Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Month End Money Recap

You know that feeling when you are this close to starting over yet you have to keep going with where you are? I'm so there. I am so ready for a new set of resolutions because I'm a bit tired of this years and I can't say I've done all that well.

For the last time this year (thankfully) - here are my resolutions for 2011:

1. Organization. Overall this year not as good as I had hoped. I have gone through box after box and closet after closet but it feels like my stuff re-grows on its own.

2. Decorating. I had high hopes to get so much decorating done this year but between budget and time so little got done.

At least I did get a "new" living room - we went from this:

To this thanks to my dad and $200 in accessories - I like that cheap decorating.

Got to say though - I'd like to try the decorating thing again next year. I love to decorate and I love how it changes the house into more of a home.

3. Spending less and saving more. We are staying on budget a little more each month. Who knew budgeting would be such a process? Maybe that's the lesson - it's more of a long-term goal; a lifestyle change that you have to aspire to. Saying you'll only spend $200 a month on going out to eat is a LOT easier said than done and it's taken me a while to find the right amount that works with reality. It's amazing how much "extra" things we need each month that aren't in specific budgeted categories (think printer ink and field trip fees). Keeping track of every penny isn't fun but it is worth it and every month I'm perfecting my ability to stay on track.

4. Do a little more deal hunting. I am and have been but I'll never believe I've learned everything and I'm hoping to learn more in 2012! And save more of course. There's always room for improvement.

5. Monthly meal planning. I have fallen behind on my this one. Maybe next year my goal should just be to try new foods every month though I do really love the months that I have the whole meal planned.

What about you? Have you thought about next year's goals? Did you do better than me this year?

Here's hoping 2012 is great!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blogging for Books: The Crossing Book Review

It took me a while to get going in this new book by Serita Jakes called The Crossing. I had read great reviews on Amazon and was excited to get it as my next book installment for review but once I began to read I got bogged down in a lot of back story and useless information about the characters. The basic plot is that 10 years ago a cheerleading coach was gun downed and then bled out in front of some of her students. Now they are dealing with what happened that night and trying to find closure when the case is re-opened. Because the book bounces between a number of different characters it was also hard to pinpoint who the book was ultimately about.

Once the story got going the plot was interesting enough to hold my attention and want to know who did what in the ending. The ending didn't surprise me but I was disappointed as to how fast it was thrown together. Instead of showing us the ending in what could have been an exciting conclusion the author told us the ending in an epilogue.

As for the characters, I didn't like any of them except maybe Victor and I didn't care for how most of the ending turned out for anyone but Claudia and Victor. I'm sure it is true to life but I think Casio's character could have been written and finished so much better. The author sets up a lot of suspense but delivers on very little. Of course, I say this as a reader who prefers more action and suspense and a few times saw opportunities built into the plot that weren't explored.

I would recommend this book to readers for the plot alone - I enjoyed it once it got moving and was interested as to how it all played out but I can only give the book three stars due to the very slow start, the overkill on every character's background story (childhood included) and the fact that the ending could have been so much better and more dramatic than it was.

I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group's Blogging for Books program in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Favorite Black Friday Shopping Place: GYMBOREE

My absolute favorite place to shop on Black Friday is: GYMBOREE

This is the time of year I get the kids winter jackets and fleece outfits. Jackets are currently marked down to $22.73 - add a 20% off coupon and a $65 jacket is just $18.18 which is almost a 75% discount!!

But hurry because the jackets are going fast. I ordered last night and they are already sold out of a few styles.

Fleece and puffer vests are also on sale:

Puffer vests: $12.93
Fleece Jackets $11.53 (before coupon)
Fleece Pants: $8.73
Fleece Skirts: $7.68

What's your favorite Black Friday spot? Are you going out all night or shopping online? Last year I went out, this year I'm staying in. Hopefully the deals will be just as great.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cheap Party Fun

My trio turned 5 last week and to celebrate we did it Arts & Crafts Style!

With my limited time and budget we only managed to pull together a few craft projects but the favorite by far was the colored rice.

Over the summer I found this idea on my friend's blog Magille and I have been wanting to do it ever since. In my head I make things harder than they are so it sat there as just an idea until this weekend for the girl's party.

How we did it:

1. Purchased HUGE 15 lb bag of rice from BJ's - cost $12
2. Using gallon ziploc bags (hefty bags really) I measured out 4 cups of rice into each.
3. Added food coloring to each bag - the amount depended on what color I wanted and how bright - the more I added the more the color (food coloring cost: $0 - used what I had on hand)
4. Added squirts of hand sanitizer (you could use rubbing alcohol but the hand sanitizer was soooo easy) - it spread the food coloring and dried quick. (cost: $0 - had it on hand)

We didn't get our lines quite straight but you can see how pretty it is poured out of the bag.

Of course you know it's not going to stay that way!

The girls are itching to play but we made them wait till all their party guests arrived.

Took seconds to mix:

And draw a crowd:

Seems like it didn't matter the age of the kids they all wanted to play!

If you're wondering, yes, it did make a mess but it cleaned up really easily - unlike sand which gets everywhere the rice cleans up quick and we can use it all over again when we want a fun activity.

All that for about $10! The other $2 worth of rice I still have to use for cooking :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Menu Planning Again

Maybe I've said this before but you know it's been a busy week for me when the only posts I get to are menu planning! Last week Caleb turned 8, this week the triplets turn 5. All these birthdays are making my weeks crazy.

But still we need to eat so I continue to menu plan or maybe just because I love to do it :)

Monday: Chicken Spaghetti

Tuesday: Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas - I had chicken to these and they are soo good

Wednesday: Triplets birthday - out to dinner!

Thursday: Pasta Skillet Dinner - didn't get to this on Sunday

Friday: Beef and Bean Taco Casserole

Saturday: Celebrating the girls birthday with friends - dinner is yet to be determined

Sunday: Spaghetti Casserole

Monday: Leftovers - cleaning out the fridge before we see Grandma

Grandma is cooking from here on out so I don't have to worry about next week's menu planning - even for Thanksgiving. Sounds good to me!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Back To Menu Planning

Last week my parents were in town and we had a great time with them but while they were here menu planning pretty much went out the window and grocery shopping along with it so I feel a little behind coming in to this week. "Forcing" myself to make a menu plans means I have to look at the week ahead and think about it otherwise I'll find myself going out to dinner every night. Granted I should have menu planned for the whole month but this month I just didn't get to it and with Thanksgiving so close I doubt I will again until December. Where does the time go?

After considering what I have on hand, this is the plan I came up with for the week:

Monday: Out to Chili's with a gift card and a coupon code - dinner was $14 out-to-eat for 7 people!!

Tuesday: Easy Pleasing Meatloaf with baked potatoes and green beans

Wednesday: Chicken, noodles and broccoli

Thursday: Spider-Man Spaghetti Pie - it's Caleb's 8th birthday and he's going with a Spider-Man theme

Friday: Layered Enchilada Bake

Saturday: Birthday party then baby shower - dinner will be quick at home or easy drive-thru

Sunday: Pasta Skillet Dinner

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dollar Doubler At Harris Teeter

Super Doubles are back at Harris Teeter this week (where Harris Teeter doubles coupons up to $1.98 - limit is 20 per day and 3 per like item). I didn't find a ton of exciting items but the few things that were deals I am happy about and find worth going back for.

A few things I've picked up:

Chex Cereal

Regular Price: $3.99
Sale Price: 2/$5.00
Additional Sale: buy 2 get 1 free
Used $1.00/2 coupon from S 9/25
Also used: eVic Coupon on my card $1.00/2
Final Price for 3 boxes: $2.00 or $.67/each

Grande Chips (our favorite!)

Regular Price: $2.99
Sale Price: 2/$5.00
Used $1.00/1 coupon from S 9/11
Final price: $0.50/each

Duracell Batteries

Regular Price: $4.99/each
Sale Price: $2.99/each
Used $1.00/1 from PG 10/16 and/or PG 10/30
Also used: $0.75/1 eVic Coupon
Final Price: $0.24/1; $0.99 for all others

Chiquita Fruit

Regular Price: $3.99
Sale Price: None
Used: $1.50/1 from S 10/23
Final Price: $0.99/each

Cheez-Its (not the best deal but still worth stocking up on)

Regular Price: $3.99
Sale Price: 2/$5.00
Used: $1.00/2 from RP 9/18
Final Price: $1.50/each

There are a few other deals to be had but these were my favorite and the ones I'm going back to stock up on. For other match-ups check out Southern Savers - she has three full lists up so you're bound to find something good!