Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Paper, Paper, Paper...

I have a stack of coupons that need to be filed. Plus I have 4 more inserts that need to be cut! Needless to say I am behind on my coupon organizing. On top of that I have a new found hobby using scrapbook papers. I am beginning to make handmade cards to sell to raise money for our adoption.

So, my schoolroom is looking pretty bad lately! Talk about your paper...scraps and all! I need to tackle it this week!

A bottle of water.....

Our family loves baseball.... LOVES it! Our boys play baseball, we follow all kinds of baseball from the minor league level, up to the Majors on ESPN. We have several favorite of which is the Braves. Well, dh was able to get free tickets to the Braves through work, and free parking as well. So we jumped at the chance to head to Atlanta and catch a game.

What does this have to do with frugal living? Well I'm getting there. The only cost to us was the gas for our van. Very worth it to us... we get to the game, and of course ate dinner on the way down very inexpensively. I know ballpark food can be expensive, especially in the Major Leagues. I just didn't know how much.

Around the 6th inning I asked dh to grab me a bottled water if he didn't mind. He took the kids and came back with a soda for each of them and my water. That's 3 sodas and one water. Wanna know how much that cost at your favorite MLB stadium?


Yes, that's right $18.00. I told dh I didn't want to hear anymore. It made me ill just thinking about it. Unbelieveable! As the game was winding down, I told dh I was finishing all the water, so as not to waste a drop... He joked, that must be the best tasting water you ever had! LOL! Yeah right.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Recipe Re-do

Today I bought some Jenny-O ground turkey at Publix. We use this in place of ground beef in chili and spaghetti sauce. It is a much healthier option for us, and the sauce can mask the taste of the turkey for my beef lovers.

We've been working for much of the day on organizing our master closet, so my goal was a quick and easy dinner. Spaghetti and salad. I am trying to lower my sodium intake for many reasons that I won't go into now. Just suffice it to say, I am limiting sodium and some bad carbs... (like yummy fresh baked bread).

As I was browning the turkey and boiling the pasta, I had a chance to look at my favorite pasta sauce and it's sodium content. Paul Newman's Cabernet Marinara sauce. One half cup of this contains 590 mg of sodium. Yikes!! That combined with the pasta would have put me way up for the day. Fortunately last week I bought some Hunt's unsalted tomato sauce on sale at Publix. A small 8oz can has 70mg.

So I put some ground turkey in a small pot and poured in the unsalted sauce. Then I went to my spice rack and began doctoring my own version of spaghetti sauce with garlic powder, oregano, basil and lemon pepper. The finished product was quite good, and I got to enjoy pasta with my family, without the worry of all the extra sodium. Best part is I only used 1/2 the sauce or 35mg of sodium, and I have leftovers for tomorrow!

Pasta is a staple here at our house, so this will be a great way for me to stay on my healthier eating plan, without cooking a completely separate meal. That works for me!

Publix Mystery Coupon

The Mystery Coupon item for our local area is......

Publix brand Apple Juice. It costs one penny.

So, if you need apple juice, head down to pick up your penny item!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Grilled Kabobs- A Great Summer Meal

Now that summer is just about here, I'm trying to think of easy meals that are also healthy for our family. Last week my husband and I fixed some beef tip kabobs. They were delicious! So, this week I opted for the somewhat healthier chicken. I personally liked the beef better. Whatever you choose, chicken or beef, red peppers, green peppers, onions, and pineapple....all on a skewer. It makes a fantastic meal! Serve it plain or with a some rice. Yummo!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Eating healthy while sticking to a budget is tough. Maybe others have a better handle on how to do this, and please please share your tips with me!

Here's the deal.... For awhile now I have noticed that a lot of the coupons and BOGO deals are on sugary sweet stuff or junk food. My sister and I have talked about this. Now don't get me wrong I love that kind of food... VERY much! My husband and children also really like it. But I have begun to really re-vamp our eating habits.

It's mainly for me, as I have weight to lose, and not just a little either. I think not having a ton of that stuff around the house will be helpful to me. Plus, my family just needs to eat more fruits and vegetables.

So, for the past two weeks I have not really bought anything much that required a coupon. I'm mainly purchasing meats, fresh fruits and veggies, etc. My body is thanking me, but it's hard on our budget. I wish now I had planted some kind of a garden, or something, that could be helping me save on vegetables. I know some of my friends utilize farmers markets around here as well.

Help! Tell me how you manage to save money and eat healthy too. I could really use some tips and advice.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On Being Frugal...

1. Being frugal is time consuming

Oh my goodness is it ever! It takes time to cut those coupons, and it takes time to file them. It takes time to go through the coupon clipping sites online and order the coupons that you think you'll need. It takes time to scan three different grocery stores to try to find the best deal that they offer. It also takes time to scan through Walgreens and CVS, to decide what is worth purchasing that week. Then there is the time to make a menu plan, and actually go shopping. The bulk of my time is in the grocery shopping, and coupon clipping. I can see why most people just throw those inserts away. Who has time for that? But as my friend Kris just updated she has saved over $500 since the beginning of the year in just coupons at the grocery store. It is so worth it..... if you're willing to invest the time. For us on one income, it's a must.

2. Being frugal takes sacrifice.

In order to live off of one income it means we give up the ability to buy the latest and greatest. We have to, as we just can't afford it....We don't have the newest, cutest, coolest "stuff". For one thing our cars are old, we just can't afford to go out and buy a new car, or even upgrade. We are saving to buy a car (used) with cash. (Such an interesting idea in today's finance everything market). We also wait several years before getting the latest in technology (until the prices come down). We clean our own house, yes with the kids still here everyday! We also shop consignment for clothing. Some people would turn their noses up at that, but there are some beautiful clothes out there that are a fraction of the price, in great condition. We frequent used book stores and curriculum events to buy our books second hand. Why pay retail for these? I have found books 75% to 85% off that look practically new. It takes time to look through these as well (to go with my time point of #1). I already mentioned we don't go out to eat a lot. For several years we lived with only the most basic cable (12 channels) for $7.00 a month. Now that our whole family is into ESPN, that isn't as much of an option. Though we would go back to basic if needed. To make room for cable another item had to be dropped from the list.

3.Being frugal takes a little bit of creativity.

Some people can be creative using up leftovers to create a new delicious meal for their family. I cannot! But I can be creative by taking ten dollar bed frames (headboard and footboard) and sanding them down, and staining them again to use for my children. I can be creative in frequenting used furniture places and "junking" to find the items that are very inexpensive that would work for my home. My hunt for a bookcase for my boys here is a good example. Coming up with meals that fit my budget and pantry takes a little creativity as well. :-)

4. Being frugal is tough, but worth it.

Living off of one income isn't easy in our two income world. If I were to go back to work, I could probably add several thousand dollars back into our budget and daily living expense. But at what cost? Sure we could eat out way more than we do, and we could afford a nicer house, or to really fix this house up the way that we want. Hey, we could even afford a truck for dh, who continually sacrifices by driving a 13 yr old beat up little car to work daily. But those are all wants...not needs. Our world is all about instant gratification. Seriously, fast food, ATM's, even the new Visa commercials about how fast life moves. When we are being inundated with that type of marketing, it's tough to swim upstream the other way.

But delayed gratification is worth it. It develops discipline in me, that is lacking in so many other areas of my life. It builds a perspective (most of the time) of contentment with what I have. Instead of wanting more and more, and never being satisfied. It ignites in me a certain creativity, to try and make do with what we have, re-inventing things that are old but still usable.

I sometimes think the toughest thing about being frugal is to remember in my moments of discontent, why I do it. Because dh and I feel called to have me at home. To hopefully teach our children to honor God and each other and impact them through life lessons and love on a daily basis. Yes, we sacrifice a second income for this, but we also give up the rat race of life in lieu of a simpler, less hectic one.

Monday, June 9, 2008

When it Rains it Pours.....

I just got finished posting on my adoption blog, how disheartened I am with some mistakes made in paperwork, that have cost us more money in FedEx charges. I know that there is nothing I can do to get that money back..... but I'm still aware of it and it still irks me.

Today in the mail came a nice letter from the IRS requesting information from us from back in 2001. I never like to see anything come from the IRS, unless it is a refund check. (Actually, we have never been sent anything requesting information ever). This is actually from an individual state. So, we pulled out our copies we had on file to sort through and see if we did indeed file correctly.

Thank goodness this is the one year we filed with HR Block, and not on our own. We did this, as we were unsure of which state to file as our primary residence. All the documentation was neatly organized, and dh will be calling tomorrow as well as submitting an answer in writing as requested. I have found the online state IRS filing guidelines to back up our state return. I think everything will be okay...but I'm still stressed!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Almost Debt Free....

Good News! I finally was able to pay off the last credit card today! Woohooo!! That was a big deal in my mind. :-) Now, we do use one credit card currently, but pay it off each month. The reason we use it, is because it gives us Marriott points. We learned over a year ago through many of our friends going through international adoption, that we could use Marriott points at the Marriott in Moscow. This is much cheaper than the going rate for a hotel room there. So, we began using a Marriott rewards credit card to accumulate as many points as we could. We have been using it for over a year, and will probably be able to stay 3-4 nights free with our points. Yeah!

Anyway, I wanted to explain that as I realized I never did before when talking about credit or cash. I do think that it is easier to be held accountable to our budget by using cash. So, once our adoption is completed, we will most likely switch to an all cash/envelope method of grocery shopping. (Gas too!)

Now we only have our van payment and that we could pay off pretty quickly. But we are still trying to save for our adoption. So, we are holding off on early van payments in favor of a debt free adoption. (Hopefully!!)

May Financial Health

I don't have the coupons totals or savings added up just yet. I did however, pay all our bills for the month and calculated how much we spent per week on groceries.

The total per week was $101. I'm not thrilled with this, as I know how much I used food that we had stocked in our pantry. This was a lot of little trips to the grocery store. Many made by my dh, that I completely forget about when figuring my grocery budget. You know how it goes, "Honey can you pick this up on the way home from work?"

Needless to say, I am a bit bummed about my grocery shopping. Worse though is gas! Do you know that we paid almost as much in gas as we did in groceries? How crazy is that??? I'm glad it is summer and activities are done, so we can just hang out here and park the car in the driveway. I don't know how we would have done this with dh's 1hr commute back north. (One way). I know my former neighbor still has that commute, and it's gotta be tough!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mystery Coupon....

The penny item for this week is Publix brand cheese slices. We really are not big cheese eaters here... so we'll pass on that. :-)

But if you like cheese, or like to make grilled cheese sandwiches... go get the Publix brand cheese slices for 1 penny!

The last of a good thing...

Well, I'm not sure, but when dh picked up the papers today and brought them home, he shared the following news:

Apparently, this will be the last of the big city newspaper in our area. He was told by the clerk that this big city is stopping it's distribution up here.

Though I'm not 100% positive of the accuracy of this information.... I am quite bummed about it, mainly because if true, I will now have to rely on coupon cutting services for the majority of my coupons.

I'll let you know the outcome next Sunday.