February 28, 2012

Remember me? A quick update

Hello everyone!  My how time has flown.  What have I done with the time since I last wrote a blog post?  A quick update below will give you a recap. 

  • Played in the dirt planting carrot, snow peas, radishes, and beet seeds—Finally!  I planted a lot later than I normally would have, but I kept fighting the rain.  As soon as I’d get a good chance to plant, we’d have a downpour.  I still have more to plant, and I’ll get to it…eventually. 
  • Enjoyed the beautiful weather when it was warm.  I even managed to jog in the park.  I beat the distance that I had been able to jog by a significant amount, and I feel good about building a little more endurance.  Now folks, I tend to run when something is chasing me and that is about it.  However, I’m getting a little in a rut with the workout video that I have been using, and I thought I’d try and switch things up a bit.  We’ll see, I might become a jogger/runner yet. 
  • Used coupons for the church (and for us).  Scored some Raisin Bran for the food pantry at under $1 last week.  Snagged some good buys on pizza rolls, and a few freebies here and there.  I had fallen out of the routine of organizing the coupons for our family and for the church, and what a difference it makes to have a better system. 
  • Attended some funerals, mourned the loss of relatives too far away to attend their funerals, attended some birthdays, celebrated a neighbor getting pregnant—as is the cycle of life.  “To every thing there is a season…”
  • Enjoyed lunches with friends, playdates, volunteering, letter writing, and time with my husband and our daughter.
  • Worked.  I’m so grateful to have a calling that allows me to get paid while doing something I love, where I feel like I’m making a difference, and still allows me to be there for our daughter.  I tell the people with whom I work often how grateful I am to be able to do work that matters. 
  • Focused.  It is the Lenten season and that is a special time for me to focus and grow spiritually.  God makes change happen, and I’m depending on Him to help me with the things that I’ve chosen to work on during Lent. 
  • Had a messy house.  While I’ve been working on getting things better organized, I’ve not been as diligent with deep cleaning and keeping up with things.  Sometimes I think that the laundry breeds overnight while I’m sleeping.  Like the joke goes, the more I do laundry, the more I get why some people are nudists.  ;)
  • Planned.  We have a big bathroom remodeling that we plan to start working on soon.  I am aching to get it going, as I’m tired of looking at the bathroom as it is.  
  • Read.  I was blessed to receive the book Flipping the Switch by Mr. John Miller as a gift.  I loved this book!  It was even meatier than the QBQ book, and I think it is going to be one of my new favorite gifts to give people.  I highly recommend it.  I’ve also began re-reading the book More than Enough by Dave Ramsey (also fantastic), and I’m completing the new book by Money Saving Mom The Money Saving Mom’s Budget (very inspirational!).  I find myself reading more nonfiction these days than fiction, and I foresee a little candy for the brain added to my list of library books soon.  I’m a nut for a good mystery, and I’ll have to check and see if any of my favorite authors have any new releases.  Anyone have any recommendations?
  • Traveled.  Daughter and I made a trip to Memphis to see our family there while Hubby enjoyed a guy weekend.  All went beautifully until we were coming home and we hit snow.  We decided not to chance going over the mountains in the Crossville area and stayed overnight in Cookeville.  When I heard about the troubles others had on the roads, I was glad we stopped when we did.  On the plus side, I was able to watch some Food Network—the thing that I miss the most about not having cable!
  • Napped, dilly-dallied, flipped through magazines, and did all sorts of other mindless activities to rest and rejuvenate.  Self care is important!

Whew!  While I haven’t been especially busy, the blog hasn’t been at the top of my list of priorities.  I appreciate your kind words and emails checking on me.  As I mentioned after the blogging hiatus, I’m not sure how often I’ll be blogging.  I tend to post a few more links and freebies on Facebook and as always encourage you to check out my links page.  There are some amazing local and regional bloggers that are very on top of things and do a great job of keeping you posted about deals—you can find them linked there. 

Thanks for reading! 

February 5, 2012

A few simple ways to help

Today our pastor talked about giving to others, and it inspired me to write this post.  Below you’ll find some very simple things you can do to help others.  It is by no means all inclusive.  Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments section as a way to inspire others.

Donations

Helping the schools

  • Peel off any Campbell’s soup labels and donate them to your child’s school.  If you don’t have young children, consider giving them to a friend who is a teacher, someone with a school aged child, mailing them to the school you attended as a child, or dropping them by a school in your neighborhood.
  • The same goes for Box Tops for Education.  These are small squares that can be found on a wide range of products (maxi pads and copy paper to yogurt and vegetables).  The Box Tops are usually worth about 10cts each, and they have an expiration date. 
  • Ask your local grocery store if you can link your loyalty card to benefit a school.  Locally, Ingles offers this as an option.
  • Donate any extra school supplies you have to your child’s teachers.  Ask them what needs they have in their classrooms and watch for deals and freebies that might coincide.

Nursing Homes

  • Many people do not realize that Medicaid and for that matter many other insurances does not cover basic toiletry products and incontinence pads.  If you have freebies such as shampoos and a few samples of pads that you might have received for free, drop them by a nursing home in your area.  I recommend that you give them to the activity director or social worker who will in turn make sure they get to a resident who may not have any family to bring him or her those items.
  • Have extra magazines and large print books?  Drop them by the activity director’s office.  Be sure to call first to make sure they need these, but most of the time they are very happy to have those donations.
  • Activity directors are also happy to receive craft supplies that you might have cleaned out of your home or scored for free with a coupon.
  • Have a wedding coming up? Years ago when we were married, I remember sending some of the arrangements from the reception to a nursing home that I had volunteered at during college.  I took such delight in thinking about the residents enjoying those beautiful flowers!  Random Acts of Flowers is a local organization that helps you do just that--they repurpose flowers from weddings, funerals, and other events and bring arrangements to residents of assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and patients in hospitals.  Consider donating your flower arrangements to them and any vases you might have. 

Shelters

  • When I was younger, I had an internship at an area domestic violence shelter.  They were almost always in need of donations to help people make a new start.  Donations of mattresses, beds, furniture, appliances, even toiletries and cleaning supplies helped a person get started in a new life.
  • Homeless shelters are often in need of twin sized bed linens, new pillows, toiletries, and clothing.

Children

  • Children’s hospitals often appreciate small games and new toys that they can give to patients.
  • Firefighters and first responders often collect small blankets and stuffed animals that they can give to children after a crisis.

Crisis

  • Look into becoming a Red Cross volunteer to help in times of crisis.
  • Donate blood, especially if you have a rare blood type. 

Time

  • What is your area of talent?  Use that to help others.  If you sing or play a musical instrument, offer to play at a senior center or nursing home. Good at accounting, consider volunteering with the tax program at your local senior center.  Were you a builder?  Consider offering to help with mission projects.
  • Read.  This is needed in so many areas.  Local libraries often need helpers for their children’s programs.  Schools with Accelerated Reader programs are usually happy to have parent volunteers to read with the children.  Nursing home residents so enjoy someone coming to read to them, and I find that they really like it when I read from the Bible to them.  Adult literacy and English as a second language programs need volunteers to help new readers hone their skills.
  • Spend some time volunteering to do grunt work.  Mop the floors at the soup kitchen.  Sort clothes at a donation center.  Those are simple activities that most anyone can do, and yet they are some of the most needed and appreciated duties.
  • Alternative schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Big Brother and Big Sister programs are almost always in need of volunteers and mentors.  Even something as simple as taking a few hours in a month to help teens with homework is very much appreciated and needed.
  • Offer to be a sub if your church or synagogue needs help as a class teacher. 
  • Think about your favorite charities and charitable programs.  Sign up for their newsletters and watch for ways you can help.  Help spread the news when they have fundraisers or are in need of certain items to be donated.
  • Offer to give a ride to someone who wants to come to church but either doesn’t drive or doesn’t have a ride.
  • Get a workout and support a cause. Train for a 5K run or marathon in your area that supports your favorite charity.  Get off the couch and get moving!
  • Look for other ways to show people you care.  Make a meal for a young mother.  Make a gift basket full of toiletries and goodies for a college student you know.  Check on your elderly neighbors when there has been a power outage or inclement weather. 

What other ideas do you have?  What are your favorite ways to donate and give?

Meal Planning, Sweet Celebrations

“Give us this day our daily bread...”~The Lord’s Prayer

This meal plan is for a family of 3.  We often have at least one friend or family member over to share a meal with us during the week.  Since I factor the cost of the meal when I first prepare it, leftovers will be marked as $0.  When we dine out, it comes from a different part of the family budget and those expenses will also show $0.

This is the time of the year that I work on eating from our stores of food.  I clean out the fridge, dry storage, freezer, and pantry as much as I can to make way for the growing season.  Since we’re planning on purchasing even more beef this year than we did last, I’m also reserving a bit of our savings for that purpose.

This week we have a Valentine’s party for Kid Konnection, a Valentine’s Potluck at the church one evening, a birthday party, and a marshmallow roast at a friends.  Don’t you just love celebrating?  I sure do!

Kid Konnection Meal

One night a week, we help with the children’s program at church.

Heart shaped cheese quesadillas
Heart Shaped Fruit Pizza
Heart Shaped Cookies

Approximate cost—$0, from church budget

Ways I saved on this meal—Rather than celebrating Valentine’s Day with the kiddos a day late, I thought it would be fun to have our V-day party a day early.  I’m still debating what we’ll have, but at this point, this is the tentative menu.  If you have any ideas for fun Valentine’s food, please send them my way!

~~~~~

Meal 2

Shrimp and Salad

Approximate cost--$3

Ways I saved on this meal—My dad surprised us with a shrimp dinner over the weekend, and this shrimp is some of the leftover that we didn’t eat. When my dad has a shrimp boil, he cooks enough for 10 people even if only 4 are attending.  ;)  The garden salad is a simple one with lettuce, leftover cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks from a meal last week, and a bit of celery.  The salad dressing was 50cts a bottle with coupon and Mega Event sale last week at Kroger. 

~~~~~

Meal 3

Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Approximate cost—$6 (this will make enough for at least two meals and then some to share with a friend)

Ways I saved on this meal—Soup is probably one of my favorite foods to make.  There is something therapeutic about spending an hour lazily chopping vegetables and adding them a little at a time to a pot simmering on the stove.  I have a friend who is slated for surgery in a couple of weeks, and I’ll be storing a big dish of this in the freezer to bring to her during that time.  I’ll add some tomatoes, grated zucchini, and lima beans that I froze from our summer garden (free from the garden). I’ll have the base of the soup be some chicken that I caught on sale last week.  The onions, a bit of kale, and some parsley will come from the garden (again essentially free).  The rest of the ingredients were mostly bought on sale—celery, carrots, potatoes, various beans, peas, corn, and green beans.

~~~~~

Meal 4

Second Chance Buffet

Approximate cost—$0

Ways I saved on this meal—At least one time a week I try to plan a meal based on leftovers.  Hubby said that he saw online where a mom started calling this meal the Second Chance Buffet.  I like that idea and have adopted the title. 

~~~~~

Meal 5

Breakfast for Supper

Breakfast burritos
Fruit

Approximate cost--$5

Ways I saved on this meal—Breakfast is some of the least expensive and easy to make food out there.  On this day, I’ll use some leftover tortillas from a fajita meal last week and stuff them with eggs that I scramble with some vegetables and cheese.  I’ll add a little fruit salad to the side with some canned mandarin oranges, pears, bananas, and berries from the freezer.  The oranges and pears were bought on sale. I almost always buy bananas that are marked down (or not at all).  The berries were some that we picked during the summer months and froze.  The eggs were bought from a local farmer, the cheese on sale, and the vegetables will be from the garden and from what we froze from the summer garden.

~~~~~

Meal 6

Potluck dinner at the church

I’ll bring mashed potatoes, cookies, and a few pots of tea.

Approximate cost--$6

Ways I saved on this meal—It always seems like we run out beverages at potluck dinners, and so I’ll make a few pots of tea to bring with us.  Ever since I was pregnant with our daughter, I have been making pots of tea that were mostly decaf.  I find that decaf Lipton tea lacks a little flavor, and so I mix some of the Stash brand Orange Spiced tea with it.  People seem to really like it, and given that this is an evening meal, they appreciate that they won’t be up for much of the night.  I buy Lipton tea when I catch a sale and have a coupon.  I buy Stash tea from Frontier, and they have the best price I’ve found for it.  I’m making mashed potatoes because the last few potlucks have run low on side dishes, and I figured this is a dish that most everyone likes.  The potatoes and butter were on sale.  The milk that I prefer is Cruze Dairy Farm milk, grown with organic means but priced lower than organic milk at the store.  I’ll whip up some of these cookies, and I’ll double the recipe so that I have some extras to bring to a marshmallow roast at a friend’s house.  The organic oats were bought in a 25 lb bag last year when on sale and split with a friend.  The organic butter was on closeout sale.  The chocolate chips were some I bought last fall with a sale and coupon.  I almost always buy my organic raisins at Three Rivers Market.  They have sales on them a few times a year, and I can score organic in bulk for lower than regular packaged at the store. 

~~~~~

Meal 7

Snack Supper

Boiled Eggs
Crudités and Dip
Leftover fruit salad

Approximate cost--$2

Ways I saved on this meal—Since I know that there is one day this weekend that we have both a friend birthday party and a marshmallow roast at a friend’s house, we’ll keep supper light on that evening.  I’ll bring some of the cookies that I made for the potluck supper as a treat to share.  The eggs are bought from a local farmer.  The Helluva dip cost less than a dime after the 50ct printable coupon and Mega Sale last week at Kroger. 

~~~~~