned we agreed on no puppies? Yeah. Apparently, Gracie, the basset mix had been adopted out about an hour before he got there. We missed our shot. So because he promised to bring a dog home, he looked through the dogs again and went with Jack. Jack is a boxer/lab mix and was not quite 6 months old at the time he was adopted. I am still warming up to him 6 months later. He is a sweet dog, but he is the most sterotypical dog I have ever had in my life. He eats everything. When I say everything, I do mean everything. He digs. He chases sticks. He swims. At a year old he is over 70 lbs and is bigger than Sam. Not exactly a medium sized dog. He also drools. A lot.

Still, he absolutely loves attention and the older he gets, the better behaved he is. We still have to crate him at night and during meals. He is also about 95% housetrained which is more than I ever thought he would be. He has the potential to be a great dog, so I tolerate him.

The rats are the personal pets of the older daughter, and don't cause a lot of trouble or expense. The fish are the newest addition being fair prizes from our trip to the county fair this summer. I have told the girls no more pets. Period. We are a full house.

Unless of course you are talking about laying hens or raising a pig. That may possibly be in our future, but I want something that is going to actually save me money in the end, and nothing that comes in the house.