Thursday, September 30, 2010

September Grocery Totals

Total Spent On Food: $292.91
Manufacturers Coupons Used: $122.11
Store Savings: $162.25

A much better month than August!  I got back into the routine along with the kids going back to school, and as you can see, the savings added up.  I have quite a bit of my freezer cooking meals still left in my freezer and I don't feel like I need to run out tomorrow and go shopping.  It's incredibly satisfying to make it through September without being in the hole.  For us it's a month of never ending expenses such as: school tuition (preschool 1st/last month due), school pictures (always optional, but nice to have), clothes for everyone, school supplies, ASB-etc, etc.  This is the first year that we budgeted ahead of time for all these needs and more.  There's a lot of freedom in having September behind us and paid for.

image credit:photoxpress

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Budget Reminder

This is just a happy reminder that tonight or tomorrow would be the best time to plan your October budget if you haven't already.  I include extra money for Halloween festivities, and don't forget to set a little aside for Christmas now if you haven't been doing that throughout the year.  It works best for our family if we get the budget done before the new month starts, otherwise it feels like we're catching up for a few days and things get messed up easier.

image credit: photoxpress

Bye Bye Honey Bucket

We had to say goodbye this week to part of our yard that we'd grown accustomed to:  the lovely turquoise Honey Bucket!  Yes, it's true that for the past two months in the corner of our yard, we've been the official pit stop for numerous folks working on the new sewer and even a news reporter.  It became known as 'our' Honey Bucket, and the kids grudgingly let me take some of their first day of school pictures with it.  Weren't they great sports?

A couple of days ago a big bulldozer stopped, scooped it up and relocated it to another street.  I only wish I'd taken the opportunity to stash a copy of the 'Bathroom Book' (someone really gave us that book, and fyi it's been sitting in our garage!) in there for their reading pleasure.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Today's Groupon: D.Lish's!!!!

 We have a small budget for eating out each month.  It's about $65-$70 for our family of 7.  We get to eat out as a whole family about twice a month.  So each and every month, we eat out at D'Lish for one of our trips.

It's a hamburger joint, and I'm not even crazy about hamburgers, but these are so good.  Very fresh and made to order.  Go check out Groupon's deal here.  If you haven't used Groupon before, it's well worth it to sign up.  There's a deal every day, and you decide if you want to get in on it.  This is one I'm for sure getting in on!

Monday, September 27, 2010

No Bang For Your Buck With These

Here's a list of ten items that have the highest markups:

1) text messages
2) movie theatre popcorn
3 )bottled water
4) brand name drugs
5) hotel mini-bar
6) coffee
7) wine
8) greeting cards
9) hotel in-room movies
10) pre-cut veggies and fruits

Check out Walletpop to read the full post on this.  Some of these things are marked up over 3000%!

I had a grande iced chai (which, by the way, comes out of an Oregon Chai box that could be bought at a grocery store and is poured over way too much ice) at Starbucks on Saturday and it was $3.85!  I'm sure the markup on that one's more than the 300% suggested for coffee.  But what do you drink when you don't like coffee and are meeting friends at a coffeehouse?  For sure a treat, but for me, not a regular thing.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ha Ha Watermelon! Not So Much

I got some wonderful advice from well-wishers when we started out on our debt pay off race in November 2009.  The most common theme was grow a garden to save money, so we did-a huge garden!  It's been so fun for our family and the rewards of growing our own food are deeply satisfying.

However, I have a little story I wanted to share about growing watermelon in our fabulous state of Washington.  If you aren't familiar with the state, it's not all rainy and overcast like the Seattle area frequently is.  Actually, Seattle is lovely in the summer.  Ok, now to my part of the state-eastern Washington.  A completely different story.  We have sunshine often and snow in the winter, four complete seasons.  Not a lot of overcast days.

So, last spring, in an attempt to have a friendly chat with a dad from my son's preschool while waiting in the hall for class to get out, I asked if you could grow watermelon here.  I got this reply: "HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED HERE?"  Uh, since winter 1978.  Some laughing.  But for my part, I was thinking GAME ON preschool dad!  Not only will I grow watermelon, we're going celebrate it, take pictures of it, bowl with it, and finally, eat it like kings.

Here's what we have:
Yeah, not real impressive, I know.  This watermelon got detached from the vine, we think by a deer that foraged our zucchini.  This was supposed to grow to be a personal sized watermelon, so we're not too far off for size.  Here's what happened when we cut it open:
Not even close to red!  It does have the very first hint of turning pink, but that's kind of hard to tell in the pic.  The greatest thing about all this watermelon business is that we have another one still on the vine and it's bigger!  Overall a great lesson learned-basically get those plants that need it started early inside, and, yes, you can grow watermelon here-it might make it, it might not before first frost!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Workhorse Recipes

I love to cook, and I'm always trying new recipes-however, there are a few recipes that I do use frequently because they are the base for so many other dishes.  Here's a couple that I thought I'd share.  Since I'm all stocked up nicely on cheese from a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to share my pizza crust recipe.

Pizza Crust
Courtesy of Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy

1 C warm water (baby bottle temperature)
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 t sugar
3 C flour
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder

In a bowl, mix the yeast, sugar and water, stirring to dissolve the yeast.  Let it rest 5 minutes.  Add the other ingredients (I like to add the flour last).  Knead the dough on a floured board, adding more flour until it's not sticky.  Place in a bowl and cover, letting it rise from 5 minutes to two hours, depending on the texture you would like your dough.  The longer you let it rise, the more bread-like the dough will become.  Punch down the dough and shape into a large pizza.  Sprinkle a cookie sheet or pizza stone with corn meal, if you have it, and place dough on top and then add toppings.

Bake 450 for 10 minutes.

Here's another recipe I use quite a bit when I'm in a rush to get tacos done (that is when we're not making our family recipe tacos-I ate those every Friday night growing up!)

Taco Seasoning Mix
From Make-A-Mix by Eliason, Harward, Westover

2 t instant minced onion
1 t salt
1 t chili powder
1/2 t cornstarch
1/2 t crushed dried red pepper
1/2 t dried minced garlic
1/4 t dried oregano leaves
1/2 t ground cumin

Combine all ingredients.  Makes the equivalent of one pkg. of store bought taco seasoning.  To use: brown 1-1/2 lbs. ground beef, drain.  Add 1/2 C water and seasoning mix.  Simmer 10 minutes.

image credit: photoxpress/franco dimeo

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tips For Paring Down Toys

With another birthday coming up for one of our children this Friday, we've been taking stock of what we have in the way of toys.  I've been reading the book, A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family by Mary Ostyn.  When it comes to toys that give you bang for your buck,  keep it simple with five categories:
  1. Legos.  You can have both Duplo and regular and they don't have to take up a ton of space.
  2. Dollhouses.  I seriously didn't think of this one for our family, but it's such a draw for most kids.  She suggests Fisher-Price or Playmobile since these brands are easy to accessorize and are durable. 
  3. Play Dishes and Food.
  4. Dress-Up box.  I stocked up on items for this box when I was at Value Village for their 50% off Labor Day Sale.
  5. Outdoor Toys.  Wagons, basketball hoop, golf, etc.  We've used exercise balls for outdoor play, and the kids love them because they're so big.  We also let the older kids use our bike trailer with the younger ones since we have a low traffic neighborhood and it's provided hours of fun.
We're going to stick with these for now since we are at such premium for space.  I am so thankful for these suggestions mainly because they make so much sense!  

image credit: photoxpress