July 30, 2008

Update: The summer to-do list

The Summer to do list

As soon as school ended for Sara I was inspired to do a summer check list. It was one of the best decisions all summer! Sara has been so excited to check things off her list. If I hear "I'm bored" I suggest she goes to her list to find something to do. We will so do this again next year. I'm guessing that Eli will be old enough to also have his own list.

Camping at Lake Lundgren

Sara took theater and drama during summer school. She's the bright one with the orange hat!

The list states"wash the cars" - I was hoping it was going to be my car!

Here is what Sara has left on the list:

have a sleepover
neville museum
fly a kite
disney world
visit grandma (with gas prices I'm not sure if this is going to happen)
ice cream sundae night
game night
clean garage

This morning we are off to the movies!

When will the madness end?

And the saga continues.... stay tuned

Challenge Abruptly Ends

I caved.... I was tempted shhhh.. I took the kids to McDonalds... shhhh
Why am I so weak? Today I just wanted to be the "super, you're awesome" Mom.

Over all it was an amazing no fast food month. Honestly, I'm amazed that I made it this long! I can not tell you how many time I said No to Sara for McDonalds. Countless times. Elijah never asked - but he is only 3.

I learned a few things from this experiment....

Fast Food is not good for your wallet. For the 4 of us tonight it cost $12.25 Jim and I had drinks at home and shared a fry. I could have made dinner for half of that.

Fast Food happens when I don't plan.
I had a very lose plan for dinner. Grilled cheese and canned soup. The family was out driving, running an errand. I should not have told Sara what was for supper. I should have just told her food, like I normally do.

Fast Food is not healthy. This stuff is just not good for your digestive system - nuff said!

Fast Food doesn't really taste that great. My burger tonight was not as great as I was expecting it to be. Actually, the bun was kind of soggy. I found out last week I that my homemade burger tasted so much better then any fast food place. My awesome burger at home was a sure winner.

Fast Food makes for a messy car. My car was clean all month. There were no bags on the floor, nothing sticky and no greasy smells.

Fast Food is not good for the environment. Fast food restaurants create a lot of garbage. After cleaning up after our meal (we brought it home) we had a lot of waste! 3 paper bags... 4 boxes from burgers, 3 french fry bags, straws (kids meal) and 2 crappy made in China toys that I will probably donate when the kids aren't looking.

Now on to next month.. August. I need a new challenge. Any ideas?

Happy Birthday Mom!

A great gift that is also frugal comes from the heart and are homemade. Adding family photos to a homemade gift just makes it that much more personal.

I made these a few weeks ago. I didn't want to post them until my Mom's Birthday. Happy Birthday Mom!

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July 27, 2008

The down grade

I believe that becoming frugal is down grading one level at a time. You can't go from driving a SUV to riding your bike to work. I'm a big believer in baby steps. (taken from one of my favourite movies, "What about Bob?")

We recently down graded out tv programming. We have Directv. (an antenna does not work at our house - we get nothing without a satelite dish) We had the "total choice" package with the DVR. We don't watch tons of tv - but what we do watch we love and are pretty loyal. Like all of us, however, we really could do without. I called Directv and asked what would it take to get rid of the whole thing. I found out that we are 7 months into a 24 month contract. GRRRR. Enable to get out of the contract it would cost us $20 per month for each remaining month or $340. I simply explained that I wanted to lower my cost. The man was really nice. We ended up down grading to the lower package, the family package. (was $52.99 - now $29.99) Nice savings.

For some of you this may still be too much to spend on tv. Some of you may not have cable at all. For me this is a down grade - one level lower.

What could you live on one level lower?

You crack me up...

Dear Elijah,

When you and I stepped outside today you mentioned to me that it was windy. I said, "yes, it's a little bit windy."
Then you said, "No Mom, it's a BIG bit windy"

I love how a 3 year old's mind works. :)



July 26, 2008

Sweet gift from hubby

Jim got me a thoughtful gift: my own domain!

You can now also go to www.letterstoelijah.com too! I love having a geek for a husband :)

Thanks Jim!

July 25, 2008

Craving satisfied with frugal ingenuity

Eli is feeling better. The throwing up as stopped and slowly he is getting his appetite back. But boy, I'm tired!

At 12:30 yesterday I had to pick up Sara from summer school. Eli and I packed up ourselves and the "just in case bowl" too.

While driving I thought - let's go out to eat. I deserve it - this past day has been rough. The thought passed and my new and improved frugal mind kicked in - I'm so close to the end of the month - to the end of our No Fast Food Month . Problem was, I had a real craving for a good burger. So I made one at home instead - with what I had on hand.

The burgers were made simply with ground beef, garlic salt and cheddar cheese.

Buns must always be toasted :)

I had no hamburger buns - but hotdog buns worked just fine. While the burgers were cooking I picked these cucumbers from the garden! Yeah!! This is my first time ever eating something that I grew. Yum!

Cost - nutin'
Taste - awesome!

Grocery Spending:
McDonald's (hubby) $2.52

July 24, 2008

Dear Elijah

Sweet Eli,

Yesterday you were sick (and you seem to be again today)... I stopped counting after 5 or 6 times. Last night you were up 4 times - but we only had to change your sheets once. You are currently sleeping so I thought I'd post this quick and let you know how much I love you. Get well sweetie!

Grocery Spending:
Piggly Wiggly $22.93
McDonalds (hubby) $2.52
Citgo $4.29

July 23, 2008

How do you measure success?

Merriam Webster defines success as:
a: degree or measure of succedding b: favorable or desired outcome; also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence

Growing up I felt success was measured by having a good 9-5 office job with good benefits. (I grew up in a liberal home in Canada) I remember thinking, that's it? That's all? I knew I wanted more, I just didn't know what or how to achieve it.

In hindsight, I was looking for a relationship with Christ. It took until the age of 34 to realize this.

Success is not wealth, or favor with friends and family.

Success is understanding (1 Corinthians 7:23a) You were bought at a price; (the blood of Jesus Christ) Success is striving for the attributes of the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

Success is knowing God's gifts of love and grace.

Grocery Spending:

Piggly Wiggly $19.94

Subway (hubby) $5.91

July 22, 2008

It's been recently that I have decided to get serious about money, budgeting and our debt. I must rid myself of the term entitlement when it comes to shopping. If I really want to simply my life this is going to a process and this is going to take some time. Some serious time. There are no quick fixes here.

I need to think about this every single time I make a purchase (and consume that purchase ie. gas/food):

If I currently have credit card debt (which I have plently of) every purchase I make, even if I'm using cash, is like paying with a credit card. And not only is it like paying with a credit card - it's like paying with your highest interest credit card.

The cash I am spending today could have gone towards paying off m
y debt.

Let's bring out that scary amortization schedule to learn the true cost.

Here is a small example: take the kids to a movie vs renting a movie

4 movie tickets: $36
popcorn/drinks: $15
total cost $51

rented movie $2
microwave popcorn and drinks: $1
total cost $3

difference $47

$47 x 15% interest (credit card) x 2 years

real cost: $54.69

If you pay cash for the movie but you have credit card debt it' like you are really putting this on credit. Would you put a movie outing on a credit ca
rd? I hope not!

I asked Sara to pose for a picture with some cash - it appears I've already done a lot of damage with my materialism daughter.

Do you float your credit? from month to month - with never ending paying interest? I do. I am so ashamed. I've been a poor steward with God's money. This needs to change. I'm starting to see things completely different. I feel like I'm now starting to walk around with my eyes open!

Grocery Spending:
Shopko $17.61 (shipping to mail package & cash for tonight's babysitter - bible study)
Burger King (hubby) $6.42
McDonald's (hubby) 3.57

July 21, 2008

Frequently exceeds her allowance or family budget. - Yep - Guilty!

I wonder what my number would be for a year 2008 wife? probably not this good!


As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!

Thanks Like Merchant Ships for this fun quiz. Some of the questions were just so silly!

Grocery Spending:
Walgreens $8.50
McDonalds (hubby) $3.57
Woodman's $81.18

July 18, 2008

Grocery Spending

Grocery Spending:
Kwik Trip $3.62
(I was going to go to Piggly Wiggly - but all I needed was bread and milk - and it was cheaper then going to the Pig! - plus I wasn't tempted by any impulse items.)

Local on the cheap

There are some fun things to do in Green Bay that are low cost or free for families.

Packers Family Night - this is a rare chance to see your favourite team in action. No NFL team can say this: watch your team play (really it's just practice) for $8. The Packers sell out out this event every year. 60,000 + people pay to watch their beloved packers play.

Bay Beach
- this is the best value for your money - hands down! This is an old style amusement park. Here's the amazing part: there is no admission fee to the park and tickets are 25 cents each! All rides take 1 or 2 tickets. I take my two kids for $5 and they have a blast!
Of course food is available there - but for amusement park food the price is alright. A family of 4 can eat for $10. We always brown bag it :)

Green Bay Zoo
This is a great small zoo. Don't be expecting the San Diego or St. Louis zoo here. There are some wild things going on at this local spot. A family day pass is $15.. not bad. However if you go between 4-8pm on Wednesdays it's free!

Neville Museum
There is a fun Discovery Zone for kids! Go the last 2 hours on Thursday and admission is free!

Kids Rule Film Festival Do you know how much it costs to go to the movies these days? I have no clue - isn't it close to $9? Not in Green Bay (and many other cities too in Illinois, North Dakota, Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and through out Wisconsin) you can take your kids to see a new movie on Wednesday and Thursday mornings for just $2.50 - plus your popcorn is free! See movies this summer that include Kung Fu Panda, Space Chimps, and Kit Kittredge.

Art Street This is an annual event for us! Explore local art on the streets of downtown Green Bay. Admission is free! There is a great kids area - tons of make and takes - painting, pictures frames, make sun catchers - the list goes on. At the Children's Art Tent children can make their own art purchase. Art pieces have been generously donated by exhibiting artists and range in price from $1 to $10. What a great way for kids to get involved with local and national artists.

Wild Life Sanctuary This is a wonderful place! Over 700 acres of trails and wild life! They offer lots of hands on nature programs... and the price? free!

Enjoy a low cost summer!
Check online for some great places that are free in your local area!

Grocery Spending :
ShopKo (includes prescriptions) $89.71

July 17, 2008

Dear Elijah

The other day Sara had a lemonade stand. We also sold brownies that you made! Sure, I cracked the eggs and measured everything. But you did the rest! You said "I cook! I cook!" I just want to pinch you - you are so cute.
The lemonade stand was a huge success. In fact, Eli, you were the best customer. I ended up owing your sister $2 for the all the lemonade you drank.

Grocery Spending:
Michaels $9.48 (I did use the 40% off coupon)
McDonald's (hubby) $3.57

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July 16, 2008

Looking back...

It's been a little more then 2 weeks since I started writing down my grocery spending here. Rremember, it's not just groceries/food that comes out of my grocery budget. It's everything else - clothes, entertainment, prescriptions etc. There are two things that stand out big time!

1/ I need to stop going to Piggly Wiggly. What happens is I need one or two things... but I never get just those things. If I just stay away from the store I don't spend money! I need to just deal with what I have at home.

2/ Jim eats out too much!!

Why do these two problems exist? I need to be more organized. More meal planning. And not just suppers.... I must include breakfast and lunches too for hubby. Jim said he was going to eat honey nut shredded wheat for breakfast - need to get back on track.

This is a process. By writing things down here it keeps me on my toes. I don't know if I'm writing this just to write this or if someone is reading. I do need to be held accountable.
Jim and I need to become better stewards of our money. God has blessed us over and over again. We must take better care of what we have.

Well.... now I know

I planted everything from seed this year .. the one thing I didn't do was label anything. So I had a "surprise" garden. We had this one plant Jim and I debated about what it was. I thought watermelon. Jim thought pumpkin. We both stand corrected - it's cucumber! Can you tell I'm still new to this gardening thing :)

Grocery Spending:

cash $10
Shopko $17.29
Burger King (hubby) $3.67
Taco Bell (hubby) $5.37

July 15, 2008

Always check the date!

Got milk?
Got milk for $1.45/gallon?

One of the ways I have been saving big money lately is checking the expiry dates on items. You would be shocked how many items have expiry dates. Here is a small list - some of these are obvious.. others, not so much.

all pre-packaged produce
meat (including deli meat)
baby formula
sun tan lotion
energy bars
all over the counter meds

and many more!

Check the date - if it's getting close ask for a discount! I found hotdogs that expired the day before I went shopping (the store should have thrown them out) - I got them for 25 cents each. Do you know how many preservativtes are in a hotdog? I threw them all in my freezer.

I found perfect pre-packaged brocolli (I don't normally buy pre-packaged veggies) that were going to expire in 2 days. I asked if they would knock down the price - he was happy to - $1.79 to 25 cents! These stores have to throw out expired items... and any money they could have made too!

I get milk half price milk 4 days before it is set to expire - it's worth it to check the dates!

Grocery Spending:
zero :)

July 14, 2008

Facing Reality

The other day I was bored with the music on my 5 pre-programed radio stations in my car so I hit the scan/seek button. A moment later I found a great song. Immediately following they played another upbeat great song. Have I found a new local radio station? Why have I not heard this station before?

The DJ came over the music at the end of the song: it was the oldies station.

Apparently, I'm there and it's time to face reality.

Grocery Spending:
Woodman's 99.82
ShopKo $3.02 (shipping)

July 13, 2008

Title Town spilt

I live in Green Bay, WI. As far as we are concerned - we are football headquarters of the universe. This town is nuts about football!

You may have heard, recently, that Brett Favre wants to be released from his contract from the Packers. This can only mean one thing - he wants to play football again. AND he is willing to play for another team!

Today I received a telemarketing style call asking all Green Bay residents for their opinion on what the packers should do. The results prove how split Title Town is .

Will his retirement stay? Will he play again? Stay tuned.

July 12, 2008

Fell into tempation with Madame Blueberry

I am a sinner. However, I am thankful for God's grace.

Saturday Jim and I decided that it was okay for me to take the kids out - shopping. We did, however, have a plan. I had a budget of no more then $100 for the day. We didn't need anything. This was pure sinful desire. Sara and Eli both got two small toys and I got some makeup. I honestly felt a little like Madame Blueberry from Veggie Tales. Total damage: $56.61

July 11, 2008

Morning walk before the storm

While doing my morning walk this morning I noticed some birds got into my lamp post and decided to make a home.

This is my first year growing pumpkins. Honestly, I don't have a clue what I'm doing. I read up on pumpkins and heard there are two types of flowers - male and female. I took this picture this morning and found out the flower is male. I'm going to go outside later and make sure there is a female. From what I understand the flowers almost have "sex" for the baby pumpkin to develop. God really did think of everything!

Grocery Spending:
Wally World $39.06 (this included new hair clippers for the boys)

McDonald's (hubby) $3.57

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July 10, 2008

Where does Pepperoni come from?

At 10pm tonight I did something naughty... I went to the fridge for a snack. Mmmmm .. some pepperoni and cheddar cheese. Ohhh, the saturated fat. I opened up the bag of pepperoni and noticed the shape of the state of Wisconsin on the bag. Oh.. "Wisconsin Quality", it says. It's probably good pepperoni, like my cheese, I thought. Notice what it says under "Wisconsin Quality" - Made in Kansas. At least it didn't say Made in China.

Grocery Spending: Piggly Wiggly $11.67

July 9, 2008

Monster Truck

Today I had to take my little Saturn in to get some work done before the warranty is up (in 1000 miles) The work will be free - I like free. Saturn was kind enough to offer me a rental car while this work is being done. Cool, I thought. I was driven to the car rental place and they give me this monster truck. I got a 2007 Dodge Ram 1500. I asked the car dealer guy for something else. He said it was only vehical they had. (I doubt that - they are in the business of renting cars!) I was not pleased. Here are the reasons why:

1/ I've never driven a truck. It was weird to drive something that big. It was a joke to watch me try to buckle Elijah's car seat in.. I couldn't reach one side so I had to crawl around to the other.

2/ I am 5 foot nothing... I had to rappel down the side to get out.

3/ According to our government I get 14 mpg in my rented monster truck. My little Saturn gets 23. I don't always believe the government numbers. What I do know is I was given my truck 3/8 full. The needle is now between 3/8 and a 1/4 full. All I did was drive home. I'm guessing that cost me $10 right there! grrrr

I'm a big believer in the "customer is always right". When I got home I called the Saturn dealership to see how they satisfy me. I'm still waiting for my return phone call.

Update: Bob from Saturn just called. Saturn will be paying for my fuel for the day. I'm happy again.

Question: Would you be upset by this? or should I just enjoy the monster truck?

Grocery Spending:
Down to Earth Nutrition $2.48

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July 8, 2008

Less then a penny?

This has to be the most frugal thing I've ever done. Yesterday I made home laundry soap . It was so easy. Why haven't I been doing this for years? Mine actually costs less then the link provided. I was able to buy everything at Woodman's. Two gallons of soap for 61 cents. Wow! That works out to less then one penny per load! The only thing I would change next time I make a new batch is to make the powder recipe. Two gallons is a lot to store at one time.

If you have any great homemade recipes please leave me a comment!

Grocery Spending:
Woodman's $27.19
Festival Foods $34.01
ShopKo Express $12.78 ($10 was cash for tonight's baby sitter)

McDonald's (husband) $3.57
Kwik Trip $4.47

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July 7, 2008

Bathroom "art"

(sorry the photo has a bit of glare) This is another frugal piece of bathroom "art" I had this old frame with some ugly birdhouse things in it. I was about to donate when I was inspired to recycle. Once again, I used scrap booking paper to cover up an olive green mat. I printed out the quote (How long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you are on.).. done! :) cost: 55 cents for funky blue paper

Grocery Spending:
Walgreens $10.91
Panda House $22.23
Piggly Wiggly $12.77
McDonald's (husband) $3.57
Family Video $4.67
Piggly Wiggly 16.18
Piggly Wiggly 27.75
Woodman's 24.42

July 4, 2008


Sorry Eli, no chicken nuggets this month!

I have been really inspired by a lot of the blogs I read on a daily basis this month so far. There are a few, smallnotebook.org for example, that are having July be a no spending month! Wow! That blows my mind. I admit it.. I'm so not ready for that! What I am ready for is to get some control back on my grocery budget. When I say my grocery budget it's a really loose term. It's really the "catch all" category of our household budget. We don't give ourselves a category of gifts, clothes, oil changes, meds or going out to the movies. All that "stuff" comes out of my grocery budget. This budget is $1000 a month. Seems like a lot, right? Well I got over it by atleast 15% each month.

This month I plan to share with you details of my "grocery budget" - plus I'd welcome any comments to get this under control.

I will list daily any grocery spending. As a bonus - I'm also going to commit to no fast food restaurants in the month of July! I know that will be a great start!!

July 2, 2008

Can you tell the difference?

I got this pretty plaque at Hobby Lobby for $2 on clearance! I thought it would fit in with my new bathroom color. The blue was a bit too bright. I first tried to stain it with tea. It didn't really take. I look through our laundry room (which is really our "catch all" room) and found a can of stain. I don't think it was ever used. I'm pretty happy with the results. Can you tell the difference? How does it look against the yellow wall? I need more accessories in the bathroom. Time to surf the net for inspiration.

Grocery Spending:
Piggly Wiggly $31.89
Piggly Wiggly $65.18

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July 1, 2008

Daves Falls, Wisconsin

Yesterday we dropped Sara off at camp. This is her second summer at beautiful Lake Lundgren! We stopped at Daves Falls for a wonderful view with peanut butter and jelly "finger" sandwiches with a side of grapes and watermelon. Life doesn't get much sweeter then this! On Thursday (yes, so soon) we go back up north to get Sara. The house has been very quiet for the past twenty four hours :)
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Grocery Spending:
McDonald's (husband) $3.57
Citgo $2.78