Monday, August 31, 2009

Budget: Steadfast or Rolling?

More and more people are having to learn to live on a budget but are struggling because they have never needed to live on a budget before. I know several people who have recently begun to realize the value in stockpiling but are having problems doing this within their grocery budget.

I have a weekly and a monthly budget for groceries. My weekly budget is simply the monthly number broken down into weeks. If I see a great sale on several items I need, I am not afraid to go over budget that week as long as I make up for it down the road. My goal is to be at or under budget by the end of the month. I call this weekly budget number a rolling budget. For instance, my weekly grocery budget is $50. Last week I went over by $13 because there was a huge sale. This week, I only spent $27 so I'm still under budget for the month.

This concept can be applied to other areas of the budget, as long as the money is available at the time it is needed. I know several people who use the envelope system so that their budget is always a rolling budget. If the money is in the envelope, they can buy something but if there is no money, they must wait until another day. If they have money left over, it is left in the envelope for those times they need to spend a little extra money.

So, do you have a steadfast monthly budget or are some categories on a rolling budget? I urge you to find what works best for you so that you can stay on track each month.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Food Friday: Autumn Soup

We've had a few cooler days off and on the past few weeks and I've found myself wanting fall comfort foods on those days so I thought I would post a great fall recipe. A friend of mine posted this recipe on Facebook last year and it has quickly become a family favorite. I change it up with different veggies and spices depending on what I have on hand and what mood I'm in that day.

Autumn Soup

1-2 pounds ground beef
1 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, chopped chunky
1 lg. can crushed tomatoes (+ 1 can of water)
2-4 large potatoes, peeled & cut into bite size pieces
Salt, to taste
2 bay leaves
1-2 teaspoons of beef granules (or bouillon cubes)
2 Tbs. basil

Brown ground beef, celery and onion; drain fat. (I sometimes add a little minced garlic if I have it on hand.) Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for at least one hour. Serves 6.

***I have no idea why Blogger is deciding I need multiple fonts in this post. It is all written in the same size and style. Sorry it looks so weird.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blessings from Above

Thanks to getting very little sleep lately and my husband working 6 long days a week while training for his second job, I've been in a foul mood the past few weeks. I decided yesterday that I was going to change that. I started by getting out of the house. With my oldest being extremely energetic, this isn't an easy task. Luckily, a friend invited me over for a playdate and we all had a blast. The next thing I did was focus on the blessings I've experienced lately. Seeing God's hand in your life can really change your attitude quickly. Here are just a few of the blessings I've experienced this summer:

A healthy baby. I never thought I would have a preterm baby (born at 35 weeks, 5 days) as there was no indication of problems, but thankfully he was born healthy and the few issues we've had with weight gain seem to be resolving itself.

An outpouring of love from friends and family. When the baby came early, we were not prepared AT ALL. Our house was an absolute wreck, we had friends living in our basement, the baby's room was barely put together and not organized at all, our pantry was not stocked, and I only had two newborn outfits. Within two days my family and friends had rallied to clean our house, provide two weeks worth of meals, and shower us with clothes and diapers. I was slightly overwhelmed by it all because usually I'm the one giving, not receiving.

New friends. Ok, so they aren't really new to me, but our friendships have gone from general acquaintance to good friends over the summer.

A second job for my husband. We had been praying for well over a year for an answer to our financial situation and God is providing with this second job. I'm not a fan of the hours but it is nice to have some relief and my husband absolutely loves the job.

College funding. My husband has two semesters left of school before he graduates. We have paid for his schooling entirely out of pocket as we are not fans of debt. When he went to pay the bill this week for the fall semester, he learned he received financial aid for the first time. This was just under half of his fall tuition. I just stood there and thanked God for his blessings.

These are just a few of the blessings our family has experienced this summer. Take a moment to reflect on how you've been blessed recently. It really will lift your spirits. I know I'm in a much better mood today than I have been in a few weeks. How have you been blessed?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Free Pork Chop Recipes

I'm always looking for new pork chop recipes as we eat waaaayyy too much beef at our house thanks to the free beef we get every year for Christmas. I try to vary up our meat each week and that includes adding in some pork. I'm not a huge pork fan though. I have a few recipes that I love but mostly I would choose chicken over pork if I could. My husband gets sick of chicken all of the time though. I just signed up for this free cookbook and it looks like there are some really good recipes in it. You will need to give your email address and there are a few offers that you are welcome to skip (although a few of the newsletters they offer are actually pretty good - I'm already a subscriber to them though). Otherwise, it is completely free and ready for download.

To get your free eBook: America's Favorite Pork Chop Recipes featuring 52-pages of quick and easy recipes click here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Food Friday: Crispy Baked Fish

I love fish but my husband is not a big fan. He will eat this recipe on occassion though. I love this recipe this time of the year because it is light and fairly healthy.

Crispy Baked Fish

3 Tbsp margarine or butter
2/3 cup Bisquick (I use reduced fat)
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp chili powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 lb white fish fillets (use whatever is on sale or buy the frozen variety)
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 425. Melt butter in a rectangular pan (13x9) in the oven. Mix Bisquick, cornmeal, chili powder, and salt. Dip fish into egg, then coat with Bisquick mixture. Place in pan. Bake uncovered 10 minutes, turn fish. Bake about 15 minutes longer or until fish flakes easily with fork.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

InBox Dollars

You may have noticed the box on the right hand side of my blog for InBox Dollars but had no clue what it was. I've been using InBox Dollars for about a year now and it is yet another way to make a little money using the internet. Emails are sent to your inbox and you receive income by clicking on them. Over time, this adds up to some nice extra spending money. They also have offers and surveys you can complete to earn more and you can receive a percentage back by shopping through the site too. I recently went through the site to purchase some of my husband's textbooks.

InboxDollars pays members to read e-mail, take surveys, play games, shop online, and more!

Click Here
if you are interested in joining InBox Dollars.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tightwad Tuesday: Back to School Clothes

The best way to save on back to school clothes is to not buy them (at least not now). I know, that sounds strange, but we never bought a whole new wardrobe for school when I was growing up. My mom would let us pick out one new reasonably priced outfit for the first day and that was it. Around here, it is still very warm when school starts and summer clothes are perfectly fine. Mom would then wait until the temperature actually cooled and then we would get what we needed. By that time, fall clothes were on clearance and we were able to pick up a lot more for the money. Our son starts preschool next week and I haven't bought him a single item of clothing for school yet. I picked up some clearance items at the end of the season last year so that he has a few things that fit when it starts cooling and I will get the rest as we need it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Eat from the Freezer Week

Most people have an eat from the pantry week every now and then - I tend to have an eat from the freezer week instead. I've learned you can freeze just about anything and my freezers are busting at the seams because of this. For my long time readers, you might remember that my in laws give us 1/4 of a cow every year for Christmas. Last year, I had problems finding room in my freezer for it. This year, I'm starting now on clearing the space. Therefore, this week is eat from the freezer week at my house. The grocery sales are pretty pathetic so I will only be picking up some fruit, milk, and a few sale items. This should help my budget out since I went over budget two weeks in a row due to great sales. I don't mind going slightly over every now and then because I know I can make up for it when there are slow sales weeks.

I'm also using this week to get back on track from shopping. The past two months, we've been horrible about running to Walmart or Target for an item or two and coming home will kinds of junk. I'm blaming it on having a baby a month early and not being ready but within a few weeks of him coming home, I was stocked up. I just let the habit crawl back into my life and now I need to get back on track. When my husband had his hours cut, one of the first things I did was cut Target out of my life. I used to take my youngest once a week just to get out of the house. Some weeks I could get out without spending anything but most weeks I came home with at least a bag of junk. In the first year we cut expenses, I think I only went to Target 3 times! Another positive thing (besides saving money) by not shopping, is less clutter in the house. So, last night was my last Target trip for awhile and I think I have everything now from my Walmart list so I'm staying away from there too.

Do you have a leak in your budget? I challenge you this week to see where you can tighten the reigns that may have loosened over time.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Food Friday: Chicken Fried Rice

We were playing games on Nick Jr this week and at the end of one of the Ni Hao Kai-Lan games was a recipe for fried rice. Our toddler was very excited and asked me to make it for dinner. I printed the recipe and adapted it to our tastes. I made the rice earlier in the day and cooked the chicken just before picking up my child from daycare. This way, he was able to help me make it and it just took a few minutes. Because he helped, he ate very well for dinner.

The original recipe calls for adding green onions at the end but I am the only one who eats onions in the family so I left them off. Feel free to add them though. I happened to have oyster sauce on hand and wanted to use some of it up so I used 1 Tbsp oyster sauce and 1 Tbsp soy sauce. It gave it a great flavor doing this.

Chicken Fried Rice

boneless, skinless chicken (I used 6 tenders, adjust to your families taste)
dash of soy sauce
2 large eggs
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp oil - as needed
4 cups cold cooked rice
1-2 Tbsp light soy sauce or oyster sauce, as desired
frozen peas

Dice chicken and cook with a few dashes of soy sauce and a dash of pepper. In the meantime, scramble the egg in a separate pan with 1 Tbsp oil. Remove chicken when it is finished and heat 1-2 Tbsp oil. Add the rice. Stir fry for a few minutes using chopsticks or a wooden spoon to break it apart. Mix in the soy sauce or oyster sauce and frozen peas. When the rice is hot, add the scrambled eggs and mix thoroughly. Serve hot.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Going Overboard When Finding Great Deals and Freebies

On Sunday I went to Staples to pick up a few of the deals and noticed they were out of the free (after rebate) label maker. I borrow my parents label maker all the time and have been wanting one of my own but I figured Staples would be out since I couldn't make it until later in the day. I asked the clerk if they had any in the back and she said there were people lined up waiting for the doors to open that morning so they could get the label makers. She said it was crazy. This story just added fuel to the fire of a topic that has been bothering me - people going crazy over free or nearly free items.

Pardon me as I get on my soapbox for awhile. I've noticed several bloggers recently getting a little too excited over a good deal. I've seen some buy more of an item than they will use in several years. I've heard of people calling ahead to the store so they can have the entire inventory of an item waiting for them when they get there. I personally quit doing the whole CVS game because we only have one location in town and the deals were always gone within the first 30 minutes of the store opening. Also, they never restocked the deals, including those that were supposed to be month long.

Please use common sense when stocking up on incredible deals. Sometimes the excitement of it gets to people and they go overboard. Sometimes greed plays a huge part. Whatever the cause, please leave something for the rest of us.

This post isn't coming from the fact that I did not get my label maker on Sunday. In fact, I was able to purchase it off their website and I combined my order with my dad's order so the shipping was free. This comes from the frustration of finding empty shelves at almost every store I go to and hearing of people buying 200 of an item because it was free and they can always sell it at a garage sale if they decide they bought too many. It comes from seeing pictures of stockpiles that could feed entire neighborhoods yet they are still going crazy over the deals. It comes from the disappointment of not being able to use printable coupons at some stores because people have been committing fraud in order to buy more items.

Please, next time you are picking up a deal, think about how many you really need and if you later figure out you went overboard, then share it with a charity who could really use your help in this poor economy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tightwad Tuesday: Meat Marinate Tip

We do a lot of marinating throughout the year, especially throughout grill season. One of my favorite, easy tips is to use a fork to poke a few holes in your meat before you marinate it. It allows the flavor to soak in to the middle of the meat instead of just coating the meat.

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Beginnings

After over a year and a half of living on very little income, things are slowly starting to change. My husband was able to land a second part time job and he starts training for it this week. He works in the medical field and found the exact job he currently does at a local hospital and they are more than willing to work around his current job. The hours stink as he will be on call but we are thankful for the additional income. It will not solve all our financial issues but it will help a ton towards getting us back on track.

Our son has a new beginning also in a few weeks as he will be starting preschool for the first time. Last week we went and met his teacher and he was able to play in his classroom for awhile. He was so excited that he didn't want to leave and he asks us daily to go to school. I pray he continues to like it once school actually starts.

My new beginning is that I have a new resolve to lose the pregnancy weight. I tried for awhile and nothing happened, then we had a ton of family in and out which meant a lot of eating out. Family is now gone and I've got a great menu planned for this week so that we avoid last minute runs to McDonald's. I have a goal date in mind for when I would like the weight off and I've set small goals along the way so that I can stay on track.

I've also revived my Tupperware business since I took time off after having a baby. I spent a good chunk of the weekend working on goals and familiarizing myself with some great new products coming out in the next few months. For me, Tupperware has been a great way to earn some extra money and get some much needed girl time in too.

So, it is new beginnings all around for our family and I'm excited to see what God has in store for us in this next chapter of our lives.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Food Friday: Zucchini Bread

My father in law brought me an abundance of zucchini last week so I pulled out my favorite zucchini bread recipe and made a few batches. I like to keep several types of quick breads in my freezer so that I always have a last minute dessert or breakfast item on hand. It helps out the stress level to have something on hand when last minute company arrives or I find out the night before I need to bring something to school or an event.

In the past, I've dreaded grating the zucchini because it always took forever and made a huge mess in my kitchen. Since I'm now selling Tupperware, I decided to pull out my Quick Chef and see how it would do with the zucchini. In no time, I had all of my zucchini grated and there was no mess. I will definitely be using this from now on.

Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups zucchini - raw, unpeeled, and grated
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Beat together the eggs, sugar and oil. Add the other ingredients and beat well. Pour into two loaf pans sprayed with baking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Adventures in Canning

I've always been intimidated by canning but decided to give it a whirl last fall when I made apple butter. I found out it was much easier than I thought it was and everyone at Christmas enjoyed the homemade gift. In fact, I've had family bringing me empty jars so that I can make more this year. Knowing that I tackled one recipe and survived, I decided I would try more this year as fresh produce from the garden starts taking over.

Friday night, my in laws gave me a bag of very ripe peaches. By Saturday night, it was obvious I had to do something with them or they would wind up in the trash within a day or so. My husband said he didn't want a cobbler and I didn't want to just freeze them as I did that once before and he wouldn't eat them when I thawed them because the color was off (yes, he is picky). I searched the internet and found what seemed a super easy recipe for peach jam. I set out to make it and hours later, it still wasn't coming together. After burning my hand for the third time from boiling peach stuff I decided I was done. I wound up with some pretty yummy peach syrup which will be used on ice cream and pancakes but nothing I can give at Christmas.

While stirring the mixture all that kept going through my head was a post on "Lessons I Learned While Canning". So, without further ado, here are the lessons:

1. I need bigger pots: If I want to can a decent amount of anything, I need atleast one more large stockpot or a larger saucepan. I overflowed one pot with the jam mixture and just about overflowed the next size up after I moved the mixture to it. I didn't have anything else besides the huge stockpot which had the canning jars in it.

2. Canning tongs would make life easier: I figured this out quickly last year when making apple butter but forgot about it until this latest adventure.

3. Simple syrup stinks when it burns: Yep, that would be from the overflowing pot of peach jam.

4. Only attempt a new recipe when the kids are gone: The baby kept needing to be fed while I was destroying my kitchen and it was never good timing. Luckily, the toddler was not home.

5. Double the time you think it will take: With both experiences it took much longer than I thought it would simply because I was doing something that was new to me. I think it will get quicker with more experience.

6. It is all worth it and I look forward to my next canning experience. I have no idea what I will be trying next but I'm pretty sure it will not be peach jam.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Garden Bounty

These last few months I've watched with great pride as I started my veggie garden from seeds. I've never had seeds last before but I was determined to make it work this year. This weekend, I finally got to pick my first veggies from those seeds. I normally would have veggies a few weeks before now but the rain delayed my planting by almost a month this year.

Saturday night I went to check on my garden and was shocked to see the green beans had taken off. I picked a handful then and there are plenty pretty close to ready to pick. I've never tried to grow green beans before but they are about the easiest thing I've ever done so they will be back in the garden again next year.

I also was able to pick a banana pepper. There are several more close to being ready and I look forward to adding these to some yummy sandwiches this week. My bell pepper plants are growing like crazy and have tons of flowers but no peppers yet. I'm hoping to see a few soon though since the flowers look pretty healthy.

I have a ton of green tomatoes too and I'm praying the animals stay out of them this year. Last year, the squirrels ate all but two. This will sound crazy but tomatoes are a must in my garden every year and I don't even eat tomatoes. I don't like the texture of them but there is nothing better than the smell of a homegrown tomato fresh off the vine. I'm thinking of using the ones I don't give away to make some tomato sauce or to possibly can as I do use diced tomatoes in several recipes.

How is your garden doing? I would love to hear updates from those who planted this year too.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Living Rooms Direct Winner

According to, #5 is our winner and that is Nancy. I've emailed Nancy and she has 48 hours to respond. If I do not hear back from her I will choose another winner at that time.

Everyone had some great ideas of how to spend the $25 at Living Rooms Direct and I enjoyed seeing everyone's decorating style.

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