Friday, April 29, 2016

My May Meal Plan

May? What?

How did that happen?

I lost the first half of April because I relapsed and ended up sick again.  The girls too.  So needless to say our meal plan literally fell by the wayside.  None of us had much of an appetite and nothing sounded good.  Plus none of us had the energy or inclination to cook.  We lived off of soup, toast, eggs and oatmeal and all the little things I had tucked away in our freezer that could easily be reheated.

Cheddar Cheese Omelet

The last half of the month was better and we rallied.  I plan to do much better in May.  This is what I plan to feed my lovely family this month:

Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy & Green Beans
Pork Verde Burritos, Spanish Rice, Lettuce Wedges
Cheese Omelets, Toast, Fresh Fruit
Clam Chowder, Biscuits, Garden Salad
Mushroom Hamburger Gravy, Steamed Rice, Green Beans
Hamburgers, Lettuce & Tomato, Onion Rings
Ham & Bean Soup, Cornbread, Garden Salad (didn't make this last month)
Broccoli Lasagna, French bread, Caesar Salad
Turkey Avocado Sandwich, Potato Chips, Pickles
Breakfast Burritos, Fruit Salad
Beef Tacos, Lettuce & Tomatoes, Salsa (didn't make this last month)
Sloppy Joes, Tater Tots, Veggies & Dip (didn't make this last month)
Tomato & Rice Soup, Cheddar Bread, Spinach Salad
Beef Stroganoff, Egg Noodles, Steamed Broccoli
Chicken & Pasta Bake, Buttered Peas (didn't make this last month)
Veggie Quiche, Sliced Pears
Chicken Garlic Pizza, Caesar Salad (didn't make this last month)
Vegetable Beef Soup, Dinner Rolls, Tossed Green Salad (didn't make this last month)
Pork Chops, Rice Pilaf, Buttered Carrots (didn't make this last month)

Homemade Vegetable Beef Soup
We'll have two special meals in May as well:

Mother's Day

Steak & Shrimp
Baked Potatoes
Caesar Salad
Dinner Rolls
Strawberry Shortcake

Memorial Day

BBQ Chicken
Pasta Salad
Veggie Tray
Jell-O Poke Cake

I'm really looking forward to my Mother's Day meal.  As usual meal plan includes that I make pretty much everything from scratch.  I'll make bread and rolls, salad dressings and a few desserts.  Not only do these things taste better but it save us a significant amount of money on our budget.

I have a lot of fresh fruit and veggies planned and we will take full advantage of our farm fresh eggs as they will play a major part in several meals throughout the month.  We will have milk and Brita filtered water to drink with our meals too.  Ice water is my preferred beverage.  We rarely drink soda anymore and juice in small amounts.

Spinach Salad

Any fellow meal planners out there?  Whether you are or not, what are some of your favorites dinners to prepare for your family?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Another Not So Thrifty Purchase - Our Home

I don’t rent.  I have a mortgage that I faithfully pay every month with the idea that someday the place I call home will be mine in every sense of the word.  It is still a ways off, but that is the hope and it was the hope when I signed all those papers in the title office before they handed me the keys.  But if you look at the big picture, buying a house isn't thrifty at all.

First, I had to save up for a down payment.  Then there were a ton of closing fees to contend with.  I had to pay for an inspection so I'd know the house I was buying was relatively sound.  Then I had to buy homeowners insurance.  And twice a year I get a property tax bill.

Then there is the interest I am charged on the mortgage.  LOTS of interest that will total far more than the original price of the house.

Also, if something breaks I have to fix it.  I'm on the hook for all repairs, upgrades and maintenance of my house.  I have to pay for water, sewer and trash removal in addition to the monthly electric bill.  If the water line breaks between the house and the main I am fully responsible for that expense.  Same with the sewer line.  I have to pay rent for the trash bins the city requires us to use.

I have to keep a fence up on my property line.  When the original one fell apart I had to replace it.  I have to keep my trees pruned and healthy.  I have to maintain a lawn and keep it neat so the city doesn't fine me.

When I rented a home I paid an initial deposit, rent, the electric bill for heat and lights plus a small sum each month for renters insurance.  If something broke my landlord fixed it.  When it needed paint or a roof he did that too.  Someone showed up once a week to mow and trim and I did the watering.  Water, sewer and trash was included in my rent.

If I crunch the numbers, and I have, it doesn't make a lot of financial sense to own a home.  I spend much more now than I ever did as a tenant.  Most people who buy a home never end up owning it.  So why do it?

Originally the idea was that I would acquire equity and it would be worth much more in the future.  There are a lot of rules when renting.  I wanted to be able to paint my walls whatever color I wanted.  I didn't want to help pay someone else's mortgage.  I wanted to be a homeowner.

I realize too that homeownership isn't for everyone.  It used to be frowned on a bit, I think, if people weren't inspired or motivated to buy property and were just content to rent.  But I can see the wisdom in it.  It is less money to rent.  Even when we were living in our RV and just renting the land I found after crunching the numbers that it would have been less money to rent an apartment.  We didn't really save anything, even after selling the trailer.  Kind of crazy, huh?

For me, it is worth the extra expenses and responsibility because for the most part I get to do things my way.  And, unless I stop paying my mortgage, no one is going to kick me out.  I got evicted from the last two homes I rented because the landlords sold the properties and both times the closing was contingent on vacancy.  That was no fun and I never wanted to find myself in that position again.

So what are your thoughts?  Is buying a home worth it or is renting a better way to go?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My Grocery Budget - April Update

This month I didn't spent much on groceries and we didn't need much either.  I only shopped twice and that suited me just fine.  Other than produce and dairy items I mainly filled in with items to round out what we already had on hand and items we were low on.  The freezers and pantry are still very well stocked.

A little dented, but the seals were intact

I came across quite a few good markdown items so I splurged a bit on lunchmeat and those Little Smokies.  My girls loves those.  And yes, there really is a box of Twinkies® and a box of Ding Dongs® on this list, I had a moment of weakness.

Trip #1 

Trip #2

My non food items budget is $25 a month and I had $14.41 leftover from March to roll over and add to it making it $39.41.  I bought a lot of non food items this month.  Cat food, litter, toiletries and stocking up on feminine hygiene items accounted for me spending $38.50 leaving me with 91¢ left to roll over next month and use.

Here is the list of food I bought.  The items highlighted in red are my stock up items:

Dollar Store
Cheese (2)
Store Coupon
Ramen (48)
Veggie tray
Milk - 1/2 gal (3)
Store Coupon
Orange juice - 1/2 gal
Store Coupon
Cream - qt.
Tater tots - 5#
Ding Dongs
Dollar Store
Bread crumbs
Dollar Store
Cole slaw mix
Sour cream (2)
Milk - 1/2 gal (3)
Store Coupon
Orange juice - 1/2 gal (2)
Store Coupon
Olives (3)
Tortillas (2)
Smoked sausage
Little Smokies (2)
Hot dog buns
Hamburger buns
Chow mein noodles
Pinepple chunks (2)
Store Coupon
Tortilla chips
Store Coupon
 $   90.30

$90.30 ÷ 30 days ÷3 people = $1.00 per person per day!

Next month I am hoping for a good buy on sugar, peanut butter and as always meat and cheese.  Did you stock up on anything this month?  Any super deals?

This budget month runs from April 1 through April 30.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The New Cutting Matte

I'm in love!

How did I ever manage without one?  I denied myself this little slice of heaven because, for one I'm trying to scale down, not accumulate more.  And secondly I didn't quilt so I didn't think I needed one.

As I have been working on a lot of projects that require neatly trimmed squares and rectangles and a certain degree of accuracy I decided to go ahead and treat myself.  And boy am I glad I did.  Originally I set out to just buy the matte and use a 40% OFF coupon to save a bundle.  But when I found out it would be on sale for 50% OFF the very next day I decided to wait and as a result I was also able to get a really nice ruler to go with it also half off.

Squaring up the edge

This one is two sided and self healing.  The ruler is nice and thick with plenty of markings to help me make accurate cuts and not cut myself with my rotary cutter in the process.  A long time ago my mother had given me a much smaller matte and ruler she didn't care for, and to be honest, I didn't like it either.  Both were thin and too small to do much with.  I happily added them to my purging pile after using the new one.

So far I've used it to cut pieces for tea towels and pillowcases and it made the process so much easier.  I will really enjoy using it to cut my strips to finish my two quilt projects I have planned as well as more tea towels, pillowcases and throw pillows.

One perfectly cut and finished pillowcase

Do you use a cutting matte for your sewing projects?

And don't forget!  I want to see what you are up to!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

On the way to the barbeque we stopped in at the library, which is located directly across the street from the park, to drop off books and check out new ones.  Then on the way home we stopped at the dollar store so I could pick up a couple sympathy cards to send a couple of my friends who recently lost loved ones.  They had a very nice selection to choose from.  I also found a cute little candle to give to one of my friends.

I used some of the muslin I bought the week before to make a set pillowcases (post coming).  I wanted to custom make a set to fit the pretty blue crocheted lace I had.

I had some scraps of eyelet in my stash so I cut and quilted pieces together and made a pretty little throw pillow.  Very soft and feminine.  My oldest fell completely in love with it.

Some time ago I had searched online for free embroidery transfers for various projects I hoped to work on.  I printed one of those patterns out using scrap paper from my stash.  I cut a nice piece of natural 100% cotton muslin that I already had and drew the pattern onto the fabric with a pencil.  Another project (I'll be sharing) is now in the works!

I got my free sample of cat food in the mail and the sample of tea bags I ordered arrived a couple weeks ago.  Freebies are fun.  J

I got some coupons in the mail from Fred Meyer for certain amounts off of cleaning supplies.  Any kind I wanted to buy.  Nice!

Thursday I finally went grocery shopping.  We didn’t need much, just a few things to round out what we already had at home as well as milk and produce.  I did come across several markdown items that were hard to pass up, however.

I redeemed my saved credit card rewards points for a $50 Dillards gift card.  It is time to replace some of my work pants so this will certainly come in handy.

I made a delicious banana cream pie.  The filling was from scratch and I used a graham cracker crust I had purchased awhile back at the dollar store.  It didn't last long.

I made a pint of buttermilk salad dressing.

How thrifty was your week?

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Art Of Creative Financing - 0% Interest Offers

I've had a lot of questions asking me how I do 0% interest financing.  This post is about how I make it work for me.

I view this type of financing simply as a tool to help me easily get the things I need, and sometimes want, while keeping my savings account intact.

Taking advantage of interest free offers isn't as risky as it once used to be, but you still need to be careful.  Know the terms and know when the offer ends and what the interest rate will be if you don't pay it off before the no interest period ends.  Remember that not paying it off before the interest free period ends pretty much defeats the purpose of zero interest financing.

The key to making this work is two-fold.

1.  Make sure the payment fits within my monthly budget.

Before I make a purchase I consider the offer.  How long is the interest free term?  Then I take the final purchase amount and divide it by the length of the term to see how much I need to pay each month to make sure it is paid in full before interest kicks in.

If that fits in the budget, then I go ahead with the idea that I will also pay extra each month so it is paid off earlier.  I am always more comfortable if I can pay off a loan well ahead of its due date.  Paying more than the minimum payment is always a good idea, interest or not, and helps raise your credit score too.

2.  Make sure I don't get carried away and over extend myself.

One thing I am very careful about is not to take on a new loan, tempting as that may be, before I pay off the last one.  Another good reason to pay extra every month and pay things off early.

I also like to make sure I have enough in my savings account or emergency fund to cover a payment or pay it off if I need to.  Anytime I can keep my own cash while using someone else's is good for me.  As long as I am smart about it.

The biggest reason I take advantage of 0% interest offers is because I am able to acquire things while I keep my own money in my savings accounts.  I have used these offers multiple times to purchase appliances, furniture, home improvement supplies for big projects, my daughter's braces and most recently my car.

I hope this helps clarify things a bit.  If you have more questions I am happy to answer them.  I'll do another post soon about how to use zero interest credit card offers to pay off debt.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I Don't Own A Lot Of Clothes - And I Love It!

When we downsized and moved into our RV we seriously culled our clothing.  With small narrow closets and only a half dozen tiny drawers for all of us to store our things in it meant some serious purging was necessary.  I haven't regretted that one bit.

Two new sweaters in royal blue and fuschia pink.

It made things so much simpler.  It also changed our thought process.  Fewer items meant that I focused more on the quality of our clothing instead of the quantity.  I now get to indulge myself in my love of fine designer clothing.

I really love shoes, but this is more than enough.

Our choices in clothing became more streamlined.  No more seasonal wardrobes.  Our clothing had to be wearable all year long.  Instead of professional wear and casual wear I now meet somewhere in the middle of the road.

My basic black sweater (goes with everything) and a gray one

When we moved back into the house I wanted to stay on that same track.  Especially since I took the bedroom with the smallest closet.  After outlining what I feel is the perfect work wardrobe for me I then focused on creating and maintaining just that.

One top two looks

My work wardrobe flows into my weekend wear just fine.  I added one pair of jeans, a pair of capris, a pair of athletic shoes and a pair of sandals.  It all works together.  I do keep one outfit and my old tennis shoes for yucky projects and painting because I don't want to risk ruining my good clothes, but just the one.  The old shoes can also double as my camping shoes.

I replace items as things wear out.  When I buy something new I try to make sure something else leaves and is given away or gets donated.  If it is too worn then it gets repurposed or tossed.  Doing this helps me make sure the size of my wardrobe doesn't balloon and get out of control.

My basic black top goes with everything - of course!

Mostly I love the simplicity.  I have just enough variety to mix and match to create multiple outfits so I don't get bored.  I also have enough articles of clothing that washing laundry just twice a week makes sure I have plenty of clean clothing to wear at all times.  And because I have fewer pieces of clothing I spend a lot less time doing laundry on those two days then what I used to.  That fact actually surprised me.

Yes, in case you were wondering I do organize by color and sleeve length.
My jeans hang in the front and my slacks are on pants hangers at the back.
I also have one skirt which also goes with any of my solid tops.

Small selection of earrings to go with.  I don't have a lot of accessories.

My slacks are either black or dark gray.  I wear black socks and shoes.  I don't buy navy because I have a difficult time distinguishing it from black so I avoid it and any major fashion faux pas that I would make as a result.  I've never been one to accessorize much either.  Earrings, my rings a bracelet or two and I'm good.  Sometimes a pin or brooch and on a rare occasion (very rare) a scarf.

Keeping it simple means I always have something nice to wear regardless of the occasion.  No stress and no worry.  I love it!

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