Monday, April 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Hello all. I had a long and sad week. My grandpa passed away yesterday and I spent last week at the hospital and entertaining family members who came to say goodbye. I didn't have a menu plan to speak of and it added to the stress.

So I'm back on the bandwagon this week.

Here's what I've got:

oatmeal with dried fruit
whole grain cereal
Toast with jam, fruit
Blueberry muffins

Mac and cheese, fruit
egg salad sandwiches, carrot sticks
lunchmeat sandwiches, ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins)
grilled cheese, tomato soup

Monday: Chicken 'n Biscuits (my husbands' favorite), fruit
Tuesday: Ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, fruit
Wednesday: funeral visitation, will eat at the church, (I'm bringing a meat and cheese tray)
Thursday: Ham potato puffs, fruit
Friday: Homemade Pizza with my favorite crust

Last week I made a new dessert and served it to my relatives who came to say goodbye to grandpa. It was an Apple Dumplings recipe from Pioneer Woman Cooks and I loved it. Super easy too so you should give it a try.

For other menu ideas check out I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Have a great week!

Rest In Peace

My grandpa passed away yesterday. He was 90 years young and led a good life. I'm happy he's reunited with Grandma in heaven but it's still sad for those he left behind.

I'll miss you, Gramps!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Sad Time

I have been MIA for the past week. My grandpa is in the hospital and isn't going to make it. It's just a matter of time now. Could be today or tomorrow, you never know. He has led a good life and this is not surprising, but it's still hard to deal with. My dad is taking it hard and so I have been spending time at the hospital and entertaining relatives who are traveling here to tell him goodbye.

Needless to say, I haven't had much time to blog. So don't forget about little 'ol me and check back in a day or two!



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some Good Advise

There are a lot of web site out there about living frugally. One of my favorites is Cindy's Porch.

She talks about her three rules of not buying:

graphic courtesy of Cindy's Porch

Each month she posts three or four goals to motivate others. I have really been enjoying her site. Her three rules of NOT buying have really helped me cut back on my spending.

I thought you might like to check it out.

What frugal web sites do you visit? Any favorites to share?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Last week I was so tired from my vacation to Mexico that I never got around to making a menu plan. We got home in the middle of the night on Monday and I didn't think it'd make much difference if I skipped a week.

Boy was I wrong! I spent more money and was stressed out trying to figure out what to make.

So I'm back on the wagon this week! My oldest daughter turns 3 on Saturday and I don't know what she wants for her birthday party yet (just a small get together with family that lives in the area) so I'll need to figure that out tomorrow. So far she wants peanut butter sandwiches. Good grief.

Here's what I've got planned:

Multi-grain cheerios
Hot oatmeal
To Die For Blueberry Muffins

Egg salad, carrot sticks
Colorful chicken salad on croissants
PB&J, pears
Mac and cheese, peas

Lasagna, salad, garlic bread
Tator Tot Casserole, peaches with cottage cheese
Easy Chicken Crockpot Dinner
Crockpot Pizza
Madeline's birthday meal ????
Hamburger Stroganoff

And of course my birthday girl has thought a lot about what kind of cake she wants. She is torn between these adorable butterfly cupcakes, or this fun cake/cupcake creation. Decisions, decisions.

For more menu ideas check out Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Viva La Mexico!

Hola amigos! We are home from Mexico and had an incredible time. We stayed at the Occidental Grand XCaret Resort in Riveria de Maya, Mexico. It was about an hour south of Cancun. The resort was absolutely beautiful and huge! There was a lot of the resort we didn't even see I think. We also went to the XCaret ecological park attached to the resort. It had a fun underground river we floated through.

We enjoyed 90 degree weather, the beautiful Caribbean Sea, white sands, relaxing pools, good food and plenty of margaritas.

And the best part is it was free. Whenever I was enjoying the view, the weather, or the food/drinks I kept thinking, "AND ITS FREE!!!". I was driving my husband crazy.

It was so much fun and I got along well with the two couples we went with. All of the people we met through the work function were fun and kind.

The girls barely missed us and had a great time with Aunt KK and Granny and Grandpa. It was hard for me to be away from them! It was nice to remember we were a couple and not just parents.

So it's back to the daily grind but at least now I have a tan!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Another Free Vacation

We got back from the water-park hotel just a couple weeks ago. It was one of the "free vacations" we got to go on through my husbands' work. It is a new perk that we are certainly enjoying. Especially because we decided to try to live more frugally and within our means. What a blessing!

Tomorrow we are leaving for Riviera de Maya, Mexico and I am beyond excited. My husband will barely have to work (just networking events each evening). We are staying at an all-inclusive resort so it won't break our budget. What a relief!

The only caveat of the free vacation is that we are traveling with two couples I don't know. (Husband's boss/wife and another couple). I would rather be going by ourselves but I am certainly not going to complain about a free vacation!

I will return early next week.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I inadvertently found a way to save money on my menu plan last week. And although saving money (and losing four pounds) are the only positives I can think of, I would NOT recommend having your whole family sick with the flu for the week.

We are finally up and moving but barely.

Luckily we have something to look forward to this week...another vacation! (Another free one at that!)

My husband and I are going to Mexico! Woo hoo!

We have never been on a warm weather vacation and feel so fortunate to be able to go. We are staying at a resort which is all-inclusive and we're excited to not have to worry about a budget while dining out.

We leave on Thursday (late afternoon) and get home very late Monday night. Our girls (almost 3 and 15 mo.) are staying with my sister and then my mom.

So this is what I have for this week:

Breakfast: toast, juice
Lunch: toast (unless we are feeling better)
Supper: Chicken noodle soup, crackers

Breakfast: Multi-grain Cheerios, banana, juice
Lunch: PB&J, apple slices
Supper: Broccoli Chicken Delight, peaches and cottage cheese

Breakfast: Blueberry muffins, milk
Lunch: Leftovers
Supper: Corn Dog Muffins, mixed veggies, pears

Breakfast: oatmeal, milk
Lunch: Leftovers

Have a great week!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Menu Plan Help Update

I asked for help with my menu plan and got some good suggestions for crock pot receipes. Thanks for the ideas. The only problem is I won't be able to try any out this week because we have the flu. (again!) The puking kind of flu I'm afraid.

Both girls (almost 3 and 15 mo.) have it and I feel awful right now.

So I suppose I will have to try some of those receipes next week when we're feeling better.

To top off our bad day, it snowed four inches here. This weather is getting to be a little ridiculous! Only in Iowa is it 44 degrees one day and four inches of snow the next.

Oh well.

I'm hoping tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Hello all. I am in a menu plan rut. Nothing sounds good...any suggestions?

I think I'll try this and see how it goes:

Multi-grain Cheerios, banana, milk
Blueberry bagels, cream cheese, grapes, milk
Toast with jam, milk

PB&J, carrot sticks, milk
Egg Salad sandwiches, whole wheat crackers, grapes, milk
Chicken noodle soup, homemade bread, milk

Monday: Chicken Chipulos, Mexican rice, milk
Tuesday: Chili, homemade bread, milk
Wednesday: ??? Will be gone all day...need easy crock pot ideas
Thursday: Spaghetti, garlic bread, lettuce salad, milk
Friday: Leftovers

Any thoughts for an easy crock pot meal? I have a lot of pork in my freezer (we bought a hog but I don't really care for pork and don't really know how to cook it). I'd appreciate any ideas.

For more menu ideas, check out Organizing Junkie.

Have a great week!

Happy Easter!

Here are my girls in their Easter dresses. We had a great day and hope you did as well.

We set a budget for $10 per Easter basket and actually stuck to it. We used to go overboard on every holiday but not anymore! And you know what? They didn't even know the difference between a $10 Easter basket and a $70 Easter basket.

It actually snowed most of today. Craziness.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Frugal Friday

I love to give gifts...and with a big family I have plenty of chances to indulge in my "hobby".

My budget does not always love my affection for gift giving. So to compromise I have a ten dollar limit on most gifts. I have a strict policy to not buy junk (I apparently have a lot of rules for myself!) so I have to get creative.

One of my favorite gifts to give is a magazine subscription. The gift receipent can read about something they enjoy. Each month when the magazine arrives they are reminded of the reason they got the gift, (birthday, Christmas, etc.)

My favorite place for discount magazine subscriptions is Amazon. They often run specials for $5 off. I got my mother-in-law (who is hard to buy for) two magazine subscriptions for her birthday (Marie Claire and Redbook) for $3 a piece after the $5 discount. Gotta love it!

For more frugal ideas, visit Biblical Womanhood.

I'm Back

Hello all. You gotta love a free vacation. We had a great time at the water-park hotel! My husband had meetings until mid afternoon but was still able to spend a lot of time with us.

The girls had a blast at the water-park and I did too. They were too little (almost 3 and 14 mo.) to do a lot of the big kid stuff but there was plenty of things to keep them entertained.

Bringing our own food for breakfast and lunch worked well. I made blueberry muffins before we left and the girls begged for these as soon as we got there.

I brought a vinyl tablecloth and we had a picnic on the floor when it was time to eat. They thought this was great fun.

We had a great time and even stuck to our budget! This living within our means goal is getting easier and easier.

We have been sick with the flu since we got home but even that can't tarnish our fabulous free vacation!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I have to admit I hardly followed my menu plan from last week. My uncle died (I'm thankful he's not in pain anymore) and I had lots of family in town for the funeral.

I somehow managed to feed six extra people for four days by using up items in my pantry and freezer. I had to get a little creative but overall things turned out well.

This week we are going on vacation to a hotel with an indoor waterpark. So my menu plan is a little different. The hotel does not provide breakfast so that shakes things up a bit. We will be eating out for the evening meal each night. Here's what I've got...

Homemade muffins I'm bringing from home, milk
Multi-grain Cheerioes, bananas, milk
Mini bagels, cream cheese, strawberries, milk
Instant Oatmeal packets, milk

PB&J, grapes, milk
Lunchables, carrot sticks, milk
Noodle soup, crackers, milk
Mac and cheese I made and will bring along

We are trying to stick to a small food budget and I think we can if we eating breakfast and lunch in the hotel room. My two daughters, M (2 3/4) and Z (14 months) are quite excited for a picnic in the hotel room. I'm bringing a vinyl tablecloth along.

For more menu plans check out Organizing Junkie.

I hope you have a great week!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I never really learned how to cook. My parents are both terrific cooks, but they never taught me how. I am a twin and we used to fight terribly. My mom would start teaching us a recipe and then inevitably kick us out of the kitchen for arguing.

I have really come a long way! I now make many things from scratch, which is a big accomplishment for me. One of my favorite new recipes is the muffins I'm serving tomorrow morning. I've included the link below.

And without further adieu, our menu plan for this week:

To Die For Blueberry Muffins
Multi-Grain Cheerios
Toast with jam

Egg salad sandwiches, carrots, milk
PB&J, fruit, milk
Soup, crackers, milk

Monday: Chicken 'n Biscuits (My husband refers to this as "kick ass casserole"

Tuesday: We're eating at my parent's house to celebrate my sister moving to our town. Woo hoo!

Wednesday: Fish, sweet potatoes, green beans

Thursday: Skillet soup with biscuits

Friday: Chicken Chipulos

Saturday: Steak Chili, homemade bread

Sunday: Pot roast, potatoes, carrots

Check out Organizing Junkie for more menu ideas.

Have a great week!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Save vs. Save Interest

We are receiving about $5000 for our tax refund. Now I know that it's better to not receive a refund because essentially you are letting the government borrow your money tax free. However, this is just the way it worked out for us this year.

So here's my question...would it be better to pay down credit card debt, or build up our emergency savings? We currently have over $10,000 in credit card debt (whew that's scary) and about $1500 in savings. I want to put $1000 in savings and use the rest to pay down debt, but my husband wants to put $2500 in savings and put the rest towards the credit card.

We used the credit card because we didn't have enough in savings when we needed it, and we were also living above our means. Now we have the living above our means part figured out at least.

What would you do? A vote for my way, his way, or another suggestion would be appreciated.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Ugh. I did not feel like making a menu plan for this week because nothing sounds good. But I know it will save me time and money so I am doing it anyway.

Here goes....

Multi-grain Cheerios, banana, milk
French toast, orange, milk
oatmeal, banana, milk

PB&J, carrot sticks, milk
Lunch meat sandwiches, broccoli/dip, milk
Mac and cheese, cottage cheese with peaches, milk

Monday: Spaghetti, lettuce salad, garlic bread

Tuesday: Grilled cheese, tomato soup

Wednesday: Out to eat for husband's birthday Woo hoo! I will be making him this yummy chocolate cake.

Thursday: Breakfast for supper

Friday: Homemade pizza with my new favorite crust

For more menu plans check out Organizing Junkie.

Conquering the Clearance Addiction

I have been exercising quite a bit of will power this year. I have a real love of clearance shopping (especially at Target) and often spend more money than I should.

I actually went into debt partially due to buying clearance items in order to save money. Make sense? I would buy things on clearance way in advance, basically inventing a reason to buy such a great deal (ex. a b-day present for my niece for next year). The problem is I wasn't paying with cash and would up with a credit card bill I couldn't pay off. So I'm not really saving money if I'm paying interest on it, right?

Anyway, I had to go to Wal-Mart today. I have put this off as long as possible so I wouldn't be tempting myself. I did have $20 in birthday money from my husband's grandma and I decided to allow myself to go down the clearance aisle. I ended up buying three frames (which I have been wanting for over 6 months and match the ones I currently have). They were on sale for $5 each (8X10). So I paid cash for these and ended up getting just what I wanted. Woo hoo!

I am proud of myself for sticking to it. It's the little things that add up to make a difference!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Frugal Friday

I am happy to report I am saving major money on diapers and pull-ups. My two-year-old is finally potty trained! Hooray! With the generic pull-ups at 27 cents a piece in my area, it's like getting a raise. :)

I used to make my own baby wipes which saved SO much money! ($9 in supplies lasted 6 months) Unfortunately, my youngest has major sensitive skin issues and I now have to buy Pampers extra-sensitive wipes. So to save money I tear each wipe in half before I use it (unless I'm dealing with a poopy diaper of course). I really don't need more than a half sheet on just a wet diaper. I've really been able to stretch each tub of wipes this way.

That's my Frugal Friday tip! Check out more ideas at Biblical Womanhood.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I have had mixed success with my menu plans. Sometimes life happens and I'm not able to follow the plan. In the past I might have given up but not this time. We really need to save money and following a menu plan helps us do that. So I'm back with another go at it.
Multigrain Cheerios, fruit, milk
Blueberry bagels, banana, milk
Toast, yogurt, milk

PB&J, apple slices, milk
Lunchmeat sandwich, cheese, crackers, milk
Mac and cheese, peas, milk

Mon. - homemade veggie soup and homemade bread
Tues. - easy chicken casserole, green beans, mixed fruit
Wed. - supper at my parent's house for my birthday :)
Thurs. - pork patties, baked carrots, peaches/cottage cheese
Fri. - frozen pizza, mixed fruit

Menu planning and paying in cash at the grocery store is really helping our budget. Hopefully not too many surprises pop up this week so I can stick to it.

For more menu plans, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Saving Money on Prescriptions

Last year my husband suddenly developed terrible allergies. It took a lot of trial and error to come up with a set of prescriptions that worked for him. He now takes two different types, a pill and a nasal spray that work wonders.

The problem is that they are two of the most expensive co-pays we have with our insurance. We were paying almost $100 a month! That was pretty tough on our budget but he had to have the medicine. Without it he had a fever almost every day, had no energy and had severe cold-like symptoms.

So this year we upped the money we contribute to our Cafeteria Plan or Flex Spending Account. It is designed for medical and childcare expenses. You designate a certain amount (chosen by you) to be deducted from your income PRE-TAX each month. This reduces your taxable income therefore reducing your taxes.

The only caveat is that if you don't use all of the money by the end of the year the government gets to keep it.

I'm sure many of you already participate in programs such as this. If you don't, find out if you or your spouse's employer offers this program.

How do you save money on prescriptions?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Great Gifts on a Budget

I have a very large family and many nieces and nephews. I enjoy buying them birthday gifts but don't have much to spend. My budget is $10 per kid. My other siblings all spend much more than that so I really try to find a $25-30 gift marked down.

My favorite place for bargain gifts is They have an amazing toy outlet and many items quality for free shipping if you spend $25 or more. I usually buy several gifts at once to get the free shipping.

In my experience, Amazon routinely marks down regularly priced merchandise for a day or two and then the item often returns to regular price.

For instance, I wanted to get an activity table for my niece. It was regularly marked $24.99. It first appeared in the toy outlet section for $14.99 and I added it to my cart. The next day when I was ready to place my order, it was marked down to $10. I had several other gifts to buy and received the free shipping.

My sister was estatic! She had looked at a similar activity table at Wal-Mart for $40.

I was able to give her something of great quality for a fraction of the price. Give the Amazon Toy Outlet a try for your next gift!

Where do you consistently find great deals?
For more frugal ideas check out Frugal Friday at Biblical Womanhood.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sick of Being Sick!

Well my intentions of posting at least four times a week were derailed pretty quickly. We have been sick. Madeline (will be 3 in April) has an ear infection and Zella (13 mo.) is teething. She's getting six teeth at once! Poor thing. Let's just say I haven't had much sleep in the last week and a half.

So I hope to get back on track.

I went to a grocery store in the next town over (did I mention i live in the middle of nowhere Iowa?) and they had a great deal on Multigrain Cheerios. They are normally $4 a box but were on sale for 2/$400. Woo hoo! I bought 12 boxes. So exciting.

I'm working on some new posts so check back soon. Happy budgeting!

Monday, January 21, 2008

There have been times when I have menu planned but I never really stuck with it. Usually because hubby (or myself) didn't feel like eating /cooking what was planned. I also never incorporated leftovers into the plan and ended up wasting a lot.

I'm joining Laura's Menu Plan Monday over at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Here is my attempt at menu planning for two adults and two young children:

Breakfasts: (will repeat themselves...I have a picky 2 year old!)

cereal, banana, milk

peanut butter toast, apple, milk

oatmeal, juice


mac and cheese, pears, milk

turkey sandwich with cheese, yogurt, pretzels

chicken nuggets, peas, apple slices

tuna fish, peaches, cottage cheese

peanut butter & jelly (what my daughter wants for every meal!)



crackers and string cheese

fruit bars

fruit snacks



tacos, refried beans, spanish rice


spaghetti with italian sausage, butter baked carrot sticks, garlic bread


beefy biscuit cups (with sauce/sausage leftovers), lettuce salad, pears


smoked chicken, mixed vegetables, cranberries


homemade pizza


crockpot chicken spaghetti (we will be out of town for a work will be at home with MIL)


pork chops and stuffing, green bean casserole, peaches/cottage cheese
Woo hoo! I'm excited. I'm trying to use up stuff in the freezer/pantry and I think this menu will help me accomplish this.
I can't wait to check out other menus.
Until next time,

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Keeping up with the Jones

We are trying to face our financial situation this year. It's touch to admit you've made mistakes. It's also tough to admit you know better. It's easy to get caught in the trap of buying now, paying later. After all, don't your neighbors/friends/co-workers all have new clothes, nice cars, huge homes? Don't you deserve these things as well?

We're learning it's not worth the price. We have been living above our means and for what? Sleepless nights worrying about money? Arguments with your spouse over who bought what?

We are learning that budgeting (especially on one income) requires making some tough choices. What tough choices are you making to stick to your financial goals?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Personal Budget Calculator

So I've been searching the internet for a free budget program. I wasn't having much luck until I found the personal budget calculator download at Free Financial Advice. The formulas are already there which is awesome! It isn't all-inclusive, but you can customize it to add the categories you need.

What type of budgeting software do you use?


Hello. I'm glad you found me! My husband and I are in debt and trying to stop living above our means. I'm currently working on a budget and am struggling to estimate our expenses. We're going to keep receipts so we can see what we're actually spending.

Any advise?