Thursday, December 17, 2009

My first savings

Well, #1 on my list of things to do was to save $5000 this year. I called and cut my cable from 100s of channels and a DVR to 24 channels. The bill went from $155 a month to $65 a month for TV, phone and internet. A savings of $90 per month. That's $1080 a year. The kids were a bit sad at first, but we are all adjusting. I am also finding other things to do (like up dating my blog!) because I am not watching T.V. I also did not review 2 newspaper subscriptions (a savings of $139).

Another thing I am trying to do this month is eat up what we have. I am only buying milk, produce and perishable items. I have a gluten free kid, so I do have to buy a few items in a pinch. For full disclosure, we belong to a meat CSA (community supported agriculture) and it is paid for until next October, so once a month I pick up a bag full of meat and 2 dozen eggs. Normally, by the 15th of the month I would have spent about $300 on groceries. This month I have spent $175. I am going to try and keep my food budget at about $500. That would save me another $1200 this year!

Kid #3 has a birthday coming up soon. I usually have an elborate party in a museum, petting farm, bounce house, etc. I have hired a hot dog vendor!!! We have bought expensive seats for a Major League Baseball game. This year when I asked kid #3 about what she wanted, her wish fits my new budget agenda perfectly. She wants friends over at our house for a tea party and to play in the dress up box. I have never (ever) spent less than $500 for one of my kids parties. My goal this time $200! We went to the library and got a tea party cookbook. I planned it for the middle of the afternoon, so providing a meal will not be required. I am not inviting family (or extended family). The menu planned by kid #3 for her 4th birthday is tiny hot dogs, veggies and dip, chocolate covered strawberries and pretzels, and pink cupcakeswith pink lemonade. The items will be homemade and cute. The girls will do a craft (items I already have), dip their own pretzels and strawberries and play in the dress up box, of course. This will also save me $300 if I do it right.

To recap, here are the savings I can actually count:
  1. Cable savings $1080
  2. Newspapers $139
  3. 15 days of food budget $125
Year To Date Total: $1344

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The New Challenge!!

So, clearly I have let this blog go...not posting for long periods of time, but I am hoping yet again to get it together. I have a lot of ideas, but never any time. I have realized (well, I knew all along) that I have spread myself too thin. I have felt compelled to justify my Stay At Homeness by volunteering for EVERYTHING. Here is a bit of my commitments (off the top of my head):

I am on the local school board. I am the treasurer of the school's PTO. I teach 2nd grade religious education. I work a flexible part time job. I offer babysitting for friends. I coordinate Special Olympics in our district. Etc., Etc.

In addition, I have signed my kids up for their share of extra classes and events. We are always busy, running, running, running around town. We never have time for the fun stuff or to just sit and play a game. We are rushed, tired, and overwhelmed. I barely have time to cook dinner, so we are eating late and fast...something has to give.

I also find that we a spending money for convenience. Late fees for library books, buying things for lost items then finding them, broken toys, and so on.

Here is my challenge: Downsize, plan, prepare, organize and spend less.

Here are a list of my plans:
  1. To save $5000 this year (by 12/10) by cutting back on current expenses.
  2. To create $$$ by selling, working, reselling items we have.
  3. To use this blog more. To document my progress, challenges, and triumphs.
  4. To create more family time. Spending time baking, playing games, reading and doing crafts.
  5. To organize this house. Declutter, organize, and put systems in place that keep it that way.
  6. To find things I enjoy and DO THEM! Mom's need their time too.
Well, only time will tell...I'll keep you posted!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Organic on a Budget

I came across this list on Sparkpeople.com that is a guide to what you should and don't necessarily need to buy organically. We first switched our kids to organic dairy, then farm raised meat. We eliminated nitrates in hot dogs and bacon. We also buy organic, local produce whenever possible.

Here is the list:

The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Foods to Buy Organic
If you have budget constraints, your money is doing more for your health when you put it towards organic varieties of the following fruits and vegetables (listed in descending order, starting with greatest levels pesticide contamination):
  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Bell peppers
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarines
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Kale
  9. Lettuce
  10. Imported grapes
  11. Carrots
  12. Pears
The Clean 15: Save Your Money & Buy Conventional
If going totally organic is too difficult or pricey, play it safe and eat the following conventional produce items to minimize your exposure. These are known to have the least amount of pesticide residue (listed in ascending order, starting with of lowest levels of pesticide contamination):
  1. Onions
  2. Avocados
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Mangoes
  6. Asparagus
  7. Sweet peas
  8. Kiwis
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Papaya
  12. Watermelon
  13. Broccoli
  14. Tomatoes
  15. Sweet potatoes
I am going to put this list with my coupons so I can remember where I can save some money. One of these days, I'll write about my triumphs with coupons.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Is it really June...?

No matter how hard I try to make this blog a more real and regular part of my journey, I just can't help but post once a month...at best. Perhaps with the summer and the more relaxed schedule I can find more time to get my thoughts down. As the school year wraps up and the family schedule begins to change I am really looking forward to summer. I love having my kids home. Don't get me wrong, they go to camps, lessons and a vacation bible school or 2, but I love the more relaxed nature of heading to the library for an afternoon, or eating lunch in the backyard, or going to the lake for a whole week.

In addition to all that summer goodness, I have added a vegetable and meat CSA to our summer. The kids and I went to visit "our farm" (as the kids call it) where we get our vegetables. It was fun. It was educational. The kids walked through the hen house and chased chickens. We saw actual fresh eggs. It is so comforting knowing where your food is coming from. I am so sorry I hadn't figured that out before now. I am planning on keeping our summer grocery budget lower because the produce and meat is already coming. I'll keep you posted on how that is going.

Finally, I am thinking of going back to work. No one panic - part time. This economy is forcing me to think about how we live and whether we can do with less. Well, of course we CAN, but WILL we. I think of all the things my kids have and do that I didn't. For example, my kids eat out once a week(sometimes twice). We made homemade pizzas once a week as kids and once a MONTH we ordered out. My mom bought boxes of ice cream treats as opposed to the ice cream truck, or in the case of my kids, DQ. We borrowed books and tapes (and they were tapes!!) from the library. My kids do too, but only as a supplement to the book orders and trips to Borders. I am currently spring cleaning the house only to realize...we have a lot of stuff. More than one of a lot of things. Clothes with tags, toys unopened, stuff unused. I am going to ebay, craig's list and garage sale quite a bit of it. Not only in the hopes of making a few bucks, but how can you really appreciate all that you have when you can't find it.

It should be interesting how it all shakes out and whether or not I am able to get it all together this summer. I hope to post again before July and see!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Choices...too many choices

I have had several choices to consider in the past couple of weeks on behalf of my children.

First, summer plans need to be made no later than April 1. I have poured over catalogs, pamphlets, and websites. I have talked to other parents and checked our budget. I have laid out the calendars of all three children and worked to make sure that we never have to be anywhere at the same time. I have made sure that there is a delicate balance between organized programs and summer recreation. It has resulted in a matrix like no other. There must have been more than 50 choices to consider. Some cheap, some pricey. Some religious, some adventurous. Some educational, some just for fun. Some I never even looked at because I couldn't handle one more choice.

Next, preschool decisions...For kid #2 and #3. For kid #2 the decision has been emotional and full of questions. Because she has special needs (a condition I like to refer to as having her own timeline!) there are so many things to consider. This year the teachers in her preschool (for kids on their own timeline) recommended a "typical" preschool experience for next year. I have so many things to consider and this too came with a list of 4 or so options and those options came with 1-2 options. I have since come up with a fifth option on my own. A story for another post. In a resent report from the preschool that kid #3 goes to informs me that she does not talk, she is emotionless, and follows a teacher around. I thought I was doing her a favor by sending her to preschool 1 day a week just to get used to being alone, visiting with other kids her age, and having fun. I mean, I don't want to make the wrong choice...there are so many choices.

So, I have decided to spend the next few days just thinking, not deciding. I did not have all these choices as a child. I never went to preschool, but I read at 5. I didn't attend my first summer camp until I was 12, but I still am fine. I graduated from high school, college, and held down a jobs. There was life before all the choices.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Busy April

April is always such a weird month. Not quite winter, not quite spring. This year we have had snow storms, heat waves, thunderstorms, and everything in between. I love watching things green up and start to grow. This spring I have enjoyed watching as the bulbs Kid #1 and I planted last fall come up. He is so excited. I forgot what a miracle it all is. This month we have gotten our rain barrel, our composter, and my husband has built some really cute raised beds for a small garden. I never considered myself a gardener. I don't really like to get my hands dirty, but I am realizing how fundamental planting things is. Whether it is flowers or something we can eat, there is a huge amount of pride in seeing the results of your effort.
This has translated itself to my parenting too. There is a huge amount of pride when I see kid #1 caring for his sisters or kid #2 overcoming her challenges to accomplish something or kid #3 beaming from ear to ear when she has totally dressed in mismatched colors and patterns. It is so worth the early feedings, cleaning up messes and overall "getting my hands dirty". Being a mom is fundamental to who I am and who I want my children to be. The good news is I can admire those results more often than just the spring!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Since I have been on a mission to get the "stuff" out of my family's diet, I have realized that I need to get the "stuff" out of the house too. I was watching Oprah (Yes, I DVR it and watch the ones that interest me.) and it was all about cleaning up messy houses. The guy on that episode said that messes can cost money...how I wondered? Two days later, kid #2 got a fever and I sent my husband to get some medicine at the store because we were out, again. I was sure I had just bought some. Another day later, kid #3 requested a Band-aid. (She is in that phase of her life that EVERYTHING requires a Band-aid!) I opened the hall closet and began another search. That is it! Just like the guy on Oprah said 15-20 minutes a day until it is done. I emptied the entire closet and I was amazed! There were 2 boxes of Band-aids and 2 brand new bottles of fever reducer. There is that money the Oprah guy was talking about. I have taken complete inventory of that closet, labeled and organized the contents and made a CVS list (a topic for another entry). Wow, what a difference! I have now done my bathroom, the kids' bathroom, and the coat closet. 20 minutes a day is making a difference and it is a lot easier to maintain.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chickens and eggs

I have made a real attempt to feed my family more healthy "real" food. It all started when kid #1 was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I HAD to start reading labels. I was surprised at all the stuff that was really in food. All the fillers, additives, extras...it was amazing. In addition, the arrival of kid#2 and understanding the full depth of her special needs caused me to ponder and the things done to food. To change its color, make it last longer, to make animals larger, to get them to give more milk...it began to make me wonder. Not one medical professional kid #2 has seen (and believe me there is a list a mile long) can not tell me why. They say it wasn't environmental, but after being raised on processed foods and artificial flavors (Diet Coke, but not while pregnant.) did I provide a hostile home for my children in utero? So, I have been making the switch slowly to organic, fresh foods. Hormone free meat, farm fresh eggs, nitrate free hot dogs, whole grain cereals, no artificial colors, 100% juice, agave and honey sweeteners, no high fructose corn syrup. It has also become "trendy". Even big box stores like Sam's Club and Meijer, and Target have begun to carry organic items. I have joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to get organic vegetables all summer long.

I titled this post "Chicken and eggs" because the woman that runs the CSA also delivers chicken and eggs to my house and they came yesterday. I was shocked when I first saw the inside of a farm fresh egg. Kid #1 wasn't so sure..."They're orange mom! How do they make them orange!" It is the fresh diet they feed these chickens and how well they are cared for. (Did you know that chicken coops use fluorescent lights inside the coops to get chickens to think it is day time all the time?) I heard on NPR that a study in England that stated cows that are talked to and that have names give more milk than those that are treated like a number. Duh?! As someone that produced milk myself, it makes good sense. On days I was stressed and feeling like a number I made less milk. I could have saved this study a lot of money and time.

So, I have rambled about food long enough and I am sure I will again. I really am learning more everyday. I want to give my kids the best start possible. My family has become very willing participants in my experiments. Last night, we had smoky pork tacos with a variety of toppings, cumin rice and beans. It was too spicy for some (I'll change that for next time.) It has become a fun hobby. I encourage people to try something new with their families too!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Long Time, No Write

Alas, my goal to write more and more often has not been met. Tomorrow is another day! I have spent the last almost 2 months trying to put my family on the right footings to begin the new year.

First, I am learning to celebrate. We had our usual family feast for New Year's. We have crab legs, scallops, steak and all the fixings. We celebrate and dine and talk about the new year. Kid #3 had her birthday celebration not once, or twice, but three times. Then there was Chinese New Year. I spent some time teaching the kids a bit about it. Finding out what we all where...My hubby and I are rats, kid #1 is a horse, kid #2 a monkey, and #3 a dog. Yet another reason to feast. My kids are such adventurous eaters! Then we had our Valentine celebration it was fun. Writing Valentine's and talking about all the people we were sending them to. I realized that life is much more fun when we have something to celebrate, to look forward to, to work towards.

Kid #1 wanted to know if we could schedule Family Game Night on the first of every month. I think we will. We will also add Family Movie Night and a day every once and a while that each kid has my husband and I all to their selves.

We are traveling to Northern Michigan more frequently too. The change of scenery does us good. There isn't cable or great cell phone reception. We read, do art projects, watch movies, go for car rides, bake cookies, and play board games. My husband would be suprised to hear...it's kind of fun. We are going again soon. I am already planning what we'll do!

It is the little things I am learning to enjoy. It sure makes life easier when you have something to look forward to.