Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Smooth Weekend

I'm stepping away from the Saving Series for just a minute to share with you a blog I'm beginning to love.  

A friend served me a most delicious smoothie while I was at her house recently and it sparked a discussion, a discussion which led right to http://www.greenplaterule.com/    

Since finding this great place I've been enjoying looking and learning.  I thought some of my readers just might want to know about it too. 

For the past several days I've been making the same smoothie my friend served me for my honey and kids (and myself, of course).  We are loving it!  It's a perfect little treat that packs a healthy punch.  




Here's the recipe if you should want to whip one up for yourself.  

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened non dairy milk (I've been using coconut milk.)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 5 large strawberries
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Add all the ingredients to a blender.  Start on low speed and slowly increase to high.  Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.  

The smoothie you see pictured is a little more purple because I added blueberries and raspberries.  I found organic berries at Costco for a great price, as well as organic honey.  My husband has been asking me to make him one each day to drink on his drive to work.  I'm more than happy to do it.  

My smoothie serving friend had a lot of good things to say about Green Plate Rule and especially the Ginger Butternut Squash Soup.  Her 13 year daughter was also part of our conversation and she was nodding her head in hearty agreement when her mom said this soup is delicious.  I'm going to be trying it next.

If you head over to Green Plate Rule and you're looking for a place to start, I would say, HERE.  I've been thinking a lot about bread lately and this post is most helpful. 

I hope you are having a cozy weekend.  Ours is pretty smooth.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Saving Money - Part Two {Guest Post!!}

         I'm very excited to introduce you to my pal, Stephanie Ramsey.  (I call her "Ramsey" for obvious reasons.)  She is an amazing wife, loving mother to three boys (15, 12, and 9), and super talented nurse - not to mention a great friend!  She is wise in many areas, and since one of her specialties is saving dough I was thrilled when she offered to write a guest post here.  I think you are going to really enjoy reading her advice. 

Here she is with her beautiful family.  Thank you so much, Ramsey!  




 My friend Stephanie has graciously allowed me to share some thoughts on her blog, so today I’d like to share some more practical ideas and tips for spending less and saving more for your family. Costs seem to be creeping up on just about everything these days, and for most families, that means tightening up and paring down. It seems that our family has been in a perpetual state of trimming the fat, and as a result, I’ve picked up some ideas along the way that have worked well for us.

Date Nights and Family Time
          Okay, this is a big one in our house. My husband and I absolutely cherish any time we get alone together, but lack of childcare and concern about expense often take first priority. We’ve gotten creative to make sure that we have this necessary time as a couple, just to talk and recharge. One thing we like to do is set aside a special  “date night”, even if we aren’t leaving the house. We both put the date in our calendars, and after the kids have gone to bed, we’ll pop a bag of microwave popcorn and watch a $1.29 movie from the Redbox. This is a great way to stay in touch, have one on one time with my love, and NOT break the bank.
 We also plan for movie nights with the kids, and even though the routine is the same after all these years, they never tire of a $5 pizza and a free family flick from the library on Friday evenings. Our family also tries to take advantage of fun freebies around town. We’ve participated in lots of kids workshops at Michael’s stores, as well as Home Depot and Lowe’s. A great place to find info for free upcoming events is the weekend section in your local paper.

Restaurant Savings
          Eating out in our family is an occasional treat. With three starving boys, it can get pricey in a hurry. Factor in soft drinks for a family of five, and that’s a huge chunk of my grocery budget spent on a single meal! One way we’ve been able to enjoy a splurge every now and then is to use coupons for dining out and we take advantage of any special offers the restaurants offer. For example, most of our favorite places offer email deals just for signing up, and even free birthday treats and meals. We’ve gotten freebies for an entire birthday month, just for signing up with places like Panera, Texas Roadhouse, Chili’s, and Applebee’s.  I always make sure to also check the website for any savings offers before we head out to dine. Our family recently ate at Chili’s for dinner, and our check totaled $13.80. It was all thanks to a pair of free kids’ meal coupons, a free appetizer text I’d gotten on my phone, and our family’s willingness to skip expensive soft drinks in favor of water.

Grocery Savings
          Here’s the biggie where you will really be able to see tangible savings adding up quickly. The obvious way to save on groceries is coupons. There are great resources for printable coupons, as well as the trusted old standby, the Sunday paper. Try to pair sale items with your coupons, and if possible, a grocery store who doubles coupons, to maximize your savings. I recently had a receipt showing savings of nearly $4,000 in a single year by matching sales with coupons that were doubled. But you’re probably wondering how to save on things that you never really see coupons for, right?  Items like produce, or meat. Well, there are even ways to save on those things too. Aldi is fabulous for purchasing produce. They stock a respectable amount of organic fruits and veggies, but their weekly produce special prices simply can’t be beat. It isn’t often that you can pick up a whole bag of baby carrots for 49 cents, or a 3-pound bag of navel oranges for $1.99! As it gets closer to spring and summer, plan a visit to your local farmer’s market or produce stand to take advantage on excellent prices on in season produce. You’d be surprised at how much higher the quality is, and how much lower the price!

          It’s even possible to save money on your meat purchases, too. One way is to purchase meat in large bulk packs at warehouse clubs. If you have a large family, or a freezer to store items, you can take advantage of some real savings by buying the extra large family packs and dividing them into smaller bags. Meat at my local Sam’s Club or Costco is high quality, and often the price is dollars less per pound than the regular grocery store since the packages are so much larger. You can also find sales on meats that can be processed into a different cut for free by the meat department. I found top sirloin steaks at a great price at Publix recently, and had them ground (for free!) into ground sirloin for hamburgers and meatloaf.  I also like to purchase items like bread, buns and tortillas at the bakery thrift store and freeze them. These are expensive to buy in the grocery store, and a recent purchase for me included 3 loaves of whole wheat bread, 4 packs of tortillas, and 2 12-packs of sesame seed hamburger buns for $8. That’s a steal, folks!

          I’ll leave you with one last idea for saving money. My hubby and I decided a couple of years ago that in addition to the “emergency fund” we’ve managed to sock away in savings, it would be comforting to have a cash “rainy day fund” on hand. I found a great idea on Pinterest for a 52-week savings challenge. We got a small plastic shoe box, printed out the challenge, and taped it on the side. It is a savings plan, where you deposit incrementally, for each week of the year. For example, on week 1, you would deposit $1. Week 2’s deposit would be $2, and so on. The maximum weekly deposit is the last week, when you will deposit $52. At the end of the 52 weeks, you will have saved $1378 cash! We both participated last year, adding in our weekly amounts, as well as any pocket change or random money we found in the dryer.  By November, we had enough to pay almost every penny of a week long family trip to Disney World!

          

Monday, February 16, 2015

Saving Money

Today begins a little series I'm calling the Saving Series.  So far I've planned to write on saving money, saving time, and saving space.  If any other savings topics come to mind I may write on those also.  (You can always send me your ideas.)  To start things out I thought we'd discuss saving money.  I hope you find something helpful in this series, maybe even several somethings.  Share this post with someone if you think it might be of use, and as always, I welcome your feedback.

There are several things my honey and I always talk about at the start of every year.  We talk about our schedule, our goals, and our finances.  Each and every January since we have been married we discuss these three things (and usually others).  The start of a new year is, to us, the perfect time to make changes that need to be made and to start fresh on things - especially things we'd like to do a little better on.  We recently began working on a new budget - vowing once again to become debt free.  Of all our years, this one seems to be the hardest.  We have accumulated a very large amount of medical bills and it's going to be a big mountain to climb.  We are determined to work through them all (what choice do we have, right??) and to do so we are tightening our belts, once again.  

Here are some things we have come up with that might help you find ways to save too.  


  • Do an insurance check-up and compare rates with other companies.  We just did this and we were shocked at how much we were able to save!  We called an insurance company and had them quote us the very same auto insurance policy we currently had.  We were able to save $200 a month!  We couldn't believe it!  AND,  a couple of weeks later we received a check in the mail for $180.  It was a refund on our home owner's insurance.  Because we had moved our auto insurance to the same company that already insured our home we received a multi-line discount which resulted in a refund for overpayment on our home owner's premium!  Check your policies, compare rates, and while you're at it ask yourself if you really need medical coverage on your auto insurance, or towing insurance, or rental car.  Look closely at your policy.  There may be things on there you have double coverage for or things you would prefer to self insure.  


  • Eat at home.  This one is pretty simple.  Pack lunch/dinner for whoever goes to work, pack a little sandwich for when you and the kiddos are out running errands, keep granola bars and apples in the car, etc.  Avoid restaurants as much as possible and you will definitely see savings in your budget.  Make a menu plan for your week so you won't be tempted at the last minute to order pizza.  Pack a little picnic lunch for when you and the kids have a full day away from home.  Save going to restaurants for very special occasions only.  This is one our family is going to work very hard on.  We are in our busy season now - soccer, co-op, archery, sewing lessons, music lessons, AWANA, etc. - but we are going to try really hard to plan ahead and not eat out.  A trip to McDonalds for us is easily $40 or more, and a nicer restaurant would be at least double.  If we do that even once a week, just do the math.  We are going to have to pretty much bring food everywhere we go since our kids are always hungry and I'm going to have to make sure I put something in the crock-pot for Sundays but it will be worth it since we will certainly be able to see a difference in our finances.   

Lately I've made a lot of this




and packed it up in these.

  • Eat homemade food.  If you look in my pantry and fridge right now you might say there's nothing here to eat.  Our kids sometimes say it, we've even had a house guest say it.  However, it's not true.  You won't see much in the way of chips, cookies, canned biscuits, frozen pizza, and other pre-packaged foods but there is food here!  In my fridge there are a lot of eggs.  There is plenty of flour, sugar, and oil in my pantry.  There are frozen chicken breasts in my freezer.  See, the thing is, if you want something to eat in our house you are going to have to cook it.  I'm not buying a lot of cereal.  We are boiling eggs and eating fruit.  If biscuits are on the menu we are making them.  For dessert type treats (cookies and such) we are baking from scratch.  So, at first glance one might say there's no food here, but a better way to say it is there is no pre-made food here.  We are saving money on groceries by buying ingredients and cooking ourselves.  So, if you are getting hungry grab a bag of beans out of the pantry and get them cooking on the stove.  


  • DIY.  Anything and everything you can think of, do it yourself.  I cut all of our sons' hair (with a few exceptions - when we had a new baby, etc.) until they are old enough to start paying for their own haircuts.  There are probably a lot of things you are paying for that you could do yourself for less, or possibly for nothing.  Think haircuts, oil change, manicure/pedicure, lawn care, etc.  How many things can you remove from the monthly budget and start doing yourself?  Do you have a gym membership?  Could you start walking in your subdivision?  Do you pay to have your pet's nails trimmed?  Could you learn to do it?  Does your beautician do your eye brows?  Could you?  Explore the possibilities.  


  • Shop garage sales, consignment shops, and thrift stores.  Here's a big one for me.  I buy most of our kids' clothes used.  Our grill out back on the deck came from a garage sale for $20.  Same thing with the leaf blower in the garage, our chiminea, and half of our furniture.  Our kitchen table and chairs - garage sale.  Our piano - purchased used.  A lot of my Christmas dishes, a second set of china and several other things in my kitchen have come from garage sales.  The girls have a picnic table on the deck we found at a garage sale for $10.  We've used it for years and they love it.  I have a little cabinet in the dining room I use to store school stuff, that, and our two bar stools in the kitchen came from an estate sale.  If you aren't shopping garage sales and Goodwill and the like you don't know what you are missing!  Yes, it's a little more work but it's sooo worth the savings.  I plan to do even more garage sale and consignment shopping this year.  I have a few rules for used shopping, like I don't buy undergarments and I don't buy gifts for people, but other than that the sky is the limit.  If you are looking for ways to save money, buy used.   


  • Use coupons.  I don't mean just cutting out the occasional coupon from the Sunday paper.  I mean really learn how to coupon and get good at it.  You don't ever need to buy a bunch of junk food or stuff you don't use.  You can find coupons for the things your family uses regularly and when matched up with sales you can s.a.v.e.  

  •  Barter.  Here's an idea that can save anywhere from a little to a lot.  Instead of paying to board your pet take turns with a neighbor, caring for their pet when they travel and them taking care of yours when you head out of town.  Trade other services too - piano lessons, baking, housecleaning, yard work.  Offer to do what you are good at as a trade for something you need done.  Not only does bartering save money, it can be a lot of fun.  


  • Drink more water.  This one is very simple but for our family can be a major money saver.  We have got to work on this one this year!  I'm surprised when I look at what we really spend on juice, kool aid, soda and the like.  If we drank only water we would save tons of money!  There's no excuse for us not doing this one.  We just need to train our appetites and save "special" drinks for special occasions.    



  • Get rid of cable, newspaper subscriptions, data packages, etc.  Depending on how serious you are about saving money you may want to consider getting rid of some things you could live without.  Believe me, I know it's not easy!  We've gone through some rough times and have had to strip our lives bare of any extras, but any time we've had to do that it has been worth it.  We are entering a period now where it is probably necessary to do some stripping away again.  Do you really need (fill in the blank)?  Ask yourself (and your family) some hard questions.  Take the savings from anything you get rid of and use that to pay down debt.  You won't be sorry.



That's all I have time for right now but I may write a part two later.  I'm positive if I continued to write I would continue to think of ideas.  You've surely got ideas too so please pass them along.  I would love to get a discussion started on how we can all save money in 2015.  If you would like to submit an idea for a guest post I'd be very interested to hear it.  Send your submissions to 7morans@comcast.net  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!!

I've almost finished the Saving Money post {almost!}.  I'm going to try to finish that up today so I can share it with you on Monday and get the Saving Series started.  

I just have a few Valentine pictures to show you and then I must be on my way.  I've got a busy day today.  How about you??  Actually, what makes today so busy is what's happening Monday - Monday is going to be hard - more on that later. 

Friday night our oldest boy went on a special outing with his gal.  They looked so nice so I did what moms do best --took pictures.



They are a sweet couple and bring us lots of joy.  

This morning we had our Valentine party.  




Daddy made a trip to Dunkin Donuts which made everyone very happy.  




This little girl kept watch over the donuts while her brothers were getting their showers (and taking sooooo long!).  






She was very ready to get the party started.  



Our Valentine Party is a special tradition we've had for many years.  Everyone looks forward to it - especially me!  The kids were very sweet this morning and gave us homemade cards and our favorite candies.  



What really encouraged me was the little things they did for each other.  One big brother bought some very special treats for his little sisters and it almost made me cry.  We have a busy little seamstress in our house and this big brother bought her the neatest little organizer for all her sewing notions.  We love his heart.

We're thankful for moments like this morning as we know how quickly the years are passing.  It's so good to have all the birds in the nest right now and I know it won't be that way forever.  I love days when we can celebrate LOVE.  God's love for us and our love for each other.  

What have you got planned for Valentine's Day today?  I'd love to hear!  

Now that our party is over we are getting our Saturday underway.  Our two oldest boys have left for work.  The rest of the kids and I have a long to-do list...laundry, housework, laundry, errands, laundry, and some cooking.  I'm planning Tacos for dinner.  I don't have it in me to try a restaurant tonight as everyone in our city is probably planning to do just that.  My honey and I are going to slip away for a special date for two one night soon, but not tonight.  

I'm working hard today to get ready for Monday.  Our calendar for Monday is packed.  First thing Monday morning we have to have one of the cars taken in for an appraisal.  One of our boys was in a minor accident recently.  The other driver ran into the back of him so the entire rear bumper must be replaced.  Early Monday morning one son has to be dropped off at college for his 8 a.m. class and then we are on to the garage.  We will be back to pick up our college student at 12 noon when he finishes his classes.  Also at noon one of our daughters has an AWANA reward party.  The party is from 12 to 2 p.m.  She has worked hard for this and is very excited about it - in other words, it can't be missed.  At 1:15 another son has an appointment with a specialist.  He's been very sick and doctors are trying to get to the bottom of exactly what is going on.  His white blood cell count is high - indicating infection, and his liver function test came back high.  What we know right now is that there is an infection in his liver but so far the medicine of choice is not making him better, in fact he's getting worse.  He has finished a ten day round of the medicine that was supposed to cure him and we are taking stool samples in regularly.  Waiting is not easy and I'll just go ahead and tell you I'm getting pretty worried.  We were originally scheduled to see the GI doctor in March but our doctor called yesterday and said we need to go on in Monday.  I think we have it worked out for my husband to go to the doctor's appointment with our son and I will finish up at the party with our daughter and our oldest boy is going to look after the rest of the kids.  We have to dart out of the party a bit early because that same little gal has sewing lessons from 2 to 4 p.m. (on the complete other side of town).  Hopefully after sewing lessons we can all meet back at the house for a few minutes before my husband heads out the door.  He is participating in a 3 day revival with a Prison Ministry he is involved with.  Oh, and did I mention one of the boys has soccer practice Monday evening?  Yeah, he does.  Early Tuesday morning we will start the madness all over again with several members of our family having to be out the door early and my husband heading out of town for work.  He will hopefully make it back just in time to get to the revival.  My goal for today is to get ahead on my normal housework and laundry and to cook and freeze meals for the next several nights.  This is my feeble attempt to be organized and to help next week run as smoothly as possible.  We will see how it goes.

I hope whatever you are doing today is warm and cozy.  Do something special to make it a memorable "LOVE day".  It doesn't have to be expensive or extravagant.  Write a little note, light a little candle, give a little treat...anything sweet you do will be noticed and appreciated by your family!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Little Bit of Love

I've been telling you for days I would post some pictures of our Valentine decor.  It's not much, but I did finally snap some pictures.  All you really need is a little bit of love to make your home feel special.  





This is the cute little banner my oldest son brought me from work.  Can I just say, having two of our sons working at Hobby Lobby is a HUGE blessing in my life?  One is a cashier and the other one works in the stockroom.  Between the two of them something sweet is always being brought into our house.  I love it!






My budding seamstress whipped up two pillows for our rocking chair and I just adore them!  Having a girl who sews is turning out to be a big blessing also.  





She said she is planning to keep them on her bed but through Valentine's Day
I could have them for the front porch.  Wasn't that sweet?  

(Here's a little picture I took at her sewing lesson of her making one of the pillows.)  


Also for the front porch (door) I have a little heart wreath.  I wish I could say one of us made this but we didn't.  I found it {very inexpensive} at Target and couldn't resist.  It's so cute and since I'm limited on time these days it kept me from having to make something for the front door.  I'll save that project for Spring.  




This is our kitchen table.  We are going to have a Valentine party in this very spot on Saturday.  (I've got to get my shopping done!)




The kids covered the back door in vinyl Valentine decals.  A few of the decals they colored themselves.  














The girls have been busy today making Valentines and cookies for their friends.







I guess the stool by itself  just wasn't enough.







We just used the regular Nestle Toll House recipe with a little food coloring to make these pink cookies.  My girls love everything pink.  :)




While I finished cleaning up the mess my honey read the girls a couple of Valentine's Day books.  Now they are down for a nap!  Ahhh...




So, tell me what your family does to show a little bit of love for Valentine's Day.  I love hearing what other mamas do for special days.  Please share!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Home Sweet Home with Holly

Good afternoon, everyone!

I hope you are having a most cozy Saturday.  It is in the 60s where we live and super sunny.  Such a treat!

I wanted to share with you a blog, and an adorable Valentine candle holder my friend Holly is making.  If you want one of these you will have to hurry...she needs your order by Monday, February 9th if you want to receive your candle by Valentine's Day.  


Isn't this just the cutest??





You can find Holly at http://homesweethomewithholly.blogspot.com/ and her home decor facebook page - Fly Beyond the Stars HERE.

Go check her out!

Do you decorate for Valentine's Day?  I do, and I'm almost finished.  I will post some pictures shortly.  I'm moving kind of slow today.  I must get some cleaning done before I go snapping pictures, but I'm pretty tired, so I might take a nap first.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Weeknight Dinners Winner Announced


Laura Simpson you are the winner!

Congratulations!!  Please email your mailing address to 7morans@comcast.net and I will get your cookbook right to you!

Thanks to everyone who entered.  We will be doing another giveaway very soon.

*drawing was done by Random.org

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