Saturday, November 28, 2015

Joys of the holiday

I thought of putting in a disclaimer on the frustrations of the holiday too, but in actuality, I have had very few of those so far.  One situation I did have and I won't let it affect my Christmas.  I had a gift damaged in transit and am having to have it replaced.  Kudos to Amazon for quick service so it really hasn't been a big deal. One of the reasons for my relaxed state is the fact that we are doing this holiday on a budget.  Many people look at budgets and say they are restrictive.  Dave Ramsey says Budgets are freeing and I believe it.  Instead of falling into the frenzy of shopping during the holiday season, forgetting things until the last minute, feeling like I'm behind the eight ball and dreading the arrival of the January credit card bill, I started my Christmas shopping with our Christmas fund and have deducted each purchase as it takes place.  Because of this I carefully planned each purchase and watched for sales prior to Black Friday (which by the way is not necessarily a good day to shop). As a result, I am 99.9 percent done with my shopping.  I have a few odds and ends such as postage to deal with, but the gifts are got.  This budget was a God Send and we are still $140 under budget.  The best part is there is no bill waiting at the end and putting a damper on a holiday that is supposed to be joyful.  Instead, in January, we get to anticipate tax filing season.  I know everyone deals with that, but at least we will only be dealing with that.  So anyway, my decorations are up and once I get the boxes and stuff put away, I will take a pic and show them here.  I know you guys are waiting with baited breath.

My focus now turns to the craft part of my Christmas gifting.  I'm hoping to start that tomorrow as I have a few gifts that need to be completed for loved ones.  Making some of my gifts has helped with the staying in budget.  I highly recommend it.  I would post my gift list, but since the recipients will be reading my blog, prudence says I shouldn't.   I can say some will be sewn, and some will be eaten.  Homemade gifts are awesome I believe.  If you have a talent for something consider using it as a gift.  You don't have to sew, crochet, or wood work to give a gift.  Those are nice things, but the idea is to give of yourself.  If you cook, then bake cookies, a cake, candy, or give a coupon for a dinner made by you.  If you're a clean freak, offer a coupon for a certain number of hours cleaning someones house who may need the help.  The idea is to give of yourself.  True meaning to "it's the thought that counts".   The time it takes to create a gift for a loved one is a huge expression of how much they mean to you.  Pace yourself.  Not every homemade gift is cheap.  If you have never sewn or have nothing to start with, then starting with all new stuff can be pricey.  Instead don't attempt something you aren't already well versed in  (and well stocked for that matter).  Only you know what you are best at.  Give it a thought.  If homemade gifts are out of range to start right now, plan for next year.

So the holiday season has started.  We spent Thanksgiving surrounded by family giving thanks for all we have and now the time has come to give.  This holiday is about giving, not getting.  That is the fun part.  It's the hiding gifts, sneaking in time to shop or create, and the anticipation of the recipients reaction to your hard work.

I hope you had an amazing Thanksgiving.  I wish for you all the Joys of the season, and the joy that comes from knowing the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ.  We give because He gave.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Update on my Olympic grocery shopping...

Hello all!  I've been gettin the sales and stocking up.  I wanted to share a few of the deals I've found. So far I've found butter for $1.99 or $2 a lb at Kroger or Publix.  Publix had huge turkeys for .59lb.  I bought the biggest one I could find and will cook it up, de-bone, and freeze in 2-3 cup containers to use in recipes calling for cooked chicken.  Publix also had domino sugar 4 lb bag for $1.50.  Kroger has their brand of cooking oil, 48 oz bottle, for $1.49 with one of their digital coupons.  They also had 4 lb bags of  their brand of sugar for $1.49 with a digital coupon, and sour cream!  Sour cream for .79 for a 16 oz container.  Aldi has, and will have, Brown and powdered sugar 2 lb bag for $1.09 each, Milk is $1.99 a gallon, Chocolate Chips, 12 oz bag, for $1.49.  Sams has their 2 lb bag of shelled walnuts for $12.

I'm hopeful these are not the last of the great deals.

During this holiday season, I needed to have ready cash for sales when they come.  I knew they would be different each week and wanted to have cash on hand for the deals.  For that reason I altered how I was budgeting grocery money during the holiday season.  Dh gets paid every 2 weeks.  I budget $172 every 2 weeks for groceries.  This is equal to $400 a month.  I have 3 paychecks in between now and Jan.  I went ahead and gave myself all that budgeted money which totals $516.  My priority before deals is making sure things we use regularly and that won't go on sale were taken care of for the next 6 weeks.  These are things like pet food, Chicken feed, laundry soap, etc.  Once those things were in place I knew how much I would have for the good buys, and I have been getting the good buys.

Now before everyone thinks "How will you store all of that stuff?".  Well I'll tell ya.  I bout 10 sour cream at that .79 price.  In my defense I use sour cream for more than just topping.  I use it in home made ranch dressing, and cooking.  It still takes me a bit to go thru 10, but I will, and before it goes bad.   When I buy, I will get the latest expiration date and then store them upside down in my fridge.  You can do this same thing with cottage cheese and yogurt.  Milk, butter and hard cheese can be frozen.  Don't freeze cream cheese unless you just plan to cook with it.  Most cream cheese has a long expiration date.  I will freeze flour and other grains for a few days before putting them in an airtight container.  This takes care of any buggies that might be hiding in the package.  I know.  Gross.  Most of the time it's probably fine, but better to be safe than sorry.

So I will reiterate that now is a great time to stock up on all of those staple items we use every day.  I promise you, the price will go up once Christmas is tucked away.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

About to wrap it up.

We had our first cold snap last night down to 38 degrees and tonight is down to 34.  We've had lows in the 40's for a few days, but nothing too bad mainly due to all the rain we have been getting.  We have had I think Dh said 7 inches or so since the beginning of November.  I know at least 5 inches.  Don't quote me on that.  It's a lot regardless.  My poor chickens were in a muddy mess.  It's been an ongoing battle since we started keeping chickens trying to keep them dry and comfortable.  Finally DH and I discussed it and we came to the conclusion we needed to get this resolved.  We need to either get it set up where it isn't such a mess or just not raise chickens.  I began to search the internet for an answer.  Enter, River sand; or construction sand either will do well, but no play sand.  I read an article on The Chicken-Chick website espousing the wonders of sand in chicken coops and runs.  Tired of the never ending glob of spent hay, pine shavings, or pine straw, I decided to give it a try.  That's what I have spent this past week on.  I feel better today, but during the process everything hurt and what didn't hurt didn't work let me tell ya.  I had to dig a bed the size of each run ( one bed 3x6 and another 4x8) about 4 inches deep.  That dirt will be added to my garden.  I replaced the dirt with the sand and then moved the run back over it.  I did this to two runs.  In addition I thoroughly cleaned both coops and put in sand.  One final move of both coops into their new permanent spot and I was done.  I also altered where the laying boxes,food,and water were placed to cut down on the birds knocking things over or rain getting to it.  I'm very pleased with the result.  Maintenance has been significantly cut down and the birds seem to like it.  The chickens feet stay cleaner and as a result so do the eggs.  Two of the ladies have buried themselves in the sand taking their dust bath.  The food and water are staying put and not getting turned over.  All in all a good weeks work.  As I finished up I put away tools for the season, organized what needed to stay near the coops, and collected any trash so now my back yard looks nice and ready for the on-coming winter.

I have pictures of the Chicken Subdivision.  Feast you eyes!

 These top three pics are of Queen Victoria's coop/run.  I have the feed hanging on the wall inside.  The water as you can see hangs outside because they keep bumping into it  in the coop.  The laying box is in the door which makes it easy to give feed and collect eggs at the same time.

These two pics are of Garris and Miss Priss in their retirement villa.  Their food and water is able to be inside.  The food is on the door and the laying box is inside the coop instead of on the door.  These two are what is left of our original flock.  She's getting older and won't lay for much longer.  Garris is DH's arch nemesis and source of entertainment so He has longevity because Dh can't get rid of him.  There will come a time, but for now they stay put.

This is the pic of the two coops together; my chicken subdivision.

One more thing we have to address.  We have 1 rooster and two hens (no longer laying and not in these pictures) who need to go in the freezer.  That is how I will spend my Saturday.  Not anything I'm looking forward to, but necessary none the less.  I can't afford to feed non productive animals.  We will still have another rooster to go in the freezer once he's old enough, but for now he's too small.  He will be separated from the flock and fed a different diet to add some weight.

( 9 Hours Later.....)

 Well I now have 3 chickens cooking.  Two are on the stove and one is in the crock pot.  I will be the first to say I am not at a point in this process where I can do a how to.  I am still learning and trying to gain confidence.  I can say this go round went better than I thought and I am not traumatized thinking I caused undo suffering.  My hands would beg to differ though as I have multiple cuts on them from trying to get the birds processed..  But all's well that ends well.

So there you have it.  The summer wrap up.  Now my focus turns inward to holiday stuff and normal house maintenance.  That is until around Dec 26th when my thoughts turn once again to the garden.

Have a great day!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Computerized Envelopes.

I've mentioned before (countless times) how we are participating in the FPU or Financial Peace University Baby Steps.  As a result of our participation we were out of all debt with the exception of Mortgage as of August 14 2015.  We figure we paid about $32,000 dollars of debt over the course of 4 years.  Not as lofty as some debt free screams; ours was more of a Woohoo, a debt free hollar at least.  Since that time I've been able to leave my job and stay home.  I still deal with times of "Should I have left my job", but Dh has reassured me this is the best.  It has alleviated some of his responsibilities at home which has been good because lately he's had to work more hours.  It's also helped in having to cart everyone all over creation.  Since I've left my away from home job I've had to deal with a shower repair, a refinance of our home, a roof repair, and other various things which would have required me to be home certain days of the week.  This tells me I made the right decision.

Even though I'm convinced this is the best thing, I still have the need to make sure all financial needs are met and then some.  We can't just get by.  We have to be able to save for emergencies as well as retirement.  As a result of those concerns, I have taken Dave Ramsey's envelope system to heart but with a twist.  I made use of our Quicken program to set up "envelope accounts".  My checking account and budget cover the essentials of food, shelter, utilities, gas, etc; although within that Checking account, food and gas have an envelope of their own.  I deduct from my checking account the amount budgeted for food and gas.  As we use our debit card for food or gas purchases, I alter the amount deducted from the checking account (after I add the transaction of course).  Let me explain.  I budget $100 for gas every two weeks.  I will then deduct that $100 from my Quicken Checking account.  It becomes a place holder so to speak.  The amount has been taken out technically in my Quicken Checking Account, but it still physically remains in my actual bank account.  Say I then go to the gas station and fill the gas tank up for $20 using my Debit card.  I come home and deduct that transaction like I normally would a debit to the account, but I then adjust my initial "set aside" of $100 to $80.  I do this same thing for my grocery money. The "Envelope Accounts"s are for other things we will need to be saving for.  I have one for Car Insurance, Emergency Fund, Income tax, Clothing, Vet visits, Tags for the car, Car Repair, Power bill, and Water Bill.  We even have a Roof Fund account to save to replace the roof.  Each payday, once the budgeted bills are covered: I then transfer the left over funds to our savings account at the actual bank.  In my Quicken account those funds are first transferred to our savings account and then divided into the "Envelope Accounts".  

Now some of you might have read thru my list of accounts and noticed a "Power bill" and a "Water bill" account.  Those items are part of normal budgeting of utilities so why have a separate envelope for them?  Well I have an answer.  We do our own budget billing for those bills.  I took an average of each bill over the course of the year.  Our power bill averages $235 a month and our water bill averages $50 a month.  I budget that amount every month.  If the bill falls under that I transfer the difference to our savings account and place it in the appropriate account.  If the bill comes in over that, I pull the needed funds from that account back into the checking account to cover the difference.  On the anniversary of the budget billing for each account, the funds left over (if any) are moved permanently to the emergency fund to stay.  The yearly average will be reconfigured and a new budgeted amount will be created( again if needed).  This gives me an incentive to keep these bills down so I come in below and have money left over.  The advantage of doing my own budget billing as opposed to setting something up with the power company, is that I have control over my money.  I earn interest on the money I'm holding back and in the case of an emergency I have access to the funds instead of waiting for the power company to send me a refund at the end of the year.  Not to mention the fact that having the money in my possession at all times makes me want to keep cost down rather than not caring what the power use is because my bill will be the same.  It makes me more cognizant of the dollars leaving my hands, much like when you use cash to make purchases.

Needless to say I am a bit of a bill nerd, but so far so good.  Each family has to do what's best for them.  We have discovered this is working for us.  I hope I haven't confused you too much.  If I can clear anything up, let me know.  What are some ways you handle your budget?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

If you're here for the yogurt How to,

Look in the How to section of the blog.  Top Tab!  Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Nov 1st the Olympic grocery shopping time begins

At least for me that is.  Since baking is a good portion of my daily life, this time of year offers the best deals on what I need.  Everyone is on the baking band wagon during the holidays so the stores are competing for everyone's attention.  Butter, sugar, flour, corn syrup, nuts, chocolate chips, other forms of chocolate, are available at the best price you may see all year.  Not just on those items, but any type of baking need could see a reduction in price this time of year.  Now is when you stock up.  I am looking for butter to be about $2 lb and if I get that price I am planning on buying and storing in my freezer enough for a year,   With the best price now at $2.89 lb and that is at Sams, my chances of getting $2 lb any other time of the year are slim.  No sign of the reduced price on butter yet, but I still look.   I noticed Sams also has the 2 lb bag of Walnuts for $12 which is $6 lb.  If no better price presents itself I will stock up on those for the year too.  Turkeys usually go on sale this time of year, but with the Bird flu that messed with a lot of flocks across america, the price is due to go up.  Not sure what I will do about that.

I'm also looking for eggs.  Our egg production is falling off.  Somehow we have ended up with 2 adult hens, 1 pullet hen, and 4 roosters.  We also have 3 older hens who are laying sparingly.  So we are looking to put the extra roosters and non- laying hens in the freezer.  That would mean 3  hens to lay eggs; 2 of which are now 18 mths old.  This could pose a problem.  We will need to collect many eggs in the spring and hope we can get some hatched that become hens.  In the mean time I need to supplement our eggs produced here with ones bought at the store.  Right now Sams has the x large eggs 3 dz for $6 which I am sad to say is a good price.  (sigh) I long for the days of .99 eggs.

In anticipation if the Grocery Olympics, I'm taking the things out of my freezer that need canning or jamming (jamming the art of making jam) to make room.  This also includes defrosting my freezer, cleaning/ organizing the fridge, and making a list of what I have on hand.

Fast forward a few days and....


Kroger has a buy 10 save $5 deal starting Wednesday.

Land O Lakes Butter for $1.99
Kroger Sour Cream for $.79
Green Giant Vegetables $.49-  Sweet peas are something my oldest son will eat but I can't seem to grow here so this will come in handy.
Campbells cream soup $.49-  This is a may or may not purchase, because I have a cream soup mix recipe.  But it is a good price for those who are interested.
Delmonte Tomatoes $.49- I have to say the Basil flavored ones are awesome and I have a recipe that uses them.  In addition my tomato harvest this season was ho hum so this will help.
Delmonte Fruit- $.89
Ronzoni Pasta- $.49

Aldi has lowered their prices on Chocolate chips, Brown Sugar, cream cheese,and Powdered sugar.