Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Month End Money Recap

You know how it sometimes feels like you can't get ahead and when you look at your goals you realize how far behind you really are? The good news is that you can start over whenever you want and I have to say the start of a new school year is like starting over again for me!

My kids are back in school which means I have a **little** more freetime than I used to which means I can focus more on my home. It also means no more vacations so we will spend less money. It also means lots of consignment sale prep which will hopefully lead to more money so all around a bit of a money plus :)

1. Organization. I did a little. I have a lot of clothes hung and ready to tag for my upcoming consignment sales - this weekend my plan is to go through buckets of toys to see what I have there to sell. Hoping for a lot so I can pay myself back for clothes that I have had to buy for the kids for school!

2. Decorating. Did not get to this again this month. When I originally set this goal I was really hoping for more free weekends to work on the house but it hasn't happened. I'm very much hoping it will happen soon but as I look ahead I know it definitely won't happen in September. The whole month is already full and it hasn't even started!

3. Spending less and saving more. No. Unfortunately, this whole summer has been crazy with one thing after another and the month of August meant school supplies. Oh, I used coupons and shopped sales but no matter what none of it was free so I had to account for that somewhere. Plus, there was school uniforms and fall clothes so that was yet another extra expense. The good news is that I am paying in full for all my purchases and not going in to debt which is really the most important thing right? I am certainly going to work on saving more in the coming months though because I'm tired of my savings account not being bigger than it is!!

4. Do a little more deal hunting. I did some with school supplies - using rebates, coupons and sales wherever I could. I've spent some time on Swagbucks earning extra bucks wherever I could. Right now I have a growing stash of Amazon gift cards that I am saving to use at Christmas. I've also been earning Barnes and Noble gift cards now through Swagbucks and that has been fun to get even more books free! I love books :)

5. Monthly meal planning. I didn't get to this in August. I made good weekly plans and with September starting I feel like I'm in the same boat. I have been busy and haven't had a chance to set out a full months meal plan. However, each week I have been looking at what I have to see what I can make and my "needs" list to purchase from the store has been very small - somewhere around $15 a week which I am very happy with. Note: that doesn't include milk which is always on my needs list! I also increased my food budget from $450 a month to $500 - milk has gone up along with some other items and I'm stocking up a little more at BJ's so I just feel like my budget is a little more roomier than it was and I'm happy about that! All the time I realize that budgets aren't set in stone but guidelines to see where I fall and rather than struggle and become frustrated about going over every month I'd rather see myself come under budget or meet it :)

How about you? Have you even though about your New Year's Goals since January? It's hard to believe that there is only 4 months left in the year and we will soon be thinking about Christmas. Having goals to keep up with helps us financially and mentally to stay on track rather than have life pass us by.

Here's to a great school year for you and yours!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: School's In!

I didn't intend to go a whole week without posting nor did I intend to only post about menu planning. I suspect this may continue to happen over the next few weeks as we adjust to being back at school and inch closer and closer to my moms of multiples yard sale which is just 3 weeks away! This is what happens when life gets busy whether I like it or not.

Today was the kids official school start date so I can already look forward to a crazy week. One thing that keeps me calm, on track and organized is my Menu Plan!

Here's my plan for this crazy and busy week:

Monday: Chicken and Peppers Pasta Skillet

Tuesday: Layered Enchilada Bake

Wednesday: Bruschetta Chicken Bake

Thursday: Moms of Multiples Meeting (I'm not cooking!)

Friday: Mexican Shepherd's Pie

Saturday: White Bean Chicken Chili

Sunday: Pork Chops (saving some of the pork for a recipe next week)

I hope you and your family have a very blessed and productive school year!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Menu Planning: Lots of Meat

This week Harris Teeter had a great sale on meat so I'm excited to have a bunch of new recipes this week or at least ones that we don't normally have because meat is well, expensive and I normally stick to my chicken and ground beef.

Sunday: Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas - I added shredded chicken and these came out really well!

Monday: Aloha Pork Chop Skillet

Tuesday: Creamy Baked Ziti

Wednesday: Seriously Simple Beef Stew - I know it's not fall yet but the Kraft Food & Family came in with all their fall recipes and this one just looked good!

Thursday: Kung Pao Chicken - another recipe from the magazine that just looked really good!

Friday through Sunday: gone to a church retreat - all meals covered - except Sunday night which is my birthday so I assume we'll head out to eat that night to celebrate - hint, hint for my husband :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Organization Friday: Art Corner

While it's been a while since I did an organizational post it doesn't mean it's been that long since I was organizing! Honestly, I feel like I do it every day - there's always clutter somewhere that could be tackled.

My first instinct is to get overwhelmed and walk away because the house will never be ***perfect***. You know what? That's true! In this life nothing is perfect. Our lives are full of chaos from the inside out not to mention the fact that I have 5 little ones who have ideas and goals of their own to clutter my house.

But rather than walk away completely and find myself one day at that show Hoarders: Buried Alive or any other number of reality shows with a similar day I take a deep breath and find a spot to dig in. I can't say ever really want to get moving on the project but I am always pleased with the result and thankful the Lord gives us our homes for a respite from the chaos of this world!

This week I tackled a corner of the dining room. I'm working on the whole room slowly (it's almost done) and I have to post about the living room redo. Baby steps. Right now we're knee deep in swapping kids rooms - talk about an organizational nightmare!!

That being said, this week I just worked on the corner. Why? Well, it looked like this:

For some reason this one corner had become the dumping ground for all things art and all things school. You know the little projects at school that you want to keep but aren't exactly sure where to store?

I'll insert here that I am not a hugely emotional person who needs to hang on to every little thing but some things I want to keep and remember and pull out to look at some day and to be honest a digital photo just won't do. I know a lot of people like this idea but I have pictures (tons of them!), I'd rather see and hold what they did not just look at another picture of it - no offense to those who do but this is how I "work". Mind you I don't keep everything - I DON'T need one million worksheets from Kindergarten but I do keep a few of the nicer things.

What to do with them?

The best solution I've found is to get the Priority Mail boxes from the post office (or some other similar box) - write the child's name on it and the year and start packing some things away. If it fits, it stays otherwise it goes and I'll always have a record of those handprints or famous drawings, stories or poems.

Once the papers were sorted it was a pretty easy to task to put the corner back together:

I did also remove school supplies from the original pile and place them in a basket all their own. Since I have a ton more to buy I had to find a good place to store them before it got out of control :)

I hope you had a chance to organize this week! And don't forget to visit OrgJunkie for more tips and trips to organizing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Super Doubles Box Top Deal

I can't say I found a ton of deals at Harris Teeter today during Super Doubles - a few things were already gone and I went in on the first day (I really hate that) but I was able to pick up enough to save 50% on my total bill and since most of my items were necessary items for meals for this week and next I'm not complaining. (Spent $53.83 and saved $53.07 which included a $7.00 - on sale mind you - splurge on nectarines - my favorite!)

But my favorite deal was more of a deal for the school then for me. I picked up 8 General Mills items:

Total spent on all these items: $6.97
Total earned for the school: $5.80!!

How did I do it?

Harris Teeter is running a special promotion that when you buy 8 participating General Mills items you earn a $5.00 Catalina Box Tops coupon.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch/Honey Nut Chex

- regular price: $4.29/$3.85 each
- sale price: 2/$5.00
- used printable coupons (printed through Swagbucks to earn an additional 10 Swagbucks per redeemed coupon)
- final price: $1.50/$1.00 each

Honey Nut Chex Mix

- regular price: $2.95/each
- sale price: buy 1 get 1 free
- used $0.50/1 coupon from SS 7/10
- final price: $0.47

Old El Paso Stuffers

- regular price: $3.69/each
- sale price: 2/$5.00
- used 3 $1.00/1 coupons from GM insert 08/07 which doubled this week
- final price: $0.50/each

Some great deals for me equals an awesome deal for my kids school!

For tons more coupon match-ups for this week at Harris Teeter be sure to check out Southern Savers

Monday, August 8, 2011

Menu Planning: Still Stretching That Dollar

With just $75 left in my grocery budget for the next 11 days (I'd be freaking out more if Wednesday wasn't the start of Super Doubles at Harris Teeter) I have been doing a lot to use what I have on meals rather than buy anything new. Of course, next week will be a different story but I think if I plan carefully enough I'll be just fine :) And, hey, we can have spaghetti once a month right?

Thanks to a few leftover nights I still have some planned meals from weeks past for this week - I'd say leftovers are another great way to stretch my dollar.

Monday: Mac Chicken Cacciatore

Tuesday: Cheeseburgers with corn and beans - we are having guests and Kirk is grilling - easy night for me!

Wednesday: Chicken Taco Bake - this I already have frozen so all I have to do is thaw and bake! Soo easy and cheap.

Thursday: Velveeta Baked Spaghetti Squares - this is a meatless dish that is very easy to make if I already have Velveeta on hand (which I do) - since all the other ingredients are cheap throwing this together is a breeze and this is so tasty - one of my favorite meals!

Friday: Easy Chicken and Biscuits - since I have chicken in the freezer and some Campbell's soup in the pantry I found a recipe that would put the two together :) Reading the recipes on the packages of the products you have is a great way to pick up new recipes and use what I've already purchased

Saturday: Sasuage Hoagies - this is my only real purchase this week - I'll need to pick up a pound of sausage and the hoagie rolls but I with that and some green peppers I can make a great meal that we all enjoy

Sunday: Chicken and Brocoli Alfredo - I may use this recipe or make up my own since I already have Alfredo sauce but either way I already have all the ingredients and I'll just use the remainder of the frozen chicken that I will thaw out and cook for Friday.

Now I just have a few more days to plan for before my budget resets :) Man, I am SO ready for the 19th of August!!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blogging For Books: Desiring God by John Piper (DVD)

I have read a number of books by John Piper and I always enjoy his insights into the Bible so I was very interested to review this DVD. While I often find John Piper's writing style more complex and hard to follow I had no such confusion with the DVD. John Piper's teaching style was very clear and he used a lot of biblical evidence to back up his conclusions.

The overall theme of the book and the DVD is that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. John Piper proposes that in each one of us is a God given desire for joy and happiness and the only way to truly achieve either is to find our joy and happiness in Christ. Piper proposes that while the Christian life is full of sacrifices all that we do is to earn reward for ourselves in heaven. He states that this is not selfishness but finding in God what He has for us.

Early on he uses a verse from Psams:

"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence is fullness of joy;
at your right hand is pleasure forevermore."
Psalm 16:11

God has fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in store for us in Him and nothing on this earth can compare. Piper points the viewers repeatedly to scripture and to the hope we have in Christ.

I enjoyed watching the videos and learned a tremendous amount. For the most part I watched them on my own but I was able to use parts of his teachings to teach my 11-year-old daughter about finding joy in Christ above all else and I believe that I will continue to use these videos to teach my children and share with friends.

I would definitely recommend these videos to anyone. They are challenging and yet uplifting. I watched them alone and learned a lot but they would also be useful for families and church small groups just so that you would have someone to talk with and discuss what you are learning.

For more information on John Piper and his ministry check out: Desiring God

To order books by Piper or this DVD head HERE on Amazon.

Disclaimer: This DVD was provided to me free of charge by Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program. All reviews are my own.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Menu Plan Monday: New Month

I'm not starting August off very well. I don't have a monthly meal plan! I just haven't sat down and planned out a full month of meals like I usually do. It's probably because my month actually ends on the 19th and not the 30th/31st because of the way we've started doing our bills so even though today is the 1st I'm already halfway through my month. Because of that I'm trying to spend as little as possible and one way I do that is to use what I have on hand and add as little as possible.

With the meals I planned out for this week I was able to do just that making my needs list about 6 items long most of which was produce: potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers. These are items that I can't purchase long in advance anyway so I feel pretty good that for the most part my list consisted of a can of refried beans for Tuesday's meal :)

Here's what I'm making with pretty much what I had on hand:

Monday: Chicken Parmesan

Tuesday: Beef and Bean Taco Casserole - this is quickly becoming a family favorite!

Wednesday: Mini Meatloaves with mashed potatoes and green beans

Thursday: Moms of Multiples meeting - dad and kids will have homemade Chinese

Friday: Shepherd's Pie using the remainder of the mashed potatoes from Wednesday - it's often a pain to make homemade mashed potatoes but the payoff is huge when I make a second meal with them making this a very simple family meal

Saturday: Mac Chicken Caciatore

Sunday: Ravioli Lasagna Recipe

This week was pretty easy - the hard part will be planning for the last two weeks of my month when the funds are low. I know it will be time for some creativity on my part!