Friday, March 30, 2007

Frugal Fridays: Save Money on Meat

It's Frugal Friday! Here's my tip:

As I've mentioned before, my husband is a meat guy. Not your typical meat and potatoes guy, just meat. And so, around here, a meatless meal is not appreciated much. But those of you who make it your aim to be frugal with the money the Lord has given you (a Biblical concept, stewardship, 1 Corinithians 4:2) know that meat is the most expensive part of your meals. It eats up a lot of our grocery budget, actually. So how can you please the meat-loving hubby and still retain some resemblance of a budget? Here's some tips for fellow meat-lovers:

Buy whole chickens and boil/crockpot them until done, de-bone the meat, and freeze in meal-sized portions in freezer bags. Shredded chicken is great for Mexican dishes, BBQ chicken sandwiches, casseroles, soups, chicken salad, and lots more. And it's very economical, at usually $.63 - $.79 a pound!

Buy in bulk when there is a good sale going on. For instance, Price Chopper is having a 4 day sale (ending Sunday) with boneless skinless chicken breasts and tenders at $1.33 a pound! This is an amazing price! If you have the freezer space, stock up. Potentially you could get enough to last you until the next sale, and then you won't have to spend the upwards of $2-$4/lb that you normally would.

Shop for manager's specials on meat that needs to be eaten soon or frozen. Two stores that mark down meat frequently are Dillons and Sam's Club. Dillons places orange stickers on the packages, and frequently the prices are 50% reduced or more! I have most often found these when I've shopped early in the morning (before 9 am) or after 9 pm. Sam's Club also uses orange stickers that read, "Reduced for Quick Sale." I have a business membership, so I typically shop at 9:30 am (regular hours start at 10 am). They always have lots of marked down meat when I'm there, so I'm sure there would still be some if you got there right when they open.

Process your meat when you get home from the grocery store. This tip has helped me a ton! Since I buy in bulk, my freezer is frequently so full I can barely shut it! :) When I get home from buying a lot of ground hamburger, whole chickens, etc...I usually put it all in crockpots (say, 5-6 lbs of hamburger/pot) and let it process on low all day. After you wash and drain it, divide into meal-sized portions. These usually take up less space in the freezer and are easier to stack. Plus, it gives me a head start on making dinner! I usually put a little less than a lb of hamburger in a freezer bag for our family of 4. This stretches the meat a little further, and we never notice the difference.

So these are my tips. What are yours?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring cleaning

I was a little bummed on Monday night when CVS was out of the Caress and Lever bodywash that was going to be free after ECB. Bodywash was on my list, and it was going to be great to get it for free. That is, until all the other CVS junkies cleaned out the store on Sunday night. Good grief, people, leave some for the rest of us! :)

Well, of course I don't really mind. I'm glad everyone is getting good deals! And of course I could just PAY for bodywash, but since I know I can get it without paying much, I really cannot handle doing that. Can. not. handle. it. :)

But the story gets better!

I already admitted that I'm loosing my mind, right? Well, yesterday Dave was working late, so the kids and I went down in the basement to start doing some spring cleaning that I've been itching to do. First on my list was Organize the storage room. It's this tiny, unfinished little room in the corner of the basement where we keep EVERYTHING. And I mean everything. But there are lots of shelves, some of them very I knew that organization was possible.

There is a point to this story!

So, I get the whole thing cleaned out and organized enough to designate several shelves to my recent stock-piling method of shopping. Here's the first wall of shelves:

And the other neat and tidy. I love it!

Now wait, go back to that first photo. What's that, right there in the middle of the shelves? Could it be? Let's zoom in, just to make sure.

And there you have it. A bottle of Softsoap body wash, and here I was complaining. Which just goes to show, getting organized is a very good thing!

Does this count?

It was raining yesterday, much to Ethan's dismay (he's been enjoying the backyard A LOT recently), so we had to open up the craft closet for a table activity. My parents gave him a fun playdough set for Christmas, and that's what he picked. Which was fine, except that the minute he pulled it out, I realized with this panicky-heart-racing sort of feeling that I haven't sent out thank-you notes for Christmas presents yet. Or for Ethan's and Simon's birthdays, in January and February, consecutively. And, oh my word, I haven't sent my mom's birthday present yet either! What in the world is wrong with me?????? I am telling you, I am losing my mind!

Take a deep breath, Rachel. You can fix this, I tell myself. Everyone will understand. And you do, don't you? I am just an overly tired mommy with few spare brain cells devoted to such things as REMEMBERING IMPORTANT BIRTHDAYS!!! (I promise your present will get to you someday, Mom!)

So, here's some pics of the playdough action. Maybe this will count as a thank-you note? Or is that totally lame? :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

$5 off your groceries

Okay, so this is too good of a deal to keep to myself! Thanks to Crystal, I heard about this:
For those of you who have a Kroger nearby (or one of their family of stores, I go to Dillons), you can get a free $5 printable off your next order when you submit a recipe to the Pillsbury Bake-Off.

Remember all those packages of Pillsbury crescent rolls and bread dough you bought last week? Just tell the company what you've been making with them (it doesn't have to be earth-shattering!), and you'll have 5 extra dollars to spend on groceries. Your husband can enter too!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

How much fun can we cram into a weekend?

Just to document the weekend (and for Doug and Sonja's enjoyment when they get home), here's what we did today: the boys all got up around 8:30 am and we had pancakes. After everyone was dressed, we headed to Lowe's to buy some sand for the sandbox (it's been "mysteriously" disappearing!). We decided to go with Ethan's suggestion of Sonic for lunch, which of course included the play area. It is a huge sandbox with a climbing jungle gym and slides inside it. The boys LOVED it! Jacob just climbed right up and slid down the big slides, barely any hesitation. He's 20 months old! That kid has guts.

KU played UCLA at 6:05 pm, so we invited a few friends over for the big game. Guys in the basement, girls in the backyard, with the kids. :) My kids were living the dream!

Gabriel's dad was a little concerned about his tree-climbing stunts, but I have other pictures to prove that he's been climbing that tree since last summer.

I guess Jacob's warming up. All I had to say was, "Smile, Jakey!" He's learning from his cheesy cousin.

How can you tell that I ate cheese puffs?!!!

We've been laughing about this all day...I think the reason that Jacob is doing so well here is that he is convinced that Dave is his dad! Now, Doug and Dave ARE identical twins, but surely their own kids know them apart! Or maybe it's just the next best thing. :)

This last picture is so sweet...we were all talking in the kitchen and realized that it had gotten kinda quiet in the house. We realized that Jeremy had taken the boys back in Ethan's bedroom to read books to them!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday with the boys

Our nephew Jacob is staying with us for the weekend, and we're already having so much fun! Sonja dropped him off this afternoon, and since the weather here has been perfect, we played outside until dinner time. The boys helped pick up leaves and sticks for awhile, and then tried to impress each other with their creative sliding abilities and ball kicking skills. I think boys are just geared that way!

After all the fun, and a very exciting dinner, the boys all took baths together.

And by 7:30, they were all in bed!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ever tried homemade cleaners?

Recently Shawna reminded me that if I run out of dishwashing detergent, I can just use white vinegar and baking soda in my machine until I get to the store. I had totally forgotten about that trick, and you know what, it works so well! You just put the white vinegar in the door compartment (to shine up the glasses and prevent spotting), and dump some baking soda in the floor of the dishwasher. Such a good tip!

Interested in other homemade cleaners? "Ask Frugal Momma" today is all about how to make your own stuff. Hey, if you're not really into shopping around at several stores to save money, here's one way you can shave some dollars off your household budget. Buy the ingredients at a warehouse store, and they will last you a long time!

Has anyone else used any kind of homemade cleaner? I.e. laundry soap, bathroom cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, all-purpose cleaner? My mom reminded me that she used to use white vinegar on my hair after shampooing to give it shine. What about you? Have you ever tried anything like that?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pajama day

This morning at breakfast, Simon did something that I haven't seen Ethan do in a long time. He wiped his messy hands in his hair! My boys think that their hair is a conveniently placed napkin!

Simon and I still aren't feeling the best, so we all stayed in our pajamas all day. We built tents in the living room, and laid on the floor building lego houses formost of the morning.

Yes, we used Yellow as a tent!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Why I blog

Dave practically forced encouraged me to start blogging last July. Yeah, I wasn't too sure about the whole idea of journaling my thoughts and day to day activities. But Dave wisely suggested that it would be a good thing for me to do, to look past the daily, and focus on The Big Picture. You know, the idea that the Lord is actively working in my life, and maybe in the quiet of the evening after the kids are tucked safely into bed, I'll be still enough to listen to His voice.

That part has been so good for me. I had forgotten how much I love to write.

What I wasn't counting on was how much I'd appreciate reading what you have to say. I have found so much encouragement along the way, such inspiring believers, both young and older, who have given me loads of great ideas, and an occasional pat on the back too. I am so thankful for those of you who encourage me to keep on keeing on. It reminded me of a quote I recently ran across by Elizabeth Prentiss:

"Because the voice of a fellow-traveller always stimulates his brother-pilgrim, what one finds and speaks of and rejoices over, sets the other upon determining to find too. God has been very good to you, as well as to me, but we ought to whisper to each other now and then, 'Go on, step faster, step surer, lay hold on the Rock of Ages with both hands.' You never need be afraid to speak such words to me. I want to be pushed on, and pulled on and coaxed on."

This is a good thing! Keep it up!

"Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." Hebrews 3:13

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Grace for today

I just read this article by Dr. Laura that really made me stop and think:

One of my recent callers came up with what I'm sure she thought was the singular most legitimate reason for not being a stay-at-home-mom: "... it's not all enjoyable." I kid you not, she actually said that, followed by, "... and I just don't seem to be able to do it well." She did say that being with the kids was fine, it was all the other stuff: housekeeping, shopping, cooking, and so forth – that were described as unrewarding and relentless and, well, just not enjoyable.

She also complained that she just couldn't do it all well. I asked her what part of putting dishes in the dishwasher and making sure the clothes got through the washer and dryer and back into drawers was too complicated for her? She laughed and said that she didn't know why it was hard for her to do it right – it just was. Mind you, this was all said with a tone that did not suggest she had great concern about doing any of it better.

Truth be told, whether coming from a man or a woman, this behavior is self-centered, and displays a character that knows little of honor, obligation and sacrifice. This is a mentality, rampant today, that speaks not of what "I can do for my family?" but only for "What will I get out of what I do for my family?"...

The woman caller was resentful that her husband did not come home and do housework. I asked her when she did his paperwork, made his phone-calls, drove in his rush hour traffic and dealt with his boss. Silence. I reminded her that she is part of a team and each member of the team has its own responsibilities and that the end result was a peaceful, happy home.

In response to her call, a number of women wrote me to describe their deeper understanding of being the family team member at home.

Anita wrote:

I have something to say to the woman who was just not "enjoying" it. Life is like that. We all have stuff we don't like. True, there are some tasks we must do that may not be pleasant, but for the most part, we are free to choose what we do and when we do it. We are doing something extremely important and irreplaceable. But think this thought: We have incredible power within the home. We set the tone of the whole family. It is our honor to serve those we love and those who love us. And our lives are blessed with things that an office does not offer:

* The warm sun on your face.
* The laughter of children.
* Their sweet breathing when they are asleep.
* Breezes, flowers, spectacular cloudscapes.

Look at the world through the eyes of your children and see what a marvelous world we live in. Enjoy it all with them.

Sabina, another listener, wrote, "If she doesn't like being at home and walks out on her family when they need her, what does this teach her children? I have often used this myself as a teaching tool. When I ask my kids to do something, they frequently balk at my requests. When my daughter refused to help her siblings or do her chores, I tell her that we all have to do things we don't like to do.

"Each person in our family has responsibilities and we take care of each other. I tell her that sometimes I don't feel like getting up in the morning. What would happen if one day I didn't get up? How would she like it if I didn't make her lunch just because I didn't feel like it? She usually grumbles that she wouldn't like it and then proceeds to do her chores. The amazing thing is that it not only works, it's the absolute truth and really makes kids think about responsibilities and obligations."

I have been thinking a lot recently about self-sacrifice in the Christian life, and about choosing the Lord's way instead of my own. As Marvin DeGroff describes it, "Standing on the edge of the dock, looking out at what the Lord has for you, and saying, 'Yes, Lord, I'll take it!'" I so want to be willing to say that about EVERYTHING the Lord has for me, even the mundane, not so enjoyable tasks in each day. Because those things are His will for me, and I have come to firmly believe that the Lord's will is ALWAYS, unarguably, where I want to be.

And that may involve sacrifice sometimes. Our ultimate example, the Lord Jesus, lived a life full of sacrifice, laying down His human desires to obey His Father and bring glory to Him. This is the only reason that I have any standing before God, because His Son willing gave up His life to be a Sacrifice for my sin. Why should my life be any different?!?

As the old hymn says,
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my heart, my life, my all.

There is not a lot of recognition to be had in living a life filled with cleaning poopy diapers, wiping faces, cleaning bathrooms, keeping things tidy, doing the laundry (and putting it all away!), cooking meals, and shepherding tiny hearts, but I see in God's Word that it is the Lord's will for me. I'm so thankful for the grace to embrace that, and to be able to say, "I'll take it, Lord!" When I look ahead too far, and get overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, it seems so exhausting and TOO MUCH. But the Lord faithfully provides the grace for TODAY, to choose His Will today. I'm so thankful for that!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Site Feed is Up!

This is for those of you who have mentioned that you can't subscribe to my blog for whatever reason. I've gone through every setting possible, and I couldn't subscribe to myself! So, I went about it another way and got a feed burner. The link is on my sidebar, and it works!

By the way, I edited my template myself to add that button. And I barely know how to turn on my computer! (okay, just kidding, but seriously, Dave has to show me stuff all the time, and then he just looks at me for a long time and shakes his head slowly, as if he's never seen anyone so behind in technology. It's true. He really does that!)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Frugal Friday: Groceries for Less

Yeah! Friday is finally here! Is anyone else as excited as I am?! The boys have been puking all week, and I, for one, am looking forward to a little break. This is our one weekend this month where we don't have any major plans (except for March Madness of course!), and the thought of it just makes me smile.

The other exciting thing going on is Frugal Fridays hosted by Biblical Womanhood. If you haven't already, check out her post today. I have been doing some of those Kroger/Dillons deals this week, and wow, this is a week to really stock up! My favorite deal is the Pillsbury deal where if you buy 10 products, you get a $5 Catalina to use on your next purchase. I have done this 4 times, using coupons to get my subtotal down to $5.00, and paid with the $5 Catalina from the time before. So I just paid tax basically. It keeps rolling over! I don't know about you, but this kind of thing makes my heart race. :) Being a homemaker is exciting stuff!

It seems like everywhere I turn, every conversation I have with friends, every blog I read, people are talking about frugality recently. We're all realizing that we can live well on less, even if we already thought we were being reasonably careful with our money to begin with. In my own situation, for instance, last year I was talking with a friend from the chapel about how I had found this website which gives you menus for an entire week where everything comes from Aldi, and the budget is around $50, I think. I was impressed! We have always spent more than that on groceries, we try to entertain a lot, and well, Dave is a big eater, what can I say? :) Well, my friend said that she never spends that much on groceries, and she only shops at Aldi...I was blown away! I could not fathom it! :) But a year later, after some tips from Crystal who graciously met with me and taught me how to shop for deals and use coupons, I can see how it would be possible. Probable, even.

Let me tell you what I mean. At the beginning of each week, I go to CVS, Walgreens, and Dillons and get whatever free or almost free deals they have that we either need or will need in the near future. I can get almost any household product I need from any of those stores, and I try to squeeze in a couple things at each place. Like toilet paper, or trash bags, laundry soap, etc...especially if I have CVS coupons for $4 off a $20 purchase, etc... I hardly ever pay anything out of pocket at Walgreens anymore (my gift card keeps rolling over), and at CVS I usually spend under a dollar. I then hit Dillons as my last stop, and get whatever manager's specials I can find on produce, meat, and dairy, etc.. or 10/$10 sales that combined with coupons and Catalinas that print, make for great deals. Most of the time I spend less than $15 here. I then go home and plan my week's menu based on what is in my freezer and fridge. Anything extra that I need, I pick up quickly at Aldi the next day. I usually spend around $20 at Aldi, sometimes a little more. Then, with the extra, I go to Sam's club every so often, and stock up on their reduced price meat early in the morning.

And the exciting thing is, we haven't compromised what we are eating! This has always been my husband's thing: he doesn't want me to cut back TOO much on our grocery budget, because he isn't willing to eat pasta all the time or beans or ground turkey (I have tried!). We usually have meat and 2 veggies and some homemade rolls (or Pillsbury crescent rolls this week!) at every dinner. Gotta keep the husband happy!

I've been reading more tips for frugal living here.

But, lest you think I am a complete tight-wad, I am sitting here anxiously awaiting my husband's arrival home in 45 minutes so I can leave for my not-so-frugal haircut and highlight. A girl has to look nice, afterall!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Deals for the week

If you live near a Dillons or Kroger store, there is a really good deal on General Mills cereal and Nature Valley Granola Bars going on! I just got home from shopping with some girlfriends, and I just have to mention the deals!

The cereals and granola bars are on sale for $1.50 when you buy 4 (any combination). I used some coupons from my Sunday paper and also a couple that I printed off from here, to get them for $.50-$1.00/box. Hope posted a good recipe for homemade granola bars using cereal , so this might be a good time to try it out!

Also, the granola bars are $1.00/box after you print off the $.75/2 coupon (Dillons doubles all coupons up to $1.00). These are yummy granola bars!

I also went to CVS tonight. Have I mentioned that I love that store!??! Here's what I bought tonight:

2 Alavert 15 ct boxes $6.99 each ($5.00 ECB when you buy 2), minus 2 $6 off coupons, made $3.00!
1 Oust air sanitizer bottle $1.99, minus $2.00 coupon, FREE
3 bottles of Clorox bleach on sale for $1.29 each
1 Clorox wipes 35 ct., minus FREE when you buy 3 Clorox products
1 Purex laundry detergent 32 load on clearance aisle for $3.25, minus $.50 off coupon
1 CVS travel size baby wipes $.99, minus $1.00 off CVS item coupon
2 12 pks of Cottonelle ultra-soft toilet paper, on sale for $5.49 each, minus 2 $1.00 coupons
1 Listerine 250 ml, $2.99, ($2.99 ECB when you buy 1, FREE after ECB)

I used a $4 off a $20 purchase coupon, a $3 off a $15 purchase coupon, an $11.98 ECB and a $2.00 ECB, and paid $1.53 out of pocket!!! And in 2 days I will have generated $8.00 in ECB's to spend again.

My strategy at CVS is to always keep around $20-$30 ECB's at all times, and any extras I generate I use to buy household items (with coupons!) that our family needs or will need in the near future. I just need to keep enough ECB's to buy all the free stuff offered each week, in order to roll over the ECB's to keep generating them. For instance, today when I looked at my account, I had $38.49 total in ECB's available to use. So I bought the items that will generate ECB's (and end up being either free or moneymakers), and used some extra to buy stuff we need. Like TP! I do this every week, and stock up when I can. This way, I really have been able to cut back on the amount we spend on household items.

My mom emailed me today after she bought $25 worth of merchandise at CVS and only paid $.39 out of pocket. Way to go, Mom! I'm telling you, this is the best store I have found. Use coupons and earn money!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

About me...

Thanks for this meme, Hope! I noticed that there's no number 9??!!

1. What is your occupation? Wife, mother, homemaker, and occasional ICU nurse
2. What color are your socks right now? White
3. What are you listening to right now? The quiet sound of my macbook pro whirring. The kids are napping!
4. What was the last thing you ate? Lunch, a salad and leftover mashed potatoesd
5. Can you drive a stick shift? Uh, not so well. Dave taught me a little when we were dating, but I haven't tried since then.
6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? green
7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? Sonja
8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? Yes! She is an unexpected, faraway friend
10. Favorite drink? Dr. Pepper
11. What is your favorite sport to watch? KU basketball...go Hawks!
12. Have you ever dyed your hair? Frequently!
13. Pets? Hopefully not any time soon...2 little boys are plenty of work for me!
14. What is your favorite food? Chili's boneless shanghai wings with wasabi ranch sauce...yum!
15. What was the last movie you watched? Invincible
16. Favorite day of the year? I don't know...anytime when it's warm
17. What do you do to vent anger? hmmm...not sure I want to answer this! But really, what I'm trying to do is memorize the Word of God and repeat verses over and over until I give my anger over to the Lord.
18. What was your favorite toy as a child? Hart family dolls (family equivalent of Barbie dolls) with the dollhouse my sister and I made out of cardboard boxes.
19. What is your favorite, fall or spring? Fall
20. Hugs or kisses? Both
21. Cherries or Blueberries? cherries
22. Do you want your friends to email you back? definitely
23. Who is most likely to respond? Shawna
24. Who is least likely to respond? I won't say :)
25. Living arrangements? 4 bedroom house shared by my husband and 2 sons
26. When was the last time you cried? Out of sadness or despair? This weekend, out of discouragement
27. What is on the floor of your closet? a baby gift for Tanya's baby!
28. Who is the friend you have had the longest that you are sending this to? Shawna
29. What did you do last night? Went to CVS and Dillons with my know me, always shopping for good deals!
31. What inspires you? a good message at the chapel
32. What are you afraid of at this point in your life? Messing up my kids' lives...ha, I agree with you Hope!
33. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? Cheeseburger, Dave-style, grilled in our own backyard
34. Favorite dog breed? Golden Retriever
35. Number of keys on your key ring? 3
36. How many years at your current job? I am going to take this to mean my nursing job, which would be almost 5 years
37. What would be the title of a book you wrote? Shopping for Deals 101
38. How many states have you lived in? 3
39. Favorite holidays? Easter and Thanksgiving
40. Ever driven a motorcycle or heavy machinery? no way!

Okay, so now I'll tag Shawna, Ruth, and Reagan! Have fun, girls!