Thursday, August 17, 2017

Purging The House - Care To Join Me?

I've decided to purge the house again, which always make my girls groan.  Especially when I hand them a bag and tell them to fill it up.  Sunday morning I decided to purge and organize the upstairs bathroom cabinet.  It has been driving me nuts.  Too much stuff!  Once I was done consolidating items, tossing out expired medicines, and re-evaluating the items that were in there I had filled up the bathroom trash can quite nicely.

I gave the girls each a plastic grocery bag and sent them to their rooms.  They managed to find all kinds of crap they had squirreled away.  So by the end of an hour we had three filled bags of junk leaving our home.

I figure if I can do that much in an hour what could I do in an afternoon?

I probably won't need the whole afternoon, but who knows.  So Saturday afternoon I'm going to grab some shopping bags and make a pass through the entire house.  I have two problem areas.  The hall closet under the stairs and our garage.  I might need separate times for those two spots, but the rest of the house I'll sweep through and see what I can come up with.

How about you?  Is it time to go through the house and get rid of some stuff?  Care to join me?  I hope you do and I hope you'll share with me how it goes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Meal Prepping

As the girls were handing me their upcoming schedules I was beginning to feel just a wee bit overwhelmed.  And to be totally honest, I'm not ready to jump back into the rat race that becomes our lives during the school year.

I have two girls in two different schools and both are involved in activities that require a significant amount of dedication and time.  My oldest is a junior in high school this year and plays in the band as well as is part of a robotics team.  My youngest is in the chamber orchestra and is also a cheerleader.  She also needs to go to the orthodontist every 6 to 8 weeks.  There is also homework that will need to be done and because both of my girls are kind of smart they take advanced courses and that means a lot of homework.  It gets a bit crazy.

Saw this on Pinterest.  How stinking cute is this?

By the time we all manage to get home the time we have in the evenings will be limited.  And there will be a lot of times when we'll need to leave again to attend one function or another.  So we had a family meeting and we discussed how we were going to pull of this off.  Because, quite frankly, last year nearly drove me insane. 

One of the things we all agreed on was my suggestion that we try meal prepping.  I had been researching the idea on Youtube (there are tons of videos posted about this) and there is a common theme of eating the same meal multiple times during the week.  I knew this wouldn't fly, especially with me.  I have my limits on how many times I'm willing to eat chicken, broccoli and rice in one week.

Found this on Pinterest too.  Cute!

But one idea I could get my head around was meal prepping some freezer meals.  I tried Once A Month cooking several years ago and I learned, there are just certain things that do not freeze well.  Not to mention it required an enormous investment of time and required me to be extremely organized to the point that it seriously stressed me out.  However, the girls and I brainstormed and we think we've figured out what will work for us.  And we also agreed that it needs to be a team effort.

We started over the past weekend to give it a trial run before school officially starts.  Next week I'll post what we made and how it all went.  So far, I can tell you, it is going pretty darn well.  Surprisingly so.  I'm not sure why I didn't think it would.  Maybe past experience.  ???

Let it go, let it go....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Blessed & Grateful

I was leaving the grocery store last week and as I pushed the cart toward my car I had this overwhelming thought hit me.  I told my girls.

"We don't need anything."

The girls agreed.  At that moment we needed nothing, not even the items in our shopping cart.

On the way home we tried to come up with something, but quickly realized how truly blessed we really are.  And I am so incredibly grateful for that.

We have a lovely little home in pretty decent shape.  We take care of it and keep it tidy and it serves our needs quite well.  We each have our own bedroom and inside we each have a comfortable bed with warm blankets, plenty of clothing and shoes.

The heat works, the A/C units work and we have box fans too.  The water runs, hot and cold.

We are fortunate in that we have two bathrooms.  Everything functions as it should and the cupboards are adequately stocked with items to keep us clean, first aid supplies should we hurt ourselves, medicines in case we are ill and plenty of toilet paper.

Our kitchen is nice and clean.  We have a fully functioning sink, stove, refrigerator and dishwasher.  The pantry, freezers and refrigerator are full of good, healthy food and there are adequate dishes and pots & pans to prepare and eat our meals.

The girls have everything they need to go to school and get an education.  Instruments to play and activities to participate in that help them grow and broaden their minds and experiences.  We have pets to enjoy and enhance our lives along with the means and ability to care for them.

I'm grateful all of us our healthy.  I'm grateful to have a job.  I'm grateful that I have friends and family that love me.  I'm grateful for all of the things I've learned and the knowledge I've acquired.  I'm grateful for the opportunities that await me.  I'm grateful that my needs are met and my wants are few.

I know I'm blessed.

I am also very grateful for all the wonderful people who read my blog and for all the lovely comments they choose to leave.  Thank you.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

Sunday morning I did a lot of little things that help us so we don't need to spend money.

First I mixed up some soapy solution for my foaming handsoap dispenser I keep at the kitchen sink using cheap dish soap from the dollar store and some warm water.

I gave my youngest a haircut and then I trimmed my bangs.

I went through the crisper drawer in the refrigerator and rounded up all the veggies that had been there awhile.  I chopped them up and made a yummy and healthy pasta sauce for our lunch.

I used black shoe dye to fix a couple of scuffs on my work shoes and then polished them with black shoe polish.  They look good as new.

Fred Meyer sent me another packet of coupons in the mail.  They arrived in my mailbox on Monday.

Tuesday the oldest and I stopped at Albertsons on the way home from band camp and did some coupon, markdown, stock up shopping.  I like to pick up meat and pantry items for as little as possible and I think we did really well.  Four jars of peanut butter for 99¢ each, two packages of ground turkey for $2.69 each, lunch meat and cheese for $1 to $1.50 per package, 4 boxes of pasta for 69¢ each, all kinds of good buys!  Walked out with a cartload for only $36 and the clerk was impressed.

Mostly loss leaders and markdown items!

I watched several YouTube videos in my endeavor to learn new things.  I'm looking at meal prepping as well as trying to get ideas for future projects to do on Laverne.  I'm learning all kinds of stuff!

Thursday was a busy day for me.  I worked all day and then picked up my youngest from cheerleader camp and dashed off for her orthodontist appointment.  Then back home to pick up the oldest and head down the hill to our favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant to meet friends for dinner.  We had a nice visit, a great meal and they insisted on picking up the tab, which was a very nice treat for me.  Thank you again!

So good and the service is top notch!!!

Friday after work I picked up the oldest from band camp and then swung by to pick up the youngest at cheer camp.  We all agreed we were exhausted so we decided on the way home to stop at the grocery store and pick up what we needed for the week ahead so we could park the car all weekend and not have to leave the house.

The oldest and I did a quick freezer inventory of the chest freezer in the garage.

After dinner we pulled up for a family meeting to discuss the chaos of our lives that is about to begin (and already has) with the start of the school year and to come up with some strategies to make it all work.  I'll share more about that on Wednesday, but suffice it to say I'm actually rather excited about it now.

Friday's haul, we didn't need much

We all went to bed before 10:00 that night and I think we were all asleep the minute our heads hit the pillows.

Saturday morning I cleaned the kitchen.  I took meat out of the freezer to thaw and the girls and I got busy in the kitchen doing some serious cooking.  More about that on Wednesday as well.

We gave our kitchen scraps to the chickens, such lucky ladies they are.  We continued to make them giant ice cubes to put in their water each day to help them keep cool.  They continued to give us a hearty supply of delicious fresh eggs.

I composted the veggie scraps that weren't chicken worthy like lettuce cores, onion skins and hot pepper seeds.  I also composted banana peels, coffee grounds, tea bags and egg shells.

$1.00!  I got the sensitive formula
because it was 25% larger than the others

I washed out two quart size and two gallon size Ziploc bags as well as a plastic shower hat to reuse.

The girls used a rubber spatula to scrape out every last bit of peanut butter and raspberry jam from the jars while making their lunches one morning.  My oldest decided the jam jar is too pretty to toss in the recycling bin so she removed the label and washed it up.  She plans to reuse it to make a gift for someone.

I did a store survey to add an extra 50 fuel points to my Fred Meyer rewards card.  I also printed off an online coupon which allowed me to up a bottle of laundry detergent at Walgreens for $1!

How was your thrifty week?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Thrifty Christmas Gift Idea - Art & Craft Supplies

Back-to-school sales mean supplies are at their lowest prices.  Check back about a week after school starts and they'll be marked down even lower on clearance.  With that in mind now is a great time to stock up on art and craft supplies, especially if you want to put together some thrifty Christmas gifts.

Kids that love to draw, color and make crafts will appreciate crayons, markers, glue or glue sticks, scissors and water colors.  Buy a brightly colored pencil box and fill it up or use a gift bag.  Add coloring books, construction or drawing paper.  Print off some origami and craft instructions from the internet to tuck inside for additional fun.

Adults and teens will love a new set of colored pencils or markers to use on their adult coloring books.  Amazon sells a ton of different adult coloring books too. Or you can just print your own off the internet onto copy paper.

Colored ink pens are fun!

Ball point pens or mechanical pencils paired with a couple composition notebooks are great for journaling or making lists for goals and planning.  Not everyone embraces technology and the simplicity of paper and pen is often appreciated.

I put school supplies in my girl's stockings too.  They love to get some fresh supplies to take back to school midway through the year.  One of my girls is obsessed with mechanical pencils while the other one loves to get pens.

And don't forget yourself.  Back to school time is also a great time to refill your office supplies.  Stock up on copy paper, acid free sheet protectors, paper and envelopes, extra glue, tape and staples.  Then you'll be ready to make Christmas cards, gift tags and anything else to go with the gifts you'll be giving this year.  Three ring binders and tabbed dividers are great for organizing important papers and making up your Christmas planner.

Remember too that paper lunch bags, brown or white, are perfect to decorate and make your own gift bags.  Insulated lunch bags and boxes also make nice gifts for kids and adults.  Check out plastic lunch containers, thermoses and water bottles too.  They aren't always available year round in the same selection as they are at back-to-school time so keep it in mind.  A new or  extra lunch box or set of containers for sandwiches and sides is a nice gift to receive.

Back-to-school sales aren't just great for school, they're great for Christmas too!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How I Accomplished My Big Debt Goal

On Saturday August 30th 2014 I stood in my home and surveyed the damage done by our tenants.  I had a broken front gate, a broken door jamb, broken and missing light fixtures, one of the closet doors upstairs had fallen apart, the washing machine was full of mold, the carpet was destroyed and water damage in the kitchen.  Everything was covered in a soapy hazy film from their attempts to clean the place.  There was garbage in the backyard and a mountain of garbage piled up in the front yard next to the driveway extending all the way to the street.  Our lawn was gone.  I felt like I could cry.  But not for the reasons you might think.

I was home!  And all of this was fixable.  And I had friends there to help.  I was truly feeling blessed and grateful at that moment.  Kind of crazy, huh?

One of my friends, who is a plumber, got right to work before I even said anything.  He took care of the washing machine and checked all the faucets, toilets, sinks, the dishwasher and even upgraded the plumbing on the hot water heater.  My other dear friend ran home for her carpet cleaner and made a stop at Walmart on her way back to pick up a load of cleaning supplies and food to keep everyone fed.  We all scrubbed and cleaned.  I used vinegar water in the carpet cleaner and some stain remover to clean the bad spots on the carpets the best I could.  That machine got a workout for a solid week!

The next day another good friend went and hooked up our RV and brought it to the house for me.  Everything we owned was now sitting in my driveway in our 27 foot travel trailer and in the bed of my pick up.  We had no furniture because we sold it all with the idea we'd start over in Arizona.

Just before we moved back to our house I had thought ahead and used my PayPal account to purchase a couch and recliner for the living room off of eBay.  No interest for six months and I knew I could pay that off before then, which I did.  I had also ordered a dining table and four chairs from Amazon and paid cash.  With my friends surrounding me we sat on the freshly cleaned and fragile living room carpet and put my new furniture together.  We had a start.

That first week we used the mattresses from our beds in the RV until I was able to get our new beds figured out.  We emptied out the RV and I listed it on Craigslist.  It sold in three days, for the amount I wanted too!  I used that money to buy the girls their new mattresses, paid off some of my medical bills and a $1300 credit card bill.  Then I blew up the Aero Bed mattress we had in the closet and I slept on that for two months.

I listed and sold a big chunk of my inventory leftover from my business on eBay and used that money to pay off the PayPal account.  Little by little I furnished the house and bought the things we needed by continuing to sell my inventory and using those proceeds to pay things off.  I did that for a year.

Every day I went to work and every time I was offered overtime I took it.  Each pay day I paid our mortgage and our utilities and bought groceries.  Whatever was left went toward that debt that first year.  When I got my tax refund in February of 2015 I applied the entire thing to it.  I also transferred a large chunk of debt to a 0% interest credit card offer and then I worked to pay that off ahead of the deadline.  Then I did it again, and again.  Until last week, when I paid the final amount off.

In order to free up cash to put toward that debt I was super careful with my spending.  I kept us to a tight budget, we ate at home and dined out very little, we didn't go on any vacations or take any trips until just this past year.  In that first year I managed to pay off nearly half of that debt and in the past 23 months I worked hard and paid off the rest.  And while I was at it I furnished a house, took care of my children and our pets, repaired our home, built up my savings and retirement accounts and maintained a healthy credit score.  And don't forget, I bought Laverne too!  A whole year earlier than planned!

I don't make a ton of money.  I'm sure if you really knew my income level you'd be shocked.  While the entire situation might have seemed impossible I set a goal, several in fact, and I proved to myself it could be done!

With patience, determination and a boatload of planning and hard work, I accomplished my goal.  You can do it too.  I hope that if you are struggling financially, you find some inspiration here.  It really can be done!  Where there is a will, there is a way.  I feel so incredibly grateful right now.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Black Bean Enchiladas

Many of you have asked for my black bean enchilada recipe and to be honest I don't really have one.  I just kind of throw crap together and it is, what it is.  So I'll tell you what I usually do.


and this

become this

In an oiled 9" X 13" baking pan I layer corn tortillas with two cups of cooked black beans and a can of diced tomatoes mixed in with some kind of veggies, usually frozen corn, chopped onions, carrots, zucchini and bell peppers, that I've sautéed in some olive oil.  You can use whatever veggies you like.

A layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom of the pan

a layer of tortillas

a layer of the bean and veggie mixture, then sprinkle with cheese

and repeat until you get to the top of the pan and top with more sauce

I top each layer with some shredded medium or sharp cheddar and canned red enchilada sauce.  Place a sheet of foil over the top and bake in a preheated 350°oven for about 35 to 40 minutes.  I like to let it sit about 15 minutes before cutting and serving.  It is wonderful with a little dollop of sour cream too.

and a final sprinkle of cheese
Cover with foil and it is ready for the overn!

Pretty simple and always delicious.  Healthy too!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Big Debt Goal Paid Off! - Mission Accomplished!!!

Whaaa hoooooo!!!  Friday morning I logged online, sent in my final payment and kissed that puppy good bye!  And boy, oh, boy does it ever feel good!  Yes, indeed.  Whaaa hoooooo!!!!

If you have followed my blog for any length of time you've known that I've had some struggles.  In 2o12 I lost my job.  It was an odd thing that happened that day.  My bosses decided to let me go as their devoted and hardworking office manager, because of pressure by their church to give one of their members a job.  Did it take me completely by surprise?  Well, not really.  We had already hired two people from their church, even though we didn't have any openings at the time, so I was aware of what was going on.  And since I was one of the few remaining employees who didn't belong to said church... well.  And since my departure all non church member employees have systematically been replaced.  But that is beside the point now, although that is was began this whole story.

I decided to open my own business and at first I was doing really quite well for a brand new business, until I got sick.  My energy and momentum was washed out to sea, replaced by fear and anxiety about my future.  I also realized, much to my surprise, I didn't do well working alone.  I craved co-workers and the social aspect of going to work each day.  I needed to get healthy and then I need to get another job working with people.

My doctor suggested, given my health issues and my emotional state at the time, that a change of venue would probably be a really good thing for me.  I needed a warmer climate and a new adventure to focus on.  The girls and I were super excited and we began to make our preparations and get ready to go.  We were moving to Arizona!

Like I said, if you have followed my blog for any length of time you know that we didn't quite make it to Arizona and you pretty much know how that all went down.  It wasn't pretty.  In fact, it was freaking ridiculous at everything that happened, but you make the best of your situation and you keep on trucking.  Even when what you really want to do is curl up into a ball and cry yourself to sleep...

Fast forward...

By the time we moved back into our home over Labor Day Weekend in 2014 I had acquired some pretty substantial debt.  I had debt from starting the business, medical bill debt, debt acquired from expenditures related to the failed move and having to tow my truck back to Boise and some additional debt from trying to keep our chins above water while I figured out what to do next and found a job.  Over $27,000!

It could have been a whole lot worse, but it wasn't.  I could have declared bankruptcy and, given the circumstances, I'm sure a judge would have granted me that.  But, I got myself into this situation and I was pretty confident I could get myself out.

So I got busy and set a goal.  I mapped out a plan (and Thursday I'm going to give you a summary of what I did).  Now, just one month shy of the three year mark, that debt is paid.  It's over, it's done and that chapter is officially closed.  And it feels really, really good.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

Sunday was a day of rest.  Other than watching a couple movies on Netflix, cooking a couple of meals and washing the dishes we did nothing but sit around our living room and just spend some well earned downtime together.  In our pajamas.  We read, I wrote.  It was wonderful.

Monday, I was back at it.  On the way home from work I stopped off to fill up the truck at Fred Meyer.  I used my rewards points to save a whopping 40¢ a gallon.  With a 10 gallon fill up I saved $4.00!  This is why I do what I do folks!

I stopped at the post office and dropped off some mail on my way to Albertsons to pick up a few groceries on sale and two 12ct packages of their double roll TP for $2.99 each.  I added that to my stash in the linen closet.  I used a customer appreciation coupon I downloaded to shave an additional $3 off my total.  Saving money on gas and groceries, not a bad way to end July and start August!

The rest of the week was pretty low key.  The girls did a lot of the cooking which was nice for me.  There were plenty of leftovers for our lunches too.

Thursday my darling oldest daughter got her braces off!  It was a big day for her.  She celebrated later that afternoon by taking a big ol' bite out of an apple, just like she said she would.

I worked enough overtime to cover my time away from work that morning with some to spare.  Always nice to have a little bit of extra on my paycheck.

Saturday morning I melted down some wax I had saved from a couple candles I'd burned up last winter.  I took a cute little jar I'd saved and washed up from another candle and made myself a new one.  I used an extra birthday candle I had for my wick.

After my candle making I went to Fred Meyer with my shopping list and a list of digital coupons I had loaded onto my rewards card.  I was able to get quite a few groceries for the week ahead and not spend a lot of money.  I bought produce on markdown too.

We stopped in at Home Depot to pick up another pressure treated post for our next fence repair.  It was plenty wet so it is going to cure over the next couple of weeks and then we'll use it to replace one of the broken ones.

My Friday Freebies

I'm sorry but even for free I seriously question the value in the Trios
About a tablespoon each of granola, dried apples & monterey jack cheese
Sorry Kraft, but this is ridiculous!  They can do so much better

I recycled a juice bottle by filling it with water, putting it in our chest freezer and turned it into an ice pack for our cooler.

We helped keep the hens cooler by making them gigantic ice cubes in cool whip containers to put in their water feeder.  We fed them our kitchen scraps throughout the week.  I sold a dozen eggs to a co-worker.

Went to put the shopping bags away

Oops!  There is something still in the bag to put away!

I composted eggs shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, onion skins and banana peels.

How was your thrifty week?

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