Tuesday, September 30, 2008

31 Days of Less Challenge! Day 1: Cutting Costs.

Good Morning Ladies!

Today we are going to focus on our entry ways and on our meal plans.

Cutting Costs...

One of the best ways to cut costs is to stock your fridge, freezer, and pantry at home. With a well stocked kitchen, you save in so many ways. You save money because you are less likely to go out to eat or order take out. You save money because you are making less trips to the grocery store (saving time, gas, and money on impulse buying). You save your sanity because you are less apt to succumb to the "5 O'clock witching hour"

Before you head to the grocery store to stock your kitchen though, it is best to have a game plan before you leave your home. That game plan is plan your meals (a menu), and figuring out what you need based on what your meals are (a shopping list).

There are many many variances of how home managers create their menus and shopping lists.

There's the plan for the day ahead method, which may be effective to get dinner on the table, but may not save gas because you are more likely to make last minute trips to the store to get ingredients you don't have in your kitchen.

There's the weekly menu plan. Effective for getting food on the table, and saving you daily trips to the store. You can plan for one week, and make one weekly trip to the grocery store. Most frest produce will stay fresh for one week, so you can also incorporate more fresh vegetables and fruit into your menu.

There's the Monthly Menu plan. Usually this entails buying the majority of ingredients in bulk, preparing, cooking, and freezing meals for the month ahead. While this does save time and money overall, it's probably not the best way for a novice to start menu planning because some times it feels pretty overwhelming when you are facing an one month calendar and you feel pressured to fill each blank square with something to eat.

There's also what is called a rotating menu of main dishes. It can be a weekly menu or a monthly menu. But it's simply several pre made menus that you rotate. There can be as few as 1 or 2 monthly menu's that can be used, or 4 to 5 montly menus premade to rotate from. Each menu also has a pre made shopping list of all the ingredients needed for those main dishes. All you have to do is buy frozen veggies or fresh veggies, or your choice of sides, to go along with the main dish.

I like to keep it simple, and I like being able to try new recipes. I usually use the weekly or bi weekly menu, but I do try to think ahead a week or two and start on the next weeks menu thru out the week. Here's how I do it.

In my home management binder, have 4 blank weekly menus and 4 shopping lists. I keep them in clear page protectors. The menu is on the front and the shopping list is on the back (such asa book page). I also have pantry inventory pages. When I make my menu and shopping lists I write on the page protectors with a fine point sharpie, which can be cleaned off with dry erase board cleaner. That way what I write down won't be smeared, but it can be cleaned off making my menus non consumable and re usable.

Our ad day is Tuesday or Wednesday. That's the day we get the circulars from stores for the next week. I love those days. It's like Christmas for me. I know it's wierd, but hey, it's a highlight in my week.

When I get my add day, I like to do a quick clean of the fridge. You know, do a brief clean of each shelf to find any forgotten leftovers that have turned into a science experiment. It also gives me an idea of what I still have in my fridge that needs to be used before it goes to waste. Fairly often I'll get an ingredient and forget to put it into what I'm cooking. I also take a quick inventory of my cupboard to see what canned and dry goods I have left. I have a small fridge and only one cupboard, plus my fridge is usually pretty empty by this point so it doesn't take me long.

Then I sit down with my ads and I see what's on sale. If I see there's a great price on chicken, I can base my weeks menu on chicken. If meat is on sale, I can work some meat into my menu plan. (If it's a really good price I'll try to buy extra to put in the freezer.)

To help my menu I have lists of recipes handwritten in my recipe binder or on the computer. I have lists of recipes for chicken, roasts, ground beef/turkey, etc. I go through my lists and find several things that sound good for that week and write them down as dinner main dishes. I also have lists for breakfast ideas (my kids love oatmeal, but it gets old if they eat it every day), lunch ideas, and snack ideas. As I see an idea I'll add it to a list either in my binder or on my computer.

When I pick a recipe, I will either print it out, take out the hand written recipe, and put it in my home management binder in menu planning tab behind that weeks menu. That way, I have every recipe in one place and I don't have to try to remember where I found the recipe when I want to fix it. When it comes time to fix dinner, all I have to do is take out that one recipe and tack it to a cork board on my cupboard door. That saves confusion, and that also helps to keep my cook books nicer because I'm not spilling food on them.

If sometime during the week I find a recipe I really want to try, I'll write it on next weeks menu and go ahead and put that recipe behind that menu page.

Also, as I pick a recipe I write down all the ingredients I need on a sheet of paper. After I pick all my recipes I will add up how much of each ingredient I need and write that on my master shopping lists.

When I start to run out of necessities during the week, such as dish detergent, cleaners, trash bags, toilette paper, etc... I simply write it on next weeks shopping list. That way I will remember to pick it up next time I'm at the store.

On my shopping day, all I have to do is take the page protector with my shopping list out of my home management binder and put it in my errand binder.

I'm starting to love my binders....

Tomorrow we'll cover a little bit on price booking, so you can be sure that what you're buying is really a good deal and you are getting the most for your money.

Be blessed today.

A great prayer...

This is another great item forwarded to my email. I thought it was highly appropriate.

A Pastor with GUTS!!

Thought you might enjoy this interesting
prayer given in Kansas at the opening session
of their Senate. It seems prayer still upsets some people.

When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open
the new session of the Kansas Senate,
everyone was expecting the usual
generalities, but this is
what they heard:

'Dear God, we come before you today to ask
your forgiveness and to seek your direction and
guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those
who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we
have done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed
our values.

We have exploited the poor and called it
the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it

We have killed our unborn and called it

We have shot abortionists and called it

We have neglected to discipline our
children, and called it building self esteem.

We have abused power and called it

We have coveted our neighbor's possessions
and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and
pornography, and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values
of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts
today; cleanse us from every sin, and set us free.

The response was immediate. A number of
legislators walked out during the prayer in
protest. In 6 short weeks, Central Christian
, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than
5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls
responding negatively. The church is now receiving
international requests for copies of this prayer
from India , Africa, and Korea ..

Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on
his radio program, 'The Rest of the Story,'and
received a larger response to this program than any
other he has ever aired.

With God's help, may this prayer sweep
over our nation and wholeheartedly become our
desire so that we again can be called 'one nation
under God.'

If possible, please pass this prayer on to
your friends. 'If you don't stand for something,
you will fall for everything.'

Creating your Evicting Clutter Toolbox

Good morning to all the beautiful ladies out there in blogg land!

Today is a beautiful Tuesday morning. The sun is peeking over the horizon and turning eveything it's rays touch a gorgeous morning gold! The autumn air is cool and crisp and the trees are starting to show their fall colors! It's a great day to be alive and serve the Lord.

Today we are going to put together the basic guts of our toolboxes. We will utilize these to better organize our current day, plan for the near future, and set up a routine to keep our houses clean(er).

The first item we are going to work on is our home management binder. Ladies call it different by different names. Cindy Rushton calls her's her "Brain in a Binder". I call mine the "Central Nervous System" of my home. But whatever you name it, it's simply a binder designed to pull together all the information you need for daily home management.

Today we are going to put together the basics of your binder. Towards the end of this challenge, after you have gotten a better feel for how you like your's set up, we will set aside a day to dress it up and make it beautiful. It may be something that is functional for you, but you'll be more apt to use it if it brings beauty to your day.

So go gather your 3 ring binder, your divider tabs, some blank printer paper, some note book paper, and a 3 ring pencil pouch (oops... I forgot to put this on the list last week... sorry).

The first thing you need to do is decorate the cover for your binder. My binder has a clear plastic cover that I can slip paper inside, but if you don't have a cover insert you can still decorate your cover. Simply sit down with your blank piece of paper. Borrow your kids crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc... and get creative. Have some fun! Do you have stickers? Even more fun!!!! Give the cover of your binder a taste of your personality. When your done with your art project slip it inside the cover or tape it to your cover with some clear packaging tape.

Next we're going to assemble the inside. Take your dividers and with a pencil label the dividers. Use a pencil so you can move the contents of your binder around until it's set up the way you like it. Label your dividers in whatever order you preferr. Label them:
  • Monthly and Weekly Calendars
  • Daily Schedules and Routines
  • Cleaning Routines
  • Finances and Budget
  • Menus and Shopping Lists
  • Homeschooling
  • Holidays and Celebrations
You can label the extra dividers if you wish. Some categories you might like to use are:
  • Gardening
  • My Faith and Prayer Journal
  • Loving my Husband
  • Loving and Raising Children
  • Personal Projects
Put your dividers inside your binder with some blank note book paper in each divider. Put your pencil pouch inside the front of your binder to hold pencils, pens, markers, post its, etc. Print off some calendar pages for the month of October and November and place them behind your calendar tab. Don't worry about what goes inside other dividers right now, we will work on that thruout the month.

Starting tomorrow we are going to work on our entry ways. Then each week we are going to work on one room of the house. Next week we are going to start with the kitchen and work our way around the home.

Will our homes be spotless when we finish this challenge? No. But what we will do is hopefully foster habits that help us to keep our homes less cluttered, more organized, and easier to take care of.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The 31 Days of Less Challenge Begins!!!

My prayer: "Dear God, I humbly come before you today and ask that: just as you put Your Words in Isaiah's mouth, and just as you were with Joshua and taught him what to say, that you would be with me, teach me what to say, and give my hands Your Words to write.
I pray that this challenge would bring encouragement on all who dare to take it, and bring Glory to You."

This week is an awesome week! Amidst the busyness of our daily lives, we are accepting the challenge of living on less for this month. We are going to take this month and make steps to live on less financially and live with less materialistically. And we are going to turn to and lean on God for direction every step of the way.

Today and tomorrow we are going to put together our toolboxes and create a plan for you to cut costs and evict clutter in your life.

Last week we wrote down a brief purpose for taking on this challenge. I'm asking you now, what is your purpose? Why are you taking this challenge? And what do you feel Gods purpose for you in this challenge is? What goals do you wish to accomplish this month? Is it to curb your spending? Is it to find extra money to put towards debt? Is it to speed up your savings? Is it to help you gain more control of how you live your life? What is it?

That purpose and your goals will determine your priorities. Your priorities for your money and your priorities for your home. Let's use these priorities to help us put together our toolbox.

For our cutting costs tool box, the first thing you will need is a budget. Oh yes.... the dreded B WORD! This is such a simple tool, but so many people neglet to utilize it, or they only utilize it for a short while and discard it because they find it too restrictive and limiting.

We are going to use the budget as a tool to help you make better choices with your money and foster habits that lead to a healthier financial future. This budget is about seeking God, putting our money and finances in His hands, and asking Him to direct you. When we are following God, we will not be limited, but we will have freedom!

If you need help creating a simple budget, there are lots of great resources to help you do that. On Dave Ramsey's website here, you will find a great tool to create a budget. I also have an excel spreadsheet that we created to use for our budget in our home that I would be happy to share with anyone who would be interested.
This would be a great tool to create together with your husband. Your budget should reflect your purpose and your priorities for this months challenge. It's your written plan that tell you where your meny is going to go BEFORE you get your money.

After you have your budget, you're going to construct your cash flow management system. There are a wide variety of systems in this big world people use to manage how they spend their money. For this challenge I'm going to ask you to put together an envelope system. Use it and see how it helps you to stick to your bugdet for this month. If you don't like it, you can always go back to your old ways.

Some of your categories can be paid online via E payment or pay pal. All other categories will be CASH ONLY! These categories usually are food, gas, child care, date night, commisssion chores, mad money, etc. Take your envelopes and write the name of one of the categories on each envelope. Then, on the front or the back, you will write the amount that goes into each envelope and when. If your hubby gets paid twice a month or bi-weekly, you'll want an easy reminder of how much cash to put in each envelope.

Each payday, simply pull out the amount of cash needed from the atm or directly from the bank and split up the cash between all of your envelopes.

To store these and keep them handy, you can put them in an accordion check file, or put them in a pencil pouch for a 3 ring binder and keep them in your home management binder (tomorrow).
When you need to go somewhere and you need cash to buy food, gas, pay bills, etc... all you have to do is pull out that envelope and put it into your bill fold. As you spend the cash, put your receipt into the respective envelope, and this will help you keep track of where your money went.

After you pull all of your cash from your account, take your debit card and credit card out of your pocket and put it away some where safe. For this month, suspend the use of plastic and use cash only. The purpose of cash only is to help you be aware and think more about where your money is going. There is less thought when you swipe a debit or credit card because there is less of an emotional attachment to it. You may have a brief emotional high when using your plastic, but that high is only temporary and turns to stress when your balance your account or receive your statement and find that you spent more than you remembered. There's more thought when using cash because it's cold hard cash and when it's gone, it's gone.

So, you are free to spend from each envelope until the cash is gone. When the cash is gone, stop spending. Don't use your plastic. Don't borrow money from another envelope. Simply stop spending.

Tomorrow we'll go over assembling our home management system.

Until then, Be blessed.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Just a weekend greeting :)

Things have been quiet on here today :). Is everyone having an eventful weekend?

I worked last night as a server and got home pretty late. This morning Jordan had a soccer game and her team won this week!!! Then after that we went to CrossFit Tulsa where Jerimiah is a trainer/strength coach and cheered him on as he took part in a fundraiser workout. Today CrossFit Gyms across the USA held what was called "Fight Gone Bad". It's a fundraiser workout to benefit "Athletes for a Cure" and "Wounded Warrior". Jerimaih did a great job and beat his personal scoring goal on this workout.. I am so proud of him! Then we went to Chick Fil A for lunch to celebrate!
After Chick Fil A I went to Michael's to use some 50% off coupons I got offline. I found a knitting tote bag and a yarn keeper on clearance, and with using one of my cupons I got them both for only $10.00! I normally wouldn't of bought them since I have quite a few tote bags, but I was tired and didn't have the wil power to resist. Plus I don't splurge on myself often so I think it was ok. I gave Jordan the other coupon and let her use it, and she bought a yarn keeper too, althought she doesn't plan on using it for that, she has other plans for it.... oh well... ;)

Then we came home, I took a nap, and then fixed dinner. After the girls went to bed, we snuggles on the couch to watch Lord of the Rings, but hubby kept falling asleep. So now I'm catching up on dishes, and getting outfits together for tomorrow.

I better get off of here. I just wanted to wish everyone a great weekend!

Be blessed.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Evicting Clutter Tool Box

This week is prep week for our 31 day challenge beginning October 1st.

Yesterday I gave you the materials needed for your financial tool box. Today you get your list of what you will need as we evict clutter from your home.

Here's what you will need:
  • 3-5 boxes/grocery bags/trash bags
  • One 3 ring divider with a pack of 10 divider tabs. OR
  • Card File Box, Index cards, and card file dividers.
  • A Quick Cleaning kit
  • A timer
You will need 3 to 5 boxes or bags as you are de cluttering, and more boxes or trash bags to store or giveaway stuff. You can get boxes easily from any store when they stock their merchandise. My favorite boxes to store stuff in are computer paper case boxes. They are fairly sturdy so you can stack them and they usually have a lid. You can y get these boxes almost any day. Simply call any office supply store or Kinkos and ask them if you can have their boxes when they restock their paper.

Your 3 ring binder or card file box will be used to create a home management system. As you go through this challenge, if you find that you like both the binder system and the card system you can combine the two. In the scrap booking section of Wal Mart I found clear plastic inserts for my 3 ring binder that have pockets designed for pictures. They come in 3x5 size of 4x6 sizes and easily fit either size of index card.

Your quick cleaning kit will be used to quickly clean off any surface that you have decluttered, so you can give your items a nice clean home when you put them back :)

For your quick cleaning kit you will need:
  • A small 2 gallon bucket or a carry all tray
  • Dust Cloths
  • A feather duster
  • Dusting Spray or Wood Oil
  • Glass Cleaner
  • An old toothbrush
Your timer will be used to help you focused and on track of the task you are doing. You can use either a turn dial kitchen timer or a digital kitchen timer. Pampered Chef sells a kitchen timer that can be cliped on to an apron, stuck onto a metal object with a magnet, or stood upright.

That's it! Monday and Tuesday we'll start to come up with our plan of action for the challenge! I'm so excited and looking forward to taking this challenge with you ladies. I am anxious to see how we bless our homes and how God blesses us!

Have a great weekend!

Tomatoeless Stuffed Peppers

Friday Show and Tell time with Canada Girl!

If you want to join us
Click here!

My Friday's show and tell isn't really a show and tell... because I don't have any pitures. I killed my digital camera a few weeks ago, and my phone will not link with my new computer. Go figure.


My meal planned for last night was stuffed peppers. I started pulling all of my ingredients out to get some early prep done, and I realized I have NO TOMATO SAUCE! Not only did I not have any tomato sauce, I had no tomatoes in any form!

What to do? All of the recipes I have seen for stuffed peppers called for tomato (sauce, crushed, diced, etc...) Do I put this recipe off and quick thaw something else, or do I improvise?

I decided to improvise! I scrounged around in my cabinet to see what I could find. I found one lone can of chicken broth that had been forgotten. So I decided to try that and see how it turned out. My family loved them, and actually asked for more, which never happens when I make stuffed peppers.

So here's my "improvised" recipe:

Tomato-less Stuffed Peppers

  • 4 medium green bell peppers.
  • 1 cup brown rice, uncooked
  • 1 cup dry black beans, or 1 can black beans
  • 1 lb ground turkey sausage
  • 1 1/2 tspn basil (optional)
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 8 oz block of cheddar cheese
Quick soak black beans, and then simmer on stove top. While beans are simmering, steam brown rice. Place rice in steamer and use 2 cups chicken broth in place of water for the rice. Steam until rice is done. Thaw and brown turkey sausage. Retain juice from turkey sausage and set aside until time to assemble stuffed peppers.

45 minutes before dinner time, pre heat oven to 400 degrees F. Pull out a 9x13 baking pan. Lightly grease if need be.

Wash green peppers. Cut peppers in half from TOP to BOTTOM! (Not cutting the tops off). Rinse insides and remove seeds and stem. Pat dry.

In a bowl, combine black beans, turkey sausage, 1 1/2 cups to 2 cups brown rice. Add basil if desired. Mix together. Scoop mixture into each pepper half and place in 9x13 dish.

While peppers are baking, grate cheese. With a kitchen scale measure cheese into 8 1oz portions.

Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F. Turn off oven. Pull out baking dish and top each stuffed peppers with 1 oz shredded cheddar. Place dish back in oven for a few minutes to melt cheese.

Serve to your family :)

Be Blessed

Frugal Family Fun!

Head's up everyone! Tomorrow you can get into any Smithsonian affiliated museum for free with a free pass. Simply go here to find a museum close to you and then click on the "Admission Card" tab to print out your free museum admission card.

I found several Oklahoma Museums Listed

Confederate Memorial Museum & Cemetery

Gilcrease Museum

Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art

Oklahoma History Center
Oklahoma City

Science Museum Oklahoma
Oklahoma City

Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch

Will Rogers Memorial Museum

Go take a peak and see what's interesting near you!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cutting Costs Toolbox

This week is prep week for our 31 day challenge beginning October 1st.

Yesterday we looked at the condition our finances our currently in, and hope fully we identified habits that brought us to our current condition. Some of our habits are good habits, some are bad habits, but they are habits nonethless and part of our behavior.

Today we are going to start putting together our toolbox to help us cut our costs. Our toolbox will help us become good stewards of what God has delegated to us financially. It will be fairly simple to put together, and I'm guessing you won't even have to leave the house to aquire one thing :)

Here's what you need to gather:
  • Your purpose for participating in this challenge
  • Your past expenses sheets from yesterday
  • A fresh new sheet to create a budget and a pencil OR
  • Your current budget
  • Letter size envelopes
  • A zippered pencil pouch for a 3 ring binder or an accordion style check file box.
That's it. These tools are fairly simple, but they can be used to effectively help you manage your money.

Now I do want to ask you a question. Who's in charge of the money management in your home?

Is it just you? Try to encourage your husband to make decisions with you. Ask him for his opinion when you make financial desicions. And respect his opinion.

Is it just your husband? Get more involved! I have heard multiple stories of women who have experienced a family tragedy and found them selves alone and had no clue the status of their finances. Ask him about the budget. Ask him how much debt you have. Ask him where the money goes.

Ask him in a non combative way, and don't nag him, and don't start an argument if you find the money is going to something you don't totally agree with.

If you are in a situation where you are primarily responsible for the finances and he shows no interest, or if you have no clue where the money goes and your husband won't include you, then do the best you can and trust God.

This challenge is not intended to cause strive and division between you and your husband.
This challenge is about you. Your behaviors, your habits, your spending patterns.
Do your part and believe God to do His in regards to your husband.

Ladies, tomorrow I'll finish giving you the rest of what you will need to gather to complete your challenge tool box.

Until then Be blessed.

Look Closely! You'll find a surpise!

This was sent to me via email and I had to share:

Look closely at the package. Just below the words Fresco Lavado....

Don't forget this brand of fresh lettuce.

What probably happened is, the water the lettuce was washed in
contained polliwogs and these became fresh new frogs, right in the packages.

So if you're looking for salad fixins with a little more body, then be sure and try this brand.

Don't forget, it's the extra care that Mexican companies take that makes the difference.

This just makes me want to go get a nice baggie of lettuce.. don't you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cutting Costs...

This week is prep week for our 31 day challenge beginning October 1st.

Yesterday we got an overall view of the condition of our home. Today we are going to look at the condition of our finances.

Does this scare some of you? No... don't squeeze your eyes shut trying to keep from looking... no... it's ok.... come on... you can take a peek.... just a peek... Don't be afraid. God is with you here and now.

Today's home work is going to be a little bit more intensive than just a walk around the house taking notes. So I would set aside 30 minutes or more for this assignment. This may be a good time to put the kids in front of a movie so they can be occupied without distracting you.

To get a clear look at your finances we need to look at where you are now. We need to see what habits and behaviors have gotten us to this point. We need to determine what habits are good habits and what habits are unhealthy.

What I want you to do is gather your financial records for the past 3 months. I'm not going to ask you to drag out each and every receipt, but simply pull out your bank and/or credit card statements. If you don't have them in paper form, most banks and credit card companies have statements you can view online. Don't have any statements? Don't have any idea how to get one? Don't sweat it. Just do the best you can.

Also grab a three pieces of paper and a pen. On each piece of paper I want you to write the name of one month (June/July/August) at the top and make a list of categories down the left margin of your paper:
  • Tithe
  • Taxes
  • Savings
  • Insurance (Health/Life)
  • Car (Car Payment/Insurance/Tag and Taxes)
  • Gas/Convenient store
  • House (Mortgage Pmt/Rent Pmt/Property Taxes)
  • Phone
  • Utilities
  • Food/Groceries
  • Clothing
  • Child Care
  • Legal Expenses
  • Vacation Fund
  • Christmas Fund
  • Date Nights
  • Misc Expenses.
You may want to leave several lines between each category in case you have a category that has lots of transactions.

Now, I want you to take your statements for each month. Start at the top, work your way down, and put each and every expense next to a category.

For example, if the first debit on your statement was $120.00 to Krogers Grocery, that would be lists under Food/Groceries. That whole purchase might not of been only food, but we are not going to analyze that now, so we'll just file that under groceries in general.
Let's say the next debit is $38.00 to QuickTrip, write that next to Gas/Convenient store. We don't know if it was all gas or gas and some snacks, but we're not going to rack our brains trying to figure out how much was actually gas and how much was snacks and should be considered food. So just list it there.

Now, some of you this this will be easy, because you already have a budget and all you have to do is pull out your budget and see what is budgeted for each category. WRONG! I want you to see how you are ACTUALLY spending your money. We may THINK we know how much we are spending, but it's good to see how much we ACTUALLY are. Look at each and every transaction and give it a category. I want you to account for every single penny.

When you finish the first month's statement(s) simply start on the next month and keep going till you complete all 3 months.

Now, total up each category for each month, and then add all those totals together for each month.

So.... how did you do? You didn't have a heart attack did you?

How much did you spend each month? Is it more than what your total monthly income was? Was it under your total monthly income? Is it close to what you thought it would be? Were all three months about the same or did your total expenses fluctuate?

Now, we need to see where we can adjust. Most of your expenses will be fixed expenses, like your utilities, mortgage/rent, taxes, etc. But there are some expenses that we can adjust. The two usual suspects are food and gas. But lets look creatively at some of the other categories and see if we can trim them as well.
Look at your Misc Expenses category. Does it reveal that you have a yarn fetish and spend a great deal at Hobby Lobby? Well.. if so that could definately be trimmed.
What about your date night category? Could you get creative about date nights and find cheep alternatives to direct that extra cash some where else?
Clothing is a category we can get creative with. Or it can be cut out all together depending on what's in the closets right now.
Another one is car insurance and life insurance. How long have you been holding your current policies? Maybe it's time to start shopping around. Life insurance premiums are low, because companies are competing for customers who are recluctant to buy in this unstable financial market.
What about your car payment? Do you have a car payment? Can you refinance your car? Or better yet, can you sell your current car and get another one cheeper? Or even better, can you sell your car and do without that car for a while?

Now don't go through just yet and make your full plan of attack. Just make note of what areas can be cut back on and what areas can't. Then pray about it and ask God to give you some creative ideas. Go to your husband, and let him know what your'e doing, and ask him to pray about it too. (You also want to let him know what your doing so he has some fore warning that the spending is about to change.)

Now that we have a fairly good overview of where we are, we can put together a plan of attack! But before we put together a plan, we need to put together a tool box.

Tomorrow and Friday I'm going to give you a list of things to collect over the weekend and the first of next week. These things will be our tools of the trade. They will be what we use to help us execute our plan. And our plan is what we will strategize to come up with on Monday and Tuesday.

"How few there are who have courage enough to own their Faults, or resolution enough to mend them!" Poor Richard's Almanac

Be Blessed today.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Evicting Clutter....

This week is Prep Week for our 31 day challenge.
Today we are going to analyze each of our rooms so we can develop a strategy. So for our home work today you will need a notebook, a pen (to make it permanent), and your two walking feet.
I want you to take 15 minutes today and take a tour of your home. Focus on your kitchen, bathroom, entry way, living room, the kids bedroom(s), and your bedroom.
As you tour your home, look at your home through the eyes of a guest. In each room take note of trouble spots and clutter collectors. Now, just take note of them, but don't tackle them just yet. We are just getting an overall view of your home.
Is your bedroom a peaceful haven? Is your kitchen inviting to your family to share meals and time together? Does your living room say "welcome to our home"?
Or is your bedroom doing double duty as a storage room? Is your kitchen table piled high with laundry and paperwork? Can you even find your kitchen table? Is your living room unkept and cluterred? Can you remember what your couch looks like?? :P
Please note, your home is your home. You live here. They should have the feeling of housing a family. But our home should not be abused.
We shouldn't abuse our bodies because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the same applies to our physical homes. Our homes house us and we need to take care of them and be good stewards of them.
Now, that you have your purposes for accepting this challenge, and that you have notes of trouble spots written down (if you don't have your purpose written out please go to yesterdays post and do so), put them in a safe place. Right now put them in your bible for safe keeping. Later we'll go through assembling a house hold notebook, so keep your plans and purposes handy and safe until then..
Monday and Tuesday of next week we'll put together our strategy for evicting all of our clutter and taming our trouble spots.

Be blessed today!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Countdown Begins

31 Days of Less
Cutting Costs and Evicting Clutter!!!

Alright ladies! The count down begins! We are at 9 days and counting until October 1st comes and we begin our challenge. What's the challenge you may ask? Our challenge for the month of October is to live on less (financiallly) and live with less (clutter) in our lives.

In order to have a great start October 1st we need to take steps to start preparing now. We need to set goals, and strategize, and set priorities in place for what areas we would like to see changed.

So our homework for today, is to take 10 minutes and think about and write down your purpose for participating in this challenge. Do you have extra bills that you need to pay off quickly? Do you want to speed up your growth in your savings account? Do you want to have a debt free Christmas this year? Do you have a house that is brimming over with stuff, but you really have no clue what you have? Do you want to get rid of the junk in your life so there is more room for the better things?

Next... after you have your purpose for this challenge written down, take it to God. Ask God to help you come up with realistic and obtainable goals for you to work towards with in this challenge. Please read that sentence again. And again.
Please note the "Ask God" and "Realistic and obtainable" when it pertains to your goals.

So many times we get excited and gung ho about something new and exciting that we set our expectations higher than we can really achieve. Go to God, sit at the feet of Jesus, and let Him lead you and show you what HE would have you accomplish in this challenge. What HE shows you to do, HE will give you the strength to accomplish.

Please, shoot me an email or post in the comments what you would like to achieve in this month. My heart is to spend this week helping YOU come up with an outline of a plan to meet your goals. I don't want anyone to feel they have to tackle this challenge the same way I'm tackling it. My goals may be different from your goals. I want you to conquer your goals and move on to bigger ones!

Be blessed today!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

31 Days of Less Challenge!

This morning I was perusing my blog roll to catch up on some blog reading and I came across this post on Biblical Womanhood referencing OwlHaven's 30 day of nothing challenge. I haven't fully explored OwlHaven's new blog yet, but apparently every September she challenges herself to spend nothing for 30 days. Well... i'm not sure about NOTHING.... but sticking with a strict budget to cut back on expenses and spend nothing on any extras.

I'm intrigued. I'm interested. And although I found this challenge a bit late, I want to play along. Sounds fun. I need to really tighten down on our budget and cut out a lot anyway. Especially since I'm not going to be bringing in any extra income regularly.

I'm to late to join the challenge for September, so I'll make my challenge for October. That will be a hard month for us because it's Nightmare Season at our church and we'll have a lot of nights of us not being at home. But that makes it even more of a challenge i guess.

I also need to make a big effort to pare down on extras in the home. Such as an overflowing closet, kitchen cabinets packed with unused utensils, overflowing file cabinets, etc. So that would be a perfect challenge to go right along with tightening the budget. Clearing the clutter from home and wallet! What could be better!

So... anyone want to have a go at it with me? We have technically 1 week and 2 days from today to plan, strategize, and prepare for 31 days of decluttering our homes and our wallets. We would also have 31 days of encouraging each other and sharing tips. If you want to join sign up in the comments!

And if you need a cup of joe to moyivate you.. take this quiz.. Here's my coffee :)

You are a Black Coffee

At your best, you are: low maintenance, friendly, and adaptable

At your worst, you are: cheap and angsty

You drink coffee when: you can get your hands on it

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Our Great God

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Today is a great day!

Today is my last day as a manager at Applebee's. I will be working my last key hourly shift tonight, and turning in my keys. I have a few server shifts to work... but I will not have any more long nights closing the store as a manager.
We have to adjust to life w/o my extra income coming in regularly. But God is good. He is our provider. He is our source. And I believe that every need we have will be met according to His riches and Glory.
I can now look forward to homeschooling w/o being tired from the previous night. I am so excited!
I love my life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Less for me.. New to you Tuesday!!

I apologize nothing was posted last week. I've taken a sabattical from posting for a bit since our schedule is so busy.

So anyway.. I had only one posting on my last giveaway Tuesday... so TINA (my wonderful friend) wins the books (if she would like them). If not I believe I know some one who's kitchen would like to make them a home.

This week... I have.................... Drum roll please......................................................

Winsor Pilates!!!!

I have a set of 6 DVD's from the Winsor Pilates series....
  • Instructional DVD with 20 minute beginner work out
  • Power Sculpting with Resistance Band
  • Bun and Thigh Sculpting
  • Maximum Burn Basics and Fat Burning workout
  • Ab Sculpting
  • Accerated Body Sculpting
These have been played but still in great shape. Since my hubby is now a CrossFit Strength coach I no longer use these but work out with him. So these are waiting for some one to give them a new home :)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mommy Homework 09-14-08

MOMMY HOMEWORK: Living Out the High Call of Proverbs 31!

September 12, 2008

Wondering what Mommy Homework is? Each week we have "assignments" to answer and we share our answers on Cindy Rushton's website. We all have fun reading each other's answers and learning along each other.
Want to join us? Meet us here on Cindy's Desktop.

“Is it possible to live a life that resembles Proverbs 31? How do you do it? What does Proverbs 31 look like in your life?”

Good question.
When I used to read these these verses my head would swim! How could ANYONE here on this earth live up to these high standards set within these verses. I realize these verses were a mom describing the type of women he should seek out to make his wife. But I also thought it was a joke, and maybe this mother never really intended her son to marry so she gave him and unrealistic ideal!!!
But then….. I realized… every verse in the Bible is inspired by the Spirit of God. Given for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of all who read. That included these verses. They were meant to be a standard for all women. A list of goals to work towards. And words of comfort for the woman who doesn’t see herself within the light of these words.
You see….. we, in our own strength or in the kingdom of darkness, could never meet these standards. When we read these words, and all we see is something that we must strive, within ourselves, to become…. it becomes bondage. it’s a list that becomes a bunch of rules and standards we compare ourselves to. And we do just that. We do nothing but look at the list, ourselves, compare ourselves to that list, and then see nothing but shortcomings. No where, in that mindset and thinking was there, or will there ever be exhortation, edification, or comfort. There is only discouragement as we see the woman we will never become.
But we were never meant to strive to become this virtuous. At least in our own strength. This is a woman that we have already become. When we came under the Lordship of Jesus… this is who God restored us to be. And only when we see ourselves as this virtuous woman, can we truly become this virtuous woman. And we become this virtuous woman when we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us in all truth. This truth will be worked out more and more each day as we follow Him.
Will we get there the first day? No…. but by God’s grace we will.
What does Proverbs 31 look like in my life???
Well… if you looked in my home today you would see lots of fabric on the kitchen table from 3 current projects. You would see dishes piled in the sink. You would see an unmade bed because we left early for church. You would see clutter everywhere. And the disarray of my home would suggest that I am not a virtuous woman. Looking at this in my own strength, I would get discouraged and start to believe the lie from the devil that I am not one nor will ever be one.
But what I see around me right now and what I see in the Word are two different things. And I choose to see myself in the light of the Word. And then I will choose to roll up my selves, ask God for direction, and lay down some elbow grease.
How it works itself out in my life each day, is when there is a situation or a circumstance in my life that tells me I’m not a virtuous woman, I simply remind myself (and sometimes the circumstances) who God already made me to be and that these circumstances will change. Through Faith… By God’s Grace. They will change.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Save money.... make yogurt!

Today I'm working up a batch of yogurt. Yogurt is a pretty popular item at our house.
It's versatility is only limited by our imagination. It can be eaten as is out of the cup, mixed in a smoothie, topped with granola, mixed in with fruit, frozen for a cool snack, or even used to baste a chicken in a roaster to add a unique flavor. It can even be used as a face mask!

If I let them, my girls would eat three or four cups of it a day. They love it.

When we are out and about on errand day I will stop at Braums and our lunch will be from the mini grocery store: yogurt, fruit , cheese, sunflower nuts, and water or milk. (Healthy fast food for under $15.00 for all of us!)
Braums has their yogurt for about $.59 for a 6 oz flavored portion or an 8 oz plain unflavored portion.

Needless to say, if I bought all the yogurt we ate from the store it could really add up cost wise.
This is one area that making it yourself could free up some extra dollars to be used elsewhere.
All you need to make yogurt is:
  • A yogurt incubator or a makeshift yogurt incubator
  • Milk
  • Dry non fat instant milk powder (optional)
  • Sweetener (optional)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup plain non fat yogurt for your "starter"
  • Vanilla extract of flavoring of choice (optional)
  • A candy thermometor
  • A pan to heat the milk in
  • Time to scald milk, cool milk, and pour into an incubator

I picked up two Salton yogurt incubators from a thrift store for about $5.00. They work great and each one makes 5 6 oz portions. If you don't have an incubator you can use glass pint or quart size mason jars and come up with a makeshift incubator.

My milk comes from Swan's Dairy in Claremore. Each gallon is $3.75 and it is raw, organic, unhomogenized milk. I have tried recipes that use only reconstituted dry milk but I didn't like the taste and consistency. If I have dry milk on hand I'll add some to my batch for some extra protien, but if I don't I don't worry about it. The yogurt comes out fine without it.

I like to use honey, stevia, or sucralose (Splenda) for sweetener, but will use sugar if I'm in a pinch.

Your starter can be store bought plain yogurt or it can be yogurt from your last batch. If you use store bought yogurt for your starter be sure the label says it has live active cultures.

Lets add up the cost of home made yogurt and compare it to the cost of store bought yogurt.

1 gallon milk can make 4 batches of 5 6oz portions of plain yogurt (20 portions over all). 2 cups store bought yogurt can be starter for 4 batches, or you can use yogurt from prior batches. 1 1/3 cups dry milk is optional but I'll include it here. Sweetener is optional as well... but what the hey... let's include that cost too.

  • Milk $3.75 per gallon
  • $1.20 for 2 cups starter yogurt
  • Estimating $2.00 for the dry milk
  • Estimation $2.00 for the honey or sucralose used for sweetener
  • $9.00 approx total cost for 20 portions

Each 6 oz portion is approximately .49. Now that's adding in the cost for the dry milk, the store bought starter if you didn't have a prior batch to use, and the cost of honey. Omitting the dry milk and swetener would of course reduce the cost of each portion.

But even with that factored in, $.49 cents versus $.59 cents per portion looks better for me! Over 20 portions I will save about $3.00. I'll take that thank you very much!

It doesn't look like much but that will add up even if you just stick it in you kids piggy banks. Plus the fact that home made yogurt is fresher and I know what went into it makes it even more worth it.

There are plenty of home made yogurt recipes out there... so I won't regurgitate one by typing it all out here. But I'll give you plenty of links to information on how to make your own. And hey... some even have pictures!!!





This one has techniques to make yogurt without a yogurt incubator: http://homecooking.about.com/od/dairyrecipes/r/bldairy7.htm

These two are the recipes I use: http://homecooking.about.com/od/dairyrecipes/r/bldairy9.htm


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Be Thankful

Today I am thankful for:
1. The rain that brought us a nice cool day.
2. I have food in the fridge, and gas in the gas tank.
3. I have been blessed with 1 awesome husband and 3 beautiful daughters.
4. I have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus, and I will never have to go to hell.
5. I can have an abundant life on this earth.
6. I am healthy and strong, and can chip away at my to do list :)
7. For my knittng needles and yarn and my ability to take those two things and create something practicle and pretty.
8. For the friends I have now and the new friends in my future.
9. For the trees that are still hanging onto their green color.
10. I will get to see my hubby tonight and I won't be working :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Less for me... new for you Tuesday!!

Alright... I guess this will really be a test of if anyone reads my blog... but..

I've been saying for a long time now that I have too much stuff. And I need to pare down. REALLY pare down. I do take part in the local Free Cycle group, but I would like to also bless some ladies out there too.

So what I'm doing is this... Throughout the weeks ahead I'll be doing some major decluttering, a little at a time. Some stuff will go into the FreeCycle pile, but I'm going to pick out one or two things to post on here for a giveaway. I think it would be fun to have a drawing, don't you??

Here's the rules: I will post what is up for give away. Entries will be open from Tuesday when it is posted until the following Monday evening. To get one entry, you have to bless some one else. Pretty simple. Go out and do something to bless some one. Help an old lady across a street, give some one food, help out a new mom by babysitting, or simply visit a friend. Then post a comment briefly telling what you did. You can post more than once and each blessing will get you one entry into the drawing. I'm doing it this way to help give others ideas of what they can do to be a blessing with what they have.

I will draw a name Monday evening and post on the Next Less For Me Tuesday who the winning lady will be. Then you'll have one day to email me your name and address so I can box it up and ship it!

Now here's the hitch. I don't have a camera at the moment. I'm saving up for one (Giving me a camera would get you an entry into the drawing ;) So I'll try to borrow one to get pics of what I'm posting, but no promises. But I do promise you I won't post any junk. If I post something you can use, great. If not then maybe next week.

Up for grabs this week:

4 books from my kitchen!

Bottom Lines' Best-Ever Kitchen Secrets
Bottom Line's Best-Ever Home Secrets (sorry no Picture)
Bottom Line's Secret FOOD CURES
BH&G A Festive Christmas
I actually did use all of these... and they have lots of great tips. But I think I've gotten all of the use out of them I will get so I'm going to pass them on.
Alrght.. lets go out there and be a blessing!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY September 1, 2008...
Outside My Window...
The sun is waking up the outside world. The neighborhood is very quiet this morning and most of the neighbor's cars are still in the drive ways.

I am thinking...
Can't we have more days for our holiday? Tomorrow we start a pretty non stop routine for quite a while. Sigh...

From the learning rooms...
I am working on the lesson plans for this week. I want to make new file folder games for Joelle and go to Letteroftheday.com and look up the suggested activities for infants so I can include Jada in on our school time.

I am thankful for...
Having one whole day where both of us are off work. We can be a family together for one day. I should take advantage of it and have a cleaning spree today, but I don't feel like it.

From the kitchen...
Yesterday I made home made butter. This evening I'll make a batch of yogurt and find some rennet so I can make some mozzarella.

I am wearing....
A denim skirt and a t shirt.

I am creating...
I am currently working on my home makers master plan binder. I have 3 unfinished knitting projects that need attention and 3 slings that need finishing for friends.

I am going...

to my moms today. We are leaving mid morning and going for lunch and letting the girls swim for an hour or so and coming back home for a restful evening.

I am reading...
My reading has stalled right now..... but...
The organized homeschool
A biblical home education...
The power of a positive mom...

I am hoping...
That in the busy season ahead we can carve out days for just family and cherish the moments together...

I am hearing...

The washing machine washing the bed sheets and Jordan putting away the dishes. Air1.com is playing on the internet.

Around the house...
I am swimming in laundry and clutter on everything! It's time I pare down.. AGAIN! It's time to thin out baby's outgrown clothes and go through all the closets and get rid of stuff stored there. I am efforting to have 4 uninterrupted days of school in a row this week. 2M starts tomorrow evening and I am so excited!

One of my favorite things...
Actually waking up this morning and my hubby still being home!!!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...
Soccer for Jordan
Making a master menu and meal plans
Bake cookies
Art classes for Jordan
Work this weekend

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

For more entries go to Peggy's blog: http://thesimplewoman.blogspot.com/