Monday, December 30, 2013

Some New Year's Resolutions Worth Making

Here are some ideas that will help improve your financial bottom line. 

1.  Create a will and name guardians for minor children. 
2.  Buy term life insurance policies to take care of your family in the unfortunate event that you can't.
3.  Contribute to a company sponsored retirement plan at least up to any match that might be given.
4.  Open a Roth IRA and contribute as much as you can up to the limit for your age and/or income,
5.  Create a realistic budget and stick to it.
6.  Start an emergency fund if you don't have one.  If you do, add to it.
7.  Put some type of savings on auto pilot your checking account so you never have the chance to spend the money first.
8.  Pay down any credit card debt that you may have.
9.  Pay down any other consumer debt that you might have.
10.  Pay down your mortgage.
11.  Start a college account for each of your children.
12.  Watch Suze Orman every Saturday night that you can.  I am a Suze fan, although some people are not.  As with anything do your own research.
13.  Create a menu plan using those items lurking in your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer.  Make a list of what you need to complete those meals.  Stick to your list when you go to the store!
14.  Cut down on how often you eat out.
15.  Commit to making multiples when you make lasagna or other casseroles and freeze the extras.  Pull one out when you don't feel like cooking instead of picking up the phone and ordering a pizza.  Do this at least x number of times per month.
16.  Find some free things that your family will enjoy doing and DO THEM!
17.  Find parents with different work schedules than yours and do some free babysitting for each other.
18.  Learn to coupon.  Do it reasonably.
19.  Color your own hair instead of going to a salon.
20.  Find someone to carpool with.
21.  Give up an expensive habit.
22.  Start a change jar.  You can even throw in dollar bills!
23.  Get a library card.
24.  Commit to calling utility and insurance companies to try and get better rates.
25.  Learn to use a slow cooker.
26.  Have x number of no spend days per week.
27.  Teach your kids about money. 
28.  Organize your paperwork.
29.  Donate to a charity or a worthy cause.

I have done all of these (except #17) over the years with varying levels of success.  GOOD LUCK!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

January Menu Plan

The Menu Plan for January - in no particular order!  I am just listing the main items for most days unless it is a certain veggie that goes with a certain entrée.  We are a little OCD that way.  For example, we must have corn with scalloped potatoes!  We will have fruit or veggies with every dinner.  I have a freezer full of veggies, some fresh fruit and some canned fruit.  I will also pick up ingredients for fresh side salads a couple of times per month in addition to the nights that we have salad as the main entrée.
 
1.  Chicken Alfredo Pizza with homemade crust.
2.  Ham and Scalloped potatoes - green giant steamers
3.  Spaghetti with meat sauce - side salad
4.  Turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and a mixture of peas and corn
5.  Club sandwiches - bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese and leftover turkey
6.  Turkey pot pie - x2
7.  Turkey soup
8.  Turkey gravy on toast - simple, but one of my favorite meals
9.  Lasagna x3 - 1 for dinner and 2 for the freezer.  Lasagna is a family favorite, but it is a pain to make, so I always make 3.  It doesn't take much more effort to make 3 over making 1.
10.  Tacos
11.  Hamburg gravy, mashed potatoes and corn.  I think this is a regional thing in our part of the country.
12.  Pepperoni pizza with homemade crust
13.  Ham and cheese omelets with toast - my kids love this dinner!
14.  Chicken wings and salad
15.  Chicken penne pasta alfredo bake x2 (1 for the freezer) with a side of baked broccoli.  My youngest would never eat broccoli until I started roasting it.  It is delicious.
16.  Haddock - lemon pepper broiled for us and fried for the boys, butter parsley potatoes and a veggie.
17.  Grilled chicken salads - another favorite for my kids.  I love that they love salad.
18.  Wedding soup - a great way to get spinach and several other veggies into the kids!
19.  Ham and Bean soup
20.  Tuna noodle casserole - an all in one dish with peas and carrots.  Son #2 hates this so he will eat leftovers or fend for himself.
21.  Potato Soup
22.  Cheesy ham and corn chowder
23.  Taco salads
24.  Chicken nuggets with mac and cheese - pretty much just for the kids on a night we need an easy meal.  Hubby and I will likely eat leftovers instead.
25.  Fried potatoes and kielbasa
 
I am only planning for 25 days instead of 31.  That will leave some days for leftovers and days that we will not be at home.  For example, I know that 1 of the days we will be away celebrating my nephews birthday with him and that will likely involve eating out. 
We will not eat the meals in this order.  I made the plan based on what we already have at home to help limit grocery shopping.  We will need fresh produce, ricotta, hamburg, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, bread, lunch meat, chicken broth, fresh chicken breasts for salad (I have frozen cooked chicken for the other chicken dishes) and I am sure a few other things. 
When I sit and make a menu plan like this I realize how much stuff we actually have in the house.  This will hardly make a dent in most categories of our food inventory. 
 
*Today I cooked 17 lbs. of boneless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces in onion and olive oil.  I used some for chicken and rice today and froze the rest in family meal sized baggies.  I also did 8 lbs. of ground beef and browned it with onions and froze in meal sized baggies.  I won't use all of this in the January meal plan, so I will have some left going into February.  I also made up 5 dinner size baggies of ham right after Christmas.  I will buy fresh hamburger when I do lasagna.  I will not thaw out what I have to refreeze it in the lasagna.  It would probably be ok, but I would rather be safe than sorry.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

I Did It! I opened a Roth IRA! And College is looming!

Well I am definitely late to this rodeo seeing as I am in my 40's.  We have been saving for 2 decades in my husband's 401k.  So we have been saving, but have never taken advantage of the Roth tax free growth. 
When we were paying off student loans, paying for daycare and paying a mortgage we wanted the immediate tax savings of a 401k even though that wasn't logically our best move.  My husband's 401k has a match for the first 8% but we actually contribute a much higher percentage%.  We really need to revisit this decision too.  It would be better to just contribute the 8% and funnel the rest to a Roth for him.  I can't see tax rates going anywhere but up with the debt the USA is in, so I am thinking we should each be maxing out a Roth.  It is just hard to give up the immediate tax benefits, but I guess that is being short sighted. 
We also have college looming on the horizon for our 2 kids.  I have one that will be a junior and one that will be a senior in high school next year.  We have put $100 a month for each of them away since they were little and it will be barely enough to pay for one year each at a state school.  We just recently upped it to $150 each.  State schools run about $18,000/year here in PA.  We will look at private schools as I know they offer great scholarships and incentives in order to be competitive.  I sat on a scholarship committee for almost 10 years and know from looking at the applications that many students pay less for the more expensive private schools than state schools, so we will have quite a bit of research to do.  We should be able to supplement this a great deal from our yearly budget as we are now debt free.  My kids are only a year apart so that amount can go entirely to the oldest for his first year, will be split between the 2 of them the next 3 years and will go completely to the youngest the year after that.  If they take longer than 4 years that will be completely at their own expense.  The remainder will have to be supplemented by scholarships, jobs and student loans.  That is the plan.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Flu!

It started Christmas night after I was in bed.  We had a great holiday and everything went smoothly.  We went to my husband's grandmothers on Christmas Eve and then the late service that night where my sons were both acolytes.  Christmas morning we hosted a breakfast of toast, juice, coffee, omelets made to order, fried eggs, potatoes and Belgian waffles for 22 people.  We went to my in-laws Christmas afternoon with my parents.  All was good when I went to bed Christmas night until my youngest woke me at 4 in the morning because my oldest was sick and didn't want to wake me.  Apparently my husband had been up with them until 1 am because they had started with vomiting and diarrhea.  At 4 my oldest was super sick and didn't have the heart to wake me.  I ended up with it as did my husband.  We were all suffering on Thursday.  Today the kids and hubby are pretty good and I seem to be the last trying to shake this lovely bug.

No one has much of an appetite.  I was going to open my Roth Ira today with the $5500 I have socked away for it, but it just didn't happen.  I know I technically have until March or something to put $ in for 2013, but I am going to get it done before the 31st.  I need to work on some more definitive goals and a menu plan and I hope to do that tomorrow.  My brother's family is coming on Sunday to celebrate the holiday.  We decided to forgo exchanging presents this year.  Instead each member of my family donated money to my school for Christmas presents for needy kids.  We also decided to go to a nice restaurant instead of cooking, so that should be fun!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

January Goals

Short and Sweet...

1.  Add $1000 to emergency fund
2.  Add $500 to Roth IRA
3.  Menu plan around foods that we have on hand and shopping minimally.

It is that simple!

Go and visit Carla at my half dozen daily for some great inspiration for a low spend January!
http://halfdozendaily.typepad.com/my-half-dozen-daily/2013/12/who-else-wants-to-join-in-my-january-no-low-spend-challenge.html#comment-6a016300f919ba970d019b032f4487970c

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Plans for 2014

 I won't use the phrase "New Year's Resolution" and I want call these goals.  I just simply want to have a plan for 2013.  Simply put and in order of priority:
1.  Max out Roth IRA contribution for the year.
2.  Pay for a replacement car for my husband without incurring any debt.  Cost - anywhere north of $15,000.  We have been saving for this for over a year.  We plan on buying a recent model, low mileage, used car.  Wish Dave Ramsey would have come out with his "Drive Free Cars" video when I was younger and much dumber about cars!
3.  Pay for the replacement of our roof without incurring any debt.  Cost - I am guessing between $6,000 and $9,500.  We are in the process of saving for this right now.  
4.  Beef up emergency fund.  I would like to add 4k to this, but that might be next to impossible looking at goals 1,2 and 3.
 
Life happens and I might not  be able to achieve all of this, but putting it in writing gives me something to shoot for.  We will be traveling to Disney during the summer and that will be paid for from our checks leading up to the trip.  Somewhere down the road we need some replacement carpeting, but right now that does not seem like a priority.  Our first born will be a senior next year so we also have college or trade school looming on the horizon!
 
 

Menu Plan - Christmas Means Korv for Swedes!


I just came from the Annual Lucia festival at our local Lutheran Church.  The festival is always followed by a small gathering with traditional sweet treats along with Korv (yummo) and pickled herring (yucko).  It made me hungry for Korv so I stopped at the store on the way home and buy some even though this is supposed to be a light grocery shopping week!


Here is a photo of korv in its uncooked state.  I will parboil it, cut it into 2-3 inch pieces and finish it off by browning it in a frying pan.  We eat it with mashed potatoes with butter and corn any everyone in my family loves it!  I will try to remember to take a picture after I am done cooking it on Tuesday.  It might not look like anything exciting in its raw state, but trust me, looks are deceiving!! 
Onto the menu for the week:
 
Sunday - My kids were at my in-laws and they ate there.  I grabbed a bite at Lucia and my husband fended for himself.
Monday - roast beef with potatoes and carrots in the crock pot
Tuesday - korv, mashed potatoes and corn
Wednesday - I have no idea, but I am not cooking.  I am hosting craft night at my house so I am guessing my husband and kids will hide out at my in-laws.  They will either eat there or go to the Texas Hot before they visit.
Thursday - tacos
Friday - homemade pizza and tossed salad
Saturday - we will eat out as we will be out Christmas shopping

 

Weekend to do list so far... UPDATE: ALL DONE!


1.  Finish delivering what fruit we can from my son's  high school fundraiser.  2 people weren't home last night and one lady wants it delivered to work on Monday. - done except for Monday's delivery
2.  Finish a mountain of paperwork on a few of my students that is due on Monday. done and emailed in
3.  Shop today for loss leaders.
4.  Make a grocery/Rite Aid list for next week.  We don't need a lot, but we still need some things for Christmas breakfast.  I planned on driving to Jamestown, NY today to do some Christmas shopping and hit Sam's club while there.  There is a huge snowstorm looming, so that is not going to happen.  I more than likely won't make it there before the holidays now, so I need to get those breakfast items in my regular shopping.  Ah, the beauty of rural living in the Appalachian Mountain chain.  You have to drive at least 35 minutes to get to anything other than a grocery store, drug store, or dollar store.  Well that is a lie. I guess we do have a fabric store.  Go figure. Done - Nothing much that I want this week.
5.  Finalize plans for opening my Roth Ira sometime in the next week.  I have the $5500 ready to transfer to this new account.  I think I am going to set it up to draft $100 a week from my checking, so I never have to scrape together a large amount like this again.  I am not sure.  We shall see.  Done - going with Vanguard - will open on Thursday.  Disclaimer -I am not a financial advisor!  Please consult with an financial profession before picking investments!
6.  Count and roll change, from the jar for our Disney trip next summer.  I will deposit this to my local checking and transfer it to our remote Capital One 360 account to sit until we go.  I don't like much money laying around, so we count and transfer a couple of time per year.  Out of site, out of mind!  Rolled, deposited and transferred to Capital One 360.  It was $166.
7.  Cook something yummy since it is yucky outside.  Skipped - my mom had us for dinner yesterday which also took care of #11.  The kids are at my in-laws today.
8.  Make a list of what we have  and what we still need to pick up for Christmas gifts.
9.  File coupons.
10.  Try to sew one of those kitchen towels with a pot holder and button at the top to hang off the stove.  Should be easy, I just need to look for a how to video on youtube.  Done - I will post a pic sometime today.
11.  Go and visit my mom.
12.  Go to the Lucia Festival at my church with my mom on Sunday afternoon.  This is an old Swedish tradition.
13.  Make a menu plan for next week that again works from mostly what we have on hand.  The freezer and cupboards are bursting with items I have gotten on sale.  I don't do it to the point that I have stashs in my garage and basement, but my kitchen is packed!
14.  Lesson plans for next week.  Done and emailed in.
15.  Goal list for 2014.  This is going to be more a list of saving/spending objectives based on need and priority than a list of New Year's resolutions.

Not on the original list, but I made a jumbo receiving blanket yesterday.  Will post a pic of that later today too.  I should be able to knock the rest of this out sometime today.  The hard stuff is mostly already done!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

To Do This Weekend

I know this is a to do list, not Santa's list, but I couldn't resist the cute graphic for the holiday.
1.  Finish delivering what fruit we can from my son's  high school fundraiser.  2 people weren't home last night and one lady wants it delivered to work on Monday.
2.  Finish a mountain of paperwork on a few of my students that is due on Monday.
3.  Shop today for loss leaders.
4.  Make a grocery/Rite Aid list for next week.  We don't need a lot, but we still need some things for Christmas breakfast.  I planned on driving to Jamestown, NY today to do some Christmas shopping and hit Sam's club while there.  There is a huge snowstorm looming, so that is not going to happen.  I more than likely won't make it there before the holidays now, so I need to get those breakfast items in my regular shopping.  Ah, the beauty of rural living in the Appalachian Mountain chain.  You have to drive at least 35 minutes to get to anything other than a grocery store, drug store, or dollar store.  Well that is a lie. I guess we do have a fabric store.  Go figure.
5.  Finalize plans for opening my Roth Ira sometime in the next week.  I have the $5500 ready to transfer to this new account.  I think I am going to set it up to draft $100 a week from my checking, so I never have to scrape together a large amount like this again.  I am not sure.  We shall see.
6.  Count and roll change, from the jar for our Disney trip next summer.  I will deposit this to my local checking and transfer it to our remote Capital One 360 account to sit until we go.  I don't like much money laying around, so we count and transfer a couple of time per year.  Out of site, out of mind!
7.  Cook something yummy since it is yucky outside.
8.  Make a list of what we have  and what we still need to pick up for Christmas gifts.
9.  File coupons.
10.  Try to sew one of those kitchen towels with a pot holder and button at the top to hang off the stove.  Should be easy, I just need to look for a how to video on youtube.
11.  Go and visit my mom.
12.  Go to the Lucia Festival at my church with my mom on Sunday afternoon.  This is an old Swedish tradition.
13.  Make a menu plan for next week that again works from mostly what we have on hand.  The freezer and cupboards are bursting with items I have gotten on sale.  I don't do it to the point that I have stashs in my garage and basement, but my kitchen is packed!
14.  Lesson plans for next week.
15.  Goal list for 2014.  This is going to be more a list of saving/spending objectives based on need and priority than a list of New Year's resolutions.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thinking about what comes next...

I have been thinking about some goals and I find it hard for me to put myself out there and write about it.  I really am interested in finances but I feel like it is almost taboo to talk about.  I have always been very practical, but I feel like I have really been sharpening my frugal skills the past couple of years.  In my opinion there is a big difference between being frugal and being cheap.  To me cheapness means that you save money at any cost without concern for yourself, others or what is right.  Frugality is a based on not being wasteful and watching for deals.  It is cheap, and extremely disgusting, to share dental floss like on the show extreme cheapskates.  It is frugal to get dental floss for free or next to nothing by cutting a coupon and pairing with a store sale. 
My frugality allows me to help others in many ways.  First and foremost I am able to share the items that I get for little or nothing with those in need.  I don't extreme coupon.  I believe in everything in moderation.  Secondly, I am able to increase my giving to charity because frugality frees up money in my budget.  I am frugal where it makes sense, but I am a very generous person.  I always tip at least 15% in a restaurant, usually more like 20% and on occasion more than 20%.  I give in many ways and to various causes.  I feel that I can't really get specific because I am not sure who reads my blog and I really don't want to put it all out there. 
We have started taking a vacation every year and I feel good about that.  It is important to have balance.  To me, meal planning and pairing coupons with a store sale equates to less money needed in the budget for groceries, which frees up money for other, more fun things!

Onto the goals:
1.  Enjoy the holidays relaxing with friends and family.

2.  FINALLY open a Roth IRA for myself before the end of the year.  We are in our 40's and have been saving for retirement for over 20 years, but have never used a Roth.  I know, it's crazy!  I have already put the money away to max it out for the year, I just need to go online and open one.  This will be on top of the other things we have already be doing to save for retirement.

3.  Plan what I need for Christmas breakfast, look for deals and get the food shopping done.  We host breakfast every year for anywhere from 15 to 25 people.  It started when our kids were toddlers and didn't want to leave their new toys Christmas morning.  We figured if we cooked a great breakfast family would come to us and they now look forward to it every year.  Fried eggs, scrambled eggs, omelets, ham, toast, homemade Belgian waffles, potatoes, cinnamon rolls, juice, and coffee are on the menu every year with a few other things that change from year to year.  We have a lot of counter space and we set up stations.  One person makes toast, one runs the waffle maker, one fries ham, etc.  It works out really well. 

4.  Go over my budget for 2014.  I have had it setup for about 2 months.  I just need to revisit it to see what needs tweaked.  I automated all of my bills a couple of years ago, so it is important to know what day each bill will be withdrawn from my checking so there is always enough money in the account to cover it.

5.  Finish my Christmas shopping.  What's left is mostly purchasing a few gift cards and then we need to wrap.  We cut way back this year.  We are not exchanging with the in-laws this year.  We are splitting the cost of our vacation house for next summer and that's that.  Also, we are not exchanging with my parents.  Instead we gave money to the school I teach at for gifts for students that are in need.  Much better than exchanging with each other.




I have been thinking a great deal about my goals for 2014, but am not ready to post yet.  That will be coming soon.  We have some big ticket items that we need to take care of and we don't want to incur any debt to do it.  New carpeting is at the bottom of that last and I don't know if we will be able to do that as we have too many other important things to pay for.  We will see.  Also, my oldest will be a senior next school year.  That means college costs are looming on the horizon for us!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Menu Plan 12-8-13

I am an avid coupon shopper and I currently have well stocked cupboards that we need to make sure we use.  I don't do the extreme couponing like you see on TLC but I will buy between 2 and 8 of something that is a rock bottom price.  I will also buy as many items as I have matching coupons for if it makes the item free.  I have only done this excessively (over 8 of something) with frozen veggies.  They are completely free only once or twice a year, so I fill 1 or 2 shelves in my upright freezer when that happens.
Ok - on to the menu plan using a lot of what we already have.

Sunday - cheesy hash brown bake with bacon, broccoli, corn muffins
Monday - baked Italian pasta with ground beef and topped with mozzarella, garlic bread and frozen green beans
Tuesday - chicken tortellini soup, leftover corn muffins
Wednesday - planned leftovers - Italian pasta and or chicken tortellini soup
Thursday - hamburger helper (blech- I won't eat it) and frozen mixed veggies
Friday - baked lemon pepper haddock, green giant steamed veggies that include little red potato wedges
Saturday - who knows if we will be home or out Christmas shopping

Notes-
Sunday's dinner was ok, but I won't be making it again.
KID #2 did not like the corn muffin experience and does not like them.
Kid #2 can make a sandwich on Tuesday to go with his soup if he would like.
I hate hamburger helper, but my family likes it.  It was free with coupons and will make a quick supper on a night that we are really busy.  I don't like overly processed foods, but I guess in moderation it might be considered ok.
When I was making the pasta bake, I also made the soup.  That means no cooking for the next 2 nights!
BEST OF ALL - I DON'T NEED TO BUY ANYTHING FOR THIS MENU!  I will shop for a few items that are almost free to add to the pantry and milk or fresh bread if run out and that is it!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What is going on with Blogger?

I had a few posts that never published over the past few weeks and they just showed up tonight?  I kept hitting publish back when I wrote them, but they wouldn't post.  Now tonight they all showed up together.  What is up with that?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Thoughts...

I am thankful for -
*My husband who works very hard and is extremely dedicated to his family.
*My 2 teenage sons that would rather spend time at home with family than run wild.
*My spouse and I each having a solid job.
*Debt freedom
*The fact that my family appreciates the minimalist lifestyle.
*Our Disney vacation that has become an annual event over the past few years.
*Health

Other thoughts -
The frugal lifestyle is natural for us as my husband I have never desired to own many material things.  My kids have learned to appreciate this way of life.  They realize that they are trading owning material objects in exchange for family experiences like great family vacations and lots of time spent together.  They still have some brand name clothes but they are bought half off with coupons on top of that and often with gift cards that I purchase in drug stores with perks like up rewards.  We have a moderately nice house somewhat in the country but we drive 2 older cars and don't own things like 4 wheelers, dirt bikes, swimming pools, etc.  I am a teacher so I have been able to take a van load of kids to nearby lakes and water holes to swim.  We meet up with other mothers that also bring loads of kids.  I am not knocking owning a pool but these are some of the most memorable experiences my boys have of their summers off from school. 
I had 2 younger siblings that both died at a very young age from Friedreich's Ataxia and that experience taught me to appreciate everything that I have.  I miss them terribly but I find solace in the fact that I will see them sometime again in the future. 

Cheryl Crow - put it perfectly years ago -"It's not having what you want, it's wanting what you've got."

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Menu Plan for 11-24-13

Sunday - ham and scalloped potatoes with corn
Monday - rice crispy ranch chicken and green bean casserole
Tuesday - spaghetti with meat sauce, green giant steamer veggies with basil sauce
Wednesday - taco soup
Thursday - Thanksgiving dinner at my in laws house and my parents will also be there!
Friday - lemon pepper broiled haddock, parsley potatoes and broccoli, cauliflower, carrot medley
Saturday - If we are feeling better we will go out to eat at Applebee's.  We have a gift certificate and we need to pick up a few Christmas gifts for tags that my husband picked up at work.  The wrapped gifts are due by the 10th.  If we are home instead, I will make some kind of soup.

A few side notes -

*I love green bean casserole and we never have it for Thanksgiving so I am making it on Tuesday.  My husband's family has a great Thanksgiving spread, but they don't like this dish.

*My kids are soup freaks.  They ask for soup all the time.  This past week we had broccoli cheese, potato, vegetable beef, chicken tortellini and wedding soup.  I would love to move to Orlando when I retire, but I don't know what we will do without the northern winter.  It just seems like soup has it's own season when you live in the north!

*I don't need to buy anything for this menu although I will still shop this week.  The sales on frozen items have been great at my store.  We need to keep eating from our freezer, so we have room for the new items that are free or almost free.  This week green giant steamers are more than free after coupons and gas points.  I am expecting to buy around 25 bags. 

Sunday's List

I do much better when I have a list.  I did finish yesterday's to do list.

1.  All laundry washed and put away.  I am about 3 loads from seeing this happen.
2.  Make ham and scalloped potatoes.  I have a 50 lb. bag I am trying to work my way through before they go bad.  It is in the oven right now.
3.  Go to Rite Aid and the grocery store for some good deals.
4.  Clean off desk.  I have been putting this off but it really needs done.
5.  Make a menu plan for the rest of the week.
6.  Cut and file away Sunday coupons.

That is it.  I may do more, but I want to make the list manageable.



Saturday, November 23, 2013

To Do Today!

1.  Make Wedding Soup
2.  Make Chicken Tortellini Soup
3.  Move furniture and vacuum both living rooms
4.  Get all the holiday boxes from the attic a decorate for Christmas - 2 big and 3 small trees!
5.  Vacuum again
6.  Organize shopping list for Sunday

I just need to do number 6 and I can do that while watching the Suze Orman Show tonight.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Don't Shop on Thanksgiving!

I am REALLY bothered by the fact that stores are starting to open Thanksgiving evening.  This is meant to be a family holiday.  I love a great deal just as much as the next person but it is absolutely ridiculous!
When I was in college I worked at a grocery store and they were open until 4.  It wasn't bead because my family would have dinner around 5 so I could be there.  BUT now other stores are opening around 6.  What about a family where one kid has to work in a grocery store until 4 or 5 and another family member has to be at work at 6 at a retail store.  How are they supposed to enjoy the day as a family?
I pledge not to shop because it is crazy!  I never really shopped on Black Friday because I couldn't stand the crowds, so what will make me do it on Thursday after a great turkey dinner?  I really hope that the stores are making it voluntary and with a great pay incentive so only people that really want to work have to, but I highly doubt that is that case!  Who is with me?  Let's make a statement!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Goals So Far This Week!



Goals for week -
An update part way through the week!

1.  Have 2 no spend days.  I need to get back in this groove. Tuesday and today - I am not going back out of the house!
2.  Lose 2 lbs. - haven't checked yet3.  Gather materials due to my boss by Friday for an very important meeting next Monday.  I would like to be done with this by Wednesday at the latest.  Turned in on Tuesday!
4.  Finish one zipper pouch for a Christmas gift.  I can't seem to get my sewing groove back, so this is a very small goal.  Not yet.
5.  Spend $40 at most at the grocery store and drug stores.  We have so much stuff and I don't need to buy anything except maybe fruit, milk and anything that is free or almost free with a coupon (that we will actually use).  I wouldn't even set this at $40, but my husband is on a diet and might need some things.  So far - milk about $10 (2 1/2 gal), pantene (8 for $6.36 (on sale at RA inc. tax)), soda (RA $11.64 inc. tax), Iams cat food for dietary restrictions) about $7 with coupon.  Total so far $35.94.  I am going to have to stay out of the store for the next 2 days or I will be over.
6.  Get my coupons organized for next week when I will be shopping more.  Cut out, but not filed yet.
I want to get back to making lists because it helps me accomplish my goals!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

This Week...


Goals for week -

1.  Have 2 no spend days.  I need to get back in this groove.
2.  Lose 2 lbs.
3.  Gather materials due to my boss by Friday for an very important meeting next Monday.  I would like to be done with this by Wednesday at the latest.
4.  Finish one zipper pouch for a Christmas gift.  I can't seem to get my sewing groove back, so this is a very small goal.
5.  Spend $40 at most at the grocery store and drug stores.  We have so much stuff and I don't need to buy anything except maybe fruit, milk and anything that is free or almost free with a coupon (that we will actually use).  I wouldn't even set this at $40, but my husband is on a diet and might need some things.
6.  Get my coupons organized for next week when I will be shopping more.

I want to get back to making lists because it helps me accomplish my goals!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sewing Every Day Plan was a Disaster

It has been a crazy summer and my Sew Every Day Plan was a disaster.  So bad that I don't even really want to talk about it.  Suffice it to say, it did not happen.  Life has been crazy as far as my job goes and even though I was off for the summer, it still had a way of interfering.  I can't really talk about it, but let's just say it has been very, very weird.
Today was my first day back to work.  It was a work in your classroom day to prepare for the kids coming.  Monday is jammed full of meetings and Tuesday the kids start.  It will be my 25th year of teaching (I guess I am getting old) and I still love being with the kids and trying to inspire them to love math.
Tonight we just had some casseroles that I had frozen.  I had an 8 by 8 dish of chicken penne pasta alfredo and an 8 by 8 dish of chicken stuffing casserole.  My sons were hungry after golf practice and there wasn't much left to put in the fridge.  What was left will be packed for someone's lunch.  Speaking of school lunches, the quality has gone down and the prices have gone up, so I am going to try to pack 4 times a week, if not every day.    Today I took a grilled chicken salad with sun dried tomato feta and lots of garden veggies.
I will be glad to be back in a routine.  Hopefully things calm down at work.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sewing Every Day for a Week - Saturday - Noodlehead Gathered Clutch

I made a noodlehead gathered clutch a long time ago and it turned out really cute.  At that time I cut out the pieces for 4 more and they have been sitting in my sewing room ever since.  I pulled one out and finished it today.  3 more to go!  They are fun but they take me a few hours to make.  Maybe I am just slow!  I did add a lot of details.  It has a detachable wrist strap, a divider and 2 credit card pockets.
I am adding this to my gift stash for when I need a quick gift for a friend.

Sew Every Day for a Week - Wednesday and Friday - Crayon Rolls

Tuesday was the first day of my challenge and I made baby gifts.  Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures before I gave the gift away.  Wednesday and Friday I made 12 crayon rolls.  10 will go to church and 2 will go into my gift stash.  That should restock the church quite well.  Children that are visiting get a crayon roll and coloring book to keep.
I hate to admit it, but I didn't sew on Thursday.  Some crazy stuff was going on and my phone was ringing off the hook.  I can see already that a week is not going to cut it for what I need to catch up on in the sewing room.  I am going to extend it out until next Friday which will make it 10 days of sewing since I missed a day.  I am having fun doing this.
I can't believe how long the crayon rolls took.  It seemed like I was cutting out pieces and interfacing for hours!

Sewing Every Day for a Week - or Not...

I set a goal a few days ago to sew every day for a week and I already missed a day.  I started Tuesday night and made a baby gift of 3 bibs and a jumbo receiving blanket.  It was late and dark so I put off pictures until morning.  In the morning I put the gifts in a bag and sent it with my sons to the recipient.  I never remembered to take a picture.
On Wednesday I cut out the pieces for 12 crayon rolls and sewed 4 of them together.  Maybe I am doing something wrong but it seemed to take hours to cut all the pieces and they were all rectangles.  Thursday was a little crazy because life is like a soap opera right now and I was tapped out and never made it to the sewing machine.  Friday night I finished the other 8 crayon rolls.  We will have to see what tomorrow brings.  Even though I missed a day I am going to keep plugging away.  Sewing is good therapy. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Couponing Frustrations with My Local Store Are Now Resolved!

Yesterday I wrote about the frustrations I had with coupon doublers in my local chain grocery store.  I did not name the chain as I wanted to talk to them first to see what I could get resolved first.  Well it has all be taken care of...  Yesterday the store manager called me and was extremely gracious and kind.  The chain is Tops Markets and I couldn't be happier with how it all worked out.  Doublers will be gladly taken as long as the total is $20 after store discounts but BEFORE manufacturer coupons.  I have already tried it and it appears the cashiers have all been informed and they were also very friendly and polite.  It is nice to have it resolved because we have very few stores to go to in my town.

I'm Going to Sew Every Day for a Week

Sewing Groove - I am Giving Myself a Sewing Challenge!

I have so (sew) many things I want/need to sew and I have really been slacking, so it is time to set a good goal.  I am going to sew every day for a week for at least one hour (most days it will be more like 3 or 4 hours).  I started Tuesday night and will post pictures when it is daylight on Wednesday.  I finished 2 baby bibs I had started (girl Colors), made 3 more bibs (boy colors) and a jumbo receiving blanket.  I have so much more that I want to do and I can't get it done in a week, but a week will put and good dent in my list.  I am sure I will stray from the list somewhat since pinterest is giving me new ideas daily, but I will sew something every day whether it actually comes from this list or not... 

Are you ready for the scary list?  Here we go!

1.  Catch up on the Lucky Stars Block of the Month from Don't Call Me Betsy.  I am ashamed to say that I only finished the practice block and the January block.  I started February and haven't picked it up since.  I won't get completely caught up in a week, but I need to get a few of them done!

2.  I need to make something for my 2 kitchen windows.  I am trying to get a stain out of an old tablecloth my great grandmother embroidered so I can make it into 2 window toppers.  If I can't get it out I will whip something up from my regular fabric stash.

3.  Make a new lunch tote using the pink penguin tutorial altered to the bigger size that I made twice before.  I love this pattern and it is free on Ayumi's site!

4.  Purse

5.  Tote Bag

6.  A long lanyard for my keys because I keep misplacing them.

School starts in a few weeks and I would like to have #3, 4, 5, and 6 done by then.

7.  I need to make at least 6 crayon rolls to replenish the stash at church.  Done - I made 12!

8.  I have a Halloween quilt top that has been sitting lonely for about a year.  It is not going to baste, quilt and bind itself.

9.  I have a quilt top that I started in June for my 18 year old nephew who will be going off to college soon.  I ditched the quilt plan and gave him something else.  I thought the fabrics were a good choice when I bought them but I just wasn't feeling it when I started putting it together.  It is tough to pick out fabrics for an 18 yr. old boy.  I gave him a stash of money and some other things for graduation instead.  I will finish the quilt and gift it to a different male in the family for Christmas of donate it to a quilt drive.  It is the first quilt top that I have made that I felt didn't match the recipient.  Did that ever happen to any of you?

10.  A gift for a fellow blogger that I have been wanting to do something nice for...

11.  Finish some noodlehead gathered clutches.  I have had 4 cut out and started for months, but they have just been laying in my sewing room.  I am not sure why because they aren't hard and look awesome when they are done.  I finished 1 so far.

12.  Make a bib tutorial.

I know I will finish at least a few of these things if I sew every day for a week.  I am also sure that I will get off track from this list and make at least one thing not mentioned here!  I made a baby gift consisting of 3 bibs and a jumbo receiving blanket.  I also finished 2 other bibs that I had started and I added them to my gift stash.

WISH ME LUCK!!!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shopping Groove - Coupon Frustrations

I live in a very small town with just a couple of stores.  We have a Rite Aid, a grocery store that is not full service (bag your own, etc.) and it doesn't carry everything you might need, and a full service chain store.
I love, love, love my Rite Aid.  The ladies are awesome and totally support coupon usage.  They are happy when you do well and even give some pointers.  They are wise enough to know that even if my total is almost zero the store is still making money from my purchases through manufacturer reimbursement of coupons.  Two thumbs up for my local Rite Aid!
The basic, grocery store is also great as far as customer service.  You bag your own which is not a problem at all.  It is just hard because they have many off brands (I am not a brand snob at all) but if there is a difference (meaning worse taste for food or inferior result for cleaners) I won't buy the off brand.  I would say 90% of the time the off brand gives an identical taste or result to the name brand, but when it doesn't, I am out.  It is hard to use coupons because they don't carry many of the brands that put coupons out.  They also don't double coupons, but that is ok because their prices are cheaper in the first place.  All in all it is a really great store!  Oh and the produce is good quality with nice prices!
This brings me to the full service chain store.  They carry a wide variety of products and brands, but the prices are not so good.  They double coupons, but some cashiers are annoyed and unpleasant about it.  It's like they think you are ripping off the store and/or affecting their personal paycheck.  Now let's remember that each store (or chain of stores) has a corporate coupon policy in place.  It is to make sure coupons are used correctly to protect the store, the manufacturers and the customers.  Shows like extreme couponing must be staged as it does not work that way in the real world.  Stores like Rite Aid have a limit of 4 of a like coupon, set limits on up rewards and so on.  It is set forth in their coupon policy and as long as you abide by their rules you should be ok.  This protects the store from having their shelves wiped out by one customer so that they have stock for all customers.  It protects the manufacturer because the low cost items are sold to many different customers that get to try their product and hopefully some of them will become repeat customers.  It protects customers in that there should be stock on the shelf when you arrive to make your purchases.  My Rite Aid is great because they follow the corporate policy that has been put in place and are quite pleasant about it.  I know from reading blogs that some people have experienced difficulties with other RAs but mine is great.
My full service store however, is a completely different issue.  They run $1 coupon doublers in their flyer a handful of times per year.  They have a corporate policy in place to address how these doublers and all coupons can be used and my store chooses not to follow the policy.  There are 4 doublers and they can be used as long as your total is $20 after all discounts which is where the discrepancy comes into play.  My store says it has to be $20 after all manufacturer coupons have been deducted, but the other stores in the chain say it has to be $20 after store discounts but can be before manufacturer coupons.  The reason being is that manufacturer coupons are a form of cash payment because they are reimbursed at the full face value plus a few cents for handling by the manufacturer to the store.  I am not such a cheapo that I mind playing by the rules, but I don't like that the rules seem to vary from store to store within the same chain when they all have the same corporate coupon policy and the stores are not individually owned and operated. 
It really bothers me when I go to websites to find matchups for this store and they come out only spending maybe 8 or 10 dollars a transaction and I can't get out of the store spending less than $16.  Let's keep in mind that the store is not losing those extra dollars, they are being reimbursed by the manufacturer who is trying to get people to try their products on the hope that they will become repeat customers, so it behooves the store to have me come in to spend money and coupons vs. my not coming in at all.
The icing on the cake is that I found a link on a website that clarified the policy and if you had any trouble at one of their stores to email them and it would be taken care of right away.  I emailed on Sunday, filled out a form on their website yesterday about this particular store and just now emailed again.  It seems as though it is not important enough to respond to which is quite frustrating.  I will let you know if I hear anything and if I don't I will let you know what chain it is that is frustrating me!
Thanks for listening!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Girl Bibs

A new group of girl edition bibs with ties.  I made some for my brother's brother-in-law and sister-in-law and every time I saw them the bibs were in use.  I don't know about the rest of you crafters but it makes my day when I see people really using and loving the items that I spent time  made for them.  2 years and another baby girl later, I felt it was time to gift them with a few more bibs, so I made them a set of 6.  There are some close-ups below.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Custom Size Dish Mat

I made a second dish mat from bath towel because I loved the first one so much.  This will let me use one while the other is being washed.  Love them!
Here is the one from last week:
It is such a fun and easy project! 
1.  Cut the fabric and towel to one inch wider and longer than the area you want to cover.
2.  Lay the right sides together and sew with a half inch seam allowance.  Leave a couple of inches open on one side for turning.
3.  Press - ironing makes all the difference for a nice finished project.
4.  Top stich around the edge.  Make sure you catch the whole you used for turning to close it securely.
5.  Iron again.
6.  Sit back and enjoy the simple beauty of this 5 minute project.  Others will ooh and ah and think you are a genius.  I can't speak for you, but I am NOT a genius.
7.  Maybe even go and wash some dishes!
 
Note:  I think it might be easier to cut the fabric to the size you want and attach it to the complete towel and then trim the excess towel off after step 2.  This will allow for slight shifting as you are working with 2 completely different materials and textures.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Another Baby Gift Set

This is another gift set that I made for a coworker who is expecting a girl.
 
It looks very similar to the first set I made because I used many of the same fabrics.  The item with the pink terry towel backing is a burp cloth that is about the size of a hand towel.  The item with the yellow flannel backing is a 40 by 40 inch receiving blanket.  The flower print is also flannel.
Both sets are pictured together below...
I think they were well received.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bibs for Boys

I made a few bibs for my nephew who is almost 2 and drools quite a bit as he is teething.  We headed to Disney a few weeks ago and I thought these would be good for the trip.  They are made with quilting fabric on the front and absorbent bath towel on the back.  The tie is a 2.5 inch strip cut from yardage. 
 
These bibs take a little longer to make than Velcro but they are great for older kids because they tie and can't be ripped off as easily as Velcro.  I am thinking that I need to come up with a tutorial to share.  I really enjoy making them.

Dish Mat from Bath Towel

 
 
 
My dish drainer usually sits on 2 overlapping kitchen towels (see below) and it really bothers the OCD side of me. 
As you can see above, the two towels are different prints and sizes and it just looks yucko!  I measured the area I wanted to cover and added and inch to the length and an inch to the width.  Next you need to put the print side of the cotton facing the towel and sew around with a generous half inch seam allowance.  Don't forget to leave an open space for turning the project right side out.  Once it is turned right side out iron like crazy and top stitch the whole way around making sure you catch the opening that you left for turning.  Press again and enjoy having a mat that is custom fit to your dish drainer area!  I had enough of the bath towel left to make 2 bibs, so this was a really low cost project.  The towel was $3.50 from walmart and the cute kitchen fabric is also from walmart.  I don't remember the price because I had it in my stash, but I doubt is was more than 5 or 6 dollars a yard.