Monday, January 30, 2012

Princess Does the Shopping

My weekend was super busy and so with just a teensy bit of trepidation, I sent the Princess to Aldi with my grocery list. I told her she could go head and pick ot a few snack type items, but to not go overboard. Here is what she got:

2 Pasta Shells Entrees
Cheddar Rice Cake Snacks
 Mini Muffin Pouches
Nacho Tortilla Chips
Mini Rice Cake Snack Packs
Cheese Dippers
2 Shells & Cheese
2 Alfredo Sauce
Beefy Macaroni
Shredded Mozzerella

All in all I think she did okay. She got everything on my list plus her junk food, with some "healthier" junk food mixed in. The only thing I was going "REALLY?" over was the mini muffins. That's way too much to spend for something that takes about 10 minutes and 75 cents to make. I consider it a "teachable moment" on cost vs. value, so I'll still chalk that one up in the "win" category.

Grand Total Spent: $30.98

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weekends are for Working?

That's what it seems like anyway! Working full time during the week, being relatively brain dead at the end of each workday makes it seem like there is always SO much to get accomplished on the weekends just to keep the household functioning. As for the big projects that need to be completed? Cleaning out the basement? Cleaning out the office? Ha! Those keep getting pushed back.

Yesterday I went to help my sister clean out her garage. Wow. It was something else! My sister, my Mom and I spent 5 hours of truly manual labor accomplishing that feat. I used muscles I haven't used in ages! I was already sore by the time I got home! And this morning.... well its going to take a LOT of motivation to get me moving!!!! On the bright side of that though, I scored some cool things that she was going to get rid of (shoes that she had bought, worn once, but decided they were too snug --- her foot is just slightly larger than mine) --- anyway, one new pair of running shoes, and two really precious pairs of high heeled pumps for work! I am super excited about those!

She also loaned me a bread machine that was just taking up space, but she wasn't ready to part with for good yet. I've been wanting to try out a bread machine, but didn't want to invest in one if they weren't as great as I've read. She has no idea where the instructions are so I'm going to have to do a little internet research!

Also, last night, a friend gave me my own Quicken software to try and use for budgeting purposes and keeping up with all of my financial stuff. I've installed it and can't wait to give it a try! I'm hoping it will be far less tedious than my normal spreadsheet. It will take some time and paying attention to get it figured out though.

All in all, it was a great frugal type Saturday -- and I didn't spend a DIME!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Finally Friday!

I don't know about y'all, but it seemed like Friday would never get here this week! I'm thinking it might have something to do with the fact that this is the first full 5 day work week I've had since early December. I took some time off over the holidays. Then I took a vaycay day after the National Championship game. And then last week we had MLK day. I guess I've gotten used to working 4 day work weeks!

This weekend I have pretty much the standard things planned: clean house, laundry, cook. But I'm also going to spend a fair amount of time at my sister's house helping her clean out her basement. She has a fully finished basement that has somewhat become a catch-all for everything. We are having the Princess's graduation party at her house in May and so by doing this it will save me about $400 over the cost of renting another place (my house is NOT large enough to hold everyone). Besides, its nice to help my sis out every now and then!

I'm also hoping to sit down and some point and really get my tax stuff in order. I'm still waiting on the info from the side gig, but in the meantime I still have to get all of that other stuff in order so that when I do get the side gig info, I've got it ready to take to my tax guy. I need to get those taxes done early so I can fill out the FASFA.

So, what about y'all --- any great plans for the weekend or just work, work, work?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

This Week's Grocery Shopping

I did so much grocery shopping at the beginning of the month that the remainder of the month has been pretty much just filling in with some deals plus a few things that we really need.  My Publix trip on Sunday was short and sweet for the most part. Although the cashier did drive me crazy when none of my coupons would scan (all but one was a newspaper insert but she didn't think it could possibly be a scanner issue --- so I had to ask her to call a manager over - and behold, there was a scanner problem!) Anyway, this is what I picked up at Publix:

4 Special K Cracker Chips
1 Quaker Oatmeal
1 Simply Smart Milk
1 3.5 pound Beneful Dog Food
5 Ramen Noodles
3 Skintimate Shave Gels
3 Edge Shave Gels
1 Angel Soft 12 Pack

Spent: $28.24
Saved: $27.53 or 49%

I also made a quick trip in to Aldi for the following items:

2 Coffee Creamers
Noodle Soup
Sour Cream

Total Spent: $11.00

Right now, I'm thinking the only things I need to get to finish the month out will be bananas (because I'm really enjoying them with my morning oatmeal!) and possibly any unbeatable sale. I MIGHT just come in under budget this month! Woo hoo!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Another Stormy Night

I tried to go to bed around 10:30 last night. I tossed and turned and "think" I finally fell asleep sometime between 11:30 and midnight. The weather folks had issued a PDS (Potentially Dangerous Situation), with threats of severe storms and tornadoes. Just what Alabama needs! More tornadoes, as if April 27 didn't bring us enough. And seriously? Tornadoes in January?

At 3 a.m, I was awakened by a seriously loud clap of Thunder. Hoo, boy, here we go again. I turn on the TV to see what's going on. And there are lots of spinning storms and tornadoes on the map. Ugh. A few minutes later the sirens go off, so I usher the Princess, Thing 1 and Thing 2 into our safe place (Thing 2 did NOT want to get off of the bed). I turn the volume up on the TV really loud so I can hear it in the safe place and we hunker down. I start checking FB and Twitter while we are waiting it out and it seems most everyone is doing the same thing I'm doing. Huddling in a safe place and praying.

The storms passed just north of us again, and so we finally attempted to go back to sleep around 4. However, that never happened. Tossed and turned and tossed. And finally got out of bed at 5:30. I have no idea what the damage is this time, but I think its pretty bad again. I'm hoping and praying I'm wrong.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

You Play, You Pay....

The past few days have been a whirlwind of playing and not getting much done around the house. I will definitely pay for that today as I have piles of laundry that need doing, dust bunnies to chase, a sink full of dishes to contend with (how have I not eaten a single meal at home all weekend but still have a bunch of dishes to do?????). So, today will be all about getting all of that done.

As for the play part --- well the great thing is that was actually a very inexpensive play weekend for me with the exception of the gas burned up (I went to some places that aren't in my normal circle so I'm due for a fill up!).

Anyway, Friday night I did a mystery shop with a friend. Since she was being reimbursed for the whole thing, PLUS paid to shop it, she picked up the tab (which we kept under the allowable expense amount!) which meant: A free dinner out --- and I had leftovers to bring home! And I got grilled chicken and a salad which meant I stayed on the healthier eating course (ahem! we won't mention the basket of bread. cough. cough).

Yesterday, I met a friend for coffee and doughnuts. I ordered 2 doughnuts and a latte, which is something I rarely do, but it had been WAY TOO LONG since I'd been able to hang out with this friend, so I splurged. I only ate one of the doughnuts, so that will be my breakfast this morning! (So much for healthier eating - ha!) Still, the total cost was less than $5 and being able to catch up with this friend in person was worth every single penny!

Last night, I met my mom and her boyfriend for dinner -- he is super sweet and likes to get all of us together every couple of months. Since the place he prefers is a smidge pricey, he always does it as his treat. I'm always careful to watch what I order when someone else is picking up the tab, so I got a grilled chicken salad -- which was absolutely yummy, and again, I had plenty to bring home! And stayed within the healthier eating goals! The dinner was fabulous and relaxed with zero family drama. Woo hoo!

So, while I will pay today for all the play with labor, I really hardly paid at all from wallet! A successful weekend indeed!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Getting Healthier This Year

I've never done well with resolutions --- they just have never worked well for me. I'll start off great and then a few days into it, the old habits will creep back in. I'm just not good at sticking to a weildy type thing such as a "resolution".

This year I've got some goals in mind though. The first one is to get healthier this year. I know that seems like a very unfocused goal, but I will have some concrete ways to measure my achievements towards the goal. We had a health screening at work back in December. They basically did your weight, BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and sugars. Blood pressure and blood sugar were perfect. They told me I need to lose weight. I did actually know that. They also told me my cholesterol was borderline high. Not refer me to a doctor and get on meds high, but do something about it so you don't have to get referred to a doctor and put on meds high.

So, I'm doing something about it. First, I don't think I'll ALWAYS make the healthiest choices regarding food, but I am going to give it a shot. For instance, last night I had a meeting to go to right after work. Usually, I hit the drive thru on the way to this meeting and get a bacon cheeseburger combo to take with me. Last night however, I still hit the drive thru at Wendy's and instead of getting that bacon cheeseburger combo, I got a half salad and diet coke. I am under no illusions that a fast food salad is the healthiest thing I can eat, however, after checking the nutritional information on the Wendy's website, I realized that by making that single choice I prevented over 800 calories and 41 grams of fat from going into my body. So, it was the bettter choice. And as a nice bonus, I didn't have the munchies when I got home from the meeting!

I've also started participating in a twitter challenge "Tweet the Streak". A local organization has set up a challenge where you do at least 10 minutes of something active each day and then tweet about it. I'd been pretty good for the first 2 days, but work, then yesterday's meeting plus a storm front coming through last night limited my options. So, during a break period at work yesterday, I went out to the parking lot (we have a large hilly parking lot) and walked around it in HEELS for 15 minutes and then tweeted about it -- I even won the tweet of the day award from "Tweet the Streak" for it.

So, I'm not making any radical lifestyle changes, yet, but taking small steps to get healthier this year. And at this coming December's health screening, I'm hoping to see the changes! Wish me luck!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Budgeting in the Real World

I've spent the better part of this month working and reworking my basic plan for the year (and yes, I know this will need to be tweaked on a month to month basis, but I wanted a good workable basic plan).
After visting, I realized that in order to get my remaining credit card debt paid off by August (when the Princess goes off to school), I needed to put roughly $950 per month towards the credit card. That would be over 1/3 of my monthly take-home pay. I was determined that I COULD do this.

Wisely, however, I shared my plan with a friend who pointed out that while my goal was understandable, in reality it just wasn't feasible. I only had so many places where I could further cut spending without sitting in the dark every night. Of course I tend to be stubborn and INSISTED I could do it, I just had to get more creative.

I crunched numbers. And re-crunched them. And banged my head against the wall. And finally, I had to admit that my friend was right. There just weren't enough places I could cut further in order to make that goal I had set in my mind -- this is the real world and I guess I have to live in it. (I really hate being wrong).

For now, I'll be putting $500/month to the credit card which should have it paid off by May 2013. Not nearly as early as I'd like. However, I'm going make a vow to be much more consistent about "snowflaking" any extra money towards that balance. At the end of each month, whatever I'm under budget will go straight to that credit card debt. With any luck, I'll be able to knock a few months off of that debt free deadline. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Early Spring Fever

This weekend has been flipping COLD at night but actually quite nice during the day. While we enjoy some realy nice days I'm trying to get some yard work done a few hours at a time (my yard work muscles are currently WOEFULLY out of shape). Generally I prefer digging in the dirt than doing the actual yard maintenance, but the maintenance is required for the digging in the dirt part to look decent.

My numerous flower beds are actually quite varied in their styles of plants as well as the types of blooms and when they bloom. This is quite frankly primarily because many friends and family members have been so incredibly generous with the great tradition of passalong plants. I love the variety that others generosity has provided to my garden. This week I got another unexpected delivery of passalongs!

My wonderful, fabulous regular boss gave me a buzz and asked if I wanted some bulbs. Her husband had been just given several crates and it was way more than they could use, so did I want some? OF COURSE! So this week she called me when she got to the office and told me to meet her at her car. I went down there and she had FOUR crates of bulbs ready to load into my car --- tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and amaryllis. That's a LOT of plants. Honestly, way more than I could plant, but I wasn't about to turn them down. So I loaded them up in my car, and then today, I started planting. And planting. And planting. And then I made phone calls to other garden friends and delivered bulbs to them too!

Its actually a bit late in the season to plant them so some of them might not come up this year, but that's okay, I've had that happen before and likely they will do just fine the next. So, that's my money saving achievement this weekend --- lots of spring color for FREE!!!!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

FAFSA,Scholarships and Financial Aid

Last night, the high school where the Princess attends put on a Financial Aid and Scholarship Information program. I must say my head is absolutely spinning with the amount of information we received. There are SO many things to take into consideration. The maximum amount of allowed subsidized loans. The interest rates of subsidized vs. unsubsidized. Estimate Family Contributions. PLUS loans.

I think the biggest eye opener for me was the amount of interest you end up paying if you defer the interest payments until 6 months after the student graduates. The interest accrued during the 4 years then folds into the loan and so you end up paying interest on those four years of interest, which can eventually lead to the student paying back twice the original loan amount. THAT is frightening. SO much to think about!!!!

I've requested a meeting next week with the college counselor at the High School -- because of course I came up with a jillion questions after the program. For now though, my brain is still reeling!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Weekend Grocery Shopping

Although I did a pretty big grocery shopping last week, just catching up a bit on my lackadaisical coupon shopping, I still needed to do a fair amount of shopping in preparation for freezer cooking. So Saturday morning, I decided a return trip to Publix was in order, as well as a trip to Aldi.

First stop was Publix to pick up more beverages:

4 Bags 8 O'Clock Coffee
4 Canisters Crystal Light

Saved: $25.92
(Yummy beverages are EXPENSIVE!)

Next stop was Aldi:

9 Pounds Lean Ground Beef
2 Frozen Pizzas
2 Boxes Dog Treats
1 8 Pack Aldi "Gatorade"
3 Boxes Shells & Cheese
2 Macaroni & Cheese
1 Pasta & Cauces
1 Boxes Pasta
1 Skillet Dinner
1 Pasta Salad Kit
1 "Rice a Roni"
2 Alfredo Sauce
1 Box Instant Oatmeal Packets
2 Coffee Creamers
White Tortiall Chips
1 Whole Chicken
1 Light Sour Cream

Spent: $67.44

I have spent well over 1/2 this month's grocery budget in a matter of days. I'm really hoping this heavy spending this early in the month will greatly reduce what I spend later in the month!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Happy Nothing Day!

Okay, so I'm a happy girl today! Alabama won the BCS National Championship Game absolutely stifling LSU 21-0. Many people think it was a boring game. Me, I love some smash mouth defensive football (especially when its MY team doing the smashing!)!!!!

I took the day off today (preplanned). I knew last night was going to be a late night (I basically crawled into bed around 1 a.m.). I basically had a very lazy day, kind of just piddling around the house. I hit up a couple of small projects that had been put off and put off. But basically, I was a slug. I really can't tell you the last time I was perfectly healthy and bascially spent a whole day doing nothing. I went out and picked up the newspaper. I watched ESPN. I ate a sandwich. I watched some HGTV. I surfed the internet and came up with a jillion new recipes to try. I facebooked. And G+ed. So basically, I did nothing.

And it was FABULOUS!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Let The Game Begin

Today is one of my favorite days of the year: GAME DAY! And to make it even better, it's National Championship Game Day! And Alabama is playing in the game! I'll be at my usual spot tonight, watching the game, pacing the floor and yelling at the TV. I budgeted this particular night out into this month's budget because I knew there was no way I was sitting at home watching this game alone! (The Princess has plans to watch it with her friends elsewhere!) I'm pumped. I'm hyped. Now to just get through the work day!

Back in November, I lamented the fact that my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide had dashed its National Championship hopes with a shoot themselves in the foot performance agains LSU. The inability to convert on 3rd down and what seemed like a million missed field goals resulted in a 9-6 overtime lost. To many across the country that #1 vs. #2 "game of the century" was a snoozer. For those of us that love smash mouth defensive football, it was a great, albeit frustrating game. And it appeared that all was lost.

Somehow, however, the stars aligned, everything that happened needed to happen, and Bama is playing tonight for the the National Championship, in a rematch against LSU. Nationally, college football fans are up in arms demanding a playoff system since the SEC is now winning yet another National Championship even before kickoff. It is interesting to note that several years ago, the SEC actually pushed for a "Plus 1" game and the other conference commissioners roundly rejected the idea (including the commisioner of the conference that OSU calls home), the school that felt it should be in the game instead of Alabama.

But it is what it is, and tonight I'll settle in with friends and watch a game that means an awful lot to many in this state. After a year of unspeakable loss, tragedy, strength and resilience, we're looking for  a bright spot and I'm hoping this is it. Roll Tide!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Freezer Cooking Finished!

I have finally finished my freezer cooking for the day! Or, almost.... I've still got chicken stock simmering. I started this morning and it didn't really take all day. I also did laundry, walked Thing 2, entered a ton of Powerade caps onto MyCokeRewards, took a nap and sliced my finger open with my really sharp Chef's knife!

I actually decided to do the chicken stock because of a post from the fabulous April at An Apple A Day Wisdom -- she manages to really get the extra mile from her veggies!

Anyway, this is what I made today:

4 meals worth Taco Seasoned Beef
8 meals worth Ground Beef
5 meals worth cooked chicken
Tuna salad for lunch this week
3 Cups Diced Onions
2 cups shredded zucchini
Chicken Stock (still in progress)

I had hoped to try out a recipe I found for some yeast rolls, but after slicing my finger open, kneading bread dough didn't sound like the wisest, most sanitary or most appetizing thing to do. So, the great yeast roll experiment will have to wait for another day!

Not QUITE According to Plan

Yesterday, when I left for the store, it was a bit rainy out, so I fully intended to get my freezer cooking done yesterday. Rainy days are perfect for being cooped up and therefore getting stuff done. When I got home from the store, I unloaded the groceries, took the picture for this blog (that post will come later), realized that it was now the 7th and I'd spent over half of the month's grocery budget. My plan there is other than milk and "super deals", to not buy anything else! Here's hoping!

By the time I had put up the groceries, straightened the kitchen to get busy cooking, the sun was shining brightly. I went outside and it was warm and bright outside and the yard was quickly drying up. Hmmm, warm and sunny in January? That can only mean one thing: yard work and air drying clothes! (Okay, that's 2 things!)

So, I put my sheets in to wash (I got totally addicted to air dried sheets during last summer's no dryer experiment), changed clothes into my yard grubbies and went outside to work. What a glorious day! I cut back perennials that had gone to seed. Harvested some seeds from my favorite (I'll try my hand at propagating). Moved some rocks my Dad had brought me in October to their permanent home. Removed a "scrub" bush with loppers and a pick axe. Filled two barrels with yard debris and carted them to the curb for pickup. All in all a VERY productive day. (The only drawback was that I ended up having to put my sheets in the dryer to finish up last night, just not enough sunlight for them to dry all the way outside.)

Today, however, I have realized that my yard muscles are sorely out of shape! When I woke up, I just groaned. Everything aches. However, I still have that freezer cooking to do and a house to clean and laundry to finish up. So aching muscles aside, today should be very productive too! Here's hoping!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Freezer Cooking Preparation

One of the things that got pushed to the side during the frantic chaos leading up to the holidays was freezer cooking. I'm not the type that does 30 meals in a day. I'm just not good enough at planning it all out. What I actually do though is prepare a ton of ground chuck, some taco seasoned and some not for use throughout the month. I also like to cook up a a whole chicken or two, shred it up and freeze it.
Sometimes, I'll also do a few baked goods, but since my waistline is feeling the effects of a baking frenzy over the holidays, I'll pass on that this time around!

What I really need is some good lunch ideas for the freezer. I come home for lunch most days (my office is really close by) and I often eat leftovers or whatever is handy. But I'd like to have some better ideas to provide a bit more variety. Something I can just thaw, heat and eat. I need to do more online research because so far I haven't come up with anything that seems really appealing. Y'all let me know if you have any good ideas!!!!

For today though, I'm heading to two stores to pick up what I need for cooking: ground chuck, chicken, onions, zucchini, plus a few things Publix was out of stock on when I went on Wednesday. I'll get the cooking done either today or tomorrow. Trying to decide which! So that's my "grand plan" -- plus trying to find lunch ideas.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Grocery Prices = YIKES

During the insanity of the holiday season, I really let my grocery budget get completely out of hand. I was buying things for special meals that I don't normally buy. I wasn't paying much attention to prices because I needed what I needed when I needed it. So after work last night I went to the store with a few coupons in hand. I hadn't clipped or printed many lately because I just hadn't had the time. Really paying attention to the prices I was paying this time around was a HUGE eye opener. I kind of freaked a little bit at the prices. They have really gone up when I wasn't looking. And being out of several things that I normally have stocked up and that weren't on sale this time around didn't help! So,this is what I got:

2 Bags Tyson Chicken
1 Glad Trash Bags
2 8 O'Clock Coffees (got a rain check since they were out of my favorite flavor, but got these to get me through)
6 Powerades
2 Ramen Noodles
1 Bag Salad Mix
1 Angel Soft 9 Pack Double Roll
1 Publix Dog Treats
4 Crystal Lights
1 30 lb. Pedigree Dog Food (Not Pictured)

Spent: $63.57
Saved: $38.64 or 38%

I've got to do better --- because I just spend over 25% of the month's grocery budget and I really didn't buy much in the way of actual FOOD. Yikes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Wish I May, I Wish I Might

Yesterday, a good friend told me about a meteor shower that would be visible in the wee hours of this morning. Normally, I'd be kind of like "meh" about it. Its January, it was the coldest night we've had so far this winter, I like to sleep, etc. However, I read the link that my friend sent me and I was intrigued. Often its hard to see these meteor showers in January because of clouds and bad weather. However, the night was forecast to be clear.

So, I woke up at 4:15 --- let the pups out, fed them, made coffee and bundled up in many layers to go out on deck and watch. City lights and nearby security street lights meant I didn't see many. But I did see enough that I was able to squeeze in several wishes as the "shooting stars" streaked across the early morning sky. What were my wishes? I'm not telling! But rest assured, I didn't waste a single one of them!

My pups thought I was crazy, but it was kind of nice, out there on the deck, bundled up, coffee cup in hand, blanket over my lap just staring at the sky. And bonus time!!!! My house is in excellent order for me to come home tonight, the extra time allowing me to get a couple of things done that I normally don't. Will I make 4:15 a habit? Probably not, but the next time I get a chance to watch for shooting stars --- I'm going to take it!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Thank Goodness That Wasn't Murphy!

Happy New Year to one and all!!!!!! I hope this year brings each of you the blessings and promises of your hearts desires! And I hope that Murphy packs his bags and takes and extended leave of absence from your homes!

I was afraid that was not the case this morning. Despite being up until almost 1, I still managed to wake at 6 a.m. I staggered to the back door and let Thing 1 and Thing 2 out, then when they'd finished doing their stuff, I went into the kitchen to give them breakfast and to make coffee. It was there that I saw a long trail of water going from under the stove across the kitchen. Crap. This is NOT good.

So, I started looking for the source of the water. I checked under sink, moving all of the crap that lives under there. No water. I checked all of the other the cabinets (the refrigerator water line runs through them). No water. I checked around the fridge. No water. I MOVED THE STOVE. There, I found a puddle of water, but couldn't determine its source. I sat down on the kitchen floor almost in tears.

It was from that vantage point that I looked over at the pups' water bowl. Hanging over the side of the bowl was a dishtowel that had apparently been dropped unknowingly into the bowl last night. It was wicking the water from the bowl onto the floor. Mystery solved. Mess cleaned up. And now the coffee has been made.

Here's hoping all of life's little inconveniences in 2012 are so easily and cheaply resolved! Cheers!