Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My last day of "freedom"

One would think I would have had something more fun planned for today than housework and hanging out with my kids, but I'm a mom!  That's what we did today.

Tomorrow, I start my first online class and I have a phone call with my new student mentor.  And I also apparently have an appointment with a different internet provider -- The Rock wants something faster.  Ok then.

VOD (a.k.a. Runner Girl) is at school from 8 to 4:30 every day.  She's having fun with volleyball but she's worn out.  Then she comes home around 5, practices, eats dinner, does homework, and off to bed.  It's busy.

The littles are just all over the place.  Much playing, yelling, tackling, tickling, jabbering, laughing, and I wish more napping.  Ha.

This has been a hard week because The Rock's financial aid hasn't come in yet and we have rent and car payment due.  And my financial aid won't come through until mid October.  The Rock is stressing over it but things are better now that he has most of his books and online access to his math class.  He's turned in his first assignments and is feeling more confident that things will be OK.

As I've been couponing, I've tried to stock up on basics and everything else.  We got a bunch of pasta for free (sale+coupon) a while ago, but a lot of it was tricolor and we found out The Rock is allergic to spinach.  So it's a no go. And we used up the rest of what I got.  But I haven't seen a fabulous sale and can't go get any pasta or anything right now.  We have been eating a lot of rice lately but I wanted something different and we can't do potatoes. 

I started rummaging through my pantry tonight trying to find something to do for dinner and a big bucket in the back caught my eye.  I have a few -- flour, sugar, rice, and this one, which I knew was there but couldn't remember what I'd put in it.  Something told me just to open it and look.  I found spaghetti, macaroni, and various dry beans.  I've been cooking a pound of dry beans every week, and we just make bean/rice/protein bowls for quick lunches or whatever.  And now I have a few more to choose from.

I'm very grateful that I listened to that little voice that told me to look there, and that I've been catching sales here and there on this sort of stuff.  I've felt drawn to starting school but also to striving to save money and make things work on a limited income.  Even though things aren't as smooth sailing as I'd like with school and The Rock's bipolar, little blessings like this let me know that we are going to be OK through it all and that God is watching over us.  He is guiding even seemingly small choices like buying a couple of extra packages of pasta and stashing them for a rainy day.

So my last day of "freedom" has been a good one after all.  And for that, I'm thankful.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

It's time for a vote!

So after the first practice, Runner Girl decided cross country wasn't actually what she wanted to do this year. 

She tried out for volleyball instead.

And made the team.

Which means she actually hit a ball and didn't hide from it or run away screaming, like she used to do.

Some of the benefits she pointed out:
*It's inside!
*It's air conditioned!
*I have less of a chance of twisting my ankle.
*There's a drinking fountain if I get thirsty!

She also mentioned her cousin, who was in cross country with her last year.  Sort of.  They were screwy with the rules, so he ran in the practices but not in the races.  It sort of sucked.  Anyway.  He made the volleyball team, too, so they're doing it together.  And drama tryouts are Monday, which he's going to try out for as well.

So I guess she's not Runner Girl this year.  I think I'm changing her name to Drama Princess. 

Or Volley Girl.

VOTE!  Or give me a different name and if I like it better, I'll use it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Make Good Choices!"

When Runner Girl was younger, she used to love the movie Freaky Friday.  We watched it a lot.  Early in the movie, before the switch, the mom drops the daughter off to school and calls out the window, "Bye honey!  Make good choices!"   Teenage daughter is appropriately embarrassed and walks quickly away from the car.

The last couple years, I started doing the same thing.  Not entirely to embarrass her, though that's an added bonus.  But to remind her of who she is. 

We are LDS (Mormons) and believe we came to this earth to learn to make good choices and return to our Heavenly Father.  In the Book of Mormon, there is a verse that talks about how making good choices will help you live a good life.  The reverse is also true:  Bad choices make no one happy.  Even if you're not of our faith, it holds true. 

So, last year I reminded her almost every day to make good choices.  I said it yesterday and again this morning.  And today she rolled her eyes and told me I was SO annoying sometimes.  Then Little Mister called out from the back seat, "Bye honey!  Make good choices!"

That wasn't the best though.

We've been carpooling with DisGrace and when I dropped off her daughter at the high school, he called out, "BYE KAMMA!!!  Make good choices!" 

I hope he remembers that when he's their ages, and even if he doesn't, I'm going to remind him.  Every day.  To make good choices.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wow, that was rotten

Afternoons are THE worst possible time for appointments for our family, so I try really hard to schedule things for mornings.  We run errands in the mornings and then come home, have lunch, and do naps.  That's just the way things function the best for our family. 

When I called The Rock's doctor for a medication checkup and FMLA forms (which we have to do every 6 months), the receptionist told me he's only coming in at 1 these days.  Well crap.  We took the 2:30 appointment and cringed, knowing it would be a bad day.

On top of lack of naps for the littles, we had my niece today because her parents and my parents were at a funeral for a long-time family friend.  Now, I would have gone except we know that funerals are bad news with my kids.  I brave them for certain members of MY family, but I'm not going to subject other people to their busyness at a funeral!

So we loaded up 3 tired kids and off we went to the doctor.  We were in the car for almost an hour before we got there because of traffic and an emergency potty stop and stuff, so we were a few minutes late.  We had gone to the store earlier in the day, so they were sick of being in the car and being cooped up so I was letting them run around a bit.  They weren't screaming or making horrible screech noises, just being very good, a bit busy, and, after about 45 minutes, they were getting a bit loud, though it was still quiet for my kids.

One of the receptionists came over and told us to hush them up.  "We have elderly patients," she said.  Well really?  If we hadn't had to WAIT so freaking long, we wouldn't have had a problem! 

Now, I know my kids are busy and active, but keeping them waiting for an hour?  And expecting perfect silence?  IS ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS.  One of the old ladies kept telling Little Mister to be quiet.  HE WAS BEING QUIET.  FOR HIM.

We left 15 minutes later without seeing the doc but did get our co-pay refunded.  The other receptionist said it was another doctor sharing the exam rooms with ours that backed him up so much.  Well, our doctor has been there longer but ... he's not really a doctor.  He's a PA.  So he and his patients get shafted by all the doctors in the office.

On our way home, we talked about never going back to the office.  We both felt like we'd been treated unfairly and, frankly, if not for the fact that The Rock has never had a primary care doctor and actually likes this PA so much he's gone to him for 5 years, I wouldn't ever go back.  I've been a patient there for 9 years. It's a family practice; I really didn't think one age group was more important than anyone else before, but apparently, keeping grouchy old people happy is more important than keeping bipolar patients sane.

After talking it all out, we realized that he needs his FMLA paperwork ASAP and he needs blood work for his followup, and we know it'll take a while to get into anyone new, so I suggested that I call and see if they'd just do that and not make an appointment.  The Rock reluctantly agreed. 

I dropped him off at home and went to trade kids back with DisGrace.  I called the office and actually found out his PA is really there in the mornings, just not today.  I grabbed an appointment for Friday and said, "now, I might have to call and cancel, but that depends on my husband."  She said that was fine and put us down for the appointment. 

While I was on the phone with her, I missed a call.  From the PA.  He left a message that he was calling to apologize for getting so backed up and wasting OUR time.  He said he'd try to call again later and asked if I would please talk with him and let him know if there was anything he could do for me/us.

And THAT is the reason we see him.  The rest of his office sucks, but his call made me cry and The Rock said he'd go to the appointment on Friday.  Just because he called.

The first day of school!

I would pretend to be sad, but I'm not.  We love the school where Runner Girl will be attending and the littles need the structure that the school year brings.  And this year, because there are other changes afoot in the house, there is a lot to look forward to.  I've been anticipating the first day of school for weeks.  It was yesterday.  And I missed posting.  haha.

The new coach for the school held a meeting Monday for the cross country kids.  We may not have been as consistent as we'd planned over the summer, but at least she DID run some.  Hopefully the surgery and the continued training help her speed a bit.  Day one of band was Monday as well, which was something else she's looking forward to, but she'd locked her oboe in her locker and couldn't open it again.  Oops.  We've been working on her learning to read music and play the oboe the last couple of weeks.  Things were super busy all weekend though, and I'm not sure what she did with that.  I need to start having lessons with her once a week from here on out, but hopefully when she goes to play this week, she doesn't forget everything she's learned!

Over the weekend, after the raspberry picking adventure, we went to the Mod Bod's parking lot sale and got Runner Girl a couple of camis to wear under her (too short) uniform shirts.  They were too short last year too, as in, they showed her belly when she raised her hands.  But they fit around!  And the next size up was ginormous!  Still is.  So camis and tanks are the name of the game for the moment.  We did miss the ward campout.  We were on our way up the canyon when Little Mister said he was too tired and begged to go home.  Poor kid.

We picked up our produce on Saturday morning and got some good deals at Walgreens (free + $2 money maker on fish oil, thanks so much!, plus some cheap disposable diapers to keep on hand for our times when I haven't done the cloth laundry), and then ... well ... the littles and I had THE BEST NAP.  We haven't all been able to nap together for a while, but we did on Friday AND Saturday.  After naps I got a message from The Rock's co-worker's wife and finally called her back after The Rock got back from shooting (with other co-workers).  We went over for dinner -- 30 minutes notice, I made dessert and a broccoli/rice casserole.  She was impressed.  HA!  Literally two of the easiest dishes ever created.  We had a lot of fun and went home just in time for bed.

So Sunday rolled around and the kids and I got to church late because Little Mister was up in the night screaming and woke everybody up.  During Sunday school, Bitty and I turned off the light in the mother's room and she finally nursed and went to sleep.  I apparently zonked out too, and when I woke up an hour later to someone else coming in and saying, "I need to change a poopy diaper, can I turn on the lights?"  I looked around and saw another mom in there *who wasn't there when I passed out*.  They were both from the other congregation that meets in our building, so I didn't know them and was a bit embarrassed, but they both assured me they wished they were sleeping too!!!  HA!

So I went out in the hall.  There were only 20 minutes left of the meetings, so rather than wrestle the hyper toddler, I sat and let Bitty run around and chatted with a friend.  I knew she ran a daycare, but I didn't know details.  She *only* does daycare for teachers.  I told her to put me on her list for 3 years from now because I'll need her!  We talked about that a bit and then church was over.

Days like that start to make me wonder why I go at all.  I didn't get to partake of the Sacrament or hear the talks (sermon) or anything, and then I slept.  But I know I'm setting a good example for the kids and it helps us feel the Spirit at home when we are obedient.  And that's very important.  After church, The Rock woke up and came out and talked about spiritual things with Runner Girl and me.  It was a good discussion.  He may not be the most active member of our church, but he still does have his testimony and still tries to be obedient to the Lord's commandments, for which I'm grateful.

In the busyness of the weekend, the housework fell by the wayside.  I am starting to revamp my lists -- we need the kitchen mopped more than once a week, for example -- and Saturdays are going to be too busy to be the catch up day anymore.  So I'll rework things a bit, especially as we get into the school year for all of us.  Another thing I'm putting on my list this week is to get exercising again -- not at the gym, but with a DVD either first thing in the morning or during naps.  The kids, husband, and I all need me to have those endorphins.  And I'm going to start tracking my caloric intake again because something has to give.  EVEN if I can't lose weight while nursing, all of these things will help me feel better and get healthier. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

YAY!!! It's Friday!!!

It's the last Friday before school starts.  I had thought about taking the kids to the cheap theater to see Kung Fu Panda 2, but then?  A friend mentioned this U-pick raspberry farm not terribly far from our house.  It's not a huge operation and runs entirely on an honor system.  You go, pick your raspberries, weigh them, and put your $ into a locked, mounted box next to the scale. 

Hello.  The raspberries are only $2.50 per pound! 

We strapped Bitty on my back and off we went into the bees and brambles.  Little Mister "helped" me and picked some not ripe ones but eventually figured out that he only should find red ones.  He also kept trying to eat them and then would remind himself, "Hafta pay first!"  and put them in the container.  Runner Girl picked the most by far.

We got there at 9 and picked for just over an hour and got 3-1/2 pounds.  It was a perfect day for it:  Not very hot, not cold, not crowded at all.  It drizzled a bit, but that just made it so we could stay a little longer without hearing Little Man complain that it's "too hot!" The kids ate a bunch on the way home from the patch.  It was a great morning to spend with the kids before school starts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our "new" car

Fitting a family of five into a PT Cruiser, when two of the five are in ginormous car seats, is no easy feat.  Runner Girl has gotten too tall and too "mature" to ride between two car seats.  It got to the point that she couldn't buckle her seat belt.  So I went shopping online and found an older used minivan.  Showed it to The Rock and he said, "Let's go buy it!  Right now!"  HA! 

We went the next day.

It was still there.

The van is big enough to hold our entire family, including Small Fry if she came for a visit.  And we'd still have one spare seat belt. 

Little Mister says he loves the "big car" and likes that he can get in and out himself. 

Or maybe he just loves the DVD player. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Schooling

As I mentioned last week, I'm starting college very soon.  So is The Rock.  And Runner Girl is in 7th grade this year.  Small Fry is almost 15 and in her sophomore year of high school (at least, that's where she should be from last time we talked about it ...)  With a 3 year old and a 1 year old, our lives are busy and full.

So why on earth would both parents decide NOW is the time to go to college?

Well.  The Rock has been talking about going to college since we met and he finally found something he wants to do.  He's working on an associates in international business and we'll go from there.  But first he has to catch up his math and English because his high school principal told him to drop out of school.  For real.  He did eventually get his GED but his math is still shaky and his English, though improved from when we met, isn't the best.

So there's that.  There's also the fact that his job is difficult and demanding and a very physical job and we both know he can't do it forever.  Not to mention his bipolar ... makes things even more of a challenge.  And his company has been struggling with the recession.  Between cutting hours and days and his bipolar causing him to miss time, we've had a lot of financial struggles the past couple of years as well, to the point that we qualify for Pell grants for the first time since we got married.  We looked at each other about 6 weeks ago and said, "Hey, nothing is EVER going to change for our family if we don't do something different."  So he applied, was admitted, and is going to college in couple of weeks.  There has been a lot of paperwork and several trips to the school, but we are almost ready.

Right after we started getting The Rock sorted out, a friend mentioned an online university, WGU.  I looked into it, evaluated my options, prayed, felt peaceful about it, so decided to go for it.  I'll be studying interdisciplinary studies, which is fancy talk for elementary education.  I will be a certified K-8 teacher when all is said and done.

This first term is scary.  When he did school the first year we were married, things were not good.  The Rock's bipolar was totally out of control and his wife was rather crazy and insecure.  Depression set in for both of us.  So we're crossing our fingers that, now that we've weathered a few more storms together, things will go better even if it's still hard and stressful.  Pell grants will cover almost all tuition and books for him, and we will do loans.  We really have to get through it and make different choices or we're always going to feel boxed in and helpless.  And that's not a great feeling to have.

Having long-term plans and goals and making active progress on them is new for us.  Well.  At least it's different than we've been able to do in the last few years.  We're both feeling more hopeful for the future, even amongst the fear and worry.  Trying to let go and let God handle it isn't easy, but we are working on it.  And knowing we have Him in our corner is an amazing thing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Couponing!

All right friends.  Coupons can be tricky, but once you learn how to do it, it becomes second nature.  To best utilize your coupons, match them with sales in your area so you're getting a discounted price, then use the coupon on top of it.  There's a link at the bottom of this post which might be beneficial.

So where do you find coupons?  In the Sunday newspaper and online, mostly.  Our local paper has 3 or 4 sources for coupons, and online there are many more.  I only print online coupons in black and white (saves $) and have never had a problem redeeming them.  We get 4 copies of our local paper every Sunday, which means I get 4 of every coupon.  I only pay $17 every month, and it's a rare week when I don't save at least that in coupons.  It's usually double or more.  A lot of newspapers have similar deals, though some limit subscriptions to 2 per household.  The ones that limit to 2 per household are around $1/week.

To cut them, I stack my inserts.  First I lay one down on the floor in front of me and open the front page, then lay another one on top of the single left sheet, then open it and lay another one on that open left sheet.  Like this:

I then stack up the same pages and cut them out.  But I don't trim them very close because sometimes they shift while cutting, and my Red Plum inserts are often printed screwy and don't line up.  I've wrecked several coupons in the Red Plum inserts lately by just chopping and not paying attention.  Urgh.

Other sources of coupons:  Some stores have little machines that print more coupons at the register.  They are called "catalinas" and some stores call them different things.  Rite-Aid (up rewards, I think), CVS, Walgreens (register rewards), Smith's, Albertsons, and others.  I usually take advantage of Wags and Smith's and only discuss theirs because they are what I use.

How do you file all of these coupons?  I used to use a box.  I'd write the date I received each packet on the front and then I'd put them in the box.  I'd cut out coupons as I needed them, based on my grocery list for the week.  But I found that things wouldn't always be on the shelf when I got to the store and I'd have to reevaluate, which was harder to do when I didn't have all the coupons with me.  Or I'd find something on clearance and know I had a coupon for it at home, but no idea where.  So I started a binder.  Binder systems are not new at all.  I just hadn't converted yet.  But I had this cool binder from when I was in college -- it has a small zipper pocket inside which is the perfect size for my coupon scissors, slots for pens, a couple of big pockets in the front and back, is big enough to hold tons of coupons, and the whole thing zips shut!  I bought some baseball card holders (with swagbucks converted to amazon gift cards; they were almost free), and I started filing my coupons.  I was going nuts with all the disorganization, so I had to think about how it would work for ME to have them filed.

I added a zipper pocket that Kiddo got from school -- it has two zipper sections and the front is see through.  (you can see it on the right of the binder.)  Behind that insert is a sheet protector.  I pull all the coupons I'm going to use for a particular shopping trip and put them with my list inside the sheet protector.  As we go through a store, I'll gather the coupons I'm going to use in that see through zippered pocket.  If I can't find something I'd already pulled a coupon out for, I'll put it in the other section to refile. 

After that sheet protector, I have a baseball card page for store loyalty cards, gift cards, etc.  And behind that are about 100 pages of coupons.

I have them sorted into 3 main categories:  Food, health and beauty, and household.  Each category has several subcategories.  Each subcategory began with one page devoted to it -- I used colored paper (one color for each main category), a sharpie, and packing tape, and made tabs to label each section.  As I filed coupons, some of them required more pages, and I just stuck them behind the tab.  Here are my subcategories.

FOOD:  Baking, beverages, candy/snacks, canned/prepared, cereal, condiments, dairy/fridge, frozen, meats/deli, pasta/rice, produce, and misc. 

HEALTH AND BEAUTY:   Baby, body wash, cosmetics/facial care, dental care, deodorant, eye care, feminine hygiene, fiber/antacids, hair care, lotions, pain relievers, razors, sunscreen/sanitizers, supplements.

HOUSEHOLD:  Batteries, bug sprays, canning, cleansers, dishes, laundry, office supplies, paper goods. 

Can you really save money with coupons?  Last week, Walgreens had Keri lotion on sale for 5.99.  A few weeks ago, there were $2 off coupons in the paper, which makes the lotion 3.99.  Wags printed $5 register rewards when you bought a lotion.  You are reading that right:  They PAID me $1 for every bottle of lotion I purchased.  For real.  Because I had those coupons!  I then used those rewards to pay for other things that Wags had on sale, like crayons, toilet paper, school supplies, L'Oreal cosmetics (which had their own coupon, sale, and RR!), etc.  They had Cottonelle toilet paper on sale for $4 for 12 rolls and I had 75 cent coupons, which made them $3.25.  Score, sign me up, buy two and pay $1.50 and tax and your $4 + $1.50 bought a nice lotion and 2 big packages of toilet paper!  The TP is usually $5 and the lotion?  7.99 or something.  So for the price of one package of TP, I got two plus a lotion.  Saving a bundle there, and if the lotion doesn't work for me?  I have a few to give away as gifts.  I also bought several mascaras and won't have to buy that again for a year.  Again, use them in combination with sale items, and you will save money. 

A word of caution:  Stick to YOUR budget.  You cannot score every deal and still stick to your budget.  It's not possible.  So figure out what is best for YOU and YOUR family that week/month and get to it.  People will suggest things, like the pork coupons last week.  I had no idea they existed until someone told me so, which is when I printed them because we do eat pork.  It's up to you whether to use those suggestions or do something else for you that week.  But because we were running low on proteins, I decided to go get the pork.  If something else like that happened this week?  I wouldn't go get it.  We don't need it and have no room for it in the freezers.

I keep a notebook behind the coupons and track my spending in there.  I write down all the bills we have for the month, our expected income, when I should pay them, and I write down everything I spend on gas, groceries, bills, tithing.  Everything.  It's not fool proof but it helps me stick to the budget.

Items of note:
*Coupons are only good for what's printed on them.  Not something else made by the same manufacturer.  Not something similar made by a different manufacturer.  Not something completely unrelated.  Manufacturers reimburse the store, but if you redeem a coupon for something other than the printed item, the manufacturer can and will refuse the claim by the store.  I've screwed up and gotten the wrong thing; it happens.  But just be mindful because it IS like stealing from the store and/or the manufacturer!

*There are a few different kinds of coupons.  Stores print coupons.  They are called store coupons or vendor coupons.  They can usually be stacked with manufacturers coupons, which are what come in your paper and can be printed online at various websites.  You cannot stack two manufacturers coupons, however. Wags prints a little coupon booklet every month; they state they are manufacturers coupons, but most Walgreens stores treat them as store coupons because they don't carry a remittance address.  Rewards/catalinas that are "good for X off your next purchase" can be used with store AND manufacturers coupons coupons. Here's a good explanation on that.

*Walmart in Utah County doubles coupons every Tuesday because they are competing with a local store, Ridley's.  Up to 50 cents, they double.  Between 50 cents and 99 cents, they will bump it to a dollar.  People can be very selfish and clear the shelves, so just keep your cool and be kind.  There are people lining up around 5 to 7 p.m. on MONDAY night to be first in line to pay for their 5 carts of double coupon stuff at midnight.  I went in once at 11 p.m. and didn't get home until well after 2 a.m.   I will not go Monday night ever again, even if I miss out on stuff.  I try to go around 8 a.m. because Walmart has restocked some stuff and it's not usually that busy then.

*I warn people who get behind me that I might be a while as I have coupons.  I did that when we were on WIC too.  People usually appreciate the fair warning and will thank you and move on, rather than stand behind you and make snide remarks.  If they decide to stay in that line, the snide remarks fall squarely on them.

*You can price match at Walmart for just about anything, but please be honest.  Lying about price matches serves no one.  It's not worth sacrificing your integrity for a few dollars.  If you are price matching produce, they have to be sold the same way (pound for pound or item for item).  You can price match meat and dairy as well.  Bear in mind that you can only price match listed sale price, not a price after a register reward/catalina.

So that is what is working for us these days.  Feel free to ask questions!


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Cooking!

So when I got home Friday with umpteen pounds of pork ribs, I had to decide what to do with it all.  First, I put the ground chicken directly in the freezer, reserving one package and the ground beef for a meat loaf which I made a little bit later that day.  Then I looked to see what I could use for marinades and that determined what I did with some of it.

I put two full packages of ribs in the crock pot to cook with some balsamic vinegar and soy sauce and a few other things, and just cooked it until it was shreddable.  I added liquid smoke to that, making it more like kalua pork.  I later put that into a few different containers in the fridge.  We already had chicken, rice, and beans in the fridge, so there are some great items in there for burritos, nachos, salads, and other meals.  Sunday, we took some of the shredded pork to my in-laws for their dinner.  I mixed in BBQ sauce and made rolls for sandwiches.  We had the same thing plus fruit from the produce basket for our dinner.

Anyway.  While those ribs were cooking, I took my other 4 packages of ribs and the chicken legs and started dividing up into other containers/freezer bags.

I found a balsamic vinaigrette dressing which works well for marinade, some bbq sauce, and made an asian style marinade.  Split the chicken legs in two bags and two of the pork packages into two, so I had 6 bags to mix meat and marinade in.  I put 1/2 c marinade to about 1-1/2 pounds of meat, sealed the bags, squished them around, and put them flat in the freezer.  I made two BBQ pork, one asian pork, one asian chicken, one vinaigrette pork, and one vinaigrette chicken.  When I'm ready to cook them, I will thaw them and stick them in the crock pot or bake them in the oven or cook on the stove, depending on my mood.  I also made 3 bags of plain ribs out of the remaining 2 packages.  That took about 15 minutes total, to start 11+ dinners (including the ribs in the crockpot, which fed us for more than one meal AND four more adults for dinner)!!!

When I made the meatloaf later on Friday, I mixed equal parts ground chicken and beef, then froze the remaining beef in 2 separate packages.  We only ate half of the meatloaf, so I made a lunch for The Rock and put the rest in the fridge. He ate the rest when he got home from work Sunday.  Not too bad for about $4 of meat -- dinner for all of us and two lunches for The Rock!

I picked up the produce Saturday and made menus last night using whatever sides we have on hand, what came in the basket, and the meats that are in the freezer.  I also cut out all the coupons in my circulars on Sunday.  More on that tomorrow.

I shop case sales and look for the best prices on rice, flour, sugar, oats, dried beans, and just about everything else as far as staples go, so before I run very low I stock up.

This week, I will choose a baking day -- muffins and rolls to freeze for quick breakfasts, maybe some pancakes or waffles, bread because we're out, and maybe some pizza crust.  I like pizza.  Yum.

We have a chest freezer in the garage, and are looking at getting another so we can buy 1/4 beef next spring. Beef prices are so expensive right now!  We haven't been eating much, but man I could go for a good steak.  Buying it by the quarter is a lot of money at once, but it's a set price per pound, meaning it's ALL 2.39/pound (or whatever), including steaks and pricier roasts.  If you have the space, it can definitely save you some money!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Shopping

So ... here's how we do our food budget.  It does take time, but I'm on the go most days anyway.  Some things are just a quick run in for one thing, so while this looks like it's horribly time consuming, it's really not.

Monday, I usually run to Walgreens for a few of their great deals -- anything that's free or super cheap, I will usually get if it's something we can or will use.  Also Monday, I pay for a produce co-op online ( and pick it up on Saturday mornings.  It takes just a couple minutes on Monday to pay and about 15 to pick up, depending on how busy it is.  We get a lot of fruits and veggies, but it's all random.  We often run out of fruit before the next Saturday because we eat more fruit than veggies, so we've figured out that when I go couponing on Tuesdays, I need to grab some from Walmart (price matching the best prices from whatever grocery store) OR price match the produce sale at Buy-Low on Wednesday or Thursday. 

Tuesday, the local Walmarts double coupons up to a dollar, so I go there for whatever is free or cheap.  In our state, there were milk coupons (only available to use if you live in Utah or Idaho) for 75 cents off a gallon.  My printer was wonky, but I did manage to print 3 coupons (2 from one computer and one from the other), and got three gallons of milk for $1.38 each.  I grabbed a couple other things as I ran through the store and only spent $8.  That's pretty normal for me. 

A friend of mine called me a couple days later to see if I was going to our local grocery store's meat sale.  Yes, yes indeed.  See, Buy-Low has amazing prices on different meats every Friday and Saturday, and Wednesday and Thursday they do produce sales.  So she went to Walmart and price matched the produce and grabbed some for me.  She gave me some $ and I went to the meat sale today and got the meat she wanted.  I also picked up some stuff for my mom.  There was a pork rib coupon online (that expired today) for $2 off two pounds or more, and their ribs were $1.79 per pound.  They were packages of 2.5 to 4 pounds.  I had 6 coupons and mom had 4, so we got a LOT of meat for not much money.

Since the husband gets paid on Friday, I do the meat run and other shopping on Friday.  Sometimes I go to Walmart and price match, but other times I just go to a local store.  But first?  I check for my area and see which stores have the best coupon deals for what we need, OR what we will need coming up.

This week, I just stayed at Buy-Low and got:
17 pounds of pork ribs (approximately)
11 pounds ground chicken
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken legs
3 pounds ground beef
2 pounds cheese
4 boxes fruit snacks
2 boxes fruit rollups
2 boxes cereal (I stocked up on cereal at Smith's a little while ago so didn't get lots)
4 packages cookie mix
2 boxes granola bars
4 boxes toaster strudel
1 bag bugles
1 bag chex mix
1 box of 100 poxiples (how my son says popsicles)
green onions

I spent $80.22 out of pocket for all of that and saved about $30 just in coupons -- I have no idea how much I saved on the meat.  My produce from my friend was only $1.50 for 6 nectarines and 6 pears, so not too bad at all.

Stay tuned for Monday:  The Cooking!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Chores

I don't remember what all the gal had on her chart and my house is so unorganized, I can't find the handout.  <insert hysterical laughter>

BUT I decided the following things had to happen every day (whether *I* do them or someone else does):
*Dinner (which I try to have ready by 2:30 when the husband needs to sleep before work)
*Dishes (including pots/pans and sharp knives)
*Wipe down the countertops, stove, and sink
*Kitchen trash out
*Sweep the kitchen
*Wash diapers (yes, I use cloth diapers)
*Two loads of laundry (besides diapers)
*Toys put away in the living room

I also have "Wipe off dining room table" next to the stove, sink, etc., but I have to find it first.  Just like I had to find the counters.

These are the other things I decided had to be done regularly, but not every day.  More like once or twice a week.
*Trash out of bath/living room
*Floor in front of and next to toilet (a 3yo boy requires this done almost every day though)
*Bathroom sink
*Bathroom counter
*Wash towels (kitchen and bath)
*MOP the kitchen
*Scrub the grout in the kitchen/hall/bath
*Vacuum living room
*Vacuum hall
*Tidy bedrooms
*Trash out of bedrooms
*Vacuum bedrooms
*Wash off a shelf in the fridge (doing 4 shelves one at a time means that doing this task once a week will get the fridge cleaned throughout a month, lol)
*Menu planning
*Grocery shopping
*Double coupon Tuesdays at Walmart
*Clean out and out from under couches (it's amazing how much crap we lose in/under them!)

Truth be told, *most* of the chores are done by me.  Runner Girl does her fair share.  Little Mister helps me with laundry and cleaning up his toys.  The Rock ... I didn't assign anything regularly to him but he does help when I ask. 

Now, because I know I do coupon Tuesday at Walmart and it can take a LONG time, even though I'm not doing all of my grocery shopping on Tuesdays, I made Tuesdays a fairly light day for chores.  I also try to schedule all doctor/dentist appointments for Mondays, so that's not a super heavy day either. So I just fit the chores in and around our lives.

I started making a final category of chores but I haven't implemented them.  They are things that need done on occasion, but not even weekly. 
*Clean out from under stove (again with the losing things)
*Clean out from under and behind fridge
*Reorganize a cupboard or closet or pantry
*Baseboards/walls (obvious fingerprints, cust/ cobwebs, etc.)

I made a master list and assigned everyone (except The Rock and the baby) some chores.  The last two days, I've made a little list for Runner Girl and one for me and we cross things off as we do them throughout the day.  Little Mister follows me around to do his. 

So that's that!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Holy Carp, It's August!

OK, first things first!  WHO MISSED ME????

I kid.  Sort of. 

We've been fairly busy this summer with life in general, and some things have changed while others have not.  I'm still not exercising consistently, but we have gotten Runner Girl doing some running almost every week at least.  The Rock has lost about 60 pounds in the last few months and is looking dang good.  He's feeling better too, which is important.  Bitty is walking and running all over the place, and Little Mister?  He potty trained in late May/early June, is night dry, and did soccer camp last week and had a blast.  We've had a few birthdays, too, meaning I now have a 12 year old, 3 year old, and 1 year old.  The Rock and Small Fry's birthdays are later in the fall.

My depression is better under control with my herbs.  The husband has drugs for his.  And he and I are both starting college in the coming weeks.  I had intended to go last fall, but the postpartum depression was killing me (almost literally), so I put it off.  I managed to find an online university that is fully accredited, comparable in cost to our local university (which is where the husband will be going), and will be starting there so I can still be the at-home parent while I earn my degree.  But this has all made me nervous that our world is going to fall apart again.

Last week, I went to a midweek thing at church where they were teaching couponing and home organization.  I missed the couponing part (but that's OK) because I had to leave early, but I did hear the part about home organization and cleaning.  See, my depression has this vicious cycle.  I feel unorganized and messy, and I get lazy and beat myself up, and I eat.  So I get fatter, less organized, messier, meaner to myself, and I eat.  And it just keeps going. 

The sister who shared her struggle with keeping her home in order had some great advice.  It wasn't exactly new, but the way she presented it spoke to me, and I've made a lot of headway in the house.  I've tried other systems and they overwhelm me.  But her advice was simple:  Decide what needs to be done on a regular basis, decide who is going to do it, and decide to keep doing it and keep going. 

That's it.  No timers.  No real schedules.  Nothing has to get done at a certain time every day.  She also said that, aside from a small daily list, only give yourself one or two things to do every day so that you will keep going.  So I made a chart with days and chores and names of who does what and what needs to be done daily, but it's not complicated at all.  And my depression?  Better.  The house?  Better.  Eating?  Better.  The husband?  Better!

This afternoon, I noticed that our thermostat had quit working.  Now, ordinarily, I would have been a bit embarrassed to tell the landlord because I would be entirely too embarrassed about the state of our house.  No matter how much I felt like I was cleaning, the house was still a wreck, and his sweet wife keeps their house pretty immaculate.  Granted, ours wasn't perfect and I have piles of stuff still in the dining room to put away and some things on the counter, but we'd gotten a lot of it caught up in the last week. So when I noticed the thermostat had no readout and I was pretty warm, I went up to tell him what was up, and on the inside, I wasn't panicked at all.  I didn't run back into my place to shove things in bedrooms or scour the kitchen.  The floor was mopped last night so the tile was clean (though I haven't gotten to the grout yet), fingerprints and smudges had been washed off the fridge and pantry doors last night, we've caught up on laundry, and Kiddo had cleaned up and vacuumed the hallway this morning. We'd just had an early dinner so there were some dishes around though not many.  The living room wasn't even bad because I'd folded and put away laundry and Kiddo had cleaned up the toys and trash.  So he came down and fixed the A/C and installed a bannister in the front stairs and I wasn't completely mortified!!

This gives me hope!  HOPE!  That I can keep the house better.  That I can put a stop to the vicious cycle of self sabotage.  That I can get rid of this weight and break the bad habits I've had for years and create new, good habits.  Because really?  I miss me.  And I want ME back.