Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Just Sharing Some Goals

Happy New Year's Eve Eve! ;)

It's currently snowing, and well below freezing, as I'm sipping my coffee and hanging with my almost 5 year old. There's too much to do inside my house (aka post Christmas clean-up) that I am purposely pretending isn't there.

There's a good foot of snow on the ground, a balmy -4 or 14 degrees (depending on which thermometer I look at), and all this makes me want to procrastinate even more.

Which is bad.

So to counteract my slothful state I'm going to type up my 2015 goals. Hopefully when I'm done I'll have some more motivation to, you know, vacuum and such...

1. Blog 3 times per week (since I've been absent doing this for several weeks and I've missed it!).

2. Get this house painted inside and out in entirety by this summer.

3. Make chore cards or chart for the almost 5 year old. I really like this one!

4. Get out of bed  before the almost 5 year old (she's an early bird, I love sleeping, and our house isn't very sound proof so this could be very interesting...).

5. Sit down with the husband and figure out a better budgeting system. We already are "good" with money, but we tend to give ourselves too much slack overall and we need to keep ourselves more disciplined. Specifically start doing the cash budget envelope system from Dave Ramsey. I also want to increase our giving and our saving to a larger and more set amount.

6. Exercise 3-4 times per week. I know, everyone has this goal and it's not very exciting and easily the hardest one to stick to. In 2014 though I started exercising more and got a FREE treadmill given to us, so I really have no excuse to not do it. Plus I tend to have old lady joint problems when I am a sloth... Not cool when you're only 28.

7. NOT get behind on my Bible reading plan anymore. My friend I'm doing this with is probably laughing her butt off right now as to how impossible this is going to be to pull off. It is a goal though- something to shoot for! We're already past the halfway point and once we get past some of the harder-to-read prophets it should be smooth sailing! There's my pep talk, we'll see what happens.

8. Drink water. Again, the healthy goals always kind of get an eye-roll since they're so common and fail all the time. Really though, I go DAYS without drinking water so that's not cool. I tend to drink lots of coffee, tea, juice, etc. At least it keeps me alive!

9. Make our wills. This isn't so much a goal as just something that NEEDS DONE BADLY!

10. Keep this house decluttered. I am going to do this by making sure we don't have unnecessary duplicates, and if we don't love something it needs to go!

11. Implement date nights with the husband.

12. Spend a minimum of 15 minutes one-on-one with each daughter every day doing whatever they choose.

13. Read 12 non-fiction books from start to finish throughout the year, maybe even more! Non-fiction is always so much harder for me to read so this will be a challenge.

14. Follow this house cleaning chart each day.

15. Consistently look for ways to bless others throughout the year, specifically ones that are outside my comfort zone. Visit the elderly in nursing homes, pray for others on the spot, etc. Just typing that up makes me nervous!

Let's see how this goes 2015. Feel free to share some of YOUR goals and we can all hold each other accountable. ;)

Happy New Year all! May it be blessed!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Between sicknesses and general end of year busyness, I haven't blogged much. Though that is going to change, and soon! I've missed it entirely too much.

But this is such a great time of the year, that I have to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! May you all have a blessed December, a joyous 2015, and may the peace of God abound in each of your lives.

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What I've Learned About Christmas Shopping

EEEK!!! Christmas is only 4.5 weeks away! 

I love this Hobby Lobby picture! Who wants to come decorate my house like this?

Just the revelation that there are only 33 days left until Christmas creates a wide array of emotions in me. Joy and excitement since it's my absolute favorite holiday; panic and overwhelm because there is a lot that goes into all things Christmas. This one holiday really is A BIG DEAL!

So how do we celebrate this special time of year without going crazy and going broke? I've learned a few tricks, though probably not enough since Christmas tends to bring out the giddiness in me which in turn leads to sloppiness...

Really though this is about celebrating Jesus, not a competition to see who can look like this the best:

1. Set Limits in Advance
 My husband and I try (emphasis on try) to talk about what we want to spend on each person before we go out shopping. We really do need to get better about this and mainly to STICK TO IT! If you're married, talk to your spouse about what you think is a reasonable amount to spend on each person. Now this can be tricky if your husband wants a new car for Christmas versus a pack of gum, so talk through what each person wants and the associated price tag.

I used to buy gifts for pretty much everyone I knew back in the day. Let's just call that what it is- STRESS! Let me say that if you're way overspending on gifts for lots of people and it becomes a burden on you- the spirit of giving has completely been destroyed. You will feel pressure to do this year after year, your bank account will take a huge blow every year, and you will not be happy camper! We buy gifts for each other, the kids (more on them in a minute), and our parents. That's really about it, and no one has been offended (that I know of...) that we decided to limit the number of people we shop for.

With the kids, it is SO easy to go absolutely crazy and just pile presents on top of presents because you know their little faces will just light up and bring joy to your heart. That's not a bad thing- I love to give my girls gifts and watch them get all excited! However, I know what January looks like (well maybe February since one daughter's birthday is in early January so we get double whammied). Toys EVERYWHERE! I am going to do this this year- limit each kid to 2-3 presents from Mommy and Daddy, plus stocking stuffers. I'm holding myself to it this year.

2. Don't Be Afraid of Black Friday
I may be the only person with an actual Black Friday phobia. I avoid leaving my house at all costs on this one day of the year. I have zero desire to get trampled at Wal-Mart push through crowds and wait in lines for hours just to save a few bucks. Of course now I'll be afraid to go anywhere on Thanksgiving since the stores are opening earlier and earlier.

BUT, I've learned that it's not just a gimmicky day. I have found great deals on kid books and food processors during Black Friday, plus others that I can't remember right now. These have all been online though. So I save my sanity and my money, whereas before my aversion to Black Friday was just saving my sanity. Not that saving sanity is bad by ANY means.

Of course, always make sure you are actually getting a great deal! This is an extremely hyped up day so make sure you keep yourself in check. Double the check the sale price versus the normal price (preferably on multiple sites to be sure), calculate any shipping/handling costs, etc. Remember companies will advertise great deals right next to bad ones, and they all have the blinking signs that say "BUY ME!"

3. Attempt Homemade
Hear me here- you do NOT have to be Suzy Homemaker to pull this off. I'm no Martha Stewart but I've noticed family members, particularly grandparents, LOVE homemade things. I've also gotten some gorgeous homemade things from friends and they said they weren't all that complicated to make! It puts your personal touch to it, shows the other person how much you care, and it's always something out of the norm. Plus homemade items are almost always cheaper than retail costs of similar items.

Use your talents if you got them! Are you a great baker? Make cookies or candies, decorate them, wrap them in cute bags and ribbons and you're set! Do you love painting or crafting? There are tons ideas out there, and you can actually enjoy yourself while making something awesome for a loved one! Love taking pictures? Put together a photo album, frame a picture you love, or offer a photo shoot as a gift. If you're talentless or just don't care for DIY, find some easy things online for the kids to do and then all you have to do is make sure they don't hurt themselves with scissors or pour glue on the dog.

Get creative, involve your kids, have fun, your wallet will be happier, you'll save sanity of shopping around for that elusive "perfect present."

Personally I'm going to attempt some of these "gifts in a jar" I keep seeing online. Some are food and baking mixes, others are craft supplies, homemade snowglobes, etc. I'm excited!

4. Coupon Hunt
It does seem kind of weird to shop for gifts with coupons. I have found it does help your gift-giving budget a ton though! No one needs to know you used a coupon to get their gift, though I doubt most people would care either way. Here are some examples of things I've found, though this is by no means an all-inclusive list:

-RetailMeNot.com is the BEST website for finding coupons and deals for retail stores. You just type in the store name and you get a list of coupon codes or special deals that retailer is offering. Whenever I'm going shopping or eating out, I always check this site first. It has saved us a lot of money!

-Bed Bath and Beyond usually puts out coupons for $5 off $15+ purchase or 20% off one item.

-Target mails out gift cards and coupons throughout the year, and I've recently received several for Christmas. Add these to their Cartwheel App or online coupons (or do what I do and print it out- oh yeah I'm old school) and their weekly deals and you can probably score some good savings!

-Yankee Candles put our coupons for BOGO candles a lot of the time. These are so great because candles are one of those gifts that you can give to pretty much anyone and they'll be guaranteed to love them.

-Find reward programs. One friend mentioned her nephews always want Legos for Christmas. Legos are awesome, but they are EXPENSIVE! Well I was bored one day and found out that there is a Lego rewards program. I'm sure they're not the only company to have something like this, and if it's a product you know you'll buy more than once it may be worth checking out. Do some online searching and it could easily pay off!

-Follow an online bargain site or blog to find good deals on gifts. There are so many of us thrifty bloggers out there and lots of them post great deals. My favorites are MoneySavingMom.com, SpringsBargains.com, and BargainBlessings.com. I've been watching Money Saving Mom like a hawk to get a killer deal on a KitchenAid mixer lately...

5. Non-Gifting
Is your budget so tight you're not sure what to do? You don't want to let anyone down and you really want to bless them with a thoughtful gift, but even spending that tiny extra amount is a big source of anxiety.

First, let that anxiety and guilt go!

Next, think of free things that people will cherish. Plan an outing with your family to look at Christmas lights, drink cocoa, and take a ton of pictures. If you and your friends love to sing, go caroling. Scrounge around in your pantry for ingredients to make cinnamon rolls for someone. Host a Christmas movie and snack night and maybe add a White Elephant gift exchange if you want. If you feel fine doing this, and make sure no one's feelings get hurt, you can re-gift those knick-knacks, books, toys, etc. to someone else who would appreciate them more. You can even "give this Christmas away" and go through your house and donate extra clothes, toys, food, and more to homeless shelters or local Christmas toy drives.

There are two very frugal things my family always did. One is my dad has always wrapped presents in the Sunday comics from the newspaper. It's kind of cheesy, but it's also kind of fun to read the comics while you're opening the gifts, not to mention you never have to buy wrapping paper! The second is when my grandma was alive my entire extended dad's side of the family (my dad came from a family of 6 kids to put that in perspective- I have A LOT of cousins) got together to do a Grab Bag, which is what they called a White Elephant exchange. Most of the time they were all gag gifts and I vaguely remember a rubber octopus that made the rounds year after year after year.

This one really puts Christmas in perspective. It's not about how much you spent, it's about the memories and the love in your family and friends. Physical items break, get lost, lose their value, and end up in garage sales but these types of gifts can last a lifetime!

6. Be Thoughtful
No matter what you do gift-giving wise this Christmas, always put thought into it. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and make sure the gift will be received well. Don't make sugar cookies for someone with a gluten allergy or give craft gifts to someone who hates to craft. You want people to know you care about them and to bring a smile to their face.

Early Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Giving Thanks, Counting Blessings

Today has been hard. Actually this week has been hard.

We've been battling stomach bugs in our house, which I'm pretty sure is the worst sickness ever. We got some discouraging news about a friend's illness. My husband's starting the crazy holiday schedule where he basically comes home to sleep and that's it. Baby is teething.

I see a lot of other people facing their own mountains, and many of them are much more daunting than mine.

So I'm choosing to dump my whiny attitude and focus on the positive. Besides Thanksgiving is just a week away right? Perfect timing.

I just saw Money Saving Mom came out with a brand new Gratitude Journal  that I just ordered as an birthday present to myself, so this is all just working perfectly together! I figured I'd blog 30 things I'm thankful for, from the "deep stuff" to the completely random things. I'm spreading some Thanksgiving spirit! :)

1. Jesus, especially how patient He is with me.
2. My hardworking husband.
3. My normally (it's her turn to be sick now) rambunctious and bouncy 4 year old.
4. My cuddly and lovey 19 month old.
5. My parents being willing to help me out with two sick kids, even though they're two hours away and have lives of their own.
6. Coffee. Nuf said.
7. My dryer. Even though I've been not using it much these days, I'm SO happy we have a good working one for stomach bug times!
8. Hot water
9. Netflix
10. A warm house
11. My awesome friends!
12. My new love of writing
13. Good books
14. Overall a very healthy family
15. Soup!
16. Snow that we can make snowmen out of
17. Warm sunny days
18. Receiving cards in the mail
19. Taking walks
20. My closest friends who encourage me, laugh with me, love on me, but still hold me accountable.
21. Being free to study the Bible and grow and learn with grace and forgiveness.
22. My little girls' curly hair
23. This country and those who serve it so sacrificially.
24. My garden, which we're still enjoying the fruits of into November.
25. Pedicures
26. Music
27. Laughter
28. Cheese
29. Rain
30. This little bucket head and the associated silliness.

May we all remember to count our blessings every day, treasure each moment, and take nothing for granted.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Deal or Not a Deal?

(Actual receipt. I spent $53.88 and saved $39.49! Yes this is typical of my shopping trips.)

It is virtually impossible to know what a rock-bottom price is on every single item produced. I am going to try and list a lot of the products I buy and what I consider to be staple items (or just random products that I happen to know the price on lol). Hopefully this helps someone out there to know how to spot a good deal versus a bad deal. Did you know that stores like to put fancy signs that say "SALE" on items that are not good deals at all? Yeah, I was surprised too.

All these prices are prices that I won't-pay-more-than 99% of the time, and when the sale price drops below it then I do a happy dance and stock up. Now there are times when I HAVE to have something and will pay some ridiculous price for it. When that happens you can find me muttering curses under my breath for a good day until my husband has to tell me to stop. That is just me though! Please don't feel any condemnation if you're not a super extreme couponer yet! I am the queen of self-condemnation so if I beat myself up, know I am NEVER beating you up.

Without further ado...

Ground beef $3.68 per pound (If this goes up in price much more I'm buying cattle. The price is kind of a weird number on this, but that is solely because Sam's Club sells it at this price for 90/10 consistently whereas everywhere else is a minimum of $4 per pound. You can get 73/27 for cheaper, but that is A LOT of extra fat.)
Boneless Chicken $1.99 per pound
Bone-In Chicken 99 cents per pound
Ground turkey $2.50 per pound
Salmon (whole) $2 per pound
Salmon filets $6 per pound

Eggs 99 cents per dozen (Yeah I know they're not dairy, but they're next to all the dairy in the store so I'm giving them honorary dairy status for simplicity's sake of this list.)
Milk $1.99 per gallon
Cheese $3 per pound
Yogurt 25-50 cents per 6 ounce cup. Bulk containers of it can run cheaper than this, but it just depends on the sales.
Butter $2.50 per pound (Again, I'm going to raise cows here soon if this doesn't stop skyrocketing. I used to buy this for $1.50 per pound or less just a year ago. Sheesh!)
Sour Cream $1 per pound

Dry Goods
Flour 28 cents per pound
Pasta 50-75 cents per 12-16 ounce box
Oatmeal 69 cents per pound
Bread $2 per loaf (I buy the multi-grain, nut and oat, and wheat varieties at this price.)
Dried Beans 69-99 cents per pound (all varieties)
Rice 35-99 cents per pound (all varieties)
Canned tomatoes 50-70 cents per 14.5 ounce can
Canned Tuna 75 cents per can
Applesauce 4 cents per ounce
Peanut Butter 10 cents per ounce
Canola Oil 6 cents per ounce
Juice (bottled) $2 per half gallon

Toiletries/Home Goods
Toothpaste FREE
Diapers 10-15 cents per diaper
Baby Wipes 1.5 cents per wipe
Toilet Paper 33 cents per roll
Paper Towels 50 cents per roll
Vinegar $1.94 per gallon
Baking Soda 43 cents per pound

Produce- This is tricky because a lot of produce varies drastically based on when it's in season. I try to always buy produce when it's in season because it tastes way better and is cheapest- aka don't buy watermelon in January! :)
Apples 99 cents per pound
Bananas 40-60 cents per pound
Lettuce 99 cents per each
Tomatoes 49-90 cents per pound
Celery 99 cents per pound
Carrots 60 cents per pound
Onions 33-50 cents per pound
Garlic (whole cloves) $2.50 per pound
Bell peppers 33-50 cents per each

Yes I do pay this prices quite frequently. 100% of the time? No, but if I pay a few more cents than these numbers it still ends up being WAY less than a normal retail price. Shoot for the moon, land among the stars!

How I do all this is a completely other blog post, but it boils down to weekly sales and matching coupons to the sales. This should just give you an idea what to look for in the store so you know if you're paying crazy amounts or not.

Questions? Ask away!

P.S. I'm so sorry if I overwhelmed anyone! This has taken me 3 years to master (well, kinda-sorta master). Don't be discouraged!

Friday, November 7, 2014

4 Money Saving Things I'm Doing

Don't worry, I still plan to post another grocery saving post soon. I just keep getting sidetracked and whenever I write it ends up being all scatterbrained. I do promise to type of a price list of grocery items so it's clear when a store is running a good deal. Stores can be sneaky...

Although I'm sure 0% of you are losing sleep over this, so moving on.

I'm going to share just a few things I do to save us money that are a little unconventional. Hopefully they can inspire some of you!

1. I stopped using my clothes dryer. 

A couple months ago I realized I had a ton of liquid fabric softener that I had moved from our old house, to our apartment, then finally to our new house. It wasn't getting used, but I had to pack that heavy bottle up and keep moving it. In case you know nothing about me, I HATE wasting things. It pains me to throw things away (unless of course it's covered in mold). So I finally decided to use this stuff up! We have a big unfinished basement with a built-in clothes line and a folding clothes hanger to boot so there was absolutely no reason to at least give it a shot.

The result? After a month of doing it, our energy bill came. Just by hanging our laundry up our bill went from $80 to $30! That is a $600 per year savings! I'd say that's a huge win! Now I only use my dryer when I have a lot of extra laundry that can't wait an extra day to dry, which ends up being once or twice a month.

2. I posted on Facebook yesterday that I started using white vinegar as fabric softener.

It has been amazing! I finally used up all that liquid fabric softener after about two months of hang drying the laundry. I saw online that vinegar is a great fabric softener, and since I always have a ton of it for a little of everything (really, vinegar is amazing...) I figured it wouldn't hurt to try it. I just put 1/4 cup in the rinse cycle and WOWZA it works great! The clothes don't smell like vinegar and they are way softer. It's kind of weird how much better it works than the stuff I was using since, you know, that stuff is "formulated" to soften your clothes...

I buy my vinegar at Sam's Club at $3.88 for 2 gallons. So if I just use 1/4 cup each load, my vinegar will last 128 loads. The cost of the vinegar per load is 3 cents per load! I do about one load per day, so these two gallons should last me a good 4 months. Yes please!

3. I made watercolor paint from scratch
 My 4-year-old absolutely loves to paint and she goes through paint like crazy. You wouldn't really think paint would be a budget buster, but it did get a little crazy so I needed to find alternatives.

I found this recipe from Jenae at I Can Teach My Child. It's so great! Easy to make, each ingredient is dirt cheap, and it lasts at least twice as long as store bought paint! My daughter loves it when we make homemade paint so a happy kiddo is a great added bonus!

I didn't have the baby food containers like Jenae used, but ice cube trays worked just as well!

4. I make my own chicken broth

I never buy canned/boxed chicken broth. Last I checked it was $1 per can or more. We almost always buy bone-in chicken due to flavor and price (almost always it's half price of boneless) so we save the bones and make broth!

Every time we chop an onion, cut celery, peel a carrot, and mince garlic we save all that stuff you normally throw away. The peels, the somewhat yucky ends- all that stuff goes into a bag in the freezer with the chicken bones. When the bag is full we put it in a huge pot on the stove, fill with water, add a bay leaf and cook it for a few hours. Voila! Homemade chicken broth! We make at least 4 cans worth of it at a time, sometimes even more. It just depends on how long we cook it for since water does have a tendency to evaporate...

It's essentially free because otherwise all that stuff would just be thrown away. Plus I'm in control of how much salt to add, unlike the store bought stuff that is close to 99% sodium. :)

I actually do a lot more things and will keep adding to this list. However, just with these four measly things I've estimated I save our family a minimum of $800 per year. They don't take much effort, are actually fun, and work amazingly well!

Share any weird ideas you have for saving money!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Ways I Save: Groceries

One of my close friends refers to me as "The Friend Who Doesn't Pay For Anything." Which is pretty hilarious because I don't feel that way a lot of the time.

So  I'm going to share a series of posts of how frugally we live, the tips and tricks I use to save a buck(s), and how we are constantly striving to be better stewards of our money.

I grew up in a very frugal home (oh the stories I could tell!) so it's pretty much ingrained in my DNA to not overspend. The few times we do overspend I tend to go into panic mode. That's really not a good reaction, especially if it's something that I spent a dollar for that was supposed to be 50 cents... ah hem...

On the flip side though, I've noticed there are a lot of people who were not raised like I was and that I'm definitely in the minority. Managing money is hard and I'm no master by a long shot, but the way we control our finances can really make us or break us. It should also not reign over our emotions, for example me freaking over spending an extra 50 cents.

Nothing is new that I'm sharing. It's simply things that work well for us. I have been asked how I get away with living the way we do. So if it helps someone else, yay! If not, no worries.

I'm going to write this in a series so I can go into more depth with each topic. First up- grocery shopping!


1. Make A Budget
Commit to weekly or monthly total that you will spend on groceries. If you're married, make sure you and your spouse are on the same page and then hold each other accountable. For example, ours is $400 per month for a family of four. Sometimes we do go over, but that is usually during month when a store is having a killer meat sale and we stock up our deep freezer like it's the apocalypse. If you go slightly over, don't beat yourself up. Set a doable amount, then try to save an extra few dollars each month.
2. Eat
Oh yeah you read that right. Before you go off trying to search out the best food deals, make sure you're full! Otherwise your list, followed by your shopping cart, followed by your pantry will be full of overpriced ready-to-eat meals and junk food that sounded mouth-watering and will ultimately destroy your budget.

3. Make A List
This has some sub-categories. It sounds like you just write a bunch of items down that you're low on and you're set. Let's think deeper on this shall we?

-Find several recipes you usually cook or new ones that sound delicious. Pick maybe 3-5 for a start so you don't get overwhelmed, but you still have enough meals for a week or so. They don't have to be fancy at all but do make sure your family will at least try them. See what ingredients you have on hand FIRST then see what you're lacking. Put those items on your list. I will tell you cooking from scratch is probably my number one money-saver!

-Search the grocery store weekly sales. Most everyone gets the weekly circulars in the mail mid-week, or you can look them up on the store websites. I usually see what other bloggers have to say about what's a good deal and what's not. Now remember your ingredients you need? See if any of those match up with the store deals. Look at multiple stores too! For example, if you need ground beef and King Soopers has it for $3.99 a pound and Safeway has it for $4.25 a pound then you just saved yourself 26 cents a pound! Seriously, those pennies add up quick, and don't even get me started on the price of ground beef these days... I think raising a few cows may be cheaper... yeesh!

Anyway... back to what I was saying...

-Stick to your list! Don't impulse buy! Just say no! I definitely don't have a perfect track record with this, but if you want to get some serious control you will have to lay down the law about what you choose to spend your money on. Don't even go to the parts of the store that have the ready-to-eat food, candy, soda, etc. Put your blinders on, zero in on your list, and if you have to get out of that store as fast as you can! :)

Side Note: Stores usually put their best sales on the front page to draw you in, but you need to be careful because they will also put items that are a normal price up front too. I won't be able to give a full blown rock-bottom price list right now, so feel free to ask if something's a good deal or not or search out money-saving bloggers near you.

4. Hunt For Coupons
I used to get the Sunday newspaper for coupons. It worked quite well for a couple years and still recommend this, however for me personally the paper stopped paying for itself. It did work well for finding coupons for lots of different food items (and some restaurant and department stores as well). Coupon websites, money-saving blogs, and even Facebook have proven beneficial to being able to print coupons. I shop at King Soopers a lot and their e-coupons are usually pretty good, plus I get gas points to boot! Last I checked King Soopers and Safeway are the only stores that double coupons (up to a dollar) but make sure you know each store's coupon policy before shopping, which can be found on their websites. If you can match a great sale with coupons you can get lots of products for half price or even less!

5. Lower Your Standards
Remember how I complained about ground beef skyrocketing in price? We are starting to use more ground turkey instead. I have found ground beef to be around $4 a pound (and that's for the super fatty kind! Ugh!) and $2.50 a pound for Honeysuckle ground turkey at King Soopers. We really do prefer ground beef, and when it goes on sale we'll stock up, but to save us nearly half price I'm buying a different kind of meat.

This goes for almost every kind of food. Get the store brand versus the name brand- it will usually save you at least 33% if not more and truly there's not a big quality difference. Check the price per ounce on each item to see if it actually is a better deal. I've been surprised sometimes that brand names can be cheaper!

Find the parts of the store that say "Manager's Special" or "Markdown." Though beware on the "Manager's Special" on perishable items because 99% of the time they are items that are quite close to their expiration date. So either freeze or eat it immediately. I have found so many great deals in these sections on not just food but things like trash bags, diapers, toiletries, and even toys!

All this may seem like it's tedious, time-consuming, or downright confusing. It took me several MONTHS to get to a place where I felt competent deal shopping. Don't give up after a week. Getting control of what you buy at the store is going to take time, diligence, and discipline.


If you have questions, ask away in the comments. Or feel free to share any grocery saving tips you use!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is Pain Worth It?

This post has caused me to really dig deep. It's one thing to say I believe something, another to search out WHY I believe it. To make sure I'm not just saying I believe in something because I am politically conservative or raised in a Christian home. 

This is my way of justifying why I believe in life. Why I believe someone shouldn't end it all because of suffering.

It is because I truly believe life is precious.

It's a gift.

This is something I have always believed, but as I've had it challenged, it is truly now something I believe in the marrow of my bones.

I don't want to write this as a rebuttal. I don't want to write this from a "I'm right, you're wrong" stand point. I have no desire to defend myself in this either.

So why am I bothering?

Someone out there needs to know that their own life is precious, it is a gift, it is sacred.

You are treasured, you are loved.


It's been on the news and blogs everywhere about Brittany Maynard choosing to die on November 1 due to her excruciating battle with cancer.

I can't relate to her struggles on her level, and I'm not going to try. I am, however, going to say how utterly heartbroken I am for her. I pray God comforts her in every moment of her struggle, but more importantly I hope she hears how beautiful she is, how adored she is, and how living her life, no matter how difficult and physically painful it is, will be worth it.

I may not be in her shoes exactly, but I have been at the place of despair, darkness, hopelessness, and pain (physical/emotional/you-name-it pain). I do know what it's like to be thinking that it would be easier to end it all, that the pain is so great it's unbearable, and that my family wouldn't have the burden of me any longer. In a way it does sound brave, noble, and sacrificial.

 But that is a lie.

Why? Because when I was in that deep, dark pit I didn't believe in hope. I didn't believe life could get better. I thought that was the end of my rope, and it very well may have been, and I didn't need to keep  putting myself through a life of misery.

Hope is more real than anything, and it has taken me not just one, but a few seasons of extreme misery, pain, and hardship to realize how true this is.

In the Bible Paul says in Romans 5:3-4 that "...we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Paul, who suffered way more than anyone would want to, still found it possible to say that our sufferings lead to hope. That's the highway. We can't fully appreciate hope without having some amount of suffering.

1Timothy 4:8,10 "Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come... This is why... we continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers."

I am a Christian and my suffering is all through a Christian lens. I know if I hadn't gone through those times of hardship, my faith would never be this strong. I also wouldn't have two beautiful little girl faces to greet me every morning. It took people close to me to show me I am loved; that my life was worth living

I have learned how much God loves us. Life is His idea, His "thing" if you will. He's all about it. He values it way more than any human ever could. He not only created us and breathed life into our lungs physically, but He also gave us life- a life to be lived. He gave us life, presently on earth and eternal, as a gift and He doesn't want us to waste it or trash it.

Genesis 2:7 "Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person." (emphasis mine)

John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (emphasis mine)

 And again:

1Timothy 4:8,10 "Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come... This is why... we continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers."

God is crazy about life! And not just eternal life (though that's a big deal too) but He cares about our lives on this planet. He sees our suffering and it hurts Him too. He suffered the most of anyone, and He gets it.

I realized through my suffering that God values my life more than I ever could. I so hope I'm not the only one.

This life is stinking hard, no matter who you are or what you're going through. But we don't have to give in to our suffering or let the misery take us down, because if we do we may miss something amazing. We may miss seeing a miracle in our medical diagnosis. We may miss seeing that child we hadn't dare to hope for. Or simply we may miss that extra smile from our kids, watching the sunset one more time, holding our spouse's hand one more time. Because that is nothing to take for granted.

This is why I believe Brittany Maynard should be brave and choose life.


This song "Not Alone" by Red is so beautiful. If my writing didn't make any sense, I know this song will. :)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hey all! I am starting this new blog to, obviously, share whatever's on my mind and heart. You may agree, disagree, or simply not care and it's all fine with me. It may be completely goofy or something seriously difficult to get through. God gives us lives that are filled with a LOT a bit of everything, but thankfully He didn't want us to do it all alone.

I just hope something somewhere touches your heart or makes you have a great belly laugh! Or I will share some fun money-saving tips, especially since one of my friends refers to me as "the friend who doesn't pay for anything" or some yummy recipes (you have not lived til you have made, and subsequently devoured, tomato soup from scratch).

Slight disclaimer, to slightly discourage the trolls, though trolls will be trolls... I will stand behind pretty much everything I have to say on here and it may offend people. I understand not everyone likes tomato soup, so please be kind to us tomato soup loving freaks. So please be respectful, and I hope this becomes a vehicle where we can all grow deeper and learn to love tomato soup.

Happy blogging, self!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Jelly Bean Idol

 I just messaged my friend "I need a jelly bean intervention." Her reply was, "Oh so you've advanced to addict now?" Yeah we have that kind of relationship. (I also told her I'm quoting her and she replied "That can't be good." LOL)

Why I haven't ever known about root beer flavored jelly beans before, I haven't a clue! I mean those are some serious deliciousness right there. Right up there with cinnamon and black licorice.

If you eat them all together they ain't half bad either, just sayin'.

I also don't know why I had to discover Sam's Club. You mean I can buy 50 gallons of jelly beans for cheaper than 5 ounces of them?! Genius! (Of course by doing this you also get some gross flavors like chocolate and coconut. You win some, you lose some.)

Let's just say a picture says a thousand words...

If you're a dentist reading this you're probably itching for me to walk through your door.

Also, there's not many licorice, root beer, or cinnamon ones left. Hence why I'm having to dig... 

Anyway, I obviously have a problem.

About an hour ago I was working out (yeah I know, ironic huh?) and the trainer on the DVD said, "If we aren't examples for our kids, someone else will be." OUCH! Now bring your attention back to my picture... Triple ouch!

Side note, I still haven't showered from working out. Add that to the sick feeling in my stomach and furry-feeling teeth from jelly bean overload and I feel like an Olympic landfill swimmer.

Okay so I'm leading my children by example how exactly? Most of the time I adopt a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do parenting technique. Let's just say this doesn't go well most of the time.

Today's Good Friday. Now if there's ever a day for God to convict/confront/abolish my jelly bean addiction today would be it. I can't help but think of all days to self-indulge, today is definitely the worst.
Disclaimer: I don't want to make anyone feel guilty about how they're spending today. I also don't want to send the message that I think jelly beans are demonic. Let's sum it up this way- the Bible says "“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive." (1 Corinthians 10:23) I don't think God is a legalistic, beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-Bible God who gets mad that you didn't pray at least 50 times today or help 87 old ladies cross the street in a month. He is a God of love, mercy (not getting what you deserve), grace (getting what you don't deserve), forgiveness, and patience. He knows we're going to blow it over and over again.

Boy am I blowing it.

It may seem silly or inconsequential to say that I am royally messing up by having a jelly bean binge. But my 4-year-old sees these jelly beans. She sees that I am binging. She sees that I am limiting her jelly bean intake (though I'm second guessing that decision since she's skinny as a rail) and probably thinking that ain't quite fair, to say the least.

What else does she see?

My lack of asking forgiveness from her after I've yelled? My eyeballs attached to the computer instead of her beautiful face? My lack of daily reading the Bible, though I expect her to sit quietly and listen when we pray together at bedtime? My open frustration and anger at other family members or strangers, though I expect her to calm her tantrums in 1.00025 seconds?

Remember 1 Corinthians 10:23? Look at verse 24- " No one should seek their own good, but the good of others."

My daughter sees all these other "jelly beans." Am I seeking my daughter's good by doing the above mentioned things and overindulging? I think not.

I'm nailing these jelly beans, in all their forms, to the cross. I don't need them anymore. Through Jesus I can live out a better example of Him to my kids. They need me, the best me I can give them, even ifespecially if that best me is to show that I screw up a lot and I can't make it right without Jesus. May I, and whoever else needs to hear this, be reminded that Jesus died on the cross VOLUNTARILY to make a way for our filthy, stinky, jelly bean filled selves to not only live with Him forever, but to be washed of all that gross-ness. Now that is something we definitely do not deserve, but this is what is available to us all through His sacrifice 2000 years ago.

On that note, I'm off to brush my teeth and shower.